I am Joseph Scott Burns, the lead guitarist for MX The American.
Who made you want to pick up the guitar?
I started on acoustic in church groups. I studied music at St. Francis seminary in Cincinnati. The music director there was Father Aubert. He played the huge pipe organ there and taught chorus. He gave me a guitar to experiment with and I discovered a certain dexterity for the instrument, and that all the previous years of toying around were paying off with balanced instruction.
Are you self-taught or did you take lessons?
When I was six years of age I was at a K-mart with my parents and spotted a guitar in the toy section and through an absolute fit until my parents bought it for me. Not long after my father bought me a real guitar in Mexico on a vacation. My mother paid for lessons, but I did not get much from the instructor. He always ate during the lessons and spent too much time on fundamentals. I just played by ear with my favorite albums with great success.
Can you read music? Can you read tab?
I can read music but with some difficulty; by high school I became fluent in tab thanks to “Guitar” magazine.
Do you feel like you have your own sound / tone?
I am sure I have my own tone. Every player does. I have had other players pick up my rig and wonder how they were getting that sound.
Tell us about your favorite guitar. Brand model year color.
Jackson Charvel used to make a Charvette. This one has a red and black cracked paint finish with the locking nuts and floating bridge with fine tuners. The tuning is perfect for the whammy bar lover in me. Ernie Ball hybrid strings starting with a .009
What about pick-ups. Passive or active? Tell us about them.
For metal I prefer active, but I also enjoy the challenge of playing whatever is laying around.
Let’s get into amplification, Same drill brand model year.
I cut my teeth on Marshall. I much prefer the tube crunch of the 50-watt heads. While playing the southeast metal circuit, in Myrtle Beach SC, I found a Marshall cabinet in a pawn shop that was stripped of its vinyl covering, sanded and stained cherry. I fell in love with it. It turned up missing from a rehearsal hall and years later Mike Allen, our lead singer, found it at another rehearsal hall and brought it back to me. I still have it. The four 12” Celestion speakers were gone but the sentiment is still there, and it now has four new Celestions.
Do you have a pedal board? Tell us about that bad boy.
I keep it simple. I like the stomp boxes, one for distortion, one for chorus.
Now tell us about your dream rig in detail.
Charvette into distortion box to stereo chorus, two outputs going to two Marshall 50 watt half stacks.
In the studio I recreate that sound with processors and play from the control room to help production.
What guitarist can you not stand?
Not fair. Anyone who plays with sincerity deserves an audience.
Is tone more important or is technique?
Technique is more important to me. Its hard to change your tone, without effects I mean. Its easy to practice technique. For instance, try playing every chord you know without using your index finger, same for lead licks.
Name your top five guitarists.
Randy Rhodes, Alex Lifeson, Eddie Van Halen, Al Dimiola, Steve Morse
Who is the most overrated guitarist?
Again, not fair. It does not matter what genre you are from. Anybody you listen to with an open mind will inspire you and affect your playing. If you are stuck on heavy metal then listen to Allen Holdsworth, or Adrian Belew. You owe it to yourself to know the entire spectrum from Andy Summers to Yngwie Malmsteen.