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June 20, 2012 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Jimmy Page is often considered the first electric guitarist to play with violin bow. These days, Jonsí (of Sigur Ros) is the leading proponent of six-string bowing. The E-Bow, a modern-day magnetic invention has even attempted to replicate that sound of horsehair on steel, with popular success. But who did it first? Eddie Phillips.

Eddie Phillips played lead guitar for The Creation, beginning in 1966. They appeared on German television, and played a couple songs to get the crowd moving:
Making Time (made quite popular by Rushmore)
I'm A Man
That's How Strong My Love Is

Phillips was always experimenting with new guitar playing and (literal) shredding techniques.
"I didn't like the sound of [my guitar] that much and I was always looking…to make it sound different. The first thing I tried was a hacksaw; I took the blade out of it and put a guitar string in it 'cause I thought the sound of a guitar string going across guitar strings might make an interesting sound. What in fact happened was that I didn't account for the bits at the end that come down below the blade…so I'm sawing away at this brand new [Gibson] 335 [guitar] and there's a guy down at the front pointin' at me guitar and laughin', and when I looked at this guitar I saw I'd worn three dirty great grooves almost through the wood at the front [groans]. I'd only had it for a month, y'know? So I thought, there's no turning back now and I started looking for another idea…and came across the violin bow."
Phillips also had somewhat of a painterly flair, and would re-enact the lyrics of The Creation's most popular song - Painter Man (covered by: Boney M.,
Television Personalities).
But few could match The Creation/Phillips's extra-musical theatrics (at the time):
‘Painter Man' was usually our last number and Ken used to rave about, painting this picture, which was then soaked in cellulose paint – which is quite inflamable – and then a nutty roadie would put a match to it and the whole thing would go up in flames. The caretakers used to rush on with fire extinguisers. It was pretty dramatic… quite fun!”
Of the E-bow:
"I played guitar with a violin bow but started using an EBow instead. It was more reliable, more controllable. It can completely change the atmosphere of a track."
posted by obscurator (25 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Adam Jones, the guitarist for Tool, uses an Epilady.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 9:54 AM on June 20, 2012

Extended techniques. Love 'em.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:56 AM on June 20, 2012

Ebow with slide through delay --> wah --> delay.

Try it.
posted by chillmost at 9:59 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I can't think of bowed guitars without seeing David Cross as a 'Rock School' (in 1996, so pre-Jack Black movie) teacher wearing 80s metal hair harassing Ira from Yo La Tengo (about 2:25 in) about the importance of learning how to use a bow as a path to rock stardom, as one might give a hard time to a school kid who asks why they need to learn algebra.
posted by chambers at 10:15 AM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

One of my brothers stole my cello bow to play his guitar and totally shredded the shit out of it. By it, I mean my bow.
posted by shmurley at 10:23 AM on June 20, 2012

Bill Frisell did some pretty great work with the eBow.
posted by ph00dz at 10:25 AM on June 20, 2012

Very cool post. As it happens, Trey "Jedi" Anastasio just busted out the lightsaber last night.
posted by muckster at 10:53 AM on June 20, 2012

Archer Prewitt of The Sea and Cake uses the E-Bow quite a bit, as in this video.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:02 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I saw Page's name leading a FPP and thought for a split-second he'd died.


Looking forward to picking through this when I get off the phone.
posted by jquinby at 11:03 AM on June 20, 2012

I was just today reading about the equipment Sigur Ros uses here.

I liked this quote (scroll down the page a bit):

"I use the same tuning and everything, theres nothing really strange about it. its how you play it. with a bow you can get loads and loads of overtones so its about how you handle them. its like youre riding a really mad horse and youre trying to tame it."
posted by piyushnz at 11:06 AM on June 20, 2012

Why use just a bow when you can use the violin?
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 11:07 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

obligatory awesomeness
posted by koeselitz at 11:12 AM on June 20, 2012

At the other end of the spectrum is Lindsay Mac.
posted by bondcliff at 11:16 AM on June 20, 2012

A few weeks ago I saw the Barr Brothers live and from far away it looked like the guitarist was using some sort of weird bow technique. But after closer inspection I realized he was actually pulling strings wrapped around the individual guitar strings. It created an eerie effect, but it seems pretty limited in practical use beyond a song or two.The video here shows him doing it with a custom made tackle box guitar, but the night I saw them he was doing it with what appeared to be regular acoustic and electric guitars. I'm still not exactly what he's doing, but it sure did captivate the crowd.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 11:25 AM on June 20, 2012

The ebow is pretty common in drone and experimental music.
posted by melt away at 11:36 AM on June 20, 2012

obligatory Spinal Tap. Why use a violin bow when you can use a violin?
posted by Xere at 11:41 AM on June 20, 2012

Oops, I didn't mean that Phillips was re-enacting the "Painter Man" lyrics...that would indeed have been The Creation's singer Kenny Pickett. One probably can't simultaneously play guitar and spraypaint something. Although perhaps Eddie Phillips will figure out a way.
posted by obscurator at 12:04 PM on June 20, 2012

I am trying to remember if the bow was ever brought up in It Might Get Loud. Because it would have been pretty interesting to see what the Edge could do with it with a little instruction from the master.
posted by Ber at 12:16 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Slack-a-gogo: Looks like a similar approach as Bowed Piano Ensemble. Nylon mono filament with a lot of bow rosin applied.
posted by alikins at 12:18 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am trying to remember if the bow was ever brought up in It Might Get Loud.

Yeah, it was, though I think it was just in a segment with Page, not with the three of them. I could be wrong about that, but I re-watched it recently and Page does talk about the bow.

The Edge uses something similar to the ebow, the Infinite Guitar, on With or Without You.
posted by bondcliff at 12:20 PM on June 20, 2012

I want to use an ebow on a violin.
posted by Foosnark at 12:30 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

So THAT is that sound. I have been trying to figure out what that distorted sustained feedback sound was from in post rock records. Time to download some ebow synth patches.

Would I love about it is that it has this timbre that almost sounds like someone's voice cracking. It feels so emotional to me.
posted by empath at 12:45 PM on June 20, 2012

I also heard that Jimmy Page was the first guy to play this music called "the blues".
posted by telstar at 12:55 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also heard that Jimmy Page was the first guy to play this music called "the blues".

Could be possible, Eric Clapton still hasn't done it.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 1:40 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Could be possible, Eric Clapton still hasn't done it.

Also, does anyone know if you can use an e-bow on a bass guitar, and if so does it produce a sound you might want to actually hear instead of just potential Merzbow b-sides?
posted by Palindromedary at 2:55 PM on June 20, 2012

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