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QRD #43 - Guitarist Series Part III
about this issue
Guitarist Interviews with:
Jon DeRosa of Aarktica
Brian McKenzie
Invisible Elephant
Wim Lecluyse of Circle Bros
Nick Reinhart of Tera Melos
Matt Stevens
Dan Cohoon of Moral Crayfish
Clayton James Mick
John Trubee
Agata of Melt-Banana
Bones Denault of Shady Lady
Eric Hausmann
PD Wilder of Hotel Hotel
Ryan Wasterlain
Miguel Baptista Benedict
Jim Dennis of Random FX
Jon Attwood of Yellow6
Travis Kotler of Pineal Ventana
Brian Elyo of mobdividual
Joe Morgan
Bill Horist
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Guitarist Interview with John Trubee
August 2010

Name: John Trubee
Bands: Ugly Janitors of America, Zoogz Rift, Debt of Nature, Lozenge, Nude Women Blistex
Websites: Google my name

QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
John – It was a nylon string acoustic my Mom bought me for $40 from Ferrari’s Music Center in Princeton, NJ in 1970.  It was lost or thrown out after my parents divorced & sold our old family home.  I was long gone by then.

QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
John – 2004 Mexican Sunburst Maple Neck Stratocaster into 2 Dynacomp compressors into “The Weapon” by DigiTech (used infrequently to add a bottom octave) into a Peavey digital effect unit for a cathedral reverb, then into a small Ibanez practice amp. 

QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig ‘ guitar, amplifier, or effects?
John – The guitar, of course. Those compressors boost to sustain the naturally thin, trebly Strat sound which otherwise decays too quickly for my taste.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
John – The Ibanez. I own 2 Ibanez small amps, a Fender Deluxe Reverb, & a bigger Peavey amp.  I will only use the bigger amps when I play live, which is very rarely.

QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
John – The 2004 Mexican Strat. I carried around a 1972 Strat for years & was glued to it forever, but the newer Strat has lower action & a better tone & feel, so I use that more now.

QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?

John – I dunno. I just like to play what I got.

QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
John – Would like to get multiple effects like wah, Leslie effect, & reverb & echo effects.

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

John – Four. The two Strats that I mentioned, a black Telecaster with Maple Fingerboard, & a 12-string acoustic Takamine.
QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

John – Why let the thieves know?

QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
John – Tons of free cash to make my life easier. 

QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
John – How it feels & sounds to me.

QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
John – Supply & demand. Whatever the market demands & supplies. I cannot impose my infantile wishes upon that. 

QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
John – I have so little free time to fuss with things. I am happy to have a few hours on my days off to play guitar. Forget fussing with & fetishing them!  

QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?
John – I play it & use it. If it meets my needs, I buy it.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

John – Nope.
QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?

John – I lock into one, vary the pick-up combos & how I pluck the stings to change the timbre.

QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
John – Mesa Boogie Amp. Les Paul guitar, SG, Rickenbacker electric 12-string.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
John – Good action, good strings. When I bought my first Strat it took a year for a guitar teacher to let me know I had incredibly thick, dull sounding, flatwound strings on it used more for jazz guitars. I promptly put some Ernie Ball Super Slinkies on it & it played much, much better.

QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?

John – I bought a Peavey amp I was stuck with for years as a teenager with no money. It buzzed horribly & had an electrical short problem with it. Also had a crappy tone.

QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
John – I hated those Kustom Transitor amps with that damn padding all over them. They sounded like shit. We stuck with them in a teenage band until we upgraded. 

QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
John – Warm-up exercises of my own invention.

QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
John – 13.

QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?

John – I have not yet achieved it, I have so far to go, & I learn new things every day & am humbled by all I must yet learn.

QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?
John – Because I got into rock music in a big way at 13. Guitar is the main rock instrument. I learned to appreciate other types over music over the years. 

QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?
John – I don’t care either way. People ought to do what makes them happy. I’m not God. 

QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?

John – Ally!  

QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
John – Clapton, Hendrix, Zappa. The biggies. 

QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?
John – If BB King wants to name his guitar Lucille, who am I to tell him he can’t? I can’t anthropomorphize my guitar because I have a hard enough time even anthropomorphizing people! 
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
John – One time (young & stupid) I ignorantly shaved the frets on my Strat with a metal file to get the action lower. It screwed up the harmonics, the action, & certain notes wouldn’t sound or just buzzed. I committed a guitar atrocity! Thankfully I had a pro fix it. 

QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
John – I invent songs by trying different chord patters & melodies against each other. I use the guitar to compose.

QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
John – Long afternoons on my days off. Would prefer 24/7. The reality of earning a living gets in the way. 

QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
John – A small, heavy, teardrop-shaped Jazz style pick made by Fender. I love the pointy tip - let’s me scrape & create harmonics & color the tone with a lot of versatility. I hate & cannot & will not use soft picks. 

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

John – Light to medium light gauge steel strings. 

QRD – How often do you change strings?
John – Whenever they need it. If the sound is dull, I can see the fret grooves in the strings, etc.

QRD – How often do you break strings?
John – Sporadically, mainly the higher ones. 

QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
John – Both do their jobs.

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 am not some rich rock star. I set up all the stuff myself.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
John – Standard tuning. Time does not permit me to experiment with esoteric tunings.

QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
John – Prefer sheet music, just read the notes on the staves plus chord symbols.

QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
John – Medium. I don’t get that slung low crap. How can they play with any proficiency like that?

QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
John – Being more disciplined in learning actual songs to expand my repertoire. I go off on tangents to develop musical ideas all the time.
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?
John – Electric bass. 

QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
John – Flamenco & classical.

QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?
John – Learn to play pedal steel. I have to buy one first!

QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?
John – Well, I call them techniques. Working on a hand tremelo thing.

QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
John – No gadgets, just my hands on the strings.

QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?
John – Learning more obscure chord forms that I rarely use.  

QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
John – I learned the basics from teachers, pointers on practicing, making the pieces musical.

QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?
John – Dunno.

QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
John – Lots of extreme vibratos, hitting the strings hard with a lot of passion - almost overplaying. All of life’s frustrations come out on the guitar. 

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?

John – You mean those electronic tremelos in Fender amps or vibrato arms on guitars? Tremelo on amps has a use; someone show me a vibrato arm on a guitar that doesn’t screw the string intonation & I might consider using it!

QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?
John – Keep on high treble all the time. My high frequencies in my ears are gone, sadly. 

QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?
John – I play both. One of them gets more girls, maybe.

QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
John – Nope. 

QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?

John – Brownie - held captive in that glass case in the museum in Seattle. Because the Layla album blew my mind at age 13. 
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
John – Steve Vai. I also am amazed by Pat Metheny’s mechanical orchestra he connected to his guitar.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
John – I will play live around Santa Rosa & San Francisco (& other locales if anyone will have me) sometime before hell freezes over.

QRD – Anything else?

John – If you want my band for live gigs, dead gigs, & have opportunities & cool stuff I miss by being a self-willed hermit, here’s my e-mail: johntrb09@gmail.com