From The Desk Of The Jigsaw Seen: E-Bow

The co-founder of the Jigsaw Seen 25 years ago (alongside ace guitarist Jonathan Lea), former all-Maryland high-school soccer player Dennis Davison gets his exercise these days as a professional dog-walker. Strolling L.A.’s concrete canyons gives him ample time to do what he does best: write distinctively original lyrics and melodies that give off the mere whiff of former heroes such as the Bee Gees, Who and Love. Unlike previous albums, Old Man Reverb, Jigsaw’s fourth set of originals in the past four years, has a unified sound running throughout. Davison and Lea will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on the Jigsaw Seen.

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Lea: I can’t remember where I first heard about the E-bow or what inspired me to purchase one in 1991, but I’ve always loved the sound of the cello, and I’d probably read that the E-bow could make a guitar sound like one. The E-bow is a battery-powered hand-held gizmo that creates an electromagnetic field that vibrates the guitar strings without actually touching them, creating a “bowed” sound. I took to the E-bow immediately, and it quickly became my “thing.” I first used it on The Jigsaw Seen’s b-side “Another Predictable Song,” and I’ve used it on numerous recordings since. It got quite a reaction from the engineers at The BBC where, in 2001, Dennis Davison and I performed our song “Fiddlesticks” with me dredging low feedback-y sounds from an E-bow and an acoustic 12-string guitar. I always use an E-bow at shows, and people never fail to ask about it. One of my favorites being fuzz-guitar legend Davie Allan, who, after a show at Spaceland in Los Angeles, asked me, “What the hell is that thing?”

Fortunately, I continue to get new sounds with the E-bow. On “Madame Whirligig” from our new album Old Man Reverb, I played an E-bowed guitar through a Leslie cabinet, obtaining a sound like an oscillating theramin. Good vibrations indeed.

The Jigsaw Seen “Fiddlesticks” (BBC Session)

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