Sunday, January 3, 2010

Q&A: Guitarist Cliffy Huntington

I've had the pleasure of knowing Cliffy for many years now. Over that time, we went from seemingly opposite extremes in public image to getting to know one another as friends and realizing that we had so much in common. He's most well-known for his work in the band the Huntingtons. I had the honour of opening for his band the Huntingtons on tour in 2000, as well as sharing space on the "Split" CD with them and on that CD, they covered one of my songs and I covered one of theirs. Cliffy also wrote a piece for the forward of my musical biography that was very flattering. We've stuck it out as friends even when many people moved on, proving that first impressions and other people's misinformed opinions don't matter when you're really friends with someone you know well. We have a mutual respect for each other's talents and personal beliefs and even when we do disagree on topics, it doesn't matter because we are friends that respect each other and that's more important than disagreeing on a subject. he's passionate and dedicated to the music he loves and his faith and I dig that. We both love each other's music and I'm so happy he submitted to my Q&A so I could pick his brain about some things. The world is a better place with Cliffy in it, and I'm glad he's my friend. Enjoy the interview!

Q: you're most famous for your role in the band the Huntingtons. What have you been doing since then?

CLIFFY: I played guitar in a NY Dolls/Stooges influenced punk rock 'n' roll band called The Stivs for 5 years. During that time, the band released three albums (Reaction Jackson, TBIL revisited & Sweet Heartache And The Satisfaction, all of which are available on iTunes and Amazon, etc), toured the west coast twice and did one national tour. We also made it up to Canada several times. I left The Stivs in early '06 to start the band I'm in now, an AC/DC influenced hard rock band called Main Line Riders. We've done one east coast tour, played a few music festivals and made two albums so far (Shot In The Dark & Worldshaker..both are still in print and available on Retroactive Records compact discs, as well as digital download). I also still get together for a show every now and again with my old Huntingtons mates, too, which is always a good fact, we just did a new album (Punk Sounds) that is available as a digital download or as a compact disc from the fine folks at Knowhere Records. That's it for the bands...I got married two years ago and my day job is workin' here at Steinhaus as a mastering engineer. I've worked on a boatload of records and comps and stuff...been doing that professionally now for five years.

Q: Back in the Htons days, you played a strat and a Peavey amp. What sort of setup do you have now, and why the change?

CLIFFY: That's right...a black American Fender Strat with a maple neck and a modified 5150 amp head with a Mesa slant cab. I'm now exclusively using Gibsons (my main guitar is a classic white Les Paul Studio). My amp set up now is a 1979 Marshall JMP 50 watt amp head with a 1981 Marshall cab with the old style checker board grill cloth and loaded with Celestian blackbacks. My tone now is the best I've ever's remarkably good. It's the kind of tone that makes you really enjoy playing guitar. I changed my amp and guitar setup, mostly because the music I was doing needed that Gibson and Marshall punch. Simple as that.

Q: I understand you have a one-off custom Gibson. please tell us how that came about.

CLIFFY:'s a black Les Paul Special that was modeled after my old's very unique and sounds and plays fantastic. Gibson does limited edition runs of their various models from time to time and a few years ago they came out with the New Century Edition Les Paul Special. I thought it was fairly cool, but there were some things I didn't like about it (mirrored pickguard with matching mirrored truss rod cover, lack of pickup rings, stock tuners). My special is a modified version of that guitar. It has a white pickguard, black pickup rings, personalized truss rod cover and sperzel locking tuners.

Q: How did you get into mastering, and how is that working out for you?

CLIFFY: Well, it started based on personal need. I was recording stuff with The Stivs and shopping it to labels and whatnot and needed it to sound better than just straight from the studio. It was all trial and error based on things I had learned while sitting in 15 or so mastering sessions (Huntingtons albums as well as albums I had produced for other bands). The two guys I learned the most from were Alan Douches of West West Side Music in North Jersey and Jack Endino (producer extraordinaire...Nirvana, Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Black Halos, etc). It's working out for me great these has been booming. I've been very interested in music and albums since I was a kid, so this is really just an extension of that. I am intensely driven and have a mind and personality that can handle blocking out everything around me and just honing in on a single task, which is very conducive to the mastering profession.

Q: do you have any personal favourite Huntingtons songs, and why?

CLIFFY: Losing Penny has been one of my favorite songs by the band for a long time, I love the melody, the lyrics and I love how it feels to play it live...other favorites include I'm Not Going Downtown, Leave Home, Joanie's Got Problems, The Last Time That You Left, Pencil Neck, Too Late, Poster Kids, I Don't Like It and Hooray For You.

Q: You've moved around the country alot. Why is that, and do you like any place better than others and why?

CLIFFY: I was raised in a single parent home and we moved around a lot, so being a traveling musician who is always willing to pick up and start again from scratch is something that feels relatively natural to me. My wife and I keep our possessions to a minimum to help facilitate our ability to live this is the road we have chosen and we are okay with that. We meet a lot of people and have friends all over the country and that's a great thing. I'm an east coast boy and so the east coast is definitely my favorite place...I also really like the midwest, for its simple way of life and authentic friendliness of the people. The pacific northwest is the most beautiful and amazing and yet filled with people who imagine the beauty isn't even's a crazy thing. I love Texas and Florida and always have so when I get the opportunity to spend time in either location I count that as time well spent. California and New York don't do it for me at all...neither does Missouri or Utah...had bad experiences in both states. The south is good and so is Oklahoma and Nebraska...all filled with good people who are honest, decent and hardworking. I like that a lot.

Q: what are some of the bands/artists you listen to regularly right now?

CLIFFY: The punk rock I listen to the most is the Queers, Teenage Bottlerocket and Darlington. Kiss, Ramones and AC/DC have been major staples of my musical diet for the past 15 years and I don't expect that to change. The Donnas' Spend The Night album continues to be one of my favorite albums ever...I can't go a few weeks without listening to it. The Copyrights, Zeke and Kix get a lot of plays as well.

Q: Do you have any wacky tour stories you can legally tell us about?

CLIFFY: I'm a good boy...all my tour stories are legal! Tour is tour...there's never enough time to stop and smell the roses, always too busy just gettin' to the next town and tryin' to make an impression, y'know? When I was in Italy with the Huntingtons a kid overdosed and was horrible...seemed like it wasn't even possible, but as we were leaving the venue, we saw him on the street covered with a white sheet. Life is short...I never understood why people do things to make it end early.

Q: What do you like to do besides play guitar and rock out? any hobbies?

CLIFFY: My life pretty much revolves around music...with the occasional movie and Seinfeld episode here and there. I've been a political junkie for many years, but I am learning to let that go (which is a great thing!). I go to church, play with my know...the normal stuff.

Q: what made you want to be a rock and roller to begin with?

CLIFFY: I was drawn to music early, listening to Kiss records with my brother when I was 8 years old. They seemed so larger than life, still do. In my early teenage years I discovered Stryper and Poison...both of those bands were very important to the development of my desire to play guitar and be in a band. I wasn't exposed to punk rock until I was in my late teenage years.

Q: what is your current musical project? tell us about it.

CLIFFY: Main Line discussed in my answer to the first question. It's a hard rock band dedicated to spreading the Gospel, which is at the center of what I'm all about these days. We're living in dark times, there is an enormous need for people to hear the life changing message of the salvation that Jesus offers.

Q: what does the future hold for you in music?

CLIFFY: The grave. I will do this until I die. I was born to rock.

You can find Cliffy online here: