In my last column, I answered a question from Curt Pazz, who asked me how to play “More Human Than Human,” but I didn’t have enough space to finish showing you all the riffs. So here they are…..
Apart from the main slide riff we covered, the rest of the song is basically one chord (the E5 power chord shape near the nut) played in a few different ways. FIGURE 1 is verses 1 and 2; FIGURE 2 is verse 3; FIGURE 3 is the bridge (the “…Yeah…Yeah…Yeah” part) and FIGURE 4 is the chorus. That just leaves the outro section which combines the E5 chord with an ascending slide part, as shown in FIGURE 5. Once again, I doubled all the guitars to make everything sound as fat as possible.
J.,White Zombie is my favorite band in the world. You guys are great, and I’ve been listening to you every day for years. My question is: what brands of pedals do you use? I find that the guitar part at the beginning of “Welcome to Planet Motherfucker” sounds good with an MXR Phase 90 pedal, but what are you using?
I’ve been getting a ton of gear questions lately, so next month we’ll look at my guitar gear. For now, let me say that it’s interesting that you bring up the Phase 90 (more on this in a second), but you’re way off base. To get the phased, chugging sound that starts off the song (at about 0:57 on the CD counter), I used a Dunlop Crybaby wah pedal. Actually, the only things I had at the time to create effects with were my wah and the whammy bar on my guitar, so I tended to use them a lot-I guess you could say that poverty is the mother of invention! Anyway, to play that part, I strum a three-note E octave (see Figure 6) using all downstrokes while rocking the wah pedal back and forth to slowly sweep through all the frequencies. As with the slide riff in “More Human…,” I doubled the part almost exactly to give it that kind of phased, throbbing sound.
Don’t get me wrong here-doubling a part sloppily may be good for getting weird sounds, but being able to double rhythm parts as precisely as possible is a skill you’re going to want to develop, especially if you play heavier music. Sound simple? It’s not-even if you don’t have a four- track recorder, you can get a feel for how good you are at it by taping yourself playing a riff (try a low chordy one), then playing along with what you just recorded. Does it sound like you playing along with yourself, or can you get it to blend into one big, fat sound?
Another cool trick is to try to double solos. This can produce a distinctive chorusy sound that you can’t really get with a pedal or effects processor. Check out Randy Rhoads’ work with Ozzy (the solo from “Crazy Train” is a big favorite of mine) to hear what I mean.
Getting back to your question, I have an old MXR Phase 90 pedal from the Seventies. It breaks all the time, and I haven’t taken it on the road in years, but I’ve used been using it on every White Zombie session since we recorded La Sexorcisto. I have lots of phasers, most notably an Electro Harmonix Small Stone which has a really good sound. But I always go back to the MXR. For another demonstration of why I love this pedal, check out the verses to “Blur the Technicolor” on Astro Creep 2000.
I don’t use any one brand of effects exclusively. My advice to you is to listen for what sounds good (and that doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive thing), and make the most of what you have. If you can only afford one pedal, I’d say get a wah (I like the ones Dunlop makes, and the Vox reissue is pretty nice too). Not only will you be able to play some of the coolest riffs ever (I’m talking about “Voodoo Chile” and the “Theme from Shaft,” of course), but you can produce a wide range of effects and tones in time with the song you’re playing, which is something not a lot of other pedals can do.
Well, that’s all the space we have this time. More on gear next month!
Bonus: Tattoo Revue – White Zombie
Bonus: Tattoo Magazine – J Yuenger