Interview with Russ Stedman
Name: Russ Stedman
Bands: Mostly solo studio work. Notable live bands included Teenage Slots (1986), Ten Center (1995-1996), The Sneakies (1996-1997), Stickler (1998), Moist Host (2006-2007)
Listen to "Beer Setups"
Listen to "Somerthing's Up"
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
Russ – It was a Les Paul copy made by a company called Lotus. I traded it in for my 2nd guitar.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
Russ – I don’t really use an amplifier anymore, as I don’t play live anymore & I live in an apartment. Most of my playing is done through various plug-ins in Pro Tools.
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig – guitar, amplifier, or effects?
Russ – Well, I guess the guitar is pretty important. The effects can be just as important, however. I don’t feel inspired to play if the right tone isn’t there.
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Russ – The last amplifier I owned was a Marshall JCM 900 half-stack when I used to play in bands. Haven’t owned an amplifier for about 10 years now.
QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
Russ – It has most recently become an LTD Viper 300-FM. It is comfortable & has nice active EMG pickups with great frequency response.
QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Russ – It would be a mid-70s Gibson Les Paul Goldtop Deluxe if I could afford one again.
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Russ – I always liked the original Ibanez Tube Screamer from the 80’s. Very Metal. I also had an imitation Scholz Rockman from the Sears catalog that had a bitchin’ over-the-top distortion sound.
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
Russ – Two. The LTD & a custom built Flying-V.
QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?
Russ – In my apartment, on a stand, or leaned up against the wall.
QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
Russ – A snack machine. But seriously, I don’t take my guitars out of the house anymore, so cases are kind of irrelevant.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
Russ – Something that’s easy for me to play. 24 3/4” scale. Thin neck.
QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
Russ – The Viper was around $600. I think that was pretty fair.
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
Russ – Changing strings is about the extent of my upgrading.
QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?
Russ – Long enough hopefully.
QRD – Do you change your rig around often?
Russ – I gots no “rig”, so no.
QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Russ – I like all kinds of crazy shit, but most of it involves lots & lots of distortion.
QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Russ – The aforementioned Les Paul. I would also dig having my 2nd guitar back which was a Westone Concord III... but I’d be willing to bet I wouldn’t play it much.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
Russ – Low action.
QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?
Russ – Best - The aforementioned Les Paul that left me in a time of dire financial straits. Worst - Some sort of Epiphone with a Floyd Rose.
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Russ – The ever-elusive skinny-necked Les Paul. I like Marshall amps. I don’t care for 99.9% of strats or anything pointy with skulls. Bolt-on necks bite. Amps with no master volume are right out. Single-coil pickups are wimpy.
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
Russ – Probably just some random wanking.
QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Russ – Thirteen.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?
Russ – Probably 17 or 18.
QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?
Russ – Because KISS LOVES YOU, ROCK & ROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?
Russ – No. More people should play cello or bassoon. I wish I would have learned to sight-read when I was a kid.
QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
Russ – Depends on the music.
QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Russ – Ace Frehley, Bob “1” Mothersbaugh, Eric Clapton (pre-1970 - really anything after Cream is useless to me), Jimmy Page, Frank Zappa, Dave Gilmore, Robert Fripp, Billy Gibbons, Prince, Steve Vai (Pre-1990 - before the guitar-god albums).
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?
Russ – Completely daft.
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
Russ – Do you mean by accident or on purpose? Dropped my Westone down a small flight of concrete stairs once but the worst that happened to it was a little chunk out of the back of the neck. On purpose I once attempted to fuse an acoustic guitar & a bass into a new instrument which I dubbed “The Gabajar”. That did some pretty serious damage, let me tell you.
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
Russ – What else is there?
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
Russ – Sometimes I do not play at all in a week. It would be nice if I could find an hour a day, but it rarely works out.
QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
Russ – Dunlop. The yellow ones. They’re nice.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Russ – Ernie Ball 08-38. Never understood why people want to torture themselves with anything heavier.
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Russ – Whenever it seems pertinent.
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Russ – Rarely. Usually I have decided to change them before they break.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Russ – I think they’re about equal... at a skill level I would call “Medium-Rare”. I don’t try to play fast anymore because I don’t have the chops for it or the time to develop them.
QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?
Russ – It stays pretty set-up on its own in its comfy indoor home.
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Russ – Standard tuning down 1/2 step because that’s how KISS did it.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Russ – I don’t write down guitar ideas, therefore the question is moot.
QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
Russ – Gut-level, which can be tricky with a substantial gut.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Russ – Repeating familiar patterns.
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?
Russ – I find it much easier to visualize & build chords on a keyboard. Not sure if that really helps guitar playing or not.
QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
Russ – Classical.
QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?
Russ – Making anything Lydian or Locrian sound believable.
QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?
Russ – Creating a fake wang-bar sound by bending the note with your right hand behind where you have it fretted with the left.
QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
Russ – I had an Ebow for a while... it got boring pretty quickly.
QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?
Russ – More weird chords.
QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Russ – I took guitar lessons from a couple people very early on. I learned that it’s mostly best to just teach yourself.
QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?
Russ – Play hard, play fair, nobody hurt.
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Russ – Practice a whole bunch for about 5 years & then just slack the rest off.
QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?
Russ – I would love the Floyd Rose if it came with a personal guitar technician to be at your beck & call 24/7. Too annoying to deal with maintenance-wise.
QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?
Russ – Only if I want to sound like Santana, which isn’t very bloody often.
QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?
Russ – Size of face in album artwork.
QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Russ – No.
QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?
Russ – I know I just said Strats suck (which they do), but it would be cool to have that blondish Strat that Frank Zappa played on the ‘84 tour... but it has a Floyd Rose so there would have to be a personal guitar tech that came with it.
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
Russ – Mike Keneally. He plays like a mother fucker & writes funny & interesting songs.
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
Russ – All of my 80+ releases since 1982 are available for free download at www.russstedman.com
QRD – Anything else?
Russ – Every Good Boy Does Fine.