On The Up

Dark­ness and dy­nam­ics from a new light in Bri­tish blues

Total Guitar - - CONTENTS -

“It’s more about touch­ing the string than hit­ting it.... let­ting the string do the work”

The gui­tar is a fine tool for ex­or­cis­ing anx­i­ety, but some­times it’s worth re­mind­ing your­self of its ca­pac­ity for nu­ance. UK blues­man John J Pres­ley started off in a flurry of Black Keys-ian fuzz riffs, but af­ter a stint as Duke Gar­wood’s gui­tarist he has learned to admire sub­tlety, too.

“I think the first thing is space and drone or sus­tain,” he tells TG of his tech­nique. “You know if you’ve got a re­ally fuzzed-up sound and you ab­so­lutely ham­mer it? You al­most hear the per­cus­sion of it? I think I’ve lost that and it’s more about touch­ing the string than hit­ting it. Stroking the strings rather than strum­ming. That’s what I do now: quite high gain fuzz and push­ing the pre amps and the power valve, but then just touch­ing it gen­tly and let­ting the string do the work.”

That’s not to say Pres­ley isn’t ca­pa­ble of a punch­ing blues line, it’s just there’s room for both ends of the dy­namic spec­trum in his play­ing. Re­cent sin­gle True Love­waits res­onates with thun­der­ing hum, be­fore the clouds burst into a rather scorch­ing – but taste­fully brief – solo sec­tion.

“I used my Tele­caster on that,” re­calls John. “It’s a ac­tu­ally a re­ally weird Tele­caster. It’s got a hol­lowfeel­ing body and it’s in­cred­i­bly res­o­nant. It’s got a Monty’s PAF in the neck so it’s pretty honk­ing! It’s quite a high gain set­ting – go­ing to a WEM with the boost on and just glanc­ing the strings.”

The first taste from an al­bum due early next year, Tru­elove­waits was recorded as it was writ­ten – an­other ex­am­ple of Pres­ley’s in­nate de­sire to push his play­ing and writ­ing.

“I didn’t feel any pres­sure at that point to do any­thing,” John con­tem­plates. “I wish I felt like that all of the time. I wasn’t try­ing to sound like any­thing. It was just very nat­u­ral and true.”

For fans of Duke Gar­wood, Black Keys

GEAR Hofner Pres­i­dent, WEM Dom­i­na­tor, Selmer Zo­diac

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