Black Midi are the nonconformists who reinvent rock on the guitar – Guitar.com
What is the future of guitar music? The answer could very well be found in the London group Black Midi and their invigorating and unpredictable approach to rock.
None of the four members of the group are of drinking age in the United States, and they have been active for just two years. But they’ve already thrilled listeners around the world with the sonic flag they’ve planted at the intersection of noise, post-punk, prog, and krautrock. Freewheeling one moment and strapped into a monstrous groove the next, Black Midi is known to set stages on fire with incendiary performances. It’s no wonder they have become the talk of the town thanks to live videos and concerts.
The energy of a Black Midi performance is impossible to capture in the recording, says singer / guitarist Geordie Greep Guitar.com. So they don’t try. Last month they released their first album, Schlagenheim, which was produced by Dan Carey of independent label Speedy Wunderground. Its German title translates to something like ‘hits home’, which is fun for a record that relishes zigzagging between tempos, riffs, and entire styles – but also a fitting way to sum up the impact that Black Midi has already had on the rock world.
We spoke to Greep about how Guitar Hero unlocked his love of guitar music, what a musical stuff used on Schlagenheim he could retire, and his faithful reverend ax taped.
How did you start playing the guitar for the first time?
When I was seven I had the game Guitar Hero on PlayStation for my birthday and slowly got hooked. As I progressed through the game, I liked the music itself more and more. My dad had a huge CD collection and knew many songs from the game, so he lent me albums he thought I would find interesting.
I quickly became more obsessed with this music than I ever was with playing, listened to as much as I could and decided to learn guitar for real. For my eighth birthday, I was given a Â¾ size Squier Electric Stratocaster.
You and guitarist Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin were street musicians for a brief stint. Did you gain anything from the experience in Black Midi?
Maybe not to expect too much from a concert or an audience. Some days five hours of busking could get us Â£ 200 and some days less than Â£ 20 even playing the exact same songs in the same place.
When Black Midi started you said you had a lot more “rules and regulations” that were eventually dropped. What were some of these rules, and why did you feel like you needed them in the first place?
At first we were much more aware of the style of music we wanted to do and were careful not to drop it into some taboo genres. But as we played more and more, we stopped thinking about it all and only did what we found interesting in one way or another, sometimes not knowing why. This gave better results.
Black Midi, as a creative entity, is all about reinvention. Are there any particular musical tips used on Schlagenheim do you think you’ve already exhausted their welcome?
Using the “magic” setting on the [EarthQuaker] Rainbow Machine to create a slow ramp modulated delay can have.
So Schlagenheim and your live performances are meant to sound different, we hear. Why did you choose to do this? How did it work?
Completely capturing the energy of live performance on disk is an almost impossible task, so we decided to go in a different direction and create something with its own separate sound. [as compared] to live experience. It meant that [when recording] we weren’t bothered by considerations of how we were going to recreate each part live. We could just focus on making the album as detailed and nuanced as possible.
How different is the material you use to record from live sets?
On the record, we changed guitar and amp on almost every song to make the band sound like that particular one. We also used quite a few weird pedals belonging to Dan [Carey] on overdubbed guitar parts, not to mention all the extra instruments.
What is your main guitar (s) and why do you like them?
Reverend baritone guitar. It can handle baritone-gauge strings and has excellent pickups, but the scale length isn’t too long, so it’s still fairly easy to play compared to most baritones, especially live.
Can you tell us a little more about your stuck-up Reverend? What happened to him?
This is just used to prevent the strap from falling off. On our first gig the guitar strap kept losing grip as I adjusted the pedal settings on the floor and didn’t have any strap locks handy so I went to a nearby store and bought some duct tape to hold it in place just overnight. It worked really well and has always done so ever since, so I never felt the need to switch to the popular Grolsch bottle washers or even the strap locks themselves.
What kind of effects do you guys prefer? Has this changed over time?
The ones that have a lot of features in a small box and respond to your playing. Most sounds that sound crazy but don’t give you any control over the guitar quickly get boring.
What are you looking for in amps?
[The ability] to manage the low frequencies without removing the highs and vice versa. Clean, noisy.
- Guitar: Reverend Baritone
- Amplifier: Orange TH30
- Pedals: EHX Memory Man with Hazarai, Suhr Riot, Fredric Harmonic Percolator, Keeley BubbleTron, DOD Gonkulator, EarthQuaker Rainbow Machine and EarthQuaker Arpanoid
- Strings: Ernie Ball 13-72
Schlagenheim is now available through Rough Trade Records. Black Midi is currently on tour in Europe and North America. More info on their Facebook page.