Interview: London's Puppy on Mixing Fender Offsets with Metal

Ever since Puppy's Jock Norton and Billy Howard traded their previous band's lo-fi aesthetic for polished, heavy riffs in 2014, Puppy have been leading the charge of the new crop of melodic rock bands coming from the UK. After the strength of early singles, they signed to Spinefarm Records, with labelmates like Rammstein and Black Label Society.

The group's latest single, "Black Hole," comes ahead of their debut album, The Goat—which is available for pre-order here. We caught up with singer and guitarist Jock Norton about their metal-meets-indie sound—and how they use offset guitars in heavy metal.

Puppy - The Goat

Your music has been described as both metal and indie. How would you describe it and how have your influences shaped the sound of Puppy?

Yeah I suppose that’s a fair characterisation. We listen to a pretty broad mix of music and we try and mix heavier, riffy things like Pantera and Helmet with more classic songwriting stuff like Teenage Fanclub and Weezer. I don’t think it’s an island of thought though—all those bands I mentioned blur both those things to a degree, and bands like Alice In Chains and Nirvana would have big riffs and catchy choruses. A lot of what makes the band is trying to avoid a lot of the trappings of modern heavy guitar music that we don’t like.

The video for Black Hole chronicles your last 18 months. How would you say that the band has changed over that time period?

I think we’ve become better at playing live and tighter as friends. Obviously we also wrote and recorded an album in that time which was pretty huge, so deciding who we wanted to be creatively and growing as a band really happened over that period as well.

It’s rare for a band playing in the metal genre to be using Fender offset guitars. What led to you playing a Fender Mustang?

I actually use a Fender Duo-Sonic as my main guitar, but my favourite is a 1978 Bronco, which I’ve kind of retired from playing live now. I got it because I was very into Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. at the time so offsets just seemed cool to me. I love the shorter scale and could never really get on with more shreddy, flat necks. J Mascis is still my number one guitar hero as well, and he can get a pretty ripping sound out of P90s, so I’m just copying him, really.

What is your current amp and pedal setup, and how do you recreate your studio sound when playing live?

I currently use a JVM 205 head and a Marshall 1960A cab. Pedal-wise I keep it real simple. I stack a Maxon Tube Screamer and a Hot Cake pedal for drive and more drive, then I use a Boss Chorus Ensemble for a little bit of colour and a Boss NS-2 noise suppressor to stop everything humming loads. And a Korg tuner of course. In the studio, we tended to use amp distortion rather than pedals, so for cleans we had a Fender Bassman and then for drives we stacked some Dual Rectifiers with the Marshall with the gain whacked right up. The main amp we used though was a Bogner (I forget which model), but that sounded great.

What are your plans for releasing a full length record, and what should fans expect from it?

It’s out January 25 on Spinefarm records and it’s called The Goat. I’ve said before that if you like Puppy, you’ll love the album. It’s our best work for sure and just has a nice variety of stuff. There’s some really, really heavy moments, some washed-out kind of shoegaze bits, and some more straight-ahead poppy songs. Like I said, if you like our stuff, then the album’s gonna blow you away. If you don’t, then you probably won’t like it very much, but you can’t please everyone I guess.

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