60 seconds with...
A minute’s all it takes to find out what makes a great guitarist tick. Before he jumped into his limo for the airport we grabbed a quick chat with Marillion’s guitarist and creative powerhouse, Steve Rothery
jeff beck has a mastery of the strat that is unequalled in the history of guitar playing
GT: Do you have a type of pick that you can’t live without?
SR: Mostly I use a standard 0.73mm medium plastic pick, but during the recording of my solo album I used a Reefer Pickboy 0.75mm carbon/nylon pick.
GT: You have to give up all your pedals but three...
SR: Kingsley Jester valve overdrive/boost, the best overdriven chord and riff sound I’ve ever heard. Analogman modded Boss DS-1, the solo sound I used through the 80s and 90s; and the Analogman micro chorus, the only chorus pedal that approaches my rack-mounted Boss CE-300.
GT: Do you play another instrument well enough to do so in a band, and have you?
SR: I play bass reasonably well. I play it on Don’t Hurt Yourself from the Marillion album Marbles and on the second album by my project, The Wishing Tree.
GT: If a music chart were put in front of you, could you read it?
SR: If you gave me a few hours!
GT: Do guitar cables really make a difference? What make are yours?
SR: Yes, they affect the amount of high frequencies that pass through to the amplifier. I’ve found you usually have to bring down the treble and presence on the amp after upgrading. I use mainly Evidence Audio cables.
GT: Is there anyone’s playing (past or present) that you’re slightly jealous of?
SR: Jeff Beck because he has a unique approach and a mastery of the Strat that is unequalled in the history of guitar playing. Also he still plays with passion and fire after all these years.
GT: Your studio is burning down: which guitar do you salvage?
SR: My Jack Dent SR Raven that I used on my solo album. It’s about as perfect as a guitar can get!
GT: What’s your favourite amp and how do you set it?
SR: I use either a Groove Tubes Trio/Dual 75 combo or a Pitcher Shadow SE. I run a Lexicon MPX G2 and TC 2290 in between the Groove Tubes and Strymon delay and reverb pedals in the loop of the Pitcher.
GT: What kind of action do you have on your guitars?
SR: Not extremely low as I prefer control during bends to a fast action. I think guitars ring more with a bit more height in the action.
GT: What strings do you use?
SR: Ernie Ball Cobalt Super Slinky 9-42. They handle the amount of bending and vibrato I do better than any other string I’ve tried.
GT: Who was your first influence to play the guitar?
SR: Dave Gilmour, Steve Hackett (Genesis), Andy Latimer (Camel), George Harrison.
GT: What was the first guitar you really lusted after?
SR: A Yamaha SG2000.
GT: What was the single best gig you ever did?
SR: Hollywood Rock festival in Sao Paulo in 1990. 80,000 people going crazy and the first ever concert in Brazil.
GT: …and your worst playing nightmare?
SR: Falling off stage in pitch blackness at the end of a gig in Germany, around 1987, wearing a double-neck guitar!
GT: What’s the most important musical lesson you ever learnt?
SR: To steal from as many people as possible!
GT: Do you still practise?
SR: Sometimes, but I prefer to write when I’m playing.
GT: Do you have a pre-show warm-up routine?
SR: Put the book that I’m reading down and empty the bladder before going on!
GT: If you could put a fantasy band together with you in it, who would the other musicians be (they can be dead or alive)?
SR: Paul McCartney, bass; Steve Gadd, drums; Rick Wright (Pink Floyd), keys; Paul Buchanan (The Blue Nile) vocals.
GT: Present company excepted (and notwithstanding the stupidity of the question!), who’s the greatest guitarist that’s ever lived?
SR: Jimi Hendrix.
GT: Is there a solo by anyone else that you really wish you had played instead?
SR: David Gilmour, Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb.
GT: What’s the solo/song of your own of which you are most proud?
SR: The second solo in This Strange Engine (title track of Marillion’s ninth album).
GT: What would you most like to be remembered for?
SR: For playing what the song needed and no more!
GT: What are you and the band up to at the moment: tours, albums, new gear, etc?
SR: We’re about to play a festival in Poland, and are currently touring to promote the new Marillion album F.E.A.R. which is released on September 23rd.
Marillion’s Steve Rothery with his Jack Dent guitar