Greg Koch is a killer player and clinician for Fender. He talk gear and gigs.
When and why did you start to play guitar?
I played piano by ear at an early age, because my mom plays very well, and she showed me a boogie-woogie pattern and some other things, and I can lay tracks down on drums, bass and keys with a minimum of embarrassment. Jimi Hendrix really affected me at a young age. I roomed with my brother, who was 14 years older than me, and he listened to a lot of Hendrix, Cream and Grand Funk Railroad. The idea of being a guitar player in a power trio was cooler than just about anything in comparison. Hendrix, in particular, epitomized guitar godhood in every way. I used to make cardboard guitars and pretend to play along with Hendrix using my sister’s sewing machine pedal as a wah-wah pedal. I did a report on Hendrix when I was in the third grade. The first record I ever bought was around that time… it was Jimi Hendrix’s Smash Hits. I didn’t actually get my hands on a guitar until I was 12, but from then on it was all I cared about.
Do you remember your first gig ever?
I played my first gig nine months after I starting playing, in the cafeteria at Christ the King School, where we played an 8th-grade graduation party. It was a three-piece band, and I played a ’68 SG through a Peavey Backstage 30. The setlist consisted of instrumental versions of “Purple Haze,” “Fire,” “Communication Breakdown,” “Hey Joe” and “Wild Thing.”
Who are your most important influences in music?
I consider myself a blues-rock guitarist who learned a few country and jazz things along the way. My main influences musically range from Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Cream, Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin then back to Muddy Waters, Albert, B.B. and Freddy King, T-Bone Walker, Cornell Dupree, Earl Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James to Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed, Jimmy Bryant, Roy Buchanan, Albert Lee, Danny Gatton, Brent Mason, Ray Flacke, The Hellecasters to Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, George Benson, Barney Kessel, Kenny Burrell to Frank Zappa, Little Feat, Allan Holdsworth, Sonny Landreth to the Sacred Steel slide dudes, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan.
Is there a certain situation, recording or session you will always remember?
I will always remember recording at Ocean Way out in L.A. with a big budget, staying at the Roosevelt, being wined and dined, recording amazing stuff, convinced that we were making historic music only to have the record company sit on it and never let it reach the light of day… a learning experience!
What was the funniest thing that ever happened to you while playing music?
A girl came on stage once wearing these shoes with springs on the bottom of them and she proceeded to bounce with such ferocity that she almost bludgeoned the bassist with her generous bosoms.
When did you discover that you had a special talent to teach and to demonstrate gear?
I just had to do it, so I did it. I had a young family and gigging in hellholes was not going to pay the bills, so I went the Fender route. I always try to do whatever I do in a way that is unique and hopefully interesting. I also don’t talk bullshit. I truly believe what I’m saying and playing, and I think that comes across.
How long do you practice every day and how do you practice?
I have four young kids, so practice time is something that I covet. I have less time, but I make more of the time by focusing on a specific thing that I wish to learn. I feel I keep getting better, but I am nowhere near where I wish to be. I try to have fun with the skills I possess.
You can change your playing style from country to death metal within one second— what is the key to having all these styles ready to go?
Well, I don’t do the styles just to show that I can do them. I actually really love the different styles enough to learn them with some degree of authenticity. I’m pretty opinionated about who I like and have hyper-focused on those who have moved me the most in each genre. You will notice that I do little to no tapping, as I was never a disciple of Eddie Van Halen or any of the metal guys. I respected them for the amount of time it takes to master the technique of say, an Yngwie Malmsteen, but I have never worn spandex and I feel pretty good about that.
I have to say, I am extremely low maintenance. Therefore, the opportunities I have been presented have almost always worked out for me, because I get along with folks and I’m easy to work with. From a musical point of view, I think that my ability to play different styles convincingly and then be able to morph those styles into something different, all done with a sense of the bizarre, has had a positive impact on my career. I think I write a pretty good tune here and there and can entertain a crowd of diverse tastes… I always try to keep something up my sleeve so that I can always surprise those who think they’ve seen it all.
If you had to go to a deserted island and were only allowed to take one guitar, one amp and one stompbox with you, what would it be?
My blue Custom Shop Strat, a Super Reverb and my Gristle King pedal.
Do you have some general things, tricks, etc., you would like to share with our readers when it comes to practicing and developing their own style and unique tone?
Never stop listening and expanding your horizons. Never stop practicing. If you think you’re pretty good, think again!
Is there anyone you would like to have the chance to play, record or jam with?
I’ve always wanted to jam with the Allman Brothers, but I would love to jam with Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Paul McCartney… [John] Scofield, Mike Stern… too many to mention.
Do you have any endorsements running?
I am a Fender guy: Fender guitars, amps, strings, cords, picks, underwear, etc. I have some pedals that I have championed for years that my friend Tim Jauernig makes: the Gristle King and the DGTM [Diabolical Gristle Tone Manipulator]. I love my BSM pedals; I have some excellent pickups in my Tele that are German-made by a guy named Ray Gerold. That’s all I’ve been using lately. But I am a Fender guy first and foremost.
Do you have a favorite guitar, amp and effect? Why are they your favorites?
I have been using a couple of Teles for the last year, a Fender American Deluxe Ash Tele and a Fender Baja Tele. My two favorite Fender Custom Shop guitars—which I have been seen with the most—may be made into a limited edition signature model through a local dealer here in Milwaukee via the Fender Custom Shop. They both are a weird greenish blue. The Tele has a B-bender and the Strat has been my main guitar for over 15 years. It’s pretty much a hot-rodded ’56 Strat.
Amp-wise, I go between a Fender Super- Sonic Combo with a 2x12 extension cab, a Super Reverb and a Custom Vibrolux, but lately I have been plugging straight into a ’57 Tweed Deluxe reissue… I may do the next record entirely with it… it’s pure!
What is the secret of your signature Telecaster tone, gear-wise?
I use my Gristle King pedal for some gain, but most of the sounds are a result of continually refining my playing… it never ends. The amps may change but the sound remains.
What do you think about vintage equipment?
It’s great, but it’s getting way too expensive, so it’s not practical to use live… the studio is another matter. I usually borrow what I need in the studio!
Is there a general setup for your instruments (string gauge, action, pickups...)?
I play a Fender Stainless Steel .011 set with the action pretty low. My pickups vary from guitar to guitar.
Are there private friendships with other players or artists you played with?
I’m pretty good buddies with Paul Barrere, Fred Tackett and the rest of the Little Feat gang. T Lavitz from the [Dixie] Dregs has been a long-standing buddy of mine. I like to hang out with Joe Bonamassa when he comes to town… I recently met and hung out with Robben Ford, Guthrie Govan and David Grissom, and I enjoyed their company quite a bit… not to mention their playing!
What are your plans for the future?
Finishing a record with Malford Milligan to come out Spring of ’09, then a tour of Europe from April to May of ’09. I’m going to do a record with Reggie Hamilton and Tom Brechtlein this year and some gigs with them. I’m doing some tracks on T Lavitz’s new record, and we’re going to do some gigs with Tom Brechtlein and Jeff Berlin.
Greg's Gear Box
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Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
Complete with a range of game-changing design features, such as the patent-pending attachable FREERIDE Wheel System, premium water-resistant and reflective materials, shockproof shell structure and improved ergonomic features, the Vertigo Ultra Bass takes gear protection to the next level.
The Vertigo Ultra Bass features:
- Patent-pending FREERIDE Wheel System that allows for wheels to be attached on the case in no time, giving you the option to travel with it seamlessly
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The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.