By Blaine Schultz + Photo by Kate Engeriser
Paris Ortiz’ fluid guitar sound has been integral to bands in Milwaukee from Psychedelicasi to Big Dumb Dick to his current group The Cocksmiths. If we believe the cliché that lead guitarists in heavy-leaning rock groups are typically as subtle as brontosauri, then Oritz is more like an archaeopteryx in the sky above – often less a focal point than an integrated part. With The Cocksmiths’ trio of guitars, sonic real estate is at a premium, which means listening is as important as playing.
1. What is the one piece of musical gear you find essential to your sound?
My Marshall amplifier. It has such a distinctive, versatile sound. It gives me a solid, crunchy/dirty sound for my rhythms and a sweet, sustained tone for my leads. It has the most amazing feedback. I can hit a note, then stand in front of my amp and that note will sing out for as long as I stand there holding it.
2. What lessons have you learned, good or bad, that you apply to The Cocksmiths?
Be true to yourself. Just go out there and play what’s inside of you. There was a point in my life where I had managers and labels telling me what to wear, how to move on stage and how long a song should be. Of course The Cocksmiths want a record deal but we don’t pay attention to who’s popular and who’s getting the most airplay. Everyone in this band has different influence from rockabilly, swing, hard rock and indie music. Yet, we all come to a common ground where no one feels cheated or like they’re playing something they don’t want to.
I am Hispanic and Latin music is very rhythmic and percussive-oriented, but I don’t know if it’s heritage as much as environment. I grew up in a dominantly African-American neighborhood, so my early influences were Prince, Funkadelic and Hendrix. It really made me a very rhythmic player. As I got older I had friends from all walks of life. Those relationships introduced me to everything from Zeppelin to Ozzy to The Eagles. If I need to be bluesy with a country flair I can do that. I’ll have a reference and if I need to bring it and hammer out an aggressive wah-filled solo I can do that too.
4. If someone had never seen or heard The Cocksmiths, how would you describe the band?
A huge wall of whiskey rock. Our bio states, “Picture if the Black Crowes and Soundgarden had a child and it was raised and beaten by Johnny Cash – that’s The Cocksmiths.”
5. Is there a solo (not necessarily guitar) that you never get tired of hearing?
That’s a hard one. I would say any solo by Jimi Hendrix. They were passionate, bluesy aggressive solos that fit the song. He was the master. I always loved the solo from “Sultans of Swing.” What’s most impressive is he’s clean for the whole solo – no distortion at all – and you walk away humming the solo, especially the ending. But I would say the one that really influenced my playing has to be the solo for “Maggot Brain” by Funkadelic. It’s a beautiful, sad-sounding instrumental that tells a story. It is so passioate and Mike Hampton pulls out all the stops. I think I stole every lick from that song. VS