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Thursday November 30th, 2000

Exclusive: Tony Rombola of Godsmack

Interview and photos by Lisa Sharken

One of the hottest and heaviest bands at the forefront of the rock scene is Godsmack . Hailing from the Northeast, the group was formed by bassist Robbie Merrill and vocalist Sully Erna (who also plays guitar on a few tunes during the bands live show), taking their name from a song by Alice In Chains. The lineup was completed with the addition of drummer Tommy Stewart and guitarist Tony Rombola.

Godsmacks 1997 self-titled debut yielded several hit singles with songs like Keep Away and Get Up, Get Out!, which received heavy radio play and ignited Godsmacks career. Like most bands, Godsmack paid its dues by playing clubs and steady touring. As regulars on the past Ozzfest tours, the group built up a strong following while tightening up their live show. However, a powerful performance at the 2000 Woodstock Festival provided the group with its greatest exposure and established Godsmack as one of todays premier acts.

In a recent interview, Tony Rombola told us about his influences and experiences as a guitar player and how he achieved his formidable sounds on the groups new album, Awake.

Which guitar players have inspired you most?

Tony Iommi was definitely a very big influence early on. Listening to Black Sabbath was what kind of got me started out. I was also listening to guys like Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page. As my playing improved, I got into the technical stuff and started listening to the more progressive players like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, then the modern blues players like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Gary Moore. As far as the more recent guys, I like the way Tom Morello plays. Hes got a really unique style.

Play your favorite Godsmack songs with an autographed Gibson Les Paul signed by the band.

Go here to enter the contest online or print your name and address on a postcard (only), affix postage and mail to: Godsmack Contest,, 460 Park Avenue South, 9th floor, New York, NY 10016. All online and mail-in entries must be received by 01/15/01.

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Were you self-taught or did you take lessons?

I was entirely self-taught. I listened to records and picked things up. I never took lessons.

Did the players you mentioned also influenced your choices in gear, like using the Les Paul?

Earlier on, when I had started out, I would say that I was probably influenced to buy guitars based on who I was listening to. I kind of went through different phases of being a guitar player that guided me in the guitars I played. Before I got the Les Paul, I had Strats, Ibanez and Kramer guitars through the years. At one time, I was into Eddie Van Halen, so I bought a Kramer. When I was into Steve Vai, I bought an Ibanez and thought that was the greatest thing. Then I finally ended up trying out a Les Paul. I had always loved Les Pauls, but could never afford one when I was younger. It was just the right guitar for the sound of this band. It plays great and works really well for what I do now.

Which guitars were you using to achieve the sounds on Awake?

I used a mixture of different Gibson Les Pauls. I had a few Customs, a Joe Perry model and a Studio. The sound is pretty straight forward on most of the record with just the guitar straight through an amp, but there are a few parts where you hear different effects. On the beginning of Mistakes, I used a Line 6 POD with the reverb cranked up. I also used the POD on a few other spots on different songs for some color. For all the wah parts, I used a Dunlop Crybaby pedal. I also have a Dunlop Rotovibe, a Dunlop Tremolo and a Boss Phaser pedal that was used on some tracks. I also used a couple of different pedals that the engineer brought in, but Im not sure what they were. He had brought in a lot of unusual stuff. On Forgive Me, we used one of his flangers, but Im not sure what kind it was. We had stuff everywhere, so for my parts, I tried out a lot of different pedals and it was a mixture of all those effects..

How did you get that super heavy distortion sound?

Thats just the Les Pauls plugged straight into a Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifier amp and two 4x12 cabinets. I used different mics on the cabinets for two different sounds and recorded the guitar on two tracks at once and then panned them hard left and right. I also recorded another track through a small Fender Bullet amp for a contrasting sound that was panned dead center. We mixed those sounds together to make the guitar sound really big and powerful.

How are your guitars tuned?

For my standard tuning, I have all the strings tuned a whole step down. So I tune my guitar (low to high) D, G, C, F, A, D. But for most of the tracks on Awake I used a transposed dropped-D tuning, so the low E string is tuned two steps down and the strings are tuned (low to high) C, G, C, F, A, D.

Do you use heavier strings to compensate for the tension with your low tuning?

I use .010s on the guitar with standard tuning thats dropped down a whole step and .011s on the transposed dropped-D guitar.

How do you like the action on your guitars set up?

The action on my guitars is set so its just sort of at a medium height, where its not set too low or too high. I dont like the strings really low because I want to feel it when Im playing and I want a little bit of fight with the strings.

Where do you have the tailpiece set on your Les Paul?

I dont have it all the way down against the body, although I know a lot of people have it set up that way because they say you get more sustain with it set that way. I raised it up just a little bit so the angle of the strings over the saddles isnt quite as steep and I find that I dont break strings as much as I had when it was set flush against the body. Its been working out better for me this way. Ive heard that its supposed to give you a softer feel when the tailpiece is raised up a bit, but I cant really feel the difference.

What kind of music do you enjoy listening to?

I listen to a wide variety of music and I dig anything with good guitar playing. I listen to stuff like Steely Dan, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ozzy with Randy Rhoads, Michael Schenker, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin. I like some of the new bands, too, but I prefer listening to the older, classic stuff because its a break from what we do.

Who are some of the newer bands that you respect?

I think Tool is a great band. I like the way they write and I think they have a great sound. I also like Sevendust a lot. We played with Pantera last summer and I think those guys are really wild. They were a lot of fun to tour with. I love Stone Temple Pilots, who were touring with now. They remind me of a modern-day Led Zeppelin. And I cant forget to mention Alice In Chains. Theyre another great band. These bands all have some awesome songwriting with great guitar players.

What advice do you have for other guitarists on becoming better players and better musicians?

Just relentless practicing! Do things repetitively until it becomes natural. Also, listen to other genres of music. Youd be a fool to limit yourself to one type of music, or even one style of playing for that matter. You should listen to as many different players and styles of music as you can and youll take in a little bit of information from everything that will help you to grow as a musician.

Visit the kingdom of Godsmack here. Go here to enter Godsmack's contest to win the Gibson Les Paul signed by the band. Wanna join Godsmack's street team? Go here to sign up.



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