NAMM INTERVIEW WITH DAN SUGARMAN BY TALIA FARBER

Dan Sugarman is a virtuoso guitarist known for his past work in As Blood Runs Black, as well as his recent composing and producing of solo work. His most recent work and EP called "Centersun" can be found at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/centersun-ep/id1080468850



How long have you been playing guitar for and what made you first pick it up?
I've been playing guitar for about 13 years at this point. I first wanted to pick up the guitar when I was in first or second grade… I even have a drawing that I did in class that was supposed to be a drawing of what we wanted to be when we were older. I drew myself on the stage with the guitar in my hands before I even knew how to play guitar. I started a band with my friend Gabe called "Young Savages"; we just wrote terrible nursery-rhyme type lyrics and heard all of the music in our heads, but had no idea how to make that part happen... It didn't matter though because we were in a band, and that's all that mattered. My mom and dad saw my motivation and got me my first guitar lesson so I could begin to learn how to play and write music. I absolutely hated it. I quit after maybe 2 lessons, and ended the band! I didn't decide to take another go at the guitar again until I was 13 and punk rock was cool. Bands like The Misfits, Megadeth, and Iron Maiden really got me hooked on the sound of the guitar. I decided to try it again, and this time it stuck with me.

What was your first guitar?
I got first guitar when I was in first or second grade, and it was a mail order nylon guitar made of plywood probably. I got it for Hanukkah, if I remember correctly. I unwrapped it, put it to the side of me to thank my mom, who was in the room with me. My dad walks in from the room behind us and accidentally stepped right on the guitar and crushed it to pieces. In hindsight that might have been why I hated playing guitar early on hahaha, they got me some crappy rental guitar for my first few lessons and it just never really felt like my thing. When I decided to take another go at Guitar when I was 13, all of my uncles and relatives chipped in to get me a Gibson SG. To say that was a good kick in the ass to care about this would be an understatement… I was accountable towards my whole family to make something out of my music. I was so grateful to them that I still thank them to this day for that.

What made you decide to leave As Blood Runs Black, are you just focused on your solo project now or will there be a new band forming?
There were a lot of reasons that led me to leave my previous band, but let's just say I had to do what was best for me at the time. Focus was a big problem, as well as the fact that my mom was dealing with her third brain tumor. I decided that being home with her and spending time with her was more important than being out on the road trying to make something out of nothing. I had everything I needed at home to make myself happy, and the most important thing being my mom. I was also able to continue making music at a pretty rapid pace. I feel like the emotional climate surrounding me at that time is what allowed this leakage of music to happen. I needed to figure out something to do with it, and a way to still have music been an integral part of my life. That's when starting my solo project really kicked off.

As of right now, my own music is most definitely my main focus; alongside giving guitar lessons privately, through Skype and through my upcoming lesson course on JamPlay.com, as well as producing other bands, with a little bit of commercial/movie scoring on the side.

In regards to whether or not I have a new band forming - I have a few different side projects that I'm slowly breathing life into, but releasing the music that comes out of me in my neutral state is my priority - and that would be my instrumental music.


Who are your biggest influences? 
The influence question is always an interesting one to answer… I find that my biggest influences come from my experiences in life. Personally for me, going through all that I have with my family and my mom's battle with cancer, and inevitably losing her to that battle… All of what I do sort of stems from there. I would say my Mom is my biggest influence, and I miss her more than anything in the world, and everything I do from here on out is for her.



I know you're sponsored by Kiesel and Dunlop, what other companies help you out?
Working with Kiesel guitars, and Dunlop has been absolutely amazing. They are two of the most supportive and innovative companies around right now, and I'm so amazingly honored to be a part of that. I also just linked up with Mesa/Boogie this year right after the NAMM show which is a huge honor. I've been using their amps religiously since I first started playing shows. In fact, I still use the same cab to this day! I also am working with Protone Pedals, Dava Picks, and with Positive Grid - they make awesome amp simulator plugins that can also work from your desktop.

I know you love your Carvin/Kiesel Guitar, a brand which is particularly popular on the market right now. What makes them so special and why is everyone buying them? What made you fall in love?
You're right, I absolutely love playing my Kiesel guitars. The reason why I'm so drawn to them and support them so much is because they're doing stuff that nobody else is doing. Their attention to detail and unique approach to making instruments is unrivaled. The way they go about connecting with their market is unbelievably powerful, and to be a part of that machine is amazing. I also am just a huge fan of the people that run the place, and I've been watching them from afar for a long time. When I finally made the move to connect with them I was received with open arms and tons of love. Jeff sent me away with a couple guitars to try out and I was absolutely blown away. I sat them down side-by-side with all of my other instruments and did a ton of tests with everything. Not only did the Kiesel guitars look and play 10x better, but they sounded immaculate! That was with the brand-new Kiesel lithium pickups that had just come out. That was going up against all the major pickup companies that I had placed in my other guitars. That says a lot to me, so I went with my gut! I'm so glad I did - It truly feels like I'm working with a family rather than a company. That definitely goes a long way as an artist - I can reach out to any of the dudes at the factory at any point and get an unbelievably thoughtful response, no matter the day or time. I can't say the same for other companies that I used to support in my past 10 years of doing this 
professionally.

Can you tell me all about your custom and what specs it has?
My main Kiesel custom guitar that I'm using right now live and in studio is an awesome one-of-a-kind piece that Jeff Kiesel made for me. It was originally slated as the first K6 Prototype - Jeff handmade it himself and hand carved all of the bevels and modifications into it. He later on decided that it would become the first DC bevel, but to me it will always be both.

It's also the first wenge top guitar that Jeff made… I remember him taking me to the back room to check out all of the different wood selections they had, and he picked up this piece of wood and flicked it. It sang a C note for like 20 seconds, I kid you not! I later did a little bit of research to learn more about wenge - because the singing wood blew my mind! I found out that this type of wood is more closely related to volcanic glass at the molecular level then it is to wood. It's literally so dense that it's almost glass!

It has white limba wings and a black limba neck with two white limba neck stripes. It has an all black ebony fretboard with gold evo jumbo frets, and has a cream Kiesel Lithium pickup combo, a black Floyd Rose with a golden Floyd bar, gold knobs that have been moved down about a half inch and away from the pickups for more whammy access (and less accidentally turning a knob down on my whammy-bar madness), and is literally the smoothest playing guitar I've ever touched. 

I know you have your own designed Kiesel, is that your dream guitar or do you have something else in mind?
On whether or not this guitar is my dream guitar… I've had so many dreams with so many guitars in them hahaha. I have way too many ideas to wrap my head around that, and I don't even know where to begin. My main guitar that I'm using now is most definitely the supreme instrument for me - until the next one Jeff makes for me blows my mind!

Which items do you use by Dunlop? 
Since I currently use Dava Picks (the rock control delrin to be specific) and have been for the past 9 years. I use Dunlop strings, cleaning supplies, pedals, and cables with a passion. I used to play Dean Markley strings until I tried the heavy cores and super brights - I was sold! I've been using the system 65 cleaning kit since I was 13. Their new cables and pedals (MXR as well) are absolutely amazing.

What helps you achieve your perfect tone?
The perfect tone comes from the hands and after that it's completely subjective. For me it changes every few months, although right now I'm happy with my tone. Soon I'll have some new Mesa/Boogie gear that will completely change my game - so who knows! But, the way I see town is like this. The closest you can get to the note, or the source of that sound, that's where the tone comes from. First is the player and their touch, then the guitar, then the amp, then any pedals or FX, and obviously there is post processing that can be done, but if we're just talking about good tone - I would start there! Hands / Guitar / Amp.

As an endorser of a company I feel makes the best instruments and amps, I feel confident on those two. As a guitarist who is purposefully never content with my playing, I use that to keep me motivated. It also makes the tone hunt never ending, which I love.

Tube amp or solid state and why?
Tube amp all the way... Because, rock 'n roll!

Is there a specific pedal you prefer over an FX and why?
Lately I've been using my Dunlop Crybaby wah pedal a lot, maybe too much?! Haha no way, never. I'm also a huge fan of having some chorus on for a slight shimmer, subtle verb & delay, and I'm good! I use the MXR analog chorus, Protone Pedals chorus, the Dunlop echoplex delay, and the mxr reverb. The MXR smartgate is also extremely useful in a live setting to tame that amp noise.



Favorite piece of equipment?
My favorite piece of equipment would most definitely be my Kiesel K6 Prototype/DC Bevel. It's been with me through the most trying times of my life, and wound up being the tool that I use to express myself. It's quite literally a part of me and something I cannot separate myself from.

Can you tell me various things all your sponsors have done to help you most?
All of my sponsors have been extremely supportive and helpful in helping me get my music and name out there as a solo artist. I'd be lying if I didn't say that I was concerned after leaving As Blood Runs Black that I may lose some of my endorsements. But that wasn't the case at all, in fact it was the opposite. It created a dialogue, and allowed them to express their love and support for me as an individual, not as a band member. That was one of the most powerful things that has happened in all of this. To truly get genuine love and support from the companies that I represent is all I could ever ask for. Thank you Kiesel Guitars, Dunlop, Mesa/Boogie, MXR, Dava Picks, Protone Pedals, and Positive Grid!

What advice could you give someone who looks up to you as a guitarist?
If I could give any piece of advice to an aspiring musician, it would be this… You are better today than you were yesterday, and you will be better tomorrow than you are today. Know this, and live it. Stop getting frustrated and entangled in what other people are saying or doing. Only be concerned about yourself and about getting better right now because that's all you can ever do.

Dan has his ongoing album on Pateron, so make sure to sign up. 
Check out Mind Frame" - The 4th installment of Dan's Living Album "Inside/Out".
Make sure to keep updated with Dan's Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/dansugarman.
Check out Dan on Facebook: Facebook.com/dansugarman
His website: DanSugarman.com

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