Marco Sfogli - Interview with

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Marco Sfogli - Interview with

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Marco Sfogli: "It's all about melodies for me"

Since his breakthrough performance on James LaBrie's "Elements of Persuasion", Marco Sfogli is one of the most praised newcoming guitarists. His feeling for melody and accuracy in technique has gained him a reputation as the perfect studio guest. A lot has happened since his EOP in 2005, with several appearances with musicians such as Alex Argento and John Macaluso. These days, Marco has recorded the guitar tracks for James' follow-up to Elements of Persuasion. In the interview with he shares insights on his career, gear setup including his own signature model with Rash guitars, and musical approach towards songwriting and playing technique. Enjoy!

First section – Music and song writing Marco, your musical career evolved greatly after your appearance at James LaBrie’s solo album “Elements of Persuasion”. You have been working with several bands and musicians as a guest on guitar, and presented your own work on “There's hope” 2008. What were the highlights of these years so far?

Marco: All of the projects I've been involved in were “highlights” for me, of course Elements of Persuasion was a personal favourite because it exposed me to the guitar world, but if I have to choose one aside EOP I would say “Ego” from Alex Argento. Definitely a new experience for me both musically and personally. Recently you went to Sweden to record the guitar tracks for James Labrie’s new solo work. Can you tell us more about the process? Did you record each instrument separately or did you meet somewhere and go through the tracks?

Marco: This time I was in studio since day one of the recordings (as opposed to EOP where I entered the studio with the rhythm section done already) so it's been a creative experience for me, more interaction of course between the band which is a good and necessary thing to make the best record possible. We recorded the guitars, bass, drums and keyboards all of us in the same studio. What is your approach towards song writing and solo playing? Do you compose a lot in advance or do you improvise in the studio? Did you work on the soli for the LaBrie album together with Matt Guillory, for example, or do you figure the music out for yourself?

Marco: It's a balance between the two things, the arrangements are mostly written down and most of the leads are improvised either at home or in the studio. I don't mind about making everything in one take or twenty, as long as the part works for the tune and everyone is happy with it. Of course if there's a part like an unison between guitar and keyboard so yeah at that point working together is the best, but it happened also that I wrote stuff and asked Matt to double it with keyboards and vice versa. Your solo work has a broad variety of influences - can you name a few inspirations you use for your music?

Marco: For "There's Hope" the influences were mainly coming from 80s bands I listened in the past. Bands like Def Leppard, Rush and Europe to name a few. Guitar wise I've been inspired by so many guys, especially melodic players. Joe Satriani, Kee Marcello, Steve Lukather and Andy Timmons among others. Do you follow John Petrucci’s work? Are you in contact with him, for example when you're in the studio with James?

Marco: I have Suspended Animation - and it's a great record - and had occasionally met him at DT shows but no, I don't see or hear from him in a long time. What would you like to pursue in the future? Any plans for a new solo album? Is there something you'd like to try that you haven't worked on so far?

Marco: There will be another solo record for sure, I have some material written during the last few months that will end up on the record but still no release date yet. Maybe next year, it really depend on the amount of time I'll have between a project and another. It's always the same, when you want to do something really bad suddenly something else pop out from nowhere and you have to postpone.

Second section – Gear and playing technique On “Elements of persuasion” you used only Musicman Petrucci models. In the meantime you have come up with your own signature series with the Italian Rash guitars. Can you describe the differences and why you picked Rash? What are the most important specs for you on your signature guitar?

Marco: First of all they're all hand made which makes a lot of difference. It's just one guy, Ruggero at Rash who makes these beautiful guitars from the scratch up to the varnishing. They sound as good as they look, we worked hard to get the signature model exactly the way I wanted it. Plus he can make any kind of custom work you might ask for like using different woods for necks and bodies. I'm really happy about it! Also for the new LaBrie record I switched from the DiMarzio D-Sonic - Air Norton combo to D-Activator pickups both on my main 6 and 7 strings models and everyone in the studio was blown away by the tone. What do you concentrate on with a guitar – tone, playability, power, design? Do you play guitars other than your signature model?

Marco: Mostly the tone - AND the versatility of course. When we designed my signature model I needed a guitar suited for any situation and I gotta say we nailed it perfectly. I don’t have or use any other guitar except for a Taylor acoustic. As far as amps are concerned, you’ve used Mesa amps for a lot of your work. What is your usual studio setup? Did you use different gear for the work on the new James LaBrie album?

Marco: I still use Mesa amps, especially the Lonestar and the Studio Preamp either paired with a Simul Class 2:90 or direct using Impulse Responses. There will be a lot of Mesa sound on the next LaBrie record, we experimented with different sounds, different heads and cabinets. The studio was packed like a candy store and of course you’ll hear Fractal Audio Axe FX as well. We’ve found several videos on Youtube with you playing the Axe Fx Ultra by Fractal Audio. When do you use the Axe and what do you like about it? Do you have a favourite setting on it and do you connect it directly into the PA or do you use it with other gear?

Marco: The Axe FX completely changed my life! The fact of having a 2U rack with all the sounds I may think of is just unreal. I use it everyday for anything I do, it’s definitely the best purchase ever made in my life. Straight in the PA works for me, big times. Do you have a certain playing technique you use for your everyday work or do you adapt to different bands and musicians?

Marco: I'd rather think about making a part interesting than using this or that technique which of course comes second. I can't deny I'm more of an alternate picking guy than a crazy sweep picker or anything in between but really, I prefer to work with the song in mind. It's all about melodies for me. What do you concentrate on when practicing? Do you have certain favourite patterns?

Marco: Not really, I usually practice while teaching which takes a lot of my time during the week so the patterns are really built around students and their needs. When I was developing and shaping my playing in the past I was used to play along existing records trying to reproduce the feeling and the small nuances of my heroes more than practicing over scales and arpeggios. Plus, and this is something I’ll never have enough talking about, I was relying more on MY ears than anything else. Back then tabs were under the form of “official books”, very expensive and most of the times had wrong notation so the ears were fundamental to get the parts down.

Third section – Personal and future Have you reached your personal goals so far? What is important for you in the future?

Marco: I can consider myself very lucky already, I had the possibility to work with big names and learn from them. On a personal side I would like to improve more in the songwriting area, trying to write better songs and better melodies...that’s my real goal. How important are family and home for you?

Marco: A lot! I’m a proud father and I miss my family from the moment I leave the door but you know, that’s part of the deal about this job. Everyone is the same, I never met anybody who was happy to leave for a tour and leave their families for weeks. I just try to get in touch as much as I can while I’m out and hopefully technology comes handy nowadays, think about Skype for example. Do you enjoy going on tour? Are you in contact with other musicians you play with? Do you have musicians you especially like to play/tour with?

Marco: I love touring as much as I love doing studio works, two different worlds and different emotions. I still get in touch with some of the guys I played with in the past like John Macaluso. We're good friends and still collaborate every now and then. I recorded guitars on his record “The Radio Waves Goodbye” and he asked me to record leads for a band he produced called “Creation's End” which will hit the stores soon. Do you follow musicians boards and fan pages? Which websites do you read or visit regularly?

Marco: From time to time I visit the Petrucci’s board, he probably has one of the hugest fan base I ever seen. Then of course my website which is, I take care personally of answering questions and there's a good following. Is there someone you would like to work with in the future? What are your musical dreams?

Marco: Wow that's a hard many names, I couldn’t pick just one. As long as it's good music I like to work with anybody! What are your plans for the rest of 2010? Is there going to be a tour with James LaBrie? Are you going to do clinics sometime in the future?

Marco: I hope there will be a tour in the fall following the album, once again there are no details yet. I still do clinics from time to time, and that’s another dimension I really love. Marco, thank you so much for the interview!

For more info about Marco, check out his website:
Check out the Marco Sfogli MT Monster Signature at Rash Guitars: