Taking Back The Electric Guitar

It’s the 13th August and it’s my first gig with the new line up of the Tokyo Sex Whales (my epically named backing band). A special show for many reasons, the obvious one being it was my first show with a new band, which is always exciting. Secondly, it was a special show because it was my first time playing electric guitar live for four years. 

When I played with the old Sex Whales, it was really just a ramped up version of what I normally do, thwacking my acoustic guitar and screaming at the top of my lungs. Now there was a band behind me to (hopefully) make me sound even better.

After we called it a day with the old line-up (everyone was going back to their other projects) I searched high and wide for musicians to fill out the Tokyo Sex Whale line-up, but alas only tumbleweeds showed up to auditions. I turned to Billy and Donna who helped me record ‘Season Of Blue’ at the tail end of last year and asked them for help, thankfully they were up for it.

We had our first rehearsal back in June, just the three of us and I brought along my acoustic guitar, Lucille (the best guitars totally have names…) expecting it to work just like the previous incarnation of the band. However, when we kicked off songs like ‘Same Train,, Different Departure Times’ and ‘Magnet Star’ there was… something missing. The sound wasn’t as full without Tim’s electric guitar noodling away in the background. Billy and Donna suggested I bring my electric guitar along next time, which was a cool idea, I hadn’t got Beccy out her case in years…

Our next rehearsal rolls around, this time in July and I’m literally blowing dust off my electric as I plug her into my pedal board. We roar through a couple of songs, it feels strange… the natural twang of my acoustic has been replaced by a wall of distortion. It felt for a moment that I was betraying everything that I’d been building on for four years, creating a big sound with just the acoustic guitar and my voice. It had always been something different, and I liked that it was different. I packed my gear away at the end of practice, loaded my car and drove away, not sure how I felt about this sudden change.

As I’m lying in bed that night, I stick my earphones in and listen to the recording of that afternoon’s practice that I recorded on my Dictaphone. Immediately as that first big, distorted chord comes in on our opener ‘Good Times Ahead’ my heart started pounding. This sounds flipping good I heard myself thinking, then almost as if in reply I hear myself think It’s not allowed to be good, it’s not on an acoustic guitar! In that moment, I remembered what James Brown once said ‘Does it sound good? Does it feel good? If it sounds good and it feels good, it’s musical!’

I realized that I was locking my identity as a musician, as a performer up in the acoustic guitar and if I didn’t break past it, it would limit me creatively. I started getting out my electric guitar every day and just working at it, using pedals, using the amp, it felt like getting to know an old friend really well again. This is definitely a different version of the Tokyo Sex Whales, but I’m rather excited to see where it goes…