Interview with John G Sosnowski
Name: John G Sosnowski
Bands: Cystem, Broca’s Area
Listen to "This Time Tomorrow"
Listen to "Tonal Vapor Trail"
Listen to "With Reckless Abandon"
Listen to "Wheelin"
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
John – Oh, Jesus, that was a long time ago... I guess my very first guitar was just some cheap old acoustic that my Dad bought me. I don’t even remember a brand name; it was probably Sears or Montgomery Wards, something like that. Think I ended up selling it. My first electric guitar was also cheap, but I remember the name, it was a Castilla. I beat the crap out of that thing, covered it with stickers, took it apart & put it back together again for no real reason. In the end I blew it up with smoke bombs & firecrackers... I was a troubled teenager. LOL.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
John – Well, I haven’t played through an amplifier in years, probably decades. I don’t get out much. My guitar goes into my rack which consists of a Mackie CR1604 mixer & 4 effects units, a PODxt, Digitech 2101 Studio Tube, a Digitech TSR-12, & an Ensoniq DP Pro. All that goes into my computer where the rest of the magic happens.
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig - guitar, amplifier, or effects?
John – The guitar, of course. That’s the most intimate part of the set-up, IMO. Without that, everything else is... useless. Isn’t it?
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
John – I don’t even own an amplifier anymore. I used to have a nice Sunn amp, don’t remember what model.
QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
John – My main guitar is my only guitar these days, & that is an affordable G&L Legacy. It’s a poor man’s Strat. & I prefer the Strat style guitars.
QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
John – My signature guitar... Hmmmm... well, I guess I would go with a Strat style body... & lots of buttons. I once got to play a guitar that had one of those “sustainiac” pickups, that would be a nice feature too.
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
John – It would definitely have volume swell, pitch shifting, cavernous reverb, echo, echo, echo, & some badass distortion.
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
John – Just the one. There was a time when I had five guitars, one of which was a Yamaha 12-string acoustic. That was one of the better guitars I’ve owned.
QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?
John – In a hardshell case, usually laying down somewhere.
QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
John – An espresso machine? I don’t know, I think they’re fairly functional these days. Maybe the hardshells could have some compartments on the outside for storage (strings, straps, picks, & whatnot...) just make the cases a little thicker & viola! A guitar case tackle box kinda thing.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
John – A thin neck. & not too wide. I played a Jackson Charvel once &, for me, the neck was too wide. Gibson necks are a little fat for me also. I like the Straty kinda necks, they fit my hand better.
QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
John – Honestly? Free is nice. But capitalism wins out, LOL. I guess it’s a supply & demand thing. For me, a good guitar is one I can afford. :D
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
John – If I had a nickel for every day I said to myself, “I should really put some new guts in my guitar.” or “I really should get this thing intonated.” I’d be dead. I’ve had one non-working pickup (neck position) for I don’t know how many years. I am the world’s most procrastinating guitarist. I tend to leave them “as is.”
QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?
John – I usually get info from other people then go try it out in a store. I have a friend that used to work in musical instrument store & I got a lot of info from him. He even got me an opportunity to mess around with a Parker Nightfly guitar, which was pretty sweet, wouldn’t mind owning one of those.
QRD – Do you change your rig around often?
John – Only when I have to find somewhere else to live. Not very often.
QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
John – Well, I’d have to say I look for one particular tone. & when I find it, I pound it into the ground, LOL. I tend to use the same effects a lot, volume swell drenched in reverb, but, every once in awhile I try to do something different. I’m not a very accomplished guitarist in the heavier genres (or any other genre for that matter), but I’ll try to rock out every now & then.
QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
John – Oooooo... PRS, those are nice guitars, but way out of my budget. Maybe an Ibanez Jem... Amps, I’m so out of touch with amps anymore I wouldn’t know where to start. Probably whatever Eric Johnson uses. I like his sound.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
John – Hmmm.… The only thing I can think of is maybe numbering the frets, instead of just dots? I don’t know.
QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?
John – Well, the BEST would have to be... ALL OF THEM! :D I’d like to think any purchase I’ve made regarding the guitar is a good thing. Even if it’s buying a cheap old crappy guitar, it can still be an inspiring thing.
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
John – The effects that I have have all been worth getting. I loved the sounds I could get out of them & still do. I’ve had my Digitechs for decades, I love the PODxt too, the amp selections are great for someone like me who doesn’t own an actual amp. The Ensoniq has some unique sounds in it too. Amps, again, I don’t even know where to start, LOL. Guitars, well, I go for the Strat style because it’s more... ergonomic, I guess, for me. I like the features on those Parker guitars, the acoustic/piezo pickup thing, very nice.
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
John – A, E, D.
QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
John – Define playing, LOL. I’ll say 12, that’s when I actually HAD a guitar & took some lessons. When I was knee high to an insect I would mess around on this dumpy acoustic guitar my Dad had sitting around (along with the bongo drums I don’t remember him ever playing). He had this glass paperweight & I would whip that thing up & down the neck making a god-awful racket until someone told me to knock it off.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?
John – I don’t know, my “best” playing might still be ahead of me. I think I’m a better player than I was 10 years ago. Who knows what I’ll be doing 10 years from now? You can always learn something new, can’t you? Not to answer your question with a question... :)
QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?
John – I have to say it’s the music I was exposed to. Mostly guitar oriented rock music. Although I would LOVE to be able to play drums, piano, & violin. Not the harmonica though, too much spit involved (no offense to harmonica players).
QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?
John – I think their first instrument should be whatever they’re comfortable with.
QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
John – Um... I think there are a lot of variables involved with that, what kind of mood I’m in, what I’m trying to do, how well whatever it is is coming along... Depends on the day I guess.
QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
John – Neal Schon, Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Adrian Belew, & Robert Fripp. I have to say those are my top five. In no particular order.
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?
John – I think that’s a subjective thing. I, personally, haven’t named my guitar, but I don’t think it’s silly to do so.
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
John – See question #1, LOL.
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
John – I hum a lot. Drum my fingers. I have some Chinese balls that I can’t roll properly. & I grind my teeth to make drum phrases in my head that no one else can hear. O_o
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
John – Eeesh... a week? Maybe 14. I can’t say I’d like to play more than that because, well, I’m lazy & unorganized.
QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
John – Right now I’m using these picks called “COOL,” they have this gritty spot on them so they don’t slide around in your fingers. They’re 0.8 mm. I tend to use heavier picks, I like ‘em sturdy.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
John – Well, I had .011s on recently because I thought I should try to strengthen my fingers. But then I went to .009s. Lighter is just easier & if I use those, I don’t need strong fingers. :D
QRD – How often do you change strings?
John – When the crud is so thick the .009s look like .011s. LOL.
QRD – How often do you break strings?
John – Hardly ever anymore. Guess I’m not as aggressive as I used to be.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
John – Strumming hand. I play right handed, but sometimes want to try learning lefty because, sometimes I feel my strumming hand would do better on the fretboard. It effects my style in that I don’t do a lot of fretboard gymnastics.
QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?
John – I usually do it myself. Replacing any guts or anything I would probably have someone else do. I lack soldering skills.
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
John – Mostly standard. Sometimes drop D or C. Every once in awhile I’ll switch to something different just to see what comes up. I love open tunings. I have a list of some different tunings that I’ll whip out occasionally.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
John – Hmmm... Can’t read or write music. I’m a musical illiterate. I’ve had a few lessons that taught me some basic chords, but other than that it’s all by ear.
QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
John – As high as the strap allows. I haven’t played standing up in eons & I’m usually hunched over anyway so, I keep it in the hunchback position.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
John – I hold my pick incorrectly. Middle & first fingertips & thumbtip... eesh.
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?
John – I’ve heard that you can go anywhere from the piano, but no experience with that myself. Makes sense though.
QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
John – Fingerpicking, Sweep picking, flamenco, classical... pretty much all of them. LOL.
QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?
John – Trick...? Not sure I know any tricks. Maybe two-handed tapping, but I don’t normally do that in my own stuff.
QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
John – I loves mah e-Bow! Capo has been inspiring also. I’ve tried to mess around with the slide, but I suck.
QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?
John – 8 finger playing, that acoustic slapping style of playing, ala Michael Hedges “Ritual Dance”...
QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
John – Yes. A few from one guy that taught me basic chords & a few from another guy that taught me a few songs. FREEBIRD! :D
QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?
John – Play what you want. Be yourself & don’t be ashamed to suck. I know some guitarists who are technically phenomenal, but couldn’t come up with anything original if you tied a weasel to their face.
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
John – Smoke a LOT of weed....
QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?
John – I think they’re great! I don’t use it much myself. I love what Steve Vai can do with it.
QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?
John – At least once a day, if I’m home alone. :D
QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?
John – Rhythm is the foundation, Lead is the bells & whistles. I am sometimes more impressed with rhythm players. I saw this guy once playing rhythm for some bar band, he was finger picking all night long & his playing was just incredible.
QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
John – LOL, I was actually in that band once. I was playing bass (not too shabbily I might add) & this guy playing guitar (rhythm & lead) & singing was a really great musician, but his friend, the drummer, was terrible. Couldn’t keep a steady beat to save his life. THAT was kind of hard to ignore from being in the band. But we had fun & the crowds didn’t seem to mind much (being drunk helped I’m sure). Personally, I can overlook the rest of the band if the guitarist knows what he’s doing.
QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?
John – B.B. King’s Lucille. Because it’s an awesomely slick guitar.
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
John – Steve Vai. To me, he just has the most recognizable & expressive voice on the guitar.
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
John – At www.tapegerm.com. That’s where pretty much all my music is.
QRD – Anything else?
John – Um... well, advice-wise, I guess
I would say be yourself & you don’t have to be perfect to be a good
musician, just be able to get your point across. & as long as you’re
happy with it, that’s all that matters.