TOP 20: John Tron Davidson

We interviewed the plectrum guru, guitar sage and owner of the Heavy Repping! blog on picks, pedals and nostalgia.

Do you have plectrums on your person at the moment? If so, which one(s)?
Of course – a BHL Antagonist Scalpel, an Apophis One, Chicken Picks Bermuda Pointed, Dunlop Tortex 73 and Ultex Jazz XL, Winspear Gladius, Stone Age Risen Smoke, Hawk ToneBird 4 Abalone, JRC Chaos Blackbird.

Have you a ‘go to’ plectrum?
I don’t play favourites, but I love the Crow’s Customs Claw XL, Purple Plectrums Shield, BHL Wizard Pro and Taylor Thermex Ultra.

In your opinion, what is the most sustainable material for plectrums?
Tagua and stone, principally Agate.

What word would adequately describe your 2019?

It is now 2020, what do you expect to see in the Plectroverse this year?
Crazier shapes, a greater spread of awareness, and more sustainable approaches.

Give us one word to describe Jim Dunlop.

Please suggest a Jim Dunlop pick for a beginner.
The best place to start is the most widely used pick in the world – the Tortex 0.73mm, or the Yellow one as it’s colloquially known. If you’re looking to play heavier styles, try the Red Jazz XL, as you’ll likely find a lot of people telling you to plump for the Jazz III. I think the XL covers more ground, and you can play outside of that style if you want to.

Pick or fingers for Bass and why?
I tend to play bass with my fingers, but for certain styles or feels, a pick is excellent. If I was trying to get a Motown-style chop or a punk/hard rock/metal clank, I’d use a plectrum. I think a lot of the policing of pick players as ‘not being proper bassists’ is little boy talk – picks work extremely well for many styles, and to refute that is silly.

What is your current rig?
My main guitar is the Stick – the Odessa Deadbeat that you can see all over the Instagram and YouTube. I run that, a Gretsch 5420T, an ’84 ESP 400 Series Strat, and a ’95 Jerry Jones baritone into a mid ’70s WEM Westminster, a Sonus Black Badge and a Sonus SC50. The pedals I use are a TC Polytune Mini, MXR Mini Dyna Comp, Goldsoundz Jake, Rothwell Heartbreaker, Goldsoundz Modelay, MXR 6 Band Graphic EQ, Ibanez DDL10, and an Old Blood Noise Endeavors Procession. I’ve got some other cool bits from Idiotbox, Oddfellow, Lateral Sound, a really mad modded ProCo Dirty Rat, and the very first DAM Sonic Titan.

What was your first guitar, and do you still own it?
It was a 3/4 Lauren classical, and yes.

What was your first guitar pedal, and do you still own it?
A Jim Dunlop Cry Baby – I gave it to a young lad who used to come into the guitar shop I worked in because he couldn’t afford one.

Do you prefer to practice on electric or acoustic?
I practice on an unplugged electric most of the time – I’ve got a classical that I play quite often, because I love playing in eastern styles and nylon strings are better suited to that. I’m not a speedy player, but I believe that if I can hit whatever I’m trying to play cleanly unplugged, I’ll be able to do it with confidence when I plug in.

What has been your greatest musical achievement?
I’ve done a lot of improvised music in both a solo and group context, which is something of which I’m very proud. If I narrowed it to one thing, it would be playing in Strange Deeds, a trio where everything was improvised, including the live work. We made some great records.

Which genre of music do you not own, and why?
All music has a place – that is a hard fact. I do not, however, own any reggae – I’m not that into it – or ska, which gets up my pipe.

Should bands get back together?
If you’ve got a record in you that feels like it has to come out, absolutely. Why not?

Do you enjoy nostalgia?
It wasn’t apparent when I was growing up but living as a teenager in the ’90s was, in retrospect, quite fortuitous. The charts were diverse and exciting, underground stuff was still getting money thrown at it, the world was smaller and I honestly believe that we valued each other a little more. I’m sure I only pine for that time in a rose-tinted sense, and although everything is a frightening mess at the moment, seeing what happens is part of the excitement of living.

Do you own any vinyl?
I shall admit that as I grew up very much in the tape/CD era I’m not exactly flush with vinyl, so I buy a lot of things I’ve never heard of. I’ll never hear all music and there’s lots of genres I’ve missed out on having any meaningful knowledge of, so taking a punt at something unknown is intriguing, whether it’s sonically rewarding or not.

What is a musicians most unappealing habit?
Deriding other musicians (including themselves).

What is your current favourite word?

Tell us a joke.
How do you know when you’ve got a singer at the door? They’ve got the wrong key and don’t know when to come in.