Greg Marra is the guitarist and vocalist for the band "Plenty Heavy" based in Los Angeles, California.
Plenty Heavy's 6 song EP titled "Colossus Maximus" is released worldwide, January 12, 2018, on Calimarra Music via iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and everywhere music is available. Download stickers are available at www.plentyheavy.com
Scott - Hi Greg, I see the new year is off to a great start with all your music happenings and events. Give our readers an idea what's you've accomplished this year so far as well as what you have planned for the rest of 2018.
Hey Scott, thanks for inviting me to be your guest again!! My band Plenty Heavy just released a new record. Mike Hansen is on drums (Hurricane) and Bjorn Englen (Malmsteen, Macalpine, DIO Disciples) is on bass with myself on guitar and vocals. I wrote all of the songs as well as tracked everything (except drums) at my studio and my good friend Eric Hill mixed and mastered it. I’m heading into NAMM season and getting ready for shows as well.
Scott - What is the name of your new CD and how did the music come about?
The new record is called Colossus Maximus. I wanted to have a record where I am the lead singer yet it had more of a three-piece - drum, bass, and guitar vibe. There are definitely overdubs and layers but the tunes can be played live with drums, bass and guitar and very little extra instrumentation. A few of the songs have been around for a lot of years including A Swift Kick, which was on my first record, except just instrumental. Now there are vocals and melodies in the verse sections in the place of nonstop shredding like on my first solo record. This song still has the long syncopated shred section in the center.
Scott - Did you write all the music or was it a collaborative effort?
I wrote and demoed all of the music for Colossus Maximus although I wanted to have the talents of Mike Hansen and Bjorn Englen on it as well. After I recorded the demos they went to Mike and Bjorn and in some cases they played what was on the demos and other places they interpreted the parts through their playing to make it more of their style. There are sections that have bass solos that I wouldn’t have considered doing myself. The drums are all important and I feel one of the most key elements to making a song breathe. Mike Hansen is a beast of a drummer.
Scott - Who play's on the CD and Engineered the Mix?
Mike Hansen on drums, Bjorn Englen on bass, and myself on vocals and guitar. Like I mentioned before, Eric Hill mixed and mastered the record. I was the tracking engineer. There was one song (Staring at the Sun) where Mike recorded midi drums at Andy Zuckerman’s studio. The midi files then went to Eric Hill who oversampled our real drum samples to blend with the rest of the record. All of the real drums on the other songs were recorded at Tim Hofstetter‘s studio in Van Nuys. Those drums were then sent to Eric Hill for mixing. I took the mixed drums and re-recorded everything over again on top of the drums to coincide with Mike’s live feel. Some of the tunes have a click track but most do not.
Scott - Why the Guitar? There had to be that pivotal moment when you said to yourself, "I want to do that?" Do you remember that moment?
It’s funny because I was thinking about that the other day. I can remember being in kindergarten and being asked what I want to do as a profession and to write that word on a piece of paper. I can remember asking the teacher how to spell the word Guitar. I have pictures from when I was 4 or 5 years old at Christmas with my first guitars. I’ve always just loved them.
Scott - How long have you been singing? I know you have been an instrumental guitar player for quite sometime now and have played lead & rhythm guitar in other bands but are now writing lyrics and singing. Does this come easy for you?
I sang harmonies on my second record (MARRA) behind Andrew Freeman who is now in Last in Line with the original DIO band. I’ve always sung but never sung lead on a record. I had some advice from Dug Pinnick (King’s X) who told me to just sing what comes naturally and try to make it as honest as possible. Truth be told, I didn’t really even want my first record to be instrumental. I was actually studying with a vocal coach way back then but did not have enough time to complete lyrics and melodies when I made that record (Collective Disorder 2005). I decided after my first solo record that all other records I release would have vocals - whether it be mine or somebody else’s. I grew up in an era where you would have songs with intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge - and then a ripping guitar solo for a few bars only. These days I still appreciate instrumental music but I’m sort of over it for myself.
Scott - I follow you on facebook and must say, where do you find all the time to do all the things you are involved in between work, family and music? What's it take do be so disciplined?
I try to accomplish as much as I can in a 24 hour period. I hate sitting still and not getting things done. Movies and other activities can be a nightmare for me because I need to be multitasking at the same time. This year, I hope to put out at least two more records. In fact, right now I’m writing a record with keyboardist, Donnie Dickman, from George Lynch’s Shadow Train band. I’ll be working with longtime friend and drummer, Chris Compton, from Pennsylvania who is honestly one of the best drummers that’s ever picked up a pair of drumsticks. I can’t wait for everyone to hear his playing.
Scott - What have you been listening to in recent days?
Truth be told, I’ve been listening to podcasts a lot lately. I love the show Amps and Axes as well as Dave Navarro’s Dark Matter. I have my own podcast show (Iconoclast Music Podcast) that I started an early 2017 with about 40 episodes under my belt. I’ve interviewed tons of my musical heroes as well as high-end guitar and amp builders and studio engineers.
Scott - I see all your postings on facebook of the guitars you come across and get to check out and play as well as amps an gear. How many guitars to you actually own?
I think I’m at about 30 guitars right now. I’m at a point in my life where I just want to play what I like and don’t really want to bother with endorsements so much. About 15 years ago I was hyper focused on endorsements but now I just want to play the guitars in my collection. I’m a super fan of Charvel guitars. My two main guitars are from 2009 and 2010 when Charvel released limited runs of guitars made in the USA. I’ve been a fan of Charvel guitars since the mid-80s and had looked up to guys in my high school who had Charvels. I just love them.
Scott - Greg, give us a parting shot across the bow with some wise words of wisdom when it comes to the music business.
I would say get an education, set yourself up with investments, make the music you love and don’t worry if anybody gets it. Also never stop practicing and learning new things. And most importantly, be cool to everyone no matter what. Thanks for all the support Scott!