Dylan Carlson of Earth talks about the importance of the slow pace in his music

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Probably this has changed a long time ago, but do you still use Sunn amps?

No, I don't. It's funny because the one I used was actually a solid state model, not a tube model. It was a Sunn Beta Lead, which Buzz from the Melvins used, and that's how I heard about them. Basically because Sunn amps were made in Puyallup, Oregon. At the time, there were a ton of them everywhere, and they were dirt cheap. No one wanted them, especially the solid state ones.

What do you use now?

I went through a real freak phase, especially up through [The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull]. But now I'm not particularly finicky. I seem to be able to do what I need to do regardless [of something that specific]. Usually on tour, I'm using, if we're running a backline, a Fender Deluxe Reverb or a Twin Reverb.

This tour, I'm using this old VHT head, this six watt head, sort of half a Deluxe, I guess. Then I have a 1X15 cab. I've also used solid state heads, something built as a bass head. Then I used a Crate Power Block solid state heads on a few tours. At home, I have an old Mesa Mark IV that I use. On Bees, I had Fender Vibroverb reissue that I used. But I'm not particularly finicky equipment-wise.

On tour, I try to use the least expensive pedals I can just in case they're stolen or break down. There was one pedal I use, the MXR Dyna Comp -- if I could have only one pedal, that would be it. I sometimes use a [Boss] Blues Driver. Then some kind of wobbly thing, either a Phase 45 or an MXR Micro Chorus. I have some other stuff, but I usually don't take that stuff on tour, like some older stuff, like the Sunface Germanium Fuzz, Prescription Electronics Univibe. I don't take those out because I don't want to lose them, or they're too big to lug around.

On the last tour, the people at this company called Dwarfcraft gave me this pedal called Eau Claire Thunder that I use -- it's kind of a distortion with a feedback loop. That makes some cool stuff. On the solo tour, I just completed in U.K. and Ireland, a guy gave me a pedal from this company called Moog 23. It's basically a Tubescreamer clone, but it has the higher mid boost and more of the low mids.

Then the bass is padded out a little more. Then it has a switch for asymmetrical clipping. That one's over in England though because I have my solo rig, which is a little one watt Marshall Mini Bluesbreaker. I have another rig in Amsterdam for the U.K. and EU tours. And I just left a guitar in Japan, so I guess next time I go to Japan I'll be using that one. I'm building little things in different places so I don't have to carry stuff with me.

Guitar-wise, I love Teles the best or Strats. I don't play particularly fancy guitars. The Strat's a Squier. I mean I've never bought a guitar over six hundred dollars because I always change pickups and put brass nuts on it and stuff. I've always thought if you're going to spend the bulk of your money, spend it on the amp and not on the guitar. There's not that much difference between an expensive guitar and an inexpensive guitar in electrics. With acoustics, it's a different story.

But with the electric guitar, it's the amps and the pickups that make the difference. I prefer the Fender style for touring. I like the longer scale length and the full, thin, neck. Everyone I know that has the Gibson style stuff, the headstocks break. One time I tried to take an SG out, and it crapped out electronically during soundcheck, so I had to run next door and buy a hundred fifty Squier Tele to finish the tour with it. It seems that Fenders can take it. They were originally built for the road. With gear now I [take the attitude] more of whatever gets the job done and if it's easy to load. I've always been and still am my own road crew.

Why was Blood Meridian such an inspiration for Bees or maybe Cormac McCarthy in general?

About the time before we did Hex, I was going back, as I usually do, through my records and finding something I could get excited with it again or get obsessed with it. At that time, it was this country thing. I had just come back to playing guitar and decided I really wanted a Tele and became obsessed with Teles. I had some friends who had read some of his other stuff, his Southern Gothic stuff, which I wasn't into to so much. A friend recommended the novel to me.

At the same time I was reading another book, [whose title escapes me at the moment], that was sort of talking about how the American continent, the physical landscape, was evil, for a lack of a better term. I guess that book dovetailed nicely with Blood Meridian. I've always also been a history buff, so the fact that the historical documents he based the book on, I've always found that era interesting. It has such powerful imagery and writing.

I don't like everything he's written, just that one and the Border Trilogy, rather than his earlier Falknerian work. It was sort of envisioned as a soundtrack for that whether a film of the book, although I doubt anyone would have the ability to make that movie. Kind of like the Neil Young soundtrack for Dead Man: I thought, "Oh, what if there were a soundtrack for Blood Meridian?"

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.