A post-punk guitar-bass relationship from the humblest of beginnings
Sometimes, the integration between guitar and bass is so essential that to look at one apart from the whole would only be telling half the story. Such is the case with Cardiff alt-rockers Kutosis and their guitarist/singer Ian Jones and bassist (and occasional axeman) Jim Deacon, the band’s crushing post-punk assault recalling the likes of Liars, Sonic Youth and David Bowie at their most visceral and fierce.
The band are currently in the midst of writing and recording the follow-up to 2011’s Fanatical Love with Rory Attwell at Lightship95, one of London’s few boat-based recording studios. However, the band have no intention of forgetting the local Cardiff scene that gave birth to Kutosis.
“The South Wales music scene is pretty healthy at the moment. It’s only a small place and having a large university means there are good opportunities for like-minded people to meet and form bands,” says Jim. “Musically, there’s a lot of variation and it’s not really a scene as in, ‘Oh look, they all play the same genre of music’, it’s more that everyone is supportive of what’s going on locally.” The band cite local acts like Truckers of Husk, Islet and Among Brothers as fine examples of the music Cardiff has to offer.
Indeed, going back to their roots, both Ian and Jim explain they are self-taught as musicians and offer intriguing and charmingly self-deprecating analyses of their playing styles. “I’m self-taught and my playing is probably a bit unorthodox. Purists would be appalled by the way I play certain chords,” Ian admits. “I’ve always appreciated musicians that have a unique style like Gruff Rhys and Graham Coxon. Individuality and personality in guitar playing are so much more interesting than pure technical ability.”
More frank and borderline criminal admissions come courtesy of Jim. “I learnt guitar from basically learning every note and chord in Nevermind by Nirvana,” he recalls. “My friend at school had the tab book and we used the school’s photocopier to make myself a copy of it, and that’s how I learnt what chords were. The actual names of the chords came a lot later though!”
Despite their own misgivings, the pair have clearly learned a lot over the years and there are some extremely tasty riffs and aural tricks to be enjoyed across their recorded output so far. Jim’s powerhouse bass work relies on two main instruments: a standard Fender USA P-Bass (with the stock pickups replaced with Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounders) and a Gretsch Bass VI/Baritone, whose purchase was something of a labour of love.
“We were recording at Faster Studio (then called Stir) and it was just after Manic Street Preachers had taken it over and started moving their gear in,” Jim explains. “Originally we only had one standard guitar on the track Small Cities and wanted to beef it up. There was a Burns Barracuda Bass VI (standard tuned guitar but an octave down) in the studio and I decided to try it out. It sounded brutal so I went with it on the recording. The trouble was that I then had to get hold of a Bass VI for live! It took months to track one down – the Fender Jaguar Bass VI cost a fortune and Burns were in the middle of moving their factory at the time so had essentially discontinued the Barracuda. I eventually found the Gretsch in stock on an online store; I love the finish and all the chrome on it so it worked out okay in the end.”
Guitar-wise, Ian opts for some solid, reliable Fenders as his guitars of choice, one of which is a Japanese Jaguar with Seymour Duncan Hot singlecoils and tuned to GGGGBE for tracks on the new album, although Jim is its real owner. “Ian has become her adopted parent over the past months,” Jim says. “It’s fine though, because I still get to visit her on weekends!”
Ian’s other axe is his long-standing mainstay, a Mexican Telecaster. “Telecasters are unbeatable in my opinion,” Ian says. “They look good, they’re durable and have a great sound that cuts through anything. My Tele is Arctic White, although it looks like it’s aged a bit now.”
Away from the crazy tunings and extra strings, Jim and Ian take things back to basics when it comes to amps. Jim opts for an Ampeg BR2E with matching 4×10 cab, mainly because it takes fuzz pedals extremely well, a key facet of the Kutosis sound (more on that later).
On the guitar end, Ian makes use of a Marshall MG100DFX combo. Say what you like about solid state, but there’s no denying they’re durable. “It’s been through a lot,” Ian confesses, “including being dropped down a flight of stairs at a venue we played. It’s seen better days but it just keeps on going.”
It’s here where much of the aggression and massive sound come from: Ian and Jim’s pedal selections. Ian uses a ProCo Rat, Boss DD-3, Boss FZ-5, Toadworks Mr Squishy compressor and Boss TU-2, all running into the amp’s overdrive channel.
“I love the warm feedback of the Rat, and I’ve got some great sounds from my delay pedal too, including on our track Island – a lot of people think that’s a synth!” Ian explains. “The FZ-5 recreates three different fuzz sounds but I use the Maestro FZ-1A setting the most, especially on the songs we’re writing for our second album; it goes so well with the Jaguar.”
Jim’s pedals are similarly important, particularly in a three-piece with only one guitarist. He employs an Electro-Harmonix Russian Muff and Polychorus, Seymour Duncan Pickup Booster, Boss OD-2, DD-5 and TU-2, powered by an MXR Power Brick. However, there is one pedal he holds above all others.
“My main sound comes from the Big Muff,” Jim says. “All the 80s and 90s alternative bands I was into seemed to use it so I knew I had to get one! The Pickup Booster and OD-2 are used for different sounds on the Gretsch. I’ve started to use the Pickup Booster on the new tracks as more of a ‘clean’ gain instead of covering everything with fuzz.”
Check out the band’s debut album Fanatical Love for a tour-de-force of outrageously catchy, kick-in-the-balls post-punkery. It’s this assertive style that has seen the band play stages as huge as the UK’s Reading Festival – unquestionably the band’s high point and, in fact, an event likely to be any band’s career highlight. “Playing Reading Festival has to be up there with our best moments,” Jim says. “It’s such a legendary festival, so it was amazing to be asked to play.” If Kutosis’ new album is anything like their first, it won’t be long before they’re asked to return.
You can hear Kutosis’ debut album Fanatical Love on SoundCloud and download it on Bandcamp. For updates on the band’s new material and other fun and games, like Kutosis on Facebook and follow them on Tumblr and Twitter.