The Current's Guitar Collection: Stephen Malkmus

Stephen Malkmus poses with his Guild S-100 guitar.
Stephen Malkmus poses with his Guild S-100 guitar. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
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Stephen Malkmus — who fronted the band Pavement, considered the definitive indie band of the '90s — continues his enduring career with The Jicks. He and the Jicks were recently in The Current's studio to play a few tracks off their new album, Wig Out at Jagbags, and to chat with Steve Seel.

At the end of the session, Malkmus took a few minutes to talk to us about his guitar. Here's what he had to say.

What kind of guitar are you playing?

This is a Guild; I think it's called the S-100. This is the same guitar that Kim Thayil from Soundgarden uses, and I was looking for a SG-style guitar, but I just thought I could take it in a more creative direction and get something a little more off the radar.

Do you remember where you got it?

My friend Reuben Cox sold it to me in Los Angeles. He's married to a good friend of mine named Miwa, and Reuben had just started a guitar store in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles. He was just kind of getting his feet wet, and Miwa said, like, "You should just buy this."

She kind of really wanted me to buy it, but I did also. It wasn't like I was doing charity work — not in the least — but I wanted to buy it from Reuben. And now, his business is expanded to a point where, you know, he's really successful and is going great. So this reminds me of him and his business and how he's getting his feet.

How long ago did you get it?

Only like four years ago. It's relatively new in my arsenal. I'm known as a Fender player by most people. I don't know how geeky this series is, but it's not that geeky to say there's Fender people and Gibson people, and there's kind of a divide there.

But this guitar kind of bridges the gap in a certain way because it's not purely — well, Guild is kind of Gibson, but not dyed-in-the-wool Gibson, so my Fender side doesn't get offended. "O-Fender-ed"!

What do you like about the tone of it?

It's how you play it. Like any guitar, it can sound good if you play it right. Almost any guitar.

And I'm still learning how to play it with my amp and everything, and how to hit the strings, hard or soft. I like how it is when you don't bash on it too hard. It's kind of nice. But it's hard to remember to be a little light-handed with your right hand when you're playing a concert. You want to dig in. But a lot of great people don't really dig in.

Is that something you've been trying to work on?

Yes. I play with my fingers a lot more, too. You can kind of create more dynamics when you play with your fingers. You can have your guitar quite loud, but you can not hit it as hard.

And of course, with the distortion pedal, you can get all the sustain you need. You don't need to be picking. You can just pluck it a tiny bit and it will ring out forever.

Did you write a lot of the album on this?

No, I write on acoustic. That's just my way. I don't play electric guitars except in concerts or in rehearsal. I'm all totally acoustic when it comes to songwriting. That gives you a more round sound, it enables you to imagine a band a little more, and to sing along with that is easier than with electric guitar.

I mean, you can write songs on electric guitar if you have a practice room with a microphone and you can kind of fantasize, "I'm in a band when I'm doing this!"

But I don't really do that in the songwriting phase; I save the electric guitar for later with the whole group.

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4 Photos

  • Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks perform in The Current's studio.
    Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks perform in The Current's studio. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • Stephen Malkmus performing in The Current's studio.
    Stephen Malkmus performing in The Current's studio. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • Stephen Malkmus's Guild S-100 guitar in its stand in The Current's studio.
    Stephen Malkmus's Guild S-100 guitar in its stand in The Current's studio. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • Stephen Malkmus and Jake Morris of Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks performing in The Current's studio
    Stephen Malkmus and Jake Morris of Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks performing in The Current's studio (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
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