New EP “MAN WITHOUT A NAME” Breaks Sonic Barriers & Attitudes Within The Industry!
CHRISTIAN MARTUCCI has left a thumbprint on a society of great music, but it’s definitely not one you’d find in the mainstream. Bred into the “punk scene” from his earlier years, Christian devoted much of his time & energy to that revolution…playing with the likes of Vampire Love Dolls, The Strychnine Babies, & angst-riddled supergroup Black President…plus, landing the virtuous gig that would define his career – as guitarist for the DADDY of it all, DEE DEE RAMONE. Also known for his close-hand work with COREY TAYLOR (Slipknot) & ROY MAYORGA (Stone Sour)…Christian has stepped onto nearly every international stage within his grasp, & deservingly planted himself amongst the ‘ELITE’ of the L.A. rock music world. But it has not come without a price, as it does for every major professional musician…often finding themselves bouncing from project to project…trying to work around hectic schedules, & cater to commitments, for the bands that made them “OH SO” FAMOUS. After Ramone’s death in 2002, & subsequential work with “The Chelsea Smiles” & “Thousand Watt Stare”…that’s where Christian Martucci decided to draw the line, take matters into his own hands, step outside of the box, & resurrect the notion that “DO IT YOURSELF” can be a successful alternative for those that choose to take a break from the full-throttle performance stage.
During a recent interview with the distortion-loving Fender Guitar addict, Christian openly discussed the dark, moody introspect of his smashing solo-debut EP “Man Without A Name” & the autobiographical nature behind the release. With speaker-shattering power, & post-punk roots, four songs cannot encapsulate how much of a guitar & vocal prodigy Christian really is…together with his bandmates – Carl Raether on bass, & percussionist Zak St. John. Not always trusting his full objectivity regarding his own music, Christian tells me that the other two band members were “instrumental” in helping him lay the groundwork for the new EP…by never succumbing to the use of Pro Tools or any editing, as they eschewed contemporary rules for creating energy-driven music. By not following any particular patterns or styles in heavy rock, the project is bathed in tangible intension & resistance to fitting the perfect mold…bringing FRESH EXCITEMENT back to the genre & his career. Here’s what Christian had to say about his all-new “DIY” perspective, & the lessons he’s learned throughout his accomplishments.
Boe: What’s the greatest challenge, stepping away from the major performance stage…& releasing your first independent debut?
Christian Martucci: It’s scary out there! (LAUGHS) You just have to learn to live in the moment & try not to be discouraged. Both of those things are very important, when taking the “DIY” path…that, & learning how to handle all of the ups-&-downs as they come. It was overwhelming at first, trying to figure out what to do, but I’m slowly getting used to it & really enjoying it. It’s been really cool to be able to make my own decisions…with no middle-man. I get to choose “who” I send my music to, “how” I’m represented…& if anything goes wrong, I’ve got no one to blame – but myself.
Boe: The EP “Man Without A Name” is somewhat autobiographical. Explain how you came up with that title, & the idea behind the artwork.
Christian Martucci: “Man Without A Name” is really about the challenges people face, when heading down a new path. I got really inspired during one of my ‘Alfred Hitchcock’ movie marathons…& wanted to write a song about my experiences, good & bad, as a musician…in a non-obvious way. I’ve been really lucky, & have done a lot of cool stuff in the past, but this is a new thing. I can’t go into it expecting instant success, & just assume people are going to care. I have to prove myself…& I’m looking forward to the challenge. The key (for me) is reminding myself “why I play music”. It’s nice to have recognition, but music is more like therapy for me than anything else. The artwork was done by my friend, Joshua Ketchmark. It’s an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ “The Invisible Man”…& (pretty much) nails the point I was trying to get across in the song. When he showed it to me, I loved it instantly! It’s kind of weird, but I’ve been influenced by old classic movies & books these days…even more than music. I try not to listen to too much music, when I’m writing songs, so I don’t “accidentally” steal other people’s ideas. It’s impossible to be totally original, but I do the best I can.
Boe: What is the ‘Signature Quality’ that you feel fans will discover on this disc? Are there any plans to offer a “Part 2” or “FULL ALBUM” down the road?
Christian Martucci: Over the years I’ve played punk, hardrock, rock‘n’roll, & some metal…but never anything that sounds quite like this! I would say it’s “slower & heavier” than a lot of the stuff people have heard me do – moodier & darker, sort of a “hybrid” of all of the styles. I like WAY TOO MANY types of music, to pigeonhole myself into any one thing…kind of a blessing & a curse. It’s just me “being me” & I hope people will hear that in the songs. Plans to do a full-length are already in the works. Right now, it’s all about choosing the right songs.
Boe: Did you find that you were channelling into other genres of music purposely on this release, because you’ve always been so avidly involved in punk-related material?
Martucci: Definitely – 100%. I love punk rock…but I also love classic-rock guitar solos, metal, blues, et cetera. I think, I subconsciously mix what I love about punk with other influences…like Danzig, or early Metallica. Some of the themes are a direct result of a lot of the creepy old blues stuff I listen to. I try not to fight my influences…& just let it happen. The stuff I’m putting together, for the full-length, digs a lot deeper into that. There’s no reason not to like all of those things.
Boe: What was it like…being the guitarist for DEE DEE RAMONE? What was the greatest thing you learned from that experience?
Martucci: It was a BIG DEAL to me. When I first started playing with Dee Dee, most musicians in L.A. were playing nu-metal. It was next-to-impossible to find people that wanted to play rock‘n’roll. I don’t have anything against music evolving, but that stuff just wasn’t my “cup of tea” at the time. Dee Dee was my saving grace. The way people feel about the “RAMONES” (in the US) was a lot different THEN, than it is today. We didn’t really start off playing to a ton of people. Other countries like Japan & Argentina were different. In those places, the Ramones were massive!!! We would play packed, enormous rooms in places like Tokyo or Buenos Aires…then come home & play in tiny bars. It was a weird balance, but I loved all the shows we did…regardless. Once Joey passed away, the shows in the US got bigger & bigger. It’s very unfortunate that “something like that” needed to happen…to make people wake up & realize what a great band they were. Dee Dee never really got a chance to experience the type of love the Ramones get, nowadays. I’m sure he would have really appreciated it…had he stuck around. For me, the Ramones are a celebration of everything that is GREAT about rock‘n’roll. We definitely had some crazy moments out there, but all-in-all I’m very grateful for the experience. It opened so many doors for me, & paved the road I’m on now…in a lot ways. Playing with him is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received as a musician.
Boe: You are known as being a very “honest” musician, & have been credited by COREY TAYLOR as one of Los Angeles’ hardrock “BEST”. If there’s one thing you’d want to change (or improve) about your playing style…what would it be & why?
Martucci: I have a real LOVE/HATE relationship with my style. Sometimes, I wish I could just settle on one sound…but at the same time, I like that I don’t really fit into anything specific. Growing up playing punk rock is a lot of fun, but also caused me to ignore a lot of great music because it wasn’t punk. If I could change anything at all, I probably would have spent more time studying guys like “Jimmy Page” when I was younger. I let my guard down quite a few years ago, & started digging into that stuff…but there are certain “habits” that have stuck with my playing – that I can’t shake, no matter what. I wish I was more open-minded when I was younger, but that’s just part of growing up.
Boe: Let’s talk about Fender. Why are you such a believer in their guitars? What are some of the specs you can’t live without?
Martucci: Almost every situation I’ve been in, the other guitar player used a “Les Paul”…or something equivalent. When two guitar players are fighting for the same frequency, it sounds messy to me. You can’t really distinguish the parts…& it just sounds like one sloppy guitar. I started out using GRETSCH – because I love hollow body guitars. The low-output Filtertron pickups sound amazing, & are able to easily cut through the overbearing sound of a Les Paul. One of the greatest guitar sounds in the world (to me) is AC/DC. Malcolm is on one side with a Gretsch, & Angus is on the other with an SG. It sounds BIG, CLEAR, & SO POWERFUL – it’s perfect!!!! I was lucky enough to get on the “Gretsch Roster”, toward the end of The Chelsea Smiles…& all through Black President. FENDER owns Gretsch…& while I was looking at their website, I saw this silver “Tele” & fell in love with it. I took a chance, & ordered one, just to try something different. I haven’t put that guitar down, since I got it. I still love my Gretsch guitars to death, & use them in the studio all the time, but when it comes to a PERFECT all-around guitar…Fender will always be my first choice! They are 100% reliable, never go out of tune, & I can hear every note I play on them. They also don’t disguise any mistakes, which (in my opinion) makes me play better. Elliot Easton said in an interview once that, “It’s impossible to tell lies on a Telecaster.” That’s a very true statement…in my experience. Lately, I’ve been messing around a lot with Strats as well. Over the past few years, no matter if I’ve been playing with Corey Taylor or in some “tiny bar” in the middle of nowhere…the Fender Company has always had my back. Most companies will give up on you, if you’re not touring non-stop in a huge band…but they have stood by me, since DAY ONE. There’s something to be said for that.
Boe: Back to your days with Black President/Thousand Watt Stare…it’s always a constant challenge trying to keep a band together, especially when the members have “fame” with other projects. How do you, personally, go about choosing the musicians that you’d like to work with?
Martucci: Playing with more established guys has its share of benefits & set-backs. In Black President, the touring schedules of their other bands made things really hard. We had to say “NO” to a lot of great tours, as a result…but that’s just the way it was. Most of us understood that it wasn’t every member’s “Number One” band, but at the same time – it’s really hard to sit around for months on end. That’s a big reason why there were so many members in such a short time. As far as starting a new band, the main thing I look for is talented people with positive attitudes. There are plenty of good musicians out there, but they’re not always the coolest people. I’m fortunate, this time around, that I have a “perfect mix” of both. Zak & Carl have been ABSOLUTELY AMAZING in every way. I’m happier with this band, than I have been in years.
Boe: Tell us a bit about the members of your current band, & what your plans are for the next twelve months.
Martucci: Zak St. John might be “The Best” all-around drummer I’ve ever played with. He excels in so many different styles, & really brings a lot of excitement to the sound of the band. He does a lot of session work in L.A. & has played with everyone from the B-52′s to Stevie Wonder. We get along great, & he’s definitely someone I can see myself playing with for many years. Carl Raether comes from more of a punk-rock background, & also plays bass for “Joey Cape’s Bad Loud”. We met each other back when “The Chelsea Smiles” were starting out. When I was looking to start this band, he was the first bass player I thought of. It was important (to me) to choose level-headed players, who are only in it for the sole purpose of making cool music. Carl & Zak had already been friends for awhile, so when I asked about drummers…Zak was the first guy that came up. As soon as I heard him play, I knew he was the right guy…& the search ended, right there. I couldn’t ask for better people to do this with. This year, we hope to have a full-length album released…followed by as many shows as humanly possible. I haven’t had this many people excited about a new band I’ve been in, since The Chelsea Smiles. I believe, a big part of that is…you can really SEE & FEEL the chemistry the band has, when we play live. Now, it’s just a matter of capturing that energy on record…& getting it out to as many people as possible. We’re off to a great start!
Boe: What is the most fatal flaw you see guitarists make, when they’re performing in front of a LIVE audience?
Martucci: I would say getting too drunk before the show is a BIG ONE. When I go to see bands, I’m always checking out what the guitar players are doing. Everything…from the type of guitar, the pickups, the amp – I really enjoy “geeking out” on that stuff. When someone is playing like crap, it makes it really hard for me to care about those things. I’m guilty of it, myself…when I was younger. Sometimes I see old videos of shows…that I thought were great at the time…& now, they make me cringe. Musicians love to use the “Keith Richards” excuse, but that is an extremely rare case. His talent came naturally, & the drugs were probably just there…because that’s what people did in the 60′s & 70′s. I think people get too influenced by the lifestyle, rather than the music. Playing should always come first.
Boe: You’ve been playing guitar, since you were about five years old. What made you choose guitar, & not drums…or any other instrument?
Martucci: KISS!!! My family all lived together in the same house, back then…cousins, aunts, uncles. My dad played in rock‘n’roll bands in the early to mid-60′s, so music was a big deal to us! There were tons of records lying around the house…& I loved them all. I remember AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell”, “Back In Black”…Ozzy’s “Speak of the Devil”…& Iron Maiden “Killers” on constant repeat. One day, we took a trip to a department store & they had a wall of Mego ‘KISS’ dolls collecting dust. Kiss wasn’t as popular then, as they were in the 70′s…so they must have been on clearance, because I came home with ALL FOUR of them. I didn’t realize they were a “real band” – until I brought them home, & heard my uncle complaining that Ace & Peter had been replaced. I became obsessed with them…& my Dad gave me a first record of my own, “KISS – Alive II”. This was before Kindergarten, & that album literally put me where I’m at today. As soon as I heard them…that was it. I loved ACE FREHLEY, in particular. The whole “Spaceman” thing, & the smoking guitar, made a HUGE IMPRESSION on me at that age…not to mention, how well is solos stuck in my head. They’re so melodic & powerful. He is definitely “the reason” I became a guitar player.
Boe: What do you think is the GREATEST moment in rock‘n’roll history?
Martucci: I’m going to go with Elvis Presley & Sam Phillips getting together. They made it possible for rhythm & blues to be heard, by a very segregated audience. I don’t think any of us can begin to imagine…the “backlash” guys like Elvis had to endure…for doing what they did, in the beginning. It outraged millions of people, & at the same time won over the youth of America & “united them” through music. His guitar player (Scotty Moore) was incredible! The way he mixed rhythm & blues with country licks – it must’ve been so influential to guitar players at the time. Had they not taken the chances they took, we may have never heard the originals like Chuck Berry or Little Richard…for a long time. Yes, there are a ton of others that deserve credit for this…like Jerry Lee Lewis…but the reason I’m going with Elvis, is that he made the initial impact & opened the door for what seems like…everyone. Who knows where we would be today, without him?
Travelling a vast distance from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, & his meager beginnings…where all he really had was “rock music”, Christian Martucci’s divergence has made him the ultra guitar-talent he is today…& captured the attention of some of the world’s most affluent musicians, including six-string heroes – like SLASH. Through successive tours of Europe, Japan, South American, & the USA – Christian still firmly believes there is “good” & “bad” songwriting…& his well-harvested skills always seem to end up on THE BEST SIDE of the spectrum. He’d much rather be making records he believes in…than conforming to something crazy & unreliable. “One thing I’ve learned through all of this…is to remain humble & grateful.” Martucci says, & when it comes down to the proficiency of his playing…he has a lot to be thankful for.
*** All photos courtesy of Christian Martucci & his associated firms.
For more information on Christian, & his dynamic three-piece band…please visit: