Jamiroquai guitarist Rob Harris takes time out from preparing for an upcoming tour to talk about his approach to playing guitar as well as giving us an insight into his current set-up.
Is your live rig pretty constant, or are you always finding new bits of gear to add
I’m always on the lookout for new bits and pieces, the quest never ends. Some things I change out of necessity and others just to try something that will prompt a new way of getting a tone or effect either from a guitar, amp or pedal.
I noticed that you’ve recently swapped your amp set-up from a Two-Rock to a Divided by 13. What prompted the change?
I changed amps as I used a few different Divided by 13 amps on the new record. I have three different heads and they all do a different thing. Onstage I’m using the Divided by 13 SJT 10/20. Our onstage volume is fairly low so it’s nice to have a low watt valve amp that you can still crank a little. I use a 2X12 cab with two different speakers in it (a Celestion G12 and an Alnico Blue) which are both mic’d and adjusted out front for a nice blend of warmth and cut. Divided amps just seem to suit this style of music, they sit so well in the track when recording.
What have you got on your pedal board at the moment? Do you do all your own effects switching or is some of it done offstage?
I’ve been using a GigRig Pro 14 for a few years now. It’s a great switching system that allows me to have all of my pedals in front of me but I can have patches set for certain effect combinations so I only have to hit one switch. It also allows you also turn things on and off individually. It’s all true bypass so I don’t lose any tone. The pedals on the board at the moment are an RC Booster, Providence Compressor, Keeley Mod Tube Screamer, Eternity Love Pedal, Fulltone Octafuzz, MoonPhase (phaser), Arion SCH1 (chorus), Demeter Trem, Eventide Time Factor, McCoy Wah, and a GigRig Wet Box which allows me to use both sides of the Eventide Delay pedal. One side is set for my normal delays and the other side is set so that I can have Dub style delays which I can call up just by hitting a switch on and off on the GigRig Pro 14 leaving the delay trails carrying on while I’m playing another part. I switch things round every so often, always looking for new overdrives etc. I have a Providence SOV-2 which I love.
Do you use in-ear monitoring rather than a good old-fashioned wedge? Which do you prefer?
The whole band is on in-ears apart from Jay. I do prefer wedges but these days with festivals etc you can always use the mix from the previous gig as a starting point. Wedges are better for vibe onstage but protecting hearing is more important. We’ve been on them since i joined the band 11 years ago so I’m pretty used to them now.
How hard is it deciding on which guitars to take on tour, or do you just take all of them?
I only ever take two or three away. It’s usually two Strats and my Thinline Tele but I have taken my Gibson ES-335 on previous tours. I’ve never really been into switching guitars for every song. I could do the whole gig on one guitar if necessary but on this album there are a few tunes where the Thinline is quite specific to the sound.
What’s your current favourite guitar? Do you find it hard to resist buying new guitars when something catches your eye?
My main guitar is my old Japanese Vintage Squier. That’s the one I always go back to. It’s actually just come back from having a refret. Thank goodness it’s all okay now. I have a really nice 62 Relic which I play all the time too. I’m not really all that precious about guitars but I do like ‘played in’ guitars these days.
How old were you when you first knew that playing guitar was going to be a career?
I started playing when I was seven years old probably just through seeing Top Of The Pops. I was too young at the time to realise what being in a rock band was all about. I was just drawn to music in general. My dad played a little so he showed me three chords and I was off. I became a guitar nerd instantly!
You add a definite ‘rock’ element to Jamiroquai. How much freedom do you get when arranging the songs to come up with your own parts?
I know. I get a bit of flak for that from several Jamiroquai fans. They seem to think i turn up with an AC/DC record to Jamiroquai recording sessions! In truth we can all make suggestions, but a lot of the time we play what Jay wants to hear. He’s always asking me to dirty up guitar sounds a little more. This new album does give a little nod to the funkier side of The Stones. If you listen to some early funk stuff it’s littered with rock influences and vice versa.
Guitarists are notorious for never studying music theory. How important is it for a young player to learn to read music?
I think it’s very important to try and learn to read music. My music reading is shocking by the way, but I did study and failed just due to lack of situations that I needed to read in. So far I have only had one or two situations I’ve had to turn down due to not being able to sight read. It’s one of those things that you need to keep on top of and do every day or at least every week. I think understanding how harmony works is great too but always have an ear open for someone who doesn’t know the so called ‘rules’ as many a great musical idea comes from reckless abandonment!
Any plans for a solo album release?
I have thought about it but I’m just not sure anyone would want to listen to me waffling on for 40 minutes!
Jamiroquai’s new album, Rock Dust Light Star has just been released.