Growing up in Venezuela, Felix Martin developed his own way of playing guitar: by playing two at the same time. After making two dual neck guitars with independent luthiers and guitar makers, he later went on to graduate from Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Felix nods players like Stuart Hamm and Steve Vai, but also blends his own percussive and jazz-bass technique with his 14-string guitars. Felix has released two albums with Prosthetic Records, one of which brings to life his live performance. Truly a forward thinking musician, he spent years tediously creating The Human Transcription, in which he has given the human voice note values. He has turned the speeches of several historical figures into compositions based upon these voice to note transcriptions.
Felix and I caught up while he was pout on his first headlining tour of North America. Read more here.
Follow up question: Where do you hide the third arm?
Thats’s actually my dream, to have a third arm right in the middle of my body.
Would you need a third neck?
I would love to have four hands and four necks. Maybe it will happen in the future with robotics.
I am picturing a Goro body suit playing four guitars.
When was the last time you held a guitar pick?
That’s interesting. I actually don’t remember. I use my nail as a pick. Three weeks ago in San Francisco, my finger was bleeding during the show. Nobody had one, so I kept on playing.
That’s pretty metal.
I read you and Skerveson are working on a guitar together.
Maybe by the fall it will be done. It will have sixteen strings, two eight string necks. What is really interesting, is the fanned frets. I have no experience with fanned frets. I’m left handed you see. There are not many left handed guitars with fanned frets. I’m excited because new music will come out of that instrument. New for my mind, new for my fingers.
Did they fan those to your left handed advantage?
No, it’s the exact same fanning they would do on a standard right. It will also be headless.
Classic for their brand. I have been following them online for awhile. I really like their look.
Yeah. They take good pictures, that helps. They are great people and they really support what I’m doing. They are excited because this instrument is a challenge for them. I am really honored.
When this was being designed, were there any specifications that you made that were different from your current two?
I always wanted to work with them and we have been in talks for the past two years. They make excellent extended range instruments. I told them I wanted a nine and a seven necks, but they said it was too complicated for now, so we did the eight and eight necks with fanned frets.
I know them. They’re Australian. Rusty Cooley does the same thing. It’s cool, but for my stuff, I like low. If I do get a nine string, I’ll have fun with it. With more strings, my concept only grows larger.
I just work. I like what I do and I like music and guitars. I write and I practice. I keep pushing myself, discover new things on the instrument. Right now, I have a lot to do. It keeps me motivated. I learned much of this on my own as a kid in Venezuela. There were no guitar teachers. So I listened to CDs and tried to emulate those. Harmonics took awhile to learn without the internet to guide me. I learn slower, but at the same time it enables me more creativity. That helped create my own vision of the guitar and my technique.
I can see your motivation and enthusiasm when you talk. How did this playing style evolve?
It began with a six string Ibanez. For fun, I would play a Stratocaster simultaneously with the Ibanez. I discovered endless possibilities with chords and tapping. When we made the first double neck, I thought to myself “Man, I don’t know if I can even play this.” I could’t play anything. The music written on the Ibanez/Fender method had to be redeveloped for the double neck.
Where is the best place to start for players interested in this and similar styles of playing?
Tapping with both hands, guitar or bass. Stuart Hamm, he played for Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. His style is really the standard.
[Nich note: Felix explains his concept of the fourteen string guitar and some very specific ways he uses his it here.]
What are some things you are looking forward to on this tour?
This is my first time in many of these cities in North America. This tour is full of new experiences, new peoples and places. It is amazing to gain such positive energy from all of these. It opens up great opportunities for the future as well. I got really excited to play Boston, I was at Berklee for five years.
Home away from home?
Exactly. The show was good, but the day was amazing. I spent some time at the campus. I have a few friends still here studying, but most of the day I spent alone, living the Boston life for a few hours. I wanted to reconnect myself with Boston.
I saw some videos of speeches with your music in them. What are these?
I have a project I just completed called The Human Transcription. I took nine speeches from historical figures and transcribed their voice to sheet music. Then I wrote music over that. I have always wanted to record the music of the voice. It took me several years realizing this fantasy, but it is done.
That sounds amazing.
How have you adjusted your sound from venue to venue? Do you use your own technician?
I think the house sound guys are always the best actually. Some bands bring their own and I don’t like that. They don’t know the room. They don’t know the equipment. Some can, and they are the truly great sound techs that can perfectly mix a new room every night. I prefer working with the house guys. They are the best.
That’s awesome to hear. I have a friend back home in Kansas City that is a sound guy at a metal bar. He would love to hear that.
We played Kansas City, at MiniBar! That show was really good!