I started messing around with electronics very early on; I was quite fortunate enough to have a variety of instruments in the house, including some synths and electronic equipment, so I’ve always had contact and connection to electronic instruments and music. The truth is, though, electric guitarists are always somewhat connected to the concepts of electronic music to begin with when it comes to effects and processing. But there still some marked differences, enough to make me often think about quitting guitar altogether.
Now that may seem like a very melodramatic thing to say–and it is, I mean, I am somewhat of a melodramatic person to begin with. But there is a reason why it isn’t all that crazy or extreme–I do have some very good reasons for thinking about my decision to keep playing guitar in the future.
As I said, electronic instruments have always been “around,” and I have always loved the sounds of these instruments–but I’ve equally been in love with the possibilities of these instruments. The variety of combinations of different sounds gives a level of control over the sonic space in a very individualized way that I greatly desire (I do, after all, perform solo ambient guitar, with the instrument merely as a lens to access sounds I want to express). So, some might suggest, why not just do both?
Well, I could (and often do) use both. The problem, however, is what the result will end up being, and it always centers around a very serious question/consideration to make regarding my music: if electronic instruments will give me greater access to the music I make, then maybe I should just leave the guitar be. I can spend hours and hours crafting a guitar technique or tone to only scratch the surface of a tonality or musical approach that I could instead achieve in minutes on some kind of synth, getting past that barrier quicker and do more with the results.
But the problem, however, is that the process of building these sounds out on the guitar, even if they are sometimes trying to emulate processes and approaches on synthetic instruments, really pushes me to think of the guitar in a new way and produce some interesting results that I might not have otherwise come across if I just jumped straight into synths. And this, by the way, is something quite similar to what many other musicians do already. There’s a long history of guitar players thinking about solos from the perspective of, say, the saxophone, or the keyboard. Paul Gilbert has often talked about “thinking like a drummer” in his approach. So this isn’t anything new.
So yeah, I probably won’t give the guitar up, but goddamn do I find myself continually looking at electronic instruments and wondering, “what if?” And, I should say, it’s increasingly likely that electronic stuff will continue to find its way into my music, so maybe I will get the best of both worlds in the end anyway.