Adam Coney joins a coterie of young (ish) British guitarists, like Chris Montague and Leo Abrahams (name-checked here by Coney) who comfortably straddle the line between session work and more personal creative endeavors. In Coney’s case these projects might include the prog‑jazz group Morviscous, Acland & Sydney, Calibos (with Jonny Fryer), City Shepherd, and Noon, all represented on Trestle records, a label he helps run. Coney’s solo debut record, entitled The Fall Of The Flamingo Gardens comes out today.
What kind of music were you playing when you first became proficient on the instrument?
A close family friend, a musician by the name of Peter Grove played beautiful lyrical guitar lines in keeping with the likes of Peter Green and Paul Kossoff, that raw power and brutal minimalism made a huge impression on my formative years. William Leahy, another inspired chap and close family friend, turned me onto more classical guitar leanings and the discipline of always washing your hands before playing. William has a very sacred and loving relationship with the instrument, that sense of ritual also impressed me. I am still trying to be proficient and I am still trying to learn. The short answer would be B.B King by way of The Yes Album.
What led you to create experimental (non-mainstream) music?
I never really asked myself that question until it was too late and possibly even redundant, in the best way. Listening to Frank Zappa helped me to blur those lines. Performing a rendition of “Maggot Brain” by Funkadelic at the high school prom felt like a connection We sounded pretty rough as a band. It was not quite a Back to the Future moment, but a light went on in my head at least. Perhaps it was also a hit with ladies, if my rose tinted glasses serve me well. A little later I was fortunate enough to study contemporary composition under Dr. Bennett Hogg and Dr Matthew Sansom at Newcastle University. As well as blowing my mind by turning me on to “Quartet For The End Of Time” (Olivier Messiaen) and weekly group improvisation sessions, Bennett and Matt really helped me turn toward music and a positive way of thinking at what was very much a dark hour before dawn. So it is for them really.
Whose music inspires you? Past and Present.
All of the aforementioned. Given the nature of a “guitar” discussion stalwarts might include the Durutti Column, Joy Division, John Fahey, Christian Fennesz, Jimi Hendrix and Sonny Sharrock. Derek Bailey, rest his soul, used to live pretty close to my old studio in Hackney. The world felt a bit more exciting knowing Mr. Bailey was about, even though I did not meet him. I also have a Doo-Wop greatest hits collection that never leaves my heart, as well as a myriad of contemporary composers such as Arvo Part, a fair chunk of ECM, and Impulse affiliated musics ticking over internally. Sublime Frequencies is another label that opens my mind time and time again.
Recently though, friends offer up most inspiration. Luckily most of them have instrumental music on a label I help run called Trestle Records. I place a huge emphasis on having a collective home for new inventions. Music can get very heavy and very self-involved at times, yet Trestle acts as a house with windows—the light can come in. I would urge you to check out Harry Broadbent, David Coulter, EQLS, Taketi Uloomu,Tout, and, well, any thing with the Trestle stamp. John Zorn has been kind enough to reply with encouragement to music I have sent him in the past, which is an inspiration. Also Leo Abrahams got in touch back in the MySpace days. I know you have featured Leo previously in Guitar Moderne; he was very encouraging at what was a pretty isolated time for me, Leo is an awesome creator, so that all adds up. Like wise Joni Mitchell – not heard from Joni yet though…..
How did you get better at your current style?
I would say friends, connecting in new musical situations, trying and failing to brave up to the fearless artistry of it all. With Morviscous, in our early twenties we learned to play in odd time signatures together—beat by beat. With Acland & Sydney, guitarist Nick Siddall and I imagined orchestrated and improvised acoustic guitar well beyond our technical facility, and it sounded ace—mostly. With Noon, the same combo gets to orchestrate and improvise electric instruments with drum titan Beanie Bhebhe (Rudimental). I am in my early thirties and have been working as a session guitarist for most of my adult life, so travelling and people play a big part in my learning. Serving the song/music from an abstract non-clichéd perspective has stood me in good stead, in terms of working in a more commercial vein and that is a cycle that feeds back into my own more experimental work.
What are you trying convey with your music?
Recently, I have been mildly obsessed with a sense of “scorched earth.” Also, I often have a sense of air moving through loose timbres on sea fronts—again, the ocean would be scorched. Of late, I run with any sounds that have those elements. I think the release Calibos with Jonny Fryer best exemplifies that. That said, it’s getting a bit old for me now, so I will be on the hunt for a new scenario—something joyous and equally pretentious [laughs]. I am not sure these images or senses need to be conveyed at all, but they give me a starting point to struggle away from.
Which guitars, amps, effects, plug-ins and software do you use to create your music, and why?
I usually pretend to be “too cool for school” when it comes to equipment, you know “whatever tool gets the job done.” That said, I have always wanted to answer questions like this. I am just a massive fan of matching invention and sonic grafting—it is really fun. Guitar-wise it’s mainly a Gibson ES 135 mixed up with old school Fender Telecaster/Stratocaster moments, all of which are of an ’80s/ ’90s vintage. I do have a Harptone E6-N from 1974 I think, which is a stunningly crafted acoustic. I also have a Suzuki No 6 parlor guitar that is a neat recording weapon (“Calibos Ten” from Calibos). I brought a cello on tour a while back. I certainly cannot play it in a conventional sense, but I love turning to it as if I can—pretending is an important place to be when coming up with music.
For amps I run a Fender Bassman 4×10 combo, in some instances in stereo with a Roland Jazz 120, but mostly just the Bassman. Today my pedal board consists of: Boss TU-2 tuner, ZVEX Fuzz Factory, EHX Soul Preacher compressor, T-Rex Tremster tremolo, ProCo RAT overdrive, Hot Cake overdrive, Boss Volume Pedal, EHX Stereo Memory Man delay and EHX Holy Grail reverb, all powered off a Voodoo Labs unit mounted onto a Pedaltrain board. Keep in mind pretty much all this tech talk pertains to live session situations where it might be a case of working with hired back line. I keep this board with me to facilitate getting the job done under any circumstance. I also like ditching all pedals if the mood is right, just running straight into the amp—which leads to my next point. In creative studio situations or more relaxed live settings I usually start with the string itself and work out from that point, calling on the aforementioned effects as dictated by the music. I do not have a default set-up for “my sound.” I hope that said sound is implicit, constantly evolving or devolving with time.
Some examples of studio set-ups on my new record might be—“Harvest of Tongues” from The Fall of the Flamingo Gardens: Gibson ES 135, tone rolled off, straight into MS2 Marshall micro-amp maxed out. The Shure SM57 mic diaphragm is about the size of the speaker cone itself—small becomes the new big. Mix that next to a stereo miked double bass, with Peter Bennie smacking the shoes off it and you get to hear the type of sound I run with. I use Reaper as a DAW, and a fantastic glitch plug-in that plays lovely madness with hi-hat patterns, among other things. I also like to mic up the f-holes on hollow body electrics—that is a Bailey/Ribot trick.
“Wine Song” by Robbie Basho, from The Fall of the Flamingo Gardens: For this cover tune I needed to warp time to do any sort of justice to the piece. I set up a stereo amp rig with multiple inputs that allowed for two EHX Stereo Memory Man delays, the outs and ins of which had two guitarists patched in and out respectively. It sounds confusing but it essentially morphed two guitars into one but still maintained a stereo image. Both guitars are tuned down a whole tone and employ a sprinkle of T-Rex tremolo pedal and H-Delay (plug-in) to give a sense of otherworldly format manipulation in a subtle contemporary digital fashion. I love it when the production is subtlety dictated by acoustic phenomena—not exactly a stock sound. Also an old pre-amp valve on the Fender kept crackling, but in this context it sounded great, as did the “microtonal” intonation on my Telecaster [laughs].
Which do you enjoy more: recording or playing live and why?
I need both really. I am a Gemini you know—Jekyll and Hyde. I feel safer with the studio process and that sense of controlled documentation. On the other hand, I love improvised performances floating out into the ether and having no control over reception or preservation etc. If I had to pick one it would be live for the unity it brings on a good night.
How have you built up an audience for your music?
Still working on that one. Hopefully with love and punctuality.
With whom would you like to collaborate and why?
Past: Harry Partch, because he was so curious about the space between the notes, and a prevailing sense of fun comes from that. Present: Annie Clark/St Vincent is pretty wild, is she not?
What is your latest project? When will it be available and where can people in different parts of the world get it?
It is my debut solo recording entitled The Fall of the Flamingo Gardens released 9/1/2014. It will be available digitally world wide from Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify etc. Also as a stunning looking CD designed by Ross Downes, directly from Trestle Records.