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Mark Smith - Guitars

I started playing guitar at the age of about 9 and was taught by a nun at Southam convent in Warwickshire. The blessed old dear taught me to strum Kumbaya or something! Mind you, she wanted to teach me classical finger style. I couldn't really be bothered with reading music though and would always just hear something and then play it from memory.

I put the guitar down when we moved to the Oxford area at the age of 11 and didn't play for years. It was only when a few mates at school started kicking band ideas around that I got a crap electric guitar (a Hohner Strat copy) and started playing again at about 14-15. I hacked that thing to bits, re-sprayed it twice and scalloped the fretboard (a-la-Ritchie Blackmore...).

My major influences are obviously Deep Purple and Rainbow, and also Led Zep, ACDC, Sabbath, Ozzy, Chili Peppers, Hendrix, Slayer, Pink Floyd, David Bowie etc. I thought the Darkness were great - I was gutted when I realised that I'd left a gig in Reading early, without seeing the headline band - and the headline band was the Darkness 3 months before they made it big!

After a particularly bad time in my life, from around 1997 when I split up with my long-time girlfriend from University, to about 1999 when I also parted company with most of my friends (again, due to woman troubles..), I was looking to join a band and responded to an ad in the Student Union. It turned out to be Stu who placed the ad. We had a band with a couple of French guys for a year or so, but then they disappeared back to France, so Stu and I started playing acoustic songs together instead. That was how we met Chris and Carlos who had split from their long time band Ragwood.

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All of us wanted to be in a proper band again, but we were all guitarists, so Stu and I compromised and took roles as bassist and drummer to complete the line-up in 2001. That compromise was to cause problems later on, but the band probably wouldn't have come into being had we not done so. I played bass in Static Rain for many years (see the band history), and while I enjoyed the gigs we played, it was never really my instrument and eventually I swapped to electric guitar.

I play a bitsa-pieces Strat kind of guitar in Static Rain. The body is currently a Fender '62 reissue, the neck - who knows - but it's scalloped. That means that the wood between the frets is filed away so that your fingertips don't touch the fretboard, only the strings. It makes it easier to bend the strings but it can be tricky to avoid pressing too hard and making the strings go sharp - most people don't like it. The pickups are Fender Samarium Cobalt Noiseless, with my own trick wiring. The guitar is completely worthless but I love it! I like guitars. Yes. I like guitars.

I also like cars. I've completely dismantled and restored a few old cars, mostly Triumphs from the 70's. They started as rusty heaps and ended up nicely sorted. My Spitfire is currently undergoing an engine swap (for a bigger one). Think fuel injected TR6 engine (2.5L straight six) with Megasquirt engine management, in a car that weighs about 850kg, and you won't be far off 200bhp/ton. Enough to be fun.

Aside from Static Rain, I also play guitar for Syn City Rockers, a covers band who play the music of ACDC and Thin Lizzy. I play a couple of Gibson SGs in that band and have been known to dress up like Angus. A (total!) change of career in 2007 forced a haircut, sadly, but I still enjoy going down the Rising to see the live bands.

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