Word on the street is that when Mariachi El Bronx – the alter ego of The Bronx, natch – asked for the best Australian garage band to support them on their recent Aussie tour, there was really only one option: The Peep Tempel. Known for their no-fuss approach, catchy songwriting, animated vocal delivery and sweetass guitar work, their sound is immediately identifiable as Australian but with that indefinable thing that transcends geography and makes them a contender for “Aussie band who can make it overseas” rather than “Aussie band who never gets a break.” They’re currently wrapping up an Australian tour (check out current and future dates here) and I caught up with guitarist/vocalist Blake Scott to geek out about guitar.
Let’s start with the guitar nerd stuff. What do you use?
What do I use? Guitar-wise I’ve got an old early 80s Epiphone Sheraton that’s got PAF pickups from an early 70s Les Paul in it. Well, it had two and I’ve got one of those in the bridge but the one in the neck has died. I may get it repaired but at the moment I’ve got a DiMarzio Bluesbucker in the neck, which is basically a P90. And that’s been really good for that sort of fuzz solo stuff …well, the one solo that I play! So I’ve got that at the moment and I’ve got an old Yamaha that I’m going to get re-saddled and redone. I’m going to get some Lollar pickups put in. So I’m running the Epiphone through a Vox AC30 that I’ve done a few modifications to.
I’m also getting a custom Vox AC30 style amp being made at the moment by a guy in Melbourne. It’s based on the early 60s models, just a couple of extra air holes and things like that to help with the circulation so I don’t end up cooking it all the time!
So where do those fuzz sounds come from?
The fuzz basically just comes from turning the amp up really loud and using the bridge pickup. I do have a Crowther Hotcake and if I need something to fuzz out a little I use that. I do have a fuzz pedal that a mate built for me but I just haven’t found a use for it yet. It does sound really good, I just haven’t got a place for it right now. But the best fuzz for what I do is just from the Hotcake. It’s just such a diverse pedal. They’re great for if you’re in a small room and you’ve got a bigger amp to really get the amp cranking and sounding like an amp that’s turned up loud when it actually isn’t, but it’s also good to use for fuzz or overdrive.
So what’s your history as a guitarist?
Bit of a hack really, man! Just sort of picked it up as I went along. I guess I wouldn’t say I’m a very technical player. I enjoy making noise and I enjoy understanding what sort of noises are coming out and why but I don’t really know a great deal about the technical side of guitar playing, like scales and that sort of thing. I play with my fingers as opposed to a pick, which is just something I’ve always done. I guess it’s good for me, especially with the hollowbody Epiphone. I like to play hollowbody guitars because with the fingers you tend to get a lot more overtones and that sort of thing. It just makes it a little different every time because it’s maybe not as precise.
Was there any particular guitarist or band that made you think “I have to do this!”?
Not really. One of the things that really helped to develop and shape the way I play was that I’ve never really considered myself a guitar player. I still don’t, really, even though I play guitar in the band. I feel a bit more like a guitar fan, in a sense. I like really good inventive and interesting guitar players, and they’re not always the best players technically but just people who are doing something interesting and really going hard at it. But I think I just developed my style by whacking away trying to write songs, and it developed from there. I never really saw myself as a guitar player. Of course, as a kid Nirvana were an influence, Kurt Cobain, but really it was a lot of blues dudes and that sort of thing. I played a lot of acoustic guitar for a lot of years and I suppose that’s where I got a lot of the fingerpicking style from: trying to get those sounds that a lot of blues dudes did and that I was listening to in my early teens.
It’s funny, I used to be way into shredders and I’ll always love it but now it has to be someone really inventive for me to be really into it, and otherwise I’m just looking for style.
I guess it’s just separating soul from regurgitation and showing off! There are certainly a lot of special players out there who seem to not do a great deal but who just sound amazing and who really give something to the audience.
The audience can be such a big part of it. It’s one thing to play in your bedroom or play to a camera for YouTube but once you get in front of a crowd, that’s where it really happens and that’s something that the players who aren’t so hung up on technicality seem to shine at because it’s like “Let’s go out and play some gigs!,” where shred guys are like “Let’s practice until we think we’re good enough!” but the nature of that kind of playing is that you never let yourself think you’re good enough.
Yeah, that’s it! That’s pretty accurate I’d say.
So, any wacky stories from the road or anything?
Um… it’s one of those things. A lot of it’s just getting off aeroplanes and getting into cars. But when we were in Germany we played a small venue in Hamburg, it was tiny and we got a fair few of us, as many as we could fit in the van and we went down to the river and had a skinnydip… stuff like that you remember forever. Every night was a pretty major party when we were over in Europe. Australia’s a little bit different I suppose. It doesn’t get as wild. But once you get overseas it’s a great new adventure and you meet amazing people that you’ll never see again.
Here’s what I’d do if I was on tour: I’d make it a point to see all the ‘big’ stuff I could. The Big Lobster, the Big Pineapple, the Big Trout, all that stuff.
It’s funny you should say that: there are quite a few bands who like to get their photo with the Big Ram.