How did you get involved
with Collective Soul?
Photo by Joseph Guay
After I got out of high school,
I was scratching and clawing
around with local bands, rehearsing
four or five nights a week
in crappy warehouse rehearsal
rooms and playing shows for no
money. I needed to put gas in my
car and have a little something
to eat, so I started doing some
paint and body work on cars and
motorcycles. My dad’s a mechanic,
so I’d always been around that
stuff. I had my own little business
for a few years and was always
trying to get closer to music.
Then one day around ’96 or
’97, a friend of mine introduced
me to [Collective Soul vocalist/
guitarist/songwriter] Ed Roland.
I told Ed I was trying to get out
of the auto business and that I’d
love to take any job that might
be available in his organization.
It happened that Collective Soul
needed someone to work on
their guitars, and I was a good fit
because I’d always tinkered with
mine and set them up myself.
How did you learn to work on
guitars and amps?
My first electric guitar was a
Japanese SG rip-off made of
plywood that I bought for 10
dollars. Since it was so junky, it
didn’t matter if I messed it up,
so I used it to learn how to set
things up as demonstrated in my
little library of how-to books.
Also, Eddie Van Halen was melting
everyone’s face off when I
was coming up, and everybody
was copying him and building
their own “super strats,” so
naturally I had to make one, too.
I bought the basic parts from
Warmoth and took the body
to my high-school shop class to
route out the cavities for a bridge
pickup and a volume knob. Later,
I got into Steve Morse, so I routed
out a neck pickup and a toggle
switch. I put in a coil-tap switch
and then took it out, painted the
guitar about 10 different times,
swapped out the neck—you
name it—and learned a whole lot
in the process. Later, when I was
working with Collective Soul in
the late 1990s, Ed had some old
Vox AC30s that he brought out
on the road. They were constantly
blowing up, so that became the
catalyst for me learning how to
repair and modify tube-amp stuff.
How did you teach yourself
Through trial and error and
using books like Gerald
Weber’s A Desktop Reference of
Hip Guitar Amps
Pittman’s The Tube Amp Book
For me, those books were like
finding the damn Dead Sea
Scrolls or something! [Laughs
What was it like to transition
from being the group’s tech to
being their guitarist?
The band called me out of desperation
in 2001 when they had
parted ways with another guitarist.
In less than two weeks, they
were going to travel to Australia
to play at the Goodwill Games
in Brisbane, and then on to
New Zealand for more shows. I
had, like, 10 days to learn lead
parts for the entire set and
together a touring rig. I was
finally getting paid to play guitar,
but it wasn’t all happy fun.
After the tour, we came back to
the US on September 10—the
day before 9/11—and all our
Northeast shows were cancelled.
Things felt very unsettled for a
while, but we finally got into a
good groove and I permanently
joined the band in ’03. Things
have been pretty busy ever since.
While many Collective Soul
songs come from the pen of
Ed Roland, you wrote and
sang lead vocals on “I Don’t
Need Anymore Friends.”
Yeah, I recorded that one with a
batch of songs that ended up on
my solo record. When we made
, Ed asked if I’d like to
contribute a song, so I picked one
of mine that I felt would be most
appropriate for a Collective Soul
between poppy and rock-guitar-riff
oriented. It was pretty close
to being finished when I brought
it in—it just needed some bass
lines and background vocals.
Lyrically, it’s just a nice little song
about how I felt at the moment.
We were out on tour a few years
ago, and we were at this party the
promoter threw for us after the
show and . . . what can I say? I
just didn’t want to be there! I get
sensory overload sometimes when
there’s too much going on and
too many people talking to me at
the same time. It makes me withdraw.
The lyrics are really supposed
to be kind of sarcastic and
are not to be taken literally—with
the music business being what it
is, I need all the friends I can get!
Some of the guitar parts on
that song are so synth-like.
What sorts of effects did you
use to get that sound?
I’m a big fan of the old DigiTech
Whammy pedal, and I always
wind up stumbling on some cool
new sounds when using it in
conjunction with other pedals.
For the second half of the first
verse, I played a P-90-equipped
MJ guitar and set my Whammy
to an octave-up, octave-down
sweep and ran that through a
Leslie-type pedal—an Option
5 Destination Rotation—and a
Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler. I
set the amp fairly clean and then
got those keyboard-sounding
things by rocking the pedal back
and forth between the octaves
while I played the Bm–A–G–
D–A chord progression.
Is the MJ your main guitar?
Yes. I have a few that I play both
in Collective Soul and on my
own. I own that one MJ Mirage
outfitted with P-90s, and it’s
become one of my very favorite
guitars for recording, especially
lead lines and melodic parts that
I want to stick out a bit more.
It’s an all-mahogany, chambered-body
guitar with a rosewood
fretboard. I own six humbucking-
equipped MJs and another
that’s more in the Tele style, as
far as electronics go. They’re all
great, and each one has its own
personality, but my favorite is
a beat-up black one that’s all
mahogany with an ebony fretboard.
I asked [MJ owner] Mark
Johnson to do a thin, satin-black
finish directly on top of the
wood—without any clear-coat
protection—so it’s taken some
lumps out on the road.
What other guitars do you play?
I’ve got a few PRS McCartys and
two Soloways. One is a 6-string
Swan that has a cocobolo top on
a swamp ash body. The other is
a 7-string Swan with a swamp
ash body and a black lacquer
finish. Those Soloways are really
cool for drop tunings because
of their long 27" scale, and they
hold together nicely under distortion.
I think Jim [Soloway] is
kind of a jazz guy, so it’s funny
that I use his instruments for the
big rock stuff.
Which songs do you use
your Soloways on?
I used the 6-string with great
results on “Sunrise” from my
solo record. I used the 7-string
on “Caterpillar,” “A Steel Cage
to Ride,” and “New Song”—
basically anywhere I could find
an excuse to play it!