Backline

w/ Jem Murciano

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Jem Murciano. I was born of Cuban descent in Miami, FL to artist parents. I play guitar, bass, keys, and sing. I’m the founder and songwriter of Portland rock band, the Ghost Ease. I love dogs, plants, tarot, astrology, dream sequences and clairvoyance.

What hardware do you use?

For my guitar set-up, I use a 1970’s solid-state EMC G400 amp head and a 2 X 12” Traynor speaker cab. Tube amps are rad, but I’ve stuck with solid-state the longest because they’re less delicate to handle and they deliver ample power. I’m especially into that on tour.

Lately I’ve been playing with my 1979 Gretsch BST 1000 and with a Fender Jazzmaster that a friend is letting me borrow once in a while, but I’d really like to get my hands back onto a Stratocaster. My first ever electric guitar was an ebony Strat that was given to me for my 12th birthday. In the last two decades, I’ve played through a bunch of guitars, and Fender guitars have always felt the most comfortable for me to play.

My pedal board currently has a TC Electronic Polytune, an EHX Soul Food Overdrive that I always keep on, an Earthquaker Monarch Overdrive for an extra kick, and an EHX Holy Grail Nano Reverb to expand the sound with a little reverb. With the Soul Food, I always have it set to a not-as-heavy, but still tough enough tone until the song calls for an extra boost of intensity, which is when the Monarch would come in. I love playing with the soft-heavy-soft dynamic. For my guitar tone, it’s important to me that it really cuts through without being too bright or tinny. I like a bit of warmth added to the mix to kill off the super hot highs, but not too much where it sounds like it’s hidden under a thick blanket and I can’t hear or feel it well enough.

The Polytune is my preferred choice for a tuning pedal because, rather than having to go through each individual string, you just strum all six strings at once and the screen quickly shows which ones specifically need tuning. It’s especially helpful in a live setting. I find that too much time spent on tuning or getting situated between songs is really distracting for me as a performer and as a listener.

On occasion I like to change out my pedals. For instance, when I record my next album this autumn, I’m planning on switching the Holy Grail Nano pedal out for my TC Electronic Trinity Reverb pedal because the Trinity has extra settings to mess around with in comparison. I’m also going to switch my Monarch pedal out for my Ibanez Turbo Tube Screamer. The Tube Screamer overdrive feels heavier than the Monarch, and the extra-heaviness feels most appropriate these days.

And what software?

I started out recording on cassettes because that’s how I always saw my mom record her demos when I was a kid. I sometimes still do this. I love the dreamy warble and warmth of tape. When I started to record digitally I would use GarageBand since it was readily available on Mac computers. In art school I learned how to use Final Cut Pro and ProTools for video editing and sound design. In the last year, I’ve been using Logic Pro X to record my demos in my friend’s home studio. I really like the built-in drummers in that program.

What would be your dream setup?

I would love it if I could have my very own studio space with all instruments mic’ed up and ready to go. When the muse graces me with a visit, I want to get right to work in communicating with it.

I also wish that in a live setting I could telepathically communicate with whomever is running sound when I need a little more or a little less of whatever-it-is through my stage monitors. That way no one, including myself, is pulled out of the spell.

**The Ghost Ease are currently raising funds for the recording of their next record via Go Fund Me. Please consider supporting if you haven't already.

By Jem Murciano, distributed under a Creative Commons CC-BY license.

Image by Sam Gehrke, distributed under the CC-BY creative commons license.

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