Talking gear and beer with The Icks 

click to enlarge The Icks at Black Acre Brewing Company - BRETT ALDERMAN
  • The Icks at Black Acre Brewing Company
  • Brett Alderman

I met with The Icks right off of Washington St in Irvington at Black Acre Brewing Company. Jon Caldwell, Cameron Holloway and Joe Fergusson had a lot to say about making music over quite a selection of Black Acre brews. I myself enjoyed the Natural Liberty pale lager and the O’Gleason’s Dry Irish Stout. Jon went with the Saucy Intruder and Pi beer, while Joe tried the New Day Breakfast Magpie.

It's been a productive period for the band. The Icks announced this week they plan to post demos, works in progress and other new material every Sunday to Musical Family Tree. 

NUVO: Your Soundcloud page has “Organ Punk” as one of the tags, so let’s start with you, Cameron. What are you using?

Holloway: Organ punk. I like that. The next time someone asks what I play, that’s what I’m going to say. I have two organs that I play. I’ll switch on and off which one I use. The first one is a Hammond XK-3. It’s basically a portable B3 organ, and that actually got stolen and I bought a Farfisa, that’s really old. I think it was made in the late '70s. Joe and Jon actually found the guy selling the Hammond on Craigslist and got it back. I had the serial number on a police report, so it was clearly mine.


Caldwell: We showed up at his house and acted like we wanted to buy it. We matched the serial number and got it back. Thanks to the po-po.

Holloway: The Hammond can do more, but I like the Farfisa’s sound better. The only thing that sucks is that it’s super heavy.

Caldwell: It still has options, though. I’d say weirder. It’s almost more of a keyboard, where the Hammond is straight organ. We used a Farfisa on the album a lot before Cameron even had one. It was pretty much mixing an actual B3 and a Farfisa.

Holloway: Yeah, because Alex [Kercheval – Queensize /Postal Recording] had a Farfisa. And that’s the one I played. When I play the Hammond sometimes I’ll have a fuzz pedal, a [Way Huge] Swollen Pickle. I use that sparingly.

NUVO: Do you go direct or play through an amp?

Holloway: An amp. It’s actually his (Ferguson). It’s an Ampeg BA115 bass amp. I would like a Fender Bassman to play through. Someday.

Caldwell: We also have to base certain songs around which instrument he chooses to play. It kind of depends on the set list.

NUVO: Does a lot of the songwriting start with the organ?

Caldwell: It depends on the song.

Ferguson: It all starts separately. We’ll all come with something.

Holloway: It starts with “hey, check this out. I did this,” and then they’ll be like “well, you should do something on top of it.”

Ferguson: Yeah, tell them to play something. If that doesn’t work, we’ll try something else. It’s whatever fits the song the best. It’s not your stupid fucking ego.

Caldwell: Which is nice.

Holloway: When I get mad at Jon I just don’t tell him.

Ferguson: It makes room for a lot of passive-aggression.

Caldwell: We wait till we’re drunk. Then we just cry it out. Hold each other real close.

Ferguson: It makes our bond stronger.
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NUVO: I think that’s how “Let it Be” was recorded.

Caldwell: I would say someone throws something on the table. Since we don’t have a drummer we'll pick a basic beat or most of the time not have a beat. Then we’ll spitball. We’ll put it out there, let it build, put it out there, let it build. Organically, it comes together.

Holloway: It clicks. “Oh, now it’s a song.”

Ferguson: Most of the time I don’t the final bass line until we’ve played the song four or five times live.

NUVO: I saw that Alesis was credited as “beats.”

Caldwell: Yes, it’s an SR16 drum machine. That started out of necessity. We didn’t have a drummer. We knew someone, but he lived in Bloomington and it just wasn’t going to work.

Ferguson: If he moved up here we’d ditch the drum machine. This one guy is amazing.

Holloway: Now it’s like our thing.

Caldwell: At first it was just one continuous beat. Now we’re at the point where we’ve mastered that machine. We’ve thought about upgrading.

Ferguson: Yeah, but if we go beyond this, it should be a live person.

NUVO: Who controls the SR16 for live shows?

Holloway: Jon. He fiddles with it.

Ferguson: Yeah, he has a foot pedal that he uses with it.

Caldwell: It makes the beats, times them out.

NUVO: What’s your bass rig like, Joe?

Ferguson: It’s a chainsaw hooked up to a Subaru. That’s how I roll. I have a Fender Jazz bass. It needs a new neck because I beat the shit out of it.

Holloway: It’s in the infirmary.

Ferguson: I’m pretty hard on my basses. The one I’m playing now is the one I got when I 13. Its name is Stella. It’s a Squier that I painted red and put a purple pickguard on.

Holloway: Who’s the guy on it?

Ferguson: I have a Tony Clifton sticker, Andy Kaufman’s alter ego, on the front. I did have an SG Epiphone with a single pickup. But it got destroyed. It was really punchy. I like that DeeDee Ramone sound. Amp-wise, I have an Ampeg head and I’m working on getting a cab so I can have a half stack. My gear game is a little weak.
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NUVO: What about effects?

Ferguson: I use a Big Muff bass pedal. Liberally. Make it all fuzzy and gross.

NUVO: Jon, what’s your rig like?

Caldwell: Typically, I play a Fender Telecaster. I believe it’s the ’52 Reissue. I use a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. I also have a Fender Strat and a Gibson Les Paul. When we record, that’s when those come out. My Telecaster is the go to. It’s always the first rhythm track.

Holloway: You’ll bring the Gibson to shows though. We have a problem breaking strings.

Caldwell: Just in case, you know. The thing I like about the Telecaster is it’s right in the middle.

NUVO: Any other guitars in the arsenal?

Caldwell: I also have a Kay parlor guitar from the early ‘60’s. If I’m writing it’s usually on the Kay. It’s a walk around the house kind of guitar.

Ferguson: I do my writing on an acoustic, too. I make the bass lines on the acoustic.

Caldwell: We’ll do a lot of texting.

Ferguson: We’ll send each other snippets of things.

Caldwell: Then we’ll send snippets of other people’s parts.

NUVO: Are you just using your phones?

Holloway: Yeah, it’s like “this is what I’ve been thinking about.”

Ferguson: Here’s an idea. Run with it.

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Brett Alderman

Brett Alderman

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Guitar shop flunky. Music fan. Avid pen and notebook nerd. Live-in chef and entertainer for my wife and two daughters.
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