Australia Week – Interview with Ro from i built the sky

i built the sky is a one-man band (sure there are a lot out there these days, but he’s easily near the top) out of Melbourne, Australia who has built a fanatical following through his YouTube channel, producing some stunning DIY video content that rivals much higher budget productions. His signature blue PRS and blacked out contact lenses combined with a Ramones look give him a very distinct style, even as his unique music speaks for itself.

What is your all-time favorite recorded guitar tone?

Man that’s a hard question…I really dig Karnivools ‘Mauseum’ From their Themata album…It’s nice and thick but also very clear, I think the simplicity of the riff helps to make a huge overall guitar sound.

Do you have a tone philosophy? How does this affect your current rig?

It’s got to sound thick and heavy but clear and gentle on the ears, I’ll take out some high end on the guitars to keep them smooth as well as a lot of low end to let the bass do its job. I usually smash the mids so I can keep the notes very clear. I only tweak my tones when I feel that it’s needed… Once I have a tone that works well for me and my mixes I’ll stick with that for a while. I think I’m still on V10 or 11 Firmware for the AxeFx II.

What is your warmup and daily practice routine like?

Well, it used to be very full on… practicing different areas of technique and building the skills to facilitate what I wanted to be able to do. I studied at a music school so it taught me a lot about scales/technique/harmony/improvisation and yadda yadda. I was super motivated to be a half decent guitarist at that point in time. Now I spend my time writing music which is great for my skills too since a lot of the time I can’t play the riffs I write as well as I’d like, so I need to work hard to be able to pull it off. I feel like that’s a move artists have to make at some point, to stop ‘practicing’ and start ‘creating’ music…that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.

What kind of strings, picks, and effects pedals are you using?26682_10150214981295364_246511_n

I use D’addario 11-49 and I use them for every tuning too, Drop C down to Ab…I’m a light player so I can keep it under control. I use Jim Dunlop Max Grip .73 picks…used them since day one. For pedals and effects it’s all within my AxeFx unit, but my chain for the main sound I use is Compression – Overdrive – Gate – AMP – CAB – Gate. (Check my rig rundown for more on that)

Live, when I used to play in a band… I used my Sherlock ‘FAT HEAD’ tube amp with a similar set up but all pedals were real. (see pics) It sounded massive and I’m considering using that set up again for live shows in the future.229697_10150738397015364_7967869_n

What is the very first instrument you ever owned?

Probably a cheap keyboard when I was about 9 or so but my first guitar was a Samick stratocaster knock off and i loved it despite its tuning issues.

What is the music scene like in Australia? Who are your favorite Aussie musicians/bands?

There is a huge music scene here, There are a ton of bands and a ton of amazing musicians and artists and plenty of places to play. I’m always pleasantly surprised at the talent around here even when I just walk into a random place on any given night.

I think some of my fav artists are actually Australian and Im very lucky to know most of them In some way or another.
Favourite artists definitely include PLINI, The Helix Nebula, Circles, Twelve Foot Ninja, Karnivool, Dead Letter Circus, Sounds of Sirus, Closure in Moscow, I Valiance, Thy Art Is Murder, Northlane… there’s a million more but these are the ones that come to mind.

Does gear matter?

It does and it doesn’t. If I had average gear, it would be annoying…but I could still write the same songs…they probably just wouldn’t sound as good and the process would be a lot harder.

What music inspires you?

Anything that can make me feel something. I actually listen to a lot of emo punk from early 2000s.
This paired with talented artists out there making music independently and killing it…it really inspires me to try and do it too.

What made you decide to pick up the guitar?

Definitely watching the older kids at school playing in bands made me get interested. My first guitar teacher was a massive reason too. He was just a super cool dude…and could play anything…He once played me the riff to ‘Pretty Fly for a White Guy’ and I was shocked…I was determined to be able to play that riff
and I guess one thing lead to another.

Do you think IBTS could ever become a full band?

I definitely plan on taking it live, I have 2 people in line to help make that happen and super excited to announce who they are when the time comes… You know them…you know them well ;-)
Whether it becomes a full on band where everyone contributes I’m not really sure. Half of me wants that, the other half wants to remain in full control…So I don’t know what will happen in future.

How did you learn audio production?

I have pretty good listening skills which helps. I’ve watched my fair share of YouTube tutorial videos and at the end of the day…I just do what sounds good to me, I experiment with things and just keep tweaking and refining. I’ve learned things from producer friends but I think the biggest learning tool is just doing it and trying to better yourself each time. If you make sure that each new song you release sounds better than the last you will do just fine.

Any advice for aspiring guitarists?

Set goals. Work out what you want to achieve and go for that. Write your goal on a piece of paper and stick it somewhere where you will see it every day and be reminded by it. Don’t let anything stop you from achieving it. The feeling you get when you do is indescribable.

Written by

As Editor-in-Chief of Gear Gods, I've been feeding your sick instrument fetishism and trying unsuccessfully to hide my own since 2013. I studied music on both coasts (Berklee and SSU) and now I'm just trying to put my degree to some use. That's a music degree, not an English one. I'm sure you noticed.