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 Lauren Watkin, Tamara Grant, Rachel Rosell
Photos by PushingPixels.de, Martin Huch, Reika Binx Photography, Stephen Vincent Photography, DrummerGirl Photography
It’s the return of the show-stealers; Guitarists! At any show, you’re guaranteed to have your sights stolen away by the six-stringed demons. Today we’ve some international treasures for you. Germany based shedder Marc Andrejkovits of Cryptex hits our pages along with England terrors Symon Strange of The Dead XIII and solo artist Ethan Skys.
Meryl DeWitt: How old were you when you got your first guitar and what was it?
Symon Strange: I was 10. I saved enough for one of those awful guitar & amp combos from Argos and then proceeded to cover it in stickers, as any kid would. It felt, sounded, and played terribly, but I was hooked! A few years later I got what I call my first real guitar, a Schecter Tempest.
Marc Andrejkovits: I got my first guitar when I was 16. It was a crappy Stratocaster copy which label I’ve forgotten. I took all of my pocket money and bought it together with an also very scabby amplifier. But I didn’t care about how badly it sounded. I just wanted to play loud music in the basement of my parents’ house.
Ethan Skys: My first guitar was a half-sized acoustic someone found in a dump… But it was quickly replaced with a Fender Squire.
Meryl: For anyone wanting to learn, what would you suggest as a starter guitar?
Marc: There is a very good and affordable series made by Yamaha called Pacific Guitars. I already suggested it to a friend of mine, who wanted to have a good tone for a small price. It’s some Stratocaster copy, of course.
Ethan: I think it really depends on the style you want to play. If you want to play metal or rock, I would suggest an Ibanez.
Symon: Whilst I truly believe that good music can be made on any instrument no matter the quality or price, I would recommend spending slightly more and getting a decent brand guitar, or at least a well setup guitar. Having a bad sounding instrument that is difficult to play can be very disheartening and off putting to a new player. So something like a budget Fender Encore. Be warned though, collecting guitars very easily becomes an obsession!
Meryl: Through trial and error in your career, is there any of your mistakes you'd warn young guitarists to be cautious of?
Symon: Learning your favorite bands’ songs is fun, but don't neglect writing your own material. I have become a better player through writing than I have from learning other bands’ songs. Also don't wait for anything to happen, make it happen. If there’s a technique you can't do then work on it for hours a day until you can, and if you want to be a musician you've got to put yourself out there and find work yourself.
Ethan: I would say stay clear of people that promise you everything because the music industry is an endless supply of liars and cheats. Don’t be gullible! Believe what you see, not what you hear.
Marc: Don’t work with people who care more for their ego than for the music. And of course, don’t try to be anyone else. It’s more gratifying to find your one way of doing things, than becoming another copy of something that already exists.
Meryl: What's the biggest stage nightmare you've ever had?
Marc: The biggest stage nightmare is always when your monitoring is bad. That or badly hearing yourself on stage is the most disturbing thing, which happens more often than you think.
Symon: I think any guitarists nightmare is their strap failing and their beautiful guitar crashing down onto the stage. Despite heavy duty strap locks it happened to me once. It's so embarrassing, your prized instrument gets damaged and it cuts you out mid song! But that’s life and the show must go on. When you’re on the road always have spares of everything!
Ethan: I’ve been pretty lucky to not have many stage nightmares but I remember this one show I was playing and my strap lock flew off. So my strap was broken and I was mid-way into a song, so I had to balance my guitar on my knee- which may have looked stupid but I pulled off every note any way. Haha!
Meryl: What is your current equipment setup for playing live?
Marc: Whether I’m playing the bass or the guitar and depending on in which band I’m playing in, my setup switches. I am also permanently searching for new stuff if I am able to afford buying something new. With One I Cinema [band] (http://oneicinema.com/), I use a G&L 2500 Tribute through a Warwick Xtreme 5.1 Amp. Additionally, I got an Ampeg SCR DI Box with an Ashdown Dual Band Compressor which both round up the sound I need. With Cryptex [band] (http://www.cryptex-music.com/), in which I do both Bass and Guitar, I got additionally to my Bass equipment a Duesenberg D-Caster which I play through a Fender Bassman amp. It´s a 50-watt Blues Deville reissue.
Symon: My go to guitars for touring are the Ibanez ART 320's, which are sadly no longer in production, but I managed to get my hands on three of them. They are built like tanks, weigh very little, and are such good value. Perfect guitar for the road! My amp is a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier. I always dreamed of having one, and ever since I got it I have used nothing else! I always keep FX simple and rely on my amp and guitar for my tone with max one FX per song. My FX chain is a G30 Wireless, Decimator Noise Gate Rack, Whammy, Wah, MXR Phase 90, and the FX loop Back into the Decimator Rack.
Ethan: For me, I use a Line 6 Spider head and cab, but I plan to get my hands on a Mesa Boogie head and cab. Guitar-wise, my main guitar is my LTD MH-401BFM.
Meryl: Is your studio setup any different? If so, what is it?
Ethan: I like to keep it as raw-sounding as possible! I’m not one of these guitar players that uses the studio to cover my mistakes. I go in like a guitar hitman and nail my parts. If I’m tracking leads, I’ll use my Ibanez RG and for everything else, I’ll use my LTD. I also have an endorsement with a company called Dove Tail Strings.
Symon: In the studio I use the same guitars, though occasionally switch to an Ibanez ARZ Iron Label for certain tracks. Last time we used the Kemper as well, just so mic positions and amp settings didn't get changed accidentally.
Marc: For the last album of Cryptex, I didn’t use any of my live setup. For the recording, we used the Kemper Profiling amp with a mixture of profiles from different amps like Deezer, Marshall (Plexi), Engl, and others I don’t remember, but the engineer might. The guitar I mostly used for the recordings was a Tokai (Gibson Les Paul copy) which had an enormous and clear sound.
Meryl: What's the best guitar you've ever owned?
Symon: I have a grey Ibanez ART 320, that, for some reason, just seems different from my other guitars. It plays so smoothly, sounds insanely good, and just feels right. I don't know what makes it that way, maybe defects in production, but I love it!
Marc: It’s my Duesenberg D-Caster. It might not be the best guitar in someone else’s opinion, but I really got used to it and I know how to use it and that is what counts.
Ethan: That’s a hard one. For me, guitars are like women. I like to hold and love all of them.
Meryl: What's the worst guitar you have ever owned?
Ethan: I’d say that one somebody found in the dump. Haha
Marc: This might be my first guitar, which label I’m not able to remember.
Meryl: Do you name your guitars? If so, what are their names?
Ethan: I don’t often give my guitars names but I did nickname my white Ibanez RG “The Showstopper”.
Symon: My grey Ibanez is called Morticia. I got home from a show once and someone had put a sticker on my guitar case that said Morticia, and the name stuck!
Marc: Guitar 1, Guitar 2, Guitar 3, Acoustic Guitar, Bass Guitar 1, Bass Guitar 2, and so on.
Meryl: What's your dream guitar to own one day? (Custom, collectors, ect)
Ethan: I would love to have a custom guitar made for me, but if it was a guitar already on the market I’d say the Ibanez RG1XXV. Having a bright pink guitar takes balls and I’m sure I could get even more hate for it.
Marc: Nothing special. I would like to have a standard Fender like the good old Telecaster or a Stratocaster. For the Bass, I would love to have a Fender Jazz bass, but does not have to be some collector’s stuff.
Symon: I'd love the RZK-II, The Richard Kruspe Signature model, or I guess my own signature guitar modelled on Morticia. That would be the dream!
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...)
Symon: I still have every guitar I've ever owned! The idea of any of them getting destroyed makes me want to cry! Haha.
Marc: The most extreme way a guitar of mine has met its fate was when I gave it to an ex-girlfriend of mine as a gift.
Ethan: Usually my guitars stay fresh-looking because I treat them with respect but like other extracurricular activities, I still like to play hard. Haha!
Meryl: Bassists like to think they're the “lady’s man” of a band. What do you think about that?
Marc: As a bassist and guitarist, I’m ok with that ;).
Ethan: I’d say it’s something they’ve all had to sit around and convince themselves of. Like when people say the recently deceased goldfish is in a better place. No, it got flushed down the toilet. Stop lying!
Meryl: Who's your personal guitarist hero?
Symon: Rammstein are my favorite band and Richard Kruspe has always been my idol, and the biggest influence on my music!
Ethan: For me, I have to say the amazing Randy Rhoads. The guy just captures everything I love in guitar playing! He was very ahead of his time.
Marc: I do more like bands than special characters from a band setting. Musically, it’s more interesting for me how a bunch of people work together, than how well someone else is alone with his or hers playing. So I do not have a specific guitarist hero.
Meryl: Finally, what is your favorite part of being a guitarist?
Ethan: For me, it’s that few seconds of silence before running out onstage to a bunch of screaming music lovers. I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be at any given time than onstage.
Marc: I like it to play live. Don’t have to say more.
Symon: Music is such a personal, emotional thing and being a guitarist allows me to express that. I've never been a very confident person and struggled with depression over the years, and playing guitar has been my way to overcome that.
"Release My Body"
THe Dead XIII