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Rod DeGeorge

Interviewed by Grant Hill
Interview with Rod DeGeorge from 2008
MSJ:

This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

I was immediately intrigued when I first saw your profile on Myspace and
heard one of your excellent songs. Having lived in Reading, PA myself for
about 18 years, I always felt a strong connection to the musical scene
there. Here's your opportunity to tell the world about how you got started
on guitar, your musical education, etc. What can you tell us?
I always loved music and knew I wanted to be a musician since I was 9 years old.  However, it took me 4 years to convince my parents to buy me a
guitar. They have been very supportive ever since, though.  I took some lessons in the beginning, but they were sporadic.  I learned a lot by playing to my favorite albums at the time, Zeppelin, Hendrix, Rush, Yes, Kansas, UFO, Uriah Heep, etc. and other seventies guitar rock stuff. Later, I was lucky enough to take lessons from some great players/teachers such as Dave Cullen, Gary Wentzel, Richie Kotzen and Greg Howe.  Again, the lessons were few and far between at times, but they definitely got me to look at things differently than had I continued solely on my own.  I also took a music theory class in high school which helped a lot.
MSJ: Your sound has drawn comparisons to both Steve Vai and John Petrucci. In
fact, when I played your CD for a friend of mine, in the first minute or so
he looked at me and said, "He sounds just like Steve Vai!" Obviously those
are great comparisons, yet it takes time for guitarists to develop into
their own sound. For example, Al DiMeola today is a far better and more
complete player than when he began with RTF back in the seventies. How do
you think your own sound will grow in time, and where will it head?
Well, I definitely take those comparisons as compliments.  They are
monster players and I dig listening to them.  However, I really don’t try
to figure out anyone’s licks or study their style for the sole reason of
trying to find my own voice.  On the other hand, you can‘t help but have
some of your influences sneak into your playing or writing.  As far as where my playing/writing is heading, I hope forward!   On this CD I started to get into the more exotic sounding scales and would like to continue to experiment with that in my songwriting.  I also love the sound of an orchestra, so you may hear me expand on those type of arrangements as well. As far as my soloing, I hope to grow and mature, expand my sense of phrasing etc.  I love some of the great jazz and fusion players, but making that work in my songs, where a lot of the time it is more of a melodic composition/arrangement, can be tricky.  But who knows, when I write, I do best when I get out of the way and let the song write itself....I let go of all preconceived ideas and see what comes to me.  I try to listen instead of think.  Not that I am always successful with that, but that’s what I shoot for.
MSJ: Marty Mellinger did some nice arranging and orchestrations on your CD.
It's been quite a while since I saw him performing with David Cullen
(guitar) and Bennie Simms (bass). How helpful was he in your production
effort?
Marty was great.  He has perfect pitch so I could just play the string/horn
parts on the guitar, or sing them (poorly, that is) and he’d listen to it
once or twice and then play it.  I had a lot of the basic orchestration
figured out before I went to him, but I always would ask his opinion and
was open to his ideas.  Once we got started, we would end up bouncing ideas
off each other and it would always come out better than had I just told him
what to play.  For the Mozart piece I asked him what he thought Mozart
might have done had he arranged this for an orchestra.  We again bounced
some ideas off each other and came up with something pretty cool and
different.  He did the majority of arranging on that one.  I then took the
tracks to my studio, did some editing and the mixing.
MSJ: The CD is a rather eclectic mix of arrangements ranging from the Mozart
piece to straight ahead rock to funky fusion. Was the point to showcase
your diversity of style?
I really didn’t set out to write specific types or styles of songs, nor
did I have a plan of what kind of CD I was going to make.  Again, I just
tried to be open and let the music come to me and not get in the way of it.
I love music that moves me, or that can take me on a journey regardless of
style, genre, instrumentation etc.  So I think that played a big role in
the different styles on the CD.
MSJ: Do you think your next effort may be a bit more narrowly focused and
thematic in nature, or do you like to "cover all the bases" so to speak?
I’m not sure.  It has to be interesting for me and sometimes a whole
instrumental album in one style or direction can lose my attention.  Songs
start running together and I find that I am thinking about something
totally different instead of listening to or being affected by the music.
That being said, there are some concept albums that I really dig, so who
knows?
MSJ: Your skills seem to indicate that you have the potential to quickly step
into some big time playing with some serious artists. Who are the kinds of
people you might like to collaborate or share the stage with in the future
if you had your way?
I could make a list for days.  Creating is one of the coolest things for
me, so if I hear someone that moves me, I immediately think, “Wow, it
would be cool to jam or write with them."  But I’ll try to make a short
list a some well known musicians.  As far as newer artists (pop/rock), I dig
Pink’s voice, she has a cool tone and attitude, Kelly Clarkson is a great
talent as well.  Some others would be Indigo Girls, Sarah McLaughlin, Tommy
Shaw (Styx), Corey Glover (Living Colour) and a ton of other vocalists.  As
far as musicians, I was super happy with the musicians that played on my
CD, Tony Morra on drums, Kevin Vecchione and Bob Luciani on bass and Marty on Keys. Sigma X81 (Soh Kimura) also added some cool techno stuff to a
tune.  So, it would be cool to expand with those guys and see what would
happen.
MSJ: I think the band members on the CD are excellent, but in particular the
bassist on "State of Flux," I think that's Kevin, deserves a shameless plug
for some incredible playing. What can you tell us about him? 
Yeah, Kevin is a great musician.  He is a killer bass player,
guitar player, singer and songwriter - super cool guy as well.  He has been
a monster on the PA, NJ, DE scene for a while and was also in Japan for a
few years.  He played on Greg Howe’s 5 album, too. 
MSJ: What's the last concert you attended for your own enjoyment?
I play 3-5 nights a week, so it’s tough to get out to see shows unless I
am doing a double bill with them.  But I did get to see a friend of mine,
Carl Filipiak during Reading’s Jazz Fest this spring and before that I
saw Steve Vai on the Real Illusions tour a few years ago.  As far as
concerts that I have seen in the past and I wish I had the time to catch again,
Yes, Rush, Eric Johnson, Allan Holdsworth etc.  - too many to mention.
MSJ: What's the last CD or download you bought for your own listening pleasure?
I just ordered the latest releases from Andy Timmons, Paul Gilbert and Greg Howe.  During my lessons with Greg, he actually made some cool suggestions on the arrangements for a few songs that were on Cosmic Playground - incredible musician and super cool guy.
MSJ: Any Spinal Tap-type moments you've experienced that you can share with us?
I don’t know about Spinal Tap moments, but it definitely gets crazy
sometimes on the road and on stage.  I play with the party/rock band Burnt
Sienna and the stage turns into a circus at time.  Girls on the drummers
lap and shoulders (at the same time and he doesn’t miss a beat), girls on
the singers backs chicken fighting, band members on PA stacks, lighting
scaffolding, crowd surfing etc. So far it’s just been “rock n’ rolll,"when someone falls and renders themselves unconscious, then I guess it will be Spinal Tap!
 
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