I’m super excited to share this conversation I had with my fellow guitarist and good friend Marco Martinez with y’all. I found the conversation to be insightful; we touch on being in an independent group, his journey with tendonitis and carpel tunnel syndrome, the Tennessee reggae scene, and his favorite gear and tones. I’d like to thank Marco for sitting down for a chat, enjoy!
(Photo by Tyler Walker)
Colin Poulton: Hey guys, this is Colin Poulton. I’m here today with Marco Martinez, a good friend of mine from Roots of a Rebellion (ROAR). He’s a guitarist, and we’re going to talk about guitar. We’re going to talk about his journey he’s gone through with tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome, how that came about, and what to do if you find yourself facing those things. He’s currently playing and currently touring with ROAR; they kill it locally, they kill it nationally, they’ve killed it internationally too! Pretty recently you guys did the Caribbean, not terribly long ago right? When was that?
Marco Martinez: December 2015 but technically it wasn’t international because it was the only the US Virgin Islands. We didn’t do any of the Dutch or the British ones.
CP: Well, you got off the mainland at least, so there’s something to be said for that. He also works with Merrill Artists Group, they are a boutique booking agency based out of Los Angeles. He is their lone Nashville agent so we’ll talk a little bit about some of the stuff he does with that.
We’re going to start at the beginning of your journey. You’re originally from Clarksville, Tennessee, correct?
CP: Okay. Do you remember your first guitar, the first one you played on?
MM: The first guitar that I got was a small scale children’s guitar made by a brand called Kasino. I still have that in my bedroom back at my parent’s house, but the first guitar that I really, like, my first full grown guitar, was a light blue 1998 Mexican Stratocaster that I still take on the road.
CP: I’ve definitely seen the Strat before. Okay, pretty stock?
CP: I mean, those 90’s Mexican Fenders, though. There’s something to be said about those.
MM: It’s got a really nice neck. I like it a lot.
CP: You hear about that a lot with those guitars, the necks are really nice on them.
MM: It’s a maple neck. It’s very different than my other guitar, which has an Ebony neck.
CP: What was some of the first music that you remember hearing, you know, early on in life before you even started playing music?
MM: Both of my parents are Puerto Rican so I grew up with them listening to the music they would play. A lot of it was, you know, my dad was really into Santana, in general he was really into classic rock. I do remember that the first time, as a kid, that I thought that I wanted to play guitar was being in the back seat of my dad’s car and he was playing something on the radio and a Santana song was on.
CP: Was there a specific song that you remember or anything?
MM: I can’t remember what it was.
CP: Okay. It might have been “Smooth” by Rob Thomas and Santana?
MM: (laughs) Who knows what it was.
CP: (laughs) So when you were starting to play, was there a certain style that you were drawn to at first that made you take the jump, like, this was something that I wanted to start doing at whatever capacity?
MM: I got that Kasino guitar when I was five years old, and I got it because my sister had gotten a classical guitar and she had started taking lessons, but when I was five had no capacity or any attention span to be able to sit down with a teacher and learn anything. So I didn’t play that guitar for probably six years and I picked it back up when I was 11, I think I was in 6th grade. At that time, it was 2002, so I was super into Blink-182, super into Green Day, all the pop punk stuff that was coming out when I was in middle school. One of my friends was playing bass and one of my friends was playing drums so we wanted to learn all of those songs that we listened to all the time. Another one of my friends was super into Nirvana and I think the transition from commercial pop punk, even though it’s great and I love it, to a little bit more, I don’t know if honest is the word, I don’t know, Nirvana opened my mind to music that was just way more emotional, a little more raw.
CP: Something a little deeper than Blink-182 songs.
MM: That was probably 7th grade that I got really into Nirvana and it wasn’t until 8th grade that I got more into guitar players. Those first two years, it was like “this song” and “this band” that I’m a big fan of; I wanted to play to learn those songs. Then in 8th grade, it was like, “I want to get better at guitar”, so I started listening to my three main dudes, who were John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Tom Morello (Audioslave/Rage Against the Machine), and Randy Rhoads (Ozzy Osbourne/Quiet Riot).
CP: At some point, you become aware of a larger sense of the craft. At some point you realize, hey, there are things you can learn how to do on this instrument that if you learn how to do it, you can get a unique sound that’s your own.
MM: Yeah, you learn that it’s a tool to express yourself. I was never a songwriter growing up, I always considered myself a musician. I saw that as two different things. I had friends that were musicians but they were primarily songwriter focused. I always considered myself to be strictly a musician in that I express through my instrument.
CP: I can relate to that, I can definitely relate to that. Eventually, your journey led you to Belmont University in Nashville which is where we met. I think I was a year ahead of you. It was my sophomore year and your freshman year. What was the audition process like for you?
MM: The audition process was totally terrifying for me. I had two different teachers that I went to when I was growing up in Clarksville from 6th grade all the way through my senior year of high school. One, his name was Charlie Winkler, was more theory based. He taught me to read music, he taught me classical music, fingerstyle Andrés Segovia studies and he taught me different jazz tunes. I had another teacher, Jeremy Holt, he’s a guitar player here in Nashville who’s played with a ton of people. He got me into learning more guitar oriented music that I was a fan of, Allman Brothers and slide guitar stuff. So, I had come from having both a teacher that did theory stuff and a teacher that said, “Hey, what songs do you like that you would want to use to improve your playing?”. I had both of those but I had never really experienced working on tunes at the caliber that I knew I had to do for the audition. I did a bluegrass tune called “Dixie Breakdown”, I did “Confirmation” by Charlie Parker and completely butchered “Confirmation”. Other than the melody, I had no idea what was going on in the song with the chord progressions and jazz at that point in time. Soloing in jazz was completely foreign. My teacher taught me those tunes but I was never really sure how to play over those and improvise over those. I feel like I butchered the audition but I still got into the music school. That is huge in part to a good friend of mine Dylan Fitch (Shoutout to The Delta Saints). Dylan and I grew up in Clarksville together and played music together. We started playing together in 8th grade to really hone in our skills. Dylan was already in the music school, I’m sure you guys knew each other.
CP: Yeah, we were in the same class.
MM: My first lesson with John Pell, my teacher at Belmont, he said, “You know, I almost didn’t admit you to the music school but your friend Dylan told me that if you weren’t ready at your audition, that you would be the kind of person who would work hard enough to be at the right level within the first semester of first year”. Huge thanks to Dylan for saying that on my behalf and helping me get in the school, and to John Pell for trusting me.
CP: He (Pell) was an intimidating guy. I remember going to my audition and I did “Four on Six” by Wes Montgomery and another tune off of that “Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery” record, I forget which one it is off the top of my head, but it’s a ballad. I forget what else I did. So, I did the melody and I did a solo and I go to play rhythm guitar and proceed to get my face melted by John Pell. There’s no holding back, he’s doing these chord melody lines.
MM: Yeah, because he solos over you.
CP: You do a pass of comping under him and then he proceeds to intimidate you a little bit and be like “this is what you’re going to be learning”. Once you got to know him, he’s absolutely a great guy and he really sees the potential in folks.
At some point along the line, you began to develop issues with tendonitis and also carpel tunnel syndrome. Was that your freshman year or the year after that?
MM: It was the first semester of my sophomore year that I started to notice it. I started to notice soreness in the edges of my wrist first. I went to my doctor and he said that I probably have tendonitis. I had gotten it in high school in my elbow from wrestling so I was prone to it. I started to develop that first and because we had out semester’s exams, and all of your exams in music school are centered around playing, whether it’s piano, your jazz lesson, or your classical lesson, it’s all playing tunes, so I played through that semester and those exams and it wasn’t until Christmas break that I realized how much it hurt and that it wasn’t going away and that playing at all made it worse by the day. My spring semester of my sophomore year, I decided to switch out of the School of Music and I finished that semester and got my minor in Music because I only had to do the last semester and it would have technically been a minor. I did that and I continued to play. The tendonitis got worse and I started getting symptoms of carpel tunnel in my left hand, numbness and tingling. I went and did nerve tests and different MRI’s to see what it was and it really was carpel tunnel syndrome, so I took an extensive amount of time off, about a year from really playing.
CP: You were already playing with Roots of a Rebellion by the time all of this was really starting to accelerate.
MM: I joined ROAR in 2011, pretty much right when I started having tendonitis. Our first tour was May 2011, we did a tour down to Texas and back. I had already been developing symptoms there. We took the summer off and when we came back, I wasn’t really able to play in the band much. I did a bunch of different therapies to try to alleviate the pain and alleviate the symptoms of carpel tunnel before I moved to the last option, which ended up being surgery. I did acupuncture, went and saw a chiropractor. I went to a standard physical therapist and an occupational therapist, who do different exercises for your hand. All of this stuff helped, but none of it made it really go away and none of it ever got me to a point to where I could play every day.
CP: I’m curious about the chiropractor part of it and what the chiropractor was specifically looking for because when I think of a chiropractor, I’m thinking of getting your spine realigned and reset. What was the thought behind going to a chiropractor?
MM: The nerve, the median nerve that is inside of the carpel tunnel, runs from your hand all the way up your arm and then up your neck into your spine. The thought was that if anything is not aligned properly that the nerve could be pinching here and here, or in the middle of your arm. It was trying to rule out any potential root of the problem other than swelling around my wrists from playing, if there was something, because being that age and having those symptoms, it’s pretty young to have a nerve issue.
CP: You were 18 or 19 around this time.
MM: Yeah, 19. That’s a really young age to have a nerve issue. Being a guitar player, yes, but there were 30 other guitar players at that school that didn’t have carpel tunnel syndrome.
CP: There were a couple of others, I’m not going to name any names but I remember a guy in my class that also had issues. He also still plays to this day, I think he did change his major but he still plays the instrument some which is definitely great. You’d hate to see that, for it to completely take that away from someone, the joy of playing music. It’s great too that the ROAR guys were patient with you and that you picked up harmonica and were able to still do the shows and still be a part of that community and still a part of what’s going on while you’re doing all of that.
MM: Yeah, definitely.
CP: So eventually, you went to the last resort, which was surgery. Tell me a little about the surgery.
MM: I got surgery in the summer of 2012, in May of 2012 right after the semester had ended. I went to an orthopedic surgeon with the Tennessee Orthopedic Alliance. It’s a really basic surgery, they just cut it open and snip the tendon that’s over it and it relieves the pressure and the nerve heals and the tendon grows scar tissue back together. That summer, I went to New York because I knew that I wasn’t going to be playing with ROAR because I just sliced my hand open. I went to New York and I actually interned with Tommy Merrill, who is the owner and the founder of Merrill Artist Group. The summer that I took off, I worked for him and interned under him as a studying booking agent. I did my hand therapy up there and came back fully healed in August 2012 and continued going to Belmont for a music business degree at that point, and then I started playing with the band again.
CP: Was there a period of relearning, as far as like, not relearning because you still have the knowledge of the instrument, but as far as getting your chops back to speed and rebuilding strength, was that something you experienced?
MM: Definitely. I brought a guitar to New York with me so I could get a jump start on that, but when I got back I still wasn’t playing or practicing on near as much as I used to, and then even on stage, I wouldn’t play a full song. I might sing harmonies, or just play harmonica, or just the guitar solo section on a tune. I definitely took my time with it to get my strength back up.
CP: How long would you say from surgery to being full capacity, full capability of a player like you have today, how long would you say that took?
MM: From surgery to then, I would say at least six months because I still went to physical therapy when I got back. So I did three months in New York and three months when I got back and I still wasn’t playing fully until the end of all that.
CP: What are things that you started doing by the time you were fully recovered, done with physical therapy as far as, like, do you ever get little twinges of pain or anything when you play now?
MM: I don’t ever really get pain but I do get symptoms, just like the numbness in my palm and in my fingertips sometimes. My sister is also an occupational therapist, she’s given me a lot of literature to read about different hand stretches. There’s a thing called nerve glides which are different full arm movements you can do that move the carpel tunnel, which has the median nerve in it, around the tendons that surround it so that the fluid is always and consistently moving so it doesn’t swell up and there’s no friction between the tendon and the carpel tunnel. Myself and Troy, we do extensive stretches before every practice and before every show, stretch after. So I would say nerve glides and regular arm and finger stretches are the extent of what we do.
CP: That’s kind of preventative stuff at that point, that’s not something you do after you notice you’re starting to hurt. That’s something you do so you don’t hurt.
CP: You get stretched out, it’s kind of like warming up if you’re an athlete.
MM: If my hand flared up and I felt numbness, I wouldn’t do that because it makes it worse. If it’s a flaring up, that means there’s pressure on it already and if you start to do that then it’s moving it around between everything and that makes it worse. Rest well, if you have any symptoms it’s not like working out where it’s “no pain no gain”. If you have pain, you rest and don’t use it until it goes away.
(Video by Deyan Betancourt)
CP: Chronologically for ROAR, what was going on for you guys by the time you were back? I know you guys did an EP (Inner Light), was the EP already out by that time?
MM: I think the EP came out in October 2012, October 4th 2012, so it was three months after I had gotten back. Everyone was still in school at this point. We did our first tour in May of 2012 down to Texas, we really didn’t do that many weekend tour dates until half of the guys graduated. I think we did a spring break tour in 2013 because everyone had off. But once Austin (Smith, vocals/guitar), Troy (Wiggins, drums), Jeremyck (Smith, keys), and Adam (Quellhorst, bass), or Alec (Newnam, original bassist) at that time, all graduated, that’s when we started touring more on weekends.
CP: What were some of the first cities you were going to when you were first getting started?
MM: We played Louisville, KY a good amount. We played Knoxville a good amount, we still play Knoxville a good amount. We played Chattanooga, Memphis, pretty much anywhere that we could find another band that sounded anything like us and wanted to do shows with us.
CP: Right, and you kinda show swap eventually.
MM: That’s kinda how you build it, you build relationships with other bands, help each other grow in each other’s markets and eventually take the plunge and go further. Hit more dates and reach out to bands even further and venues even further.
CP: 2013 you guys are still in school so probably about 2014, 2015, you guys are starting to tour on weekends a little heavier. At the same time, you guys are also, while you’re not on the road, you’re also organically starting to amass, you guys are starting to gain gravity and you’re starting to pull in a lot of people and there starts to be this scene of folks that starts to evolve a little bit and you guys start doing these events in town at the Exit/In, you guys are at Live on the Green early on as a band and that was definitely a real proud moment for all of us as your friends and fans, we were all happy to see you guys get that exposure and it seems like since then you guys have just kinda had this local momentum that’s been snowballing and keeps perpetuating, but it’s a real, organic community you guys have built where everyone gets together. You guys cook out, you guys go to each other’s show, you guys are around for life events and stuff, and it’s a very tight knit groups, you know. Can you talk a little bit about how it all came about? I know you mentioned to me that you guys weren’t the first group in town to have that community thing that you guys noticed. Talk about Infinity Cat Recordings a little bit and their influence on you guys.
MM: When I was in school, I went to a ton of different house shows and seeing bands like Diarrhea Planet and Jeff the Brotherhood come up and that their fanbase essentially started out as their best friends and it grew from that because of the excitement and the connectivity of their friend group and how everyone was so stoked on the music that their friends were creating together and the shows they were putting on. It just grew into this big family. Obviously the guys in Jeff and Infinity Cat really grew that with their label and with events like Freakin Weekend where they brought six to ten bands across two venues for four days. It was just this giant family gathering and that grew, that excitement grew from their Nashville home base to them becoming each national touring and successful acts.
CP: You have Jeff the Brotherhood and they do Lollapalooza a couple years ago, they do big festivals. Diarrhea Planet was on late night TV last year (seriously, check it out. It rules). I never thought I’d see a band called Diarrhea Planet on television in my lifetime but it’s awesome.
MM: They were really inspiring for me as far as what I enjoyed being a part of as a fan of music and what we collectively wanted to try to cultivate not just for Roots of a Rebellion but for that entire #TNReggae community that was developing. There’s a band out of Rochester, New York called Thunderbody and they started doing an event called Medicine Wednesdays two years before we did. Austin was a huge fan of that band, we all were huge fans of that band but he was a super fan of that band and he thought what they were doing with this Medicine Wednesday event was super cool. For small time touring bands or bands that don’t tour that much, you usually hit the road Thursday through Saturday and you’re always home Sunday through Wednesday, so Wednesday is a good day to do something local. The whole idea developed from this band Thunderbody doing it, so we started doing that at Drifter’s here in East Nashville on Wednesdays as a month long thing. We had different people curate it; Dan (Twiford, drummer) from Floralorix at one point took it over. He would be the guy that would book all the bands for the whole month’s dates. The idea was to get together in the middle of the week to have fellowship with your friends, support a local business, and to listen to and share music that is positive and grow together. I think our friend group developed into a fan family slowly from Medicine Wednesdays and that kind of moved into, mentioning the inspiration of Freakin Weekend, another person who’s been a huge supporter of Roots of a Rebellion and a huge supporter of #TNReggae is Jesse Baker at Exit/In. He came to Austin I guess in 2013 or 2014 sometime and said, “Hey, I see what you guys are doing with the Medicine Wednesday stuff, what if we do that on a bigger scale at Exit/In on a quarterly basis? Lets throw a big reggae show in Nashville, TN every three to four months and see what happens”. So we went from Medicine Wedesdays, playing every week for two months to saying, “Alright, lets scale it back a little bit and try this event, bring in more bands” and so that’s what developed Jammin’ On Elliston Island, we did the first one which was ROAR, MD and Cobalt Blue, and I think it was Chinese Connection Dub Embassy.
CP: They’re from Memphis, right?
MM: Yeah, they’re from Memphis. MD and Cobalt Blue are a Nashville reggae band that has been around forever. So we start doing Jammin’ On Elliston Island, and we saw that with Exit/In’s help how our little fan/friend family from Medicine Wednesdays grew to a larger audience with that venue’s assistance. We did Jammin’s for years and I think that’s, as far as shows and events and bands, the roots of how the community developed and how #TNReggae became something that’s not that weird of a phrase to hear.
CP: Yeah, it’s kind of weird to think of, if you’re an outsider, that there’s reggae in Tennessee, but then you go to, for instance, I went to the Bob Marley night you guys did at the Exit/In a couple of nights ago and you sold it out with all local acts. It was y’all, Floralorix.
MM: Chinese Connection from Memphis.
CP: Right, but still, that’s Tennessee. It’s still Tennessee reggae. That wasn’t the first sell out show you guys have had there and that also wasn’t the first Marley show you’ve had there. So it’s really grown into a real tangible thing you guys pack out this venue in town, almost at will, as long as you don’t try to do it too much. You don’t want to over-saturate, of course.
MM: That’s something I think we’ve learned. We used to play in town a lot and it’s really fun to play in town a lot because you get to see your friends a lot and you get to make music together on a regular basis, but the last two or three years, we’ve done 120 shows, 130 shows a year, so we’re not home as much anymore and when we are home, we just have to plan it out a little bit better and make sure that everything goes smoothly.
CP: Be more intentional with the shows you do when you’re in town, try to make it an event when it does happen.
MM: Yeah, make sure when we play in our favorite city, in our hometown, that it’s going to be a great time.
(Video by Stephen Thompson)
CP: Definitely, definitely. So speaking to, because you’re involved and you’re double dipping in the industry a little bit, you do your stuff with ROAR and you guys collectively divy out business responsibilities and things, but you also are involved with Merrill, so you kind of have two perspectives on the shape of the industry right now and ways that young independent artists should navigate it. What’s a big change, or has there been a big change since you guys have started to now that you’ve noticed in the industry?
MM: I don’t know if there’s been anything on like an industry-wide scale that I can say.
CP: From y’all’s experience, then.
MM: For ROAR as a band? I think it depends on what kind of band you are. We’ve worked really hard to make our focus of our business be live shows because that’s what we enjoy doing. We enjoy traveling and we enjoy playing music and for our niche and our style, selling records isn’t common. Rebelution, who was nominated for a Grammy for their recent record, was the top selling reggae artist of 2016 and they sold 33,000 records. So a band at that level only selling 33,000 – which 33,000 is awesome; if we sold 33,000 records, I’d be stoked – but you compare that to other genres, like pop music or hip hop or rap or country music, 33,000 is nothing. So we look at bands like that, how did they build their career? Touring. Rebelution sustains their business off of touring. So we’ve aimed to focus on doing that and I think what we’ve realized is it’s still a sustainable business model. You’ve got bands from all the way back in the Sixties whose model is to tour. Play for your fans on a regular basis, make every show different, make it tight.
CP: Some of those bands are even still out there schlepping around doing it!
MM: And they’re loving it because that’s their life in music, it’s traveling and playing. So for us, I don’t know that any major industry things have ever come across and been like, “Oh, now we’ve got to switch up everything”.
CP: So no big meteor hitting the Earth moment for you guys.
MM: Yeah, we’ve kind of always known how we wanted to structure our business.
CP: Do you think part of your approach comes from your experience at Belmont? Because most of the guys, if not studying music, were at least studying music business.
MM: Half of us studied music, half of us studied business. I definitely think, my perspective; I can’t really speak on the other guys, but my perspective on how to build a business for an independent touring reggae band in the middle of the country came from my internship with Slightly Stoopid‘s management company. It’s called Silverback Management; Jon Phillips and Matt Phillips, two brothers who started it. John was a manager and found Sublime in the early 90’s, Matt and John found Stoopid together through Sublime, Bradley Nowell from Sublime signed Stoopid when they were 16 put them on Skunk Records. Matt and Jon managed Slightly Stoopid from age 16 to now, and I remember being a huge fan of Stoopid in high school. Getting to see them go from the band that they were back then and their reach on a national scale back then to where they’re at now and the business they’ve built for themselves now, which is highly centered on touring, that internship really opened my mind to the possibilities of what we could do as a band. When I came back, I just had this fire to do that.
CP: Yeah, because you saw it first hand.
MM: I saw it. I had a really great interview with almost every one in the company. As part of the Belmont West program, you had to do interviews with your supervisors, and I remember when I talked to Matt he said that when he was 15 he was driving up and down the California coast with a trunk full of Slightly Stoopid’s first record “The Longest Barrel Ride” and he was going to every record store he could to sell those records on consignment. They hustled really hard, they started touring and the next record, they got signed to Interscope, and Interscope produced and paid for the whole record, and at the end of it, there were a little bit of differences, I guess, and Interscope gladly released them and said it’s fine if you guys want to go off and be independent and Stoopid’s been independent ever since and has built this amazing, awesome, artistically true business. So for me, I don’t think that necessarily anything I experienced at Belmont was like “Hmm, I need to approach my future with a band differently”, I think primarily my internship with Tommy Merrill in New York taught me how to be an agent and taught me how to book shows, book tours, and then my experience with Silverback Management saying “Alright, this is the kind of business I want to build, I have the skill sets to do it now”. The internships are a huge part about that school and the connections they generate for you. It’s so key.
CP: Also too, the connections of your peers and, well, it’s a combination of that and being forced to be in the middle of Nashville at that age. There are people new to town that are 26, 27, our age, that are coming in and having their first year of getting out just trying to meet people, and there we are at 18 and 19, dropped in the middle of and surrounded by all these people just like us who are ravenously hungry to do something down the line and make our impression in town. It’s definitely like we had a little bit of a leg up.
MM: It’s definitely valuable to be surrounded by people who have dreams to create music and to help other people fulfill those dreams, whether it’s in the capacity of an agent or manager or a producer or a guitar player for a singer, you’re surrounded by it. It’s definitely a great, great school with great programs. I really enjoyed my time there.
(Photo by Nathan Zucker)
CP: We’re getting towards the end here, let’s circle back and talk about some of the gear you use. I know you mentioned that you have the Strat, but as far as I know, your main love is the SG, is that correct?
MM: Yep, I got my Standard SG Faded, but I pretty much switched out everything in it over time. I’ve got a Tone Pro Tune-o-Matic locking bridge on it, I have two Gibson ’57 Les Paul Classic humbuckers in both the bridge and the neck, and I’ve got a bone nut built into it by the guys over at British Audio that I love and most recently, Greg, a guitar tech over at Gruhn’s fret dressed it for me and it feels like a brand new guitar. But yeah, my main thing is my SG Faded.
CP: Right on.
MM: I just love the scale of Gibsons and the feel of their necks.
CP: Was there an early tone that you heard early on in your playing that you try to emulate, not even necessarily in your playing, are there guys specifically or tones off of records that you’re kind of referencing, that you hear in your head, that you’re kind of chasing a little bit?
MM: I think the early days, like when I was playing guitar and I was really young, high school and stuff, I wanted my guitar, my distorted guitar tone to sound like River Cuomo from Weezer, definitely I’ve gotten away from that desire, but in the early days that was the sound I was going for. As far as my clean tone, I really try to emulate listening to OK Computer by Radiohead. Johnny Greenwood, his clean guitar tone is what I want my clean guitar tone to sound like. It’s just so thick and just crystal clear. As far as my distorted tone, I’m not really sure. I don’t like a lot of treble in my tone, I like more of a bassy, warmer rounder kind of thing. I use a BB Preamp made by Xotic and the bass on it’s cranked and the treble’s like at 6, straight up. I like more warm, bass heavy guitar tones.
CP: You’re using a souped up (Fender) Hot Rod DeVille, is that correct? Well, it’s a DeVille 4×10 configuration, it was a DeVille in a previous life.
MM: I had a DeVille for years and I loved it. I still do, I still play them sometimes because different bands we play with have them. But, I kept having issues with the amp. Something, I can’t remember exactly what it was, but something integral died in the amp. I had already repaired it two or three times in the same year and it was going to cost me over $400 to replace this one part so I was thinking I might as well get a new amp. I made a post on Instagram about my amp giving me issues and Quinn Gallen commented and said “Hey, you should check out Johnny Capito, he makes these amps called Black Tape Amps, he just built one for Emmett (Miller, guitarist), who plays for Diarrhea Planet”. So I got his number, called him, told him what the issue was with my amp and that it wasn’t really salvageable and went down to his shop, he’s got a shop over off 4th right outside downtown and played through a rig that he has that’s called the Gentleman’s Relish, which is kind of modeled after 1970’s Fender Blackface amps, real simple setup that just has Volume, Treble, Mid, Bass, and Reverb. So I played out of that, it’s hand wired so he was able to tweak all of the specs that I wanted and we went through a bunch of different stuff and I wanted to pull the trigger. He dropped it into the case of my DeVille because I had just bought a road case for that configuration. Normally he puts them in a 1×12 configuration.
CP: Like in a Deluxe?
MM: I think so. It’s a usually one speaker kind of rig but I had just bought a road case for that Fender DeVille shape so I put his amp into that, so it’s even a Frankenstein of what he normally does for the Gentleman’s Relish.
CP: Well that’s even cooler, because it’s a one off kind of thing. Maybe he’s done a similar configuration for other folks, but you have something unique there. I know at one point you mentioned switching the speakers out. Did you ever switch to the 1×15 or are you still with the 4x10s?
MM: I haven’t yet, that’s still a goal of mine, to take out the 4 10’s and put 1 15 in it.
CP: Is there someone you saw with a 15 that inspired that?
MM: We did our last record “A Brother’s Instinct” in Boston in a studio called Rear Window Studio and the guy who owns the studio owns a ton of gear. Hundreds of guitars, hundreds of amps, so we had all of that at our fingertips while making the record. I tried a bunch of different amps while I was there and there was this really cool (Fender) Vibroverb that was modded with a 1×15 and that’s what I used on the majority of the record. So, my falling in love with that tone came from that. I don’t know if it would necessarily sound the same with my rig, but I do want to try that at some point.
CP: I’ve only seen the 15 with a guitar player only a couple of times. The one time that’s really standing out that I remember seeing was live and not playing one or seeing someone demo one was, I used to play with Montezuma Fire Machine a couple of years ago and one of the early shows we did was out in Greenbrier out at the Loudhouse Cafe, you might know that spot being a local Tennessee guy. We played kind of late and there was a death metal band that played after us called Distilled Blood. I’ll never forget the name. We stuck around because there was no one there, we were still young and enthusiastic and not jaded, had no problem staying at a show being the crowd until 2:30 in the morning or however late it was, and the guitar player has this cabinet. It was a 4×12 enclosure and there were two either 2×12’s or 2×10’s on the top and the bottom was 1×15 in the bottom half of it. The low end was real tight and responsive, and you want that for death metal tone, that thick low end combined with the distortion and everything. I just thought that the 15 was super interesting in that context.
Any parting thoughts here? I think we’re winding down. Anything you want to plug, any shows coming up for ROAR locally you want to put the word out for?
MM: Our next show in Nashville will be on Cinco de Mayo, May 5th at Exit/In. We’re going to be doing it with a band based out of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, they’re called CBDB. They’re a great jam band, they kind of coined their own genre: Joy Funk. Great guys, really killer band. We’re actually doing three dates this week with them down in Mississippi and Alabama, we played with them last week as well. But yeah, May 5th Exit/In, Jam-o de Mayo, ROAR and CBDB.
CP: Cool, excellent. You guys are also heading out west, you guys are doing some weekend stuff before that, but here in March you guys are doing Texas and Colorado?
MM: Yep, we finish the run with all the tour dates with CBDB this month, then we’ll be doing a tour with a band out of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina called Treehouse that we’re really good friends and tourmates with. We will be starting in Georgia, then Alabama, then down to Texas. There’s a festival down there called ATX Wildfire, which it’s awesome that we’re part of that this year, but it comes first circle. Our first tour we ever did in 2011 to Texas, the promoter of ATX Wildfire, Episode Phive, was the guy who brought us down there, and here we are, six years later going down there and playing his festival. It’s going to be really fun, there’s bands that we’re fans of like the Expanders, Tatanka, The Late Ones, The Toasters, etc. are all on the festival together. So from there we’ll head out to Colorado and then route back through the midwest, then we’ll be taking it easy.
CP: There you go. Y’all are pretty hardworking guys in the sense that when you’re on the road, you’re not afraid to get out consistently and for lengths of time. I know when you guys are in town, you’re always in the lab, always working on new material, always tightening up, always getting that live show together. I’m glad to see things going well for you.
MM: Thanks man, appreciate it.
CP: That was Marco Martinez from Roots of a Rebellion, everyone check them out. Their new record, A Brother’s Instinct is on Bandcamp, Spotify, iTunes, all that stuff. Go give it a listen!
Spotify: Roots of a Rebellion