About The Torch: A monthly series, The Torch aims to help musicians of all ages and talent levels learn more about their respective instruments. Each issue features band members from around the world discussing their craft. They provide our readers with advice and insight towards their person experiences, as well as talking about the tool of their livelihood. Whether you’re an aspiring musician, beginner, fan, or expert, there’s something here for everyone. I truly believe it takes one generation to inspire another. With each issue, I hope we can motivate more and more readers to become the forces they admire.
Written & Produced by Meryl DeWitt | Edited by Allie Beth | Photos by Meryl DeWitt, Lexii Love, Riot Color Photography
Next to the lead singer, I think the number one role kids aspire to be when they grow up is a guitarist. It’s hard to miss a good shedder! I thought it was only appropriate to kick off this series not only with the show-stealers themselves, but more specifically with some of my favorite guitarists. Today we feature interviews with Zave Demonte of Kerbera, BK Reckless of Skiver, and London Mckuffey of Farewell, My Love.
Meryl DeWitt: How old were you when you got your first guitar? What was your first guitar?
London Mckuffey: I was nine years old and my parents got me a nylon string Hohner classical guitar for me.
Zave Demonte: I think I was 13. My dad is a guitarist too, so I played on his guitars for the first year. He saw how dedicated I was to playing so he got me a guitar for Christmas. It was a J&D Brothers Deluxe model. Looks like a classic Gibson Les Paul.
BK Reckless: If I remember correctly, I was 13 years old when I received my first guitar. It was a Fender Starcaster from Costco (Basically, it was a starter kit Strat)
Meryl: For anyone wanting to learn, what would you suggest as a starter guitar?
BK: It's all up to the guitar player in terms of preferences. I would definitely recommend something that is affordable. Anywhere from starter packs to affordable brand guitars such as Epiphone or Squier.
London: There is the theory that all players should start on acoustic or classical to build a proper background. I don't subscribe to this mentality myself, because if you aren't excited about what you're playing, you'll give up, especially in the early stages. If you want to start with electric, go for it! If you're starting out and on a budget, I'd suggest Epiphone or Schecter. Those are the best quality-for-price instruments I've played in my experience.
Zave: I play Schecter guitars because they have really great guitars that plays great, looks great, yet still being price worthy. They have a sub-brand called "SGR" which has cheaper guitars that are perfect for starters.
Meryl: Through trial and error in your career, is there any of your mistakes you'd warn young guitarists to be cautious of?
BK: In specifics, accept that you will make mistakes, use a metronome, be sure learn your scales and theory, take things slow when you're first learning them, and to practice at a good pace. Greatness doesn't happen overnight. In terms of the overall progress and the journey itself, I highly recommend viewing the journey of learning the guitar to progress of professional athletes. You see the amount of time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears they put into mastering their craft for their sport, and comparatively, its virtually no different with guitar (or any other musical instrument.)
London: Speed isn't everything, practice with a metronome, and be very mindful of your tone.
Zave: 1. Play to a metronome when practicing. It makes you understand
timing and will make you become faster and tighter.
2. Relax your muscles while playing. If you stay too strained and tense you won't ever reach top speed (even if you think so) and will eventually hurt yourself. If you learn to play like that you will have a hard time de-learning it, believe me, I know. In worst case scenarios you can get an infection in the arm. So... Relax, kids!
3. Don't get signature guitars unless you can afford or already have a standard guitar first. I love my signature Avenged Sevenfold guitars, but when I jumped on the band I didn't have any other guitars so I had to borrow from friends and quickly get other ones.
Meryl: What’s the biggest stage nightmare you've ever had?
Zave: Thankfully, nothing of nightmare material has happened with Kerbera, but at the most recent gig, Seike managed to turn down the volume knob on my distortion pedal right before the solo in Lipstick Tonic... My audio disappeared and the solo couldn't be heard. I didn't notice what was wrong until after the solo was done!
BK: In my previous band, I went off stage with my other guitar player to play in the crowd. The moment I hopped off the stage, my guitar got unplugged. There was at least 10 really awkward seconds of no leads.
London: On my first tour, in Phoenix, I broke my high E string literally seconds before going into the solo for our closing song, Just Another Soul. From what I remember, and from the video of it I saw after the show, I did a particularly good job salvaging the solo on the spot, but it was still very stressful in the moment! I had a lot of issues breaking strings that tour.
Meryl: What is your current equipment setup for playing live?
BK: My guitars are a B.C Rich Mockingbird Pro X (Tuned in Drop C#) and a modified Epiphone Les Paul as my backup. The guitars run through a Blackstar ID 100TVP head through a B-52 LS-412.
Zave: Schecter guitars, preferably loaded with a Sustainiac and a Floyd Rose. My pedalboard contains the unrivaled Strymon BigSky and Timeline, the Suhr Riot, Bogner Ecstasy Blue, Digitech Whammy DT and several TC Electronic pedals.
London: My 1999 Gibson Les Paul Standard, Shure wireless, Boss tuning pedal, ISP Technologies Decimator Noise Reduction Pedal, Peavey 6505+ head, Krank cabinet. Lately I've been using a Fulltone OCD Overdrive Pedal though, and that will definitely be working full time next tour.
Meryl: Is your studio setup any different? If so, what is it?
Zave: We just finished recording our new album and I used the gear I previously mentioned and a Kemper Amp. That Kemper played and sounded like a dream. I definitely have to get myself one of those.
Meryl: What’s the best guitar you've ever owned?
London: My 1999 Gibson Les Paul Standard! Everything I've ever wanted in a guitar, with such high build quality.
Zave: The Schecter Synyster Custom S. For better or for worse, it has set my standards way too high. It has everything I look for in a guitar. Looks, playability, feel, 24 frets, a Floyd Rose, a Sustainiac and a coil tap. The Seymour Duncan Invaders are sick too.
BK: Currently, it is my B.C Rich Mockingbird Pro X. It has a very quality build, good tone, plays very well, and feels really good.
Meryl: What’s your dream guitar to own one day? (Custom, collectors, ect)
BK: It's a huge dream and goal of mine to have my very own custom model (I even mapped out my own specs!) In terms of collecting I have a lot of guitars in mind. The list would go on. I guess a guitar collecting endeavor that would stand out is that I would love to get my hands on a semi-hollow guitar like a Gibson Memphis ES 175 or a Gretsch Black Falcon
Zave: A custom Zave guitar is a dream of course. I have a few ideas, but I'm not at that stage yet. And as an Avenged Sevenfold collector, I'd really like the classic white and gold Schecter Synyster Custom and also the 2007/2008 Schecter ZV Special.
London: I'd love to get a 1977 Gibson Les Paul Custom, just like the one borrowed for about a month when I was 14. Playing such a amazing instrument lit a fire inside me to really dedicate myself to the craft. It's certainly a personal goal to actually own a guitar as close to that one as possible for myself. I love Les Pauls, I love vintage guitars, and I love players. I'm not terribly specific, so anything within those boundaries.
Meryl: What’s the most extreme way a guitar of yours has met her fate? (Ex: smashing on stage getting stolen, being set on fire…)
BK: That has never happened to me yet! And I hope it never does!
Meryl: Bassists like to think they're the ladies men of a band. What do you think about that?
Zave: According to Kerbera statistics, that statement is true... But I guess we all know the real answer.
London: Haha, it varies from band to band! There are bassists like Gene Simmons, and bassists who are the least significant members of bands. Every band is different, with a different dynamic.
BK: Well in all seriousness it really depends more on the personality of the individual member. The role a person plays in the band, I feel, is somewhat irrelevant to their romantic life/libido. I personally am a very starry eyed individual and a bit of a nerd. So with that being said, I can say that definitely I am not the ladies man in Skiver haha!
Meryl: Who’s your personal guitarist hero?
Zave: Synyster Gates. His playing has done so much for my playing, both stylistically and technically. He opened up my mind a lot for different note choices.
Honorable mentions are Slash and Matt Bellamy. If you don't feel anything while listening to Slash play guitar, I don't know what's wrong with you.
Matt Bellamy, because crazy sounds and phenomenal writing.
All three have really distinctive styles, all which really speaks to me.
London: Slash has been, and always will be the guitarist who has had the most profound impact on me since day one. A few other long-time heroes of mine are Dimebag Darrell, Jacky Vincent, Jake Pitts, and Mike Ness.
BK: Its been Jake Pitts since I was 13. I watched and learned how to shred from watching his YouTube tutorials. The main reason (besides his ability of course) was that I was really drawn to how subtle and humble he was compared to a lot of other lead guitarists and even in a band as aesthetically focused as Black Veil Brides. You know, here's this sort of unsuspecting looking guy in BVB, and all of a sudden he's
just ripping these really incredible guitar solos! As a lead guitarist, Jake generally had no gimmick or no larger than life self-image that overshadowed his guitar playing (Disregarding BVBs infamous aesthetical appearance). He's just straight to the point guitar shreddage.
Meryl: Finally, what is your favorite part of being a guitarist?
London: Being onstage and expressing myself with the guitar, in such an intimate, personal way. Feeling the nervous energy before the first song kicks in, and feeling the adrenalin rush of truly connecting with the instrument. There is nothing like it.
Zave: To express myself and to inspire others to do so themselves.
BK: The Progress; Specifically the euphoria you experience when seeing results, hard work paying off, and how far you've come from a certain standpoint.