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Mac DeMarco

"Guitar is the people's instrument...It's very welcoming. A couple chords and you're ripping". In this episode, Mac DeMarco discusses his influences, his evolution as a singer-songwriter and musician, and his long-time relationship with Ernie Ball guitar strings.

Transcript

Mac DeMarco:
I never thought I would do the music thing. Never wanted to play guitar when I was a kid, got a family full of musicians, very unappealing. I was like screw that, I'm not doing that. They're trying to put me in lessons as soon as I was old enough to walk around or whatever. So I was like nah. And then picked one up one day while my friends were playing, turned out I could do it a little bit, it was interesting. Right around the same time I got into all the classic rock stuff you get into as a young man, and yeah, got hooked. You start off with like the one string thing. It's like, Oh hell yeah. I learned Smoke on the Water on just the low Eastern and then you learn some open chords or whatever, you learn the intro to Stairway to Heaven or something.

Mac DeMarco:
For me, I wanted to learn just songs, like the concept of getting through an entirety of something, because learning rifts is one thing, I can play a little bit of a riff, whatever, you know? But if you can get through, so Beatles songs and stuff like that for me was a big thing. I think the song thing always was most important to me. And then even as time progressed and I got a little bit better, and the lessons shifted over to like, do you want to learn how to tap? Or should we try some fusiony style? And that was the part that I was like, nah, I don't really know. You know? And that's probably why most of my songs are still open chord, just chugging along, that kind of vibe.

Mac DeMarco:
What I did initially was I used to play in open tunings a lot, which I guess is like a Keith Richards or whoever else thing. But in a way it was like, if you change all the tunings, and then you have no idea where to grab cords anymore. It's like you learning from scratch again. It's almost more, it's easier to come up with something you're not like, "Oh well now I could go to the fourth whatever." You know, where everything is supposed to sit more or less, I don't really know, but it puts you out of your comfort zone, which I think is important in a way.

Mac DeMarco:
Guitar is a very, it's the people's instrument. You know? Anybody could play guitar, you give it a couple ... Well, I don't want to say that, but anybody can. You know? It's very welcoming. A couple chords, you're ripping, your playing Neil Young. No problem. You're rocking and rolling. If it feels the most like it's just coming out of thin air, or like you don't really understand where it came from, or anything like that with guitar playing or songwriting or whatever. I think that, for me is like, "Ah. How did this happen?" It's like, makes it special.

Mac DeMarco:
I was probably 13, 14 but I remember being in Avenue Guitars, which is a guitar store in my hometown in Edmonton, looking over the counter and you see the pack. It's got, what is it, a Hawk or an Eagle on the front? Nice design, kind of psychedelic, you know? And I was like, "Yeah, I guess I'll get those ones. Yeah." And then you flip it over. Jimi Hendrix, GP, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I was like, "Damn."

Mac DeMarco:
I used to play this guitar, I played for years and years and years, hunk of garbage, beautiful sounding guitar. Love it. Extremely hard to play, real piece of crap. But the problem with it was is that it would break strings in the middle of a show. I mean, I still do it on whatever I'm playing now, but I was the string breaking King for awhile, you know? So the nice thing about Ernie's, and I mean maybe other packs do this but I don't care. You lay them out, there right there. It's not some big wound up thing. No, it's telling you exactly which one you gotta get in a pinch to slap back on. You know what I'm talking about? And for a while I became, I could change a string in like 30 seconds on the stage, plop it down, in the middle of a song sometimes. Whoop. You know? You're good to go.

Mac DeMarco:
I mostly play tens for the most part. I've gone through phases of using eleven's, or even when I wasn't as on top of everything and a little bit more of a broke man, I kinda, whatever I had. I was like, "Okay, we're playing fourteens for this show, whatever." You know?

Mac DeMarco:
As a younger guy, I think it was like, I was in this mindset where it's like I couldn't possibly try to write a song until I can play as well as so-and-so, or this and that, or yada yada, yada, or until I understand this or that. I think for me a big thing was going out to local shows in my hometown or, because we didn't get a lot of touring bands. We live in the middle of nowhere in Canada. So it was just other kids my age, and I didn't really realize what was going on until I got into high school and I started going around. These kids my age that were playing these guitars, and they didn't have fancy guitars or fancy amps or anything. Couldn't play that well, or some of them really could, but a lot of them couldn't. And it was an attitude thing, and people were enjoying it and it was ... So that was an eye opening thing to me, is like, "Oh you can just do it." You know, might as well just do it.

Mac DeMarco:
I was working at a grocery store, a lot of classic rock on the radio. One thing I always had a rule, no guitar solos, no, not cool, not cool. All of a sudden guitar solo on every song. And like the crappier the better, you know? Super simple chord progressions, as few chords as possible, keep them straight. Major, minor, maybe a dominant seventh, no problem. And that was the record that, this record called Rock and Roll Nightclub was like the one that people, they were like, "Oh this is cool." I was like, "What?" I was kind of joking around in a way, but having a great time.

Mac DeMarco:
And anytime I try to emulate something I come so far off the mark, which is nice because then I end up with my own thing. But it's definitely, I can't really ever nail something, you know? It's almost like I had a style, a specific style, changed it to something that I thought was so bread and butter, so regular. But now that, the shimmering, weird, really thin sounding, gross, vibrato guitar sound, everybody's like, "Oh that sounds like Mac DeMarco." You know, it's like, so now it's like it worked inversely for me.

Mac DeMarco:
I mean maybe it's my generation, ADHD, whatever we all have, I don't know. It's like if I can't get something down on paper in five minutes, if I can't just get it out, I just leave it alone. You know? It's like the whole idea of coming back to a song after a day or something. I never do, you know? I just never do. The ease of the equipment is part of that. But I think also the ease of not really worrying about, or trying things, or just leaving scraps or whatever. Just, I don't want to say sloppy, but I want, it's like just the initial blast is often the most pleasurable.

Mac DeMarco:
I did my last record on the computer, and I had a bunch of plugins at my fingertips. It was just like I had to delete them. I was like, "This is no bueno." And now I mean I, sometimes I'll record on the computer or do we tape machine, but essentially it's like, it's printed there. Maybe I'll flip the phase on there. It's coming back out here, and this is all I got enough. If I can't twist it with my fingers it's not happening, not anymore.

Mac DeMarco:
There's nothing wrong with having an insane, crazy studio, or insane, crazy musicianship, or insane, crazy engineering prowess or whatever. You know? It's like if something works, it works. As long as you get in something that you're happy with and that you feel cool about out of the back end of it or whatever. It's like, it doesn't really matter how it was made, where you did it, who you did it with, if you did it by yourself. It's just kind of like, doing it is the cool thing. So why not? You know?

Mac DeMarco:
Kids ask me a lot, "How do I get on a record label? Like how do I get on a blog? How do I?" And it's like, "Yo, don't worry about any of that. Just do it. If you like doing it, do it. And if it works out, that's great. If not, at least you're enjoying yourself." You know what I mean? Because for me it's, the internet and the videos and yada, yada, yada. I'm not trying to be Mr. Sexy Rock Star Guy, I'm wearing sport sandals right now. What ever, you know? I didn't shower this morning, and maybe that's my thing now, I don't know. But it's just, I just think do you, let it fly, keep it real, and enjoy yourself. If you aren't trying to be something then you're just being yourself and that's, then that's you. That's who you are. God bless it.

Mac DeMarco:
You gotta eat, you gotta pay your rent, whatever. And then the music thing was something that I love to do. So I did it as much as I could, you know? And now it is my job, which is insane. You know? It's like a complete fluke, and completely insane. But yeah, I don't know. It's, I think that keeping in mind that it is also something I love to do, and it's my hobby, and it's ridiculous that I make more money than I thought I'd ever make doing anything, but doing this is, like you just got to keep it, try and keep it real. It's very bizarre.

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