It can be an intimidating thing to stand up on stage with one of the greats and be expected to match them lick for lick, night after night. But that’s what Nick Catanese does. As second guitarist in Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society, Catanese has to keep up with Zakk’s killer riffs, hold down the fort when the Wylde one takes a solo, and even handle some pretty high-profile leads of his own when required. Catanese has a reputation as a hard-working, reliable player who gets the job done with efficiency, energy and stage presence. And although his role is mainly a live one, Catanese has put in the hard yards to earn a rather nice Paul Reed Smith SE signature model.
Catanese recently took the opportunity to redesign his SE model. The original version was a more modern-looking, aggressive black and red affair, while the new one has more of a classic look. “It’s basically the same weight, dimensions, frets, everything, but the red flame top, all the chrome, the Chrome EMG pickups… we’re trying to go with the ’57 Chevy look,” Catanese says. “But it has the same neck dimensions. I like thick necks. No fret markers. The thing that’s different with this one is, on my first one I thought I was being cool when I put red fret dots on it, which looked cool in the light, but when the lights went down I couldn’t see anything! I had no fret markers or dots, so I was pretty screwed!”
Compared to the previous model, which had a stylised ‘Evil Twin’ ET logo on the body, the new version has only a Nick Catanese signature on the headstock to denote the guitar’s heritage. “It’s every kid’s dream to open a guitar case and see your name on it, especially when it’s a PRS,” Catanese says. “They’re up there with Gibson and Fender. It’s cool, man! And nothing can take that away!”
Amp-wise, Catanese keeps it pretty simple: “Just the Marshall JCM800s. Not modded or anything. Just two JCM800s through cabs with 200 watt EV (Electro Voice) speakers. Pedal-wise it’s just the Jim Dunlop overdrive, chorus, Rotovibe and wah, and behind is the flanger for “Crazy Horse.” Real simple.” Most of those pedals are in the form of Zakk Wylde signature variants, including the new ZW357 Rotovibe. For those who aren’t familiar with the Rotovibe sound, Catanese has these simple words of advice: “Listen to Frank Marino. That’s where you can hear it!” The Rotovibe – which mimics the sound of a rotating speaker but with a flavour of its own – is one of those rare effect pedals that have been around for decades but which aren’t used by every player and his mother, and Catanese says that’s part of what draws him and Wylde to such effects. “It’s not just stock… stock’s cool, but to make it sound like you…. “Zakk’s developed a sound. When he plays with anybody, it’s going to sound like him. And it’s hard to actually do that, to be there that long and develop a sound where it’s you.”
“I’ve been with Zakk 15 years, so I don’t really know anything else,” Catanese continues. “Since 96 to now I’ve played with him, which is a great thing. It’s amazing for me to be a guitar player and say I can stand with him, and be the only one. It’s not like how there have been other bass players and drummers. And he pushes you! The solos to songs like “In This River,” I’ve got to play them, and I’ve got to play it the way he played it. And that’s not an easy thing. You’ve got to nail it. You’ve got to step up and put your big boy pants on and do it. When you’re there and you’re with the guy who wrote it, when he’s looking at you to make it happen, it’s an honour. Zakk’s a big person to stand beside and to play guitar. And I love everything I’ve got, and everything I’ve got through this, I respect.”
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