The latest “15 questions” feature is with guitarist Simon Wood. Simon is a highly versatile guitarist who not only teaches guitar of various genres, he’s also had many sessions playing and recording for a wide variety of bands and musicians. Residents of the Bournemouth area may also recognise Simon from his involvement with the Guitar Mania store in Parkstone. Guitar Jar caught up with Simon to quiz him on his guitar equipment, technique and the projects he’s currently involved with…
… I’ve always tried to get a nice tone. I have worked on it for sure, but the key thing is NOT to change your gear too often! Update it and improve it, but don’t change it…
- Hi Simon, before we get into the details of your equipment and technique, can you give Guitar Jar readers an insight to why you first picked up the guitar and how long you’ve been playing?
I’ve been playing since I was 12 and a half and got my first guitar (Spanish) at 13, then an electric about a year later. I’ve never had any lessons and I’ve been playing 37 years. I took it up because I read a quote in the NME that went something like, “all chicks dig a good axeman…“, so even at that age I was a player lol! I did it to pull girls (I still do but largely of course it doesn’t work). I now play the guitar as my living.
- In the first few years in learning the instrument, which guitarist(s) were you influenced by the most and why?
My early influences were Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore, Brian May and Andy Scott (Sweet), but the revolution began in 1978 by Eddie Van Halen. That pretty much set the precedent and blew me away! I was an Eddie clone for years. I’m also a huge fan of Steve Lukather and Steve Stevens, but I’m not just into rock and metal players, I’m a big funk fan too. Nile Rogers figures in my groove list! My favourite singer-songwriter guitarist is Kim Mitchell who was with Max Webster in the 70s/80s and he’s now solo – he is a big influence too.
- Rumour has it you’re a gear junkie. How many guitars do you own and can you tell our readers what the pride and joy is of your collection?
I have about 14 guitars and wouldn’t really part with any now. None of them are that expensive, just the Ibanez JS1200 (I’m a huge fan!) and my beloved RG550 ltd. They’re my pride and joy but I never leave for a gig without my trustee go-to Westone Thunder 1A!
- What amplifier(s) do you use when playing live?
I have 2 live rigs; a stereo set up with a Marshall50/50 dual mono block power amp driven by a 20 year old Peavey Rock Master tube pre-amp which is at the heart of my tone. In the loop is an equally old Alesis Quadraverb controlled by a Digitech Control 8 with a cc pedal, for all my reverbs, delays and modulation.In the pedalboard (and also for my smaller rig) is a cry baby 95q wah wah, a Boss CS2 Compressor (the best!) a Boss Chromatic Tuner and finally a Digitech DF7 multi distortion. Also in the loop is a Marshall Regenerator multi modulation and a Boss DD2. These are for when I use just my Marshall TSL 100 combo for smaller gigs. This amp is perfect for all my funk and dance gigs but not ‘rock’ enough for say a metal gig or for when I used to (and hope to again) play with my own band, ‘Stilettos‘. It’s quite directional and despite being 100W, it’s often up as loud as it can be before all the channels start getting too driven for funk!The multi pedals come in handy for all the different types of sound I need to get on sessions or with the odd band I dep for. I always record with my effects, as despite studios being well equipped with outboard gear, my experience is they can never be bothered to add anything, so best lay down the effects while you’re there!
I put the stereo power amp into 2 Marshall 1×12 1933 cabs loaded with Celestion 150w sidewinders and have modded the cabs to be open back by cutting out the middle third of the back. This throws the sound up and around better. There’s never been enough room for me to use a 4×12 with all the rack and my guitars!
- Are you a fan of amp/guitar modelling?
Regarding amp modelling I used to own a Line6 Flextone 3 which was good in the studio and very versatile (I used the stereo emulated outs all the time) but one day I plugged back into a valve amp and promptly sold the Line 6! Even the emulated out of the Marshall sounds better. At home I use an old Digitech RP300 and never use the cab simulators as simply altering the EQ sounds better. I’ve used Amp Farm in a big studio in London for a Lucie Silvas session but it took so long to get right – just placing a microphone in front of a small combo in a cupboard would’ve been faster and better!
- That’s a serious head of hair! Are you a closet 80’s shred player at heart, or do you feel your style is wider reaching than playing super fast?
For me, the ’80s shred’ thing has never really gone away, it just fell out of vogue in the early to mid 90s. That’s when Dream Theateremerged, so perhaps it’s just this country (UK) that forgot it, but it’s been back several years now!As for the hair, I haven’t got as much as I had, but then I am 50, and you tend to want to hang on to what you have as long as possible if you’re looking to have any kind of recognition. Thankfully, rock music isn’t quite so ‘hair’-defined, so when it goes, or if you never had it, it doesn’t matter – but image is very important! I’ll be remembered more for my clothes than my technique without a doubt!
- I’m really impressed by the tone of your recordings and it sounds like you’re quite an emotional player. Is your tone something that you’ve worked on over the years?
Thank you, yes I consider myself an emotional player, I’m not all about speed and I’ve always tried to get a nice tone. I have worked on it for sure, but the key thing is NOT to change your gear too often! Update it and improve it, but don’t change it. I was worried when my preamp had to be repaired recently, as I can’t find another one on the Internet and it’s responsible for how I play. I can plug into someone else’s rig on a gig and sound rubbish! It’s worth mentioning that my first ever pedal my dad gave me was a Roland Sustainer which was clean! I’m dependant on the compressor to be on all the time and adjust the gain accordingly. It means my drive isn’t as high as some.
- You’ve been involved with Guitar Mania over the years. Who’s the more accomplished guitarist – Jon Rabbets or yourself?
Jonis an amazing player and he won’t mind me saying that he came to me for some lessons early on. He also went to another teacher too and put loads of work in. He was his own man and sought out things and developed his own path, but again, he won’t mind me saying, he’s concentrated on rock and metal exclusively, whereas I’ve always diversified partly because I like melodic aor and funk (and because I’ve had to in order to get work).The sessions I do require you to play any style; they just expect you to be able to do anything, or else you don’t get called again! I’d love to just be a rock player in my old band “Stilettos” and in a few months, maybe I could play as fast and wild as Jon! But the truth is we’re just different players and hey, I’ve been playing a lot longer. Working in the shop with Jon and all those other great players keeps you on your toes. I’d hate that anyone thought I ‘wasn’t as good as I used to be!’ so now and then, I go back to the woodshed and do something to get my chops back up to speed!
- How often do you practice and what do you focus on to improve your technique?
I used to practice all the time, for hours every day. Now I just pick up a guitar when I’m getting paid, which I know is sad, but as I teach every day, I’m keeping my playing together and use any free time to learn new songs I’m asked to for a gig. A while ago I was in a rock covers band called ‘Jealousy’ and we performed very complicated material, so I practiced like mad to get the solos down.As most of what I’m doing now is straight forward, I feel I don’t need to practice, but secretly I love practicing and recording some of those demos on my MySpace. I will spend ages getting a solo to show off my playing at its best. I’m a rehearsal bunny and I loved the routine of once a week rehearsals with the old band. That’s where you do your best practice; up loud with the band, not in your bedroom with a ten watt combo.
- Do you currently play in any bands or are you performing at all?
My current band is ‘Groovemeister’ a 6 piece funk/soul outfit for functions and parties. It’s a spin off from the ‘Funk Soul Bros’ I was with for about 10 years and are all great players and wonderful people. I do enjoy it, but if I’m honest, I’m a rock player at heart, and am only happy when I have a release for that as well as the funk thing. I sometimes play for a band I was in years ago, The Slobs, with again, amazing people and its lots of fun.More and more, I feel like I want to get back with my own band where I can feel truly represented. I dep for other bands too like the Baker Bros and occasionally Robert Hart (ex Bad Company).
- When was the last time you recorded guitar parts?
I record all the time, mostly jingles for the radio at a nearby studio and I just did a track for Robert Hart. I’ve done lots of session work over the years at many studios. Now and then I record a new song for my MySpace solo page; I could put an album together of my solo stuff and easily write more if I had a band to put behind it (I’m always looking!). Controversially, I prefer recording to gigging, well, at least at the low level I have to most of the time. The big gigs are very rare these days and I hate pubs. I love going home with an example of my playing that’s well mixed with no wrong notes lol!
- Your house is burning down. What’s the one guitar item you would save?
I guess my Ibanez RG550 – it’s my most played and recorded guitar, but like anyone, all my others are so precious to me, I think I’d rather stay in the burning house!
- If you could form a super group using famous musicians past or present, who would you have on drums and why?
You only want me to name the drummer? Danny Pearson from local band Blackberry Jam. He used to play with ‘Stilettos’ and is the most musical and groove laden rock drummer we had. However, it’s always a fantasy to work with Paul Beavis, my friend and colleague of over 25 years. He, like all the other great drummers I know, is far too busy working with famous people now. I love drummers and in hindsight should’ve been one. I’d be as busy as they all are and would have the most drums on stage I could get! It’s a very important part of a rock show I think.
- Lager or Cider?
Real Ale Bitter! Can’t believe that wasn’t an option! But I drink a box of white wine a week these days too.
- What’s the plan for you musically for the next 12 months?
I want nothing more than to try and get a power trio off the ground, with myself singing some lesser known, or not often covered tunes – all guitar-led including some well known instrumentals from Satriani/Vai, Hendrix and whoever, plus some of my own compositions. It should be a lot of fun, and very self indulgent, I need to do that now!I’m also in denial about ‘Stilettos‘ coming to an end, it’d be a dream to put that together if I can find the right girl singer and a drummer who will stick it out!
For more information about Simon, please visit: