What guitarists inspire you?
There are many, all for different reasons. As a young player I loved Steve Lukather and Neal Schon for their melodicism and diversity. Eddie Van Halen had a huge impact on me. Over the years Dan Huff, Slash, Pete Lesperance, Jeff Carlisi, John Osborne and too many others to mention have all inspired me.
What song has challenged you the most?
I think there are songs that are tough to learn but not necessarily hard to play like “Sir Duke” or “I Wish” by Stevie wonder. Then, there are songs that aren’t that hard to learn but are tough to get through flawlessly show after show. One that comes to mind is “Who’s bed have your boots been under” by Shania Twain. It’s just very monotonous. “Don’t Start” by Lick Creek is no “walk in the park” and I wrote the bass line. The song is in the key of “E”, but I tune to “Drop D” to get a little more low end out of my E-string. I have to give some serious credit to Ryan King and Wesley Ingram for writing some killer guitar tracks on that song that I get to follow!
What song has challenged you the most?
I generally play songs that aren’t super difficult. For me, the challenge is less about learning the song, but more about playing it with emotion and technique and fitting into the context of the performance and the band. Currently one such song is “I Can’t Tell You Why” by the Eagles. We play that in Deja Voodoo. It’s not a difficult song, but every time I play it I strive to eek out every bit of tone and feeling that the song deserves.
What’s your favorite song to play in your current band’s set?
I’m currently in two bands. Deja Voodoo plays 70’s “Yacht Rock” music…great forgotten tunes with keyboards, vocals, acoustic and electric guitars. Brandy Kristin and the Revival is a power trio fronted by Brandy. We play classic and current rock. In Deja Voodoo one of my favorites songs to play is “Magic” by Pilot. I’ve worked hard to cover the harmony solo and enjoy trying to pull it off. I also love playing “Talk to you Later” by the Tubes…Steve Lukather solo! With Brandy, I love to play “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by The Darkness, and “Barracuda” by Heart. These are just straight-ahead rock songs that let me play fat energetic rhythm and then do some cool melodic leads.
What’s the most overplayed song?
Currently it’s probably Uptown Funk.
What’s the most memorable thing that happened to you at a gig?
I’ve been gigging for over 35 years, so there are many, LOL. Back around 1991 my band West of London opened for Slaughter at the Illinois State Fair grandstand in front of about 12,000 people. A few nights later we were playing at a bar in downtown Springfield and in walked Gary Richrath (former guitarist of REO Speedwagon) and some of the guys from his solo band. He used my guitar to play some tunes for the crowd.
What was your first guitar pedal?
My very first “effect” was a fuzz sound I created when I gutted an old portable reel-to-reel tape deck, plugged my guitar into it and routed the signal into my little amp. Cool sound but not useful since I had a bare circuit board and wires hanging out everywhere.
My first purchased guitar pedal was a Boss flanger. I bought it in 1983 when I was trying to get a tone to match the sound I thought I was hearing in a Def Leppard song. I doubt they used a flange, but to my untrained ears that’s what I thought I needed.
What’s your current rig?
Like most guitarists I’m always chasing tone. A few years ago a friend and I designed a custom amp based on my specifications and he built it for me. After a year of R&D and prototyping, I now have the only one in existence. LOL. It’s a 3 channel 50-watt tube head with a clean channel based on a Fender Twin, a crunch channel based on Marshall, and lead channel based on Soldano. I run that through either a 2×12 Mesa or a 4×12 Mesa cabinet, depending on the situation. I also have a Marshall tube combo and sometimes run it in stereo with my main rig. My pedalboard is always evolving. Currently I have a volume pedal, a wah pedal, a compressor, a Strymon DIG delay, a Strymon Mobius for modulation effects and a few support pedals for boost, switching, tuning, etc. Most of the time I play through my Shure wireless because I like to move around the stage freely. I mainly use my Gibson Les Paul Gold Top (the most beautiful guitar ever created in my opinion) but occasionally play my Fender Stratocaster when the tone of the song calls for it.
How long would it take for you to learn Van Halen’s Eruption?
Learning it wouldn’t really be the issue, but playing it with the right tone, conviction and technique might be! I can usually learn most songs in 15-20 minutes, but it takes me a few rehearsals and a half dozen live performances with the band before I really feel like I’ve connected to the song and can put my heart into it without worrying about the mechanics.