It’s time for the first Gear Nerd chat of the year, and the honour goes to DEVILDRIVER guitarist Jeff Kendrick. We sat down to have a chat with the 6 stringer when he was in the UK on tour at the tail end of 2010, and we discussed the bands that got him into playing, when he started writing and how it feels to get your own signature guitar!!
DevilDriver will release their new album, Beast on February 21st. Head back to www.roadrunnerrecords.co.uk on Monday 10th January at 4pm (UK time) to download the opening track from that album FREE and get your first taster of the album!!!
Roadrunner : So was the guitar the first instrument you were able to play?
Jeff Kendrick: Kind of. I got a play guitar when I was little. I don’t know if my mum or my dad brought it for me for Christmas. My parents played piano extensively and that was the first thing I tried to learn and I didn’t really gravitate towards it. My sister took piano lessons and I played ice hockey [Laughs] so that’s kind of what happened, but I guess the guitar is the first instrument that I really took seriously. I mean I dabbled a little bit on piano but nothing compared to guitar.
RR: So did you take lessons?
JK: Yeah I did- I was in a jazz band in high school- but I’m mostly self-taught.
RR: So how old were you got your first guitar and you started to take lessons?
JK: Thirteen. So seventeen years ago.
RR: So when you were sat at home and practicing in between lessons, what kind of bands were driving you to learn; who were you trying to emulate?
JK: Metallica! That’s where it all started and then I just went to all the other great metal bands, but it started with Metallica. Jon Miller and I learned together, so when we both heard that, ‘cause we heard it together, that was it, that was our start.
RR: Where did Metallica lead you to musically; what other bands did you then start checking out?
JK: Pantera, Slayer, Sepultura, Fear Factory, Machine Head then I went on to like The Edge from U2 and Robin Trower and then obviously Dimebag, Slash and Zakk Wylde… all those guys.
RR: Do you think being in a jazz band influenced your style of playing at all?
JK: Yeah, it did for sure, ‘cause I was really bad at it! I was playing with this kid for the Massachusetts Symphony Orchestra- he was the youngest member ever and he played piano and the trumpet and he was fantastic- and he hated me ‘cause I wasn’t very good but he helped me get better ‘cause he had to play in the band with me, so in that way it definitely helped a lot!
RR: Tell us a little bit about your first bands- who you put them together with and the stuff you were playing when you were younger.
JK: Okay, well John Boecklin, Jon Miller and myself [fellow DevilDriver band mates] all played in a band where we grew up in Massachusetts and we basically played our first show at my high school which consisted of Six Feet Under, Sepultura and Slayer covers. I went to a private school where all the kids listened to Dave Matthews Band and wore Abercrombie and Fitch so that was out first gig… [laughs]
RR: So that went down like a lead balloon…
JK: Yes! I had like cut-off camel shorts, big shit-kicking boots and a Suffocation shirt. [laughs] but yeah, that was our first gig but we all did it together.
RR: And how old were you all?
JK: I think like fifteen. It was pretty god-awful! But we loved it! [Laughs]
RR: When did you start writing and jamming your own tunes?
JK: Right away. We would learn songs and then we just kind of try to write a riff and stuff like that, so right off the bat. But it was when we got into high school that we started to take it really seriously- probably around seventeen or eighteen- and we’d write stuff all the time.
RR: So what was the first band that you had when you were playing your own material and what did it sound like?
JK: We were in this band called Grolby. Mike was in the band, I was in the band, John Boecklin was in the band, Jon Miller was in the band and we had a different singer, and we all played in California; in Santa Barbara circa 2000 or in ’99, 2001 and it was a lot lighter than Devildriver- it was way more progressive. So that was our first ‘real’ band and one by one ultimately we ended up joining Devildriver and here we are now!
RR: Do you have any endorsements?
JK: Yes, we have a lot. ESP Guitars, Guitar-cable.com… working with some Blackstar stuff right now, EMG, Seymour Duncan, Electrovoice, Intune, TC Electronics, Maxon, Furman… I think I got everyone!
RR: So what’s your set up tonight on stage
JK: I’m playing Blackstar 200, one amp with KT 88’s. I’m using them on this tour and they sound great, I’m using TC Electronics G-System, EV Wireless, Furman Power Conditioner, Zakk Wylde Overdrive and Boss Tuner but the TC Electronics system is like a switcher router effects thing- like a Bradshaw system. It works great; it makes things very simple ‘cause it can do so much.
RR: What is it that you like in particular about the guitars that you use?
JK: Their built really well. The one I play in particular is custom made so it’s the way I want it designed and I love playing it ‘cause I’m used to it too. I’ve been playing it for years and its set up well and it’s a metal guitar and it’s the right guitar for the job. All the ESP stuff is great, I’m very happy with it.
RR: How does it feel to have a company go “Yeah we’ll make a guitar to your specifications!”?
JK: Amazing! It’s a dream come true! It’s cool because when I was young I was, I look at Metallica and was like “What’s does James Hetfield play? … Oh an ESP”… and now I have my own with my fucking signature on it so… go figure! I’m pretty stoked. It’s a dream come true! I mean, no one does not want that when they pick up a guitar, ‘cause you’re influenced by something or someone or even beyond that. And then if your obsessed with it like I was, you just learn everything about ya know… like “I’m obsessed with Metallica, what do they play? I gotta play that!”
RR: So somewhere, a kid is looking up to you going “I wanna play that one day!”
JK: That’s how it works and that’s the awesome thing about this whole thing; just the artistic element of it, ‘cause it is art and that’s how we make our living… luckily! Everyone wants to be a paid artist but there’s a certain thing that comes along with it; when you hand things down generations. I’m hopefully gonna influence a kid or more than one kid to do something with guitar or music that I would never have done if I never had the opportunity to do this, just like someone else did for me or many people did for me, ya know?