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QRD #53 - Guitarist Interview Series V
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Guitarist Interviews:
Jason Handelsman
Andras Fekete 
Phil Mitchell
Jessica Bailiff 
Jason Lamoreaux
Ben Weyerhaeuser
Greg & Kyrsten Magnuson
Brandon Helms
Matt Guess 
Rachel Staggs
Jun Minowa 
Michael Cosma 
Cheryl Hall
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Michael Cosma
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Michael Cosma
Guitarist Interview with Michael A. Cosma of Anixas
October 2011
Michael Cosma
Name: Michael A. Cosma
Bands: Anixas, XoloStar Warrior, Black Acid Development, Aspect (Aspect of a Turtle)
Websites: mudballrecords.com
Listen to “Udinbak”

QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?

Michael – It was a sunburst Les Paul copy from Sears. Sold or traded it long ago.

QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?

Michael – Peavey Electric, ZoomG1NXext, Squire Champ 15.

QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig - guitar, amplifier, or effects?

Michael – Guitar & effects.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Michael – The Squire Champ 15 - just has a nice sound to it.

QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?

Michael – Peavey Raptor Plus EXP - the feel & sound of this guitar in my hands is just perfection.

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

Michael – I have played many guitars over the years & own several, but as I stated this Peavey for me personally is perfect. Not only does it play & sound good it has a nice blue finish & you can see the wood grain through it so it looks beautiful as well. This is my signature guitar, there is nothing I would change or want different.

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

Michael – Once again, I have used many effects in my time on earth. I played through this ART effects rack one time at a friends house that just blew me away. I have had several effect pedals (singles) & multi-effects boards mostly Digitech on the multi. However, I had always wondered what these Zoom effects sounded like so one day I broke down & ordered the ZoomG1Next multi-effect pedal & wow was I blown away when I plugged into this thing. For my guitar effects nothing sounds better & I would not change one thing on it. It is simple to use & sounds incredible.

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Michael – 8.

QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?

Michael – I just have to like the look & feel of it.

QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?

Michael – Prices vary, but it is what you like & what is comfortable for you to play. I have had guitars from $25 to $1000, but my personal favorites have all been in the hundreds.

QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?

Michael – I have no idea how to adjust a truss rod or set a bridge properly, but I learned a different little trick many years ago. I usually take the neck off & put one or two very thin pieces of cardboard under the neck & then screw the neck back on. This greatly improves the string action. I have also changed out pickguards for custom ones & one time covered an entire guitar body with stickers.

QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?

Michael – Not much, I tend to be more spontaneous.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Michael – No.

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

Michael – I play with the pickup selector a lot.

QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?

Michael – Fender Mustang.

QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?

Michael – The string action. Many cheap first guitars have terrible action & this can discourage the player.

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

Michael – Best is the Peavey & Fender Lead II - worst was some old Teardrop shaped thing, too uncomfortable to hold sitting or standing.

QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?

Michael – I normally just start randomly riffing around some blues scale type positions.

QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?

Michael – 12.

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

Michael – I feel I keep improving & am never as good as I would like to be.

QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?

Michael – I started with drums, dabbled on piano, but then the guitar just seemed to fit better - reason unknown.

QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?

Michael – I think people know what they want to play & they should get that - it does not have to be a guitar.

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

Michael – The guitar is definitely an ally.

QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?

Michael – Steve Vai, Michael Angelo Batio, Yngwie Malmsteen, Jimi Hendrix, Ace Frehley, & Gary Moore

QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?

Michael – Silly to me, I don’t name them. If you call their names do they answer?

QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?

Michael – Fell over in a chair & put a nice crack in the body of a Washburn. It’s black though so it doesn’t show too bad.

QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?

Michael – Have some various instruction DVDs that I use sometimes. I enjoy the Metal Method series.

QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?

Michael – At the moment not too many - usually just if I am doing a recording session.  I don’t really practice much.

QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?

Michael – I like the larger thick ones. I have these ones with an Angel Statue printed on them & they say Clayton, these are my favorites. I like to pick fast & these work great.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Michael – I know the highest one is a 9 & I think the low E is 42 - I don’t change strings too often.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Michael – Not much.

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Michael – It is rare.  When I played out live in metal bands it was more often, I think I played harder due to the excitement.

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

Michael – There are things I would like to do better with both of them, but everything seems to work fine for what I create.

QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?

Michael – The setup is done by me - I have never used a tech & they have always worked just fine.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Michael – Mostly dropped D or standard - like the drop D for metal sound.

QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?

Michael – Tablature for sure as I am not able to read music.

QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?

Michael – On my belly

QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?

Michael – School me, I don’t know.

QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?

Michael – Some say piano.

QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?

Michael – I would love to be able to play that crazy Yngwie stuff or be able to do the crazy fast stuff that Michael Angelo Batio does, but I totally respect their playing & the effort they have put in to be able to do that & know full well that I do not put in the kind of practice time to be able to do as they do.

QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?

Michael – Fast fluid arpeggios.
QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?

Michael – Some high speed tapping.

QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?

Michael – I have a capo, ebow, & slide but rarely use any of them.

QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?

Michael – Arpeggios & just better scale/run combinations

QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?

Michael – Yes, started with classical but that was quick & she switched me to a rock teacher knowing I was bored with her, from that rock teacher I then went to a different one that was a guitar player in a local band. After that I started getting Metal Method & various other self-teaching tools, CDs, tapes, book tape combos, etc. I learned different things from each of them. I attribute most of the best instruction I got to Bill Erskine, who was the guitar player in a band. He showed me the most & helped me to be able to learn songs by ear. He taught me until I could do that myself.

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

Michael – I have taught several people how to play & I like to teach them easy fun stuff that sounds wicked so that right away they can start having fun & sound good. I also show them that you don’t have to be perfect, just close enough so that it sounds right. I also teach them how to make up songs & riffs.

QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?

Michael – Pick fast & bend good.

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?

Michael – Can take or leave them - don’t really use them much.

QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?

Michael – Never.

QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?

Michael – I don’t want to offend anyone, but I don’t have much use for a rhythm guitarist. If you have gone that far, then learn to play lead as well. I grew up listening to the TWIN guitars of bands like Judas Priest. I guess the rhythm thing works for bands like AC/DC - I don’t know - it would still be cool if Angus & Malcolm were trading off solos.

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

Michael – This happens a lot. Actually I think a lot of the Yngwie stuff is crap as far as the vocals & the songs, but then you have killer guitar. I guess that’s why you have to be a guitar player to appreciate some of this stuff because you can overlook some of that & still enjoy it.

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

Michael – I like some of those guitars that Steve Vai plays with the seven strings & they just look so cool too - also any of the Yngwie guitars with the scalloped neck would be awesome - I played one once that had a partially scalloped neck & it was insane. The action was such that you just barely touched it.

QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?

Michael – Hands down Steve Vai is the master. He has the musicality, the ability, the strangeness, & the innovation all in one package.
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Michael – There is quite a bit of guitar work on the Aspect CDs that can be listened to or downloaded at this link: last.fm/music/Aspect+of+a+Turtle/+albums  & more can be found at mudballrecords.com.

QRD – Anything else?

Michael – Wow, I think you covered it all.