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An Interview With Mark Summers

After listening to Disguise the Limit’s new album, Redemption, I had to get in touch with the guys.

Guitarist Mark Summers agreed to share his thought on the album and on his own career. Mark is a great guy and has a lot of interesting things to say. So, rather than go on and on about him, here is what he has to say:

Guitar Noise: First off, Let me congratulate you on an excellent album. Tell me a bit about it.

Mark Summers: Well, Thanks for the kudos. The album was just released a couple of months ago and we have had some really nice reviews and some pretty good sales thus far. We tracked it in a matter of about 8 months if memory serves me correct. We titled it REDEMPTION because of the the fact that there are some tunes on here that were written quite a while ago that we felt needed to be recorded the way they were intended.

GN: Was that 8 months straight recording?

MS:No. If you put it in consecutive days I would guess we had about 2-3 weeks of recording and a week to mix. We pretty much had an idea of arrangements and what we were after before we ever mic’d anything up. We took our time, knocking out a couple at a time after all the drum tracks were thrown down.

GN: I hear mutiple tones on the disc. What amps/guitars did you use for the sessions?

MS:For amps I used my 100 watt Marshall Dual Reverb, my 50 watt VHT, my Fender Princeton Stereo Chorus for some clean tracks, and of course my Randall RM100. They are going through either a 4×12 Marshall bottom or Randall 2×12 cabs w/ Vintage 30s. For guitars, it’s one of the following: My Strat, Les Paul, Wolfgang or an old Melody Maker that I used on a couple of rhythm tracks.

GN: Quite an array of guitars. Do you use them all live?

MS:No. Basically my main guitars are my Wolfgangs. I have 2 first year Wolfs. A Tobacco Quilt and a black one. Both Archtops.

GN: Why 1st years? Are they different?

MS:To me they are. I’ve played a boatload of them and they are the best ones produced. Not that the quality slacked off…. I just think they play better than the others. The USA Peavey Wolfgang is the best production guitar on the market in my opinion. Lo and behold, it looks as though that’s coming to an end now if everything I hear is true with Ed and Peavey parting ways. That figures… anyway I also play my Natural Ash Strat, too. It’s a great playing Strat …. but not the one that’s on the disc. Those are basically what I use live.

GN: I’ve read that you cite some influences as EVH, Pat Travers and Kim Mitchell. Quite a mix.

MS:Yeah, PT has been a huge influence on my playing over the years. I saw him when he 1st came over the pond after PUTTIN’ IT STRAIGHT came out with Mars and Tommy Aldredge. What an awesome 3 piece band. I’ve gone to see him about 15-16 times over the years. He’s probably the most influential person you’ll hear in my playing. Well maybe Ed, too. You have to realize that I was a sophomore in high school when the 1st Van Halen record was released. How it could it not be an influence on someone at that time. And Kim Mitchell, what can you say other than he’s such a phenomenal player. It’s just too bad he never really toured the states and got the recognition he so deserved.

GN: Describe your set-up. Does it stay the same?

MS:It used to change moreso than it does now. I pretty much keep the same live set-up. The RM100 with an outboard multi-effects unit, a tuner and a gate to keep it quiet, especially in the studio. I also use a Morley Bad Horsie Wah on the pedalboard. Pretty basic.

GN: Did you record anything direct or mic’d?

MS:Everything on this album has a mic on it…. a Shure 57 positioned a little off-center right up on the grill cloth. Is there any other mic to use on guitar?

GN: How did the Randall endorsement come about and what gear are you currently using from them?

MS:No big secret. I sent a letter to Randall with a bio and some different projects I’ve worked on. They took a listen, checked my credentials and the rest is history. Doug (Reynolds) and Dave (Karon) have always been there to help. That’s the only endorsement I’ve gone after, for I was so impressed with the amp. I should probably go after a string deal… Hey Mr. Markley…

GN: With the RM100, you have your choice of changing pre-amp modules, correct?

MS:Exactly. It was designed for Randall by Bruce Egnator and the simplicity of it is a major advantage. I currently use the PLEXI, BROWN and TOP BOOST modules although I have others that I throw in quite often. A lot of people associate Randall with the heavier type of music, but this amp is definitely for the versatile player. All tube and midi capable.

GN: Your session work is quite varied. Will you do anything?

MS:Anything… no. A lot of things… yes. I usually talk with a client before committing to get a feel for what they expect and what they’re after. I’ve turned away from things that I could’ve done simply because either the client didn’t have a clue what they were after or I didn’t feel I was the right man for the job. The studio is a very demanding environment and you are usually under the gun to get it right and get it right fairly quick. I know my limitations and I don’t get into situations that are unfair to me or the client. On the other hand, being under the gun sometimes draws things out of one’s self that you didn’t think you had in you. I just like to enjoy what I do if I can, enough said…

GN: Do you enjoy the studio as much as live playing.

MS:No way… Live playing affords you the luxury of making a mistake and it’s gone forever. Not so in the studio. That’s one reason I appreciate the session players who do it all the time. Guys like Dan Huff (applause). He’s finally gotten some long overdue recognition outside of the people “in the know” that he so deserves.

GN:Your solos all seem to flow in and out of the rhythm passages nicely. Do you work them out ahead of time or do most of them come off-the-cuff?

MS:It just depends. Sometimes I’ll have something in mind and it works out fine. Other times it might not come off as I had hoped it would and we have also cut some tracks where I just said to push the button and see what materializes. Sometimes that’s a very refreshing approach. There’s actually quite a few of those types of tracks on the disc.

GN:When did you first start playing? Was guitar your first instrument?

MS:Oh, yes. I was about 7 when I got my 1st guitar. It was a 3/4 scale Gibson acoustic. I still have it, actually.

GN:You used to be a radio DJ, tell us about that.

MS:That was during a time when I had suffered a severe finger injury on my left hand. It just kept me close to music.

GN:Have you had formal instruction in theory or playing?

MS:No, unfortunately I am self taught. If I had it to do over again, I would have gone to school for some basic understandings of theory. It would have saved me a lot of head scratching over the years.

GN:Yes, believe me, I know what you’re saying. What is your take on the some of the players today?

MS:There’s just so many great players today. It’s really quite refreshing after going through the dark ages… you know, the late 80s and 90s. The guitar just kinda got lost in the mix. Leads were non-existent in a lot of work, if there was a guitar at all.

GN:Who are some of the players that you admire now?

MS:I am just a huge fan of Joe Bonamassa. The guy can do it all. There are so many great players out there today that it’s hard to pick. I am just a huge fan of good music (and great guitar playing). Johnny Hiland just smokes, too. And John Petrucci ….

GN:How do you define success?

MS:Are you doing what you want to do? Personally, I am in a great situation. Our singer (Todd Joos) owns Cellar Records. We write and record our own music, we have our own publishing and distribution. What more can you want in terms of artistic freedom. Am I rich doing this? No. If it was about the money, I would never have chosen this occupation.

GN:If you were only allowed to have 5 Albums or CD’s on a deserted island, which 5 would it be?

MS:It wouldn’t matter anyway …. the batteries would go dead and there I’d sit with my favorite Cds and no way of listening. Just let me have my wife and an acoustic guitar with extra sets of strings. And some soap, toothbrush, toilet paper…