PHANTOM PLANET IN UK'S GUITAR (June 2002)
Photo scanned by Michelle#2
John Callagan drifts into the orbit of the three guitarists with much-fancied American newcomers Phantom Planet
With a mixture of West Coast rock, U2-style intensity and episodes of early Elvis Costello barbed-buzzsaw harmonies, Phantom Planet's second album The Guest should easily surpass the hype the band have had thus far due to their drummer Jason Schwartzman's high-profile acting roles.
When I catch up with the band's three guitarists, they're still buzzing off the adrenalin from their first UK show the previous night, where they managed to convert the assembled throng of expectant Garbage fans in less than half an hour through a combination of steroid-injected tunes, classic shape-throwing and the odd bit of scaffold-climbing. Darren Robinson and Jacques Brautbar manage to fit in discussions about the locrian mode and the physical charms of English women (including how Brautbar got those scratches all over his body during the aftershow partying) while still explaining the development of their three-pronged axe attack.
'Radiohead's The Bends came out when we were just starting and it showed that three guitars could be done and still be cool,' recalls Brautbar. 'The hardest thing we had to learn is the dynamics.'
'We used to all play all the time, but we've realised that there's sometimes more power in holding off,' offers Robinson. 'It can get boring for the listener if there's always a counter melody and there are too many things going on all the time.'
'Every now and again though, we just think, "Fuck it!" and we just all pile in,' laughs Brautbar. 'But mostly, just deciding that someone should only play a couple of notes here, rather than a big lead, usually works much better.'
Keen to extol the virtues of P90s and P100s at every opportunity, both Brautbar and Robinson cherished the sounds their respective '60 and '56 Les Paul reissues brought to The Guest, while Greenwald - when not playing a Gibson Country Western - hammered away on his '61 Jazzmaster. On the amp front, Brautbar's choice was often his POD, while Greenwald preferred either a tiny Gibson Goldtone or the warm overdriven tones of a Fender Twin. Album co-producer Tchad Blake provided the enigmatic 'White Amp' that Robinson used to get his groove on during Lonely Day, with his Twin Reverb bearing the brunt of his other parts.
A discussion of Phantom Planet's live setup gets aborted by Robinson's accusations that his guitar wasn't working last night because of Greenwald. In fact, the quintet's stage antics in the previous months of gigging have left him wanting to get a wireless system for bassist Sam Farrar, just so he can rock out and get back to hit his pedals without tripping over the bass player's leads.
'One time we were rocking out,' Bratubar pipes up, 'And I didn't realise that for half the song that I'd unplugged myself! I felt such a dolt and there's no cool way to look around the stage to find your cable.'
'Just pretend you're drunk, fall behind the monitor and look for it,' Greenwald advises. 'My one for me is indulging in windmilling guitar moves and realising that your fingers are bleeding. Though, I suppose rock'n'roll's got to have that little bit of pain to make it special!'
The Guest by Phantom Planet is out now on Epic Records