A little while ago I wrote a post about a Dutch guitarist who was performing these fun, often loop based pop rock songs on YouTube. For reasons that we cannot explain, this post got picked up by StumbleUpon1 as one of their guitar picks for a week or so. For reasons that I also can’t explain this prompted Commandante Ratkowski to approach said guitarist for an interview.
Shockingly, despite us throwing a combination of intelligent (Jay) and inane (me) questions at him, Evert Zeevalkink gave thoughtful, thorough and humorous answers to the questions from a pokey little guitar website halfway around the world. If he ever makes it to Atlanta, beer’s on me.
Daft Paragon: I got into looping because of my love of dance music. Much guitar based looping seems to be rooted in that or experimental/ambient music, but you seem more focused on using it in a pop/rock context. What draws you to looping vs. more traditional multitrack production?
Evert Zeevalkink: I was introduced to looping on the guitar when I discovered the music of King Crimson. One the first Crimson albums I heard was Thrak which has a couple of cool soundscape moments by Robert Fripp. At that point I was already playing the guitar for a couple of years and I had a cool little multi-effects pedal – the Korg AX1G – which had a simple sound on sound option. So for years I would make my own little Frippertronics loops. There was no way to set a looping point on the Korg, it was more like a delay with infinite repeats, so it was very hard to do anything other than the ambient soundscape thing.
When I got my first dedicated looper I was doing the soundscape thing for so long that I kinda lost interest in that. Since then the looper has been a tool to create song ideas, a studying tool and a way to work on creating my own style. I still do the soundscape thing on recording sessions sometimes and when playing live with the New Shining there’s usually a song that gets an extended atmospheric intro where I record an ambient loop and then play a slide solo on top of that.
Actually I have to admit my real passion is multitracking, not looping. I have been doing a lot of session work the last couple of years and that’s something I’d like to continue doing a lot more. Looping for me is a way to do that on the fly and it works great for quickly exploring a musical idea and creating a something to solo over but I do feel a little limited sometimes.
DP: Do you have a regular process you can share for mapping out the layers of sound on your looped songs?
EZ: The first step would be to just sit down, play and see what I can come up with. When I have a recorded the basic idea I start overdubbing and after a few overdubs I usually start soloing over it because I really love that. What’s really important for me when layering parts is to make each part sound different than the part before it. The best way to do that is to change as much of the different musical parameters as I can. For instance, if the basic part is a chord part played low on the neck with a clean not too processed sound, the second part could maybe be played high on the neck while really cranking the reverb and delay so it’s really spacy and wide sounding.
What also works is to think of it in terms of a full scale band production where you would have a drum part, a bass parts, some keys or synth, a melody, maybe a countermelody, some rhythmic chords parts, etc… Just trying to think of ways to translate parts another instrument might play to the guitar can be really inspiring.
If I think a looping song is good enough to share it with the people on YouTube I take a moment to really optimize the flow of the overdubs. I want to lose as little time as possible when building a song in order to keep the song interesting. This can be tricky especially when the basic loop is long (like 8 or maybe even 16 bars). Sometimes this means I need to hit multiple pedals at once and also hit the pickup switch at the same time so I can instantly introduce a second idea without having to wait until the loop has played another time. Sometimes I decide to introduce a new part halfway through the loop just to stop it from getting boring.
DP: Your videos so far have revolved around original compositions. Have you considered doing any tutorial/instructional videos?
EZ: I have no plans for doing any tutorial or instructional videos. That’s just something I’m not that interested in. My heart’s never been in teaching, although I did have a few guitar students for a while and had fun doing that. Also, as you rightfully noticed in your original blog post about me, I come from a country where everyone has Lars Ulrich’s accent and that’s definitely not the nicest thing to listen to:)
DP: Are there any YouTube guitar channels that you subscribe to?
EZ: A lot actually, I’ll just mention some of my favorites:
- Andy Othling; cool ambient guitar player, couple of nice tutorials too.2
- Tim Pierce; Tim’s is one of the most in demand studio guitar players. He records some of his overdubbing session which I find very interesting.
- Pete Thorn; great gear demos by a great player.
- Premier Guitar; those rig rundowns are great!
DP: America tends to be relatively ignorant of what’s going on, musically, in the rest of the world. Much American pop music has minimized or replaced the guitar as its focus. Is Dutch popular music similar? (ie – most American session guitarists just get buried in the mix, but we almost always hear you prominently)
EZ: Unfortunately Dutch popular music has a tendency to follow whatever is hip in the US and England, so yeah, the guitar gets lost in the mix over here too. On the other hand, folk bands (a la Mumford and Sons, Of Monster and Men) and singer-songwriters such as Ben Howard and Ed Sheeran have been really big over here, so the acoustic guitar has become more prominent than before. I even get to play mandolin and banjo on sessions sometimes these days.
Luckily for me, I enjoy listening to synths a lot. Synth sounds sometimes inspire me more than hearing the same classic rock guitar sounds over and over again (although I will never get enough of AC/DC’s Back in Black and G’n’R’s Appetite for Destruction).
DP: What equipment would you suggest for someone just getting into looping?
EZ: Just a simple looping pedal like the Digitech JamMan Express or Solo, or something like the Akai Headrush or Boss RC-3. The second pedal I would add is definitely a delay, or a cheap multi-effects pedal to get some different sounds.
DP: Do you have any artistic pursuits outside of music? How do they influence your playing?
EZ: Not really, I have always been wildly enthusiastic about only one thing at a time and not that interested in anything else. Since I was 12 twelve that thing has always been music. The fact that I have been so focused on music is probably the reason I have turned into an ok player.
DP: What are you working on lately?
EZ: I have been doing gear demo videos a lot lately; I did a demo for the Hughes & Kettner GrandMeister 36 and I wrote a cool song to demo the Duesenberg Caribou. Those gear demos are a clever way for me to work on some instrumental music and there seems to be a lot of demand for it from manufacturers so I will be making quite a few more in 2014. Also I plan on making more Guitar Looping videos this year.
The last couple of months saw the release of two albums played on and am pretty proud of; “Wake Up Your Dreams” by The New Shining and “Syrup and Rain” by Channah. I played most of the electric parts on Wake Up Your Dreams and played all of the guitars and some banjo, mandolin and ukelele on Channah’s album and also co-wrote three of the songs with her.
You can check them out here:
The New Shining – Wake Up Your Dreams: http://open.spotify.
Channah – Syrup and Rain: http://open.spotify.com/