Dream Rigs, Run the Jewels, and R.E.M.: December's Best Podcasts for Music Makers

KEXP YouTube

Even with so many podcasts produced for the world’s music fans, it can be hard to find those that dig beneath the level of biography or style and get at the heart of music creation. So we’re setting out to find and share podcasts that cater to musicians in our Best Podcasts for Music Makers series.

Every month, we’ll look back on some of our favorite podcasts, highlighting the best moments that discuss the techniques or gear behind a given sound, the story behind a song or album, or a flash of inspiration that might just stoke your own creativity.

Below, you’ll find guitar obsessives nerding out over imagined rigs, an electronic producer putting a cheap speaker to good use, and a comedian trying to live out his hip-hop dreams, among other moments. Have a podcast we should be checking out? Please let us know in the comments.

The Guitar Knobs
‘60s SG Special

The Guitar Knobs—the podcast “about guitars, gear, pedals, amps and the noise they make"—closed December with an episode inspired by Reverb’s Potent Pairings series, in which we match the tones of famous players with different combinations of pedals.

Guitar Knobs host Todd Novak, along with guests Jared Brandon and Tony Dudzik, used it as a starting-off point to talk through what dream rigs of one guitar, one pedal, and one amp they could use to nail the tone of their heroes.

Dudzik chose Pete Townshend for one of his rigs, emulating The Who guitarist's early-era tone with a ‘60s SG Special, a JangleBox compression/sustain pedal, and a Vox AC30.

Brandon, to capture the “flangy" sound of Bad Company’s Mick Ralphs, would use a Gibson Les Paul, a Red House Electronics Midnight Phaser, and a Marshall Plexi head.

Novak wanted a Britpop rig, which would consist of a Gibson ES-345 with the Varitone knob, an EHX Memory Man, and a Hiwatt 100.

Check out Guitar Knobs Episode 71 (segment starts around 23:45) to hear the full discussion.

Song Exploder
Mountain Dulcimer

On the latest episode (#125) of Song Exploder, the popular podcast that deconstructs and dissects the recording of a song, R.E.M. shares insights on the Automatic for the People track “Try Not to Breathe." Mike Mills and Michael Stipe discussing the non-standard instrumentation used to create the strange, Southern Gothic quality of the track.

Guitarist Peter Buck started the song with a melody played on a mountain dulcimer before layering acoustic and electric guitars. Mills describes how drummer Bill Berry was “one of the most orchestral drummers in rock ‘n’ roll," playing musical drum parts in between Stipe’s vocal lines. The rhythm for “Try Not to Breathe" was built on a shaker and a triangle.

Check out the full Song Exploder episode to hear more secrets of the track, like how Stipe pulled a line from Blade Runner and brought “the climactic death scene of the android Roy Batty" into the song about his grandmother’s passing.

Hanging Out With Audiophiles
E-Mu SP-1200

Jamie Lidell, the electronic musician and singer known for his Warp Records releases, launched a podcast in September that features longform interviews with musicians and producers to dive deep into the creative process. But before Lidell jumps into the interviews, he uses his vast collection of gear to explore a recording idea or concept.

On Episode 7, released December 12, Lidell conducts a shootout with his favorite classic samplers, putting two-second clip of drums through an Ensoniq Mirage, a E-Mu SP-1200, and an Akai MPC60, among others.

On Episode 8—which Reverb sponsored—Lidell starts the show by placing a JBL Clip bluetooth speaker into or on top of everyday objects to create physical filter effects. The objects include a sauce pan, a cupboard, a washing machine, and a turntable, which—as the speaker spins on top—creates a “lo-fi Leslie" effect. He then sits down with Song Exploder creator and host Hrishikesh Hirway for insights into the art of the podcast. For any budding music-related podcasters, this is a must-listen.

KEXP Live Performances

The Seattle-based KEXP has developed a large online following by posting its consistently great in-studio performances on its blog and YouTube. This December, the radio station’s Live Performances podcast featured a truly stacked lineup, with eight episodes of quick sets and interviews, including Peter Buck/Corin Tucker supergroup Filthy Friends, Conor Oberst, Benjamin Booker, Bonobo, and Argentinian art-rocker Juana Molina.

Korg Minilogue

The set from Bonobo, the moniker of electronic producer Simon Green, was particularly good. Green and a backing band played the sometimes pulsing, sometimes galloping songs from the new album Migration, a record inspired by his constant movement while on tour.

During the mid-set conversation with KEXP’s Kevin Cole, Green talks about the influence of different environments on the songwriting process: “Being on the road and playing in clubs and then still having the club ringing in your ear—that informs an idea as much as being somewhere restful."

The music was created using an enviable collection of instruments, including a Sadowsky bass, a Korg Minilogue, and a D’Angelico EX-175, among an assortment of keyboards, grid sample pads, a grand piano, and woodwinds.

Hannibal Buress’ The Handsome Rambler
Critter & Guitari Organelle

The Handsome Rambler, the podcast hosted by comedian Hannibal Buress and his DJ, Tony Trimm, revolves around the pair making beats alongside their guests. They met up with Run The Jewels before the rap duo’s Killer Mike and El-P took the stage at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom.

Though the beats never rose to greatness in this episode, the whole crew was elevated enough to make for an entertaining listen. Trimm gave this description of the unnamed drum machine/sampler he plays: “Everything on this is designed to make German trance records." Meanwhile, Buress used a Critter & Guitari Organelle and Pocket Piano to try out some melodies. Killer Mike, after freestyling for a bit over one of their creations, told the pair what perhaps many of the listeners were thinking, “Hey, you guys are nothing like the Neptunes."

Visit Buress’ website for the full Handsome Rambler Episode 47.

Check back next month for our next Best Podcasts for Musicians, and if you listen to, love, or create your own music-related podcast, please let us know in the comments.
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