Player Spotlight - Adam Granduciel
By Strings Direct – 29 August, 2023
“It was always based around wanting to be a better player and wanting to be better at expressing myself through the instrument.”. - fender.com
This addition takes the focus to Philadelphia also known as the “City of Brotherly Love” ❤️ an iconic American City that was fundamental to the American revolution and home to the Liberty Bell 🔔.
Mixing the grand-scale guitar attack of Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine, with a melodic sense and lyrical perspective that recalls Bob Dylan roaring down Highway 61 we discover a true master of the craft, and somewhat reserved guitar wizard who almost fashions the rise of the anti guitar hero 🎸 to his charismatic advantage.
Welcome to the swirling psychedelic world of Adam Graduciel...
Youth of a grunge revolution …
Being born on the 15th February 1979 would ultimately set Adam up to be a teen during a revolution within the music industry and wider culture; Grunge was an almost new-wave, modern Punk scene for the youth of the 90’s to identify with and feel optimistically inspired to the hope of a better day.
Artistic anger and expression with an attitude of anti-establishment and political escapism, Grunge defined a generation and inspired movements in art, culture, music and fashion.
The first time that Adam Granduciel picked up an electric guitar, he knew things would never be the same again.
“It was like that moment,” - Adam Granduciel - guitar.com
A 12-year-old Granduciel had caught the grunge bug when he first heard Nirvana’s In Utero, but nothing could prepare him for the experience of picking up that guitar for the first time…
A regular visit to a friends house now known famously as Jeff in this quite iconic tale 👌, Adam was to experience a life changing moment that would lead to a lifetime of commitment, dedication and obsession.
Jeff’s dad had a basement/man cave that was fully equipped with a drum kit and basic electric guitar amp and pedal set up.
“He had what would now be considered a man cave in the basement with a pool table, his son’s drum kit, a four-track… and he had a red Washburn, a Peavey amp and an ART digital effects system.
I plugged in the guitar – and it was like, unlike anything I’d ever…” Adam trails off, struggling to find the words. “I could feel the floor shake. It was just the standard tone, but in 1992 that was like, distortion with chorus and phaser on it [chuckles] – if you wanted a ‘normal’ sound on a guitar, that’s where you would start! Every multi-effects unit, that was preset 001 – like, an insane amount of chorus!
But the greatest feeling I’d ever experienced was playing that guitar, and I just knew from that moment that was what I wanted to do. I don’t think my parents bought me a guitar for maybe a year, but I would just be like, ‘I can’t wait until I can go and see Jeff and play that guitar again’. The next time I went over I learned a chord, E minor, and then A… and I made 20 songs out of those two chords!” - Adam Granduciel - guitar.com
A year later, after insistently begging his parents, Adam scored his first guitar. “Regardless of ever having a band, or recording a song, or going on tour, or making a record, or getting a label, all I wanted to do was play.” In the early years, Granduciel dedicated his time to learning every Nick Drake tuning and getting the Siamese Dream tablature book before shifting his focus to collaboration and learning how to communicate through music. “It was always based around wanting to be a better player and wanting to be better at expressing myself through the instrument.”
Adam Granduciel - fender.com
“The first time ever playing electric guitar, I knew I needed one. I needed to feel that feeling again. My parents finally took me to the local music shop. There was like a Harmony. I forget what it's called, I thought it was Bobkat, but it's a two gold foil offset body. It was $99. I knew that was the guitar, but then we were trying to find something else, maybe something with a cheaper or whatever. Came back maybe a month later and it was still there. So they were like, "All right, let's get it." So it was that and then just some Marshall Solid State, 10-inch speaker amp, and that's all I needed. I don't think there's been a day that's gone by I haven't played guitar since.”
The War on Drugs ✌️
Persistence in his craft lead Adam into the scene at the time and subsequently onto an epic journey. A chance meeting in 2003 lead to a very creative collaboration with a Mr Kurt Vile.
The pair seemed to share much in common both musically and idealistically, this led to the development of some immense creativity and by 2005 they had enough material to launch a band… The War on Drugs was formed. 🎸
The band pushed forward hard with natural dedication for the desire to play and create. Popular and recognised on the Philadelphia music scene the band began to tour and branch out from their home towns.
As with many bands they fell into a hole on the brink of development and still having day-to-day jobs unsure whether to quit these day jobs everything hangs in the balance, make or break. 🤘
By 2008, many of the key band members started to part ways including co-founder Kurt Vile who later went on to have his own success in the music industry.
Undeterred by departed members the band reshuffled and pushed on.
The War On Drugs is most definitely a psychedelic rock band based around freedom of expression and mutual artistic ideologies.
From early beginnings the band was an indie rock outfit that developed through music industry to become Grammy award-winning and successful in their own right.
This band are incredible musicians, disciplined articulate and extremely tasteful.
This track is a perfect example of a psychedelic indie band thats developed into its sound. An incredible piece of song writing and recording along with being visually stunning.
The separation and sonic production of this track is phenomenal, it has almost 9 million hits for good reason. 😎
Offset Anti Guitar Hero
Adam is known to be a man of sonic exploration and his sound and style leans towards a combination of multi effect walls of sound that swirl and encapsulating listener.
Granduciel has become synonymous with the more alternative guitar shapes known as 'offsets'. So much so that Fender has done a great cover story on his vintage Jazzmaster.
“With the Jazzmaster, it’s that balance of knowing what it can do, and knowing that it can take me anywhere I want to go.”
Adam’s fondness of offset guitars is pinnacle to his and the overall unique sound the band.
“In an age of instant gratification, reality TV, and people being famous for posting photos of their breakfast, Granduciel’s dedication to his craft is absolutely refreshing. He plays music to play music; his commercial success is merely a byproduct of the countless hours he’s dedicated to songwriting and sonic experimentation”
Strings For Creative Craft
Adam is most definitely an intricately involved player. His style is based around melody, harmonic chord structures, and lots of diverse arpeggios.
He's also, of course, fond of the offset guitars which have a slightly shorter scale length and it's these fundamental elements that affect the string choice.
“Guitar playing is just like, there's no rules. There's no limits to what you can do and sounds you can make and ways to keep trying to find new sounds, you know?”
In a very similar way to Johnny Marr, Adam requires a string with great clarity, definition and stability. He states that he only does a limited amount of bending, so flexibility of the string in that way is not of great importance.
Like many guitarists have stated they all felt a big draw towards the pink packet unknowingly aware of the variations in gauges and tensions, it was just a draw of the big bright pink packet and the Ernie Ball graphics.
“I think really from the beginning I probably have been playing Ernie Balls. Because I mean it's like a bright pink pack, you know? I was like, "Grab those strings." And I didn't know anything about tens or elevens or nines or eights or anything. I just, whatever was on that guitar I used and then I think I probably bought a pack and put them on. I don't even know if I knew how to put them on. That's just part of the whole learning processes, is getting your guitar and learning how it works.”
As he developed his style and individual voice on the guitar he also developed an individual taste for the right strings to complement this.
“I always used elevens and I don't even really know why. I think maybe the way I play is like a little bit more conducive to a thicker gauge. It just felt like that was the size that made the most sense. It just sounded rich and I don't really do a ton of bending, you know? And I like to get kind of heavy sometimes. So it was the right gauge for me. But I've played guitars with nines and that's like a super fun thing, totally different thing.”
Along with the wall of swirling effects, heavy & fuzz-fronted electric guitar ambience, there is a continuous strong presence of acoustic layering present in the mix of many tracks by The War On Drugs.
Adam finds the tone balance and reliability again in Ernie Ball.
One of the standout elements when discovering Adam Granduciel has been his continued positive outlook and development towards guitar playing.
He seems effortlessly passionate about the guitar to the point where it becomes infectious to other guitar players and musicians.
His desire to create and innovate is clearly his first point of call and we do hope he continues this incredible momentum because the tracks he produces along with the band are absolutely astonishing journeys of musical genius. 🎸
“We try to take it one step at a time and get better at the craft really—try to write better songs, get better sounds out of my guitar, try to learn the process of recording in the easiest way to get an idea from your amps to your tape."