In the regularly occurring Gear Nerd series, our UK counterparts sit down with Roadrunner musicians to talk about their craft. Tackling questions like how they got started and who they cite as inspirations to what their gear set-up is, our guitarists, vocalists, drummers and bassists like Matt Heafy, Warren DeMartini, Daniel Adair, Gavin Harrison and more have shared their stories.
This week, we've got former Ill Nino/ current Soulfly axe-man Marc Rizzo talking shop. Read all about his guitar background below and check back for more Gear Nerds coming soon. Soulfly's 7th studio album Omen is out now. Get you copy right here!
Roadrunner Records UK: How old where you when you started playing the guitar?
Marc Rizzo: Eight.
RR UK: Eight years old? Was that the very first instrument you picked up or were there any others that you learned before?
MR: No, guitar was the first one.
RR UK: Ok. Who inspired you to play guitar? What made you pick it up?
MR: Probably the first early influence was Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page, and from there in the late eighties, Metallica.
RR UK: Who would you say, style wise, has inspired you the most over the years?
MR: Oh there’s so many. All the greats. Eddie van Halen. I’m a huge fan of his. Just how innovative he was and everything about his playing. Just a huge fan of his.
RR UK: Over your career you’ve played lots of different styles of music, not just rock and metal, but I’ve read you’ve done stuff like flamenco style, classical guitar, jazz. How did you get into that kind of area?
MR: That’s music I really love and I listen to a lot of instrumental guitar and I just like all types of guitar music. My favourite style of music is just anything that just has great guitar playing. When I started doing my solo records a couple of years ago I wanted to touch upon different styles of guitar music so on my records are different types of stuff from metal to jazz to flamenco-influenced stuff to blues. Just everything. I just like it all.
RR UK: Do you think delving into all the different guitar styles has helped you?
MR: Yeah, I don’t know really. You’ve got more to draw from. If you listen to all different types of music and try to incorporate all different stuff hopefully you’ll come out with something different because you’re mixing different things together.
RR UK: Are there any up-and-coming guitar players that are exciting you right now?
MR: Yeah. Actually here in the UK I’m a big fan of Andy James, I’m good friends with him and I think he’s the best guitar player alive right now. He’s just phenomenal and he’s going to be coming out to one of our shows here in the UK in a couple of days. I hope to sit down with him and pick his brain as he’s just unbelievable. I suggest that everybody checks him out on YouTube and his CDs.
RR UK: So were you self-taught or did you have lessons?
MR: It was a little bit of both. I took a lot of lessons growing up but you get to a point where you learn and you can kind of teach yourself. Nowadays I just teach myself things I want to learn so it’s a little bit of both.
RR UK: And what would you say is your practice regime both on and off the road?
MR: Nowadays I just spend a lot of my time on YouTube. You can learn a lot from that. Just put in your favourite guitar player and take a guitar lesson with them. It’s just what I do. I get my laptop out here and just jam along with all my favourite guitar players online, which is really cool.
RR UK: Give us a quick run-through of your career…
MR: I grew up playing around the New Jersey and New York City area, so I grew up playing with a lot of thrash metal and hardcore bands, as well as a lot of other different styles like jazz and blues. I jammed a lot with the people around my area and played that scene for a lot of years. One of those bands I was in was Ill Nino. We got a deal with Roadrunner and so, when I left Ill Nino I got the opportunity to join Soulfly. I think growing up and playing with bands in my area was a big influence on me, and with Roadrunner having their office in Manhattan area that was a plus, obviously. It’s just been crazy. I went from playing small clubs in New York and New Jersey with local cover bands playing Soulfly and Slayer songs to being in the band with Max doing shows with him. It has been a trip.
RR UK: How did you meet with Max? How did that whole thing come about?
MR: Through Roadrunner. When I quit with Ill Nino, the next day, my A&R guy at the time with Roadrunner was like, “Would you be interested in joining Soulfly?” I was like “Yeah, absolutely!” Then Max’s wife, Gloria, who was our manager, called me up and asked me also. They flew me off to Arizona and we started making the ‘Prophecy’ record, did a couple of shows on the West Coast and that was it, it all just fell into place.
RR UK: So who have you been endorsed by over the years and who are you endorsed by now?
MR: I’ve been with a lot of companies over the years but now I’m with Peavey - I’ve been using Peavey amplifiers for a pretty long time now. I’ve used the Peavey 60505 and about a year ago signed with Peavey guitar and have my custom 7 string – that’s out now. Those are the two main ones I’m using now. In the past I’ve been with a lot of different companies; ESP, Yamaha for a little while and I was using Peavey guitars. They were all great guitars.
RR UK: Tell us about your signature guitar…
MR: My new custom is a Peavey Verge 7 string and it’s one of the first of its kind. The shape is the stealth shape which is based on the Chuck Schuldiner tribute model, which Chuck used to play in Death. It’s like that but it’s a 7 string. It’s got two pick-ups, if you like seven strings, and if you like the solos and stuff, I think you’ll like this guitar.
RR UK : And what tips would you give to kids wanting to play guitar and be in a band?
MR: Just practise. It’s a lot of hard work so you’ve got to put all your time and energy into doing it!