Greg Loiacono|Greg Loiacono and Tim Bluhm

Pedal of the day Interview: The Mother Hips' Tim Bluhm & Greg Loiacono

How long have you been a musician? How did you get into it in the first place? Greg Loiacono: I started playing guitar at age 11. I wanted to learn as soon as I heard “Purple Haze” for the first time. I stopped for a bit and got back into playing in my sophomore year of High School. This is when I started jamming in garages with friends and really getting into all aspects of music. Tim Bluhm: I’ve been playing music professionally since 1991. I learned to sing in church and school choirs, picked up the guitar and started writing songs right after high school. Who have been some of your major musical influences, past or present? GL: Richard Thompson, John Fahey, Clarence White, Bert Jansch, Gabor Szabo to name a few. Page and Hendrix were huge, early on. I still listen to their music fairly regularly. TB: The Beach Boys, Buddy Holly, Neil Young and Merle Haggard are my cornerstones. What drew you to using pedals initially? Have you been using them throughout your playing career? How have pedals helped to shape your sound, or influence the style that you’ve created? GL: The Mother Hips have been together for 30 years. The first couple of years that we played live we didn’t even have tuners. About 2 or 3 years in we finally got tuners (a friend that was teching for us finally couldn’t take hearing us try to tune in between songs anymore and one soundcheck we each discovered Korg stage tuners on our amps). It was around that time that my friend’s older brother gave me his old Morley Power Wah. This thing was a beast. I could use it as a wah, volume pedal and a really fucked up gain/fuzz tone. It had a power chord that you plugged into the wall and the wah had a light sensor. I had to carry around the little replacement bulbs with me. I was pretty much a one or two pedal guy for the first 15 years of the band. I liked to have a volume pedal and some sort of fuzz or distortion. I have used Big Muffs, Rats, Tone Benders etc… It wasn’t until about 10 years ago when I started using an actual pedal board and acquiring multiple effects pedals. When I built my first board I was using a delay pedal, a fuzz made by Dice Works called the Union Jack (it was an excellent blend of the Vox Tone Bender and the Marshall Supa Fuzz) and a Bad Stone (the Bad Stone had killer phase and if you turned the speed all the way up it did a ring modulation thing that was really great). TB: I didn’t use pedals for the first 4 or 5 years of playing electric guitar because I was just after that mid-60’s Fender tone that was well-handled by the Twin Reverb I had. I finally got a Boss tuner after a while which made getting in tune onstage way easier. After that I got an Ernie Ball volume pedal which was really useful. A bit later I picked up a RAT pedal but it didn’t really take. Slowly I began to experiment with other stuff. I got a Sovtek Big Muff Pi and a Small Stone. Then I got turned on to more clean boost stuff like the EP Booster and Klon-type pedals. When I found myself using amps with no (or broken) reverb I went into finding “spring” reverb pedals. I went through a bunch and really liked the Mad Professor Silver Spring, but eventually settled on the Catalinbread Topanga pedals. Not the easiest to use but they sound the best for me. What’s your current setup look like? Take us through your pedal rig (feel free to include amps and instruments as well if you’d like): GL: The board that I have been using for the last 5 years was built by Kidd Candelario. Kidd was a long-time crew member and technician for The Grateful Dead. All of the cables I use on the road and in my home studio were built by Kidd, as well. The current lineup on my board from guitar to amp is a Theo Hartman germanium fuzz, a KWM klon klone, an EP booster, MXR phase 100, Line 6 Echo Park delay pedal, MXR M300 reverb pedal and an Ernie Ball volume pedal. I use a Maestro Echoplex EP-3, regularly, live and in studio- when it is working…ha ha! For the last 6 or 7 years I have been using my Fat Jimmy FJ-20. It’s a great sounding amp built by my friend Mike Pascale. It’s the size and power of a deluxe but I never find myself needing more power or volume no matter what venue we are playing. The thing cranks. It has a good spring reverb and super deep vibrato. TB: Right now I have a fair-sized board with a 6-loop switcher across the front. There’s an old EHX Small Stone, a Catalinbread Montavillian Delay, a Klon KTR or silver Centaur, a new MXR Tremelo, a Lehle Mono Volume pedal and a Topanga. Occasionally, I’ll put in a Big Muff or a Crybaby or a Memory Man. My main amp is a Fat Jimmy Avionic, which is loosely a Fender Pro circuit that has been paired down to be an 18lb head. I run it through an old Twin cabinet (without the head in it) loaded with some Fat Jimmy speakers. Occasionally, I’ll use a Deluxe Reverb or a Twin. For guitars, I mostly use either an ES-335 or a Strat. Favorite type of pedal (drive, delay, fuzz, etc. – more than one answer is always acceptable!): GL: I love fuzz: Vox Tone Bender, Theo Hartman Germanium Fuzz. Oh, and my Echoplex EP-3. TB: My favorite pedal, or at least the one is use the most, is a reverb pedal. The Catalinbread Topanga has a gain knob which allows me to dial in the right amount of dirt, at least a little bit. I pretty much leave that on all the time and just adjust the mix, dwell and tone depending on the song. You’re stranded on a desert island – name 3 (of each) instruments, amps and pedals you couldn’t live without: GL: Instruments: Martin HD-28, 1998 Fender Telecaster American Standard, Gold Tone Irish Bouzouki (then I might learn how to play it. Ha!) Amps: Fat Jimmy 20-Watt combo. 1965 Fender Super Reverb. 1981 Fender Super Champ Pedals: Hartman Fuzz, EP-3, MXR reverb TB: Instruments: A mid-60s’ ES335, a rosewood slab board Strat and a pre-war D-18 Amps: A black face Pro Reverb, a black face Princeton Reverb and a tweed Deluxe Pedals: A Centaur, a Deluxe Memory Man and a Big Muff. Covid-19 has obviously affected us all – how have you as a musician been able to stay positive and upbeat? What’s up next for you/your band(s), as far as concerts/live streams/etc,? GL: Recording and producing music from my house has kept me busy and creative. I also spent a good deal of time making music with my family which was wonderful. The Mother Hips play our annual holiday shows at The Great American Music Hall in SF, CA on December 17, 18 and 19. I’m excited to get back to this tradition. The Hips also have a new album out on December 3. I will have a new solo album out in the Spring of 22. Lots of good stuff ahead! TB: I wasn’t really able to stay upbeat through the lockdown, but I managed to work through it after awhile. It was nice to be home so much, but stressing to have to figure out how to survive without touring and producing. Livestreams, and the people that tuned in and paid money for that really saved my hide. Now that things are opened up a lot more it’s just gangbusters. Lots of shows and lots of recording going on. The livestreams just don’t seem to make sense for me at this point, though I quite enjoyed doing them after I figured out how to do it and realized there was a lot of people wanting to check them out every week. The Klon hype: Love it or Hate it? GL: I really like my KWM clone. It’s a great boost for dirtier rhythm or boosted leads rather than fuzz stuff. I have used “the real thing” and it was great, but I won’t be spending $3k on one anytime soon. TB: I like the Klon hype only because I have a Centaur and a KTR. If I didn’t have those I’d just be annoyed. They sound great, though I have lots of similar pedals that sound great, too. Any last comments, promos or anything you’d like to talk about? TB: The Mother Hips have a record, called “Glowing Lantern” coming out on Blue Rose on December 3rd. I’m pretty happy about that. I’m just finishing up the mixing on a Coffis Brothers record as well, which will come out in 2022.
  Thanks so much to Greg & Tim for taking the time to answer some questions! Make sure to go visit The Mother Hips, and check their tour page to see when they’re headed to a town (or virtual venue) near you! Cheers!
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