Welcome to this latest edition of “20 questions with Scooter” featuring our good friend Mr. MarKus Lee. He has been a customer of ours for quite a while now and stays very busy performing in the Tampa Bay area. MarKus has a strong style and embodies the rock and roll spirit. Enjoy!!
Discuss your earliest musical memories.
I started taking lessons at 6 years of age. This lasted about 6 months. A cheap guitar and low attention span stopped me from continuing on the guitar until I was 14.
Who or what compelled you to pick up guitar?
After a failed start on my learning guitar my uncle (Harold Write) moved close to us and he played guitar. He was the one that made me start again just by hanging around him.
Who was your main guitar influence?
Of course my uncle got me on the right track but I really enjoy listening to Yngwie Malmsteen and Tony MacAlpine. John Sykes is another favorite.
Have you ever been influenced by non-guitar music or players?
Yes of course. Every major composer from the classical era. If you study this stuff you’ll notice there’s very little difference between Chuck Berry and Mozart.
Describe the local music scene where you came up.
Well I started playing professionally in the Tennessee/Virginia area when I was 17. We played 13 senior proms my senior year. I skipped my own and went to a Heart concert instead, LOL. I’ve been playing in the Tampa Bay area for about 20 years now.
Discuss some highlights of your playing career.
Well if can include the 7 years I spent teaching music theory, one of the best things I’ve ever done is share the magic. I’ve taught many folks but a small handful, “get it”. They went on to be able to improvise over any piece of music and write their own songs. In my eyes this is the sharing of God’s love in the best way I can by sharing my gifts from the Lord.
Putting out my own CD of my own music was a great experience. And of course the countless times I’ve played in front of thousands of people when doing national shows with my best friend and Brother Kenny McGee.
Are you proficient on any other instruments?
I sing and play keys. Currently I am playing about 1/3 of my live show on keys.
Talk about a turning point at any time in your career.
To me turning points are mistakes you learn from. Opportunities come and go and we should be grateful for them. The mistakes make the man – not the wins. To me the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made have been when I questioned staying in the business. I’ll never question it again. But all I can say is what’s been said so many times by so many; never let anyone tell you your dreams are not achievable.
Discuss your current gig.
My current rig is more a rig of convenience than what I would prefer to play through. Having to run two rigs for my live show (keys and guitar) is a lot of gear. I am using one of only 100 made red Tech21 PSA-1 for my basic tone, this runs into a Digitech DSP 1101 for effects. Sometimes I hit a Celestion 70 watt for my stage volume. Other times I run into an H & K Red Box and go DI. I just got another Les Paul and am totally hooked again.
Where and how often do you perform?
10 to 15 shows a month
Any non-musical ventures you’d like it to discuss?
Nah, I try to keep things separate. The real world and show biz don’t mix well.
Discuss your practice regimen.
Depends on what I need to learn. Normally I just play what I “want” to play and it covers anything I “need” to play. I play a few pieces from Paganini or just start running arpeggios up and down the neck. Sometimes I’ll stop and address my technique and run scales which usually expands into running 3 octave scales. After about an hour it really gets fun. At this point usually whatever comes to mind is playable for me as soon as it comes to mind. So there’s no thinking. Just the connection to the instrument and my skills. I’ve always taught this PPP policy; Practice, play and party. So you “practice” scales or whatever, use a metronome watch your technique and break things down to the smallest component to get it perfect. Then you “play” by actually creating music or playing songs using these techniques. And you “party” by letting yourself go and doing crazy stuff outside the box on the instrument. Recently I had to learn the keyboard solo to Highway Star. I had to take that all the way back to basics to nail it. Lots of metronome at super slow speeds then build it up.
Do you work a “regular” job?
Yes. I am fortunate to have a great day job as a technology specialist. This job helps support my serious addiction to music.
At what point did you think you could make a living at music?
They tell you learn a “real” skill so you can have something to fall back on. Music has been what I’ve fallen back on when the “real” job fell apart. So I’ve been paying the bills one way or another since I was 17 with music.
Tell us about your favorite guitar.
I just got a Les Paul Nitrous. To my knowledge the only one for sale on this planet. It’s amazing!!! And we have Barry to thank. He stole all of Gibson’s rosewood so they had to use granadillo instead. I find it FAR superior to rosewood. The tone and color are the best.
Talk a little about your current rig. Preferred strings? Picks? Tuning?
If I’m doing a solo show I tune down a half step, otherwise I’m always in standard tuning. On my full scale guitars I use .009 to .046 on my Les Paul I use .010 to .046. I have a full endorsement deal with Thomas Vinci Strings, they are brighter than most electric strings. For picks I use a 1.5mm Delrin. When I practiced a consistent 4 hours a day I would use a 2.0mm.
What piece of gear is essential to your playing?
My attitude, everything else can be replaced.
Describe your proudest moment as a musician.
Every time I (we) do an original song most folks have never heard before and they go nuts. At 80’s In The Park this year we did a few songs from my CD that Kenny will also be doing on his new CD. And to my surprise they got a better response than the hits we played from the radio.
If given the chance, what nonmusical profession would you be interested in?
Well I spent a few years working as a luthier and I really enjoy working on my guitars. But after seeing Scooter’s work why bother? He’s the absolute best
What beloved, legendary artist do you just not “get”?
Bob Dylan, (the voice? WTF?) Dire Straits, Steely Dan and Jay Z.