It was almost 10 years ago when I first saw Seattle alternative rock group Minus The Bear live—March 24, 2003, to be exact. I attended quite a few rock shows in and around the Greater Boston area – my home town – during that period, including The Rolling Stones (with Ryan Adams supporting), Hod Rod Circuit, and Zwan. Of those, the most memorable were the Stones’ cool and spectacular show in Boston, and MTB’s electrifying 45-minute set in Somerville, MA. Their lead guitarist, Dave Knudson (ex-Botch) was truly mesmerizing with his highly technical finger-tapping skills on full display on his big, brown PRS McCarty electric axe.
I’ve seen him and MTB at least nine more times since then, and they never ceased to amaze me—Knudson has become one of my favorite guitarists to watch over the last 10 years. With five albums (including Highly Refined Pirates, one of 2003′s best debut LPs, and Omni, which yielded hit single “My Time” in 2010) and four officially released EPs and other singles to their name, Minus The Bear has found steady success in the indie rock scene in their 12 years together, first with Suicide Squeeze Records, and for its last two LPs (Omni and Infinity Overhead), Dangerbird Records.
MTB is on the road again, this time with Circa Survive co-headlining dates through the end of March, and Minnesota trio Now, Now playing the opening act slot. I spoke with Knudson by phone last Thursday night after his band soundchecked for a show in Illinois it would play later that night. We talked about the tour, plans for future releases (including a MTB tablature book), and I inquired about his playing technique, and all of the key equipment he uses to achieve his dynamic sounds, among other topics. So without any further delay, here’s the interview.
My first question is, there’s always been really awesome and impressive opening acts on Minus The Bear tours and for your Waves Overboard Tour that just got underway, groups like Now, Now and Anthony Green’s band Circa Survive are no exception, so how did this tour come about with those two bands in particular and the decision to co-headline with Circa during this current leg of it?
Well, timing worked out great. We both had new records that came out in August, and I think actually on the same day. And, we noticed how many people were commenting via Twitter, “Oh my gosh! I’m getting the new Minus The Bear and the new Circa Survive records.” Blah Blah. “These records are so great!” So it really fell out of interaction with fans on Twitter that were into both bands. And then the idea was floated to us by our manager, and probably the same to them. [I]t just seemed like a logical choice since we share a lot of the same fans, and a lot of people would be thrilled to see both of us in one night.
Your latest and fifth album Infinity Overhead marks the return of your original producer and keyboardist Matt Bayles. What made you guys want to reach out to him again for this release and not bring back the Omni album producer Joe Chiccarelli?
Well it was great working with Joe, and we had an awesome learning experience with him, and we all loved that record [Omni]. I think with Matt … as a guy that was in the band and produced all the other records, there’s a lot of stuff that’s just unspoken that he knows what we’re going for—like he understands what we’re trying to do musically and how all of us work in the studio and how we all write and create the music. So, it was always a very natural fit working with him. … [A]nd I think on Omni we wanted to branch out and try something new [with Joe].
And I think on this one [I.O.] … as we were writing the songs, Matt had a really good vision of how we wanted it to sound, and it just seemed like working with Matt was gonna be a no-brainer. And it’s always great to have him to bounce ideas off of, almost as like a sixth member of the band … and he’s, you know, one of our best friends. So it just seemed like pairing back up again was gonna make for a great record.