with Greg Kozlowski
Name: Greg Kozlowski
Bands: Architectural Metaphor, Secret Saucer, Antrilon, Nebula Trip
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
Greg – My first guitar was a cheapo, Japanese, no name guitar that I bought for $35 at a flea market on campus when I was going to UMASS, Amherst, MA. I ended up selling it to one of my college roommates for $35.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
Greg – Back in the 1990’s, when playing & gigging with Architectural Metaphor, I would plug into a lot of effects, even before it became fashionable like nowadays. My effects set up is always changing but here is a representative listing:
Boss Octave or vintage Mutron Octavider
Vintage Ibanez envelope filter or other vintage envelope follower
Vintage Phase 90 or 45 or other vintage phase shifter
Vintage Thomas Organ modified Crybaby wah-wah
Vintage Ibanez tube screamer TS-9 or TS-808
Fuzz Face or Fuzz Face clone
Line 6 DL-4 delay or Korg SDD3000 or Ibanez HD1000
Dynachord Leslie simulator (sometimes)
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig - guitar, amplifier, or effects?
Greg – Definitely effects!
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Greg – I am in a transition right now. Back when I did most of my recordings with Architectural Metaphor, I was using a transistor, solid state amp, the Roland Jazz Chorus 77. I got some grungy low fi sounds out of an amp renown for being a really clean amp. Last several years though, I have been exploring vintage tubes amp & have really been focusing on getting really good tones. Not just one good tone, but many. When I switched over to tube amps, I really liked a couple of vintage Sound City 120 amps. They sound great with practically all pedals. Since then, I bought a few other vintage tube amps, a Legend, an Orange (a new & a vintage one), & Marshall. Due to numerous injuries or medical problems, I have been unable to gig much, so I am not sure which tube amp I will settle on. I might stick to gigging with the Sound Cities & keeping the Marshall or the Orange amps for recording. The Orange amps give a really crazy, full on distortion, but they don’t seem to work well with pedals, like phasers.
QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
Greg – My main guitar is an Ovation Strat copy that has a Kahler tremolo that you can dive bomb so low the strings hit the pickups. I’ve tried doing that with my vintage reissue Strat, but after awhile the whammy bars would break off. Plus the Kahler on the Ovation keeps the strings in tune pretty well. It has three single coil pickups… Although I recently picked up a Brian May guitar that has a great whammy bar that stays in tune & pickups that you can select whether they are in phase or out of phase with each other. This opens up a whole new palette of tones for me to choose. These two guitars might be my main gigging guitars.
QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Greg – First off, my signature guitar would have to look totally unique or cool in shape. Even though I play Strat style guitars, I am completely bored with their shape. I’m tired of the classics & their shapes. I love looking at the Danelectro or Airline guitars that have the cool shapes. My guitar would have 3 or 4 pickups that could switch between single coil & humbucker, plus be able to be put in phase or out of phase with each other, like the Brian May. It would also have to have the ability to select all pick up configurations including having all 3 or 4 pickups on. The Brian May is very close except it has single coil pickups, not splitable humbuckers. It would have to have a whammy bar similar to the Kahler in performance, maybe just go with a Kahler since I know & like their performance. The finish on the guitar would have to be something very unusual: a bright 1970s color, or 1970s type psychedelic artwork, or some unusual finish. Something interesting to look at.
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Greg – I never really thought of that. I always wished I could meet someone who builds pedals so that we could work together. I do have a few ideas for variations on pedals, but I am not sure if I would want to keep the pedals for myself or try to mass produce & make money. I understand the theory of how some effects work & I think of ways to try to get them to sound differently. One specific example is phase shifters. I think of ways to do things differently on the theoretical level, but I do not know if what I dream up is even possible with electronics or if it would even sound that different if it were built. I get a little annoyed with all these new boutique pedal manufacturers who make their own version of a phase shifter or a flanger. Basically they all sound the same, but I want a phaser that has a radically different sound. I have too many favorite pedals to choose one to be a signature pedal.
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
Greg – Fifteen electrics & 3 acoustics. Most are cheapies under $400. I could get rid of a few, but I do have many specialty guitars like an electric sitar, fretless guitar, 12 string doubleneck, baritone guitar, a peewee or mini guitar, & then a couple that look cool, but don’t really sound that different.
QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?
Greg – In the doghouse behind my house! No, just kidding. In my last apartment, I stored them anywhere I could find space: kitchen closet, underneath beds, in my music room. I store my guitars in their cases & in rooms that do not drop below 50 F. Definitely not in a musty basement.
QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
Greg – A better way to hold the guitar more securely in place inside the case. With the hardshell cases I have, I have damaged my Ovation because it moves around a lot & my real Strat moves around inside the case also.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
Greg – I look for features that make it unique & unlike guitars that most other guitar players use: unusual pickups, unusual pickup configuration, in/out of phase options, really good whammy bar that keeps strings in tune, 12 string, unusual body shape.
QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
Greg – I think a good, brand new electric guitar should cost between $500 to 900, but then again, I have never played a Les Paul or Paul Reed Smith.
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
Greg – No, I do not upgrade or modify my guitars.
QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?
Greg – I do not research pieces of equipment since music is all a matter of opinion, I do not take other people’s opinions blindly. I make my own decisions on what I like or do not like. I can spend hours sometimes trying out equipment so that I can fully ascertain almost all options that are available on a piece of equipment, usually effects. Although, most times I find that even though I can spend a lot of time trying out a piece of equipment, there is nothing like taking it home, trying it out with all of my own equipment, & seeing how it interacts with all or most of my other equipment. I cannot really get an accurate idea of whether I like a piece of equipment by playing it for 30 minutes in a music store or some dudes house (buying used), so my basic policy is, if I think the piece is cool, I will buy it & try it at home. If I really hate it, I will resell it. If the piece is OK, I probably will hang onto it since “I might not be ready to appreciate it yet.” Meaning that I might think it’s OK now, but maybe in 5 years I will love it.
QRD – Do you change your rig around often?
Greg – I do not change amps that much although in the last couple of years I have been really focusing on exploring different amps. I am constantly changing my effects pedals since I have so many & want to explore their capabilities. I do not change guitars that much. I am very happy with what I have. I have 4 guitars for gigging & then the others are unusual items to use for recording.
QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Greg – A little bit of both. There is one particular tone that I have & like very much, but I also like to use different fuzz pedals. In the future as I experiment with different tube amps, I will hopefully get some really great fuzz tones. As I think about it more, for my rhythm tone I have found a great tone & have locked into it, but for distorted & fuzzed out lead lines or solos, I experiment with different pedals to get different tones. I think the variety of tones makes the music more interesting for the listener. These comments are for clean tone, overdrive, & fuzz tones. I use many pedals, phasers, wah-wahs, etc, to add to that basic tone.
QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Greg – For guitars, someday I would like to own a Les Paul, an SG, a Rickenbacher, an old 60s Vox Teardrop or Phantom, those funky shaped ones.
For amps, maybe a 60s Marshall Plexi amp head & a late 70s Marshall master volume head.
For effects, maybe a Jax Vibrachorus or a Guild Rotoverb, but these are really just duplicates of a Univibe & a Leslie simulator, respectively. Maybe some of the Sola Sound or Coloursound overdrives, distortions or boosters. Also, someday I would like to play or purchase a Mutron Flanger. I have heard that they are supposed to be fantastic although currently I am not into flangers.
I have amassed a pretty good collection of guitars, amps, & effects & am very happy & appreciative of what I own. I have some really fantastic gear!
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
Greg – I think most guitars come with enough features. Only option not normally there is the whammy bar, but a person does not need that on his/her first guitar.
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Greg – For effects pedals, I don’t really like DOD, Digitech, Aria, or Arion. I find that the effects are weak. Boss pedals are workhorses & very dependable & reliable, but I think there sounds are very vanilla or generic. I really like vintage Pearl & Yamaha pedals from the late 70s/early 80s. I think they are very under rated, especially the Yamahas. They might not look that cool, but some sound really cool. I really like the Ibanez pedals from the TS series or earlier.
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
Greg – Nothing in particular.
QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Greg – Around 20 or 21.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?
Greg – I think within the last 7 years.
QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?
Greg – I think it is OK. I first learned to play piano, which was supposed to be a basis for other instruments. I think guitar is not bad since you can/must learn chords & you can learn single note melody lines, like the piano.
QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
Greg – I see it as an ally. Echoing what I just said above, I can create chords & can create single note melodies. To create a song, I can just fiddle around or jam on chords until I stumble on something that I think sounds cool. Then keep working on the chords & hammer it into the shape of a song. In addition, when just jamming, I can stumble on a single note melody or riff, that can then be hammered into the shape of a song.
QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Greg – David Gilmour, Jeff Beck, Santana, Joe Satriani, Manual Gottsching, Robin Trower. My current favorite guitarists are: Gilmour, Jeff Beck, Gottsching, Jimi Hendrix, Tommy Bolin, Leslie West, Robert Fripp, Robin Trower, Frank Marino (once you throw out the Hendrix rip off songs & the blues songs), Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, Andy Latimer, Gary Moore(1970s hardrock & fusion), Jan Hammer (I love when he tries to imitate the guitar! Too bad he never recorded many LP’s that really showcased it & had good tunes), Terje Rypdal, Steve Tibbetts, Stephen Micus, Lupo from Grobschnitt, & then there are bands that I love & I am not sure really whether it’s just the guitarist or the whole ensemble, for bands like: Amon Duul II, Trad Gras Och Stenar, Bloodrock, Pulsar, Garybaldi. Guitarists that I used to like but don’t listen to anymore: Santana, Steve Vai, Satriani, Ed Wynne, Eric Johnson, David Torn, Alan Holdsworth.
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?
Greg – I have no opinion on that. I do not do that with my guitars. I think because of my “political correctness” training in the 80s, somehow I think that it’s sexist or degrading to women.
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
Greg – The most damage is probably the case damage to my Ovation because of gigging & the guitar moving around in the case or my 57 reissue Strat that I broke the whammy bars on…. Although, here’s a story of the damage I almost did. One day when I was loading my gear into my car the morning of a gig. The tweed case for the 57 reissue is kinda lousy in that the case does not stand up on its side by itself very well, so I leaned it up against my car near the rear tire. I loaded all my other stuff, guitars, amp, effects & then I drove off on my way to work at 7 am. About 20 minutes later on the highway, I remembered that I forgot to pack my Strat into my car! Freaking out, I drove back to see if my guitar was still there, stolen, or even worse, driven over by my car!! Luckily, the guitar was still there & intact! Whew!!
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
Greg – I do not practice anything in particular. I just play. Since the style of music I play is very improvisational, I just play or improvise. That helps improve my improvisational abilities.
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
Greg – Right now, due to an injury & I am not playing too much.
QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
Greg – I use hard picks, Pik boys, I think. Also, I use the picks that have the textured faces. The texture helps grip when your hands are sweaty.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Greg – I use 0.11.
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Greg – I only change strings when they break. I like a much warmer sound & do not like the bright sound of new strings.
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Greg – Actually, somewhat often, once every month or two. It is possible that the frequent string breakage might be due to some minor flaws in my guitars that might need adjustment if I had a pro guitar tech.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Greg – Hmmmm. I guess maybe my fretting hand since I play so much lead guitar & since I am not a rock solid rhythm player. In addition, when writing chords for songs, I have to force myself to use a different strumming style since I fall into the same strumming patterns. Also, when practicing around at home, I enjoy noodling around playing one note melodies rather than playing chords & trying to write songs.
QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?
Greg – Almost always I set it up myself. Usually when I buy a guitar it is set up to the way I like it (maybe that’s why I bought it, because it felt right) & I only make small changes. The few times I did take my guitar to a tech, he fiddled with the action & I did not like it. It seems that local guitar techs like to make the action as low as possible & still have it play great all over the neck. The reason I do not like that is, yes, maybe that is great & helps you play faster, but when you walk into a guitar store or play a friend’s guitar that has medium or high action, you can’t play as well & you look like an idiot. If you do that in a store while trying to decide whether to buy a guitar, you can’t tell if it’s really the guitar that is no good or the action is too high for you. I’ve read a lot about guitars & stuff & understand the basic principles on how to adjust the guitar… although that truss rod, I don’t mess with that. I wish I knew someone who really understood how they work or knew a lot about them.
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Greg – I use standard tunings. As I have mentioned, I am mostly a lead player. I know every note on the fret board; I know every note I play & whether it’s in the key signature of the song. I know when I am playing a mistake versus when a note is “out.” I do not play guitar like most guitarists who play “patterns.” So for me to use different tunings, I would not know what I was playing, or I would have to relearn the notes on the fret board. I have a few friends who use different tunings & I have played chords when the guitar was incorrectly tuned & cool things can happen using different tunings. I kind of think it’s cheating by using different tunings to come up with cool chord progressions & thus, force myself to work harder to come up with something interesting using standard tunings. Having said all that though, in recent years I have thought about experimenting with different tunings, but I think I would use them only in the studio to record a song or if playing live, would only use them if I was playing rhythm guitar & had a dedicated guitar just for that tuning.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Greg – Even though I can read sheet music, I use my own hybrid notation, although it is not very good since when I look at an unused idea years later, I have no idea what the idea was. Nowadays I record every idea. That way you get notes, rhythms, chord voicing, tempo, etc.
QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
Greg – Probably round mid length, not too high, not too low.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Greg – I never really thought about that. The only thing I can think of, which is not really a bad habit, is playing melodies that start with an interval of a fifth, or playing melodies that always ascend.
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?
Greg – I am not sure on this. Maybe piano because on piano you learn chords, different voicings of chords, & how to play melodies.
QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
Greg – Fingerpicking.
QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?
Greg – To play faster. Also, maybe to play the wah-wah pedal better.
QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?
Greg – Putting chalk on your fingers when gigging or playing in the heat so your sweaty fingers won’t slide around. I caught this from Jeff Beck. Seems like a great idea although I have not tried it yet to see how it works since I am not gigging that much these days.
QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
Greg – The ebow & the slide.
QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Greg – No, I never took guitar lessons.
QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?
Greg – Don’t play patterns. Listen to what you are playing & play melodies you like. If you can’t tell if you like what you’re playing, slow down & listen to what you are playing.
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Greg – I don’t know about that one; maybe play melodically.
QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?
Greg – I love them! I like the Kahler that is on my Ovation & I like the basic ones that are on Strats. I think I changed the nut on my Strat to graphite & the tremolo works well & stays in tune well. I don’t think I could play a guitar without one. A tremolo makes my playing more interesting.
QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?
Greg – Very little.
QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?
Greg – I played in a band for a long time that was none of the above mentioned bands. The rhythm guitar player wrote the songs & I was JUST the lead guitar player. I think of the rhythm player as part of the bulk of the song structure or some would say the rhythm section. Without them, the song would sound empty or incomplete. I think of the lead guitar as another vocalist who performs the melodies of the song. The lead guitar player needs to know when to shut up or leave some space. When the singer is singing, the lead needs to be quiet. When the vocals are gone, the lead can play melodies that compliment, echo, or are completely different than the singer’s. When improvising & jamming, whether it’s on one chord or a chord progression, the rhythm guitarist needs to explore different chord voicings, rhythms, & strumming patterns. This helps make the jam more interesting. So in that sense, even the rhythm player needs to improvise along with all the other players. Most guitarists like to play both rhythm & lead & switch between the two. I enjoy both also, but I also enjoy playing strict lead guitar when there is another person there to play rhythm.
QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Greg – Yes. I find myself listening nowadays to more & more primitive, noisey type of music so if the drums or guitar or bass is not that good, I don’t care as long as the entire piece of music moves me in some way.
QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?
Greg – I never really thought about that so much…. I guess the first guitar that comes to mind would be Gilmour’s black Strat (even though I don’t have that book & know ALL the details of it) just because I loved his playing so much, but thinking about it more, by that time, around The Wall, his tone settled down into one general sound. Thinking further, it might be cool to have Clapton’s 60s SG that had the cool paint job… or maybe Ace Frehley’s cool lightshow guitar. These would both be because they look cool, I don’t know how they played. This makes me think about that interview/article with Ted Nugent where he supposedly got to play Eddie Van Halen’s guitar through his rig & guess what? It sounded just like Ted Nugent! So, to me, it’s all in the fingers & mind of the player. In the end, I guess I would have to go with owning one of Hendrix’s intact Strats just because it was Hendrix’s. Oh, & I would play it, I would not just hang it on the wall or hide it in a safe. Hendrix may not be my absolute number one guitarist, but he had it all: he was one of the pioneers & he was innovative. He used & experimented with several effects whether they be foot pedals or studio effects (tape flanging, backwards, harmonizing/tape speed manipulation). He was a showman & a technical great. Some of the bootleg studio recordings before he died showed he was going off into all sorts of other musical directions, not just a one trick pony. The only thing he didn’t have in his music was space rock synthesizers!
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
Greg – I really don’t listen to any modern music. (Everyone’s guitar tones are too heavy metal, crunchy for me) I guess I would say Steve Vai since he is so technically brilliant. That guy can play ANYTHING!
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
Greg – I am very pleased with the guitar work on Architectural Metaphor’s newest CD, Everything You Know is Wrong, & Secret Saucer’s first two CDs, Element 115 & Second Sighting. There are many great moments on almost all Architectural Metaphor CDs, but there are also lots of mistakes too on the older CDs. There’s no guitar playing on the Antrilon CD, but that will come in a few years. Secret Saucer CDs can be found on CDBaby.com & Architectural Metaphor CDs can be obtained from the website or hopefully soon on CDBaby.com
QRD – Anything else?
Greg – Being a musician I hate: promoting my bands, doing internet stuff like Facebook or MySpace, doing computer stuff, mixing my music, laboring over writing a song & crafting it into a perfect song by myself, parts of the recording process,.
Things I love: performing live, jamming with people, & playing by myself. I just love playing the guitar. Period.