PLINI: Unknowable Intuition

Plini

After extensive touring cycle over the past few months, Australian composer and guitarist Plini returned with his new release – a full-length album titled Handmade Cities. As always, this extraordinary musician pushes the creative envelope further.

In a new interview for Guitar Sphere, Plini tells us about his musical upbringing, discovering guitar, gear, new album and future plans.

How would you describe your initial exposure to music?

I grew up in a household with lots of great music – I think the first band I really latched onto was the Beatles at around age 5 or 6!

Were you in the music programs in school while you were growing up?

I took music as an elective throughout high school but aside from that, never had much formal training.

How did you get into playing guitar?

We used to have a ukulele at home – one day I broke it beyond repair. My parents suggested getting a guitar instead of a replacement ukulele – best suggestion ever!

Did you start to listen to music differently once you discovered guitar?

I started hunting for crazier and crazier guitar music, but eventually found I was more drawn to composition than technical guitar playing, so that set me off into the whole realm of prog/fusion/etc.

Who were some of your early guitar influences?

Steve Vai, John Petrucci, Joe Satriani and also a bit of Santana.

Photo: Petr Lebedev Photography

Photo: Petr Lebedev Photography

Tell me about your guitar technique.

It’s all just a patchwork of things I’ve figured out how to do to get by – nothing extraordinary!

What made you gravitate to the Strandberg brand?

I think they’re one of the only makers doing something genuinely interesting and different – in decades of the electric guitar, almost everyone else is still rehashing the same ideas (though some do it better than others) with very little appetite for genuine evolution. Strandberg is what a guitar should look like in 2016!

Besides Strandberg, what other guitars are in your collection?

I have my first “real” guitar – an Ibanez S-series – and a couple of Nylon and Steel string acoustics.

Tell me about your home studio. What do you use for tracking at home?

An AxeFX II, straight into my iMac.

With the advancement of the technology and amp/effect simulation, do you still use pedals?

I only have a couple of pedals, but almost all my sounds come from either the AxeFX or software plugins.

Strandberg

In your opinion, what are the three skills that every guitarist must bring to perfection?

Vibrato, playing slowly and leaving space.

How did you work on perfecting your rhythm and solo parts?

Recording! If you record something poorly, you can hit playback and instantly hear yourself suck – instant motivation for improvement!

Back to music… You have just launched your new album Handmade Cities. Lead me through its creative process.

Most of the ideas are things I jotted down throughout 2015, with a couple of older ideas as well. I essentially just dive straight in and start recording these ideas as though it’s the final product, and expand/layer/arrange until it actually is!

What evolution do you feel Handmade Cities represents for you as a composer and guitarist?

I think I’m getting slowly closer to figuring out my own voice in composition and guitar playing, and there are definitely a few melodic and rhythmic decisions in there that are a little more out there than in my previous material!

What were the biggest challenges you faced when making Handmade Cities?

I’m not sure there were any! I’m entirely self-produced and don’t owe anything to a record label, so every decision I make is for my own happiness – the only challenge is writing music that I think is good, but that’s the whole point anyway!

Handmade Cities

How do you go about channeling inspiration into writing?

I’m not sure – it’s all a strange unknowable intuition, which I think is one of the most interesting things about art!

You have recently returned from a European tour with Intervals and Animals as Leaders, and this same package will be touring North America in November and December. What was it like on the road?

Some of the best times of my life! Amazing crowds, amazing people to tour with, amazing food – I don’t think I had a single negative moment the whole tour, which is kind of insane.

With the new album out, how much will your setlist for the upcoming shows change?

We’re doing a whole lotta new stuff! And the older material is slowly morphing in different ways every time we tour.

Back to tech talk, tell me about your guitar rig you used for recording Handmade Cities?

Entirely AxeFX II, mostly Marshall simulation for rhythm and lead.

What are your five favourite pieces of gear in 2016, and why?

I recently got a Line 6 G70 Wireless – super reliable and has a very easy and accurate tuner – so it’s basically all I need on the floor on stage! I also recently got a Blackstar Fly 3 practice amp – that thing is crazy! Over 7 weeks in Europe, I did an hour of teaching every day with it, then Tosin or Javier would borrow it for pre-show warmups, and I didn’t need to change the batteries ONCE. It also sounds ridiculously nice for such a small piece of gear. Other than that, I’m not much of a gear-head!

Now with the album out and extensive touring, what other dragons are you looking forward to slaying?

Can’t wait to get back to North America and play the new stuff, and then hopefully visit some places around the world I haven’t been yet! I’m already feeling the itch to start writing again, and there is an endless list of collaborations and other projects I’d love to work on – so I think it’s more a case of wanting to hop on the dragon’s back and go for a ride!

Handmade Cities by Plini is available now. Order it from Bandcamp.