Holly Hunt's Gavin Perry: Guitar Heroes of South Florida

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Monica McGivern

Holly Hunt's Gavin Perry is quite the antithesis of the archetypal "guitar hero." But Perry's approach to the instrument, as a coconspirator in creating the crushing sonic monolith that is Holly Hunt's sound, undoubtedly qualifies him as an hero of sorts.

With the unchecked proliferation of sludge, stoner, and doom-metal bands that have spawned in recent years, Holly Hunt is an anomaly in that the duo (Perry plays with his partner Beatriz Monteavaro) has developed an extremely original sound without the assistance of vocals or even a bass player. Thanks in no small part to Perry's sludge/psych guitar style, Holly Hunt's music is as imposing as it is intriguing: A pummeling, repetitious assault of texture and color, delivered with gloriously unbridled volume.

As anyone who has ever experienced the cocktail of fear and excitement provoked by staring down Perry's wall of amplified death in the flesh can attest, the band's sound relies heavily on some rather unique kit. Perry has painstakingly curated his setup through years of experimentation and Ebay crawling to bring the sounds in his head to wall-shaking reality.

It includes guitars crafted of aircraft aluminum, pedalboards that would undoubtedly catch a nod and a wink of approval from Kevin Shields, and a battery of vintage amplifiers honed and tuned for maximum destruction by a mysterious Austrian amp wizard living in Broward County.

Holly Hunt recently returned from its first tour of the West coast and the duo is already recording a fresh batch of destruction with Torche's Jonathan Nunez at Miami's Pinecrust Studios for an impending split release with Irish band Slomatics.

We spoke with Perry about his evolution as a guitarist, his quest for sonic nirvana, and the gear that goes into making Holly Hunt's sound.

New Times: How did you get into playing guitar? What was your path to the instrument?
Gavin Perry: Early, it was standard sort of high school kid, listening to punk-rock music and wanting to experience that. I had some music in my family: I took cello, my sister took piano, my mom's a pretty accomplished pianist.

I guess my earliest experiences of rock music was listening to the Who and wanting to be Keith Moon, and my uncle happened to have essentially Keith Moon's Ludwig set; same model, same era. He wasn't using it, so I asked him if I could borrow it and he left it with me and said, "Good luck!"

So, trying to learn Keith Moon. I probably should've selected a little bit easier learning curve. So I obviously didn't end up becoming a drummer. That kind of faded out pretty quickly, but for guitar, I guess maybe my stepbrother was playing? So I started playing and met some kids, started playing with them, but then I went to school and kind of just stopped. I think at some point, I just didn't get good enough fast enough and I didn't know what to do or how to do it, so I just was like, "OK, I'll focus my energies somewhere else."

The return to it was going to a show. I saw Torche and Harvey Milk and was blown away. Not even by the sets, per say -- obviously the sets were good -- but it was the sound, the feel, the energy, the vibe, the whole atmosphere was just like on fire.

I turned to Betty (Monteavaro) as soon as Harvey Milk started and was like, "I gotta go buy my gear again!" And she was like "What, what!?" and she was like, "You know, maybe you could use like a practice amp for a while." And I said "No, no. I need to feel that!"

Between the Who's influence, punk-rock, and the bands that played that show, it seems like the energy you honed in on has always been pretty consistent.
Pete Townshend is probably one of my favorite guitarists. I think as a rhythm guitar player, doing what I do, he's a guiding light. Without being trite about it, it's one of the reasons I'm happy I have Hiwatts. I bought them for another reason, but once I had them, I was like "Yeah, I understand why I really like this sound: This sound is the sound that I've heard in my head from when I was 12."

Coming back to guitar as an adult is certainly a unique position to be in, especially in the doom/sludge scene you became a part of. What was that like? Do you think it helped you focus more on the end product rather than the technicalities?
Terrifying, on a certain level. How do you start? How do you start at 40? I couldn't focus solely on the technical aspects. I have some skills, I know some things, I took some lessons. But all of those were from 20 years ago. They sort of bubble up as you keep playing. You start to remember stuff and, for me at least, I started to put together progressions and patterns based on what I remembered from the skills I had been taught and I started to figure out what it was I was hearing in other people's music and saying, "Oh, that's why that sounds that way, that's why that works that way," and it started to make a different kind of sense for me.

Outset for Holly Hunt, yeah, I didn't want to be playing "Mary Had a Little Lamb," per say, but at the same time, maybe that was the level that I was at. So, you do what you do. You have to proceed with what you have and work on at it as you go. At the same time, I didn't have aspirations of this thing being more than a couple of months. You know? And I still don't!

I'm surprised we're four years going on five years in, and we have some releases out and we're looking at more releases. It's amazing to me that it's happened the way it's happened.

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