tF4A - The Mermen
.z.. '\ n-
surfersof the eorly '6Osstillechoesthroughthe speechof everyslocker,rocker,indie
kid born o decodeor so ofterthot holcyonero. The lexiconof surf guiior hos survived
timeworp, riding o longwove from its loie-'Sosoriginsond breokingoncemorein the
More thon 30 yeorsofter its first big fode, the primol tonesond ottitudesof surf guitor
hold our fascination.
Guitar-fueled instrumental rock and roll was
all over the radio dial in the late '50s.Pioneers
such as the Ventures,Duane Eddy,Link Wray,
Iohnny & the Hurricanesand the Fireballs-not
to mention hundreds of lesssuccessfulbands
from everycomer of the counuy-were por-Lnding out ferociousnew music that replacedlead
vocals with lead guitar.
Dick Dale & the Del-Tonescarried that spirit
into the early'60s.Dale'sguitar sound, enhanced
by Fender's new reverb unit, sparked a new
genre:surf music. By the time the Surfaris'"Wpe
Out" and the Chantays'"Pipeline"becamenational hits in late '62, surf music had exploded,
first in SouthernCdliforniaand then acrossthe
Although surf's popularitywaned after the
British In'"asion,the music nevercompletely disappeared.Aspects of the sound worked their
way into the fabric of American pop music. In
the early'B0sbands such asJon & the Nightriders,the Surf Raidersand the Raybeatsled a brief
surf revival.And now a new instrumental rock
renaissanceis underway, with scoresofbands
playing reverb-drenched surf tunes.
I'ir/hydo insffumental rock in general
and surf irsnrrmentals in particular remain
so seductive after a third of a century?
\Alhatarethe genre'sessentialtools, techniquesand lricks?How can sucha retrominded genrecontinue to evolve?We convened a stellar instrumental rock roundtable
to answer these questions.
Dick Dale forged the original surf sound' He
worked with Leo Fender to develop the Dual
Showman amp and the Fender reverb. Dale,
alongwith Buddy Holly and Gene'Vincent,was
central in popularizing the Stratocaster'For the
leavlast severalyearshe has toured extensive.ly,
ing fans and critics breathless.Dale categorizes
his current sound as "Dick Rock."His latestCD
is CaIIingup Spirits [Beggar's
IimThomas is lead guitaristfor the Mermen,
7 o GUITAR
When wos "surfmusic"creoted?lt wosn'fin the '60s, whenthe first"surf
music"recordswere releosed.Theociuol songswere being creotedond
os eorlyos,themid-'l950s.And the wet, sploshy
soundof Fenderreverbhod nothingto do with creotingihe "surf sound'" lt
wos onlv loter thot reverbond surf musicbecomesynonymous'
Thereverbcomeoboutofter I exploinedto LeoFenderond FreddyTovores
his number-onemon,thot I didn't hoveo noturolvibrotoin my voice,ond thot m1
live showwos 95% singingond thot my guitor ployedthe leodswhile I song'
lwonted to susioinmyvoicelikeo piono sustoinpedol.ltold Leothot I hod o Hommond
orgon ot home,ond it hod o buttonthot gove you o reverbsound.Leobuilt o devicethot
hod o HommondOrgon Componyspringtonk mountedinside,ond when I pluggedo Shure
into it, I wos oble to singond soundlike Elvis.Thotwos the
birth of ihe Fenderreverb.
into the reverbond ployedsomeof my instrumenLoler,when I pluggedmy Strotocoster
tols(ot showsin the SouthBoyond OrongeCountyoreos,wherethe Coliforniosurfscene
took off), it wos the icing on the coke.Only fhen did my Fenderreverbsoundbecomeossoc
otedwith surf music.
From Rhino'sCowobungo surfCD compilotion.Reprintedby permission'
PHOTO: IAY BLAKESBE
Co n d
rd thot my
c mmo no
e t ho t
n e o s so c i)ALE
ian Francisco'sinnovative and critically ac:laimed progressiverock instrumental trio.
lhomas, who usesheavily modified Statocasterc
"nd a woody load of outboard effects,declines
:r categorizethe Mermen'ssound exceptto say
rat it's rooted in surf with lots of other influ=nces.Their latest album is Song r)f the Cows
Formerly amember of influential'80s instrurentalists the Raybeats,DannyArnis is founder
:-ndco-lead guitarist of Los Straitjackets.The
\fexlcan rrurestlingmasks the band wears on.ragebelie their traditional approach to driv:ng rock instrumentals with strong
neiodies and minimal effects.Their
:nrrent releaseis ;I'4uaIns Straitiack:rs/ lUpstart/ Rounderl.
Mikko Lankinen is lead gui-:rist for Finland's laika & the Cos:nonauts, a group finally achieving
',ridespreadrecognition after eight
<ribe themselvesaspurveyorsof "surfi;::.
rriented guitar and organ spaceinstrunentals for the '90s."The recently released
ZeroGrauity compilation [Upstart/ Rounder] feailes some of their choicest cuts.
DonWilson is rhlthm gritarist and a founder
.rfthe mosr influential,prolific and dor,tmright
-egendaryinstrumental rock band of all time,
rheVentures.Often refened to asa "surf band,"
tre innovative combo actually embraced many
sryles,as superbly evidenced on EMI's twofer
reissueof lhe Venturesin SpacelTheVentures
PIay Tblstar-The Lonely Bull-and Others.
Ih4ryare surf music and instrumental rock
Amis: A better questionis why hasnt it been
popular all along?Alot ofthe record-buyingpub[c doesrlt rememberwhen instrumenta]swere
on the radio all the time. It's refreshingfor a lot
of people. Listening to music without lyrics is
a different way to listen to music. You can really
appreciate the beauty of a melody when you
aren't distracted by lyrics.
Lankinen: Thesethings tend to go in rycles.
Maybepeople aregetting bored with thoseheary
metal sounds, and they d like to hear different
Wilson: Youngpeople are startingto realize
rvhat good music that was!
Da-le:Peopleshould give Dick Dale his fulI
deservedcredit and say,"Yes,it's coming back
becauseyou startedit." Four yearsago Dick Dale
put out a surf albtm, Tribal Thunder, that became#l on KUSESanFrancisco,the altemative
grunge rock station, the largestcollegestation
Is surf guitar an outletfor seriausself-expression or just plain fun?
thenyou're not ploying surf
m u s i c - t ow h i c hI s o y : 1 ) b u l l -
Shodows.Priorto the Beotles'
shit,ond 2) who wontsto limit
to one tiny,olbeit
in Britoinwos so pervosive
cool,genrein the firstploce?
Thotsoid,if surfis o less
"spoce"ond "spy" ore even
When Guitor Ployer oskedme fo compilemy
",l5 GreotestMomentsin InRock,"I wos exstrumentol
betweenmy two CDs,l'd only
releosed25 songsin oll.
lhey were tolkingobout the
spy guitor).I wos o littleiess
flottered,but flotteredoll the
teenier;in foct,l'm not sureo
few evocotivesongshere ond
ine if the Ventureswere nol
only the top rockcomboin
only onel This I 960 movie
3 . " M i s e r l o u ,"D i ckD o l e .
genreot oll. I've got o cool
Ihis 1962 clossicis oll Dick
Dolewill everneedto bock
Run"on on EPby ihe Shoutless,but I wouldn'thold it up
up his brovodo-ond ensure
his siolusos o irue originol.
os the down of "ski" guitor.
But,ironyof ironies,our ros-
os uniqueo stylistos Merle
ter kicksoff with o cut thot
both predoiesond declores
He cloimsthe sessionpredoted.theFenderreverbunit's
Bloirsoysno woy; you listen
While the ployingon my
choicesrongesfrom the eco-
lurn you on to o few things
you hoven'theord,ond your
nomicolto the pyrotechnic,
it's cleor thot sometimesthe
own excovotingwill dredge
w i t h s e l e cl i o n4s,7 o n d 9 ,
oppeor on Rhino'sCowobun-
go! lhe Surfbox.
(ond try re-creoting
touchof reverbis deemed
effects,fhis I 954 Federolsingle by the loteJohnny"Gui-
"surf."Butit'solsonot os nor-
tor" Wotson(reissuedon the
Chorly R&BCD I Heard
os brood o cotegoryos mony
row os its postond present
"King" would ho,reus believe.
you'reployingo certoinmodel of guitor (evenspecifying
stringgouges)througho certoin omp (nomely,his setup),
Drogneffheme,with fhe mosi
2. "Mon of Mystern" the
4. "Pipeline,"the Chontoys.BrionCormont reverbed
Lankjnen: It's notjrst fun, at leastfor Laika
& the Cosmonauts.We arevery seriousabout
our music, though we try to have fun with it.
Thomas: It's definitely a seriousoutlet. I dont
consider myself a great player, but what I do
seemsto causean emotionalresponseftom audiences.
Dale: Music has alwaysbeen an extension
of my feelings.My music is a completeoutlet
of fiustration, anger,pain, sadness,unhappiness
at what this country is doing to our children and
* 1i l
7 2 GUITAR
Wilson: Peoplealwaystell me you look like
inute having so much fun and the truth is, I am.
There'sso much music today that purports to
be seriouslyexpressive,but it's so negativeand
angry like rap music or gangstarock.
Amis: Playingthis snrffis a filn way to get my
kicks,but it's still a serious expression.There's
,definitelya lot of emotion in what we do. The
challengeof evoking emotion byplaying instrumental music is a kick in itself.
Is too much technicalahilily a disaduantage?
Wilson: It depends.Alot of people can't do
rhat glissando in "Pipeline."
Amis: Doing Dick Dale-styledouble picking
is a real workout! It takes practice.
Wilson: But too much technical ability does
detract from the style.Ifyou have lots oftechnique but dont have the feel,you'rejust showing
off Look at Duane Eddy.I dont think he was a
technical giant, but he had a sound and a feel
Lankinen: You'vegot to have good songs.In
everyverseyou have to create something different becausethere are no words, and you're
playing the same melody. It's not so easy.But
technical equipment and ability are just tools.
Dale: There are many people who have the
tools,but not the soul.
IA/hois your fauorite guitarist?
Amis: Hank Marwnlof England'sShadows)
is my favorite "unknorryn" guitarist-unknovm
in this country at least.EddieBertrand ofEddie
& the Shovrmenwas great-their recording of
"SquadCar" is one of my ail-time favorite surf
instrumentals. I've also alwaysbeen very fond
of Bob Demmon's work with the Astronauts.
Thomas: Clarence\.ry'hite.I tried to get everything he ever played on-every Kentucky
Colonelsrecord, everyByrdsrecord. GeneParsijns and Nokie Edwards are two others I greatly
admire.And I reallylikeWes Montgomery Jimi
Hendrix and the improvisational stuff Clapton
played with Cream.
Wilson: I havea lot of sentimentalfavorites:
Duane Eddy,ChetAtkins, LesPaul,DannyGatton and certainly Dick Dale.
Dale: LesPaul first ofall. But everytody plays
something admirable when they play from their
JamesBurton, Gary Hoey, SteveVai, John Lee
Hooker, Eric Clapton.
Lankinen: My favorite is, of course, Dick
How did surfguitar influence the euolution
Wilson: Reverb started being used in surf
music and was later used,mavbe to a lesserdegree,by almost every band
Amis: I think it was much like the garage
bands of the '60s and the punk rockers in the
'70s-people who didnt have a lot of years of
playingmusicbehindthem butwere ableto pull
it off becausetheir passion made up for their
leod (ond the eleclricpiono),
ond the drumsore neorlyin-
for RCAin 1963 (now on o
beqr romily Moter LU,/ bene-^ r
fiting from engineerAl Schmitt
oudible,but thisnever-to-be- ploneond others)ond thisditimproved-upon
impressionis- ty by composerHenryMonci,l963
ni. Listento Jozzmoster
for my money,the greotest
RichFifield& Co. tocklesome
2:,l8 in rockond roll history.
5. "PointPonic,"the Sur-
merelyfiller on onothergim,l966
ThemeLPl,but Nokie Edwords'sleqd work ond the
combo'sflexibility shine.lf there'ssucho thing
os "spy guitor,"this is it.
I l. "Mr. Moto," the
Wedge. By now the surf
Niizsche.In '63 PhilSpeclor's cognoscenliore wondering
orronginggeniushoppedon- where this Beloirsclossicfrom
boord the surfcrozewith this
l 9 6 l i s h i d i n g .We l l , o f th e
the regionolsingle,lhis non-
bell ond TommyTedescohon-
leod, beefybossline, heoviry
dled rhythmguitors,but ihe
reorronged)by the shortlived Wedge (FredGrobert,
leod) is my fovorite.
8. "Oui of Limits,"the
foris.lf you hod to hold up
one song ond soy, "Thisis
s ur fm u s i c , "t h i s 1 9 6 3 s i d e
crew" of studiopros to essen-
Molo" ot oge 15, become
would be o strongcontender.
The l2- b o r i o m i s o l m o s t
tiolly poseos teenogebonds
one of ihe leodinglightsof
thot didn'i yet exist-some-
the surfrevivolwith o killer
generic,but the melodyond
side, not yet reissuedon CD),
Jim Fuller'sleod ore coichy-
I 980 LP,Proy for Surf(Surf-
not to mentionthe croshing
hondledleodon this 1963 hir,
olong with "Let'sGo" (the
opening.(On Rhino'sLegends Routers),
of Guitor-Surf .l
9. "Penetrotion,"the Pyro-
proiects.He [irstcut thisthunderingoriginolon 1964's
Sidewolk Surfin' by the Good
Guys, loter releosedunder
wos prettylome,but Torone
loid down o melodyond otmosphere
olmostos memorobleos "Pipeline."Skip
their bor bond roots,these
Colorodonsrecordedfhe sterlor Surfin'with the Astronouts
rhythmbecousesecondguitoristWilly Gloverwos reportedlyout gettinghot dogs.
fiim page 73
the credit it deserves,buf
combiningsurf,R&B,ovontgordeond donceclub sens,-
DaIe:Youguysneed to remember that Dick
Dale is the father of loud. BeforeDick Dale came
along,everybodywaslimited to the electronics
of the '50s.Dick Dalewas the guywho changed
it. He was the first power player in the world.
Therewas no one on this earth who had what
Dick Dale created.
Lankinen: Certainly Dick Dale was the first
one who played loud rock music with his 100rvatt amplifiers. He createdloud rock and roil!
Is therea definitiue surf album?
Thomas: Probably King of the Surf Guitar,
the Rhino RecordsDick Dale anthology.That,s
a greatoverviewnot only of Dick'scareerbut of
surf guitar in general.
Amis: The Astronauts' first album, Sarfn,.
it pretty much defined the surf sound.The songs
were beautifully written and recorded with tons
Lankinen: I don't know if it's considered a
surf album, but the most influential for me was
The Venturesin Space.
Wilson: The Surfaris' Wipe Out and the
. Dale: Probablyone of my last three albums,
becausethey've been the best of my life.
IA/hatare the bestampsfor surf?
Lankinen: We are using '70sFender silverfaceTWinReverbs.They are reliable workhorses.
Amis: IVe just neverbeen ashappywith the
sound I've gotten from any amp asI havewith
the vintage Fenders.The Dual Shorr.rnanwith
an outboard tank reverbis the classicsetup for
pure surfsound. The TWinReverbis also quite
good. I've found that I really like the sound of
the Celestion vintage reissuespeakers.I have
a 12" in myTWin and a 10" in myVibrolux.
Wilson: I onlyknowwhat I use.The Fender
amplifiers in the '60swere certainly adequate.
I've used Shou,rnanand Concert amps, aswell
asa Sunn.I use anAmpeg head now. I turn the
reverb completely offwhen I'm playing rhythm.
The only time I use reverb is when wete playing
"Pipeline," "Diamond Head," "Walk Dont Run
'64" or anything that requires that popping
his 1987 self-titled
1 5 . " F l o o t i n g , L" o i k o&
versionof the some(nowon
on AVI RoreSurfvolumewith
roritiesby the equollycool
the '80s instrumentol
t o p m u s i c i o nisn F i n l o n d( o r
This I 981 lrock (Guitor Beot
onywhere),the Cosmonours "Blue'sTheme,""Lotin'io"oy
w i t h s k i l l f uw
l r i t i n g ,l i k e t h i s
(yes,thotJim Messino)& His
i994 gem from TheAmazJesiers'"TheJester,"drum
ing ColossolEond (Upstort)
legendSondyNelson's"Cosby leod guitoris!Mikkb
boh" (writtenond ployed by
in U.S.on PVC/Possport)
& fhe Arrows' fuzzed-oul'
of the '90s. Nor limir;ng
to "surf" or
"spoce" or "spy," they've
fhe only threeinstrumentols
ever woxed by the FenderlV:
Up" ond "MolibuRun,"feoturingfutureBlueCheerguitoristRondyHolden.Not
picklingit in formoldehyde.
"Mor Goyo," "Everybody
quite in the revivolcotegory,
to my heortto o mere l5
three recenttunesfrom odo
"Surfin'& Spyin"'by the
14. "fhe Trembler,"Duone Eddy.Any tune credited
difficull, so beforethey pull the
to Shonkor(os in Rovi)ono
plug on nie, here ore some
"Swomp'sUp" ond Webb
Wilder's "Ruff Rider."
Eddy(os in Duone),with
"TheHeorse"by Al Cosey,
And while you're record
hunting, checkout Teisco
Del Rey'sfwo CDs,The
George Horrison,hos to be
intriguing.Thoughhe predotedony ond oll subgenres, "Boss"by tlre Rumblers,Jet
the mon who put the rock
mop recloimedhis throneon
Dale: I really believe that vintage equipment
is better than modern gear.you need the 100watt amps, like the Dual Shovrmanthat peaks
at lB0watts,pumpingthroughtwo 15"D-130F
Lansing speakers.Anyttring out there today cant
capturethat sound.Eventhe newreplacements
for those speakerssuck. IVe got two, and I use
them for boat anchors. I buy up every D- 130F
I can find. Then I put the Dick Dale kit in. The
kit is thankfully srill avaitablefrom JBL,bur it's
very expensive-about gl50 each.
The "Dick Dale kit"?
Mony Moodsof TeiscoDel
Rey ond TeiscoDel Rey
PloysMusic for Lovers/both
Dale: It allows me to modi4rthe speakersto
Dick DaIe and Fender specifications.There,sa
larger magnet, a largervoice coil, thicker wires
so theyworlt burn up, an aluminum dust cover
and a rubberized front rim. Youreally need those
Is a Fenderguitar a giuen?
Wlson: I dont think so.Onceyou master the
sound you want, you can get it on just abodt any
guitar. I mean, Duane Eddyplayed a Gretsch.
Thomas: It's not necessaryto use Fenderguitars or amps, but they seem to have the tones
to getrhe soundeasily.There
r996 GUtTAtptAytR7 5
is a certain kind ofsound that you get trom an
old FenderJaguar orJzzmaster going through
a Shov,rnanor Bassmanamp, a really good
Fenderreverbunit,and old JBLspeakers-it's
like an old hot rod. You cant match it with any
Amis: Youdon'I reallyn eedFenderguitais.
although I prefer the ]azzmastetbecauseI can
get all the tones I want with it.
Lankinen:I don'tthink Fenderguitarsand
ampsare particularlynecessary,though I happen to prefer mY'64Jazzmaster'
Dale:You certainlydo need to play Fenders!
For the parlicularsound you want-punch,
power,a driving force of true rock and roll-then
vou've got to play a Stratocaster.If there was
somethingbetter out there,I d be playing it. That
ttPItllBER tlg6 GUITAR
doesntmean that there'ssomethingwrongwith
all the other guitars. They are made for what
they are made for.
How about reuerb?Is uinmgeFenderthe only
Thomas: I alwayslook at setups holistically.
It has to do with using all the gear togetherto
get a certain sound. I've tried out a lot of differenttypesofreverbs:the one from Matchless,
various spring reverbs,severaltransistorized
spring reverbs.I now have a couple ofthe new
six-tube SoldanoSurf Boxes.I'm overdriving the
box with a Vox preamp, and it sounds amazing.
I do believethat the Fenderreverbsare the definitive onesfor surl but I dont usethem since
I playwith a lot of distortion and feedback.I cant
get those effectswith the standardFenderreverb
becauseit's a front-end devicebetweenthe zuitar and amp.
Wilson: For me, it's not necessaryto have
an outboard Fenderreverb.I havent tried digital
Dale: I still use a Fender reverb,but I cant
wait to leam how to use digital reverb.I just love
electronicsof any sort.
Amis: Digital reverb doesn't work for surf
music like an old tube reverb does. The new
Fenderreissuereverbsare actuallypretty njce.
I\hat about Fender'sreissueamps and guitars?
Amis: The reissueamps sound good but dont
seemto last aslong asthe vintage amps.Mntage
Fenderampshavea much nicer,warmertone.
Someof the newer amps,like the onesby Matchless,sound wonderfrrl, but theyte so expensive.
I think most of the reissueguitarsarepretty good.
The Stratsarefabulous, but the reissueIazzmaster needswork. IVe found that the pickups they
put in them are a little too harsh.I prefer using
the Sel.rnourDuncan vintage-styleJazzmaster
pickups.It alsoseemslike the neck and the hardware of thelazzmaster reissuesarent quite built
to take the heavier-gaugestringsthat the older
oneswere designedfor. I had to put some clear
fingemail polish on eachof the set screwson the
bridge to keep the saddlesfrom sinking dov,n
due to the pressureof the hear,y-gaugestrings.
It worked fine. You can always push an Allen
wrench dor,nninto the set screwto break the lacquer ifyou need to adjust one ofthe bridges.If
you ever need to take the lacquer off, just use
some fingernail polish remover.
Dale: Fender has made the Dick Dale signature Stratocaster,which is an exact copy of
what I'm playing. Still, unlessyou've got certain
pickups to find that particular sound, everything
Wilson: I honestly dont know that much
about guitars or amplifiers. All I knowis to plug
in a guitar and flog it.
Any outboard effects?
Thomas: I'm usingatqxicon reverb, tube
reverb,an Echoplex,and a DigiTech8000delay,
though IVe only used delay on two songsthat
we recorded.My effectsaremostly just feedback
Amis: An MXR Dynacomp compressor to
keep myvolume levelsconsistent.The older Dynacomps with script writing on them dorit seem
to cut out a lot of the high end like the newer
Larkinen: A delay and a preamp. The delay
and amp reverb are on all the time. The preamp
boostssolosand addsa little bit of compression.
Wilson: Chorus-but only very sparingly,
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and onlywhen I'm playing a slow ballad.
Dale: Except for reverb, no outboard effects
at all. I dont believe in any of that stuff because
when you push buttons to switch from one effect to another, you either lose the volume or
something else.I've always created effectswith
I\lhat's your dream rig?
Amis: Exactlywhat I'm playing now: a'62
Iazzmasterand a '64 Vibrohx.
Lankinen: AII I really need is a loud, clean,
reliable tube amp with reverb andvibrato. I like
to keep it very simple.
Dale: Exactlywhat I have nowwith an identical one to back it up. I d love to have four more
Dual Showman heads.
Thomas: Ten guitars, all tuned differently.
They can be Strats,whatever. At least one of
them should be a l2-string. Id alsohave the best
digital reverb that Lexicon makes and the best
amplifiers around. The last thing I'd love to have
wOuld be motors on all myvolume potentiometers controlled by a microprocessor in a foot
pedal that I could move sidewaysto control the
master amp output and up and down to control
Do you needheauystrings?
Wilson: I think so. I get a real thin sound if
I dont. I usegauges.011through.050.In the '60s
I used a .052.I use a medium or a heavy pick,
dependingon what I'm playing.
Thomas: To play what I play,yes.My picks
are on the healy side too.
Amis: Yes,to get the rich tone it's important
to use heavy-gaugestrings.I use Gibsons,.0ll
Lankinen: We use GHS Boomers gauged
.0I2to .052.I use a very thin pick.
Dale: The Dick Dale sound is achievedonly
by using a Stratocasterguitar with gauges.016,
.018,.020,.038,.048and.05Bto .060and aheavy
D oes downp icking predominate ?
Wilson: I used to use a lot of downpicking.
Now it depends on what I'm playing. "Bulldog,"
forexample, is alldovrnpicking. Soisthe rhythm
to "Walk Dont Run." Most of the time I emphasizethe downstroke.I may come back up on the
strum, but I emphasize the down.
Amis: I guessI playmostlywith dovr,nstrokes
except, of course,when I'm double-picking.
Iankinen: I play mostly down and up. Sometimes I play rhythm just up, like when we are
playing a ska beat.
Dale The rhythm of the notes is important.
It's called syncopation.Without it, the rhlthm
of the notesbecomestoo mundane.Evenwhen
I'm playing all dovmstrokes,I always tryto vary
Thomas: I use all myfingers. I double-pick
a lot, and I use my other three fingers quite a
bit. Not much dov,mpicking,though.
IAlhat'sthe trick to palm muting?
Amis: It's pretty self-explanatoryYoulayyour
palm on the bridge in a position that allows you
to keep the tone and then just pick the strings.
Nothing too magical.
Dale: There are a couple of ways to mute
the strings.One way is to placeyour hand lightly
over the strings next to the bridge where you
are picking. The other way is to use your noteplaying hand and bounce your finger offthe
string, then bring your finger back to the sting
before the string can vibrate. You mute it with
ybur flngertips while you attack the string. It's
difficult, Iike rubbing your head and stomach
at the same time.
Is high action essential?
Dale: Yes.\Mhenyou hit the strings so fast
and hard, you're going to get string rattle ifthe
action's too low.
Amis: I'm more comfortable playing with the
actionsethigher-it seemsto producea little
more clarity, a slightly cleaner sound.
Thomas: Mine's high.
Lankinen: I dont know if this music hdJ to
beplayedwithhighaction, butmine is setquite
high to get a cleanersound. I like to fight my guitar a little.
Wilson: Mine has to be set low, at least for
rhythm guitar. I play more of a percussive
rhythm, and I dont like a guitar that rings out
Doessurf music haue to be played loud?
Amis: Loud, not necessa,rilv,
but hard, ves.
Dale:,Loudandhard! That'swhat givesyou
that fat, thick sound.
Thomas: I playloud myself,but I think it can
be done at lowervolumes, or at leastatrhe right
How much of this stylek aboutthe gearand
how much is about attitude?
Thomas: It's all in the attitude. The people
who follow the Mermen dont know anything
about the gear.I take greatpains with my equipment, but it's all just a way to get the sounds I
Amis: I agree.It's raw energy it's fun, and it's
never taken too seriously.Thosequalitieshave
nothing to do with the gear.
Lankinen: Yes,it's the attitude completely.
Wilson: The attitude is stronger than the
gear,but it's a combination. If I dont have a real
good reverb, I'm bummed, and I'm not going
to have a good attitude!
Dale: Definitely attitude. First of all, you
have to understand that to know one is to empty one'sself.You draw what you project. You can
only either create happiness or bullshit with
people. You've got to have your soul to be
cleansed.YouVegot to go to the mountain, and
you've got to understand what those words
mean. To experienceis to know to know is to
understand,to understandis to tolerate,to tolerate is to have peace.
Wassurf guitar perfectedby 1964?Are we
only screwingwith it, or can it gofurther?
Amis: I dont think it peakedin the '60s.It's
really limitless. I seea lot of surf and instrumental bands playing the samestandards.Theseare
talented bands,and I know they'vegot it in them
to come up with some new sound or style.
Wilson: Definitely. Anymusical genre can
be taken further.
. Thomas: Did the rymphony achieveperfection with Beethoven?If we think that way about
Dick Dale or the surf music that blossomed
around that time, who knows, maybe that aas
the perfection of what that music is all about.
There are a thousand bands around the world
patteming what they'redoing around what these
people did in 1961,so we'reall coming from that
place. As far as taking it furthea that's aII willynilly We all filter it through our ov,'nmusical expression,which allowsus eachto expresssomething different.
Lankinen: Of course it can go further. Dont
think aboutthe equipment and all that stuff.Iust
use your earsand imagination.
John Blair is author o/ The Illustrated
DiscographyofSurfMusic, I96L-1965,now in
its third editionfrom Popular Culnre Ink, and
co-producer of the recentRhino four-CD set,
Cowabunga!The SurfBox He is ako leadguitaristfor thesuf reuiualbandJon& theNightriders, whosefifih album, FiberglassRocket, rsorz
Atomic Beat Recordsldist. by AVII.
8 2 G U I T APRI . A Y ESRI P T IM BIR