In Pound For The Sound, we get technical with local musicians about what gear they use to create their signature style.
The Lost Deposits' guitarist Rocco Belsito has spent a good chunk of the past 16 years playing guitar. He's a pretty relaxed dude, but put an ax in his hand and he turns into an instant shredder.
Born in Pittsburgh, his early years of playing were mostly spent noodling around on an acoustic guitar, making up songs, and playing music with friends from school. He became way more serious about playing when he started college.
Belsito enrolled as a music major at Paradise Valley Community College in 2006. He spent the next few years studying classical repertoire, where he played in chamber ensembles and performed as a solo guitarist. Although he was playing mostly classical music and building his chops, Belsito wanted to learn how to improvise and work in more traditional band settings.
Eventually, the guitarist transferred to West Virginia University in 2008, but that was very short-lived and he found himself back in Arizona doing the same thing he was before he left.
After a brief hiatus from playing and performing, he enrolled himself in the music program at Scottsdale Community College. It is from that point on that he dove head first into the music scene again.
Belsito really wanted to learn how to play well with other musicians. And thanks to the jazz professors at SCC, he was able to expand his musical horizons. His professors were able to find spots for him to start playing fairly regularly, giving him the crucial experience that he so deeply craved of playing in bands with friends.
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These days, Belsito is a rock solid player (and sight reader) and plays with three “active” bands: a punk trio called The Lost Deposits, stoner metal group Sheesh, and a bizarre outfit called Kabarett. You can catch Belsito in action with The Lost Deposits, playing their first headlining show at The Rebel Lounge on Monday June 26. New Times talked with Belsito via phone and email about his gear, music, and upcoming show.
What's the secret weapon of your sound? And how did that help you find your "signature" tone?
The secret weapon of my sound is two distortion pedals. I use an ElectroHarmonix Pocket Metal Muff and an Ibanez Tube Screamer. I always felt that I couldn’t create the sounds that I wanted through just one distortion pedal, so I took a chance on linking the two together. I found that it creates the right combination of sustain and crunch, without completely drowning out the chord changes.
All of the other pedals in my arsenal are strictly utilitarian: phaser, tremolo, and reverb. These pedals are used to create ambiance and add texture without becoming the focal point of the music. I found with this combination of sounds, I am able to adapt to any style of music, while keeping my pedal setup light. The other “secret weapon” is that you must make people believe in what you are playing, while also believing in yourself. If you are standing there completely stiff, or look nervous, people are going to pick up on that and will form an opinion about you before you even start playing. I found that letting myself get into the music by engaging with and listening to the other players, I have a lot more fun and am more comfortable playing in front of an audience.
What's your favorite piece of gear in your collection and why?
My favorite piece of gear is definitely my amplifier. I find it a bit ridiculous that a lot of people romanticize about their guitars, show off their collections of instruments, and are playing through a tiny practice amp. I currently own a Fender Twin Reverb, and although it is a pain to carry around to gigs, it never fails, and it never lets me down. You can play any style of music through one of these amps, and it will sound great. While I believe that there are other equally adequate amps out there, this is the one I researched and settled with. My favorite pedal in my collection is definitely the EXP Phase 90. It is such a ridiculous sound, but it really brings out the tone of a guitar where it should. The phaser is like the cowbell of guitar. You use it sparingly, but if done right, people will be begging to hear more of it.
Any special pieces of gear acquired over the years? Any special story, or stories, behind your collection of tools?
I only recently got into the pedal setup game. I had a owned few pedals, and was content with trying to learn the intricacies of them. One day at work, a friend of mine mentioned that he had a bunch of old pedals he never used anymore, and asked if I would be interested in having them. I told him I would take a look at them, assuming they were all cheap, barely functioning pedals, and to my surprise it was this really nice setup of pedals, many of which I still use (the others are sitting in my house, waiting to be rotated into the lineup). It was one of the most exciting days as a musician, being handed a trunk full of gear, without going into debt for it.
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You shared some music from The Lost Deposits' Soundcloud. I really loved "Vegas Pills." Your solo in the latter half of the track is killer. Can you talk about you how got that gritty, surfy tone on that track?
Thanks, it’s one of my favorites, too. This recording is part of a rehearsal we had last year, so the solo on this track is partially improvised. We were still getting a feel for this tune, but I think it turned out pretty well. I had a few ideas for what I was going to do, and this was the result. The grittiness comes from the two distortion pedals linked together, along with a hint of reverb. I think at this point I was still experimenting with the sound, but it was close to what I was aiming for.
It’s interesting now that I am re-listening to this track, I can hear the moments of hesitation where I wasn’t quite sure where to go next in the solo, but had to keep playing. That surfy vibe you’re hearing definitely is being pushed along by George and Derek. George is plugging away at the outline of the tune, while Derek is playing 16th notes on the ride like a madman. I had to find that midpoint between the two, not playing too little and not playing too much. This balance is what makes this group work, and it is interesting that you chose "Vegas Pills," because that tune is the epitome of our sound.
Being active in the local music community since 2006, what changes have you seen occur over the years, and how do you continue to adapt and stay active here in Phoenix?
Being completely content with flying well under the radar, this is by far the most exposure in the music scene I have ever had. Phoenix hosts an amazing array of talented musicians, and is rapidly becoming a hub for unique local bands, and independently owned music venues. In order to stay active on the scene, I have to continuously look for more projects to get involved with. I have a core group of musicians that I usually work with, but am always willing to branch out and become involved with different musicians. I think versatility in playing is a key component, and the willingness to step outside of your comfort zone allows you to grow and adapt as a musician.
The Lost Deposits will be playing at The Rebel Lounge on Monday, June 26. Would you like to share any words about the show?
This will be our second time playing at The Rebel Lounge; however, it is our first time as the headliner. It will be interesting to see how many people show up for this show, because this group also flies under the radar. I want to first thank the members of the band, George Brockett and Derek Jordan, for being solid players and being incredibly easy to work with. I would also like to thank the other groups that will be playing at the show, Honest Mollusk, Baby Alfred, and Psycotropics. It’s going to be a high-energy show, and I am looking forward to playing once again at The Rebel Lounge.