Rik Emmett of Triumph: "Writing is the Core Value of What You Do As a Guitar Player"

FROM THE GW ARCHIVE: Originally published in Guitar World, August 2010. The Triumph guitarist talks to GW about his early days and gives some advice for beginning players.

What inspired you to start playing the guitar?

Like most guys of my generation, I started playing because of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Animals and the whole British Invasion thing that was starting to happen in North America. I tried to convince my parents to buy me a guitar; I would always stand in front of the mirror with a tennis racquet pretending I was playing guitar. Eventually, when I was around 10 years old, my grandfather gave me one, and that became my first guitar.

What type of guitar was it?

I’m not sure who the manufacturer was. It was a plywood “catalog special.” It had palm trees and hula dancers painted on the front of it. I sanded the finish off one summer at camp.

What was the first song you learned?

“Gloria” by Them and “The Last Time” by the Rolling Stones—any song that had three chords, really.

Do you remember your first gig?

I was 12 years old and performed with a band at a local park. We played a couple of Led Zeppelin songs. By that point I had progressed from my first guitar to a Kay electric. I didn’t have an amp, so I just plugged into a radio’s external input and used that.

Ever had an embarrassing onstage moment?

I once went onstage in Philadelphia at the Spectrum, which was a large arena and ice hockey rink. I was wearing a pair of skin-tight white pants and a blue shirt that I had tucked in. Unbeknownst to me, the fly had ripped open and the blue shirt was sticking out through the fly. I was jumping around onstage with this blue piece sticking out of my crotch. Once I realized it, I went and fixed it with duct tape, which was only slightly less embarrassing.

What is your favorite piece of gear?

There are a few, but I couldn’t live without my Vox ToneLab LE, as I use it for practically everything. Also, I have a Godin Spectrum guitar, which is a hybrid acoustic-electric with lipstick pickups. It’s very cool sounding.

Got any advice for young players?

I always tell young players to be versatile and stay interested in a range of styles. Also, I have always viewed the guitar as a compositional tool, not just an instrument that you play. To me, writing is the core value of what you do as a guitar player.

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