Artist Spotlight: Geno Lenardo of Filter
Meet Filter guitarist and co-songwriter Geno Lenardo. Lenardo’s interest in music and playing guitar began in high school, when he was introduced to groups like U2, the Police, the Smiths, the Cure and Joy Division. He took guitar lessons, but had also studied piano in school and then went on to attend the esteemed Berklee College in Boston as a composition major with a minor in piano performance. After starting classes at Berklee, Lenardo quickly realized that his true interests were in playing guitar and in modern music. Finding it difficult to relate to the strict traditional structure of the music regimen in the composition and piano departments, he switched his major to music production and engineering, then continued his studies at Berklee, earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in audio engineering. After graduating, Lenardo moved to Chicago and landed a job as an intern at Chicago Tracks Recording, the studio where one of his favorite bands, Ministry, had cut their discs. While working in the studio, Lenardo met and befriended the members of Ministry, as well as producer/programmer/ bassist Paul Barker and engineer Critter, who helped him to advance in the ranks and begin working as an assistant engineer.
Lenardo was later hired to work with Critter on an album with New York City group Chemlab. During that time, he had the opportunity to demonstrate his skills as both a writer and guitarist, then ended up taking a gig touring with the band. While working with Chemlab, Lenardo met original Filter member Brian Liesegang, who encouraged him to audition for the group. He was hired as a touring guitarist for the band’s Short Bus tour, then later signed on as a full-fledged member, co-writing tracks on Filter’s second album, Title Of Record (released in ’99), and the group’s new disc, The Amalgamut.
Lenardo recently spoke to GroundWire about his latest six-string acquisitions and the gear he used to record the new tracks.
GroundWire: Tell us about the guitars you play and how they’re set up.
Geno Lenardo: My first guitar was a Kramer® Striker that I had for about a month before I got my first Fender, which was a black Contemporary Stratocaster® that I bought at Guitar Center in Chicago. Since then, all of my guitars have been Fenders. During the Short Bus tour, I met Alex Perez from Fender’s artist development department. He was so cool and he made us several Custom Shop guitars. What I primarily play are Stratocasters with rosewood fingerboards that are just really heavy. I ask Alex to find the heaviest piece of wood that he can. All of my guitars have Seymour Duncan pickups in them. The Parallel Axis Trembucker™ has been the primary one. I’ve used that for the last five years or so [see Custom Guitar Spotlight], but on this album, I started using the Invader™ because I was going for a more saturated sound. The Invader has a really high output and it’s a bit brighter and has more definition than the Trembucker.
When I started writing for this album, I experimented with different tunings and we ended up using three. The other two Filter records are entirely in dropped-D. On this album, I used two tunings other than a dropped-D. One is a dropped-C tuning, which is CGCFAD (dropped-D, transposed down a whole step). There was also a prototype guitar that Alex sent to me, called a Subsonic™, which is a baritone guitar that’s tuned AEADF#B. I had Alex put an Invader in one and we used that on “The Missing” and “Columind.” It has an ultra heavy tone.
The Subsonic uses a special set of strings, but the dropped-C and dropped-D guitars are set up with D’Addario .010-.052 gauge. I like the action pretty low, but for dropped tunings, you’ve get some buzzes going if it’s too low. As far as the pickup height, I kind of monkey with it and I really don’t leave it set in one place. With high-gain settings, I’ll get a howling if the pickups are too high. But if you back it off too much, you’re not getting as much saturation. It’s almost like a proximity effect for a vocalist with a microphone. So I actually adjust the action and the pickup height as I’m recording. I just tune it to what I want to hear. When you’re recording, you can really sit there and work on your tone. Live, I tend to lower the pickups a bit. I do a lot of toggle work to create a rhythmic gating effect when I’m playing, like in “Hey Man, Nice Shot.” All my guitars are wired so the middle position on the switch is off and I can toggle either direction to get that effect. For picks, I use Dunlop .73 mm Tortex, which are the yellow ones.
GW: Which amps were used to record the tracks on The Amalgamut?
GL: The Marshall® JMP-1 is the primary preamp we use for guitar sounds, plugged in direct through the cabinet emulator outputs, but I was also using the Marshall JCM 2000 TSL 100 on a lot of stuff. We also used the Groove Tubes® Speaker Emulator a lot. For a little brightness and more grit, I used a Hughes & Kettner® Tubeman Plus which is great for “topper” tones that you’d put on top of a main track. I also used the H&K Triamp and a Diesel amp on a few things. But the Marshalls have all the balls and that’s my main tone. A lot of it ended up being recorded direct because I was really liking the aggressiveness of that in-you-face sound. The combo that I have going with the Duncan Trembucker going into the Marshall stuff and then into the H&K Tubeman, it was just giving us killer tones.
GW: Which guitars will you take on tour?
GL: I’m going to have at least six because we’ve got three tunings and I’ve got to have a backup for each. Alex Perez just got me two Custom Shop guitars that are amazing. One of them is a Strat with a rosewood neck that’s hand-painted in tiger stripe camouflage and has a green mirror pickguard. It’s got an Original Parallel Axis Trembucker in the bridge position and Hot Rails in the neck position. I have another Strat that I call my GTO guitar. It’s a deep copper sparkle with black racing stripes and gold hardware. That one has an Invader and Hot Rails. I’ll have another Strat for dropped-C tuning. I have my Doc Holiday Tele®, which is black with white binding, but has a Strat neck and a Trembucker. That’s the guitar that I used on “Welcome To The Fold.” I also have a red Strat with a rosewood fingerboard and just one Invader in the bridge position. It’s a real meat-and-potatoes guitar. I’ll have the Subsonic, too.
For this tour, we’ve decided to bring out another guitar player. He’s actually an old college roommate of mine from Berklee named Alan Bailey. It’s cool because having another guitar player is going to free me up to do other things. There are a lot of counter melodies in our music and sometimes I can’t do them live because then the rhythm guitar part is gone. In some bands you don’t really miss it, but for Filter, you want that underpinning going, especially on songs like “Welcome To The Fold.” When I’m playing a melody or doing the solo, there’s just this big hole in the rhythm and the bass just wasn’t filling it. So we decided to add someone who will just play the basic rhythm parts. Alan is an extremely competent and accomplished player. He was guitar major at Berklee and can play all sorts of stuff like blues and jazz, and he can solo his ass off. I think it’s going to be great and I’m really looking forward to playing with him in the band.
Lisa Sharken is Seymour Duncan’s New York-based artist relations consultant.