Interview- Am I Dead Yet?

Quick Questions With Am I Dead Yet?

Gaye Byker On Acid frontman and current PWEI member Mary Byker with long-time collaborator and Apollo 440 founder-member and Magazine and Luxuria guitarist Noko, would like to introduce their new musical project, Am I Dead Yet?

Like you’ve never quite heard them before…..

The soundscape is wide-screen retro-cinematic; the mood is distinctly noir.

The lyrical preoccupations are the musings of paranoid, retro-futurists, knee-deep in the shit of the grand, crazy, dystopic lie in which we currently reside.

The utopian technology that was supposed to liberate and unite us, now seems to be tearing us apart.
Bad news is simply fake news and nothing and everything is true in equal measure.

Mary’s lived-in baritone atop a Lynchian laptop orchestra, replete with the sumptuous twang of Noko’s vintage white falcon, buried deep in a canyon of spring reverb, featuring their new rhythm section of Cliff Hewitt from Apollo 440 on drums and Derek ‘Hoodlum Priest’ Thompson on bass..

Ladies, Gentlemen and Fluid-gender citizens of all known universes…….for your edification and enjoyment….   Am I Dead Yet?

Am I Dead Yet? Interview

1. Who inspired you to start playing?

Noko – Seeing Marc Bolan on Top Of The Pops on TV – I had a 10th birthday party and we stopped the party to watch TOTP……his swagger and stupid self-confidence probably made the decision for me, there and then, that I wanted to escape life in suburban Liverpool and become and get a piece of whatever he was having.
The real epiphany as a guitar player for me (I hadn’t even started at that point) was the album “Queen II”, two years later – the way Brian May created this whole quasi-orchestral soundscape entirely from different guitar tones is what really set me on the path I’m still on today. That album, though often over shadowed by the attention poured on “A Night At The Opera” (mainly because of the success of the “Bohemian Rhapsody” single), is the album that he really got his chops together and defined the band sound. Nobody played synthesiser.
I had the good fortune to catch Van Halen on their first UK tour, promoting their debut album, opening for Black Sabbath in 1978 – that evening was the sound of the rule-book being torn to shreds : guitar playing would never be the same again!
The late, great Allan Holdsworth was also a big influence on my playing – I still hear the imprint of his scales in my choice of notes….. and there’s Robert Fripp, of course.

2. Which piece of equipment couldn’t you live without?

Noko – A few years ago it would have been my 1962 L-series Fender Strat, or one of my Gretsch White Falcons, but now it would have to be my 1997 Green Parker Fly Classic – they’re so beautifully designed, play so effortlessly and chime like a bell on judgement day. My Kemper Powerack has made itself pretty indispensable in the last couple of years as well : you can effectively take 1000 gtr amps with you anywhere in a 3u rack.
I know the question said ‘one’ but……..the one FX pedal I’d never, ever get rid of is my late ’60s Shaftesbury DuoFuzz. Made by Shin-ei in Japan and re-badged around the world under lots of different brand-names (Univox, Kimbara, Apollo etc) – Pure filth! There are some excellent clones around these days, particularly the Wattson Super-Fuzz, which sounds almost identical. I first got turned onto the Shaftesbury as both Steve Hackett and Mike Rutherford were using them in early Genesis (on gtr and bass respectively) and John Greaves from English prog rockers National Health. The organ player in Caravan got his distinctive sound through one as well – worth about £800 now, but Not For Sale!

3. What’s your favourite album of the year so far?

Noko – Snapped Ankles’ new album. They’re going to be huge. They dress up like camouflage trees on military manoeuvres. I like the new Beak album too – it’s Geoff Barrow from Portishead’s prog-kraut-rock outfit…very good.(though that was last year!)
I’m going to see Gojira in a couple of weeks – they’re the most amazing band, with the most shit-hot drummer.

4. If you could have a lesson from anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?

Noko – Well, a few years ago my band Apollo 440 had the privilege of writing and producing some tracks on Jeff Beck’s “Jeff” album. He came down to our studio in London every day for about 2 weeks and just played the most exquisite gtr all day long. He really is THE best living guitar player : so intuitive and organic. His rig at the time was a completely stock Marshall JCM DSL…his tone is produced entirely by Jeff and his fingers – he’s on the gtr’s volume knob all the time and his command of gain and dynamics are second to none. I probably learned more about the instrument in those two weeks than the whole of the rest of my life. We’re really not worthy!

5. What is your number one tip for any new player?

Noko – Try and borrow one good idea (their best one) from every guitar player you get the opportunity to play with….be humble and ask them to teach you….eventually you’ll assimilate them into your playing and, they’ll become yours and you and the world will forget from whence they came. I remember reading how Edward Van Halen learned Eric Clapton solos note for note…if you listen to his runs, you’d never guess that Clapton was at the source.

Noko – Our self-titled debut album, AM I DEAD YET? is available through WIRE-SOUND Cat. WIRED#49 ;

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