Adelaide rockers Bad//Dreems live for the classic rock sound. Great albums from the 70s and 80s inspire the way they record, their choice of guitars and the techniques they use to capture a perfect raw rock tone. Their new record, Gutfull, follows in the same steps as its predecessor, an album crafted without the aid of effects pedals and studio trickery which, in this day and age, is a bit of an eyebrow raising prospect no matter how you slice it. With that in mind, we sat down with guitarist Alex Cameron to learn about the new bits and pieces that were used during the Gutfull sessions, and to find out why he still can’t use his favourite guitar, an ’87 Stratt, to record Bad//Dreems songs.
Gutfull sounds like a continuation of your first record, Dogs at Bay, in terms of style, tone and so on. Did you use the same guitars this time around?
They were similar, basically the main differences were, we wanted a more 70s sounding record rather than the 80s inflections we had on the last one. Less digital delay and reverb stuff, and more dry room sounds. Bands like Television, and those live-sounding great guitar records are kind of a reference, so we recorded most of the tracks [on Gutfull] live, together, playing in the same room. Guitar wise, I was still using my Fender Custom Shop '56 Strat, which I got around the time we recorded the first album. But one of the friends of Mark Opitz [producer], this guy Frank who's kind of a spiritual mentor who comes into the studio every day, makes coffees and gets stoned, he used to be in Sydney bands and had this 70s Marshall head that had stopped working. But we got it fixed, used it on this record and it was such an awesome amp. I'd always used Fender amps before that, but Ben and I ended up using that Marshall heaps, as well as a Fender Twin there as well.
Any new guitars?
I've always had a longtime association with just using Fender guitars, but I bought a Gibson ES-335 1977 at the start of recording. I'd never really had a guitar with Humbuckers before and getting one really opened my eyes to how good it is to have something like that to mix things up. So a lot of those chunky rhythm bits are using that guitar. We also had a Gretsch White Falcon that belonged to the studio.
You used barely any effects on the last record too, it was all put together using old school gain and distortion. Was Gutfull recorded using similar techniques?
Yeah pretty much exactly. There were very few pedals, we just used different amp settings again, in keeping with those 70s and 80s guitar records that we like. I guess the main rule with the band is the songs come first, but if there's any other rule with the first two albums, it was that we didn't want to do too much to the sound, we wanted them to have the sound of a really good live band playing. And that makes the live shows really easy because it's all just based around having a good song and having a good feel. Opitz's big motto is “feel is everything” and so, once you get that with good guitar sounds it makes things pretty easy, especially when you've a great singer like Ben [Marwe, vocals].
Apparently you also own a beautiful '87 Stratt that you wanted to use on Dogs at Bay but couldn't because it's a nightmare to capture in the studio. Did it make it onto Gutfull?
That was my main guitar, I bought it when I first started playing electric, but it got bashed around when I played in my old bands. It was split down the middle of the body and glues back together, so it's kind of a disaster in terms of the intonation. Plus I had it before I knew about guitars so I just got all these mods on there, it was like “f**k it let's put a Mustang pickup in the bridge and some other pickup in the neck.” Or maybe it was the other way around? But yeah, it's too hard to get it sounding good in the studio [laughs]. But I've still got it! I'll never let it go, it's like the guy trying to come out at the footy club, he's been a great player but he's past his time and now he just embarrasses himself and everyone else. So now I just keep her at home and we share our moments together.
Gutfull is out now via Ivy League Records. Check out the latest single, Feeling Remains, below.