THE GRISTLICIOUS GREG KOCH IS NOT ONLY A HILARIOUS GUY and a monster player (check out his latest release, Nation Sack, with Malford Milligan for proof), but, as the top clinician for Fender and Hal Leonard, he’s also the most high-profile product specialist on the planet. In the November issue of GP he will talk the good, the bad, and the heinous when it comes to clinics. Here are some of his musings that were left over.
Do clinic attendees ask about gear or playing techniques more? What else do they want to know?
Well, I have been extremely fortunate that folks know me from a variety of different avenues so the questions vary. There are those who come to the clinic that may be fans of my recordings and youtube footage, there are those who are perhaps fans of my Hal Leonard instructional dvd’s, books etc., others have the Fender “Stratocaster Chronicles” or “Soul of Tone” books that I contributed sound clips and dialogue to, and a lot of folks see me as “the Fender Guy” whose product demonstrations have motivated their purchases. Then there are a lot of folks that are there just because it’s free! I demonstrate a few different techniques during the clinics so there are certainly questions on those techniques or things I may have done in the tunes I have played. Gear questions can range from the stuff I’m currently playing in the clinic, stuff I’ve used in the past or just generic Fender questions that I field to the best of my ability. The questions usually range from deep theory queries to what strings do I use. I just take ‘em as they come. Of course it also heavily depends on whether I’m doing a Fender clinic, Hal Leonard clinic or just a masterclass....
How technical do you get when talking about the gear? Will you, for example, discuss what kinds of magnets are in the pickups or what kinds of tubes are in the amps?
Nothing real crazy is discussed as I am not a total gear freak, not that there is anything wrong with that. I always make it quite clear that the majority of the tone comes from your hands and that the gear is there to provide tone enabling and to spike motivation. I haven’t met a custom wound pickup or an expensive new old stock tube that can compare to hours in the woodshed or on the bandstand for actually making you sound unique and extraordinary but gear can certainly make those pursuits more enjoyable. Having said that, what speakers and tubes are used in the amps played is certainly discussed but the real esoteric stuff is not extrapolated on at any length.
Has this gig helped or hurt your career as a recording and touring artist?
Well, I never wanted to be a side man, I always wanted to do my own music so, not being a pretty boy and refusing to adhere to any specific genre, my options have been somewhat narrowed...regardless of my large catalog of interesting original music and thoroughly entertaining live presentation (did I just say that?). I also have a family so being on a tour vessel for six months at a time is not in the cards for me unless I want to get a divorce and to see my kids on Maury Povich in a few years bemoaning their shoddy upbringing. The clinic thing has allowed me to make a living while playing my own tunes and sharing what I know. Whether that has hindered my ascension in the touring world I don’t know but at this point, don’t care. I do enough touring with the band to know that my formula works and that the rest (brutal ascension in the biz) is out of my control. I do know that being a recording artist prolongs my value as a clinician. I enjoy all aspects of what I do so as long as there is some semblance of balance, I’m good.