Adam is the guitarist/vocalist of L.A. rock outfit ZänKoma. He was introduced to me via Dean Campbell of Campbell American Guitars as per my request for some guitar player recommendations. The band’s playing the famed Whiskey a GoGo on the 24th of July. Check ‘em out!
G: What were you listening to, reading, and watching as a child? What was the first piece of music you remember effecting you?
AB: The very first piece of music must have been hearing my dad, a professional musician practice on the guitar/trumpet or whatever instrument he was obsessing on at the time. Also remember very well liking the Beatles when I was very little. There was this German pop group I was fascinated by very early on called Boney M. Also remember Bill Hailey’s “Rock around the Clock” having a great effect on me around the same time.
G: Is guitar your first instrument? What led you to picking that up?
AB: The very first instrument I started making music with is my voice. Even before I began to speak I could scream pretty well. Pretty weird Huh? No honestly, I started singing very early on. Sang in a choir and had my first public on the stairs of the Dome of Eger (Hungary) when I was 6. Guitar came around the same time but not as a main instrument.
G: Did you take lessons? What did you teach yourself that is now a big part of your style? What was easy to pick up, and what was hard?
AB: Yes I had constant lessons as of age 5. My parents put me into a school that laid very heavy emphasis on musical education. I was taught to sight read as of age 6, took piano, and trumpet lessons. Trumpet fascinated me the most, for it seemed the loudest natural instrument and always cut through. For some reason that was easy to pick up for me cause it the phrasing and technique always related to the human voice. All that said while all this was going on I began pretty early on to beat up on a guitar. I often write guitar riffs that a horn section would play.
G: Gear talk! What do you own, and why? It’s perhaps a hard thing to describe in words, but what can you say about your tone/sound?
AB: My main amp is a 50W Wizard Vintage /Classic with EL 34s, through a 4-12 with Celestion, 25W Greenbacks. The Wizard is a single channel, 4 input standard amp without any master volume. I run a Ho’s Attenuator between my head and the cab for obvious reasons. Other than that I play it wide open and work the volume pot of my guitar to go from a clean to an overdriven sound. This amp/cab set up gives me a nice chewy/woody yet heavy British sound. I also /play some of the recent Egnater amps, such as the Rebel 20.Incredible bang for the buck low wattage amp!I also use Sheptone Pick Ups in my guitars. Great sounding PAF type Pups.
Other than the obvious Gibson/Fender guitar choices (SG, Les Paul, Explorer, Strat, Tele), my main guitar is a custom built Campbell Transitone. Campbell American Guitars by Dean Campbell are incredible hand crafted tone machines. Dean’s instruments proof string theory exists. Parallel worlds of a many guitars existing in one but on a much higher level thought possible.
Why all this tone? Well I’m just not that good of a guitarist. So might as well make the little I know sound great.
G: What effects/pedals do you use? What hardware/software do you use for recording at home, if you do?
AB: I use the BB by Xotic effects as my main and only pedal. It doesn’t really color just adds a very natural overdrive. Most importantly it cleans up real nicely with the volume of the guitar. I really don’t use any other effects. All I need I can get from my amp and guitar. What’s important to me is good volume and tone pots, which I had to replace on all of my new guitars except my Campbell Transitone. I also like using NOS sprague paper in oil capacitors in my guitars which I feel give me a purer unaltered tone. For cables I use Evidence Audio.
At home I just record into a korg digital recorder for practice or writing purposes. In the studio 2”tape (when we can afford it) and pro tools HD is what we use.
AB: I like a good tune with a good guitar solo and a strong rock voice and a story to be told with an edgy punk yet classic rock vibe. Just couldn’t find a band that had all of those elements. So I started my own. ZänKoma =Quitude in a Coma.
Our lead guitarist Steve I found through an add on Craigslist. He just moved to from England to LA a couple weeks prior and put out an ad in which he was looking for a band. Best 10 minutes I ever spent on Craigslist. Our drummer Skeeter Joplin and bass player Cristian were previously in a different band we used to play with. We met them while playing shows on the sunset strip.
G: What would you advise guitar players remember when they: 1) practice 2) write music 3) record and 4) perform live?
AB: Always remember your girlfriend’s birthday!
G: Would like to hear your recommendations for: a) 3 must-listen guitar albums. b) 3 must listen non-guitar albums.
a) Cream: Wheels of fire – Jeff Beck: Blow by Blow –Johnny Winter: 2nd Winter
b) Too many …
G: What are you working on now? What would you like to do differently in 2009 than the previous year?
AB: I’m working on becoming a better musician. As for 2009, I would like to pay less taxes.