Polyphia’s Tim Henson: ‘I Get Frustrated When Gear Is Too Complicated’
LOUDER caught up with fretboard wizard TIM HENSON from the Texan prog rock outfit POLYPHIA to ask him about collaborating with other artists in the studio and why he appreciates the ease of the Shure GLXD16+ Digital Wireless Guitar Pedal System when he gets onstage.
Polyphia’s latest album Remember That You Will Die notably features a whole host of guest artists including Steve Vai, Deftones’ Chino Moreno, Lil West, $not, Anomalie, and Sophia Black.
Garrison Krotz: Congrats to you and the band on the latest Polyphia record! Sonically, each of these collaborators’ unique styles seem to blend seamlessly into the tracks where they are featured. I’m excited to learn more about how those collaborations took shape. Did you write a song and go “Wait, Sophia Black would sound amazing here?” Or did you write the songs with your features already in mind?
Tim Henson: Thank you very much!
All of the collaborations varied in terms of how they came together.
For example on ‘ABC’, I had the main riff already made and had a session scheduled with Sophia. At the session I asked her if she could sing the riff note for note, and she asked “How many notes are in that fast part at the end?” We counted and it was 26. Hence the song being titled ‘ABC’ – ha, ha!
‘F*ck Around and Find Out’ with $not started as a finished $not song. He sent me the stems and we wrote the guitars, bass, and drums around his a cappella and voila, the song was made.
For ‘Ego Death’, we knew we wanted to feature Steve somewhere on the album, so we made the absolute most epic section that we could, in order to give him the most runway to unleash. I think it turned out great. A true bucket list moment for us.
When I saw you perform recently at Chicago Music Exchange, you mentioned that many of your musical influences aren’t guitarist. What musical ideas from genres, including rap and hip-hop, do you feel have most influenced your sound to date?
My absolute favorite artist of all time is Ye. I would like to clarify that he inspires me as an artist, not as a person, in the event that some sort of smear headlined article is made out of this answer. I am choosing to separate the art from the artist.
With that out of the way, I love the way that he is and always has been unafraid to experiment and mix genres. As an executive producer, he sees a vision and brings in anyone that he believes can help execute that vision. Sometimes there are like 50 people credited on his albums. Very similar to how RTYWD was made, we used every connection we had at our disposal to try and make this record happen, hence why there are like 50 people credited on the album haha.
I believe that he makes some truly timeless music, pushing the boundaries and cementing his place in musical history, something that I hope to do with Polyphia and my other musical endeavors.
Polyphia’s music is unique in so many ways, and listeners can definitely hear those influences coming through, even if they can’t necessarily identify them. What advice do you have for any musician looking to develop their own sound or voice?
I always say that in order to have creative output, you need to have creative input. I think it’s very important to diversify your musical tastes, and learn to identify what your favorite things about each different style are. That way when you recreate these things, you’re able to find unique mixtures of sounds. The more trial and error that you, the more you can find your own voice. I also think it’s very important to constantly evolve that voice. You need to always pursue growth.
For those guitarists just picking up the instrument, is there anything you wish you’d known when you started?
It’s a journey that isn’t necessarily linear. There are ups and downs. If you bust ass you can get really good really fast, but if you don’t take breaks you can burn out. The most important thing you can do is find the love that you have for your craft.
I understand you aren’t a gearhead, but is there anything in particular you used to define your sound on Remember That You Will Die?
I would say the Neural DSP plugins (including my own) helped me the most in the creation of my parts on the record. I know that Scott used those plus Bias plus a few others.
You initially had some apprehension about trusting a wireless system before our team showed you the GLXD16+ Digital Wireless Guitar Pedal System. I know a lot of musicians, especially guitarists, who have felt the same way, wanting to ensure they don’t compromise their tone or performance. What is it about GLX-D+ that alleviated that uneasiness?
The fact that it just worked upon plugging everything in, without having to dial anything in. I often get frustrated when gear stuff is too complicated, so the GLX-D+ was right up my alley!
Many thanks for your time, Tim. Hope that you and the band have a great rest of your tour!
Thank you very much, cheers!