Bill Orcutt gives some noise to the city on A New Way to Pay Old Debts
Orcutt's incredible, atonal guitar playing is the uncommon element connecting Hoyos' formidable shrieks and 24th Street grind. These days Orcutt prefers to play acoustic rather than electric, though it's rigged as a four-string, with the A and D strings removed, much the same way his electric once was. The modification predates Harry Pussy: "It just stuck," he notes. "At this point, there's no rational reason for doing it. It's just what I sound like in my own head."
The acoustic was also an intuitive choice, and as Orcutt started listening to guitarists such as McDowell, Bailey, and Carlos Montoya, "just to see what had been done before and to get the lay of the land and an understanding of what the perimeters were," its sound and mobility started to appeal. "It's a nice way to be self-contained and self-reliant. As long as you can get it on the plane, you're good. And in a really small venue, you can even get away without having a PA," he explains. "If I have to, I could wind up at the BART Station and I'm good to go."
And it exposed Orcutt as a musician, apart from the protective mob of a band. "Honestly, once I got into it, I really wanted to play solo," he observes. "When I started playing in front of people, it was scary, but I have this weird compulsion to play solo." That urge is still a puzzle — in Harry Pussy, he adds, "Adris [Hoyos] definitely led the way and it was easy to hang back. I don't know ..." Slight pause. "There's some kind of process I'm working through by playing solo, and I'm definitely still working on whatever it is."