Blur | How to sound like Blur | Modern Life Is Rubbish
Learn how to sound like Blurs guitarist Graham Coxon with some tips and tricks from when they recorded the likes of ‘Leisure’ and ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’
During the 1990s Blur went from being fey, indie dance-ish fodder on ‘Leisure‘ to ’60s Kinks-lovin’ classicists on ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’, whilst they were cheeky Britpop personified on ‘Parklife‘ and much more downbeat on the much-less lauded ‘The Great Escape‘. During this time, guitarist Graham Coxon‘s influences went from being The Who’s Pete Townshend and The Kinks to obscure American hardcore merchants such as Slint.
The basic Coxon cookbook that comprises (in order of importance) a Fender Telecaster, a Gibson Les Paul Custom, a Fender Jaguar and a Fender 12-string semi-acoustic, such as a Coronado. If you can only get one amp, go for a Marshall 1959 Marshall head and 4×12″ cabs. To obtain the ‘whooshing’ sound he got on ‘Girls & Boys‘ you’ll need a Boss BF-3 Flanger. Other essential pedals include a RAT distortion and a Crybaby wah.
In The Studio
By his own admission Graham has sometimes struggled to get things done to his satisfaction. “‘Leisure‘ was us getting used to studios and what you did in them,” he states. ” ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish‘ was a key album in us being able to achieve what we did musically on ‘Parklife‘, but the sounds were perhaps a little bit weak. On ‘Parklife‘ the sounds became a lot strong in their own right, and we finally got the arrangements that worked with the songs.” Graham worked alongside singer and main songwriter Damon Albarn with the arrangements, and he was often the man who made sure Blur weren’t too poppy, cute and cuddly, throwing in blasts of guitar noise, and constructing little off-kilter parts and middle eights that sat perfectly ill-at-ease with what the other instruments were doing. “Alex [James, bassist] is always pretty funky, and I go a little bit to the left of the funky thing,” he states. “So that’s what Blur usually sounds like – it’s Alex and me playing tug o’war.”
One thing you can learn from the man is how to make a capo work for you. It’s a little device you put across the guitar strings, essentially making the guitar shorter. Why bother? Well, on ‘There’s No Other Way‘ from ‘Leisure‘ he puts a capo on the second fret, allowing him to play the song’s basic chord of E using a D shape. Doing normal, often simple chords in a strange way is very much a Coxon trait. “I like strange chords. They sort of come by accident then afterwards I figure out what they’re called.”
“To get the best out of a guitar, you’ve really got to hate it as well.”