Interview with Evan Peta
Name: Evan Peta
Bands: Mother Inferior, Aladdin Sane, Vagabonds of the Western World
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
Evan – It’s a 70s Univox Les Paul copy with a sunburst maple top, my father’s a musician also (plays pedal steel) & he traded in an ancient drum machine for it. I still have it & it’s in its original case in the other room right now.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
Evan – Cord to amp, I’ve never been much for floor effects.
Evan – If I’m recording I just plug direct into the Pro Tools interface & use the onboard amps they have in the program, though I have used other things like a Korg Pandora’s Box & the line out on my Cyber Twin for recording.
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig – guitar, amplifier, or effects?
Evan – MY Gibson SG-1 because I can play it best.
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Evan – A Fender Cyber Twin, it’s the best sounding amp I’ve ever heard. It has tons of settings & tones from old tweed amps to howler monkey overdrive. Most important, it has a real open sound, big & huge & it’s just a 2-12 open back combo. (I’ve never liked closed back cabs.)
QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
Evan – My main guitar is a 1972 Gibson SG-1, which was the bottom most of the Gibson line. It was given to me by my friend Russ Stedman, who in turn got it originally for about $100 in trade. It was in pretty sad shape. I had my friend Mal fix it up for me by some friends of his, had the neck shaved down more uniformly (it was like a square baseball bat) refretted with Dunlop 6105 frets, repainted high gloss black & threw a DiMarzio Steve Morse Bridge pickup in the lead (it’s a single pickup model). It’s been my main guitar now for about 3 or 4 years. Also it has a skinny neck, E to E, I can’t play guitars with wide fingerboards.
QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Evan – I’d base it on a mid 80s Hamer Phantom
which was like a cross between a Fender Strat with a Jaguar off center
rear bout, but with Gibson features (24 3/4in scale, humbuckers, glue in
neck etc) I have one from 86 & it’s the most comfortable well balanced
of any guitar I’ve owned. The features I’d want would be a neck with a
flatter fret board radius, like 12 to 16 inch, I never could get on with
curved finger boards on Fenders (can’t bend without killing out) a thin
but rounded neck, a skinny neck E to E (finger board width), single dot
inlays & Dunlop 6105 frets, 24 frets full access clear to the body
both sides of the neck (deep cutaways), 6 in line head stock, 2 pickups
DiMarzio (Steve Morse lead, a Super 2 in neck) 2 volume & 2 tones,
regular 3 way pickup switch. All in one wrap around bridge (like a Leo
Quan). Mahogany body & neck with rosewood or ebony fret board. Neck
thru would be nice, but glued in would be cool. & just to make it play
a little bit easier, a 24 & a 1/2 inch scale.
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Evan – It would be the guts of a Marshall Lead 12 (which was a small practice amp they put out in the 80s). I’ve never liked Marshalls much, all high end & bass, but those little amps were GOD. You wanna know what a guitar really sounds like, you plug into one of those. Years ago I picked one up at a pawn shop for $75. Dug it from the start, but what really was the magic was when I plugged it from the line out into the front of my Dad’s old 76 Fender Twin. It was the coolest, heaviest tone I’d ever heard. It was like Thin Lizzy Thunder & Lightning tone. I had been waiting my whole life for that sound. (But nowadays the Cyber Twin gets the sounds I want.) :)
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
Evan – Got about 3 I like, the rest are just $20 pawn shop oddities.
QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?
Evan – Wherever there’s a place to set one.
QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
Evan – Bigger case compartments.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
Evan – Skinny necks, top to back & E to E. If the neck is too fat or wide I don’t even pick it up off the stand. High frets (no Fretless Wonders) also very low action. & nothing that if you fell on would impale you.
QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
Evan – Used $250 (but that was years ago). New, its what you can afford I guess.
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
Evan – Depends, first to go is a pickup if its muddy or weak.
QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?
Evan – Pretty thorough, also if it’s a guitar I will ask them to put my gauge of strings on it & set it up to my specs, better to know before you lay down your shekels.
QRD – Do you change your rig around often?
Evan – No.
QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Evan – My main sound is always Big Rock sustaining guitar tones, but when recording I use what’s needed I guess.
QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Evan – None in particular, but I’m always looking for a guitar that I can get along with.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
Evan – Nowadays most first guitars are light years better than they were way back when, I was very lucky my 1st guitar had low action & played well.
QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?
Evan – Best, my 86 Hamer Phantom for $250 (tax included). Worst, a custom ordered Paul Reed Smith that I waited almost a year for, worst guitar ever, took it back, got my money back.
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Evan – Old BC RICH Guitars Pre-1980s are great, each of them were like a custom guitars. Also Hamer thru the early 90s, those are well made & consistent guitars. The aforementioned Marshall Lead 12 practice amp & Fender Twins with master volumes (you Gotta have a master volume) loaded with E-120 JBL speakers. Man those amps howled. When I played live with the Marshall Lead 12 into the Twin it just leveled the place, I couldn’t turn the master volume past 3 & a 1/2.
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
Evan – Just play single line stuff off the top of my head, always improvise!
QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Evan – 12 in 1977.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?
Evan – That’s a hard one as it’s happened at many different times in my life. When you learn something new that pushes you into a whole new direction, that’ll carry you for a long time, till you hit that plateau where you just go skittering off into something else. I think if possible everyone should just try to keep going forward. You just can’t say, “That’s it.” I’ve thought that a few times & then something snuck up & surprised me.
QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?
Evan – Frank Zappa said he picked guitar cause it made the most obnoxious sound, I think he was on to something there.
QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?
Evan – Sure why not, their cheap, plentiful, & everyone has the right to make a fool of themselves.
QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
Evan – Les Paul is my co-pilot.
QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Evan – When I started:
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?
Evan – Not so much any more, but years ago some of my past guitar names have been Sandy Mary, Lita, Speedy, Peter O’Wellian, George-Ola,and Bender to name a few. If BB King does it, it has to be okay; anyway it’s less silly than naming your body parts.
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
Evan – Took the neck clean off another Hamer Phantom I owned once by walking thru a doorway. I had it on the strap & I thought I had raised the neck high enough to walk thru, but the tip of the headstock & the end of the guitar caught & the neck just popped off. This happened 2 days before Christmas, Ho Ho Ho. I sent it to Hamer to fix, they had it for 6 months sent it back saying it “couldn’t be fixed.” Gave it to a friend of mine’s dad Denny (he’s a miracle worker with guitars), he called me 3 days later said, “It’s fixed;” he glued it back on, was good as new. Amazing.
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
Evan – I need to warm up so I don’t pull a hamstring, usually just chromatic runs up & down the neck, then scales 3 note per string & then maybe a few other various things I’ve picked up on the way like playing modes in different degrees (3rds, 4ths, etc.) & always using alternating picking.
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
Evan – I practice every day, but only 45 minutes to an hour; I’d like to play more, but I have to not over do it. In 1992 arthritis kicked in, my hands went from Eddie Van Halen on espresso to Keith Richards sleeping. I ended up at the Mayo Clinic & having both hands & wrists operated on. My doctor was Allen Bishop, whose 1st chair oboist on the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. With him being a musician, he knew it meant a lot to me to try & get back to playing. I had to pretty much start all over again after that; I knew what to play, but my hands were at day one all over again. The odd thing is I never recorded any solo tapes till after 1992 so everything was after the fact. Years later in the late 90s I decided to give Dr. Bishop a CD I’d just finished, to show him what he’d done for me. 6 months later when I went for a check up, he was pretty surprised & happy.
QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
Evan – Dunlop Yellow Tortex .73 mm with the smiling turtle on the front, I’ve been using those for about a year now. Before it was the orange ones, same turtle .60mm, I just wanted a little less flex to them so I could pick a little more accurately.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Evan – Ernie Ball Stainless Steel Extra Slinky 8 to 38. Have used stainless steel strings my whole life cause they got more zing than nickel.
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Evan – About once a month (or when you grab the D string & run your finger up it to see if it’s got any fret ruts in it...).
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Evan – Never any more, did when I was 12.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or
Evan – Fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Evan – I’d say it used to be my left up till the last few years, now it’s pretty even. I have never been happy with my picking; but it wasn’t bad, I probably hit 7 to 8 out of 10 notes with the pick, but it never was consistent & it bothered me. When I recorded 3 or 4 King Crimson style songs a few years back on a CD called Klaatu Barada Necktie, I knew I had to get it together to try & even come close to Fripp. My picking was better, but I still wasn’t happy. About 2 years ago I decided I was going to watch John McLaughlin & see exactly how he picked, cause he pretty much is the end all be all for that. I would watch DVDs of him playing live & watched how he held his pick, what angle, where he rested his wrist etc. One of the key things was resting the wrist on the bridge. After awhile I slowly noticed my picking was becoming more accurate & my right hand at the same time was less fatigued (still working on it though). Thank you Mr. McLaughlin.
QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?
Evan – Myself. Why? I live in South Dakota. :)
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Evan – After 92 I started tuning to E flat just to take some pressure off my hands. Why not, it’s not cheating, Jimi did it, Van Halen did it & let’s not forget Buck Owens too.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Evan – I have a little hand held tape recorder I stick ideas on, that way I always know how it’s supposed to sound.
QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
Evan – George Harrison high; used to be Jimmy Page level, but it inched its way up over the years.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Evan – Never knowing when I’m overdoing it on my hands, but I’m not sure that’s a bad habit.
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?
Evan – Theremin.
QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
Evan – Flat out over the top country playing like Albert Lee, I don’t have a clue what he’s doing.
QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?
Evan – Doing a whole CD with just 1 guitar no other instrument, The “Guitar Army” as Jimmy Page referred to it. Maybe next CD.
QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?
Evan – I learned how to make an ascending melodic minor scale not sound stupid.
QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
Evan – Roland GR-20 guitar synthesizer (I think of it as a gadget, to weird to be a pedal).
QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?
Evan – I could never do that fast Eddie Van Halen tremolo picking trick, there I admit it, you all know now, admitting it is the 1st step to public shame.
QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Evan – Nope, all by myself with a stack of records & I learned the songs not the solos. I never could see the point of learning someone else’s solos, I figured you could only use them on that song. Anyway it’s a bad habit, you just have to shed someone else’s solo style later & that’s hard for some people. I can only play 3 solos, “Cat Scratch Fever,” “Free for All,” & “Another Brick in the Wall,” & I’m sure I can only play them about 85% right. Learning scales & always improvising is the only thing that made sense to me. The concept of improvisation hit me one day when I was young, hunched over my mono tape deck with Cream Live Volume 2 blaring “Stepping Out” which is basically a 12 minute guitar solo by Clapton. After about 10 minutes of him wailing away, I got flustered & thought, “He’s just making this all up as he’s going along.” If I couldn’t improvise solos any more I’d quit playing.
QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?
Evan – Allow yourself to suck. Too many precious cookie cutter perfect playing drones out there these days. If you hit a wrong note or make a weird noise, make it part of the song. The mistakes & weird noises are what make your style.
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Evan – Make mistakes & weird noises.
QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?
Evan – Never cared for one myself. & on the subject... Floyd Rose’s are a blight on the universe, every time you change strings you need to reset the whole bridge, who thought this was a good idea?
QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?
Evan – When I need a neck pickup sound (since I don’t have a neck pickup).
QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?
Evan – There shouldn’t be any, a guitar player should do both equally good (but having good rhythm is #1).
QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Evan – I have been known to fast forward to a solo in my younger days, but really it’s the song that counts. The reason Thin Lizzy were the best was that they had great songs played well with great solos. They should have ruled the world with that combination.
QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?
Evan – Peter Green’s Les Paul, because not only was it Peter Green’s, it was also owned later by Gary Moore. 2 heroes, 1 guitar!
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
Evan – I wish Shawn Lane was still alive (he passed away 2003), he possibly was the most innovative guitarist in the last 20 years, just had his own style & was always improvising. Someone that’s caught my attention the last year or so is Jimmy Herring, excellent improviser & very identifiable. Of course I still think people like Richard Thompson, John McLaughlin, Eric Johnson, & Steve Morse just seem to keep improving & growing.
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
Evan – My playing on the EVLAND CD is pretty bouncy (It’s my favorite, in no small part because Russ Stedman played drums on it). If you go over to www.dezvalentino.com you can download it for free. (All my CDs are up there for free.) Actually any of them I’m fine with, but if you listen to the early stuff to now you can hear me getting my hands back a little more each CD.
QRD – Anything else?
Evan – I might have gone on & on a
bit with the answers, but I had to get it all in, it’s like being on the
cover of Guitar Player. :)