Hybrid descriptions of music are often a lazy way to avoid digging deep into a band’s musical qualities and, as often, inaccurate. But to call the music of Tera MelosPunk/Prog/Math/Metal/Ambient/Noise is necessary to cover all the ingredients of the band’s cut and paste style. What makes this ADD pastiche work where others fail is the depth of Nick Reinhart’s technique. His seemingly limitless command over both his guitar and the array of pedals at his feet, combined with the bloodletting energy he brings to the stage, make every musical digression compelling. I first met the man described as “Nels Cline’s younger punk rock brother” at the Earthquaker booth at NAMM, improvising up a storm, and finally got him to talk to Guitar Moderne.
What kind of music were you playing when you first became proficient on the instrument?
I was playing punk music when I became “proficient.” I realized the music I was playing/writing was getting more complex and the band I was playing in was confused about the stuff I was bringing to practice—things like 7th chords and alternate time signatures. Eventually the punk band fizzled out and Tera Melos was born.
What led you to create more experimental (non-mainstream) music?
I’d seen Sonic Youth when I was 12 and that had a big impact on me. They swung their guitars around and wailed feedback for at least 15 minutes. I was still stuck in the punk world for a long time, into my later teens. I was collecting Sonic Youth and Fugazi records though, so there was some weirdness brewing in my soul. Around 2001, I heard Hella, Dillinger Escape Plan, King Crimson and some other interesting stuff. Hella and Dillinger both played super fast and had all these strange technical parts that really spoke to me. King Crimson was a whole new world of music. A lot of that stuff seemed related to punk music—conceptually, sonically etc., so it all made sense to me. When I learned a little bit about jazz it kind of threw everything off again—in a good way.
Whose music inspires you?
Brian Wilson, Jon Brion, Zach Hill, Adrian Belew, Tom Jenkinson, Richard D James, Greg Saunier, Charles Thompson, Rob Crow, Nels Cline, Mike Watt, Dave King…this is probably an infinite list. Artists who are honest and transparent with their dedication to making music.
How did you get better at your current style?
I’m not sure. I always want to be “getting better.” I feel like I’m constantly trying to expand my style, how I think about music and playing it—and practicing, of course. When I practice I’m not running through techniques, or specific things I’m trying to improve. It’s really just playing often. Every once in awhile I realize my fingers can go a little faster, or a certain guitar part seems a little less gnarly to play than it did a year ago.
What are you trying convey with your music?
Honesty and something that makes the listener think, “Okay, that’s interesting. I wouldn’t have thought of that.”
Which guitars, amps, effects, plug-ins and software do you use to create your music, and why?
I use a lot of pedals. I usually switch up my pedal rig every few months or so—swapping things out for new sounds. I think of my pedalboards as a completely separate instrument. I generally like playing with two loaded boards, with something like ten-ish pedals on each board. That usually gives me enough options to sprinkle new ideas throughout a set list. Since they get switched up so often it’d difficult to say what signal chain is exactly, but it generally is some distortions, fuzzes, delays/loopers, some modulation stuff, reverbs, pitch shifting etc.
My amp setup has been pretty consistent for the last few years—a Peavey 6505 combo and a Roland JC-120 coming out of my Line 6 DL4, so they’re just both running wide open the whole time.
My main guitar for the last few years has been a Fender Squier Super-sonic, either a blue sparkle or silver sparkle.
I also run a Boss SP 404 sampler, controlled by a modified Behringer MIDI foot controller. The foot controller isn’t designed to sync with the 404, so it requires a chip replacement and some really antiquated software magic to get them to play nicely together.
Which do you enjoy more: recording or playing live and why?
There are different kinds of magical things that come from both environments. When you’re recording you have limitless options and a variety of ways to get musical ideas across. That’s a really exciting time in the creation process. When you’re playing live you still have all those options, but the magic comes from existing in the moment and which of those options you choose explore in the minuscule amount of time you had to think about it. Actually, you’re not really thinking about it, you’re just reacting to what’s happening in that environment at the time.
How have you built up an audience for your music?
Mostly by touring extensively for the last 10 years. I started from the ground up.
I’d love to play with Dave King from the Bad Plus. I’ve been really fortunate to play with some amazing drummers. Past and present Tera Melos drummers—Vince Rogers and John Clardy, respectively—have been able to tap into exactly what the band is trying to accomplish and bring out stuff that could only be determined by those two. I’ve made a handful of records and played live a bunch with Zach Hill, which is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I just made a record with Greg Sauiner, who is one of my favorite musicians, and has influenced my guitar playing quite a bit. I’ve also improvised a bit with a guy from Sacramento named Jon Bafus. He has a great band called Gentleman Surfer. He’s another amazing drummer. So I’m pretty much on a mission to play with all my favorite drummers. Steven Drozd would also be on that list.
What is your latest project? When will it be available and where can people in different parts of the world get it?
The latest project is the aforementioned record with Greg Saunier, Nels Cline and Mike Watt. it’s called Big Walnuts Yonder. It’s a very special band. Mike Watt and I were in Ireland almost four years ago and were talking about his second opera, Contemplating The Engine Room. I’m a big fan of Nels Cline (he played guitar on that record) and I was asking Mike about the song “The Boilerman.” The guitar playing on that song is incredible. Mike said, “You wanna know Nels? Then you gotta play with Nels!” Hence Big Walnuts Yonder was born. I suggested Greg as a drummer. It took us three years, but eventually everyone’s schedules lined up and we were able to make a record. It’s not quite done yet, but hopefully it will be soon. It should be out sometime this year on Sargent House.