Mike Huguenor (Hard Girls, Jeff Rosenstock) lists 9 of his favorite guitarists
As mentioned, the highly prolific punk guitarist Mike Huguenor (who lately has dedicated a lot of his time to Jeff Rosenstock's band but also has his own bands Hard Girls and Shinobu and has played with Jesse Michaels' band Classics of Love, Dan Andriano In the Emergency Room, and others) is releasing a solo album made entirely with guitars, X'ed, on Friday (9/4) via Lauren Records (pre-order). So far, Mike's released two songs from the album ("Mitch McConnell's Funeral" and "Evening Light Seen Through A Window") and today he released a third, "Slight Blue" (with a karaoke themed video). All three songs push the boundaries of what a guitar can do and are a lot fuller-sounding than you might expect from an album made just with this instrument.
Mike's become a pretty influential musician himself over the years, but to get a feel for who shaped his playing, Mike took the time to tell us about nine of his favorite guitarists. The list ranges from veteran legends to peers to newer, rising guitarists, and it mostly includes musicians within the world of punk, post-punk, and indie rock, but even with that said, it's a pretty diverse list. Take it away, Mike:
9 of MIKE HUGUENOR'S FAVORITE GUITARISTS
Andy Gill (RIP) might be post-punk’s most recognizable guitar voice, but Viv Albertine is my favorite. I’ve spent at least a decade trying to come up with ideas as cool as the parts she played on [The Slits' 1979 debut album] Cut. That scratchy little melody at the end of “Instant Hit,” the crazy rubber warble in the verse of “So Tough,” her immortal slink on “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” Viv finds these parts that, in hindsight, become the only thing that makes sense for the song.
Now here’s a guitarist who doesn’t get his due. If I didn’t tell you what band he was in, would you recognize the name? For someone with so little name recognition, Carroll’s playing is instantly recognizable: playful, responsive, and warmly poetic. In The Weakerthans, Carroll plays the role of melodic counter-puncher, his natural ability to fit huge melodies into the space of half a measure one of the band’s finest features.
Chin Nakamura/Mineta Kazunobu
The music of 銀杏BOYZ (Ging Nang Boyz) is such a hyper-compressed soup of exploding instuments & vocal chords that it’s not always easy to tell which guitarist is playing what. On their dual 2006 albums Door & Kimi to Boku no Dai Sanji Sekai Taisen Teki Renai Kakumei the funkier, tighter parts are usually Chin, and the parts that sound like nails scraping away the last memories of childhood usually Mineta, but that’s not a rule. Live, both were unstoppable forces who treated their instruments like extensions of themselves -- another limb to be flailed. Best punk band of the 2000s, hands down.
I started seeing Deerhoof live in the Bay Area around 2002, back when they were a three-piece. No matter how many dozens of times I watched Dieterich play back then (usually in some community center or repurposed warehouse), it never seemed any less impossible that he had actually chosen to play the notes he did. Weird, alien notes that hung naked in the air. The Coral Casino, his 2016 album with Neutral Milk Hotel member Jeremy Barnes, is also a strange gem.
Tim Armstrong was probably my first favorite guitarist. Though, at the time I didn’t think of him as “Tim” -- I thought of him as Lint. Playing along to the ‘90s CD edition of Operation Ivy as a teenager was the first time I really thought about what it meant to have a voice on guitar, rather than just playing the chords. Both his tone (absurdly treble-heavy) and his parts (flying by in a blur of single notes) seemed totally him. It took me a long time to finally put some bass tones into my guitar because of that guy.
Without a doubt, Warren Ellis is the best textural and complimentary player on the, uh, four-string tenor guitar. Few people build tension better, and Ellis usually he does it melodically and rhythmically at the same time, all in a line consisting of only six notes. Since at least the Grinderman/Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! [Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds] era, he’s been pointing towards some extremely cool ways of thinking about playing stringed instruments.
My preferred key is not-quite-major-not-quite-minor, and Greenwood seems to play exclusively in that key. Even if the only thing he ever played was the crazy chromatic riff that kicks off [Radiohead's] “Airbag,” he’d have contributed something unique to the instrument: a line that snakily slithers out of every attempt to pin it down, until finally settling into that huge, crystalline, open A.
Steve and I hit it off right away because we’re both Anthony Braxton fans, which is not easy to find in punk circles. A few years back, on an off-day on tour, we even cut a dual-improv guitar record together. Maybe that record will eventually see the light of day too… Steve’s leads in PUP are out of control, gesturing towards what punk music written by jazz musicians would sound like. Stefan, Nestor, Zack, all of them are incredible musicians -- each contributing their own unique voices to the whole -- but it’s parts like the solo on “Guilt Trip,” or the little mariachi-inspired line in the chorus of “Kids” that make Steve one of my favorite players.
Of all the guitarists on here, Yvette is the hardest shredding. I really love the energy she brings to the guitar. She makes ripping apart the fretboard seem playful, fun, and significantly less self-serious than the standard stank-faced technical player. Like me, she’s from San Jose (408 408 408), and she cites Japanese electro-dance group Perfume as an influence on her playing. More guitarists should be looking outside of the guitar for influence. We’ve heard enough of Steve Vai and SRV (at least, I have).
Gotta end with one of the greats. For all the acclaim Malkmus gets for his lyrics (arch) and style (humorous, slack), it’s his guitar playing that I enjoy the most. His melodic palette is surprisingly wide, unafraid to walk down some truly untrodden paths, and always manages to keep a sense of humor about itself. These days, I listen to significantly more Malkmus solo material than I do Pavement, and I find his playing has only become more expansive over the years. Traditional Techniques might be my favorite of his yet.
In coincidentally related news, today it was revealed that Viv Albertine's memoirs are getting turned into a TV series.
Watch Mike perform with Jeff Rosenstock's band at Pitchfork 2017: