Interview: The Wisdom Of Soren Andersen


Soren Andersen is a busy man, besides endless clinic work with Yamaha Guitars and Line 6, he’s most well known from his regular gig with “Voice Of Rock” Glenn Hughes. These days he holds down an enviable reputation as the go to sideman for the Classic Rock icon seeking reinvention. As recent releases  with former White Lion frontman Mike Tramp and Sorens own Electric Guitars project confirm. We sat down with the amiable Dane to find out what it takes to be a successful hard rock guitar foil in the post record buying era.

1: In the beginning…

The first instrument I touched was the family piano. Mom and Dad both played music, so the house was full of instruments. I picked up my Dads Höfner guitar when I was 6 and I got my own nylon string acoustic when i was 8 years old. But the big step was 1985 where I joined a band and bought a no name electric guitar, two pedals and a small 1×12 combo amp: 100€ total!”

2: On lost instruments : A Little Perspective Is A Good Thing…

“I lost 8 guitars in a big fire! Rickenbacker 12 string, a guitar sitar, Guild jumbo acoustics, my Dads Höfner, a Kramer Baretta, lot’s of amps and shit… But you know what: It’s only dead wood. No one died that night and I had a great insurance, so that was just a crazy experience. Never had anything stolen YET!”

3: It’s Not Just About The Playing: Social skills are everything…

“It’s 25% social skills, 25% professionalism, 25% playing and 25% know-how of how the music business works.. Period!”

4: There’s a Soren Andersen signature Yamaha Revstar on the way…

“We are working on a model, yes! I must say: With a little bit of mods, the RevStars are incredible guitars! Change pickups, tuners, electronics and hardware and you have a top pro guitar, I love them!”


5: As a Guitarist who uses pedals into a clean amp, what pedals can you not live without…

My main sound comes from a LunaStone Signature pedal. Really cool True Overdrive circuit. Check it out! It’s called Three Stage Rocket and it’s a killer classic rock tone. Other than that, I can’t live without my Boss CS2. It’s the best pre booster on the planet. I think I have 4 of them…”


6: And the worst gig I ever played was...

” It was a hotel gig in Copenhagen, stand-in for an old friend. They paid me very well, but is was a disaster! The singer lost his voice, people left the room, I broke 3 strings, PA feed back none stop, shit shit shit shit.. LOL!”

7: When it comes to Influences, stick to the classics…

“There are five main influences: Gary Moore for overall tone, skills, power and song writing, Van Halen because he blew my mind when I was a kid, Angus Young for being the main riff king of them all, Richie Blackmore because he was the main reason of why I started play guitar, and finally Jimi Hendrix for saving my life. I was TOTALLY into Floyd Rose/Ibanez world in my teens but Band Of Gypsies saved me. LOL… He’s the king of them all!”

8: When it comes to airlines and hotels, the people make the experience…

“Ha… I’m easy when it comes to stuff like that, Very thankful for a nice clean room, a bed, a shower with hot water etc… I do like roof-top pools though! Airline is random really… Ryan Air can be as good as Thai Air, depends on the staff, the trip etc… I’m ok with a lot of airlines.”

9: When you were playing Yamaha SG’s.    (Soren played the Yamaha SG1802/20/a series and an earlier classic black Yamaha SG1000). Did you modify the guitars in any way, (fret wire or machine heads for example) or are they all stock?

“All stock.


10: As a successful musician and also producer. Which project has given you the most personal satisfaction so far?

“Well, Glenn Hughes changed my life totally! I learned a lot from Mike Tramp about the business, but touring with Marco Mendoza, Tommy Aldridge, Joy Lynn Turner, Eric Martin, The Dead Daisies, DAD, The Answer.. You get a lot of happiness and joy working with AAA musicians. I’m very thanfull when it comes to that.”



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Fender Richie Kotzen Telecaster

Fender’s product  blurb for the Richie Kotzen signature Tele begins, “Once only available in Japan, the Richie Kotzen Telecaster is now available to a worldwide audience”. 


This is a rather extraordinary understatement. Fender have always seemed, to me, rather unwilling to admit to the massive demand for this guitar from the very off. It’s pretty clear that this Japanese built Tele, combining vintage looks and traditional feel with contemporary performance, hurt sales of the American Deluxe (now renamed American Elite) range. 

After banning Japanese dealers from exporting brand new Domestic market Fender Japan guitars to the West in the mid 2000’s. I guess Fender hoped they’d killed off demand for the Kotzen. But if you’ve perused EBay and any of the smaller grey import guitar dealers out there. The Kotzen Tele is the one Japanese Fender instrument people are very curious about. Not just Kotzen fans, but everyman guitarists wanting a quality Tele that combines traditional looks with a modern high performance feature set. Originally launched in the late 1990’s it’s taken Fender nearly 20 years to make the model more widely available. 

It’s rumoured that the origins of the model are when Fender sent Kotzen a rather traditional 40th anniversary Tele in the early 90’s.  Hence it’s somewhat conservative vibe. 

Got Wood?

First off the RK Tele is not a light guitar. The 3 piece ash body is topped with a flamed maple cap. It weighs in at around 8lbs. The polyurethane brown sunburst finish is tasteful & well applied. Like modern American Deluxe/Elite Tele’s there’s a belly cutaway for the more ahem, portly among us

The silky satin eurethane finish maple neck is what Fender call a “big C profile”. But at half an inch deeper at the back. The neck is probably a lot closer to a traditional 50’s U shape than it’s Stratocaster sibling. There’s a rosewood skunk stripe at the back of the neck and I suspect the truss rod is in a plastic tube.

The build, fit and finish on the guitar are top notch. Some people may baulk at the cost of what is a non American made Fender. But in Japan this guitar has a 3 digit model number, to suggest its quality way above the various spec reissues that form the mainstay of the Fender Japan only range. 

Sitting atop the neck are 22 polished super jumbo Dunlop 6100 frets. The fingerboard is a 12″ radius like a Les Paul. In some ways this guitar feels more Gibson than Fender. It’s a real bruiser strapping it on. The headstock features a scratchy Richie Kotzen signature and a set of Gotoh machine heads. The sort of high performance tuners you’d find on an Ibanez Prestige range guitar.


Getting used to the meaty baseball like neck is perhaps the biggest challenge of this guitar. originally many Guitarists bought these instruments from overseas internet retailers without the chance to play one and assumed with Kotzen’s reputation that the neck would be a shredder friendly proposition like a Suhr or Tom Anderson. Unfortunately for them it isn’t. 

But the two big benefits of this are a fat tone and tuning stability. The sheer mass of wood coupled with the well cut plastic nut and Gotoh tuners, means the Kotzen is a guitar that stays with you into big bends and complex riffs. Acoustically the guitar lacks the traditional Tele twang and instead has a fat beefy midrange voice, and that’s before we’ve even plugged it in.

Bling Bling
As mentioned before in our review of the Fender Kotzen Stratocaster. Mr Kotzen seems to like his gold plated hardware. However here it’s pared with a more traditional finish and a cream scratch plate. The vibe of this guitar is classy and understated.  I had to carry out a deblinging operation on my Kotzen Strat in order to enjoy the guitar, by changing the scratchplate. Here there is no such problem. The guitar looks expensive and upmarket. As someone whose gigged a Kotzen since 2005 I can safely say that the gold hardware ages nicely and has taken on its own patina over time. 

Electronic’s

Richie Kotzen has done a superb job here. While the neck pickup is a non more traditional Dimarzio Twang King, the bridge unit is a Telecaster version of Dimarzio’s Chopper single coil sized humbucker. Both units are medium gained. So while there is a punchy fullness to the sound. It’s not over gained like many modern high output pickups. The single coil sized humbuckers seem to have their own kind of compression, that makes for a more articulate playing experience especially at higher gain settings. 

Controls are a traditional Tele 3 way blade and a volume, however the Kotzen’s biggest surprise is its absence of a tone control. Instead we get a series or parallel switch for the rear humbucker. In the middle position this gives either a beefy fat sound perfect for adding a Sabbathesque Fuzz to, or a jangly thin tone that is incredibly useable for clean arpeggios. The Kotzen isn’t the only Tele to do this. Ace session man and Hall & Oats guitarist G.E Smith’s signature Tele has a similar 4th tonality, as does the Mexican made Baja Tele. 

By combining the jangly thin tone with a pair of delays I was able to get a fantastic epic anthemic riff that had a hypnotic quality. Usually I’m cynical of extra sounds or versatility on a traditional electric. But the Kotzen just nails it. 

While the neck single coil doesn’t disappoint. The Dimarzio Chopper-T is brilliant at any gain level. The ceramic magnet pairs nicely with its vintage Alnico V voiced neck sibling. So cleans are fat and full ranged, while distorted tones all very useable without any of the traditional shriek you’d potentially get with single coils at very high gain. 

The guitar is sympathetic at low to medium drive tones & has a fullness to it which is more Gibson like at times. But still with its Fenderish spank. 

The Ownership Experience

In Japan the guitar comes in a rather awful gigbag.  In the U.K. Dealers seem to skim over the lack of a case for a guitar with a price of £1815.00, which seems a lot for a Japanese made Fender until you look at the build quality and fit and finish. This is a guitar that comfortably goes up against an American Deluxe/Elite Tele. However, I do wonder if Fender have deliberately overpriced the guitar in order to make it sit more in line with other US made artist instruments. In Japan both Kotzen signature Fenders cost a more wallet friendly £1450.00, so the Tele does seem somewhat pricey. But grey importing a new guitar from Japan would be somewhat impossible. 

Price aside I think the Kotzen’s feature set has just enough of a vintage modern vibe to make the guitar highly desirable to any player wanting a well made traditional looking Telecaster with a high performance feature set. But £1815.00 is a lot of cash, the Kotzen is encroaching into boutique guitar territory. So a used Fender Custom Shop may give you a vintage neck with bigger frets, as might a plethora of other high end T type builds.

If you desire a more shred friendly smaller neck. I suspect an American Deluxe/Elite Tele or perhaps a guitar from the likes of Suhr or even Tom Anderson may be a better choice. But for this reviewer, the Kotzen still has a certain coolness in its clash of old and new. 

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Influences: John McGeoch


There’s a reason I have always wanted to own ( and now do own), a black Yamaha SG1000. Since first hearing The Banshees Ju Ju as a 17 year old.

John McGeoch’s playing style to me, encompasses the very modernism that a guitar like the Yamaha SG series symbolises.

Origins 

Originally born in Greenock in Scotland. McGeoch moved to London  as a kid and grew up playing guitar. Influenced by the blues rock music of the time. He emulated the players of the era like Hendrix & Clapton.

Magazine 

After attending Art college in Manchester. McGeoch was by chance introduced to Buzzcocks singer Howard Devoto. McGeoch suddenly became the guitarist in his next project Magazine. Magazine’s debut single Shot by Both Sides. Featured an amazing showy anthemic Vic Flick-esque guitar riff that set the track off perfectly.

After playing on the first three Magazine albums, but frustrated by their lack of success. McGeoch then worked with Visage on their Fade To Grey album.  Having a massive hit, before being asked to join the Banshees.

Siouxsie & The Banshees

Siouxie & The Banshees however was where McGeoch made his name. Adding spiky atmospheric textural guitars to the Banshees tribal influences. McGeoch integrated himself perfectly, abandoning his blues rock origins totally and forged himself a new voice. His dissonant melodies, sound collages & use of FX, placed him firmly as a bold new voice, the enfant terrible of the electric guitar. One critic later described him as “Johnny Marr before Johnny Marr” or “the post Punk Jimmy Page”.

The key recordings with the Banshees are Kaleidoscope, Ju Ju, and a A Kiss In The Dreamhouse. Here McGeoch is on fire. Using the guitar as a paintbrush to serve the music in a conceptual way. Rather than take a traditional blues based approach. My personal favourite is Headcut from Ju Ju. In which the guitar takes on a sinister character of its own. While Budgie and Sevrin builds a manic African rhythm behind him .

The Armoury Show 

After intense touring took its toll on his mental health. McGeoch found himself out of the Banshees & formed The Armoury Show with ex Skids frontman Richard Jobson.


The Armoury show album, although blighted by a rather dated mid 80’s production, shows McGeoch front and centre in more of a traditional guitar hero role. Here is playing is big and anthemic. But still unmistakably him, still serving the song.

Gear 

Interviewed by Guitarist magazine in 1985. With regard to his equipment, McGeoch had clearly reached peak Japanese guitar.

Besides his well worn customary pair of Yamaha SG1000’s he also ran an Ibanez AE10 electro-acoustic & a pair of JV Squier 57 Strat re-issues. After using a vintage Strat on the Armoury Show record & its owner not wanting to sell it to him.

Later in P.I.L he would swap out the Yamaha’s for a Washburn T type with twin humbuckers and a locking tremelo. Then by 1989 he’d switched over to Carvin DC400 Superstrats with neck thru bodies, Floyd Rose tremolos & active electronics.

Amplification from 83 onwards was always a Marshall. Either a 100 watt JCM 800 Stack or, later a 50 watt 2×12 combo paired with a Roland JC120 combo running in stereo. His effects system was a series of various MXR & Ibanez pedals, re mounted into a switching system by Quark. Coupled with a couple of early rack mounted Ibanez Delay/Harmonisers. This combination of wet/dry stereo Rig always made him sound huge. In his Banshees days he’d made explicit use of an MXR flanger mounted directly to the mikestand so he could control it.

P.I.L 

In 1986 after joining John Lydon’s P.I.L McGeoch seemed settled and made three albums with them. As a musician Lydon needed a man who could emulate Steve Vai guitarlines as much as Keith Levines. My choice cut from the PIL canon is the wonderfully atmospheric U.S.L.S.1 off the “9” album.



Post P.I.L 
After P.I.L’s commercially disappointing album That What Is Not. Lydon disbanded PIL. McGeoch dissapeared from view. After a session with Icelandic alternative band The Sugarcubes in 1992. He tried to get various projects off the ground to no avail. Before passing away in March 2004.

One of my great regrets is that McGeoch is the only one of my guitar heroes that I’ve never seen live. I had tickets to see P.I.L on the Happy tour. But bassist Alan Dias broke his wrist & the date was cancelled.

In 2005, the BBC made a radio documentary about his life and legacy Spellbound.

In a world where lazy journalists are keen to place endless superlatives on any Johnny come lately. I’d recommend McGeoch’s dramatic, innovative & downright clever playing style to anyone wanting a starting off point to something new. He is truly a guitarists guitarist.

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