NHC MUSIC - In The Head Of The Artists Vol 10 - With Davy Irvin Of The Dark Vibes

This episode of In the Head of the Artists is with Davy Irvin of Joe Bone and the Dark Vibes!

Nhc's resident guitar geek Martin McCann gets the lowdown on his set up and finds out what he has been using both in the studio and live.

WARNING - this article may be steeped in guitar geekiness, proceed with caution!

The Dark Vibes are far from a traditional band, merging styles and genres from song to song - sometimes within a song! Tell us about your role in the band, how you came to join them and what makes them the 'giant killers' of the Glasgow live circuit. Also what got you started on guitar and a little about your music journey this far.

I've known joe since 1999 when we were based at a community music project and I played in his first band lifeform 281. Over the last few years I'd been keeping up with what joe was up to musically through social media and also our mutual friend Darren. Just about a year ago the previous guitarist Daniel was having to leave the band to move for work. So Joe asked if I was interested in joining the band. I was made up because I always really enjoyed being involved with Joe. What's really good about playing with joe is that his songs are great. He's very generous with them and gives the musicians in the band pretty much a free reign. That's part of what makes a good band it makes the musicians feel like they're input is valued and they can have fun and express themselves.

I started playing the guitar at school me and my mates were right into music and going to gigs etc so we started trying diferent instruments and forming bands for fun. I mucked about with it on and off for years until about my mid twenties when I decided to try to learn properly. I left my trade and went to North Glasgow College to do an HNC in music performance. It was a great course and really inspiring. There were a lot of excellent musicians on it from diverse backgrounds. The tutors were all from Scottish bands that had achieved considerable success. Such as Alex Harvey band, Aztec Camera, Deacon Blue etc. So it was great to get the benefit of their insight into the music business as well as the playing side. As well as studying music I was working in community music in North Glasgow. This was at the time of the first big dispersal of refugees in the UK with North Glasgow accepting a large number. So myself and my colleagues were lucky enough to work with musicians and artists of all ages from all around the world. We learned loads about other cultures and their approach to communal music making. We also formed great friendships which continue today. After completing my HND I then went on to complete an honours degree in Commercial music at UWS. It was also a great course which informed my journey through the music game. That course really taught us that to make any kind of living from music you have to be as versatile and multi skilled as possible.

I love all genres of music and I'll generally play with anyone who asks me. I feel that the best way to progress as a player is to play with as many fellow musicians as possible. Practicing at home is good too and I enjoy it. But nothing beats playing with others. I never tire of it. I've been really lucky and had the chance to play with great people and see places I would never have seen if it hadn't been for the music.

Tools of the trade - tell us about your favourite guitars, the one you go to first. What do you like about it above all others. And any close seconds, don't spare the details. And I'm sure there were some that got away, is there any you regret losing for whatever reason?

At the moment my go to guitars are my Japanese Fender Jazzmaster, Epiphone Es 175. The jazzmaster is perfect for the Dark Vibes stuff because of the tone range and the subtle versatility of the trem. It's great for atmospherics and sonics. My main paying gig is with a Scottish country dance band. The Epiphone is ideal for that as it can sound acoustic for the trad stuff with the bridge pick up rolled off and gets a great rock sound with the bridge pick up on. We do rock and jazz in between the dances.
My all time favourite though is my small bodied Martin acoustic. My favourite type of music to play is old time blues and jug band tunes. The Martin is perfect for that stuff.
I've got rid of quite a few guitars over the years. The only one I regret selling really was my first guitar an Ibanez destroyer. Exactly the same as James Hetfields. I sold it a year ago after having it for thirty years. It became collectible so I couldn't resist cashing in but I do miss it. The guy who bought it was over the moon. So at least it went to a good home.

These go to 11 - what's your choice for amplification and given the chance what would be your ideal rig for live shows or playing at home. Do you need a specific type (heads or combos) or can you make anything work for you? What's your thoughts on the latest amp modeling options - do you think it will retire the old classic?

In terms of amplification it's quite simple for me. Fender valvestate all the way. I had a fender twin reverb but got rid of that due to the weight of the thing. I've now got a blues deluxe which works for every type of gig. If I'm playing a gig where the backline is provided I can generally make do with any kind of amp. I've used amp modelling quite a bit in studio settings. It produces good results and is certainly easier than miking up an amp etc. I don't think it'll ever replace the real thing though. I think there's a place for both.

Effects and pedals - the textural nature of Joe's songs and the addition of keyboards could make finding a sonic space difficult. What are your current little boxes of tricks?? Is there any effects that have survived on your board over the years?

I try to use effects to get one overall sound rather than switching between effects. So for the dark vibes for example I have a bit of delay, overdrive, tremolo and signal boost on for every song. I then try to adapt the tone/ sonics by use of the guitar controls and other playing techniques. From a guitarist point of view the dark vibes are great fun to play with. All the main stuff such as melody, harmony and rythym is taken care of by the rest of the band so it gives me a bit of a free reign to be expressive and hopefully inventive. My favourite bit of kit just now is the mxr micro amp. It kind of acts like a compressor without the loss of dynamic. I advise anyone to get one. I'd hate to be without it now.

Bits and pieces - when on tour or playing local is there anything specific you can't do without? From picks to strings, cables and capos - the little things can mean a lot. Any pro tricks you've pick up along the way you'd like to share with us?

In terms of bits and pieces the only thing I can't do without are Jim Dunlop jazz 3 plectrums. It's taken years to find the right pick and these are the only ones that I feel totally comfortable with. It's funny how such a small thing can make such a difference.
I jump around a lot of different gigs so I think over the years I've become good at keeping kit minimal for quickness arriving and setting up. I try to carry just exactly what I need.

And finally, which guitarist has caught your ear recently. What inspires you to keep playing and who was your first guitar hero?

The first thing that really struck me musically was Buddy Holly. My dad showed me how to work the record player with a Buddy Holly album when I was about 7 or 8. He regretted it pretty quick as I played it repeatedly for ages. I was just amazed by it.
My favourite all time guitarist is John Martyn. He was a true genius and virtuoso. You can here everything in his playing and every time you listen to a track you will hear something new. He also really played in the moment which I love. I seen him live eight times and each time was totally different. I'm really a bit of a folkie and the guitarists I really admire are guys like Bert Jansch, John Renbourne and Richard Thompson et al. I'm also a big fan of great sidemen such as John la plantia, Steve Cropper and Bob Weir. I could go forever naming guitarists I admire really.

Thanks Davy for taking the time to explain your set up and influences, we at NHC salute you !!

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