This special episode of In the Head of the Artists is a beauty - because we have been privileged to talk to Mauro Venegas and Steve Crittall of The Godfathers . Big thanks to Mauro and Steve for taking the time to talk to us and giving us a peek at what they use. We will mostly concentrate on their The Godfathers rigs - so let's see what pro touring guitarists have to say about getting their sound over to the crowd
WARNING - this article may be steeped in guitar geekiness, proceed with caution.
Mauro/Steve - how did you both come to play with The Godfathers and did you have to change much about your set ups to adapt to the band ??
M: I saw an ad where they were looking to recruit two new guitarists (they had been operating as a four-piece before that, they sensibly – in my view – realised that the Godfathers should always be a TWO guitar band!) and applied. Brushed up on the songs, went to an audition and the rest is history! No, the only thing I changed from my previous band (Jonny Cola & the A-Grades) was that I actually stopped using my Big Muff! That was partly cos it needed fixing anyway, and I couldn’t be bothered, haha!
S: I joined The Godfathers in the Summer of 2014 when the band ran a bulletin on Facebook for two lead guitarists and a drummer. It was from the resulting auditions that Mauro and Tim were also employed. At the time I was still with Ten Benson but business had been very slow there for a while and so in the early days I was in both bands for a while. As things got much busier with The Godfathers it became necessary to make a difficult choice to avoid letting anyone down due to a clash of schedule.
I change my set up depending on the job at hand and I'm on a constant tone quest. In fact I've just finished building my favourite fuzz box so far. It's also the tiniest but with the biggest sound!
Tools of the trade - tell us about your favourite guitar, your go-to for live and recording. What you like about it and why it's at the top of the heap. And any close seconds, don't spare the details. And of course any that you no longer have but wish you still did.
M: Ooh my Les Paul Gold Top is my favourite guitar by a long way. Very trusty, very good to take on the road as it’s a sturdy f**ker, feels like an old chum when I strap it on. Looks brilliant too, never underestimate that part! My second guitar is a Fender Tele (Baja model) which admittedly is a bit maverick to have as a back up to a Les Paul as it’s a polar opposite to play, but I do love it to play rhythm on. Actually whenever Miscalculations (who are a more wiry, post-punk kind of thing) gigged, I always used the Tele rather than the LP because we all agreed the LP was “too rock’n’roll” for that band, haha!
In the studio when we recorded the Godfathers album actually I used quite a few guitars though – both my LP and my Tele, and some borrowed guitars also (a Rickenbacker, a 12-string and a normal acoustic, I think) for numbers which I wanted a different sound on.
S: My main guitar is a Frankenstrat - 80s Tokai body, Schecter Padouk neck, Seymour Duncan pickups(2 Hotrails & JB Trembucker in the bridge), Floyd Rose trem, various coil tap options and a kill switch. I put that guitar together in 1988 so it's been my main Number 1 throughout. I have fifteen or so guitars but that is the one I keep gravitating back to and the main workhorse as it's been in endless development. The only thing that is Fender on it are the two plastic tone knobs. I guess the only guitar I regret selling is a 67 Gibson SG Special - a lovely thing, but way too delicate to survive in my hands!
Amplification - we guitarists love it loud !! What's your personal choice, and given the chance what would be your ideal back line. Do you find yourself preferring a certain type of cab/speaker or can you make anything work for you??
M: I do love my Orange Rocker but I have to admit that if I had more funds I’d invest in an upgrade… A Rockerverb would be pretty much perfect! I used one on a Spanish tour once and loved it. Like my own but more to it. I can make anything work for me pretty much so long as it has a distortion channel! I very much prefer using amp distortion.
S: Given the choice (and roadies) I would still run a pair of 50 watt Marshall JCM 800 2x12 Combos in stereo. That was a sound that you could walk around inside. Stepping on a boost used to make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Like dropping gear and putting your foot down, you could feel the whole thing just, take off... Jeez! If I miss anything, I do miss that!
The fairy dust and magic boxes, what's on your board and what single effect can't you live without. Do you like the minimal approach or do you spend more time stomping than strumming ??
M: Haha! Here’s where myself and Steve differ – I’m the “minimal approach” guy, too many pedals and I get confused and make a mess of things (even more than I already do). Plus I’m always doing a lot of backing vocals so throw another thing into the mix and it’s a recipe for chaos. I’m happy with my two pedals – a preamp (louder) and my Boss distortion (dirtier)!
S: My pedalboard can change from tour to tour depending on the material in the set but at present it has Bazz Fuzz, Cry Baby Wah, Xotic SP Compressor, Manlay Ronno Bender, Morning Glory Overdrive, TC Corona Mini Chorus, Guyatone Phaser, Korg Pitchblack Tuner, Pro-tone Mach 2 Dual Preamp, Line 6 Echo Park. All the pedals are attached to the board with super strong self adhesive Velcro and powered by a Fuel Tank Junior. Stomping, strumming, it's all horses for courses. Hendrix could hit one note and make it last forever. Or play a random quick flurry. And I prefer to go with the mood that suits the flow of the piece. Or turn it on it's head with something totally wrong. There is no formula. Rule 1 - there are no fuckin rules.
The devils in the details - when on tour or playing local is there anything specific you can't do without ?? From picks to strings, cables and capos most of us have tried and true preferences that are essential to be at your best.
M: I’m happy enough if I have enough Ernie Ball Regular Slinkys and enough 1mm picks! Extra if I’m in Spain cos the punters there (for some reason) really do demand ‘em off you after the show! And it always seems a bit churlish to say no, but then again we don’t get this shit for free!
S: Fave plectrum is Herco .50 though I usually make do with a Dunlop .73 Beyond that any strings will do as long as they're 10-46.
And finally, which guitarist is your biggest influence. Let our readers know who inspired you to get started and who has caught your ear lately.
M: Ooh no I couldn’t possibly name one. Aargh! Tough one for me – you’ll have to make do with a load of names… Obviously Johnny Thunders, Johnny Ramone (not a guy I’d probably wanna go for a drink with but a true specialist, I love the way he just could not be arsed playing anything “fancy” on any recordings), Prince, Marc Bolan and Bruce Springsteen (both totally underrated as guitarists but who have a wild lead style involving way more passion than technique which I LOVE), John Perry, James Honeyman-Scott, Malcolm and Angus Young, Elliot Easton, Bowie’s sidekicks Ronno of course and Carlos Alomar (incredible rhythm player)… I’d be here all day man. This lot OK for starters?!
S: Main influence has to be Ronno. I'm still chasing his lead tone now.
Once again big thanks to Mauro and Steve for taking the time to enlighten us all - you can come see them when The Godfathers play on February 17th (link to tickets) and experience all the above up close and personal.