Interview with Joey Santiago

Joey Santiago

Guitarist

The Pixies

Joey Santiago, guitarist for seminal alt rockers The Pixies and The Everybody, recently spoke with Waves about his musical beginnings, his approach to writing and recording, and how he's using the latest technology to get where he's going creatively.

Who inspired/influenced your guitar style in your early days?

When I was 12, I discovered that our public library lets you take out albums to borrow. It was mostly jazz and classical recordings. It was then that I bumped into a Wes Montgomery recording and was instantly drawn to his octave-playing style.

I was also into Donovan. The first solo and probably the only solo I bothered to figure out was “Sunshine Superman”. It had lines that were outside the scale. I was also into Jimi Hendrix’s string-bending. I’m more interested in a player’s sonic techniques than agility.

What have you been working on recently?

David Lovering and I are just finishing our first album with our new project called “The Everybody”. It was fun to make. We worked with the most Classic Rock guy: Eddie Kramer, who worked with Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones. Eddie gave us great advice on amping and recording. He mixed several songs on the album.

How does working digital change the way you play?

It doesn’t really change the way I play. I’ll probably record more takes. There’s no such thing as a run-through when I’m recording. Whether it’s me or David playing, if I forget to hit record, that’s a bummer. So I’m always recording everything; I’ve learned my lesson.

Do guitar plugins enhance your creative process?

I’ll use plugins in the end to get a desired result—delays mainly. I like to automate the repeats. I also like to use the tremolo plugin to lock in a groove, or not if I just want to float around.

Is there a different frame of mind, composing for scores like Weeds versus writing for a rock band?

You would think there would be a big difference, but there really isn’t. When scoring for a TV/film project, you’re honing in on an emotional result and that’s the same way I approach it with playing in a band. The deadlines can be a drag with scoring a project, but I learned to adapt to that.

Having such deadlines actually helps the creative process. You learn to not be so precious, to a fault, and just try to get through it, the end result being a constant creative flow.

How do you use Waves GTR in your work?

I usually have a guitar sound in mind when I’m writing and it’s very easy to get that with GTR. It has endless combinations. The tone I’m searching for is more than just clean or dirty, tube or solid-state kinds of decisions. GTR makes it very easy. The presets are easy to navigate and tweak for a desired result. I would re-amp later, but I usually end up using the GTR tracks and supplement it with a mic’d amp. I’m still into recording air movements. For me, it still has to be on the track, one way or another.

Are you using GTR on anything besides electric guitars?

I’ve tried it on acoustic guitars, drums and horns, just to have them poke forward in the mix.

How would you compare software like GTR to real amps and stomps?

Plugins are getting closer to the real deal, and GTR is really great at that. I’ve A/B’d and I’d have to say sometimes I end up liking the GTR track better, probably because I tracked with GTR first, and I tend to play with whatever tone I’m hearing. Trying to get another sound via re-amping would be like chasing my own tail.

Do you have any other favorite Waves plugins and why?

I like the Renaissance EQ and Renaissance Compressor. I love the C4 as well. They’re simple and effective. The SSL bundle is just amazing—puts a nice spit shine on things.

Anything you’d like to tell young guitarists out there?

Be yourself.

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