Peter Hayes - Player Spotlight
By Strings Direct – 29 August, 2023
This instalment sees us getting back to the roots of real grease, leather and whiskey rock 'n' roll. A journey that starts with a melting pot from Minnesota to San Francisco, California.
We have a truly fascinating spotlight of a psych-rock, punk-rock, new wave, revolutionary, retro, fuzz-drenched delay, swirling, rhythm, cascading, country, blues, slide and harmonica machine.
If you struggled to get your head round that intense and truly psychedelic statement then be ready to get lost and immersed in the haunting riffs and shape-shifting tones of the underground guitar hero that is Peter Hayes.
Here we have a player that, believe it or not, started out his guitar journey on a trombone… (I mean, we’ve all gotta start somewhere, right? 🤷♂️ ).
Peter was quite the accomplished player at school and played in the symphonic school band. 🤘 At around 14-15 years old, Peter was grounded for over a year after being mixed up in drugs. This strict measure put in place by his family actually carved the atmospheric and heavily experimental guitarist we see today.
As his interest in guitar grew his mother taught him some flamenco and finger picking techniques, which in turn opened up a world of guitar fascination. I'm sure we can all relate here at that defining moment where guitar fascination turned into guitar for life. 🎸
Hayes went on to explore the music of Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd and became truly captivated by not only the techniques in place, but the soundscapes and the overall psychedelic energies. This influence combined with guidance from an Uncle who would play a lot of Country & Western along with blues records really had an effect on him from an early age.
True individual progress came through personal experimentation and the intriguing desire to explore the world of guitar effects and multilayered possibilities. Armed with his first guitar - a Stratocaster copy by Peavey in the vein of a Hendrix Stratocaster - Peter began to experiment with a multi-effects unit by Digitech encapsulating himself in a pair of headphones to a spectacular degree.
Psych-Rock Meets Garage Punk …
A guitarist always develops their identity at that crucial point where influences take over, self-development offers one path and another, it's at this crossroads we find Peter swept up in psychedelic rock 'n' roll starting in a world of Hendrix and Floyd.
From these very generic staples you would imagine Peter developing in a standard classic rock manner. But no... 🤔 things aren't quite as they seem.
“With Hendrix, I just loved that stuff so much I told myself it doesn’t need to be done anymore. There’s no fuckin’ way or reason to even bother trying to do anything like that, because it’s so singular. I never really got into the whole technical side of playing, or really learned how to play, in some sense. I got bored with the technical stuff so quickly that I just found my own thing.”
Peter Hayes - Interview David Von Bader Premier Guitar
More into textures and almost painting onto a blank canvas with guitar sounds and contextual melodic riffs, Peter had found his own path and expression on guitar, this would become his signature sound and something that would set him apart from a vast number of other guitarists we know and love.
Peter Hayes, is somewhat of a cult guitar hero, adored by those who know him and discovered by those who don’t, he's definitely an awe inspiring figure with a smoky and mysterious yet inviting charisma.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
There’s no easy way to describe this band. No easy way to understand this band and definitely no easy way to ignore this band. There’s but one way: just experience this band. 🎸
“For a select few, rock 'n' roll is a life sentence. It’s in every muscle in your body, it’s in every thought you have, it’s written all over your face. When you arrive at Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s headquarters in East Hollywood, you know you’re sidling up to the home of some of rock’s most primal prisoners. In the driveway there are motorcycles. In the living room there is gear splayed everywhere; random bits of drum kits, a pedal steel guitar, stacks of vinyl. Answering the door is a bleary-eyed, chain-smoking Peter Hayes (guitar, vocals) and his co-habiting bandmate Leah Shapiro (drums). In walks bassist Robert Levon Been too, Hayes’ BRMC co-founder, dark shades on, an even darker all-black ensemble. As a trio, they seem forever unsettled, even in the safety of each other’s companies. They take time over answers, seeking for perfect responses. It’s the same approach they have to rock’n’roll. If the end result is not flawless, they’re not interested.”
BRMC (2016) - http://www.blackrebelmotorcycleclub.com/bio/
Based around the chemical fusion of two wildly similar and wildly different songwriters this epic and decadent band is built on pure atmospheric suspense.
Shuffle your Strings…
So an intricate and vast experimental guitarist such as Peter Hayes must surely have a very simple string set up… hahahah, of course not! 😎 Referencing the earlier unique developments in his guitar journey, Peter expresses he never had the desire to play fast licks or learn much in standard tunings.
“My style stems from the fact that, when I first started playing, I didn’t understand that in a recording studio you play a part and then track another part on top of that. So, the only way I could figure it out was detuning the guitar in a way that allowed me to play a chord and then play licks over the top of that chord, so you have a rhythm and a lead going at the same time. That’s why I got into alternate tunings but never really got much of the technical side of the guitar together. I never really learned how to play in standard tuning, and I still have a hard time figuring out other people’s songs.”
Peter Hayes - Interview David Von Bader Premier Guitar
Peter has an entire rack full of Gibson ES-355’s all hailing from the 70s period and one or two from the 80s. 🎸
This armoury of guitars used to create the wall of sound we are now familiar with when experiencing BRMC. This number of Guitars is required for all the alternative tunings in use.
During this great interview with Premier Guitar, Peter really goes into his rig and also his tunings along with string choice;
“I’ve got seven guitars on the road with me right now, and I use five tunings, but some of them have very subtle changes between them. I’m using D–A–D–F–A–D, DADGAD, and there’s one in D–D–B–A–A–D, D–A–D–F#–A–D, and C–C–E–G–G–C, and the guitars all live their lives in those dedicated tunings. I have a lot of others that I can’t recall off the top of my head, but I’ve written them all down and when we dig through old tunes, it’s kind of a nightmare to pull things back together when it comes to relearning songs in old tunings that I’m not using much anymore. There’s tons of them.
"Early on I was pretty much only listening to Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix, with a bit of the Stones in there, but from day one, I messed around with altered tunings because that’s how I’d get into the key of a song and that’s how I figured it was done.
I use three different gauges on my stage guitars, but it’s mostly differences in my low strings. So I use a 13-56 or a 13-52. The high strings are always .013, .014, and .018 unwound. I still play around with it from time to time”
Peter Hayes - Interview David Von Bader
That recent and incredible interview in 2018 really uncovers some depth and mysteries on Peter Hayes’ incredible perception of the guitar.
So as we discover Peter is a Dunlop Strings enthusiast. We believe co-songwriter and bandmate Robert Levon Been is also strictly on a Dunlop path in regards to his basses, archtops and acoustic guitars.
I do recall many years ago in the early days of B.R.M.C. Peter was once a Dean Markley loyalist…
“Dean Markley gauge 13-56.... I like them because I can almost feel the ridges.... Some strings feel too elastic.”
Peter Hayes - www.brmc.de
We, of course stock a great range of Dunlop guitar strings in various gauges along with a good selection of Dean Markley as well, but it seems Peter Haye’s string choice is just as custom as his revolutionary guitar playing so that can only mean one thing here at Strings Direct... a visit to the Custom Gauge Set Builder.