The latest “15 questions” feature is with Karmine guitarist Steve Perry. Karmine have been causing a stir across the south coast of England recently with their refreshing melodic material. Guitar Jar catches up with Steve and quizzes him on his technique, guitar equipment and his fetish for Cornell amplifiers.
For me it’s all about the power amp stage, big full notes with huge sustain…
Hi Steve, can you give Guitar Jar readers an insight of how long you’ve been playing the guitar?
I’ve been playing for around 20 years. I got my first guitar whilst at boarding school at the age of 15. The guitar was given to me by a friend who could tell I was getting good at playing the air guitar and it seemed the natural step to take! That summer I spent most of the holiday strumming on a Les Paul “Recording” copy – you know the Les Paul that had all those switches on it? Well this was a very poor quality copy! My first “proper” guitar was my Fender Stratocaster that I purchased in the late ’80’s from a guy who built guitars for Gary Moore.
Rumour has it you’ve won a Guitarist of the Year award?
Well, yes of sorts. In 2004 the band I was playing in (Fevertree) entered the Emergenza Battle of the Bands competition that culminated in the world finals that took place at the infamous Taubertal Festival, Germany.For each round leading up to the finals it’s the two best bands that make it to the following round. The semi-final took place in London and we won and went onto represent the UK in Germany. Throughout the competition, points are rewarded to each band member for their individual musicianship and these points were accumulated over all the rounds. Although Fevertree made it to the finals and had the luxury of an all-expenses trip to Germany, we finished 3rd or 4th. It just so happened though that I accumulated the majority of the points in the “Best Guitarist” category and I was soon presented with a trophy and a very nice Ernie Ball Axis Sport Musicman that I still use to this day.
Can you give our readers a brief description of the sound of Karmine?
I usually respond to this question as a “melting pot of colourful influences”. From a guitar perspective, there’s a mix of early Zeppelin, Paul Kossoff, some RHCP, Hendrix, and at times I guess you could say there’s some influence of The Edge in terms of landscapes & texture. Even though The Edge was an inspiration to me when I was younger, his style doesn’t really feature that heavily in our sound but he’s in there somewhere.
The production on your new EP is of extremely high quality. Everything from the lead vocals to the drums sound very detailed. Who recorded and mixed the EP?
The EP was recorded by a guy called George Shilling. He’s a fairly famous producer – most people will recognize the 80’s song “The Only Way is Up” by Yazz, well he wrote that. We ended up recording in a lovely place in the middle of the Cotswolds in a split schedule. We first arrived during the heat wave last summer and finished off a couple of other tracks during the freezing temperatures this January! That’s what gave us the inspiration for the EP title, “Fire & Ice” – it was -10°C in the studio but the complete opposite 6 months prior! George was great as he helped us by adding some nice textures with keyboards and helped to make some suggestions of how the structure of some songs can be finely tuned to improve them further. The EP was co-produced between George and ourselves.
When I first heard the EP, it’s clear you’re serious about your tone. What guitars, effects and amps do you use?
I have the same pedal board that I use both live and in the recording studio. Although there are a number of different pedals on the board, they really only add subtle differences to the sound. My pedals consist of a Dunlop CryBaby 535, Keeley compressor, BOSS Tuner, Dunlop Rotovibe (set to the vibrato for subtle pitch modulation), Fulltone OCD – V1 (I’ve tried the other versions but they don’t even compare to version 1), Fulltone Ultimate Octave (used in solo of “California Rogue”), Analogue BOSS DM2 Delay (I prefer the decay of analogue echo effects), VanAmps Spring Reverb Unit, Hughes & Kettner Rotosphere and a Cornell Fuzzface (used for solo on “Perpetual Sin”).Guitar wise I play through a 1980 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe. I prefer the sound of the mini-humbuckers; they just have a bit more clarity and edge compared to standard sized humbuckers. I also use the Ernie Ball Musicman Axis Sport that I won and the Fender Stratocaster I mentioned previously. This is a “Frankenstein” Strat built by a guy who made guitars for Gary Moore, as back in the 80’s it was possible to buy different necks, bodies and components from Fender to make the guitar of your dreams. I also play an Atkin Dreadnought acoustic guitar which is in fact an early prototype and I’m struggling to find a nicer sounding acoustic.
Were any unusual recording techniques incorporated when laying down your guitar tracks?
The whole process was pretty straight forward. I’m really fussy about keeping the setup and process basic. I like to stick a standard SM57 near to speaker, record the backing track with the band and apply hardly any overdubs. I recorded in the drum room, with baffles around the 2×12 cab.
Steve recording at Metropolis Studios
Tell us more about your choice of amp and cabinet and what are your opinions of the “big boys” – Marshall, Mesa Boogie, Fender etc
I use a Cornell Plexi 45/50 which gives the guitarist the opportunity to run at 50 or 45 watts depending if they prefer a valve or solid-state rectifier. The secret of this amp is the built in attenuator – it’s great as I can run my amp flat out at 12watts. For me it’s all about the power amp stage, big full notes with huge sustain without the annoying fizz produced by the preamp.
Marshall, Fender and Mesa all have their place in my opinion but I find with these I can’t really open them up and I would have to rely too much on the preamp gain, which really isn’t the sound I’m after.
How often do practice and what do you focus on to improve your technique?
To be honest I can’t be bothered to practice on my own these days. I tend to play with friends more. I guess you could argue that when I’m writing songs, that could be seen as practice. I just plug into a Vox AC10 and see what happens, but if mojo isn’t flowing just turn off and do something else. I’ve learnt not to force creativity.
Your house is burning down. What is the one guitar item you would save?
The Les Paul.
Have you had any nightmare experiences whilst gigging?
A few years back I had the opportunity to support Mel C with Andy Mitchell (now in the Yardbirds reformation). It was great as for the first time I was given my own fully fledged guitar tech, where before it’s always been a mate tagging along and changing strings. Actually, I’m bit of a control freak when it comes to setting up my kit – it’s something I enjoy and I know it’s been done to my liking.For the first night of the tour, I told the tech to tune my guitar a whole step down to match the rest of the band. It turns out the tech tuned to concert tuning so when I came crashing in with my opening chords I was completely off. I managed to retune my Strat just in time for the solo, by which I time I was so furious I let rip into an almighty solo. It was my first chance to play to a big crowd and it was a nightmare. I’m pleased to say it never happened again on that tour!
Has your guitar style ever been compared to anyone else?
Recently I’ve been playing the Strat more at gigs and I’ve been compared to John Frusciante, due to my right-hand syncopation. I’m more into my right hand action than my left hand speed, for example I’d rather listen to Kravitz than hard metal. I’m a bit of a lazy player at times; I tend to play around the beat.
Let’s say Karmine get signed to a major label soon. What piece of guitar equipment is the top of your shopping list and why?
I’d love to get my hands on a Cornell Legacy 30. It’s an interpretation of the JMI era Vox amps, a 2×12 combo. I’d like to have this possibly mixed with 2 other Cornell heads both of which running into 4×12 cabs. I may be swayed by a purchase of a really good Fender Telecaster, but I think the amp is at the top of the list.
If you could form a super group using famous musicians past or present, who would you have on drums and why?
John Bonham, the guy knew how to hit! He just knew how to groove, playing underneath Page and play what was right for the song.
Lager or Cider?
None – I’m a real ale man! A pint of Guinness or Ringwood Brewery is always good, especially the seasonal Boondoggle Summer Ale. What a name! When I go for a pint with friends we all buy different ales and share them so we all get to experience the variety of ales on offer.
What’s the plan for Karmine in the near future?
Hopefully lots of touring. We have just secured management, we’re getting some gigs, and we’re really hoping to increase our publicity via radio and especially TV. We seem to appeal to a mix of people from Goths to footie heads to classic rock guys. At the end of the day we‘re good at playing live and this transfers well to our recordings too. There’s no point being in a rock band if you can’t play well live, is there?
Steve recording the solo for the track “Perpetual Sin”:
The video below is some footage of Steve recording the solo for “Perpetual Sin” for the Karmine EP “Fire & Ice”. One of the strengths of Steve’s playing is that he really plays for the song, and you can tell that he tastefully holds back for this solo, yet in other songs on the EP you can really hear him flying over the fretboard.
For more information about Karmine and future gig dates, please visit http://www.myspace.com/karmineuk