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QRD #42 - Guitarist Series
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Guitarist Interviews with:
Ashkelon Sain
Zac Keiller
Eric Muhs
Patrick Vega
Russ Stedman
Bret Hart
Rick Ray
John William Gordon
Evan Peta
Evgeny Zheyda
Dave Halverson
Charles Rice Goff III
Calvin Johnson
Kim Chee
John G Sosnowski
Michael Walton
Annelies Monseré
Eric Quach
Robert Poss
Sarah June
Ted Johnson
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Guitarist Interview with John G Sosnowski 
July 2010

Name: John G Sosnowski
Bands: Cystem, Broca’s Area
Websites: www.tapegerm.com
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.