SIXTY SECONDS WITH...
Guitarists Dave Smith and Jack Cable of Cambridgeshire blues-rock outfit Austin Gold.
GT: Do you have a type of pick that you can’t live without?
DAVE: I used to use Dunlop Tortex 1.14s but about three years ago I switched to Jazz III XLs. I love the focused point and rigidity for riffs and lead work. JACK: Dunlop Tortex .88mm (green ones). I used to use lighter ones but I hit the strings a lot harder now, and I find that these give me the best feel.
GT: If you had to give up all your effects pedals but three, what would they be?
DAVE: I’m a pedal addict! I have buckets of vintage stuff. However, for Austin Gold I’ve reduced my board to literally a Korg tuner, an Xotic BB Plus, a TC Electronic Flashback delay and a ElectroHarmonix Holy Grail reverb. Oh and the best effect of all - the volume knob! JACK: It would have to be my BB pre-amp, Neo Instruments Mini Vent and TC Flashback. They are the bare bones of the tones I used on the album.
GT: Do you play another musical instrument well enough to do so in a band?
DAVE: Guitar is my instrument, first and foremost. Subsequently I’ve earned a living over the past 10 years as a drummer and obviously a singer. I also play bass and piano but my passion and direction is the guitar. From the age of 12 playing my dad’s dreadnought, I got the bug. JACK: I have filled in on bass many times in a function band capacity; even done a little session work on bass. I play drums for another project but mostly for fun and I wouldn’t call myself a drummer. I did a gig with a funk band on keys once but I don’t think a hand full of 5ths and glissandos make you a keys player.
GT: If a music chart were put in front of you, could you read it?
DAVE: I’ve been a full-time guitar tutor for 20 years now and I’ve always used tab. I’ve found my pupils have benefited from the immediacy of tab and then they concentrate on application. Of course I respect that there’s two sides to charts and tabs. JACK: Chord charts, no problem, I use them often. A complex piece of traditional notation, however, I would need time to read and memorise for the most part.
GT: Do guitar cables really make a difference? What make are yours?
DAVE: Well, Jack is the tech guy but leads make a huge difference. I’ve used Whirlwind and Planet Waves in the past but in addition I’ve really noticed the difference with my Voodoo Labs 2 Plus power supply. JACK: Yes I’m a little OCD when it comes to things like cables and power. I am in the process of upgrading my pedal board with a GigRig Quartermaster and all Lava Cables solderless patchleads. I have Lava patch-leads now but feel I’m losing something having all my pedals in line. From guitar to board and board to amp I am currently using Sommer Cable with Neutrik connectors. I also have some Van Damme stuff that I like a lot too. So yes, cables make a difference.
GT: Is there anyone’s playing (past or present) that you’re slightly jealous of?
DAVE I’ve never been jealous of any player’s abilities. I find it inspirational. Hendrix, Gibbons, Gilmour, I strive every day to master their command of the guitar. I had the pleasure of meeting one my favourite guitarists, whom encapsulates the aforementioned, Andy Timmons. He’s just incredible. JACK: I agree that jealous is the wrong word. Are there players that I can only ever dream of emulating? Yes, loads! I am currently still trying to pick my jaw up off of the floor after seeing Joey Landreth. John Mayer is high on my list too. Is there anything that guy can’t play?
GT: Your house or music studio is burning down: which guitar do you salvage?
DAVE: If I had to save only one of my guitars in an emergency, I would struggle, to be honest. But my signature Vanquish DS model would be right up there. I’ve been very fortunate to have been endorsed by Vanquish guitars since 2015. I used that guitar exclusively on our album. JACK: My 57 reissue Les Paul Goldtop. My father bought me that guitar as an investment in me on my 18th birthday, so that guitar means a lot.
GT: What’s your favourite amp and how do you set it?
DAVE: I’m currently using a Mesa Single Rectifier 50w. Slightly unorthodox for a Boogie Rec but I have the gain channel set to vintage, nearly full mid, half bass and half treble. It’s smooth and very responsive. I also use a 1978 Marshall JMP master volume 100w with very similar settings, maybe less treble. They work so well as rhythm and lead. JACK: I love my Victory V40. It’s a great pedal platform. I use it on Voice 2, gain set just on the edge, treble and bass set around 6 and mid around 3. I use the reverb on my board not the V40’s and all my pedals are straight in the front.
GT: What kind of action do you have on your guitars - any quirks or foibles that have to be met?
DAVE: I’ve always favoured a medium action on my guitars. I like to dig in and get under the strings when bending. JACK: It depends on the fret height of the guitar. My Vanquish has pretty tall frets so I can have a lower action as my fingers don’t get caught up on the fretboard as much. My Les Paul has more vintage style frets so needs to be set up a little higher to achieve the same kind of thing.
GT: What strings do you use?
DAVE: As we detune a semitone I find .10s really work with heavy bottom strings (fifth and sixth). I’ve started using Roto-sound Pure Nickel strings and the stability is a game changer. JACK: I use Elixirs, 10-46 gauge. I started using them a few years ago and liked the lifespan of them. I have not found a reason to change yet but I have had a lot of recommendations to try some Pure Nickels so might give some a go pretty soon.
GT: Who was your first influence to play the guitar?
DAVE: I suppose my first exposure to the guitar was The Beatles. Beautiful chord arrangements and George’s counter melodies. But it has to be Billy Gibbons, as seeing ZZ Top on TV as a kid just blew me away. Then I discovered Electric Ladyland, Still Got The Blues, Dark Side Of The Moon, just really tasty players. JACK: John Frusciante. I picked up the guitar just after the release of By The Way. The first riff I learned to play was Can’t Stop. I bought all the books for the Chili Peppers albums and studied them religiously. I still really enjoy playing through John’s stuff.
GT: What was the first guitar you really lusted after?
DAVE: I remember being at school, drooling over a picture of a candy apple red American Strat. That colour still stirs me to this day! JACK: Mine was a 60s Fender Telecaster Custom in three-tone sunburst with double binding. Probably because John Frusciante played one. I owned a Custom Shop one for while but the neck was too thin so it stopped getting used in favour of the Vanquish. I’d like a proper one some day, with a little thicker neck and some taller frets.
GT: What was the single best gig you ever did?
DAVE: Having been a player for over 20 years there’s been many great gigs. But when we played a big festival in Peterborough in front of a sea of faces all singing our songs, that was very special. JACK: I’m hoping the best is yet to come! Probably one of our festival gigs so far though. I do love the bigger stages.
GT: And how about your worst playing nightmare?
DAVE: Well, even though I’ve played gigs with fractured ribs, with tonsillitis, broken fingers, sickness, malfunctioning gear among many other nightmare situations, I think that receiving the call to tell me that my wife was getting contractions with our son, mid-set, was the most traumatic of all! JACK: I think I have generally got off pretty lightly so far (hoping I haven’t just cursed myself). I have had a few blown amps, the occasional fight break out in the audience. But other than that I can’t remember a time when I have been too ill to play, or had anything major go wrong. Sorry, bit of a boring answer to that one.
PLAYING A FESTIVAL IN FRONT OF A SEA OF FACES SINGING THE WORDS TO OUR SONGS, THAT WAS VERY SPECIAL
GT: What’s the most important musical lesson you ever learnt?
DAVE: Upon discovering the CAGED system, my playing changed overnight. The whole fretboard just opens up for rhythm, arrangements with two guitars and keys and the freedom to improvise in solos. JACK: I can’t remember where I first heard it but it has always stuck with me: learning when not to play. It is how I approach my playing; if there isn’t a need for you to be playing, then don’t. Listen to the band and find where there is a space for you. Pick your moments, let the song breathe. As Jimmy Page always says, “light and shade”.
GT: Do you still practise?
DAVE: Practice is paramount. To get a particular passage correct, or to nail the nuance, repetition is key. Then, once it’s under your skin you have the opportunity to move things around a little. JACK: Yes. But not in the way I used to. I’m currently trying to spend more time finding interesting ways of playing through changes and always increasing my knowledge of chord structure. I have just picked up a slide after my Joey Landreth discovery. I’m also a big Scott Holiday (Rival Sons) fan so there are some open tunings being worked on currently.
GT: Do you have a pre-gig warm-up routine?
DAVE: Pre-gig I like to play an acoustic before we go on. No distractions with noise or settings, just play. Get your chops down. Plus playing a slightly heavier gauge of strings warms the fingers and tendons up so your hands are super relaxed when you get the stage call. JACK: Depends on the gig. Smaller shows I don’t tend to have any particular routine. Bigger shows I might run through a couple of warm-ups and a few parts from songs before we go on. That’s kind of it. Check tunings and away we go.
GT: If you could put together a fantasy band with you in it, who would the other players be.
DAVE: It would have to be Dave Grohl on drums, Chris Cornell on vocals, Paul McCartney on bass, Elton John on keys and I’d try to keep up on guitar. JACK: How many players am I allowed? Can I have subs at half time? Off the top of my head it would be: Jeff Porcaro on drums, Pino Palladino on bass, Stevie Wonder on keys, John Mayer on guitar, Freddie Mercury singing and I’ll hide near the back and try not to get thrown out.
GT: Present company accepted, who’s the greatest guitarist that’s ever lived?
DAVE: To pinpoint the best guitarist that ever lived is so subjective. I think the only way to approach this is to acknowledge who’s been the most instrumental to expose the electric guitar to the masses. So with that in mind I’d have to say Jimi Hendrix. JACK: Horrible question. Yeah, Jimi Hendrix was probably the most groundbreaking of all time. But, what do I know and who is to say I’m right?
GT: Is there a solo by another guitarist that you really wish you had played?
DAVE: It’s an obvious choice to state which solo I wish I’d written but it would have to be Dave Gilmour’s solo on Comfortably Numb. I saw him play at the Royal Albert hall and when it kicked in, complete strangers were holding hands and we were all touching shoulders. It was a moment of unification via guitar. JACK: My dad isn’t a player but he loves music. He played me Stairway To Heaven live from The Song Remains The Same. Jimmy Page’s solo on that is full of errors and fall-offs but that is a great live solo to me.
GT: What’s the solo/song of your own of which you’re most proud?
DAVE: There’s a track off our debut album Before Dark Clouds called Home Ain’t Home. When I recorded the solo, our producer Andy Hawkins insisted I stand up and cut some shapes while laying it down. By the climax I was shaking my guitar vigorously and ended up on my knees! But the emotion comes through. JACK: I’m proud of them all. It’s parts not solos for me. I think I play one very brief solo on the album. That is one of Dave’s strengths, not mine. I’m proud of the opening riffs on See The Light and All The Way Down but in general I’m proud of all of my parts and all of our songs.
GT: What would you most like to be remembered for?
DAVE: If my lyrics, songwriting and guitar playing affect anyone positively, then I’ve done all I can. JACK: Just to be remembered would be nice wouldn’t it?
GT: And finally, what are you up to at the moment?
DAVE: Well our debut album Before Dark Clouds is our primary focus at the minute. We are just putting together a decent tour in the UK and Europe and have started doing some background work, writing sessions and bits and bobs ready for our second album. But let’s focus on the first for now. It would be great if you could mention it: Austin Gold, Before Dark Cloud. It’s on the Jigsaw label and distributed by Cadiz. Come and see us at: 22 Sept, Duck & Drake, Leeds 27 Sept, Dublin Castle, Camden 6 Oct, Voodoo Lounge, Stamford 24 Oct, West Street Live, Sheffield
For more information, please visit www.austingold.band
ON DISCOVERING THE CAGED SYSTEM MY PLAYING CHANGED OVERNIGHT. THE WHOLE FRETBOARD JUST OPENS UP
Jack Cable: calls himself the ‘parts’ player in Austin Gold
Jack with the Goldtop his Dad bought him, and Dave with his Vanquish DS
Dave Smith is main lead guitarist with Austin Gold