It’s often been said that The Bronx have taken brutal party music to a new level. Their fourth album, released last year, is ample evidence that they’ve been able to capture their frantic-yet-precise energy in recorded form (check out their frigging excellent four album, for instance) but to really feel it, to really live it, you have to see them in the flesh. And this month me and my fellow Aussies will be able to, as the band returns to Australia for about the jillionth time for shows in Brisbane, Melbourne, Hobart and Sydney with High Tension. I caught up with guitarist Joby J Ford for a good old-fashioned geek-out.
How many times have you been down here now?
Oh man… six? Seven? Maybe more? Quite a bit! I think as a band, selfishly, there are fantastic places to go in the world, and we get to go to Australia a lot. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Germany but I’d rather go to Australia… Hahaha. I think Australia has a fantastic scene and fantastic bands, and every time we come down there we discover new bands… like DZ Deathrays… every band we get to play with down there is super-inspiring and I think there’s a calibre… even dating back to bands we never got to play with like the Lime Spiders, all these great garage bands of Australia who are unsung heroes. There was a compilation that came out called Do The Pop!, which was all the unknown, sort of forgotten underground bands of Australia and it’s some of the most fantastic music I’ve ever heard. When we first came down there eight years ago, nine years ago we were introduced to it and it’s still in heavy rotation on all of our iPods.
Well there’s nothing else to do here except for be in a band or run from all the poisonous animals.
Yeah but then you travel the world and realise that’s not such a bad thing. Haha.
So let’s talk guitar! What are you using?
My studio rig varies quite a bit from my live rig. My live rig is kinda dogshit, to be honest with you. I play a new wooden Dan Armstrong, which I know is sacrilege, but I have a lot of back problems, probably from jumping around like an idiot with ten pounds on my neck over the years. That guitar has a maple neck and it weighs about a pound, but I outfitted it with an vintage original Dan Armstrong Rock Treble pickup. The original Dan Armstrong pickups came in the original models that I used to play. They had two pickups, one that was labelled CB which stood for Country Blues, and one labelled RT which stood for Rock Treble. And so I swapped an old original Rock Treble out of my old faithful Dan Armstrong and put it in the new one. And it’s alright… it’s not super-fantastic, but my back feels super-fantastic every night. In the studio I’m a single coil guy. I think a single coil guitar with a high gain amp is the most exciting sound. I absolutely loathe a humbucker Marshall sound. The compression and sustain that people love about that sort of setup is super boring to me. I love the slash-and-burn, exciting sound of a single coil. It’s just bursting with excitement, for me. Most of the time in the studio I have a Gibson Les Paul Classic with a P90, and then in the neck position it has a Danelectro lipstick tube single coil pickup. Those pickups were originally intended for a guitar that was made out of Masonite and had no sustain, but in the Les Paul because there’s so much sustain you really change what they were built for and you get a really unique sound. Taking credit for that I can’t. That was a John Rhys thing from Rocket From The Crypt. He told me, ‘Throw this in your Les Paul, dude.’ So that’s been something I favour in the studios.
What about amps?
I generally do a split tone. I biamp between my Marshall JMP 100 watt from the 70s that I’ve had for 20 years, and a Vox AC30 Top Boost. That’s kinda been my sound. I get my low-end buzz and depth from the JMP and I blend that with the high end from the AC30. And being able to switch between the two pickups I feel I get an exciting variance of sound. Bronx stuff is pretty simple. It’s kind of a point-and-shoot kind of sound, so that’s generally what I do. I think the only trick I really have is that I have a Rickenbacker 330 that I got set up as a baritone guitar in the key of C, and I string it with acoustic strings. That has a really nice sort of throaty, full, non-distorted sound. I’m a huge fan of acoustic strings on electric guitars. It’s a completely different sound. A lot of people are like “This amp sounds bad,” and I’m like “Change your strings! Think about it backwards: put a different set of strings on your guitar and there’s a whole other world of sounds. I think everybody’s searching for that pedal and that amp, and it’s like ‘Dude, change your strings.’ It’s not as hard as you think!
Well vintage pickups were generally designed for fatter strings and it was only later that people started to use thinner strings and changing what the pickup had to interact with.
Exactly. I can really geek out. Like 50s-style wiring or different caps and pots, those are the things that are really gonna change the sound of the instrument. The difference between vintage and new instruments is not really that much, it’s in the electronics, in using different pots in different wirings to what is used nowadays. You don’t have to spend a million dollars on different guitars to get different sounds. I can talk about this stuff all day. It’s that constant quest to get a different sound, and it’s generally a pretty cheap fix or looking at the instrument backwards. That’s really exciting to me.
The Bronx Australian Tour with High Tension
Sunday June 15 Crowbar, Brisbane QLD
Monday June 16 Crowbar, Brisbane QLD (High Tension not appearing at this date)
Tuesday June 17 Melbourne, 170 Russell, Melbourne VIC
Thursday June 19 Dark Mofo (Odean Theatre), Hobart TAS
Friday June 20 Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW