Custom Guitars and The Value of Simplicity: Gear Talk With Robert Muinos

Robert Muinos

Robert Muinos is the kind of musician who is so crushingly honest, you can’t help but be dragged in by the weight of what you are hearing. This thunderous emotional magnetism not only reaches through his lyrics, but in every nuance of his vocal delivery – the croaks and the wails – in every melody, and perhaps most potently, in the guitars.

Muinos – who you might know backing vocalist and guitarist for Melbourne soul outfit Saskwatch, or as a rotating member of Dorsal Fins – has just dropped his third EP, fittingly titled EP3. Led by soul-shattering single Weeks At All, the record is a collection of raw and intensely personal songs.

We spoke with Muinos about some custom gear he’s been using, and oft overlooked the virtue of keeping it simple.

Robert Muinos

We chat to Robert Muinos about the story of his first guitar, virtue of keeping it simple and some custom gear he’s been working with.

Hey Robert, how’s it going? What are you up to at the moment?

Hey, I’m good thanks. Playing lots of music. Producing a couple other bands’ records. Having a fun time.

I absolutely love those crunchy guitars on Weeks At All – particularly the tearing solo. How did the track come together in the studio?

That song was recorded live in a friends pub. There are no overdubs. We did it like how you’d do a gig, with wedges instead of headphones. Recording like that wasn’t easy but I kinda like to do struggle sometimes. I recorded it all myself so it’s a bit tricky when you have to press record and run over to perform. Trying to switch from a technical mindset to a creative one quickly can be weird.

Can you run us through what’s on your pedalboard at the moment?

Sure, its a Sonic Research Turbo Tuner, Reuss Effects Muzzbomb, Boss VB-2, Boss DM-3 and a Hudson Electronics Broadcast.

How about guitars and amps – what are you using and why?

I pretty much only play one guitar. It’s a T Guitar made by my friend Andy. He started his own company a while back and he wanted to make me one. I got to design the model with him which was a heap of fun. It’s a 24+1/4″ scale length which is pretty odd, Filterton pickups, half Tele bridge and only one volume knob.

The idea was to have a guitar that had nothing you didn’t need. I reckon it’s rad. Kinda sounds like a Gretsch but not. The main amp I record with is based on a Fender 5E3 tweed deluxe with 6L6’s. The amp was built by my friend Jereme from Clingan Guitar Tone in Melbourne. He built it into an old steel PA amplifier box. It looks like a robot and when you turn it up all the way it does this massive fuzzy exploding sound, that’s what that loud bit in Weeks At All is, just the amp all the way up with no pedals. Live, I tend to use whatever’s going, a Deluxe Reverb reissue is my preferred backline amp.

Tell us about the first piece of gear you bought – is there a story behind it?

It was a Suzuki Les Paul copy. When I was 12 or 13 I was the singer in a rock band. We played dodgy versions of Rage Against The Machine songs. At band practice I would have to sit and wait for ages while the guitar players learnt the riffs. I’d watch em and when I’d get home and try to copy what they were doing on my sister’s old nylon string. After I learnt how to play Dammit I was sold and I bought the guitar players’ old guitar, the Suzuki.

What’s your favourite piece of gear that cost under 100 bucks? What is it you like so much about it?

Probably the Boss TR-2 Tremolo. It’s rad. No nonsense, sounds sweet. And cheap!

What piece(s) of gear do you feel really shape your sound?

I think the guitar and amp are the main things. The VB-2 is something I use a lot.

Who are some of your favourite pedal builders?

Hudson Electronics, Reuss Effects, Fairfield Curcuitry, Analogman, Basic Audio, Frantone and Wren & Cuff and BOSS.

Do you have any particular ethos when it comes to using pedals?

Yeah, keep it simple. I don’t like having pedals with too many knobs on them or having more than four or five pedals. I like to have restrictions because it forces you to play better. There are so many sounds you can get with just your hands.

Do you have any guitar heroes or other artist who you feel really nail a sound through their rig?

Neil Young, Mark Ribot, John Lennon, George Harrison, Blake Mills.

We’re hanging out for the new EP – what can we expect from it?

A couple loud songs, a couple quiet songs and a whole bunch of out of tune singing.

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