Life On The Road / 19 March 2018

What’s In The Bag: Teddy Kumpel

New York-based Teddy Kumpel, has played guitar for a list of artists like Joe Jackson, Nine Inch Nails, Janet Jackson, Tower of Power, Rickie Lee Jones, Chris Brown, Tower of Power and many others. His playing can also be heard on feature film scores, including Anchorman, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Taladega Nights. He’s mastered the art of live looping – perfectly demonstrated with his “LOOPestra”, where he effortlessly creates a myriad of textures and sounds as a trio of musicians.

We spoke with Teddy and found out more about his beginnings, influences, ultimate band line-up, and his favorite MONO bags…

What was the moment that made you want to be a musician?

I was born to unusually musical parents, who put instruments in my hands very early, I don’t remember when. I remember calling a family meeting to tell them I was going to be a guitar player for a living when I was 13 after reading the Tommy Tedesco book ‘for guitar players only’. I was obsessed with his TV show theme song work.

Who were/are your musical heroes?

The Shaggs, Miles, Zappa, Belew, Prince, my mom.

PHOTO: 12 years old…. Christmas guitar and amp


PHOTO: 14 years old in our rock band, Distortion. With Dina Munsch on guitar and Paul Panebianco on drums. We played Rush, The Eagles, Kansas, Lynyrd Skynyrd and we even had a few originals. Dina lives in the Bay Area and plays all the time still. Paul is a hermit in Long Island somewhere. Boy, do I wish I still had that P bass….


PHOTO: Mom, Carol, in her 20’s. She was a brilliant pianist, organist and taught me how to mix humor and music together by making music play time in our house. 

What do you never leave home without when you’re on tour?

Good walking shoes – we love to explore whatever town we’re in.

A post shared by Teddy Kumpel (@teddykumpel) on

What’s your pre-gig ritual?

It used to be a hamburger and lots of cigarettes. Now I don’t really have one, maybe just thinking about the songs I’m about to play.

What accessory can’t you function without when playing live?

Creation Audio Labs Holy Fire pedal and a towel.

Tell us about the pedal, why this?

It’s the only amp-like distortion pedal I’ve found to be truly transparent. When I turn it on it does nothing but add distortion. It doesn’t suck out bass. The only tone control on it is a hi-cut. It’s wonderfully natural. I leave it on most of the time and just back off my volume when I want a clean sound… I also use it to push the front end of the amp, it has tons of output gain and can also function as the best sounding clean boost you ever heard.

What MONO gear do you use at home, in the studio or on tour?

On tour or on fly dates I put my MONO M80 (with a guitar in it, of course) in an SKB iSeries empty case so I can walk around to jam sessions when we get to a town but still have real protection. Whether it’s stagehands or an airline this has proven to be the best combo for safe and convenient travel for me.

What’s in the bag, Teddy? 

On tour, I was using Fret King Elise guitars. I use a Supro Hampton and a John Page Ashburn regularly as well.

I like the simplicity of the MONO gear. The uncluttered-ness of it all. The wallet is amazing! They protect my instruments well and are lightweight and waterproof.

The FlyBy backpack is simply irreplaceable and holds tons of stuff.

What’s your proudest achievement?

I must have a hole in my bag of wins because I don’t immediately think of an award or special gig when I hear this question… I think I’m most proud of just doing what I said I was going to do when I was 13, making a living as a musician… and continuing that through life, sticking to decisions. Life is short, you have to go for it and commit.

What would be your fantasy band line-up? (choose any musicians from any genre to play together)

This is fun… how about Karen Carpenter on drums, Jimmy Nolen (James Brown) on guitar, Jaco Pastorius on bass and Richard Clayderman on piano… or how about Shawn Pelton on drums, Jonas Helborg on bass, Eddie Van Halen on guitar and Yanni on synth? Trying to think of the worst/most unlikely combinations. Ok here’s one: Joni Mitchell on vocals, Chuck Berry on guitar, Bill Laswell on bass and Paul Motian on drums…. oooooh, I like that one, good concept record!

What’s one of your favorite albums of all time?

The Shaggs – Philosophy of the World – best combination of innocence, humor, joy and truth ever.

Who was the last band you saw live?

King Crimson – with 3 drummers… whoa… before that the John McLaughlin farewell tour with Gary Husband and Jason Crosby. Both shows were amazing in different ways.

What’s Next?

Another Joe Jackson tour coming up in July. I love playing with Joe, he’s an inspiration!

You can check out the MONO FlyBy Teddy uses here, and our full catalog here.


Main photo credit:
Michael Weintrob

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