The latest “15 questions” feature is with Voodoo Vegas guitarist Merylina Hamilton. Merylina is a seasoned guitarist having toured across Europe and is regularly playing to crowds of 100’s if not 1000’s of people. Guitar Jar catches up with Merylina and quizzes her on her guitar equipment, technique and how it feels to be involved in a male dominated industry.
I had 2 weeks to learn all the songs before playing my first gig in front of 300 people supporting The Quireboys…
- Hi Merylina, can you give Guitar Jar readers an insight of how long you’ve been playing the guitar and what or who inspired you to start playing?
Hi Guitar Jar, I’ve been playing 6 years now. Guitarists like Slash, Hendrix, Joe Perry, Gary Moore and Jimmy Page inspired me, but also all my friends as most of them played guitar so I was always around it.
- How would you describe the sound of Voodoo Vegas and what exactly is your role in the band?
I think we sound like a heavy classic rock band with balls but also sometimes quite bluesy too. I’m joint lead guitar with Nick. Malcolm Dome a writer for Classic Rock Magazine says if you like The Answer you will like us, the bands influences include Aerosmith, G’n’R, and AC/DC.
- How did you get involved with playing in Voodoo Vegas? Were you in many bands prior to joining VV and how did you make the break from being a “bedroom playing rock Goddess” to actually gigging regularly?
I was in 2 bands previous and when I left them, Nick from VV asked if I’d like to join. At that point I’d been going to their gigs for years as a fan so it’s great that I’m actually in the band now on stage with the guys. VV have always been a busy gigging band so when I joined I just had 2 weeks to learn all the songs before playing my first gig with them in front of 300 people supporting The Quireboys.
- It’s clear you’re serious about your tone. What guitars, effects and amps do you use?
I used to use a Gibson Les Paul Classic but I’ve just switched to a PRS Custom 24 guitar with a Blackstar Artisan 30 combo 2×12 Amp. It has great tone with its 9 valves, class A Celestion Speakers and hand wired. I use minimal effects I like to keep things earthy and organic so all I use is a Boss Delay, a wha wha and a Blackstar HT Dual boost pedal for solos which also has a valve in it. So things stay as pure as possible.
- I’ve heard a rumour about your endorsements – how did you manage to get those large guitar companies to back you?
Yes I’m sponsored by PRS, Daisy Rock Girls Guitars and Vintage. I contacted them and basically told them I was playing often around the UK and Europe in front of large audiences and teaching guitar to 200 students, so they knew it would be a good form of advertising I guess. Also special thanks to Guitar Mania on helping me get the PRS I wanted.
- Do you use the same “live” setup in the studio or are you happy to use amp/effects modelling and software simulation?
I use the same setup but EQ my amp differently in the studio a bit, I would also drive the valves more in the studio. I’m open to amp/effects modelling as long as it doesn’t sound synthetic.
- How often do practice and what do you focus on to improve your technique? Are you a girl who likes to work on guitar solos or are you strictly rhythm?
I try to practice 5 days a week, an hour a day. I practice all my modes and pentatonic shapes in every key to a metronome as a warm up, I try to practice for accuracy making sure each hand is in total sync. I practice my vibrato and like improvising solos over general tracks. I love soloing, even though it’s not as important as rhythm, I think it’s more fun.
- Have you had any nightmare experiences whilst gigging?
Once my amp broke in a middle of a gig so I had no choice but to mime. Another time I had a loose connection in my pedal board so I had to sort out my set up differently but whilst doing that I knocked over a mike stand, knocked over a monitor and tripped over a lead in front of hundreds of people starring at me lol.
- Has your guitar style ever been compared to anyone else?
Some people say they can tell I’m influenced by Slash sometimes but its hard I guess as there’s not as many girl’s out there as boy’s playing lead guitar in a rock band.
- Let’s say Voodoo Vegas get signed to a major label soon. What piece of guitar equipment is the top of your shopping list and why?
I love my PRS but I would also love a Gibson Les Paul Custom in Black with the block inlays and 1950’s neck. I would also like a roadie to carry and set up my gear.
- If you could form a super group using famous musicians past or present, who would you have on drums and why?
Jon Bonham (if he was alive) because he really really hits those drums.
- Your house is burning down. What is the one guitar item you would save?
My PRS Guitar but I would take my cats Bonny and Jovi also.
- Lager or Cider?
I don’t like either, but a glass of wine or a cup of tea would do. I did once have some cherry beer at a gig in France, that was rather nice, but it got me very drunk.
- What’s it like for you being a female guitarist in such a male dominated industry? Do you get positive or negative comments from other musicians / members of the crowd? What words of advice would you give to other female guitarists who are looking to break into the live music scene?
To be honest I love it, I like to stand out and I always get positive feedback, girls and women often tell me how I have inspired them to want to pick up a guitar. When we play venues, Sound Engineers tend to automatically think I’m going to be the rhythm guitarist or singer which is a bit annoying. So I quite like telling them that I’m joint Lead Guitar. When I first became a guitar teacher I had a lot of sexist remarks until people gave me a chance then they realised they were wrong. To other girl’s I’d say just be yourself and work hard at it.
- What’s the plan for Voodoo Vegas in the near future and can you get me a PRS? 😉
Well we want to record a proper studio album at the end of the year and release it through a label to shops and digital download. We’ll continue gigging and touring building a name for ourselves. I’ll try to put the good word in about the PRS, but I don’t think it will work!
For more information about Voodoo Vegas and future gig dates, please visit www.voodoovegas.com