(Note: this article and playlist originally appeared on the Earthquaker Devices site, Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends proudly use EQD pedals regularly.)
Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends is a rock band featuring Conan Neutron, Tony Ash and Dale Crover of the Melvins, here is a list of guitar sounds/songs (and a few for bass!) that they find particularly evocative, interesting, or noteworthy.
Stooges – TV Eye: https://open.spotify.com/track/5z79Fpw4FEEkSzt8Lbwr46
Lardo – Pedagogue: https://open.spotify.com/track/7BKU46S8nk4utuk0bqf4ad
Wire – Practice Makes Perfect https://open.spotify.com/track/2vYcX70M5Vx8YMohXFwshw
Wipers – Youth of America https://open.spotify.com/track/2Dj59k8Rar55hTbzwCt2bK
Shellac – My Black Ass https://open.spotify.com/track/0teei1yQyDihoiOGYsr9rp
Thin Lizzy – Emerald https://open.spotify.com/track/6oe6yYpgZWPYUwxKzG3HIL
Drive Like Jehu – Luau https://open.spotify.com/track/0rcBONdvQcvSHARoEVbfSO
The Birthday Party – The Friend Catcher https://open.spotify.com/track/0x1VbnNyHrLeWzQZIPVHqK
DEVO – Mongoloid https://open.spotify.com/track/6sx36Cz7YmbzZzzu1MeRfl
Chavez – The Guard Attacks https://open.spotify.com/track/0SHANxbTIia878Z12YRZM0
Rye Coalition – Snow Job: https://open.spotify.com/track/1Hu8AK6NnFL2QXUjU182Ra
Hellacopters – No Angel to Lay Me Away https://open.spotify.com/track/59wU0g8lhWShmq9SjJhrYu
Cheap Trick – Big Eyes https://open.spotify.com/track/55y1iWRf5JBZQIbb69Vr7m
Davie Allan and the Arrows – Blues Theme https://open.spotify.com/track/12hAeEyERydkkb1Wow1xdA
Flipper – Learn to Live https://open.spotify.com/track/2sZ1XkTMc72quA60rLLPXV
The Stranglers – (Get A) Grip (On Yourself). https://open.spotify.com/track/2jrmiji7m0zTG6lmtIlSpo
The Birthday Party – Nick the Stripper https://open.spotify.com/track/5cxs0xQJp5W4V8wMFYpCY7
The Stooges – Gimme Danger https://open.spotify.com/track/74CcP6fDBFdH8Xjo2F6Nb4
Jawbox – Motorist https://open.spotify.com/track/1eaKv3H9d9OJ7ffEoTOM6X
AC/DC – What’s Next to the Moon? https://open.spotify.com/track/2wr9GtUc8xPMhTVZTc191u
1. The Stooges – TV Eye
Ron Asheton. Full stop. One of my very favorite guitar players. One of the best guitar riffs of all time. Marshall, fuzz face pedal. Nothing too crazy. He used a strat for fun house, so I love hearing about how strats are exclusively the terrain of blues lawyers. I love chiming open notes in riffs, that’s me paying homage to Ron Asheton, who was getting it from Mahavishnu Orchestra or whatever!
There is debate amongst rock nerds over whether Funhouse or Raw Power is better. Asheton Or Williamson on guitar. Both rule, we have a foot in either camp between Tony and I. I’m team Funhouse, and I vote.
2. Lardo – Pedagogue
Bit commander! Brian Pennington makes his guitar sounds like a broken computer and all is right with the world. Put that crazy guitar over the insane rhythm section and concise and sharp song writing and you have a hell of a band I which more people Listened to. There aren’t many bands that have added anything new to this kind of genre, Lardo has done it. Respect.
3. Wire – Practice Makes Perfect
Rocks like hell but doesn’t roll at all. Kraftwerk style robotics melded with staccato and harsh guitars. Pink flag is swell and all, but chairs missing is the one for me. When I started listening to Wire it really broke down what the ideas of what a song could and should be. Colin Newman plays a Roland JC-120 I think. And unless I’m mistaken, at the time was a music man HD-130? One of my favorite amps ever. A thing I love about Wire is that they are not gear purists. They use Pods, they change gear all the time. Best or weirdest sound wins, and they still come up with super cool stuff. There’s a lesson there.
4. Wipers – Youth of America
Greg Sage recorded the first classic three records on a 1965 Ampeg Gemini, Low Tremolo with heavy reverb. An MXR distortion plus and an Echoplex rounded it out. Especially on this one! Then again, Greg also built his own preamps. So, who knows? The Wipers are a band of mystery.
This is the first song that made me appreciate delay, echo and that punk rock could also be psych. A stellar composition, every song on those first three records is a classic, but this one… wow! It’s a journey. You can do this kind of stuff with an Avalanche Run or a Catalinbread Belle Epoch now. Which is amazing.
5. Shellac – My Black Ass
There’s a whole industry of gear people trying to reproduce Steve’s sound. Boxidizer, karma sutra, that pedal that does what an IVP does. Tons of people get really hung up on the harmonic percolator. It’s cool, but it isn’t a ticket to Albini town. He uses it sparingly. It’s basically a fender Bassman and an Intersound IVP and he plays through larger full range speakers when possible, I believe.
There is also a great video (https://youtu.be/nahPA-RKEfQ) where he plays through a 15w Orange tiny terror and sounds just like himself. So… sorry, nerds. It’s how you play! Anyway, there are better shellac songs, but as far as pure riffs/sound/album intro. Hard to beat! I like Shellac, they are an excellent band.
6. Thin Lizzy – emerald
What? Did you think I was going to exclusively have post-punk and noise rock? Nope! I feel genuinely bad for people that only know “the boys are back in town.”. That is a fine song but not even in my top 10 Thin Lizzy Numbers. I would probably pick Cowboy song for songcraft… but we’re talking about guitars here! And for my tastes nobody does dual guitars better than Thin Lizzy. This one is the perfect distillation of Irish traditional stuff and hard rock. The dual guitars snake and intertwine, it manages to be heavy as hell and still have soul to spare.
I think Phil Lynott is easily one of rock’s most underrated front people too. As well as a hell of a bassist.
7. Drive Like Jehu – Luau
Holy moly did this album kick my head in. I spent years trying to steal stuff from John Reis off of it, failing and coming up with my own. There’s a reverb article all about Reis “maimed les Paul’s and endless pickup swaps” (https://reverb.com/news/maimed-les-pauls-and-endless-pickup-swaps-the-guitars-of-hot-snakes-john-reis) that is a must read. But cranked Marshall JCM800s with amp chassis reversed and exposed transformer makes some of the more unearthly bird tweeting crazy go nuts sounds here. Some beastly playing here, and the interplay between Froberg and Reis is almost as amazing as the near composted style tension movements this song takes you. Let’s all rock out in 3/4, SUIT UP!
8. The Birthday party -the Friend Catcher
The Birthday Party changed my world when I discovered them. Raucous and unhinged but dark and scary as well. A total sense of humor, but the music itself taken totally seriously. Rowland S. Howard man! What a player. Most people gravitate towards the incalculably brutal and awesome Junkyard or the incredible Live 81-82 record, however I wanted to focus on the Friend Catcher, because the man makes his guitar sound very convincingly like a person screaming! Maybe not your bag if you are more into traditional sounds, but I adore it.
63′ Jaguar into a fender twin turned very loud, an MXR graphic EQ with bands up as a booster, treble and reverb dimed. I think he used a broken blue box for some stuff also… I also think somebody made a pedal to approximate his sound too. I’ve never tried it, but if anybody deserves one it’s Rowland S. Howard. Rest in power.
9. DEVO – mongoloid
People think of Jerry Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh (rightly) when they think of Devo. Bob Mothersbaugh and Bob Casale managed to innovate some seriously rude and awesome sounds that sound very un-classic rock while rocking very hard! https://reverb.com/news/a-short-guide-to-the-guitars-of-devo I may make weird big rock, but the way things fit together, and the abrupt left turns, that’s all DEVO’s influence on me. They are rightly hailed as innovators of synths, but there is an incredible usage of guitar and monster riffs for those willing to look.
For the loud bits, believe it or not it’s a simple tube screamer Bob 1 uses, which we all know has been improved on by EQD with Plumes.
Of course Mark has the amazing guitar with a Ds-1 and an Electro Harmonic Frequency Analyzer taped to it (http://www.effectsbay.com/2018/07/devos-mark-mothersbaugh-effects-on-guitar/). You have to give it up for style there.
10. Chavez – the guard attacks
I love songs that sort of hang on a root note and riff. There’s more than a little of that in our stuff. This riff slams hard! No idea what Sweeney is playing on, but Clay Tarver uses an MXR distortion plus from high school (!), Les Paul into a Marshall and off you go. Hell yeah! It’s what you play maaaaan. Weird drop tunings making new chords and such. Such a unique and cool band.
Now! Over to Tony.
1. Rye Coalition “Snow Job.”
This is the song that got me excited about playing bass many years ago, and it’s still kind of my benchmark for awesome bass tone. Albini’s engineering skills, paired with a Fender Jazz Bass into a Traynor TS-50B. Perfection.
2. The Hellacopters “No Angel to Lay Me Away.”
I’ve always been a huge fan of this band, especially their last proper album Rock and Roll Is Dead, from which this song hails. The guitars have a chiming quality and are relatively clean, but still manage to sound totally heavy.
3. Cheap Trick “Big Eyes.”
What else is there to say aside from the fact that Tom Petersson is arguably the coolest bassist of all time? That grinding bass break in the bridge is excellent.
4. Davie Allan and the Arrows “Blues Theme.”
I have a major soft spot for the really harsh, gnarly fuzz tones of the 1960’s, and this instrumental track from the soundtrack to The Wild Angels might be the king of them all.
5. Flipper “Learn to Live.”
Krist Novoselic may be the most underrated bassist of all time. His basslines absolutely drove Nirvana’s music and yet his contributions seem to go largely unrecognized. But, despite my longtime love of them, I’m not going to list a Nirvana track here. Instead, I’m choosing this song from the album ‘Love’ by San Francisco’s own Flipper, which features Novoselic on bass. Listen to how up front and utterly pissed his bass sounds.
6. The Stranglers “(Get A) Grip (On Yourself).”
I’ve gotten way into these guys recently, in no small part due to the awesome sounding bass of JJ Burnel. He’s the biggest influence I never even knew I had.
7. The Birthday Party “Nick the Stripper”(from ‘Live 81-82’).
Ferocious. That’s the most accurate adjective I can muster to describe the sound of Tracy Pew on this entire album of live material, but particularly on this song.
8. The Stooges “Gimme Danger.”
The part immediately after the first verse at 0:44, when James Williamson’s Les Paul comes blasting through his AC30, is one of my favorite musical moments of all time.
9. Jawbox “Motorist” (from ‘For Your Own Special Sweetheart’).
Kim Coletta’s bass on this great track by this great band is insanely perfect. The first time I heard this song many years ago, it just floored me. The bass especially really struck me and, like the Rye Coalition song listed above, remains a personal benchmark of mine when trying to dial in my own sound.
10. AC/DC “What’s Next to the Moon.”
Best band of all time? Probably. The definitive rock and roll guitar sound. The gold standard, as it were.
Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends release the 2XLP, 2XCD, Protons and Electrons compilation on September 20th, 2019, a collection of 12 split singles released over the course of two years. https://neutronfriends.bandcamp.com/album/protons-and-electrons-compilation