The incredible guitarist tells all about his gear.
“It’s a fucking chessboard,” exclaims Matt Sweeney, itinerate indie axeman (and lifelong champion of the guitar), from his cozy New York abode.
“That’s what’s cool about the guitar… the fact that it is both so limiting and then at the same time, the possibilities are fucking infinite.”
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Sweeney is on the back end of a full day of promo in aid of the star-studded covers album I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute to the Velvet Underground & Nico and yet his energy is still at fever pitch. Given the subject matter (Velvet Underground) and his collaborative cohort on this release (Iggy Pop), it’s probably not hard to understand why.
For fans of proto-punk, this is the kind of stuff dreams are made of. In the studio, Sweeney’s enthusiasm for the guitar and the material carried over, even convincing Iggy to pick up a six string and smash out a free-jazzy topline for their rendition of ‘European Son’.
So how did Mr. Pop fare?
“He fuckin nailed it. He’s Iggy Pop, the world’s smartest man. Of course he can play free jazz on the guitar.”
With about five minutes to spare in what was a long and jovial conversation, Mixdown figured it a good time to talk rigs, guitar moves and Neil Diamond with the affable Mr. Sweeney.
1979 Gibson 335 TD
“Probably the best lesson from the Guitar Moves series was when Gene (Ween) talked about always keeping the guitar above the dick or below the dick. I still notice that with every band I ever go and see. For me my go to is always my 355 TD which has a coil splitter on it which I love. I always use flatwound strings on it, which is very important. That’s what I always used on Superwolf’s earlier stuff (Sweeney’s collaboration with indie troubadour, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy) back in the day and I’ve kept that theme running all the way through to the new record.”
Neil Diamond’s 1970 Martin D-18
“Dude, fucking Neil Diamond gave me this and it’s the sickest fucking guitar. I think it’s a 1970 and I should definitely never take it out of the house, but it plays so, so well. Me and Bonnie just played a couple of shows and I took my two favourite guitars, the 335 and the D-18, which you are never supposed to do, but they just sound so fucking good. It’s kind of worth the stress.”
Wandering Boy Acoustic
“One of my favourite recent acquisitions is actually from Australia. Jack [Tarlinton] who does Wandering Boy, I’ve got two of those and they just have such a great character and feel. They are perfect for noodling around the house or for making stuff up with. Writing, I think they call it.”
“I’ve been using this vintage Ampeg lately that I got off a friend. It’s the guitar version of the B15 with the coke mirror on the top of it and the really warm vibrato. I just happened to try one, because my friend Emmett has one and that was a revelation. I love how that thing sounds.”
Echopark Germanium Fuzz
“I like nasty sounding distortion pedals and fuzzes, and it’s probably my Echopark Germanium Fuzz that gets the biggest response. It sounds disgusting. It sounds gross in the best possible way.”
I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute to the Velvet Underground & Nico is out now via Virgin Music.