An Interview with Chris Kodjamanis

Guitar Technician for Mick Box 

We caught Chris during some rare downtime and took
the opportunity to ask the questions below.



Thanks to Chris for taking the time to answer them so candidly !
His website is
www.gtech64.com

Mick Box of Uriah HeepBox Net What Guitars does he keep home for fear of them being stolen or broken?

Mick still has some great guitars at home, A very nice Gibson SG, a Gibson 335 and some great Martin and Furch Acoustics, a beautiful Buddy Holly type Fender Stratocaster and many others.

Box Net Custom Guitars - we know he has had more than a few made for him. Can you tell us about them, both Acoustic and Electric?

He has lovely Electric Guitar the Ruokangas Duke guitar
( Mick Box Signature ) made by a luthier in Finland called Juha Ruokangas
Mick Box playing his Ruokangas Guitar

He also has a beautiful acoustic called “Amelia “ that was made for him by a luthier in Canada called Randy Catterall

Webnote: See a partial listing of
Mick's guitar collection
here


Box Net His favorite song to play on guitar (doesn't necessarily need to be a Heep Song)

That is hard but he enjoys playing “ July Morning “ where he can get into his own thing at the end.

Box Net Current artists that he admires
Tea Party, Stereophnics, System of a Down…he changes all the time.

Box Net Rock Influences ?
Vanilla Fudge

Box Net His favorite guitarist above all others
Jeff Beck

Box Net What's the guitar that was stolen that he misses the most?

The original Gibson Black Beauty

Box Net Are there plans to buy any more?
He never stops buying them….!

Box Net  Mick's love of Les Pauls goes way back, and the Black Beauty especially. He's play everything from SG Juniors with 2 single coils, through gorgeous SG Standards with the horizontal whammy (I bet he wishes he had THAT now :-) to Kramers and Strats (early on) Travis Bean, and his Yahama of a few years back - even the Les Paul Delux...

Mick Box playing a Paul Reed Smith !Matter of fact, we even have him playing a PRS !!

Box Net Aside from the fact that the Les Paul sounds and plays so well, what IS it with Mick and the Black Beauty ? Many guitars play as well, and he has had them all it seems..what is it that has solidified his allegience to the Black Beauty?

Like you say Mick has had some wonderfull guitars, But the Black Beauty has been his number one for some time now, The thing just feels and sounds right and Mick feels really comfortable with it, Beside that what can be more Rock N Roll than a Les Paul and a Marshall ??

Box Net The Les Paul that you have set up for him...is it non-stock in any way?

Well the pickups and electrics are all stock. But I have replaced the tuners with Gotoh Locking units, They look just like the originals but they lock the string in place, I have also fitted a Graphtech top nut and a Tonepros bridge. Mick really beats the guitar up so these little modifications just help keep it all in tune.

Box Net On past records, and of course live with the Yahama, Mick used the whammy very delicately - his use of it was like the tremolo of his left hand - gently - not the 80's style dive bombs. A song that comes immediately to mind is "Shelter From The Rain" off of Sonic Origami. Personally, I loved that style of his, and there are times when Uriah Heep does songs that Mick used a vibrato bar on but he doesn't now. My question is, does Mick miss that "tool" of his arsnel? And - does he have a guitar with him with a Whammy these days?

Well i wouldn't say he "misses" it too much, And he still has guitars with a Wang Bar on so should a song need it he could always pull one out

Box Net What guitars does he take on the road with him?

For live work i carry two Gibson Les Pauls, But number 2 only gets used if we break a string on the main one, A Line 6 Variax Acoustic, And one more regular Acoustic, Which one depends on how Mick feels at the time.

Box Net What Guitars does he keep home for fear of them being stolen or broken?

Bernie Shaw and Mick Box on the Furch AcousticsMick still has some great guitars at home, A very nice Gibson SG, a Gibson 335 and some great Martin and Furch Acoustics, Among others.
 

Box Net He has told me 17 have been stolen through the years... is that still true or has the number gone up?

We haven't lost one for a while, So that number is about right.

Box Net Has he ever played a Flying V on Record? Live ?

No but i would love to see that, Or maybe a big old Explorer type.

Box Net Does he prefer light or heavy guage strings?

Light strings for sure.. 9 - 42 gauge with a really low action.

Box Net His Amp of choice is a Marshall of course. What head and speaker combination is he using now? Wattage?

We favour the JCM 800 or 1959 SLP heads all 100 Watt, And the 1960 4x 12 straight fronted cab.
 

Marshall JCM 800 Marshall 1959 SLP


Box Net He has said he prefers to use only one speaker cab when he plays live...true? What's in it? Any special speakers other then the 12" they come with?

That's true, I have more on stage but only one is used, It's a standard Marshall 4x12
 

Box Net In the past, his pedal board was quite a bit "fuller" - what's the effects he has on the floor these days?

Micks Pedal Board 2006When i started Working for Mick he gave me a free hand to get him the best sound i could, Too many pedals in the line just suck the signal from your sound. I trimmed it down to just what we need and got the best for the job, A Boss pedal tuner, Boss Chorus, Boss Delay, Marshall Guv'nor, Radial Tonebone, Crybaby Wha and Morley Volume pedal.

Box Net Speaker attenuator - still use one?

Yes i do.. THD Hotplate, Simply the best you can get..

Box Net Does Mick use a distortion box at all or is it just a cranked up Marshall/Les Paul combination or is it the speaker attenuator as well?


We have the Tonebone or Guv'nor on at all times just to "Round" out the sound a little, Then Mick can turn them off to clean up his sound a bit when he needs it.

Box Net  He has a great compressed sound live and even more so on record. How does he get that live?

We have no compression on his guitar, The sound you hear out front is down to Charlotte and her magic.
 

Box Net How long have you been his guitar technician? What were your gigs in the past? Do you have a website we can plug?

Mick first contacted me in 2004, I was living in Germany at the time and Mick needed a stand in tech to cover for Steve for a few gigs, Andy Scott from the Sweet gave him my number and i jumped at the chance to work for him, I did a few gigs as a stand in then at the start of 2005 Mick took me on full time. You can check out my Web Site at www.gtech64.com

Box Net  The Wah...
Over the years, he has had a few different varieties - what's the current model he uses?

What's his favorite? Is his wah-wah modified in any way?

He now uses the original Dunlop Crybaby, It really is the best . We had one hot rodded by Robert Keely which sounds ok, But if it ain't broke don't mess with it... Dunlop got it right first time.

Box Net His Wah style now as compared to earlier - as on Salisbury and earlier and a bit later, the wah was very pronounced - of course the song may call for that , but generally, does he have it on all the time and use it to "come through the background" for leads or does he keep it off most of the time?

The "Whakker" is used for the solos or to accent a part in a song

Box Net  Most times, I think he uses it sparingly - pronounced, but not WAH WAH WAH if you know what I mean. Does he cite any influences for his style of Wah?
People should be citing HIM as an influence....

He is after all the King of Wah...

Box Net  Has he ever used an Auto-Wah?
NO

Box Net Mick doesn't appear to go for the multi-function gear as on the all in one pedal boards out there, but rather he is using a few effects on stage (and with great results I might add), does he ever play around with pedals that we don't see or know about?

Oh we have so many pedals you would not believe it... Mick likes to try out different pedals to see which ones work for him, I will get an E-Mail from him asking " Have you heard about the ??????? Pedal ?" and that's my hint to beg, steal or borrow one for him to try.

Box Net  Acoustic Guitar
What does he use as his fav?
What kinds of Strings?
Does he Mic it live with an onboard pickup or is it picked up by his vocal mic?

Mick has some very nice Acoustics By Furch and Martin, But live we mostly use the Variaxe, It's a Modeling guitar which means it can sound like just about any guitar you can think of Including 12 string, Sitar and BANJO (dont ask) Again he has light gauge strings 11 gauge Phosphor Bronze .

This goes into an AER acoustic amp sat between Micks Monitors then fed to the Monitor engineer and to Charlotte out front.

Box Net When playing live, what are your main functions?

I set up the amps and pedals, Then Clean, Re-Sring and tune the guitars, Fixing anything that needs it along the way. I will then play the guitars for a while to bed the new strings in. Gig time i hand Mick his guitar Then spend most of the show reeling his guitar cable in and out trying to keep it from under his feet, When he needs the Acoustic i will hand it to him, While muting the Electric and activating the acoustic by a switching system i have by my work station. Then i pack it all away and go for a beer.

Box Net Does he have spare heads in case his main ones blow?

We always have at least two amps

Box Net Are his Marshalls modified in any way?
No

Box Net Does Mick have a preference for a specific year and/or Model Marshall?
If it's a JCM800 or an SLP he can make them work.

Box Net Are there ever problems when the backline isn't what he expects - IE: How do you deal with a Marshall, that just doesn't want to be one that night?

It has happened, With rented gear your never quite sure how well it's been maintained or how good the valves are. Mick's a pro to the letter He just grits his teeth and does what he does best.

Box Net Does he have more than one Black Beauty?
He has two.

Box Net Does Mick write on an acoustic or electric, or both?

Both

Box Net Home recording - I remember in New York one time, Mick and I were at Mannys Music, and he was looking for some home gear. I know he's been through some now - what's current?

Mick has just had ProTools installed, And considering his luck with computers (Not Good) I thought that was very brave of him.

Box Net Is there a recording studio at his house?
Yes

Box Net Mick Stage presence is legendary - his "hand trilling the strings" where his fretting fingers follow his left hand up and down the neck, the famous Mick move where he "pulls" the sound from above and "splashes it" on the fans - I'm sure the readers would like to know how Mick describes what these mean to him.

Well you would have to ask him about that. It does look cool though

Box Net Does he do anything specific as far as limbering up his fingers before a gig (like backstage) or does he just go out there, warm up with the band and so forth?
The band will all do a sound check together, But Mick has no warming up routine, He's done this for so long I think his fingers know what to do by now.

Box Net Does/Did Mick play a Nylon string anywhere? At home? On Record?
Yes he has 3 Nylon strung guitars.
1 x Furch Nylon Strung
1 x Furch Nylon Strung with cutaway and pick up.
1 x no name nylon strung guitar I bought back from Spain in 1969


Box Net Any special Tunings IE: Dropped D, Open E, etc ?

We tune to standard 440 except for "The wizard" where the whole thing is tuned down one step and then the low E is dropped again to a C

Box Net Your worst fear of equipment failure - what's the one thing that you fear will happen but hasn't yet?

Well I basically have two of everything, But things can and do still go down Leads, Amps, Pedals, I guess that if we blow both the amps then thats pretty bad


Box Net His Amp - can you tell us the settings (vol, bass, treble channels 1+2 joined?) You know, that sort of thing.

Well it depends on the room and the stage, They all affect the sound, But the Vol is always on 10 Bass around 5 , Mid around 4, and Treble around 7/ 8

Box Net Does he tune by ear or with a tuner while on stage?

I get the guitars in tune with a Peterson strobe tuner and Mick has a Boss pedal tuner in his pedalboard

Box Net What can you fill us in on that I haven't asked you ?

I have been in this business for over 20 years, Working for Mick is by far and away the best job I have ever had, Not only is he a rock legend but also a true gentleman.

I stand at the side of the stage and watch him play and it annoys me that the man is so underrated. To be able to call Mick a friend is truly an honor.

 We have had a few interesting times together and his humour and positive outlook is a true inspiration to me. Is there a better gig out there ? Maybe . Would I swap ??
Never !

Is there a cooler guy than Mick to work for ?? I doubt it !
Now where did I put that bottle of Jack ??