John Parricelli - Guitar

“I’m always aiming to make playing my instrument sound the same as if I was singing,” says John Parricelli. “You know, the phrasing, the tone.”

Parricelli started with piano and violin lessons when he was small. “But I didn’t really take to it,” he remembers. “Then I went on a school trip and a friend of mine brought along his guitar and showed me a few chords – I was hooked! I badgered my folks for a guitar and they eventually bought me this classical instrument.” Parricelli had a few classical guitar lessons, “but what I really wanted to do was play the blues. I was listening to Clapton and Steely Dan. So when I was about 16 I got an electric guitar – an Antoria Les Paul copy – and I started copying stuff off records and then joined a couple of rock bands.”

“My first real ‘jazz’ guitar was an Ibanez L5,” says a proud Parricelli. “That was a fantastic instrument, but because I wanted to play louder and was getting into different types of music I sold it to get a Strat’.” There’s an audible sigh! “In those days I always had to sell a guitar to buy another one.” Parricelli however clearly knew what he was doing. “I bought an early-80s Japanese Vintage Squier Strat – which most players considered to be better than the Fenders of the time. You see I’ve never had a traditional idea about a jazz sound, I just happen to play with a double bass player and a jazz type drummer.”

Parricelli used the Strat in the band Loose Tubes. “I had that Strat’ for about five of six years, but finally sold it to buy a Paul Reed Smith Custom 24. I really love the PRS. It feels great to play – it’s very positive – it doesn’t impose its personality on you. You can get the sparkly Strat sounds and the thick Gibsonesque sounds on the same instrument – and it’s got a trem’ that stays in tune! It’s a brilliant hybrid of a Gibson and a Fender and it doesn’t have a history of sounds in the way that a Strat does, with the players and sounds that are associated with the instrument. With the PRS you can create your own unique sound palette – it’s an extremely versatile guitar.”

Although Parricelli uses a solid instrument on stage most of the time, he’s got more into the acoustic guitar. “I’ve accumulated a lot of different instruments. I have a couple of very nice classical guitars made by the Spanish maker Bellido. The older one of the two is great, it kind of does everything from bossa novas to classical pieces. It’s a very romanticsounding guitar – a very good instrument. The other one I had made for me. It has a cutaway and is fitted with a B-band system and I use that for live work. Then I have an 89 Martin MC28, a shallow dreadnought type guitar with a cutaway – a very sparkly, bright guitar. And then there’s the Santa Cruz OM, which is a very warm sounding instrument. I’ve also just bought a 1936 Martin O17 which is all mahogany. It’s fantastic! It has an incredible mid-range – really warm. I’d tried one in a London Vintage guitar shop. It has a very particular sound and is incredibly comfortable to play. It’s a guitar that makes you feel that you could sit down and play it forever, it’s a very inspiring thing. The O17 was Martin’s budget guitar – very plain looking, but very underrated. I spoke to my guitar repairer about it and he agreed that it was a fine guitar and I finally found one at the Vintage Guitar shop in Norwich. Seamus, the guy who runs the place is really knowledgeable and very helpful. I went up for the day, sat down, played it and gave him my card!” Parricelli also owns a hand built Dick Knight L5, “a real beauty” and a Suhr Strat, “a very playable, modern take on the traditional instrument.”

So what’s his string choice? “The PRS is strung up with 10.5 round wound D’Addario. The classicals have D’Addario Pro Arte. I try and use Elixir phosphor bronze strings on my steel strung acoustics because I like the sound of them. They’re not quite as bright as an ordinary phosphor bronze string and the sound stays the same. You don’t have that thing where you play the guitar and three hours later the sound has completely changed. They’re very consistent and of course they last a long time. I usually use 11s with a heavier top two – a 12 and a 16. I use standard gauge Elixirs on the Suhr.”

We move on to amplification. “My ‘live’ amplifier is a 70s Deluxe Reverb with a Weber speaker – they’re like a modern version of the Jensen. That’s basically the area of sound that I like playing with, a warm, vintage-y Fender kind of sound. For studio work I use a ‘65 Amps’ set up. They’re a small American company and this baby amp has a little 12-watt head and cab with a Celestion 12. It’s very versatile and has a terrific clean sound, but it also overdrives really nicely. I also use pedals. My basic set up is a tube screamer type overdrive, a volume pedal and a delay pedal. At the moment I’m using Xotic units and I really like them, because you need to be able to sound as though you’re part of the band and not on another planet! The three guitars that I would take to my desert Island? The PRS, the classical full bodied Bellido and my 1936 Martin.”

Interview - David Gallant

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