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Guitar Gods: Debra DeSalvo
By David M. McLean, Skinny Devil Music Lab
(more articles from this author)
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Artist: Debra DeSalvo
Title: Hoboken Demo
Genre: Gutitar God
Format: CD
Label: Self-released

The Village Voice calls her "hard-edged" and describes her music as "blues punk"; the New York Post calls her a "Notable guitarist"; WomenRock says of Deb, "...rock star quality and staying power. DeSalvo is Liz Phair and Sheryl Crow uncensored and unpolished..."; Scrawl Magazine says, "...the unmistakable combustion engine at the center of it all is the guitar playing of Debra DeSalvo...".

Her music has been featured in the movie "Stripped: Exposing the Business of Baring It All" (Vanguard Cinema - 2003) and on both VH1 & CMT (2 songs in Driven-Tim McGraw episode) and will soon be heard on the TV show "Getting Off" (2 songs in award-winning feature film about AIDS starring Christine Harnos; Showtime airdate: Sept. 21, 2005).

She has performed in the New York area at various clubs (including the legendary CBGS and Arlene's Grocery), her guitar lessons have been featured in Guitar, Guitar School, Guitar World, and Guitar.Com, she's released 2 solo CDs (read reviews of her debut Electric Goddess and her 2005 release, Hoboken Demo here at Tinfoil Music), and is now poised to take her place among the rock elite.

Debra DeSalvo is an immense talent. Her songcraft is exceptional, her lyrics biting, her guitar playing gutsy & unique, her performances over the top. If you haven't heard her, go visit her web-site NOW and check out the sound-clips. You'll be happy you did!

I had a chance to speak with Deb recently - check it out!

[David McLean] What are your current projects?

Debra DeSalvo I lead my own rock trio, with John Hummel on drums and Duke on bass. These guys rock hard and bring a 1970s melodicism and Bonham-like groove to the table. I adore them both and have to pinch myself sometimes--they're that good. I sometimes sit in with Wynne Paris and Grooveananda, his Indian-influenced yoga-rock band. I have learned so much from Wynne--he brings Indian musical concepts to the guitar in ways that really work.

[David McLean] How does this (do these) differ from your past work?

Debra DeSalvo I sing in this band! Never sang before...and that has led me to slow down and mellow out a bit, to give the vocals room to breathe. I cut my teeth playing guitar for a hardcore punk band from NYC called False Prophets, and I love Ministry-like crunch more than anything. But now that I'm singing, I find myself drawn to a much wider range of tones and styles as I explore what works with my voice. What can I say, I ain't Lemmy!

[David McLean] Do you have one project that you are most proud of as a guitarist?

Debra DeSalvo Gosh, this is an invitation to brag, isn't it? I do like my guitar playing on the Electric Goddess CD -- especially the solo on "Demon In The Sack." I leaned on the whammy bar with my right palm during the 2nd third of the solo, which gave it a loopy rollercoaster feel. And it was definitely fun to throw some tongue-in-cheek '80s hammer-ons in at the end of the "Take It Off" guitar solo. In keeping with what I hope is a maturing sense of melody, I played a George Harrison-style slide solo on "Welcome to the Boneyard" on the new CD, Hoboken Demo, that makes me pretty happy.

[David McLean] Can you give our readers a run-down of your basic gear (live and/or studio)?

Debra DeSalvo I play a cherry-red '86 Strat with jumbo frets, single-coil Hot Rails and a humbucker, and a mahogany Les Paul Special from '89 that I fitted with more modern pickups and tune down to C# G# C# F# G# C#. I use it in that tuning and capo it to create DADGAD and open E tunings (put the capo on the 3rd fret and tune the 3rd string up 1/2 step).

I run a Marshall Triple Series Lead head through a Marshall 4X12 cabinet. I use the head to provide fat clean tone and add distortion with Boss OS-2 and MetalZone pedals. I also use a Boss delay. I was big on rack gear a few years ago, but got sick of the overpolished tone and stripped down to this. I used this set-up to record both Electric Goddess and Hoboken Demo. On the latter I also used some great old-school pedals producer Wayne Dorell had lying around his Pigeon Club studio in Hoboken, NJ, like the Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail and the little orange MXR Phase 90.

[David McLean] Who would you cite as early influences, and who are you favorite new players?

Debra DeSalvo When I was a really little kid, I fell in love with John Fogerty's feedback on "Suzie Q" on Creedence Clearwater Revival's first album. It was the freakiest thing I had ever heard! At 17 I saw Chicago blues great Son Seals play for the first time, with singer Koko Taylor. Up until then I hadn't had the courage to try to play electric guitar (although I'd longed to since I was 15), but seeing Son wring so much out of one note gave me hope that it wasn't a matter of learning to play fast and furiously. It could be enough to find one right note. I went on to fall in love with all the great Chicago and Texas electric blues players, especially Freddie King.

When I moved to New York City, I was very inspired by Elliott Sharp's creative freedom on the guitar, and picked up a lot of ideas from him that I sneak into my own playing (like rattling a metal slide on the strings underneath the "When It Comes Down" solo on Hoboken Demo, for example, or mixing warring feedback tracks at the end of "Take It Off").

I adore Dave Navarro's passionate force-of-nature lead playing and everything Jimmy Page does. I always loved Phil Thompson's work for Roxy Music for its ride-with-the-wind quality. On the punk side, I adored Johnny Ramone, Johnny Thunders, and could watch Chris Spedding play all night. I know he's not popular with Motorhead purists, but I was strongly influenced by Brian Robertson's playing on Another Perfect Day.

Of the newer players, I'm thrilled by Dave Tronzo's slide playing, Buckethead--especially on Electric Tears, and Tom Morello's work with Audioslave. And who can resist the elephantine stomp of Tim Sult from Clutch?

[David McLean] Can you give a few tips to aspiring players?

Debra DeSalvo -- 1. To thine own self be true.

-- 2. Never play in a cover band. Get in a band that plays original material as soon as you can play two chords. And then start making stuff up.

-- 3. Always play with musicians who are better than you are, or at least more insane and inspired. Then sneak into rehearsal early and work your butt off to catch up with them. Once you do, rinse and repeat.

-- 5. Install an imaginary volume knob for your brain on the side of your head and turn it way down just before you step on stage.

[David McLean] What are your future plans?

Debra DeSalvo I feel ready to make a record with my own band now, and look forward to finding the right home for it. I'm also psyched to sing and play on other people's projects--Wynne Paris has asked me to sing on his new CD and a political NYC punk band called Amerika's Least Wanted has invited me to play a solo on the new album they are recording. Use me, people!!

[David McLean] Thanx for talking to us, Debra!

Debra DeSalvo Anytime, David. I'm honored to be included in the Guitar God(dess) pantheon. Now where did I put that thunderbolt....?

For more information and to contact the author, click on the author’s name at the top of the page.

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