Interview mit Jørgen Munkeby von Shining (Nor)

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Interviews are usually done during the promotional stage of an album or a tour – and then they centre around these topics. However, albums and shows wouldn’t exist if the interview partners weren’t such enthusiastic instrumentalists. In our series „Saitengespräche“ (pun: „string talks“/“side conversations“) we want to take this into account – with interviews that focus entirely on instruments, amplifiers, effects, and other tech stuff. From gear nerds for gear nerds – and for those who aspire to be.

In this part of the series we talk to Jørgen Munkeby, multiinstrumentalist of SHINING (Nor).

When did you start playing an instrument?
I started playing the sax when I was nine years old, which was in 1989. I had played a little bit guitar and piano before that, but sax was the first instrument that I played seriously.

What made you want to learn this instrument back then?
I actually don’t know why I chose the sax. I remember that I wanted to play either the drums or the sax. I had never listened to any music with sax in it, so I have no idea why it ended up being the sax I chose.

When did you start the next instrument and how many instruments do you play today?
Hmm, I guess the next instrument I played seriously was the flute. I was given a cheap flute from my aunt who had stopped playing and I practiced the hell out of that flute. I started playing it as a second instrument in my band at that time, Jaga Jazzist, and also did a lot of touring in Europe with the club DJ band Bobby Hughes Experience, where I almost only played flute.

Do you remember which model was your first guitar?
The first guitar I bought was a Fender Strat. That’s not a Stratocaster, but something actually called Strat. It was a wine red guitar with black humbuckers, black headstock, and a Floyd Rose tremolo bar. I thought it looked super cool! But I didn’t have an amp, so I played it through my cassette recorder and through the stereo speakers. I cranked up the input gain on the mic preamp and played away. That distortion sounded like wasps, but I guess that’s why I’ve always loved DI fuzz and that awesome NIN guitar sound.

How many guitars and saxophones do you own?
I’ve actually started selling a lot of stuff and instruments, because I had way too many of them. Now I only own one saxophone, but I do own about 5-10 guitars. I’m actually not sure. I’ll have to count them.

Do the instruments have different uses for you, so do you have different ones for different bands or occasions, like studio, live gigs and holidays?
I have four black SG guitars that I have set up pretty similar. They’re supposed to be interchangeable and sound and feel the same way, just for simplicity. The only difference is that two of them are set up to a drop C tuning, and the other two are set up for drop D, but all four can work in both tunings. Then I have some guitars that I use very different, for instance a Telecaster, which I only use when I really need that sound, which isn’t that often.

What do you attach particular importance to from a technical point of view, what criteria must an instrument meet for you to be satisfied with it?
It needs to sound cool and it needs to feel ergonomically ok for my body. And also, I prefer that it doesn’t cost a lot, and also that it’s easy to replace if it gets lost or damaged. The best thing would be if it was a plain stock instrument that I could get in any store for only a few hundred dollars. That way I know that I can always get an instrument if I can’t use my own instruments.

You often hear about musicians who seem to have a special connection to their instrument. Do you feel the same way? Do you have a favourite instrument?
Nah, I don’t have a special connection to my instruments. I do like to play them, though, but it’s nothing nostalgic. All the instruments that I’ve gotten used to are my favorites. Until I get used to another one, and then that becomes my new favorite.

Did you make special modifications to yout guitar, or is it a custom model anyway? Can you tell us the technical details here?
I try to keep my guitars as stock and unmodified as possible, so they are easy to replace. I never change out pickups or stuff like that. But I often modify the wiring in my guitars so that I bypass the neck pickup and have that position as a hard mute instead. My sax has been modded pretty heavily through the 25 years I’ve had it. But that’s a little bit too much to get into here, unfortunately.

Is there a model, such as the instrument of a great role model, that you would like to play one day?
No, not really. Just get me stuff that works and sound good. What I really need are great songs and great technique. The instruments are less important.

Amps are often leased for tours – is that okay with you or do you have your own amp with you? Which model do you play?
I used to bring a Marshall JCM 2000 with a 1960A cab on tour. It’s a great combo, but waaaay too big. Then I stripped down a DI amp simulator. Then I got rid of my guitar FX board and switched to an Axe-FX. Now I’m hoping to find something even smaller, hopefully completely compatible with native plugins so that I can use the same plugins in the studio and live.

Besides the instrument and the amplifier, sound effects play an important role in the sound. Do you rely on single pedal mines, a multi-effect board or a combination?
I use a lot of different stuff. I’m so used to forging guitar tones in my computer and DAW now, so I need all that flexibility and routing options from the Axe-Fx also. But the essence of my guitar sound are a Gibson SG (or sometimes and Edwards SG), TS808 (50% blend usually), a Marshall amp, a Custom Marshall 1960 cab IR response that I’ve combined myself, an EQ+compressor etc. If I have a delay in the chain, I often like it to be a tape delay in front of the amp.

Let’s go into detail: Please explain the elements of your effect loop. Which devices do you use, in which order and why?
Right now I’m using Axe-Fx live, and Bias FX in the studio.

Mind game: You are only allowed to take one single (!) effect on stage – which one do you choose? Which effect pedal makes up your sound?
Axe-Fx, if that’s allowed. If not I will take the Morley JD-10, which is an awesome sounding analog guitar simulator from the 80s, I think. I have four of them.

Do you have an effect that you use in a completely different way than originally intended, or that you have perhaps even (re)built yourself?
I used to drive AD converters to clipping on the way in when recording on almost all instruments. That was a big part of the sound on “Blackjazz”. I liked how that added an extra edge to an already distorted sound. But I don’t that that much anymore now.

Do you use a noise gate – why (not)?
I always use a noise gate. Usually just to remove hiss or hum, but sometimes I use it as a hard side-chain gate, especially with very distorted sounds. But I like them to not cut the delays.

Is your effect board “ready” or in constant change?
It’s changing all the time since I’m updating the sounds when I have new songs or new needs. But I try to not change out the gear too often. That’s way too expensive and takes too much time. I’d rather spend my time on making music!

Finally, do you have a tip for beginning musicians?
Just go for it! Do your thing! Be brave!

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