rock guitarist LISA KOFFEE
Interview by Robert Urban for GAY GUITARISTS WORLDWIDE
In our exclusive March 2006 GGW interview, Chicago heavy rock guitarist and transgirl-in-transition LISA KOFFEE opens up
about her ability, ambition and sincerity to the "craft". Lisa is currently lead guitarist with Flesh Hungry Dog
and owns an exact same Gibson Les Pro 1976 "rock 'n roll" model with the single coil stock soapbar pick-ups as yours truly!!
"I'm not an outrageous girl... I have very humble beginnings... From my Mother who played piano, and wanted to pass it on to me,
to my Dad who bought me a Gretsch Country Gentleman for proving to him I was serious in my ability.
I'm just coming into this world as Lisa Koffey on a "full time" basis. I still have many experiences to learn from
and many friends to make. I'm not afraid to fall and get up and I'm not afraid to stand up for what I believe in.
But Music will have to be pried away from my lifeas I will kick and scream to keep it!
All my love to you and the players that keep music alive in their hearts". - Lis
- What brand/model/year instrument(s) do you record and play out with?
I have a number of guitars I like and I rotate between: Gibson les Paul Pro 76 stock soapbars. Fender Roland ready Burst 01... an actual Demo unit I got complete with "NOT FOR SALE" sticker on the headstock... It is broken in real nice from all of the fingers that have played her in the store that sold it to me. Steinberger (roland ready) modified by Walter WoodWorks in Lockport IL. This is my primary axe... a gift from my wife. I've bought 2 additional since. I like playing them.
- what brand/model/year amps & effects do u use?
I play out with a Laney GC60 Stereo chorus combo or a Tube works\ single 12' combo. That Tube works is loud considering it's a little bigger then a polytone. For large club work... an Ampeg slant 4X12 cab and a Crate PowerBlock in Bridge mode. If I need more, I'll bring the second cab out and put the powerBlock in stereo mode, and output the VG-88 in Stereo...
- Any special/favorite instrument tones/effects/approaches/techniques you've used/discovered in recording and/or performance that you really like?
I've gotten used to using a Roland VG-88 in all my work... Stage, Studio, and rehersing. I have 2 units one for the road and one at the "ranch". I used to use a Rockman XPR... still use it as a backup...along with a Yamaha SPX 90 and an old Ibanez HD1000 delay in the loop.- Who are your main influences as an instrumentalist? Which artists? Which bands? Instrumentalist? Which artists/bands were your favorites in your youth?
It all started with George Harrison, to Hendrix, to Joe Walsh, John McClaughlin,(Mahavishnu Orch.) jan ackkerman,(Focus), Clapton, and lately the G3 stars, Satch, Vai, Petruchi, and Eric Johnson.... Though I lean towards Eric Johnson, and I love his work.
Which artists? I love so many artists and their unique work, I must give credit to those who think outside the box, so many to list even those that came out with one hit wonders... it only takes one to be noticed. Which bands? I look for bands with very melodic content. If you scream monotone, you better have a kick ass rhythm progression going to keep my interest. But way too many to list, If I had to put a "best of" CD together, it would be a huge Box Set! Which artists/bands were your favorites in your youth? It was the Beatles,and George Harrison with that beautiful Gretsch that bit me. I liked a lot of the british music coming out...Kinks, Stones... but I played Beatles music constantly. I remember a friend taking me to the rehersal basement of "American Breed" (Bend Me Shape Me)... seeing those amps and how good these guys were...they made it look easy. That was a real shot in the arm for me then.
- Tell fans about your luv for your particular style of music, as opposed to other styles - how it became your favorite style of rock, etc
I was the connsumate pentatonic solo guitarist. You'd think a south Side chicago player would learn to play the blues...I didn't have "the blues" until later in life to appreciate it. Even now... it's hard to play blues for me. Maybe I'll get that natural "feel" one day. I styled Beatles until hendrix came along, then that was the person to master. Once I got to figure out Jimi, I was pretty happy about myself... I was popular...garage bands in the "hood" were asking me to jam.... but I allways wanted more out of it, so I didn't stop there. I continue to learn and admire the change in everyones style and work. and I play what I feel... using everything I learned as my colors and paint my solo. I've recently been told my work sounds more like Eric Johnson. I listen to E.J. and I consider him to be my recent personal favorite. I'd love to meet him and do something in the studio with him... My other choice would be Joe Walsh. Both are respectable to me... I'd be humble to meet either. I used to think it was all about speed... how fast I can play... now I know it's what comes from the heart, the soul, and what you feel.
- Do you play/compose/record only your own original music? Do you do any other work in music - e.g. teaching, recording session work, hired gun, producing, etc?
I've only recently given original thoughts to music. I get most of my inspiration from others... I hear a lick, and I try to center the lick around a whole new song. I've done some recording at the Defunkt Pumpkin Studios in OakLawn ILL...long time ago. Recently do work at my home workshop... I teach a very small amount... It's hard, but I think if you are a serious student, you can do it without a teacher hovering over you every week. I would also love to produce a band... as long as I could play in it (be a guest) (lol).
Does your playing appear on recordings of any other artists?
Well... I've done some work for one TGirl group in Houston... I was asked to see how I would fit into their work, and I recorded a few songs... I did all of the tracks, and put my style into it. I think they liked it, but for now... I'm moving on with my work... and doing what I feel. Maybe this year will be a breakout year. I would love to be considered for some recordings, and I hope to be asked to contribute.
- Is there a particular favorite solo or part you played on a recording, or a certain piece of composed music you wrote, that you feel represents your finest work?
That would be one of my originals I recorded in Bruce Matthews Studio in Phoenix last year.. "Katra". It's the song that I put the most emotion into so far. I played some parts in the dark with just the glow of a laptop... just to get some feel...sometimes after numerous retakes, the first one was usually the best and most meaningful.
Any special thoughts on your instrument, and what it's meant to you in your life?
My guitar has saved me from Death. My instrument will be my mentor and Soulmate, love of my life and true friend. It has never failed me, It's been sweared at. been neglected, taken for granted, and has tasted my tears, and will never be forgotton.
Can you relate any special feelings or experiences about being a transgender/glbt player in the mostly straight music world... especially regarding your formative/learning years on your instrument?
Well...back then 1965 when I decided to play then thru the 70', 80's and beyone. I was Absolutely clueless about my gender issues.. no where to turn. no one to relate to. My instrument was all there was. I had to relate to it. I hid myself in it. I had no friends that were my age back then other than my music friends... I could count them with my fingers....players I meet in the biz now, are in general, polite, acceptable, and they see I've been around the block. I believe I'm respected more now than I was before Lisa. I knew I was ready last year as Lisa to come out and be counted. I try to not worry about what goes on... I'm happy with myself. I laugh about it. I'm accepted by many more players in Chicago. I can count a lot more than 10 fingers worth now (lol). I'm happy with my ability, I'm having fun playing, and after all the B.S.& T. it's very enjoyable.
- For a glbt player - how does the overall music scene differ today
from years ago?
When I started playing (right out of H.S) in 72, we did the typical 5 nights in clubs in the Chicago area. I never seen the liberal North side of Chicago. Band Mgmt kept us working the south west side Calumet City scene... with occasional road trips west to Iowa. Now... come on... it's 2006. Lets get with the realization here! It's not my problem if people are still living in the past. Playing in some bars on the South side of Chicago, are like the days of old. Back then...Lisa would not have been accepted. I now play with players who accept me for who I am. I have proven to them I can do my homework, be reliable, and not be afraid to go out there and have a great time.
- Any advice for young glbt players?
Focus on your ability. Be confident. Start from where you are. Be Humble. Be a good listener. Don't be afraid to go mainstream. Get out there, and meet the musicians that have opened the doors for you. I'd love to meet you! ...and share in where I've been!
How is the music scene in Chicago for you?
In My Opinion The north side of Chicago is where you cut your teeth, gain confidence, and respect of the community. I would like more GBLT players to come out and join others that want to play. I'd love to expand the possibilities with those that are serious. As my confidence grows, and I project my true self, I won't care where I play.
- What are your current and future musical projects?
Well... I'll gig with you Robert!! I'll take a road trip out to see ya, and well put something together! I'm currently playing with Flesh Hungry Dog, and "Switched at Birth". I love the opportunity to write. Both bands are growing slowly... and progress is positive. I continue to strive, reherse, and by all means, get out there and network with as many players as possible. Life is too short to play games... the biz is tough enough as it is. I love the challenge!.. as long as I can bring my style to it. I am open to all types of work.... So Robert... Lets do it!
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