When I play live , my rig may vary depending on what the project is , but I generally have a live show pedalboard that includes a Boss FV-500L volume pedal , TC Electronic Spark Mini Booster , Ibanez Tube Screamer , Electro Harmonix Big Muff , Demeter TRM-1 Tremulator , Dunlop MXR Carbon Copy Delay , Electro Harmonix Cathedral Reverb , and a Boss RE-20 Space Echo . I also usually play through a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe . I purchased a Squier Classic Vibe ‘ 70s Jaguar that I had set up very nicely for live gigs . That has since become one of my primary live guitars since I don ’ t like traveling with my vintage guitars anymore . It plays really well and I love the smaller neck on it .
CM : Do you have any specific favourite guitars or pieces of gear ?
Kourkoutis : I love all my guitars so much . They all have their own little personalities but there are a few that I tend to favour in the studio : JV-era [ Squier Telecaster ], Gretsch Streamliner with a Bigsby , a vintage Gibson Les Paul Junior double cutaway , and my 1950 Gibson LG-2 3 / 4 size that I had outfitted with a Bill Lawrence humbucker . I can play that guitar through a pedalboard for a unique tone option or acoustically . I have a thing for parlor-size guitars and thinner necks .
My latest favourite pieces of gear include an Acme MTP-66 Motown tube preamp and a Hologram Electronics Microcosm pedal . The MTP-66 is so gorgeous sounding . I used to spend hours trying to replicate that amazing Motown guitar and bass tone with plugins and now I just plug straight into this tube pre and that sound is instant ! The Microcosm is something I am still exploring . I feel like I ’ ve barely scratched the surface and have never had a pedal like this before . It ’ s definitely inspiring me immensely in my creative process and is making me create a bit more outside of the box .
CM : Do you follow any set practice regimen ? If so , what does your routine look like ?
If we ’ re not vibing with those ideas , I can easily erase them and go back to the drawing board until I find the thing that fits . It ’ s less rigid . I try to stay as open as possible until I catch that muse in the creative process .
CM : Why do you think you were drawn to all your areas — playing , production , composition , songwriting , etc . — instead of specializing in one or two ?
Kourkoutis : I think all of these areas are simply various forms of creative expression that are interconnected . I can easily fuse any combo of these skill sets to enhance that mode of expression . They are symbiotic to me . They build off of and enhance each other . That was the initial appeal to me … to create by any means necessary . I also come from a DIY background , so a lot of these skill sets were further developed out of necessity . As a result , I didn ’ t have to depend on people to get things done as an artist . Now , I can offer any of these skills whether I am writing for an artist or film or TV , producing a track , or playing any instrument . In a lot of the cases , I am combining all of them on one project . It allows me to have a one-stop-shop over here at [ my studio ] The Lair . The bonus is that I can create endlessly .
CM : And finally , what is the next piece of gear you have an eye on ?
Kourkoutis : I have an extremely long running list that includes guitars , amps , pedals , and a ton of microphones and outboard gear that would also complement my guitar game , so this is hard ! These days , I ’ m more interested in character pieces that will heighten the sonic ‘ scapes I create , so I think the next thing I ’ d love to add to my studio setup in the guitar realm is an old ‘ 50s /’ 60s low-watt Silvertone ( 1431 ) or Magnatone tube combo amp or something of that character . Nothing beats that tone and I have a lap steel that ’ s screaming to be recorded through one !
Kourkoutis : I do not practice scales or technique much anymore . I stopped touring a few years ago but I play in the studio every day , so I guess that ’ s as close to a regimen as it gets . Every day is different for me , playing-wise . If I do the odd one-off show , I will practice the songs I need to learn for that particular set and that is really the extent of my practicing . Usually , I ’ ll sit down with a coffee and a guitar , play the songs over speakers , and chart them out by ear . Then I will practice along with the recordings so they become as close to muscle memory as possible before I have to rehearse with an artist or band . I like to be over prepared when I play as a musician-for-hire , so the prep time is important for me .
CM : Tell me about your differences in approach when playing for TV vs . composing and producing your music .
Kourkoutis : The differences in approach are akin to using a pen versus a pencil . When I am playing for TV or for a live show , I come rehearsed and knowing the repertoire inside and out . I ’ m using a pen . No room for errors or too much flexibility . When I ’ m songwriting , composing , or producing , my process is way more fluid . I write in pencil . I can sketch things out . I can develop and explore ideas .
Manus Hopkins is the Assistant Editor for Canadian Musician .
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