Interview with Kurt Bloch, Ben Verellen, and CreativeLive’s Zach Varnell



Learning to work on your own gear is a rite of passage for most players. While some of us have figured things out by trial and error, having someone there to show you the proper way to work on your guitar and amp is extremely valuable, although somewhat unobtainable for most. Fear not, CreativeLive has put together a free online workshop coming up this Monday March 23rd from 9am to 4pm. This course will be taught in two parts. Part one will be instructed by local legend Kurt Bloch (The Fastbacks, Young Fresh Fellows, Gibson Guitars), topics will include basic set-up procedures, adjusting your truss rod, nut and bridge adjustments, and other things you should probably know. The second is instructed by both Kurt and Ben Verellen (Helms Alee, Harkonen, Verellen Amps) and will cover tube biasing, block diagrams and understanding schematics, basic amplifier maintenance and much, much more. 

We had a chance to get a few interview questions in with these busy folks, and get a little better insight into the actual seminar from CreativeLive’s content producer Zach Varnell as well. 

You can find more info about the seminar and sign up here:

-James Ballinger


How did the idea of hosting a guitarist tech workshop come about and why did the two of you decide to team up?

Zach Varnell: I reached out to both Ben and Kurt separately. I have loved both of their work in Seattle for a long time, and after meeting the folks @ the Gibson showroom in Seattle, we thought it would be cool to put something together for guitarists involving two of the most influential guitar geeks in Seattle.

Is this a one off or will there be more?

ZV: This is a one off specifically, but I’m sure we will be partnering with Ben, Kurt, Gibson and Verellen more in the future. They’re such great people to work with!

Will there be time set aside after the workshop for the few lucky attendees to get one on one advice?

ZV: We have an in-studio audience of about half a dozen people that will ask questions during the live event.

Will this workshop be posted to YouTube afterwards?

ZV: We usually pull a small clip or two on our YouTube channel from our courses, but after the live broadcast, the entire course will be available for purchase at We also often rebroadcast the course from time to time on our website.


What basic tools and accouterments will I need to work on my guitar along with the seminar?

Kurt Bloch: Various screwdrivers, wire cutters, needle nose pliers, truss rod wrench, new strings, guitar polish and polishing cloth, an expired credit card, volume pot cleaner (or tuner cleaner).

For my first attempt at setting up my instrument should I be brave and adjust the truss rod on my own awesome guitar or should I just borrow a guitar from a friend who owes me a lot of money?

KB: If the guitar is older, it’s possible that the truss rod nut could be stuck, in which case you should definitely take it to a professional. If it’s a new guitar, feel free to make small, careful adjustments, monitoring to see what the changes are doing, a quarter turn at a time. If after a couple of quarter turns nothing is happening, know when to stop.

What was your first guitar?

KB: A Pan SG copy. Still have it!

Will I be better at playing my guitar behind my head like you after my guitar is set up? I don’t want to let my fans down.

KB: Absolutely! Unquestionably!

What is your favorite guitar you own and what is your dream axe?

KB: Changes everyday. Right now it is a junk bin Les Paul with a single P-90 and a Bigsby.

When did you start playing?

KB: First started playing in the first year of high school. My high school offered a folk guitar class so I took that and borrowed my sister’s acoustic guitar, took it school everyday and learned how to play John Denver songs.

Do you have any early memories of your first guitar and amp?

KB: Oh for sure! I’ve just been looking at pictures of the first year and a half of exactly that for a reissue recording of my first band, The Cheaters. Fender Tremolux was my first amp.

What were some of your first favorite bands?

KB: The UK Subs, King Crimson, The Dickies

Who is your guitar god?

KB: Too many to specify. I’m a man of many gods.

Did you ever take lessons?

KB: No, other than high school folk guitar class.

What is the most important thing you have learned as a player?

KB: To always try and learn something different.

What advice do you have to younger or inexperienced players?

KB: Just play all the time and keep trying to come up with things that sound new to you.


What basic tools and accouterments will I need to work on my amp along with the seminar?

Ben Verellen: Some of the procedures involve special tools like a soldering iron, oscilloscope, and multimeter.  But much of what we’re talking about is just the basic info of what’s inside an amp.

What was the first amp you bought?

BV: Peavey bass head and cabinet.  It had onboard chorus (ew….)

Do you have a “holy grail” kind of amp, or something you’d really like to own?

BV: Not really, I just really like a big clean tube amp.

What made you want to start making your own amps?

BV: It was just a real natural progression of interests to want to make amps.  Music and electronics, it just fit well with me.

At the end of the seminar, will someone be educated enough to do basic work and upkeep on their own tube amp?

BV: If I don’t choke up, yes they should have some idea about what’s going on.

What’s new with Verellen Amps these days? Anything you’d like to announce in the works?

BV: Yes!!!  I’m launching a new product in a matter of weeks that will be something very left field that we’re very proud of.  Stay tuned!