INTERVIEW WITH LUCA BELBRUNO – BLACK PHANTOM
1.Tell us your name and the band you play for
My name is Luca Belbruno and I play Guitar for Black Phantom and Mesmerize.
2.Who made you want to pick up the guitar
I don't remember exactly: it was an innate desire that came to me as a kid, when I was about 11 years old (so 1982/83). I had an acoustic guitar that was given to me as a Christmas present. At that time, I was just starting to listen to proper music, with album of Europe, Bon Jovi, Iron Maiden, AC / DC… but most of all, Metallica!
3.Are you self-taught or did you take lessons?
I took some lessons at the public library, at the beginning, then from a proper teacher (Bruno Strangio, a great blues and jazz guitarist), but I actually had to stop in the 90s, after learning the pentatonic and the blues scale, because of school and work commitments. However, I owe my teacher the fact that he made me understand the sense of rhythm, but especially the sense of playing with other people, as a band: the lessons were group ones, with little theory and a lot of practice, so this way I avoided getting bored and astray myself).
Anyhow, everything I learned about Metal is self-taught: in the 80s and 90s it was quite difficult to find teachers specialized in that! Music was learned by ear consuming cassettes… until the legendary guide "Speed Mechanics for Lead Guitar" by Troy Stetina came along!
4. Can you read music, can you read tab?
No, I can't read music at all. Anyhow, tabs will do.
5.Do you feel like you have your own sound / tone?
That’s difficult to answer: us guitarists are always looking for something that maybe doesn’t even exist!
Actually, I haven't changed anything about my sound for a few years now, thus I think I’ve come to the right balance that satisfies me.
6.Tell us about your guitar (brand, model. Year, colour)
I own 3 guitars! A 1992 Fender Stratocaster made in Japan, black with maple neck, customized over time with a JB Seymour Duncan humbucker pick up. It’s on this guitar that I learned to play Rock & Metal! Then I left it aside a little bit in favour of a standard '94 Gibson Les Paul in mahogany with a maple board in tobacco burst finish, to which I replaced the original pick-ups with Emg (Zakk Wylde style) active ingredients for a more modern sound and more determined attack.
I alternate this guitar with a 1992 "Infinity pro" Jackson made in Japan, found in a small shop near Venice a few years ago. It’s very particular guitar, always in mahogany with maple top and a wonderful yellow-red tiger varnish (my favourite colours) with passive pickups, always made by Jackson. That’s a unique guitar, whose specs were produced for the Japanese catalogue only, as far as I know.
With these 3 guitars I have a fairly varied (and especially, personal) range of sounds. Right in the pre-Covid-19 period I took over and renovated the Fender, completely changing the electronics: I had time to do just a test with Black Phantom, with the intention to use it in the tour… but then came the lockdown, unfortunately!
7.What about pickups? Passive or active? Tell us about them
As mentioned, I alternate both solutions for a different range of sounds. Hard to say which is better, they have different characteristics with strengths and weaknesses. I choose according to what I need.
For example, on our new Black Phantom album "ZERO HOUR IS NOW", I recorded all the rhythm parts with Jackson (passive pick-ups) for a warmer and rounder sound, while for clean and lead sounds I used Gibson (active pick-ups) with more sustain and attack.
8.Let’s get into amplification, Same drill brand, model, speakers etc
I have two old-fashioned amplification systems. Two tube amps: a Mesa Boogie single rectifier 50w first series and a Peavey 6505 Plus 120W strictly made in the USA. I have always loved the warm and enveloping sound of American trash 6L6 tubes. I alternate them both with my bands, even if, with Black Phantom, I use the Peavey which vaguely recalls the sound of appropriately equalized Marshalls. In the past, I had a wonderful single-channel Marshall 800 modified by Marco Brunetti (Italian craftsman of great experience) that I still regret having sold after a little mechanical failure. As speakers, I strictly use Celestion Vintage 30 cones mounted on a Mesa Boogie recto 4x12 (in the studio) and an Orange 2x12 made in England that I bring around for concerts: a killer and precise speaker that does not allow errors.
9.Do you have a pedal board? Tell us about that badboy
Yes, I have a pedal board that I’ve built over the years, that consists of: a Maxon OD 808 booster always inserted; a Snarling Dogs Super Bawl Whine-O Wah that I love and I bought back used a long time ago (I have 3 Wahs, that’s my favourite pedal... as Jimi Hendrix and Kirk Hammett taught!). In the amp's send/return, I have Tc Electronic tone print effects: reverb, delay, chorus that I use for lead and clean sounds with the booster; plus, an Isp Decimator II noise gate, all driven by a switcher.
10. Now tell us your Dream Rig in detail…
As said before, I think I already have the best for my own sound, but I have to admit that moving to a digital high-quality system like Fractal FM3 and such, is actually flashing through my head. They’re products of excellent workmanship and realism. All that, without giving up the analogue system that I have put together with so much passion (and many efforts!).
11.What guitarist can you not stand?
Myself!! Ahahahahah! Come on, who am I to judge others?!
12. Is tone more important or is technique?
I think it's a mix of both. It has often happened to me, on many stages or in many rehearsal rooms, to try and experiment sounds and tones, but it is not always possible to do and play everything with everything (sorry I’m no Satriani!). As far as I'm concerned, being practically self-taught, I haven’t developed a mechanical or academic technique. I have always been driven by instinct and passion for this instrument, for the music, and I just have searched for the right instruments and sounds to express my personality by trying and trying again.
13. Name your top 5 guitarist
1- Stef Burns
2- Joe Satriani
3- Kirk Hammett / James Hetfield
4- Alex Skolnick
5- Joe Bonamassa
But there are SO many that I appreciate and respect, apart from these!
14.Who is the most overrated guitarist
I do not know. As I said, it’s difficult to judge others.
15.Who would you like a one-hour private sit-down lessons with anyone dead or alive?
Every guitarist has his own personal characteristics: style, technique, sound, instinct. So, it’s too difficult to choose! I would take full advantage of all those mentioned above in the top 5.
Anyhow, I think that the past lives on in all of us, by learning from even very old songs… so we evolve by interpreting techniques and styles created by our predecessors.