Guitarist Gregg Livesay Discusses RFL Records And New Singer

By Andrew Catania

I had the pleasure of speaking with Guitarist and Founder of Livesay, Gregg Livesay.  Gregg was in great spirits and excited with the new opportunities signing with RFL Records has brought him and the band.

You’ve just signed to RFL Records.  How did this come about?

Mike Gill is our new singer.  We decided to leave Kivel Records back in November.  I started shopping the band at different labels. I reached out to RFL and we had a great conversation.  We conversed over a four-month period and we decided to sign with them.  Jon Marchewka from RFL Records has been a fan of the band since 1986.  Our compilation album will be released on September 14th and we’ll work on new material next year.

Any specific reasons you left Kivel Records?

GL:  We were good soldiers with Kivel Records. We did the best album that we could do under the criteria of what was given to us. We didn’t have a lot of say as to what was going on the record.    Frozen Hell, the last album we did was by John Kivel’s design.  The songs and artwork were all his decisions.   We had some input but he maintained final decision on everything. We were given the parameters and within those parameters, we did our best. I think we did a good album.

I decided that we had stayed long enough that it was time to look elsewhere.

Does it add extra pressure with your last name being the band name?

GL:  Yes, I’ll tell you something. When I started this band,  I didn’t want to call it my last name, I refused.  The guys that were in the band at the time, they said,  why don’t we just call it by your last name since it’s your band? I said, absolutely not. I said that’s going to make me look like a real egotistical jerk and I’m not like that.   We all wrote down different names and put them in a hat and we drew out a name and we said, okay, this is going to be the name of the band.  That lasted about maybe two or three days. And then each guy called me one at a time and said, you know, I’ve been thinking about it, I’m really not hot for that name. I think we should just call it your last name.   One by one, they all said that to me.  So when I got back to the next practice,  I said, okay,  I’ll do it, but if I start to get any flack about this, I swear to God it’s gone.

Was the guitar the first instrument you played?

GL: I was originally a trumpet player as a kid. That was my first introduction to music and I played the horn from grade school through middle school.  When I was going to high school, there was no school band anymore, so I had to give it up and my father had played guitar when he was younger and he had one in the house. So, he suggested I start taking it up and I did take private lessons for many years. I was as a beginner. I started out with my first teacher. Then, I was taught by a classical teacher for four and a half years. I took a classic classical guitar, Nylon-string only. I wasn’t allowed to play an electric guitar that, that he would not let me do.

Then, I left him. I went with another guy who started teaching me like rock blues, he loved Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.  He was teaching me that type of thing.   After that, I found my last teacher and about 1985 and that guy really got me into the technical aspects of playing guitar. This is after Randy Rhoads was tragically killed.   Vinnie Moore and Paul Gilbert were all coming out and I wanted to learn that type of style playing.  This guy was the only guy around that I knew of that was teaching that.   I’d say six and a half years, close to seven years. I was taught, his name was Lou Ubriaco.   He was my instructor when I was living in New York.  He’s the guy who is really responsible for getting me to the next level.

How have you evolved as a player?

GL:  I was playing in cover bands in the early eighties and then I kind of disappeared for a while and I wasn’t really that good. I was doing a Randy Rhoads tribute band. I could do Randy Rhoads but I didn’t know how to play myself.  I didn’t know how to do anything original on my own.  It was very obvious when I tried to go into an original band in 1984-85, I couldn’t hack it.   So, I disappeared for awhile and took lessons.   The first real EP that I was on when I was doing solos with this band, that’s what they hired me to do, this was 1986.  A lot of people heard the solos on that album. They came up and right away, asked Greg, have you been taking lessons?  I had found Lou Ubriaco at that point and he’s the guy who really got me to play a hell of a lot better.

I think on every record I’ve become a better player.

Guitarist Gregg Livesay Discusses RFL Records And New Singer

What’s your studio and live rigs like?

GL:  My guitar rig has been the same since 1987. It’s the same configuration I use to live that I use in the studio. I don’t go in there with a bunch of Marshall Stacks,   but, I have one particular head and one particular cabinet that I’ve used on every single album I’ve done.   Except for the album we did on Kivel Records. They did not record my amp.   They took a direct signal out of one of my stereo pedals on the floor and that was sent to the engineer and he basically created my sound using software based on my actual tone that he heard. I’ve never done a record like that before and I can’t say that I’ll ever do a record like that again because I don’t care what you tell me.   I don’t believe that any software can replicate the movement of the air, the speaker and the heat of actual tubes and everything else. You may come close, but I’m sorry. It’s just not the same thing. Not to my ear.

I’m not interested in that at all. I could care less. I have an amp, I have two of them that I had modified, back in 1987 by a guy in New York City.  Harry Kolbe that did my amps also he did Steve Stevens and Allan Holdsworth’s.  I swear by those amps, those amps have gone everywhere with me. They’ve done every record, they’ve done every gig I’ve played.  They’re workhorses and they’re unbelievable amps.

What kind of guitars are you playing?

GL:  I’ve had the same guitars since 1988. I have three Fender Strats. I have a 71 blonde that’s been with me forever. That was given to me by a guitar player Al B. Romano from Sun Red Sun with Ray Gillen.    He gave me another strat recently that I had put together,    A later 70’s blonde Strat and I have a 62 candy apple reissue.  I have all custom Warmoth necks on them.  I don’t play Fender’s necks and mine are all scalloped.  I’ve been playing a scalloped neck since 1988.  That was another thing I wanted to challenge myself with. I played Gibson flat necks my entire life since I was a kid, but I saw the scalloped neck Yngwie was using and the light touch.

What are your plans for the rest of 2018?

GL:  We will be playing around Connecticut, New York and probably Massachusetts.  A lot of the other areas on the east coast in the fall.   the label is going to be sending us out as well. So this is just one of several things that are going to have for us.  We’ll also have a video for the new song being released.  We’re very excited about our future and with RFL Records.

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