It's the massive Melbourne alt-rock pairing we never knew we needed so badly until now: heavy scene heavyweights Dream On Dreamer and emo corner mainstays The Getaway Plan.
Both bands have been crucial players in the local rock uprising of the late Aughts and 2010s, and with enormous albums under both of their belts to push – The Getaway Plan are still riding high on their critically acclaimed 2015 album, Dark Horses, Dream On Dreamer had the same level of diehard fandom when they dropped It Comes And Goes last May – they're heading off on the co-headline tour to end all co-headline tours.
With the 12-date national run underway, we had both band's lead guitarists hit each other up with some technical questions to dig a little deeper into their respective artistries. Not only did we learn a stack about how each of their intensely creative minds work behind the fretboard, but they were kind enough to give us a lil' bit of a rig rundown as well. Cheers, mates!
Clint Owen Ellis (interviewed by Callan Orr)
When did you make the jump from the Hughes and Kettner to the Axe-Fx?
Originally, I was totally against digital amps, and I was just absolutely in love with my Hughes and Kettner Triamp. I used Bogner amps in the studio, but the H&K’s versatility was perfect for touring. I got the Axe-Fx mainly for recording at home, but quickly grew attached to it. On our latest record, Dark Horses, we used it almost exclusively – even for bass – so when it came to touring, I didn’t really have a choice.
I noticed that you’ve been using a hollowbody guitar recently. What inspired that change?
The hollowbody just came out of chance, really. I used to be endorsed by Framus, and they gave me around five guitars to try out. Out of the five, I fell in love with the AK-74 the most. It’s really heavy, so it feels like surfing on a longboard and it sounds weird, but I just feel safe with it, and the sound works in any situation.
You studied music in-depth after high school – can you tell us a bit about what you did, what your goal was, and whether you would recommend it?
I completed my Bachelor of Music in Jazz/Contemporary at the Box Hill Institute. I didn’t have any goal, really. I did well in high school; I was playing in multiple bands and I wanted to keep learning, and I managed to pass an audition, so it felt like the right path to take. In my first year I really enjoyed it, but by year two, I started to tour and my time was getting stretched. Luckily I’d met some amazing people during my studies, and with their support, it all worked out. For that reason alone, I would recommend studying music. It’s really about the people you meet and the bonds you create that are the biggest benefit. I still rely on them to this day, and I can’t thank them enough!
How do you find managing the balance between touring and teaching guitar lessons? Do you ever feel like you need a break from music?
Yeah, I’ve really gotten myself in a position where I can’t avoid music. I’ve started dabbling in film scoring, and also work in gig advertising, so it’s pretty much consumed my life. Balancing the touring with my lessons can be pretty tough. It takes a bit of planning and communication, but all of my students understand that it can happen, and they’re great about it. I’m planning on doing Skype lessons soon, so that might be an option to combine the two!
You obviously have a vast knowledge to offer your students. Do you ever, for example, offer advice during your lessons on ways to navigate the music industry, or do you break away from traditional teaching practises in any way? Or do you like to keep your lessons pretty tightly focused on playing and theory?
My whole philosophy for my lessons is to help students with all aspects of the music industry, whether that’s through playing guitar, making a rig, or recording your own demos. For some students I’m a producer by the hour, and for others I’m the straight ahead guitar teacher. But I do place a special emphasis on theory when I teach songwriting. I consider it a massive advantage when it comes to understanding why we gravitate towards certain genres and sounds, and how to use that knowledge to create your own music. I pretty much teach all the useful parts of a music degree, but keep it casual and personalised depending on the student.
Axe Fx MkII
Matrix GT1000FX PowerAmp
Hughes and Kettner 4X12 w/Greenbacks
Boss FV-500L Expression Pedal
Fractal MFC 101 (Axe FX Footswitch)
Callan Orr (interviewed by Clint Owen Ellis)
You’re currently using a Kemper system, but through a cab rather than direct. What pushed you to make this choice?
I use the Kemper both direct and through a cab. I’m just used to having a cab on stage – we don’t have an in-ear system, so I like the extra stage sound. Also, seeing as we play smaller venues, I feel like anyone in the front couple of rows are going to lose the guitar if it’s all coming from the PA (which will be either directly beside or even slightly behind them). If you’ve ever watched a band that goes direct out from the side of the stage, it’s a very strange sounding setup. I feel as though the front row has a similar perspective.
You record and produce other bands as well as Dream On Dreamer. Do you have to take a different approach when it comes to recording your own songs, or do you just treat it like any other band?
It’s more or less the same. I take a lot of pride and care in whatever I work on. I guess the thing about recording your own music, though, is you can afford the time that other bands can’t. I definitely get a bit more diligent. Also, in recording your own band, you have a comfortable relationship with the members where you don’t have to be afraid of hurting people's feelings if something needs to be better. Sometimes working with a band, if the relationship is fresh, then people can be pretty stubborn with direction. It takes time to build up the trust.
You come from a musical family with both your Dad and older brother having experience in various scenes of the music industry. Do you take inspiration, or ever rely on them for advice?
My brother, most definitely – he actually co-produced our second record, Loveless. My dad was an inspiration in the sense that he always made sure there were instruments around the house for us to pick up. I think that was a big help in getting both my brother and I interested in music. Them and Fred Durst.
Do you and Zach have distinct roles in Dreamer when it comes to lead or rhythm? How do you delegate parts to achieve the full sound you have?
Usually whoever writes the part will play it, unless there’s a part that’s a bit tricky for Zach to play and sing. Also, some parts just need the thick, doubled-up sound, so occasionally we’ll do a cheeky and put the lead on the track. But only when it’s 100 percent essential and something that can’t be replicated properly live.
Playing in drop tunings can present challenges for keeping guitars sounding good and in-tune. What advice to you have for young artists who want to create music in these lower tunings?
My life was changed when I got myself a guitar with an Evertune bridge. If you play in a low tuning, you need this gadget. Low tunings are so touchy – if you strum too hard you’ll be sharp, and not to mention, with the tension being looser, it’s easier to bend fretted notes out of key. The Evertune compensates for all tuning issues.
Line 6 M9
LTD EC 1000 w/ Evertune
Japanese Fender Aerodyne Stratocaster
Dream On Dreamer / The Getaway Plan