Back in April we had the pleasure of hosting Greg Koch in Athens, Greece who along with his trio were the special guests of our 10th Anniversary party! We had an insightful sit-down with Greg and this is a good taste of the exchange!
(transcribed from audio recording)
How do you go about practicing these days?
It’s a combination of practicing new tunes of mine, practicing different vibratos, working on repertoire and then i’ll kind of flip flop. So if I really have to practice doing my blues vibrato, then I’ll just sit and play along with records: Albert King, Albert Collins, Cream-era Clapton, B. B. King is a big one, Ottis Rush. I’ll put them on and I’ll just play along, not because I want to be able to regurgitate what they do, but it influences how I approach vibrato. For me it doesn’t matter how much information as far as technique or theory knowledge you apply on top of something; if the vibrato and the phrasing isn’t right then all of this stuff is not as impactful.
What is your approach to improvisation?
I always make the analogy of a conversation. A lot of times what I’m about to play is influenced by what I just played as I build up this conversation, and certainly there are words in my vocabulary that I like to use to get the point across. “Indeed!”, “Glorious!”, “Come and feast!” are things I like to say a lot, so musically I have those things as well. If you say the same thing over and over again, it would get redundant verbally; by the same token it’s the same thing musically.
What should we be expecting from the Koch-Marshall trio?
The tunes that are on the new record ,“Toby Arrives’, that’s the first and second time we ever played together, so now we’ve got so many songs and it’s jelled even more. What is nice about the record deal, is it wasn’t just me that got signed, It was all of us and it is technically a four record deal – 3 studio records and a live record and we’ve just got a ton of tunes so we’re ready to go!
You have worked closely with many companies in the past, Fender, Martin, Hal Leonard to name but a few. How do you go about it?
I try to find fun in anything I’m presented with because i just have fun playing guitar! So if somebody makes something fun and they have kind of the same attitude then it’s like with us; you make great pedals and they sound magnificent and they look cool and they do great things, it’s like – Cool! I can get into that! – and then we work together and everyone is mutually successful! That has kind of been my thing wether it’s Wildwood or Fishman, things come together and I think to myself “I can have fun with this!” and as a result I am able to make a living and the road keeps going on. But truth be told now that I’m doing this thing with my son and this band it’s so much fun to show up and play – I could just do that at this point, I’m ready to just play for a while!
Who are you listening to at the moment that you find inspiring?
I listen to a lot of old stuff for the most part, although I downloaded the new Michael Landau record – the very last track was my favourite – the sense of melody is twisted and I dig that. Derek Trucks for my slide thing has been huge- it’s his attitude in that intonation. I’m also listening to old steel players; it’s very haunting and bluesy in its way. I like doing simple pedal-steel-y things. I also like listening to old Clarence White material – the live stuff he did with the Birds was great. Just the other day I was playing along with Jerry Garcia’s pedal-steel part on “Teach your Children” that CSNY thing – it’s perfect, its the perfect pedal-steel part, that opened up a lot of new stuff for me in approaching bends. A lot of times it can be something old that I’ve heard 1000 times but I’ve never played along with.
To sum up, who are you after all?
What’s bizarre and lucky for me is that people know me for different things; I’ll have people still to this day introduce me as the ambassador for Fender which I haven’t done in years or there will be people going “Oh! The instruction guy” or some people just know me from band stuff, or some people will go “Oh! The gear demo guy”, or they’ll talk about the comedy thing. I take them all as a compliment. I’m lucky to able to do what I do and make a living. The artist part of me might get my nose a little bent out of shape by “Well they’re not respecting my artistry” (delivered in high-brow cork-sniffing voice) and that happens every now and again, especially when you are dealing with corporate structures and guys who are interested in selling stuff at a retail level, that can approach things in a way where you are just going “Guys let’s do a quick recap”. But at the same time, I get it. You have to be able to put yourself in everybody’s shoes. I’m extremely lucky to be able to do what I do, there’s just no two ways about it. It doesn’t matter how good you are as a musician, as a songwriter or whatever; you’ve got to be able to play nice with others. The biggest thing I’m grateful for is that I have fun doing everything. So if I’m showing up at Wildwood every morning to do their videos, I have fun all day long! “How do you play guitar the whole day? How do you sit in that chair for hours on end just playing guitar after guitar?” I’m like: “I get to sit in that chair and play guitar after guitar all day long!”. Most of the time shooting videos I’m writing new tunes, I’m checking out a new technique; I’ve written 100 songs plus, shooting those videos. Or whether if it’s going out to do Fishman clinics, well cool, I get to play some acoustic stuff and I’ll get my acoustic game together again! Whatever it is I just have fun doing whatever I do and as a result, stuff sells because if it didn’t they wouldn’t have me do it! There has to be quid pro quo at some point but if you are honestly having fun with people’s products it’s a win-win for everybody!
Questions posed by Emmanuel!