Another post that’s a bit different from my usual, but well worth my time. Through my previous interviewee, Birgitta Haller, I was able to get in contact with the lead guitarist for Billy Momo, Oscar Harryson. His responses were very interesting, and as a guitarist myself, especially intriguing. Here’s what we talked about.
After founding Billy Momo in 2007 how did the band grow from just being Tomas Juto and Oskar Hovell, to the seven piece it is today?
Barba (Tomas) and Orren (Oskar) had been playing drums and bass in various bands that I was working with. And during that time, they started to get an urge to put together their own thing, where they got the chance to try out different ideas and run the ship, so to speak. So, for the first album they wanted to play as much of the instruments as possible themselves. However, some things needed somewhat of a different flavor so that´s when they brought in various newfound, and old friends to help-out. Like Hot Lips. We knew him from a bar that Barba and Preacher Man used to run in central Stockholm. Hot Lips had played harmonica there with another band, and used to come by every so often. And every time he forgot his hat so he had to come back again. In that same bar, Barba one day overheard Preacher Man singing from the kitchen, and knew that he had to have that low gnarly voice on the record. After we had finished recording the album, Barba and Orren soon realised they needed a band to be able to play live. That’s how I ended up playing guitar in Billy Momo. Then there’s Gramps, who happens to be Barbas older brother and a great drummer so that was an easy decision. We then tried out different bass players, but it wasn’t until we were recording the song “Weekend” on the second album (Drunktalk) that we came across the Coffa. He came in and blew us away and after that, he really didn’t have a choice. He was now in the band.
What artists and genres of music are your inspirations or models for the music you create?
Actually, that’s hard to give a straight answer to. We have lots of different sources of musical inspiration. I guess that’s one of the reasons why we sound the way we do. But off course, there are the more obvious ones, like The Band, Tom Waits, Mavis Staples, Nick Drake, and also a lot of the old blues guys. And of course, timeless acts, like Eagles, Fleetwod Mac, David Bowie, Tom Petty, George Harrison and such. But then there’s also more contemporary bands, like Queens of the Stone Age, and Arctic Monkeys. And believe it or not, but a big foundation in Barbas and Orrens writing actually comes from Hip Hop and R n’ B. Acts like Method Man & Redman, Dungeon Familly, D’Angelo, and naturally, the Roots. Then we all love Alison Krauss & Union Station, Buddy Miller, and let’s not forget T Bone Burnett, he’s been a huge influence not only musically, but also when it comes to production.
As I am the mixer of all we do, I have a couple of outsiders that I come back to for inspiration of my own. For example, Daniel Lanois, Jeff Lynne, Foo Fighters, James Bay, and John Mayer. But mainly I check out the latest work of my favorite mixers. Guys like Manny Marroquin, Tom Elmhirst, Tchad Blake, Andrew Scheps, and, last but not least, a man I’m proud to call my mentor: Michael Brauer.
Tell me about your rig and the instruments you own. Any ones you are particularly attached to?
As a guitar player, I always change stuff around, as I assume you all can relate to. But lately I have been using my –98 Clapton “Blackie” strat a lot. It still has the mid boost but I have changed the pickups to Custom Shop Fat 50’s. It’s a killer guitar that I bought new in 1999 at Manny’s guitars in New York City. On our latest album (Seven Rivers Wild) I ended up using my 2008 PRS DGT Goldtop a lot. That and a red 2012 custom shop ES-335 that I later sold. Another workhorse of mine is my “Billy Mojo”, or my Mojocaster as I also call it. It’s a custom build made by Mojo Relic, a luthier here in Stockholm. It’s basically a heavy relic Telecaster in Sherwood Green with a Bigsby. What’s special is the pickup config. It has a hand wound Lundgren bridge pickup, and a Seymour Duncan P-Rails neck pickup. It’s a humbucker made out of a Vintage P-90 and a Hot Rail which gives you a lot of different variations. It looks standard but with a push-pull on the volume knob and a 5-way switch I can get 9 different sounds from it. It’s a great guitar! Normally I run through a Vox AC-30, but I will probably get one of the newer Fender 68 – deluxe reverb. Since I use a lot of tremolo I really like the chime and the pulse of the Fender. Pedal wise I almost always have the first stage of my RC “Scott Henderson”- Booster engaged. After that, I run through an Analog Man Peppermint Fuzz, a Dunlop Mini-Wah, a Mad professor Forest Green Compressor that I mostly uses when I play my Bass VI. Then I have the BB plus from Xotic pedals for various overdrives and that all runs into my Alter Ego x4 delay pedal. Normally I have that one set up for a slapback but I also have a very modulated “leslie-esque” sound for our song “All we were” and a longer Binson-type delay for soloing and such. Reverb and tremolo, I like to use what’s in the amp. When it comes to acoustics, I have taken over my dad’s old -74 Martin D-18 and then I have a 2008 Fall Series Coccobolo Taylor GC that is absolutely fantastic! I also used different lap steels and dobros and such, recording. I like to record my amps with either a 57 or an Audix i-5, paired with either a Sennheiser 421 or a SE-ribbon.
Do you like to go to a particular “small-town” guitar shop to buy gear? If so do you have any unique stories or experiences from there?
I normally buy anything that is of importance from Deluxe Music here in Stockholm. They are the best and also privately owned, so yes, I would guess we can call them our “small-town” guitar shop. I do however have a unique story from another one of our great “small town” shops, Hellstones. It was a couple of years ago, I was bummed out that I had missed the Brad Paisley concert the night before, so I went to the nearest guitar shop to take care of my GAS. When I came down the stairs, I could hear some amazing guitar playing from the back of the shop. Imagine my surprise when I realized it was Brad Paisley, trying out various vintage guitars. So even though I had missed his concert I had a private show for like 20 minutes or so. I didn’t want to bother him so after a while I just walked back to the studio, with a big smile on my face. He was the nicest guy and wicked good!
Describe your experience touring and playing with Billy Momo? Where is your favorite place/town/venue/bar to gig at? Why?
Since we are a bunch of old guys that just like to hang out anyway, we normally take care of each other, come what may. Most of the guys have day jobs so touring and playing is more or less an excuse to go hang out with your friends, playing music and perhaps try out the local assortment of beverages. We get a chance to pretend we are a bit younger for a while, which is great fun. There is this one place in Tranås, called Plan B, that we love playing at. You can see it in our live videos and also there’s plenty of footage from there in our latest documentary.
What are your feelings about buying guitars online vs. in store?
Since I’m quite good at setting up my guitars and adjusting them and such, I have no problem buying something cheap or simple online, but when it comes to quality instruments and studio equipment I prefer to go to Deluxe music. Both as sort of an insurance, but also to support your local dealer. I do prefer to shop in a store but sometimes it’s more convenient and so much cheaper to buy online that you just can’t help yourself.
What was your first guitar? When did you start playing?
I started out kinda late. I was 17 years old and started out on my dad’s nylon. But after a while my dad got me a Candy Apple Red MIJ Fender Stratocaster. That one I will never sell. It actually had a lot of issues and I think my dad got a bit screwed buying it but I’ve fixed it up since and it will stay with me forever.
If you could have a drink with any musician, living or dead, who would it be? Why?
That would have to be Mr. Dave Grohl. He’s just the most bad-ass guy alive! And also, one of the most talented songwriters I can think of. And he seems to be great fun to hang out with!
What is it you enjoy about my own blog, localguitarshops.wordpress.com?
I really like it. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon it, but I’ve really enjoyed all of your posts, and try to follow it continuously. What can I say, we’re guitar players and we like to read about other guitar players and their stuff 😉
Last question. Could you tell a unique or interesting story from your time with Billy Momo?
Wow. Since we always look out for one another, we don’t have that many crazy stories as one would imagine, being seven grown men and all. But we have that time that we realized our song was being used in the “Better call Saul”-trailer. We actually had no idea. It was a friend of Orren who called him up and said: “Isn’t that your song on the trailer for Better Call Saul?”
We got online and started checking You Tube and surely there it was, “Wishing ain’t no sin” from Drunktalk had been picked up as the trailer music without our knowledge. We’re all big fans of Breaking Bad, off course, so it was such an honor!
Thank you Oscar for taking the time to answer my questions, and in such detail! I know many of my G.A.S.ing readers will love it. Best wishes to him and Billy Momo in all their future endeavors.