5 minutes alone: Mike Einziger

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Incubus’s six-stringer Mike Einziger on awkward guitar parts, mid-gig injuries and an ever-expanding pedalboard...

Got my first real six-string

“My first guitar was made by a company called Kaman, back in ’88 or ’89. I had begged my mom for a year to get me a guitar. It was this amazing black Kaman guitar, but it had these red cracks in it. It was the most ‘down’ guitar you’ve ever seen, at least in my 12-year-old eyes. 

“It was like the ultimate heavy metal machine. I can’t even believe it when I see it now. I still have it - I actually sold it to a friend of mine for $200 a few years later, and then sometime in the early 2000s I was at his house and I saw it there, and he was like, ‘I would understand if you want it back’, and I was like, ‘I do want it back!’ It definitely brings back a lot of memories.”

Dream on…

“I got to a point around 2008 where I kind of felt like we had accomplished all the dreams I’d had as a kid: being in a rock band and touring around the world and playing these huge concerts and selling tens of millions of albums. 

“I felt like we did all that stuff, and then there was this pressure to just keep doing it over and over and over. And I think the fact that we’ve slowed down and not been as musically active is just because we have to. In order to find the genuine inspiration to keep making music in that same way with the same group of people, it just has to happen at the right time, and on its own.”

Pardon me while I burst

“In the song Pardon Me, I’m doing these volume swells during the intro and re-intro and bridge section of the song, and I wish I just strummed them instead of doing volume swells! 

“It’s such a pain in the ass to do the volume swells that, most of the time, I end up just strumming them anyway. There’s so much delay on my guitar and so much echo that you can’t even tell the difference between a swell and a strum because of how wet the guitar sound is!”

End of the tunnel

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“Around 2007, I had to end a show early because I had really bad carpal tunnel syndrome, and I got to a point where I had to have surgery or I had to stop playing guitar. We were about three quarters of the way through the show in Frankfurt, Germany. I had to apologise to the audience and say, ‘Hey, I’m really sorry; I can’t keep playing, I wish I could, but I’ve got to go back to the US and take care of my wrist.’ 

“I think people were understanding of it, but definitely not too happy about it - I mean, I was really scared, because I was worried about my ability to continue playing. That was definitely my worst show ever!”

Larger than life

“The reason the pedalboard got so big with Incubus is because every time we would put out a new album, there would be all these new sounds on there. I’d try and figure how to pull it off with the pedals I already had, and if I couldn’t, I’d just go ahead and add one or two more pedals. 

“We’ve made so many albums over such a long period of time, the thing just kept expanding and expanding and getting bigger and bigger. And I just look down at the pedalboard now, and I’m like, ‘What the fuck am I doing?!’”

Incubus’s new album, 8, is out now on Virgin EMI.

Michael Astley-Brown

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism, and has spent the past decade writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as a decade-and-a-half performing in bands of variable genre (and quality). In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe.

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