Interview: Peter Gusmano

Dan McAvinchey: Peter, let's begin by talking about the genesis of the "A Flickering
Light" CD. How did you approach the idea of using guitar music to raise money for A.L.S. research?

Peter Gusmano: The idea came about four years ago when I lost my mother to this dreaded disease called A.L.S. This is the same disease that guitarist Jason Becker suffers from. I recall
the time as if it was yesterday, when I tried to understand what exactly is "Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis," or A.L.S. As the disease progressed, I found that so did my delving into writing and coming up with music that almost framed a soundtrack to the memories flowing through my head. The thought that I might lose my mother to a disease without a cure was overwhelming.

At the time my mother passed, I had this thought that I had to do something to raise some awareness level for A.L.S. and that the best way I could give was through my music. I felt a pressure to do something quickly yet I decided that it would be best to let my emotional state play out and let the project develop naturally. I wanted the CD to happen when I was ready for it to happen. I knew with careful planning and a quality product, I would be able to give back the best gift that my mother could have given me - the gift of creative music.

Dan McAvinchey: This is a total benefit project, correct? You are putting all the
proceeds towards the cause?

Peter Gusmano: Yes. This project Guitar For a Cure (tm) ( is one that has 100% of all CD sales, no matter where purchased, going to support, the foundation we began for my mother. supports and donates all of its funds to Project ALS.

For those who do not know Project ALS, they have raised over $37 million in donations. Project ALS directs over 80% to research programs and supporting investigations of Genetics, Drug
Treatment, Stem Cells and Disease Pathways. For me, this project is all about "curing" - how playing guitar cured me at this time and how Project ALS is on a quest to find a cure with the best scientists studying the disease. People might not know this but Time magazine named Project ALS the #1 Milestone Medical
Breakthrough of 2008. That shows they are making a difference. Meredith and Valerie Estess founded Project ALS when their sister Jenifer Estess was diagnosed with A.L.S. in 1998 at the age of 35.

Also, in this economic climate, its people with projects like this that mean more and more to organizations. It's about people who can put passion forth and bring funding to a cause like Project ALS.

Dan McAvinchey: How did you initially get started playing guitar?

Peter Gusmano: Well, the story is kind of funny. I was reading a book entitled "The Artists Way" by Julia Cameron that speaks to what things in life had you always feared doing, yet
wanted to accomplish so bad. Essentially, how to restart ones creative engine. I have been drumming since the age of 5 and even as a drummer, my walls were covered with all my guitar heroes and suscribed to Guitar magazines. I knew one day I must learn this instrument and elicit the emotion that I know guitar is capable of.

Once reading that book, I went out and bought a guitar instantly. Despite starting a little later in life, I felt that I knew I had it in me to live out this dream and I was more mature to handle the discipline to learn it. I began to study theory with a few local instructors on Long Island and never looked back. My close friend and tech, Sal Tine of the recommended I call Favored Nations Rob
Balducci to begin studies with him. Studying with Rob really opened my eyes to some of the beauty one can explore on the guitar.

At first, it was literal guitar "bootcamp." I even enrolled at a Summer
program at Berklee School of Music in Boston with my close guitar friend Steve Simonson. I just loved being around guitarists who could influence me and make me more learn more. I was like a kid in a candy store with the excitement and I still am to this day awed by the players around me. The more I get my ass kicked as a
player, the more I want to learn. I think this is healthy and keeps you inspired.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you have a special connection or bond to instrumental guitar music in particular?

Peter Gusmano: Yes, yes and yes! Growing up, I fell in love with instrumental guitar music. I actually hung the Guitar World centerfold poster of Satriani and Vai next to my bed. Imagine, that's the centerfold I wanted to see the minute I opened my eyes. I
always felt that the listener could put the music as a soundtrack to what is happening in their head. Perhaps eliciting a very happy visual or a rough time, all framed by the music and the melody. It's almost natural to me that this is the music that I love listening to and writing. When I heard tunes like "Rubina" by Satriani "Black Star" by Yngwie Malmsteen and "For the Love of God" by Vai, I knew that I was hooked. I sought out all the instrumental guitar music I could find or get my hands on. When younger, I thought speed was the coolest aspect of guitar playing, yet I feel now it's about the emotional connection I can make. Melody has always been a part of my musical vocabulary.

Dan McAvinchey: What effects or special techniques do you favor when you are recording?

Peter Gusmano: Well, the recording process for this project was kind of interesting and got more involved than I thought at first. Ethan Meixsell (solo artist), who played bass and keys for the CD, recommended I reach out to Carl Roa (with the progressive band Magic Elf and solo guitar artist) about recording this project at Magic Elf Studios. When Carl asked what I had tracked to date, I told him I had a hard drive with a few tracks and just needed to mix them. Once Carl got his hands on this, we realized that my early Garageband tracks were not going to work as easily as I thought.
Garageband is simply an awesome program when I was writing and doing demos, but Carl is what you call a recording "purist" and thought we could deliver kick ass tones. I also quickly dropped the idea of using drum loops and brought in Joe Chirco (session drummer) to retrack all the drums and percussion. Things kept evolving for the better.

Once we got into tracking the CD, I retracked every song using the Soldano Hot Rod + as well as using a few of Carl's Fortin Amps that he endorses. The Soldano Hot Rod + has that tone that just blows you away each time you play it. I owe it to James Burke at Blues City Music for helping me find the tone! Ive never played an amp
quite like it. We also used my Cornford Carerra, Fender Blues Deluxe and Cornford 4x12 with Celestion Vintage 30 speakers.

For guitars, I relied on my Custom Suhr Standard Bengal Top, Bill Nash Relic S-57 Black Strat, Peavey Wolfgang with D-Tuna, Fender Japan Richie Kotzen Telecaster, Edwards JP Iced Tea Les Paul and my custom Warmoth Soloist. All clean tones were used with my Tele and Strat. For acoustic, I utilized my Ibanez Exotic Woods
acoustic. Guitars used a mix of Dimarzio and Seymour Duncan pickups. I used to be a locking nut guy but it was truly refreshing to move to Wilkinson type bridges on most all my guitars.

As far as effect pedals in the process, most tracks were recorded dry and we utilized some nice delay and reverb plug-ins. My pedal board for the recording and live consists of a Morley Tremonti Wah, Digitech Whammy, Arion Chorus Pedal, BBE Soul Vibe, EVH Phaser and Flanger, Keeley Modded BD-2 and the Xotic BB Preamp and Scott Henderson RC Booster. I tried to bring in the effects as needed as another voicing to my playing. I feel that is one of my strengths is being able to bring the effects in at times to reach a new emotional height within my songs.

Tracking this project with simply a blast. I surrounded myself with such beautiful people. I felt I wanted this project to be as much about those that were there to help me through that rough time. I was even honored to have Favored Nations Dave Weiner (Steve Vai Band and solo artist) join me for a killer guest solo. Dave is a
monster player and just a great guy who wanted to take part in this project. All in all, Carl and I worked on this CD very closely and I feel the production quality stands up to anything out there now. Producing my first record was a true learning experience and I think we got it right. For "A Flickering Light," Carl used some killer gear in the studio to mix down including:

API Pre Amps
Universal Audio 1176 Compressors
Apogee Converters
Apple Mac Pro and Logic 8
API 5500 EQ
Lexicon and Kurzweil Outboard effects
Speck X-Sum summing mixer

Dan McAvinchey: I understand you play live with a band. Do you get the chance to sneak in some of your original instrumentals into the sets?

Peter Gusmano: Well, I do have a few cover bands that I play in, one named Grey Zone that is some long time friends of mine that get together and gig around NYC (Knitting Factory,
Crash Mansion, etc). The other is False Witness, a three man acoustic trio that is a totally different classic rock vibe. Two different types of bands and both are fun and challenging as well. Since "Flickering Light's" recent release, I have been busy with the promotion and marketing elements of this unique project. I will begin rehersals soon with a trio to perform my instrumental material exclusively live. I hope to play some shows this summer and bring the songs to life. I can't wait. I also hope to have some special friends join me.

Dan McAvinchey: What should people know about the money that eventually goes to find a cure for A.L.S.?

Peter Gusmano: By people visiting or, you can see where the focus is - research! Since Obama just overturned the 7-year ban on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, we should see the gates open now to people
wanting to cure all of these neuromuscular diseases. I support this by giving every dollar from my CDs to Project ALS. Here is a great link that shows how the spending breaks down.

On another note about funds, and something for the players out there, I recently had Bill Nash of Nash Guitars announce that he will be building a one-of-a-kind relic strat that we will auction off for this charity. Bill contacted me and said he was so touched by this and wanted to support the cause. Visit for more info on this.

There are many special events I have planned for Guitar For a Cure, all of which puts the funding in the hands of the people who can make a difference. If it can save a life eventually, I will feel better knowing I made a difference in some way. So would my mother.

Dan McAvinchey: Who do you consider to be your strongest influences on your guitar playing?

Peter Gusmano: Wow. That's tough. I can say that growing up and to this day Eddie Van Halen, Page, Vai and Satriani, yet that would be cliche (even though its a major factor growing up). I am very much influenced by players who move me in some way. Speed, while cool, is not what touches me as I've grown. Regardless of a flurry of notes or just one sustained note - all that matters is that it works for the song. I'd say if I
had to name a few I would say Richie Kotzen, Michael Landau, Warren Haynes, David Gilmour, Steve Lukather, Doug Aldrich, John Petrucci, Doug Aldrich, Paul Gilbert, Scott Henderson, Andy Timmons, BB King and Joe Bonamassa. Kotzen to me is an
example of how a player gets better and better with time. Richie takes his playing to new heights and broke away from the shred scene. His legato is simply unmatched. Michael Landau's "Tales From The Bulge" is the perfect example of incredible tone mixed with layers of melodies that jump out and speak to you. Scott Henderson's "Tore Down House" is another fav of mine.

I think it is important to hear the guitar style fit in the context of the song. Sometimes that's not the case and it becomes solely about the guitar player taking the spotlight. I never forgot when working on my CD that the drums, bass and keys are supporting the guitar and that they are part of the landscape.

I also find every one of my close friends who are players a major inspiration to me. I learn from them each time we jam.

Dan McAvinchey: What new guitarists have caught your ear over the past five years or so?

Peter Gusmano: In the last 5 years, who wouldn't say Guthrie Govan? I mean what can you say about him? He's simply a guitarist from another dimension and his CD "Erotic Cakes"
was amazing. I've met Guthrie several times at NAMM with Cornford and he will sit and play things that blow your mind. He defines mastering your instrument and knowing your fretboard. I'd say John Mayer is also one who I recently have grown fond of. I think he has really come to life in his playing and is what I call "the
real deal." His trio is amazing! In recent years, I've also grown fond of country guys like Brent Mason and Brad Paisley. I mean these guys just kick ass and do things that are astounding to me. Paisley following up a Platinum release with an all instrumental country "guitar" CD is a bold step, yet admirable in today's music climate. Steve Stevens has always been a monster player but his recent "Memory Crash" CD was one of my favorites in the last year as
well. Phillip Sayce and Mattias Eklundh are killer players as well.

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Dan McAvinchey: What's next for you on the music front?

Peter Gusmano: Well, I am looking forward to doing some live trio shows of the new material. I just invested in some API preamps and made some upgrades to my home studio gear. I am already working on a few new tunes and coming up with some great ideas. The inspiration of this debut CD is pushing me to want to grow and write more. In order to grow, it requires work. So I am practicing more than ever before and still looking at the friends around me who inspire me so much. Life is short, learn as
much as you can.

Dan McAvinchey: What advice would you give to a young musician or up-and-coming band who were considering coupling their musical talent with their passion for a cause?

Peter Gusmano: Find something that you believe in with all your heart. Sitting bedside as I watched my mother pass led me to learn that we are here on this earth for such a short time. In that time, support and stand behind something you believe in 110%.
While many people can say they support a cause, you have to be connected in some way to motivate yourself toward delivering success. Each time I hear my CD or hand one to someone who reached out, I see my mother smiling that I am making a difference.
I lived through something that changed me and I hope that this CD, and the next, and next will change people in some way or make them smile when they hear my music. Music is the ultimate healer.

Thanks to Dan and for the opportunity to speak about my project. For more information, please visit

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Peter Gusmano is a guitarist/drummer/songwriter from Long Island, New York who several years ago lost his mother to A.L.S., more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Throughout her illness and beyond, his passion for music and learning guitar inspired her. Gusmano found himself writing songs that formed a soundtrack to this long journey. By purchasing his CD, "A Flickering Light", you are making a difference by helping find a cure for this disease.

Dan McAvinchey caught up with Gusmano to talk about the unique project, and its benefits toward research into a cure for A.L.S.