Anyone who follows the huge ocean of world's top class instrumental guitarists must have heard of this amazing Italian virtuoso. The list of musicians he worked with is mind blowing. James LaBrie, Jordan Rudess, Virgil Donati, John Macaluso, Adam Nitti, Matt Guillory, Peter Wichers, Peter Wildoer, Ray Riendeau, Mike Mangini, Bryan Beller and many more. Recently I've had a chance to meet Marco at "Klavitara Zagreb Festival" where we performed together among many other great musicians. We arranged this interview so here it is.
Hi Marco. What are you doing these days?
Hello Emir and thanks for this interview! I’m in California right now putting down some work for Matt Guillory’s first solo record. We’re working on songs, it is sounding killer already. Can’t wait for you to hear it! Other than this I’m working a lot doing clinics, workshops, gigs all around so it’s a really productive year for me. A lot of things going on at the same time!
The modern instrumental guitar community is full of highly skilled and talented musicians. What do you do to get yourself noticed in such a crowd?
I think over the years I’ve gone in so many different directions. Started as a pure prog guitarist and shifted to more fusion oriented lands, going through pop and many many genres so I may say versatility. And also I’ve never based my playing solely on shredding you know, my biggest reference points aren’t pure shredders. So the natural answer is being versatile and having a strong sense of melody.
You teach guitar online. How is that going?
I used to teach online, had a lot of students at some point but over the years I’ve been struggling with time. So I gradually reduced the amount of time dedicated to teaching because I’ve been involved more in songwriting and gigging in general. But I have good memories about the online teaching days and I can proudly say had some great students!
Do you believe that online teaching has its benefits over 1 on 1 private lessons?
I’d say yes and no. Of course there are benefits, you can reach someone who’s miles away and can’t make it to your house. On the other side there are certain things you can’t do yet online, like playing together over some chords and take it from there and explain what’s good an what’s not. Interplay you know, I think is fundamental when it comes to teaching. So my online lessons were pretty much different by 1 on 1, they were more about “what do you feel your playing is lacking” instead of having a plan and going through steps in order to get something gradually pleasant out of the guitar.
You've released 2 solo albums and played alongside many famous names. How do you get to work with such great musicians?
I started with James LaBrie in 2004, did the Elements of Persuasion record and tour back then and that was through Matt Guillory who I knew through Alex Argento. Then has been pretty much a word of mouth over the years. Through James I’ve had the chance to work with Jordan Rudess. I met John Macaluso on the LaBrie tour and we worked together both on his and my records. Same goes with Virgil Donati and all the incredible musicians I’ve been blessed to work with.
Marco's solo albums
Do you go on solo tours where you perform your own music?
This happens mostly through guitar clinics where I get the chance to play some of my solo material and explain excerpts from the songs. I love writing and playing my own material and I encourage every guitar player to get out of their room and play live as much as possible.
What do you think of the digital revolution? CD shops are closing, record labels are going down, people buy stuff online... Is that good for musicians like you or would you prefer the old way of promotion/distribution?
I like the kind of immediate impact of the digital world, being literally clicks away from getting your favourite music on your favourite device. On the other side this doesn’t mean you necessarily have to get ALL the music available on your device (i.e. compulsively downloading illegally) because as easy as it seems to be, this is going to affect the instrumental scene. We don’t have big budgets (most of the times we don’t have budgets at all), records are pretty much always home made and self promotion is necessary. What people get is the final product and some of them just don’t realize that behind there are several months of work and sacrifices. So please, buy music and support artists!
Can you tell us about your gear and endorsements?
Of course, I use Ibanez guitars exclusively and DV Mark amps. I also use Fractal audio and TC Electronic effects, DiMarzio pickups and straps, Dunlop picks, D’Addario strings. Also lately I’ve got a guitar neck from the good guys at True Temperament, can’t wait to try it on one of my Ibanez guitars.
Do you do anything else apart from music?
I’m a family guy, have two kids and a beautiful wife. Don’t have too much time anymore for hobbies. Used to do some computer assembling and repairing for friends and was an avid videogamer back when I had time to waste. Now if I have some free time I like it to spend with the family.
Take away the fame you’re enjoying nowadays. If you were just starting to get yourself into the industry among the many talented guitarists out there, what would your approach be?
I think I’d do exactly what I did when I started. I would focus on my music, on the playing, on the tone and so on. I never set a goal in my life, never had the competitive attitude to stand out so I’d take the guitar as a passion first, without too much hassle. Results will eventually come with the hard work and dedication.
Recently we've played together on Klavitara Zagreb Festival. What were your impressions of the festival?
Oh God, I’ve met some of the finest players around. Let me say Emir, you’re one of the craziest and scariest guitarists ever! Same goes to Muris, Damjan and all the other guys. It was great, first time for me in Croatia as well, people are great over there. Props to Maestro Mistheria for being able to set up the gig and take care of all of us. We had a blast!
Marco Sfogli - Andromeda - (Live at Klavitara Zagreb Festival 2014)
I believe you've checked out our slowly but steadily growing guitar community, blog and marketplace. Is there anything in particular that you like or don’t like?
You’re doing an amazing job promoting music and encouraging young guns to take guitar seriously. Can’t do anything but giving my two thumbs up for it.
Thank you very much for your time. We wish you all the best in your career.
Thanks to you for this interview and all the best for your career as well. Ciao.
Emir Hot and Marco Sfogli jamming in Zagreb