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Guitar Player (US)
July 1998

Session Guitarists Talk About Life in the Trenches

by Adam Levy


Los Angeles-based guitarist Steve Caton has been working with Tori Amos since the mid-'80s. In 1996, he and Amos toured as a duo to promote Boys For Pele. Caton is currently a featured member of Amos' touring band.


"I use a Roland JC120 amp with EV speakers because it's very reliable on the road. However, I don't really use the JC120 as a sound source. I plug a Roland GP-100 into the main inputs on the back of the amp, which bypasses the JC120's preamp stage. This setup effectively relegates the JC120 to a power amp and speaker combo, affording me the versatility to run my preamp sounds and effects solely from the GP-100.

"I don't do anything out of the ordinary to get my sounds. I can get all the sounds I need for Tori's music simply by using common effects, such as distortion, compression, pitch shifting, and delay. And I can even emulate the orchestral string parts on "Marianne." John Shenale, the guy who wrote the string arrangements for that song, saw one of our duo shows, and later asked me what kind of synth I was using. He couldn't believe that I wasn't using synths. The thing is to know the gear you have inside and out. It just takes a little ingenuity to get great tones -- even out of relatively simple gear.

"Tori likes to keep the stage uncluttered and the stage volume low, so my amp is almost always hidden backstage or below the stage. The sound crew mics the amp, and I hear it through the stage monitors. One venue we played didn't have a workable place to put my amp, so the crew set it up inside the huge road case that carries Tori's piano. It sounded terrible. The inside of the case was padded and dead -- and so was the guitar sound. We learned that if you're going to play 'hide the amp,' you've got to put it someplace that breathes."


"I was in L.A. in the early '80s, and I met Tori through [Guns N' Roses drummer] Matt Sorum. They were working on some things -- and he and I had a project going -- and he introduced us because he thought we would work well together, both stylistically and personally. She and I played in each other's bands on and off for a while before she hit as a solo artist.

"In the '80s, L.A. was the rock scene, in terms of meeting people and being in the right place at the right time. Anyone who wants to be a sideperson needs to consider geography. You need to be in that fold. And you obviously have a better chance of hooking up with a major artist in industry centers such as Los Angeles and New York than you do in Lawrence, Kansas."

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