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QRD #42 - Guitarist Series
about this issue
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 Russ Stedman 
July 2010

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)
Websites: www.russstedman.com
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?


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.