Luis Martinez has had quite a journey to get here. The Stakes guitarist was born in Mexico City and moved to the U.S. when he was 13 years old, first landing in Escondido, CA for two years before he ended up in Arizona.
Martinez is a respected musician here in the valley, and one needs to go no further than to listen to his work with The Stakes to understand why. He has the ability to play ferocious, growling licks while keeping dynamics air tight, adding those buttery touches just where you want to hear them.
Luis is the real deal musician, currently teaching guitar lessons at two different studios during the week, Musical Surprise in Surprise, and Rhapsody School of Music in Anthem, keeping his weekends open for gigs. Aside from the Stakes, he also plays in LuMar (an acoustic duo with Marah Armenta, singer of The Stakes) and subs for various cover bands
Martinez is also involved in #RawSessionsPHX (a video platform for social media dedicated to spontaneous jam sessions here in the valley) and his band, The Stakes, recently were fan-selected to compete in New Times's "Phinal Phour" at The Rebel Lounge March 29. With all this music happening, New Times was lucky get a few words in with Luis about how he makes his magic happen.
New Times: What's the secret weapon of your sound? And how did that help you find your "signature" tone?
Luis Martinez: I would have to say my amp. I play through a Fender Deluxe Reverb ’65 Reissue. I love the natural sound of it. I find it to be very versatile. I can get a good jazz sound with my semi-hollow, a good country tone with my strat and everything in between. I play clean a lot of the time, but whenever I need to add some dirt I use a Suhr Shiba Drive and a Suhr Riot Reloaded. Both units sound fantastic through the Deluxe Reverb. However, my signature tone would have to be my semi-hollow guitar plugged straight into the amp. The clean tone that the Deluxe Reverb has to offer is exactly what I need to get the jazzy tone I like.
What's your favorite piece of gear in your collection and why?
My Ibanez AM103BM. It’s a gorgeous guitar. It sounds beautiful and it just feels right. It looks a lot fancier than what it’s worth and it’s nothing out of this world but it works for me. I had my eyes on a different guitar before buying it, but I happened to go to the music store with a friend to pick up strings and I saw a wicked semi-hollow on display. I played it and I fell in love with it right away.
Any special pieces of gear acquired over the years? Any special story, or stories, behind your collection of tools?
My classical guitar. I got my classical guitar in the guitar capital of Mexico, Paracho. Paracho is a small town of luthiers located in the state of Michoacan. I took a trip down there to look for a classical guitar in 2010. I got to explore the town, meet some people, play different guitars, talk to different luthiers. Everyone in the town was very friendly. While there were a lot of guitar stores, I noticed that most of the big-name luthiers that build guitars for the big dogs don’t even have stores on the main street. They just have people come to their shops at their houses. They don’t really advertise much either so it’s kind of an adventure to find their houses. It’s all word of mouth, pretty old school. All the luthiers are very welcoming and bring you into their house and show you around their shop, guitars they have for sale, and guitars they are currently working on. One well-known luthier, Benito Huipe, even gave us a tour around town and took us to three other well-known luthiers’ houses. It was an amazing experience. I got my guitar from luthier Jesus H. Fuerte. A german spruce top with indian rosewood back and sides that he had just finished. That guitar is definitely special. The whole trip was special.
The Stakes will be releasing a new album soon. The album is titled Prophecy, and it’s currently in the mixing process. You recently shared a demo of a new song with New Times called “Unified.” Dope track. How did you go about alternating between those smooths guitar licks and that crunchy driving tone?
For the track, I did a separate pass for the clean guitar where I was plugged straight into the amp. The crunchy driving tone came from stacking the Riot Reloaded and the Shiba Drive. I like to keep clean and dirty tracks as separate tracks on sessions so I don’t have to be stepping on pedals during tracking and to be able to have full control of each track individually during the mixing process.
It’s March Madness here at New Times and The Stakes have made it to the “
Because we have the energy to rock any crowd! Jazz club, music festival, hip-hop show, rock show, etc. We are versatile.
What would you do if The Stakes “went platinum with no features?”
Keep grinding. It would be a great accomplishment and a dream come true, but it can’t end there. It would motivate me to keep pushing forward.