|Current mood:|| nerdy|
reading this article reminded me a lot of myself
Greg Camp of Smash Mouth
by Lisa Sharken
Smash mouth made its mark in ?97 with ?Walking On The Sun,? the retro-flavored chartbuster off the San Jose, California group?s debut disc, Fush You Mang. The hot streak continues with the success of its follow-up, Astro Lounge, and singles like ?All Star,? ?Can?t Get Enough Of You Baby? and ?Diggin? Your Scene.?
Guitarist Greg Camp tells GroundWire about his evolution as both a player and songwriter, and takes us into the studio to reveal the dirty secrets of Astro Lounge.
GroundWire: Who were your main influences as a player?
Greg Camp: Eddie Van Halen was the guy who made me want to play guitar. My mom bought me a guitar when I was nine, but I had no interest in it because I was a drummer. Then a few years later, I heard Eddie and he made me say, ?I need to be doing that.? I don?t think I knew it back then, but Eddie has a really funky vibe about him. He was really innovative. It wasn?t like he was just hauling ass on the guitar, it was all the neat little tricks that he did. It wasn?t the Doobie Brothers or blues, it was just this amazing combination of everything. Then when new wave and punk became popular, I started listening to things that were more eclectic. I got into bands that were really simple and just played, like the Ramones and Devo. I didn?t do solos because I thought solos were stupid?mostly because I couldn?t play them. I was into bands like Devo that just did strange things with their instruments. Then I got heavily into surf music. I really liked Bow Wow Wow because the guitarist had a classic rockabilly, kind of surfy influence and the Dead Kennedys because it was a surf guitar player in a punk band. In high school, I got into reggae, jazz, and I just went all over the place listening to different music.
GW: Who influenced you as a songwriter?
GC: I think guys like Elvis Costello and Bernie Taupin had the most influence on my writing?people who just write really insane lyrics.
GW: How do the songs typically develop for Smash mouth? Are you the primary songwriter?
GC: Yes, I am the main songwriter. On the first album I felt that everyone should get equal credit because we all have roles in this band and everyone works equally as hard. I wrote most of the songs on the new album, on the back of the bus, while we were on tour. Songs normally just start in my head. I can hear the song and the way I want it to sound, with the instrumentation that I want. Then I sit down with the guitar and try to figure it out. Once I have the song pretty solid, I always make a demo of it. I hate drum machines, so I usually just sit down at a drum kit and play for a little while, then just sample and loop what I did. I do all the parts on the demo tracks myself, including the vocals. Then I just hand the tape to the guys and if they like it, we play it. If they don?t, then it just goes into a shoe box. I?ve got quite a few shoe boxes now.
GW: I read that ?Walking On The Sun? was actually one of those ?shoe box? songs.
GC: It?s an old song. I think I wrote it in ?93. It was on a tape that I had filed in one of my shoe boxes, but it was a lot more Latino-sounding than it is now. I lived in an apartment building and Kevin [Coleman], our drummer, lived upstairs. He came down to my place and asked to borrow a tape to play his drums to. He wanted something that had drum loops and something that he could put a tempo to. I gave him a tape to use and that song happened to be on it. After he heard it, he came back, pounding on my door, and said that we had to put this song on the album. I told him he was crazy. It didn?t sound anything like something we would do. He was so adamant about it that he went to our producer and insisted that we play the song. Our producer agreed, so that was the last song to be added to that first album, and was the one that sold over two-million copies.
GW: How were the tracks for Astro Lounge recorded?
GC: We did both records with the same producer/engineer, Eric Valentine, in a huge warehouse in an industrial park. It?s filthy, dirty and rat-infested, but it?s home. We?ve recorded in other studios a few times before and it?s come out sounding too sterile. There?s just no inspiration in that kind of environment.
We played all the songs straight through, live. Eric usually goes for drum tracks first, so we?d play the songs over and over to get lots of takes down on tape. Then Eric would go back and find the best drum performances. Once he selected the basic tracks, we?d go back and just add things to that. If the guitars came out good on that particular take, then we would leave them alone. Otherwise, I would go back and redo them. The warehouse has really high ceilings that are like 20 feet high, so all the reverb effects you hear are natural?just the sounds of the rooms miked.
GW: What are you using in your live rig?
GC: When I play live, I use a 100-watt Marshall JCM900 series head through two 4x12s. I use the distortion from the amp. Next to that, I?ve got a ?70 Fender Dual Showman which goes through a 2x12 cabinet, and a Fender Dual Pro, which I believe was made for pedal steel players because it?s a 100-watt amp that?s clean and just never breaks up. I leave them on all the time and run an A/B splitter box to channel switch between the Marshall and the Dual Showman.
For guitars, I use a Fender Custom Shop Jazzmaster? that has two Seymour Duncan Hot Rails. I rarely break strings (Fender .010-.046), so I use it for most of the set. I also have a Guild Starfire? hollowbody with a Bigsby for songs like ?Waste.?
GW: What did you learn from your experience making these two records?
GC: I?ve learned a lot from working with Eric. I learned how to use microphones to get the sounds I want, and not just settle for good enough. I really like old ribbon mics. They make everything sound old and because we have sort of a retro thing going on, it?s really important to use that stuff to make it sound old. There?s really no way to simulate it. Every little thing has to be perfect in order for the final product to be perfect and come out the way you hear it in your head.
GW: What advice do you have for other musicians on developing one?s own style?
GC: Do the obvious things, like practicing and listening to a lot of players. Don?t limit yourself to just one kind of music because there?s so much out there. You can always take a classical riff, then turn on the distortion box and come up with something weird.
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