It’s about time we blessed your web browsing with another in our Gear Nerd series and so this time we are bring you our chat with COHEED AND CAMBRIA frontman Claudio Sanchez whilst he was chillin’ backstage at this years Glastonbury Festval…
RR UK: How old were you when you started playing guitar and what made you pick up the guitar?
Claudio Sanchez: I think I was thirteen, fourteen years old; somewhere in there. Twelve, thirteen, fourteen… Actually I originally wanted to play the drums, but a friend of mine was like “you wanna start a band?” Drums seemed like the easiest instrument so I was like “I’ll play the drums” and we started to flyer the town. It’s a little bit of a story but, we started to flyer the town and we found this guitar player and he was great. Long story short he called my friend that night and he knew we were just starting out and he gave him a bunch of shit like “you guys are dreamers and nothing will happen for you”. So I thought ah fuck that I’m gonna play the guitar… that’s how I picked it up.
RR UK: What styles have inspired you over your career?
CS: Everything really… I mean I grew up listening to a wide range of music, with my mother and father listening to different types of music. I just kind of drew from everything and then of course in my adolescence kind of breaking away from that and listening to more contemporary rock music. So, just everything really- Jazz, Blues, Classic Rock, Latin, Motown, Pop music, ya know what ever. It might not be at the forefront of what we do but there is certainly an influence somewhere.
RR UK: Are you self taught or did you have lessons?
C: More self taught. I took a couple of lessons to try to understand the theory of the instrument, but I think I was too late. I had learned it one way and it was just hard to get out of that habit. So in terms of theory I kind of understand the general concepts but I can’t apply them to guitar.
RR UK: Describe your practice and warm up routines/schedules.
CS: For singing I’ll do a warm up routine… I’ve acquired a few over the years, I’ve met with vocal coaches to learn about how to maintain my voice and warm it up. As far as guitar I just kinda play around just warming up, ya know nothing in particular. Just playing what I feel like and that just kinda loosens all the joints.
RR UK: How often do you practice guitar?
CS: I only really practice before we play, like I’ll warm up. Other than that most of the time I’m simply writing song;, in a way that’s just a different kind of practising. I don’t really practise scales. I do try to practice writing. I think the more you attempt it the more practice you get. I guess that’s kinda a practice routine.
RR UK: What was the first band you played with and how long was it between when you picked up a guitar or any other instrument and when you started playing in your first band?
CS: It wasn’t too far off… I started playing at thirteen years old maybe and uh, I think shortly after that year we started playing. I didn’t learn in the traditional sense. I just picked up song books and played songs a little bit. I guess that’s kinda how you learn but shortly after that I just started to construct my own tunes. It just kinda went from there. Early on we had a few songs, we played a few battle of the bands, we actually got disqualified from one. It was actually kinda funny because we started to play- the band was called Toxic Parents- and uh, we started to play and all of the kids got out of their seats and rushed the stage and that’s why we got disqualified. It was pretty cool! It was a big auditorium, and everyone was seated for most of the bands before us. We went on we were in the middle of the bill. I guess we must have played a song that excited them and people came up and they had to call the police and the police had to make sure that there was security for the band. Kids weren’t hurting themselves. We got disqualified for that.
RR UK: What was your first guitar?
CS: My first guitar was a Tamara. I think it was a Stratocaster copy. It was burgundy red. It was kinda a nice guitar actually for being the first guitar I’ve ever owned. But yeah, it was an electric guitar.
RR UK: Are there any styles of music you listen to specifically because you like the style of guitar playing that might maybe surprise people that listen to your music?
CS: You know I like songs, I don’t really listen for guitar playing or technique or things like that. I’m kinda attracted to the big picture, not necessarily parts of it. I do find that in some bands certain guitar players can really speak with the tone of the guitar and the choice of the note selection and I can really admire that. But for me for the most part, it’s really about the big picture; how does the song sound.
RR UK: How would you describe the way you play, your style?
CS: Um, it’s certainly a sloppy style… I mean again because I’m not technically proficient, in terms of theory and things like that. I like to have fun on the stage, I like to be a bit energetic. I’m certainly not up there like fixated ya know, making sure I’m hitting every note the right way. I just kind of……I just do what I do and if it sounds good then cool.
RR UK: Do you have any tips for aspiring guitarists?
CS: Just continue doing what you do. I mean… if you love what you do someone else is going to. Don’t be discouraged by others- if anything use that as energy to fuel yourself to propel further. But at the same time, make sure you have all your bases covered and have a plan B. Cause I did. I went to school and got a job placement in case this didn’t work out for me in this world I had something to fall back on that wasn’t musical.
RR: In terms of the guitars that you have with you on the road and also the ones that you use to record, specifically on the last album, are they the same ones?
CS: Yes. The brown Explorer is a 1980 Gibson E2, which I used a lot of on the album and I use it live. Um, a 76’ Gibson Explorer reissue which is used a bunch on the record. A couple of Taylor guitars, all the stuff is pretty much on the record that I use live. A few things here or there certainly at home but the main cast is with us out here.
RR: Talk about your effects set up- what do you have at your feet?
CS: Basically it’s a controller that controls this loop station and there is a tonne of stuff…Death by Audios, Interstellar Overdrive, Super Fuzz Gun. Another company called Dwarfcraft Devices, there’s a Great Destroyer. The Great Destroyer is an interesting pedal- it kinda breaks, makes the guitar sound broken, it chops up the signal like an extreme tremolo, if you will, but more just broken… it sounds great. There’s a couple of analogue delays, vintage analogue delays like an MXR M-118 a Morley Bad Horsie Wah, gives a wah effect.
RR UK: What amps do you have on tour?
CS: A Mesa cabinet that’s being fed by a Bogner Uber Shaw. That’s just a higher watt amp head.
RR UK: When you guys go out on tour do you always use the same gear or does it change midway through the tour?
C: Well for this last stretch I’ve just been toying around with different amps, but for the most part that’s the general vibe I use.
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