In the non-stop search for interesting new guitarists YouTube leads me hither and yon and marvelous players appear as if by magic, but I often forget where I discovered them. Somehow Eraldo Bernocchi crossed on my radar. He sent me Metallic Taste of Blood, his collaboration with Porcupine Tree bassist Colin Edwin, percussive noise master Balázs Pándi, and keyboardist and downtown New York avant-jazzer Jamie Saft.
Blown away by its ambient dub-metal sound I investigated further, only to realize that I had been listening to Bernocchi for some time under the name Parched, on the 21rst Century spaghetti-western record Arc he did with Davide Tiso, guitarist and founder of the extreme/experimental band Ephel Duath.
Bernocchi with Obake
Bernocchi and Balázs Pándi are also involved with the avant-metal band Obake. All these projects and many others of potential interest to Guitar Moderne readers are released by Bernocchi’s Rare Noise Records —and he still finds time to compose film scores.
Here the Italian guitarist and sound designer discusses his approach to music and specifics about the evocative sounds he achieved on Metallic Taste of Blood.
What kind of music were you playing when you first became proficient on the instrument?
Like 95% of teenagers I was playing punk and metal. I got bored quite soon to be honest.
What led you to create experimental (non-mainstream) music?
I’m interested in exploring different territories. Playing punk or metal and the “song” form were limits. I came back lately to both these options but it has been a long journey. I’m first of all interested in sound. This happens even before music creation itself. It’s sound that moves my imagination as well images, music come after, by itself. I never thought of creating something experimental on purpose, I simply do what I feel in that precise moment with certain musicians or by myself. There’s no plan in what I do. It’s a stream that takes me.
With the unclassifiable Owls
Whose music inspires you?
Music with a soul. As long as it’s transmitting something emotional I like it. Miles Davis, Olivier Messiaen, Slayer, Black Sabbath, Joy Division, Chet Baker, Led Zeppelin…I could go on for ages…I listen to everything I like, from Wu Tang Clan to Coltrane passing through Jeff Mills and Sepultura and stopping at Brian Eno’s place where he’s having a drink with Stockhausen and ending the day with Lady Gaga and Zakk Wylde. Actually what really inspires me are images. Moving or still. Photography is what moves my emotions most.
How did you get better at your current style?
I’m self-taught. I don’t know how to read and write scores, I go by ear and only took two guitar lessons in my life. I have a style I created in order to compensate for what I don’t know. At 14 I found this classic guitar teacher (a guitar monster) who was giving guitar lessons. I called him up and he asked me what I wanted to play. Naturally, my answer was “heavy stuff.” He came to my house with a Gibson Les Paul Custom that I had only seen on record covers. He was already an idol. If you play a Les Paul Custom you MUST be great, right? At least when you’re 14 this is the vibe, if you know what I mean, after you discover it’s a lot different.
There I was with this black beauty in my hands I didn’t know what to do with, and he goes, “You only need to know the blues scale and more generally the blues to play that music, here we go.” He taught me a down to earth blues and a pentatonic scale. He came back twice and then left saying it was enough. Practice and you’ll play that stuff.
This is my whole music academic story. I regret I didn’t study more but on the other side I created my own style without interference. Being crazy about sounds, I have an addiction for pedals, pedalboards, mini synths—whatever makes weird sounds. This is also part of my “style.”
What are you trying covey with your music?
I don’t ask myself anything; I simply create it. It lives by itself. I like the possibilities, the meetings, and the energies. I love collaborating and exchanging ideas; I easily get bored playing alone, it seems to me to be an onanistic state. I don’t start to play guitar thinking I’m composing a track for this or that. I play, or, better to say, I have emotions and images that make me play. I’m super happy if people like my music, but if not it’s ok.
Which guitars, amps, effects, plug-ins and software do you use to create your music, and why?
My favorite guitars are a 1981 Gibson Les Paul standard and a 2006 Schecter baritone guitar. I also have another couple of baritones including an ESP with hand-wound pickups and some old Kramer and BC Rich guitars but my faves are those two. The baritone guitar has become my main choice. I’m crazy for the deep sound of these instruments. The Schecter is huge, massive I’d say. They have a new model that goes even lower than the baritone; I may try that too.
I mainly play in stereo, as I like ambient sounds, using a lot of delay for atmospheres or doubling guitars. If I go heavy I don’t use an amp. I use a Mesa Boogie Valve Twin pedal and its speaker emulator, or a Meteoro Doctor Drive or a Yerasov Pterodrive. All these preamps are tube powered. Yerasov is a small Russian company that does cheap preamps and effects but they really blast and have a raw sound. If I need to reamp things I go to external studios.
My main workhorse is the Mesa. I have a lot of pedals but my favorites are the Line 6 M9 and M13 pedalboards. They have all the effects I want and I like most of them. I’m really not into the distortions of those boards but delays, modulations, and compressors are great. They have weird synth sounds I like to use sometimes. Another machine I can’t do without is the Eventide Space pedal. Those reverbs are just incredible.
I used the baritone for 80% of the last record and the Les Paul for the rest.
SECTILE: The dirty part is the Mesa in blues mode with some modulated delay, the clean and moody section has a slow pitch vibrato, a short modulated delay and a reverb going on. The Eventide Space is raging in the moody part; you can hear the reverb tail fading in the background.
SCHIZOPOLIS: The beginning is some guitar drones; I don’t remember how I did them. The dirty riff is compressor, octaver, Mesa in blues mode, flanger and a room reverb. The super heavy part is the above with another favorite of mine the Digitech Synth Wah at the very beginning of the chain. The intermission part is a single coil sliding atmosphere with a massive reverb.
GLASS CHEWER: The Mesa slightly saturated plus tremolo and delay. The darker middle part is without the tremolo. The middle atmosphere part is a long delay with a longer reverb, but everything played with a volume pedal.
MALADAPTIVE: Again unknown drones (I like to create scapes but I never remember the way I do them, which is great, because I am not likely to repeat myself twice in terms of sound). On top there’s an EBow guitar with some delay on top. The arpeggio part is the Mesa in blues mode plus flanger and delay. The middle part and the end solo are the EBow as well.
KING COCKROACH: The heavy riff is the Schecter going through an MXR Fullbore Metal—amazing pedal I’d say. During the mix I doubled it with a delay plug-in to open the sound. The reggae/dub part is a clean Mesa to delay and reverb.
CRYSTALS AND WOUNDS: Mesa in blues mode going to a super modulated time delay.
FIST FULL OF FLIES: Electro-Harmonix Q Tron (old model from 95/96) going to delay. Mesa in blues mode. The theme part is without the Q Tron. The heavy part is like the track before but with single coils.
TWITCH: it’s Eventide Space 100% wet here. Like playing pads. Sometimes EBow.
TRANSVERSE: Mesa in blues for the intro and delay. Melodic part adding pitch vibrato. A lot of EBow and volume pedal fro the space middle part.
Which do you enjoy more: recording or playing live and why?
I like them both, even if lately I’m more into playing live. I love the studio; I consider it like a laboratory where I can experiment with hundreds of different options and formulas. Live the energy is fantastic. When I’m in the studio lately, I force myself to record using the same equipment I’ll use live. I over processed my guitars too many times in the past and live I couldn’t replicate the recorded sound—I hated myself for this. It was like playing with only 3 colors when you know you can have thousands. So in the last 4 or 5 years I limit myself to what I can do on stage. It’s more difficult but 100% rewarding.
How have you built up an audience for your music?
I’m always astonished by the fact that I have an audience. I mean, I’m no guitarist extraordinaire, even though in a couple of places I have read this definition of my work. I’m not playing mainstream music; most of my music is dark, heavy, moody or sad. Nothing you can whistle while you drive your car to a barbeque with some friends but there’s an audience out there. For sure working with Bill Laswell, Mick Harris, and Harold Budd helped me a lot in spreading my name. On top of that I invested in connections, keeping a direct and personal relationship with all the people who buy my records. I always answer emails or questions, there’s no silent snobbish artist here. Collaborating with people, exchanging information: this is the key to keep on doing the music you love. It’s something I always suggest to all the people who ask me this question. Move your ass and go out there, meet people, get known, play in shit places, face everything and eventually it’ll happen. Eventually…
With whom would you like to collaborate and why?
Ennio Morricone for sure. As crazy it sounds, I’d love to do something with Pat Metheny. I’m not crazy about all his records but I especially loved his noise record and I have the feeling it could be an interesting combination. Tom Araya from Slayer is another one I’d love to do things with, as well Dave Lombardo. Liz Buckingham, from Electric Wizard is a great guitar player; I would love to blast some riffs with her. Brian Eno, one of my biggest influences. Buckethead is another one I really like. Brendan Perry from Dead Can Dance—his voice makes me crazy. I’d love to do a guitar duo with Robin Guthrie, we played together on the album we did with Harold Budd but I did electronics there and I’d love to exchange some melodies with that man. Plus both of us are crazy food maniacs. If we don’t like what we do we can just eat.
What is your latest project? When will it be available and where can people in different parts of the world get it?
The latest is Metallic Taste of Blood: me, Colin Edwin from Porcupine Tree on bass, Jamie Saft on keys and piano and Balazs Pandi on drums. You can find it pretty much anywhere, both digital and physical. In the future I have a new Obake record, and some projects at the moment I can’t speak about, as they’re not officially confirmed.