Visiting Whitney Petty | The Making of Stompbox Book

“Welcome to the Labia Lounge, where ideas are birthed!” 

That’s how the brilliant Whitney Petty welcomed us into the sacred space where the magic indeed happens for Petty and her bandmates in Thunderpussy, who are currently in the midst of non-stop action. The band is most busy of late – both creating new material for the follow-up to their breakthrough 2018 major-label debut album, Thunderpussy – along with getting road ready for an upcoming summer tour jaunt. The Labia Lounge has become idealized and optimized into the safe space to make that all happen.

“When we finally signed our record contract with Universal, Thunderpussy finally got its own dedicated rehearsal space,” Petty adds. “It’s such a relief not having to share our creative zone with a bunch of sweaty dudes we don’t know.”

Thunderpussy may be the most exciting new band from Seattle since, oh you know… It’s not for nothing that Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready would go on to produce the band’s earliest recordings and ultimately sign the band and became a real mentor figure to Thunderpussy – and especially fellow guitar slinger Petty, who clicked with McCready over shared Joe Perry and Gibson Les Paul obsessions.

Petty has gone on to become one of the guitar world’s rising stars, thanks to her radical, intoxicating meld of boundary-breaking sonic irreverence and timeless virtuoso bravado – in no small part kickstarted by McCready’s ongoing encouragement and friendship. Evidence of their bond is evidenced by a primo ‘72 Deluxe Telecaster with an original Wide Range humbucker in the neck he’d picked up at the ace Chicago Music Exchange, hanging on a rack in the middle of the Labia Lounge. It’s got pride of place next to her beloved Les Pauls (another obsession shared with McCready) and her first guitar, a gift from her father.

“New pedals are always great to get the creativity flowing”

“Mike gave me that Tele after we tracked ‘No Heaven’ together,” Petty notes. “I just gravitated to it and pulled it off Mike’s rack of insane guitars – the most Les Pauls you’ve ever seen, perfectly beat-up ‘60s Strats – and it just made the song. Seeing that made Mike’s mind start thinking, ‘Whitney needs a Tele, dammit!’ After we wrapped the session, Chris Adams, who’s a key part of Mike’s team, calls me and says, “I have something for you.” He comes by the Labia Lounge and drops off the Tele! “Mike really wants you to have this,” he said – I was blown away, like, ‘You’’re kidding, right, Chris?’ It’s my favorite color, cherry red, too.” Mike basically thinks everybody needs a Tele, Les Paul, and a Strat – the holy trinity – and he made me a believer. It was such an empowering stamp of approval.”

The Labia Lounge also provides Petty an inner sanctum to fine tune her pedal game, in solitude and at simultaneous top volume. In addition to her old faithfuls, Petty routinely auditions new pedals to fill some key positions. “New pedals are always great to get the creativity flowing,” Petty says. “It’s always great finding a new sound. That’s partly why we wanted to work with Sylvia – her knowledge of pedals and pedal collection were so inspiring.”

Right now, Petty’s particularly tripping out on some exciting new, super-boutique Joe Gore dirt pedals. “Joe’s pedals are just really cool,” Petty says. “I love dialing them in, and exploring how they add in dynamics and harmonics.” Also distinctive is the real estate she inevitably devotes to Recovery Effects’ exemplary, detailed stomps. “Graig Markel, who started Recovery, makes really cool shit, and he’s really getting his effects out there,” Petty says. “I’m so happy for him. We connected when a band I was in before Thunderpussy, Grizzled Mighty, recorded our first record in Graig’s studio, the Recovery Room, with him producing.”

 

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Petty shows off her new Joe Gore pedals, the “Remedial” and “Filth” units, respectively. “Joe’s Filth box is especially intriguing me right now,” Petty notes. “I’ve been doing some film scoring, and to get the sounds I need, I’ve been using a bow – either a violin-style bow, or an electronic bow like the e-bow. Joe’s pedals really work well for this, so I’m fucking with them a lot lately.”

Petty shows off her new Joe Gore pedals, the “Remedial” and “Filth” units, respectively. “Joe’s Filth box is especially intriguing me right now,” Petty notes. “I’ve been doing some film scoring, and to get the sounds I need, I’ve been using a bow – either a violin-style bow, or an electronic bow like the e-bow. Joe’s pedals really work well for this, so I’m fucking with them a lot lately.”

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Petty shows off her Recovery Effects pedal named after her former band, Grizzled Mighty, for which she was the drummer. “When I first met Greg, he’d started making only a few things - his famous Endless Summer reverb, for example, that really put him on the map,” she recalls. “Greg made the Grizzled Mighty based off our guitarist Ryan’s favorite pedal, the Way Huge Swollen Pickle, with a couple extra knobs to dial the fuzz up, or down to make it cut. It’s really a hearty fuzz!”

Petty shows off her Recovery Effects pedal named after her former band, Grizzled Mighty, for which she was the drummer. “When I first met Greg, he’d started making only a few things - his famous Endless Summer reverb, for example, that really put him on the map,” she recalls. “Greg made the Grizzled Mighty based off our guitarist Ryan’s favorite pedal, the Way Huge Swollen Pickle, with a couple extra knobs to dial the fuzz up, or down to make it cut. It’s really a hearty fuzz!”

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“My friend Cheryl’s dad passed away, and she gave me his old analog tape recorder,” Petty says. “The right channel isn’t that great, but it still captures the basic atmosphere of songs I’m working on when I hit record. I always have a shitty tape deck to fuck around on.”

“My friend Cheryl’s dad passed away, and she gave me his old analog tape recorder,” Petty says. “The right channel isn’t that great, but it still captures the basic atmosphere of songs I’m working on when I hit record. I always have a shitty tape deck to fuck around on.”

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“This is a bass drum head made as part of the set for Danger Diva, a b-movie from local cult director Robert McGinley,” Petty says. “In it, Thunderpussy played the band and had bit roles. So to get into character, I asked the art department if they’d make a drum head that said Thunderpussy with some naked lesbian vampires.”

“This is a bass drum head made as part of the set for Danger Diva, a b-movie from local cult director Robert McGinley,” Petty says. “In it, Thunderpussy played the band and had bit roles. So to get into character, I asked the art department if they’d make a drum head that said Thunderpussy with some naked lesbian vampires.”

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"We got this from our producer Sylvia Massy,” Petty says of the print. “She’s an amazing visual artist in addition to her musical genius. When we first met, she had a big stack of her illustrations, and she signed that one for me.”

"We got this from our producer Sylvia Massy,” Petty says of the print. “She’s an amazing visual artist in addition to her musical genius. When we first met, she had a big stack of her illustrations, and she signed that one for me.”

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According to Petty, this velvet painting of the Lord Jesus (which she notes has the faithful running away from him, screaming like he’s a King Kong-style monster) fulfills a ritual purpose as protector spirit of the Labia Lounge’s guitar collection. “We have Jesus watch over them, and none have budged from their place on the wall,” Petty says.

According to Petty, this velvet painting of the Lord Jesus (which she notes has the faithful running away from him, screaming like he’s a King Kong-style monster) fulfills a ritual purpose as protector spirit of the Labia Lounge’s guitar collection. “We have Jesus watch over them, and none have budged from their place on the wall,” Petty says.

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In addition to her Tele Deluxe cosmically gifted to her by McCready, the Labia Lounge houses Petty’s beloved Les Pauls and her dad’s Strat that started it all. “That Strat I got from my dad was the only guitar I had when we started,” she notes. “It’s so fucking loud. The Les Pauls are loaners from the Gibson showroom – they’re so good to me! The ‘58 Reissue, wow… They basically let me treat it like a lending library. I struggle to give anything back!”

In addition to her Tele Deluxe cosmically gifted to her by McCready, the Labia Lounge houses Petty’s beloved Les Pauls and her dad’s Strat that started it all. “That Strat I got from my dad was the only guitar I had when we started,” she notes. “It’s so fucking loud. The Les Pauls are loaners from the Gibson showroom – they’re so good to me! The ‘58 Reissue, wow… They basically let me treat it like a lending library. I struggle to give anything back!”

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In the Labia Lounge, Tim Curry stares down on the assembled in full-on Rocky Horror Picture Show mufti. “I just love it,” Petty says. “I love all the songs in Rocky Horror, as does Mike McCready, who gave me that glossy headshot of Frank N. Furter. We keep Frank and Jesus by the guitars to watch over them.”

In the Labia Lounge, Tim Curry stares down on the assembled in full-on Rocky Horror Picture Show mufti. “I just love it,” Petty says. “I love all the songs in Rocky Horror, as does Mike McCready, who gave me that glossy headshot of Frank N. Furter. We keep Frank and Jesus by the guitars to watch over them.”

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This is a George Thorogood setlist from the time Thunderpussy opened for the journeyman blues rocker (and a personal idol of Petty’s) one time in nearby Aberdeen. “Supporting George Thorogood was big fucking deal for me,” she confesses. “I loved him when I was young – his music helped me figure out rock and roll existed when my aunt gave me a tape of his. It was different from the Brooks and Dunn I was listening to with my Georgia friends, and I liked it. When George came on after us, I was right up front. Ten minutes into his slide solo on ‘Gear Jammer,’ I started to cry. Naturally, I stole a set list.”

This is a George Thorogood setlist from the time Thunderpussy opened for the journeyman blues rocker (and a personal idol of Petty’s) one time in nearby Aberdeen. “Supporting George Thorogood was big fucking deal for me,” she confesses. “I loved him when I was young – his music helped me figure out rock and roll existed when my aunt gave me a tape of his. It was different from the Brooks and Dunn I was listening to with my Georgia friends, and I liked it. When George came on after us, I was right up front. Ten minutes into his slide solo on ‘Gear Jammer,’ I started to cry. Naturally, I stole a set list.”

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“We made a video for our song ‘Speed Queen’,” Petty says. “We shot it at a bar called Drunky’s Two Shoes Bar-B-Q. As you’d imagine, Drunky’s already had great ambience, but the art director needed a new, fictionalized name for the bar we were ostensibly playing in. ‘Badlands’ was our second song, so we named it the Badlands Bar, and the art department turned it into this sign, which became yet another historical artifact on display in the Labia Lounge Thunderpussy Museum.”

“We made a video for our song ‘Speed Queen’,” Petty says. “We shot it at a bar called Drunky’s Two Shoes Bar-B-Q. As you’d imagine, Drunky’s already had great ambience, but the art director needed a new, fictionalized name for the bar we were ostensibly playing in. ‘Badlands’ was our second song, so we named it the Badlands Bar, and the art department turned it into this sign, which became yet another historical artifact on display in the Labia Lounge Thunderpussy Museum.”

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She’s got legs, and she knows how to use them. “There are so many relics from all the different shows we’ve done,” Petty says. “Thunderpussy played a holiday party for the agency Gray Pants and the theme was ‘leggy land.’ Legs were glued everywhere; I think the stage was leg shaped – they basically went all in on the legs concept. So at the end of the night, we collected as many of the cardboard legs as we could. We have a lot of space in the Labia Lounge, so we had to keep some of those for decor.”

She’s got legs, and she knows how to use them. “There are so many relics from all the different shows we’ve done,” Petty says. “Thunderpussy played a holiday party for the agency Gray Pants and the theme was ‘leggy land.’ Legs were glued everywhere; I think the stage was leg shaped – they basically went all in on the legs concept. So at the end of the night, we collected as many of the cardboard legs as we could. We have a lot of space in the Labia Lounge, so we had to keep some of those for decor.”

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Here is where Petty comes to lounge with panache. “This is the Labia Lounge’s ‘love sack,’” she explains. “It’s essential.”

Here is where Petty comes to lounge with panache. “This is the Labia Lounge’s ‘love sack,’” she explains. “It’s essential.”

(Slideshow: hover or click for captions)

 


Full interview and photo of Whitney’s chosen pedal will be featured in the Stompbox Book, coming summer 2020.

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Editor's Note | August 2019 — Stompbox Book
August 1, 2019 at 11:47 am

[…] Leeuwen of Queens of the Stone Age, Buzz Osborne of The Melvins, Paul Leary of Butthole Surfers, Whitney Petty of Thunderpussy, and Peter Holmström of The Dandy Warhols. We’ve also explored the advantages of […]

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