Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Guitar Tech: Rene Martinez Remembers SRVSep 28th, 2011 | By admin | Category: Feature Articles, Lead Story
By Adam St. James
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Carlos Santana are just two of the guitar greats who have hired Rene Martinez as their guitar tech. Learn some of his great tips and inside stories in this exclusive GuitarLifeMag.com interview.
They say that greatness begets greatness. Rene Martinez had the pleasure of working for many years as Stevie Ray Vaughan’s guitar tech. Perhaps the two were drawn to each other because each was a master at his craft – Stevie playing the guitar, and Rene fixing and maintaining the instrument. One great interacting with, and encouraging, another great.
Stevie Ray’s playing – especially in concert – was, without question, touched and shaped by Rene’s work. From his attention to detail in tuning Stevie’s guitars, to his ingenious methods of solving some of Stevie’s biggest problems (like broken strings and uncooperative tremolo bars), Rene Martinez proved to be one of the most important catalysts of Stevie’s talent.
Since Stevie Ray Vaughan’s tragic death, Martinez has found himself filling a similar role in the life of Carlos Santana, among other guitar greats. In this detailed GuitarLifeMag.com interview, Rene discusses some of the inside secrets of the trade that have made him one of the most respected individuals in the music industry.
Adam St. James: Hello Rene. I want to talk to you about all of your experience with Stevie and Carlos, and I want to talk to you about your music too. I’m listening to some of your playing here and it’s pretty nice, it’s really nice. I see you have two MP3s on your site. Do you have more or do you have a CD out or anything?
Martinez: I’m planning to. I’m recording right now and I’m hoping to get something out soon.
St. James: Would it be your first?
Martinez: Yeah, it’ll be my first CD. It actually has been inspired by Carlos because he has me come out and play during his show and I perform a little Flamenco, a classical thing, a 2 or 3 minute thing. Just a bit to get into one of his other songs. I do it every night when I’m on stage with him.
St. James: Cool
Martinez: I’ve been doing this since Stevie days. I opened up playing for Stevie Ray Vaughan. I did a little opening act and it just caught on like that and that’s all I ever did. I started getting known as the guitar tech who could not only do everything, but could also play the guitar.
St. James: Cool….cool.
Martinez: Yeah it was a sin for me. I just always wanted to…since I was 18 years old, I wanted to be a concert classical guitar player and that was my dream. And my dream sort of shifted in different directions because I became involved in repairing instruments in a very roundabout way, because as I was taking Master Class lessons, I was also having to support myself to feed myself. My trade at the time was painting cars. By the time I was 18 I had my own paint shop and I was doing all kinds of custom colors; mother of pearl, metal flakes, regular painting, but you know, elite painting and my teacher asked me if I’d paint his car. He commissioned me to paint his Mercedes and I did and I delivered it and the violin maker at the store at the time said, ‘Wow, have you ever thought about finishing instruments?’ And I said, ‘No how do you do that?’ And he said, ‘The same thing you’re doing except on a smaller scale.’ And that’s how I got into guitar repair.
St. James: Cool
Martinez: But I got into all the basics of repair. I started out with fiddles – all of them…from the smallest one to the biggest ones. And I got to meet a lot of symphony players and learn some things. And then I tried to learn how to play the violin but, it was just one of those things that I just could not do. I mean I bet I scared every cat away in a 5-mile vicinity. I said no way. I’m going to stick with guitar. He wanted me to do the violin thing because he saw a lot of potential in what I did. I guess it was all the training with body/fender repair and painting that really exercised all of the skills and brought out everything. I was doing cosmetic repairs and they were unbelievably flawless. You couldn’t tell anything was broken. I didn’t even know that I had this talent. I just thought it was something easy to do. You know, bodies and fenders were the hardest thing to do.
Anyway, I just progressed that way and that’s how I got to be where I am. But I did all the phases. I got into guitar because I couldn’t play the fiddle. And I thought what better thing to do than not only get to fix the guitar, but actually play it and make sure that it is fixed. Then came the blessing one day where I met Stevie Ray Vaughan, and I thought, ‘Now wow, this would be a real trip, not only to fix the guitar that would actually be on stage, but to see how it really performs after you give it to him.’ I thought that would be the exciting thing about being out on the road, but I didn’t plan on being on the road this long. I thought I was going do it just for 6 months to a year and then come back and always know what I needed to know when customers come through the door.
Well, it’s been almost 18 years now, but I never went back. I still repair. I love to repair. As a matter of fact right now since I’m home, the phone is just constantly ringing off the wall for repairs. I don’t know how they find out I come back home. It’s good in that retrospect that my trade still gets kept up. And how to find all these tones and trade secrets. I don’t have any secrets; I fill everybody in with everything what I’ve learned. They can do it on their own, but for the most part they want me to do it. But it’s a good idea to have hands on your guitar and know some things about it. So in case you don’t want to do it, you can at least tell the repairman this is what’s wrong with it and that’s the better thing to do instead of me trying to find out what’s wrong with it. That’s always been the hardest part of my job as the repairman: to try to find out what’s wrong.
Rene Joins Stevie Ray Vaughan on Tour
St. James: When did you first go on tour with Stevie Ray Vaughan?
Martinez: It was ’85 when I went on tour with Stevie Ray Vaughan. It was in March of 1985 when I joined up with him. He had asked me to come out and visit him at the studio when he was recording an album at the time called Soul to Soul and he invited me over to the session and had asked me at that time if I would be interested or ever thought about going out on the road. ‘What is that?’ I asked, ’cause that’s how ignorant I was. He asked me ‘Would you like to come out and work with me.’ And I said I had to think about it. We talked money and I said, ‘Well, I still gotta think about it.’ And I called him back a couple of days later and I turned him down. I said I can’t do this. I’ve got a repair shop, I’ve got loads of customers. And he said, ‘If you ever change your mind, please do.’ And to make a long story short, I did and I thought I just give it a 6 months to a year trial like I said earlier.
So that’s how that happened, and I became his guy, only to do one thing. He wanted me only to come out to maintain his guitars and to tune them. He just liked the way I tuned guitars and that was my sole job…that was it. I didn’t set up equipment, I didn’t take any equipment apart. All I did was show up, get the guitars, restring them, tune them up, made sure things got set up correctly and maintained them. And that was it. That was my entire job. That’s all he wanted me for. And as time progressed, the guitar guy who was doing all the set up and everything wound up quitting, and then I took up his place because we needed somebody to do that. I’ve been setting up and touching them up ever since.
Then I began my quest to learn how everybody did what they did. I learned about guitar cables, shorting in plugs, I learned about tubes and about pickups. You name it, I learned it and then I learned how to improvise because there were times when I didn’t have what I needed and I had to make do. And this was in the very first year working with SRV. Everything was just literally dumped on me, they didn’t hire anybody else so they gave me extra money not only to do what I was doing, but to put everything up as well. And I stayed with it and I thought I was going to leave to, but I wound up staying with it.
St. James: Are there any particular improvisations that you can recall that were particularly useful to you as a tech?
Martinez: Yes, one of the very first things I consider that really stands out is the tremolo on the Stratocaster. I don’t know if you’re familiar with watching Stevie play, or his videos. He will take his guitar and throw it on the ground and will walk the dog so to speak, grab the tremolo bar and walks the guitar. But he would break a lot of tremolo arms. What I would do is just take the guitar and give him another one and fish out the bullet, the end part of the tremolo arm, and put another one in.
Well I happened to be in Italy and it was on a Saturday night and he broke the thing just toward the end of the show and I had no tremolo arms. So here I was in 1985 in Italy where there is nothing available. Everything is closed on the weekend and I’m trying to get a hold of another tremolo and all I had was just enough tremolo arms for the guitars that we used. And he used them all, so I couldn’t interchange tremolo arms. Well, I decided that I was going to have to do that and I told him about it and then I started to think – and I had the broken tremolo arm in my hand and was playing with it. I unscrewed the long part of the tremolo arm knob and when I did that, I looked at the threads in the inertia block and they were the same and I thought well I’ll be damned!
But I was lucky because this tremolo arm was made out of stainless steel so I was able to bend it without it breaking and then all I did was stick the knob onto the broken end of the tremolo arm and I had a shorter tremolo arm. But it worked and so I started thinking, ‘Ah, now with improvisation I can do things like this.’ And that began the quest: improvising and learning new things.
St. James: Cool
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Solving Stevie’s String-breaking Problem
Martinez: So a bad thing turned out to be a good thing and I believe that was the real remarkable thing. What I have today on my website is to offer things that I have learned on my way, and they’re just not things I put together last night and I say, ‘Hey, buy this.’ These are things that I used with Stevie Ray Vaughan. One of my products that I began to use is GraphitAll – the graphite lubricant, because he always used his V arm and things were not staying tuned and I had to come up with something, and this concoction worked. And there were some other things that I had to do to make it work, but I figured it all out.
[Editor’s Note: For more info on, or to purchase GraphitAll, go to Rene Martinez’s website: www.TexasGuitarWhiz.com/ ]
I figured out the string breaking problem. He was always breaking strings and I figured that one out and I figured out a thing for it that he didn’t break strings for 15 shows in a row. And if he had done it just for two shows in a row I’d have been just ecstatic. It turned out that the record was 15 and I was very impressed. So I knew that the things I was doing were working.
St. James: Was that because of the GraphitAll?
Martinez: Because of the GraphitAll and because of all the improvised things in my head from that one little tremolo arm where. It became a quest to really enhance my skills as a repairman, and then of course, being a player as well really helped me because anybody can break a string, but you have to be able to play it and break a string. And that’s what I would do.
I was able to play guitar and break it and had to figure out even somebody like me could break that string and I did. And I have the cure today. It’s not a “maybe it will help a little bit.” No, it’s the cure. And a lot of people don’t think it’s true, and there are other guitar techs and repairman who say, ‘Well, you just got lucky Rene.’ And that’s OK. But it worked for me and I was there to see it. So that’s what really stands out in my head was that tremolo arm thing. There were many, many more instances, but that was the beginning one.
St. James: When you first went out on the road you probably brought a certain tool kit with you or something right?
Martinez: Yes, I had my own workshop, my own workstation that I still have today, but it’s even bigger.
St. James: But it is portable, right?
Martinez: It’s portable. I brought all my tools. I can do refrets, I can make bone nuts, I can re-glue bridges, you know. And outside of refinishing, I can do all these little things with all the tools that I had. I had literally brought everything with me because, shoot, without it, why am I even there? Now that’s just how I thought.
St. James: Now were there other items that through the improvisation you realized, ‘Oh, I’d better always have some of this stuff with me or this or this or that?’
Martinez: That’s correct.
St. James: What kind of stuff?
Martinez: Well, I always had to have good polishes, always had to have linseed oil, steel wool, always had to have solder, good files, had to have nut files. I had to have everything. Because that’s what I had in Dallas. I had all of that and if I left something, sure enough something would go wrong and I needed to have that. I wound up having two of everything. I always had a supply of bone nuts in my workbox and at home because sometimes my workbox wouldn’t make it home and I’d be repairing something and I had to have tools. I became the two of everything guy. That’s the only way it worked for me.
St. James: Did Stevie break his guitars a lot, other than the tremolo arms? He was a pretty rough with them sometimes.
Martinez: He was rough with them but you’d be surprised how durable the Strat and his other guitars are. They’re just durable. Now he did break his headstock quite a bit on this #1 that he had, but it was repaired by a Michael Stevens, who lived in Austin, Texas, at the time and he repaired it in such a way that it never ever broke again. He did a laminate job on it that was so beautiful and it took all the abuse. That would be the only thing liable to break on a Strat would be the headstock and it’d be right down where the holes are where all the tuners go in, that one little piece would eventually give.
St. James: So he didn’t ever break the whole neck though?
Martinez: No, it did get broken by a major accident. But other than that, no he didn’t break anything. The neck would maybe be out of twist you know, but then it was my job to reset everything the next day.
St. James: Was #1 as worn out as we see it when you first joined him?
Martinez: It was worn out as we see it today, but not as much because it got worn out over the years. When I joined up with him was in ’85 and the way you see it today was how it was in 1990, so it got wore out quite a bit. If you could look at pictures of 1985 and 1990, you would see the differences.
St. James: Who has all those guitars today, Jimmie?
Martinez: I believe the family has everything.
St. James: I’ve spoken to Jimmie quite a few times. He seems to hold those guitars – and his memories of his little brother – in very high esteem.
Martinez: Uh huh.
Stevie’s Chain of Amps
St. James: And the one other thing I see you sell on your website is something called the signal splitter, which made it possible for Stevie to play through several amps at once, correct?
St. James: He had them all on.
Martinez: That’s correct.
St. James: I’ve always been really frustrated when I’m trying to learn how to play his stuff – to try to get the tone – because it seems to me that it is both distorted and clean at the same time. Is that what he was doing? How was he running those amps?
Martinez: Well, he liked the way a Fender Super Reverb sounded and he would set the volume on it to where he liked it. And let’s say a Twin. He turned a Twin on and played it and he liked the way it sounded. Well, he thought let’s see what they both sound like together. So he would play and then he would tweak it so they both sounded like one amplifier, because he liked how they both sounded. They both had unique tone, and then together they sounded pretty cool. That was the whole idea. The idea was not to be louder, but get it bigger, to have them all sound because they each had their own good tone.
And that’s what he wound up doing: putting them all together and then having this great big tone in a variance, but with different amplifiers. And the signal splitter was what he used to put everything together. That was already there when I got there. And every amp is on and the only way you can turn off an amplifier or turn one on is to go to the amplifier and take it off standby or put it on standby. Otherwise they were all on. There were six configurations on the box and I think we had five amplifiers max. If there were six then that’s all we could use was six, but mostly it was mocking up four or five. They were all on at the same time, and had their own thing. They were all together, you know, so it sounded like one great big old speaker and then he just ran chain effects from that. It started off with a couple of pedals and then it progressed to three and then the final ultimatum was four pedals all together.
St. James: What were they?
Martinez: At first he ran through a (Ibanez)Tube Screamer. At the time it was the early first model, TS9. And then he ran into a box wah wah. And those were the first two that he used. And then he came across a – he liked using the Univibe. He was using that as well.
St. James: Was that on almost all the time or just once in a while?
Martinez: It was on once in awhile outside of like Hendrix, who had it on all the time…or most of the time. He’d have it on every now and then. But he changed a lot. He had it there and not there, so it was mostly the Tube Screamer and the wah wah. Then one day came the Fuzz Face and there was an original Arbiter-Dallas Fuzz Face. And then we found an Octavia. I think that was the last pedal that he used, and that was the entire collection that he used in his final last two years I think. And they all worked beautifully together and the way he could use them was just great.
St. James: And he kind of probably improvised from night to night which pedals he was using when?
Martinez: He used them whenever he wanted to – all the time or once in awhile. You could never say what song he used one on or what. It was just how he felt. Just like you playing a pedal….maybe you have a certain time or place you use them. Him, no he used them whenever he wanted to. I can’t even begin to tell you, if I was to write everything down for the time I worked with him, as to when he used that one pedal for that one song, it would just be buried so much so he couldn’t say, ‘Well, I use it at the beginning and only at the end.’
Stevie’s Big Strings
St. James: And with his strings, he used like .013s?
Martinez: When I first met him, his first string was a.013. The first one. And then they progressed up through where his biggest string was a .060.
St. James: What kind of strings?
Martinez: Well at the time he was using all kinds of strings, all kinds of brands. And there were just a big batch of strings that he had, and I just took a .013 and went on up from there, whatever he used. Let’s say the gauges were .013, .017, .020, you know. Sometimes they’d be an Ernie Ball or whatever was in there….just strings. And I’ve always been a fan of GHS Strings and I got to have good relationships with them based on the strings and their service. One day I decided to get some GHS Strings and we tried them and he liked them and he became an endorsee as time went on. Then they became his set which was 11, 15, 19, 28, 38, 58 and they were the Nickel Rockers.
And the reason I came up with that gauge is because he started to tear his fingers up quite a bit using heavier gauge strings, and I said to him, ‘Stevie, you’re just gonna have to use a different set to keep your hands.’ So we finally settled on 11, 15, 19, 28, 38, 58. And that became the standard when his sets came out. His custom sets. You can buy custom sets from people, not that they were sold in stores as custom. I think maybe today there’s a bunch of string manufacturers that sell that gauge.
St. James: 11 to what? 58?
Martinez: 11 through 58. 11, 15, 19 plain, 28, 38, 58.
St. James: So what was it like the last two years or so that he dropped back from the 13s to the 11s.
Martinez: Well, it was probably the last couple of years, maybe year and a half to two years, where he finally stuck with the 11, 15, 19s because he was literally tearing his skin apart. He liked a lot of the things that I said and believed in some of the things that I said, and he finally said to himself, ‘I’d better stick with these….I’m not hurtin’ them as much.’ And the tone was still there. He just liked the tone of the big fat strings, that’s all.
St. James: Did that make the guitar set ups easier? Did it make the maintenance of the guitar easier?
Martinez: No, it was all the same. He still had high action, he played in E-flat, we tuned E-flat and the action was still high. But nothing changed other than that. The tone was always…you know, it’s not just the strings and the rig, it was all 100% in his hands, so…it didn’t change. Breaking strings became a big part of that, but once I figured that out, then everything was okay.
St. James: So as far as breaking strings, what were the series of things that you fixed that made him stop breaking strings so much?
Martinez: Well, I came to find out mechanically that the guitar was not set up correctly for these strings and there was a place where it was catching the strings. And since he was stretching the strings so far that they would break, there was a place as the string comes out of the inertia block, you know what I’m talking about?
St. James: Yeah.
Martinez: Okay, as it’s coming out of the inertia block it passes through the bridge plate. And as it passes through the bridge plate it comes up and goes to the hole of the saddle.
St. James: Right.
Martinez: And in the saddle there’s this oval hole, and there’s a sharp point at this oval hole before it meets the top edge of the saddle. And sometimes the string will get caught right there and get kinked and then all that’s holding the string is that one little piece from the ball end through the inertia block to that point. And you’ve got the entire rest of the string going from the top of the saddle to the string post so you have those two lengths fighting each other, and, well, it’s gonna’ break.
St. James: Sure.
Martinez: Your string is supposed to stretch from the ball end all the way to the tuner. And it’s supposed to give all the way back and forth so there’s movement. When there was no movement, the string would get caught and it would break.
So one day I was sucking on this lollipop trying to figure out how to fix this thing and this lollipop happened to have a thing like a plastic straw holding the candy. And I thought, ‘Well this is like big enough for a string to pass through.’ And so I thought, ‘Well, hey, let’s try that.’ So I put the string right through it, and it worked, kind of. Once it met the metal, it sliced right through it. So we started using insulation off of a 12 gauge wire, which is taking the insulation off and then I put that on there. I ran it through and it held it much better. And it worked, so that’s what I used. And it was a piece of material that wrapped the string and then came in contact with the saddle and it helped stop breakage. And then one day I saw some string manufacturers had this stuff wrapped around the strings for that. So word got out that people were using the idea.
St. James: Yeah, so you didn’t try to go in and file anything.
Martinez: Oh, I did an interview with Dan Erlewine. He was coming up with his ideas and he said, ‘Why don’t you get a Dremel and file this, that’s what I usually do.’ So I just said OK. I grabbed the thing and was filing and he took a picture of me and that picture is world-famous of me working on Stevie’s guitar with a drill or a Dremel, you know, but……
St. James: But that didn’t end up working well enough?
Martinez: Well, no. It was literally the thing that I did that made it work on not just that guitar, but all the guitars…even guitars that I work on today.
St. James: Why doesn’t Fender just put those things in the guitar.
Martinez: I don’t know. Why doesn’t Rene just come out with them himself?
St. James: Do you?
Martinez: I plan to, yes.
St. James: Yeah? Okay. So these are just little inserts that you would put into your bridge.
Martinez: They’re little inserts that you put over your string. You put your string through it and you run that insert all the way down to where it meets the inertia block and make sure that part of it….if it’s touching the saddle, that gets covered as well. Then you’re there. It works.
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Working with Carlos Santana
St. James: What about what you do with Carlos? How is that experience? Is it the same or different?
Martinez: Well all artists are different because I’ve worked with many different artists since Stevie passed away. I worked with everybody that was totally different, but I worked with some good guitar players who had their own little thing and I had to figure them all out. It took me five years to figure out Stevie! You know, so when I started working with somebody else, I had to figure it out.
And, Carlos today…he was a tough one to figure out, but I was able to assess a lot of the things… As far as like tuning, his tuning thing….he uses a tremolo on his PRS and it’s one of those floating tremolos. You can pull back on it, you can push down on it, and sometimes this thing would not stay in tune at all. I don’t care how much you stretch the string out. But I figured it out. But what also helped out was my GraphitAll. If it hadn’t been for that, I don’t think I would be where I am today.
St. James: And you put that at both the nut and on the bridge?
Martinez: That’s correct. Yeah, gotta have it. As a matter of fact, it worked so well that….I took some time off a couple of months ago from Carlos and they brought in another guy and I said, ‘Here, here’s some GraphitAll, make sure you use that.’ And he just looked at me like, ‘Yeah, right.’ And the next day when he was on his own trying to tune the guitar, he couldn’t do it, he couldn’t get it to stay in tune. I asked, ‘Well did you use GraphitAll?’ And he said, ‘No.’ And I said, ‘Well, use it.’ He put it on and at the end of the show he came up to me and goes, ‘Rene, I gotta have a bottle of this stuff.’ So it works, you know, no brag, it’s just fact. I had to come up with a way to figure it out. And that’s what did it and that’s what works. And I prove it to myself when I forget to use it and it’s not in tune and I go, ‘Why isn’t this thing in tune?’ and I’ll go, ‘Well shoot, I put some of this back on,’ I do and there it is. Works all the time. It helps. Strings gotta flow freely back and forth, like I said.
St. James: Some people use like pencil graphite and other stuff, but this is more of a liquid or gel type stuff.
Martinez: That’s how I started using it…with pencil lead. I didn’t invent this thing. I invented GraphitAll, but I didn’t invent the pencil thing. That’s what my violin teacher showed me. He said, ‘Get a pencil and rub it in the nut and that’ll make violin strings go back and forth a lot easier.’ Well the pencil lead thing didn’t work all the time because sometimes you couldn’t get into the groove. The pencil point was too thick. So I’d shave it off with a razor blade and then I said, ‘Well the heck with that.’ And I went to the store, bought some graphite in a little tube. But that stuff would just fly around. So I came up with my own concoction, you know, something that will stay. But it is graphite and that’s what it is today.
St. James: I suppose you’ve gotta be careful….just put a tiny, tiny little drop there.
Martinez: All you do is put a little bit and the more you keep putting on, it’ll build up because wood and metal is porous and it’ll take this stuff into all the little nooks and crannies, you know, and it’ll stay there. And then you just have to make sure you keep using it, ’cause it does still go away. That’s what I do. You know, I put it on and I see it black so there’s gotta be some in there, but maybe it’s not enough so I have to redo it every now and then.
St. James: You don’t redo it every time you change strings though.
Martinez: Sometimes I do because if I don’t, I don’t have that assurance that everything is OK.
St. James: So you’re changing strings for the people you work for every day right, every show?
Martinez: Every day….every show. Yeah. That’s what I do and it just proves it to me that it works. And I know a lot of people who have used it and they say, yeah, thank you so much. Anyway….
St. James: So what kind of gear is Carlos using these days?
Martinez: He’s always done Mesa/Boogie amps and he always will do Boogie. He even told me he never wants to get rid of that amplifier.
St. James: Which model is he using? Is he using an old one?
Martinez: He’s using the first one ever.
St. James: Really, ah.
Martinez: The one that is the predecessor of all the ones that are out there today, the Mesa Boogie Mark I. The one that they brought to him and said you’ve gotta try this. And he said he liked it and he kept it.
St. James: Is it a hundred watter?
St. James: Is it a combo amp?
Martinez: It’s a head all by itself. It came with a speaker just like they all did at the time.
St. James: So what kind of speaker is he using these days?
St. James: Just a cabinet with….how many speakers?
Martinez: One cabinet, and one 12, and that’s it.
St. James: A 1-12! Wow, that’s not much on a big stage.
Martinez: Well, everything’s miked, you know. But the sound on stage is for him and then he has monitors, and then whatever the front house does and whatever monitors do for everybody else. And that’s all you need. And then of course, he has other amplifiers too. He uses them in a conglomeration.
St. James: Oh, he does, OK.
Martinez: That’s why he brought me in. He brought me in because he liked the tone that Stevie had and he wanted to know…
St. James: …with the multiple amps.
Martinez: Yeah. But he, on the other hand, switches on and off. He has a pedal board that will do that.
St. James: So he doesn’t run them simultaneously.
Martinez: He runs simultaneously and sometimes he just runs one. He has the ability to do that.
St. James: I see, OK. And what is he using all together?
Martinez: He uses a Boogie, he uses a Dumble and he runs the Dumble through two 4 x 12s. Then he has a Leslie conglomeration as well.
St. James: Oh, OK.
Martinez: Kind of like what Stevie had using Leslie Vibratone. Except Carlos does not use the Fender Vibratone he uses another brand, and that’s it. Runs through a wah wah and has an effects pedal for his Boogie. And then has an effects pedal Tube Screamer that I introduced to him and sometimes he’ll use that and sometimes he won’t. And that’s it. Basically straight out of the guitar cord. That’s how I like it, just straight 100% guitar cord. And then I wire the guitar chord special for him.
St. James: Really?
Martinez: Yeah. I use Canare wire and, I always have. Canare, it’s made in Japan. I use a 4-conductor Canare wire and what that means is four conductor means that there’s four little bitty wires inside and then there’s a braided wire that wraps around it, you know. And I use all four for the most signal possible. And, of course, when you have runs like 50’….100’, you need to get the least resistance that you possibly can, which is what I do with him. And then I make all the patch cables especially for him too using Canare wire, which is what I sell. I sell Canare wire too. And this is the best, biggest, baddest guitar cable you can find. It’s a little bit different than, I think, the Monster cable because there’s four individual wires. As a matter of fact, it’s so cool that you can actually hook all four of them up and then if you wanted to, you can just take one of them off, and if you wanted to you could take two of them off and you can start hearing the differences in tone that way.
St. James: Really?
Martinez: Yeah. And the other thing that’s really good about it too is that it’s a back up. You know, if one of them had a tendency to break, you still have three left.
St. James: Sure, okay.
Martinez: And then Carlos…I have them in different colors and so I made him a purple one and said, ‘Do you mind colors?’ And he says no, so he’s gotta have that purple one….the Rene tone, you know. And then there’s a shorting end plug on it…
St. James: So what does that mean….shorting end?
Martinez: You don’t have a shorting end guitar cord?
St. James: I don’t, no.
Martinez: Wow, well then I’m gonna have to get you one. It’s been around. It’s not like brand new. It’s been around forever. It’s ¼ inch mono plug. It’s pretty big, it’s got a big barrel on it, but it’ll fit in any guitar and it has a little thing on it, just before it goes in completely that cuts it out or shorts it out, so when you pull the guitar cable out it doesn’t go (makes popping sound).
St. James: Oh!
Martinez: That way you can change guitars on stage without all that (sound). Some guitar players don’t mind that…
St. James: I hate that.
Martinez: But some players do mind that.
St. James: I play mostly with one guitar. I use a Tele, but occasionally…I don’t run my tuner in line and occasionally I’ll have to go to the tuner and I have to unplug the guitar at that point.
Martinez: Yeah, if you do that, you can pull this thing out and there’d be no noise….
St. James: Really?
Martinez: Straight into your guitar with the tuner and then pull it out and put it
right back in and there’ll be no noise. Anyway, that’s what we use: The best cable for the best tone possible. Can you imagine having the best amplifier out there and having the best guitar out there and then you go and you buy a $15 cord. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.
St. James: I’ve been using a Monster cable and I’m pretty happy with it, but you know, that’s probably the most expensive cable I’ve bought yet, so I’m learning.
Martinez: But just one big one is not the thing anymore cause I’ve tried it. It’s better to have a bunch of little wires put together than the big one. You will hear the difference. I guarantee you will. It’s pretty amazing, you’ll hear the difference.
St. James: Well Rene, I want to thank you so much for spending time with us. It’s certainly been informative and entertaining, and I’m sure the GuitarLifeMag.com playing community will check out your GraphitAll and the great cables you make.
Martinez: Thanks for your time as well, it’s been a pleasure.
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Advanced Rock Lead Guitar DVD In this DVD, Dave Celentano concludes his three level rock lead guitar course by introducing the student to a variety of complete solos to learn and play over the band rhythm tracks. Topics include: ’80s style soloing, modal soloing in rock, acoustic blues soloing, triads, arpeggios, legato string bending, vibrato, tapping, and more. Dave demonstrates all the solos, then breaks each down into small sections for learning and discusses important concepts, theory, and scales. Transcription booklet included. 60 minutes.
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Parts of this interview may have previously appeared on or in the following publications: Guitar.com, Musician.com, Guitar World, Guitar Edge, Guitar, Guitar Shop, Guitar World Acoustic, Frets, Bass Player, Maximum Guitar, Guitar for the Practicing Musician, Los Angeles Daily News, Fender Frontline Magazine, MusiciansFriend.com or any of the other 50 or 60 publications I’ve written for since the mid-’80s. But hey, I wrote it, and this is my archive — Adam