At Gothic Bite Magazine we love welcoming new patients to become part of our asylum. We question them and learn about them. It doesn’t matter what creative field they are part of because they’re our patient now. This week, we welcome the founder of High Voltage, Greg Kuta.
Patient Name: Greg Kuta
I was the second baby born in Baltimore on January 1, 1963, 12:42am, and it has been a party ever since! Raised in the Highlandtown section of East Baltimore, I attended St. Elizabeth’s Catholic school across from Patterson Park.
Growing up in the city was great. There were kids your age everywhere, and it was nothing to put together a game of soccer, baseball, or football. At the age of five or six, my grandmother gifted our family an electric organ.
It had a keyboard on the right and button chords on the left. While my brothers and sisters banged on it for a little while, I was the only one who stuck with it and progressed.
About a year later, a door to door salesman in a blue suit was offering accordion lessons. My dad yelled thru the house, “anyone here wants to take accordion lessons?”
I was already interested in music, so I jumped on the chance. Every Monday night at 7:00pm, I had a thirty-minute lesson on Eastern Ave. Across from Loeblein monuments. I was soon the celebrity at family parties and relished in the attention.
I wished for a guitar for Christmas and got one. It was an acoustic from Yeager’s Music in Highlandtown. My dad would tune it to the keyboard, and I would try to play it, but at that young age, the dexterity just wasn’t there. It would sit in the closet, and every couple of years, I’d pick it up again and try to play.
It seemed like every time I did another string was missing. I still have that guitar today hanging on my music room wall.
In 1971 my parents moved us to “rural” Perry Hall, MD. There was one kid my age about a half-mile away. As I look back, this was important because it created more time for myself and what I wanted to do.
I was always a ham and in school enjoyed getting up in front of the class, imitating Howard Cosell or impersonating W.C. Fields. I loved singing and performing in the auditorium for the school Christmas show, spring festival, and talent shows.
The 8th grade is when I really became interested in guitar. There was this new band on the radio playing songs like TNT, Dirty Deeds, and Let There Be Rock. My older brother worked security at the concerts downtown, and he heard and saw AC/DC live.
I remember he was very impressed with the guitar player and his energy. Out of the closet came the guitar again. This time it had two strings left. I started sounding out what I could note for note by ear to my favorite AC/DC tunes. I soon discovered the Perry Hall Music store on Belair Rd. There I had purchased a few more strings.
My older sister’s boyfriend would hear me plunking away and showed me a few bar chords and riffs. I purchased my first electric guitar and amplifier in eighth grade with some money I had saved. It was much easier to play. I discovered how to get different sounds from it, and it helped me expand my techniques. Soon I was learning KISS and Van Halen. I was on my way.
In tenth and eleventh grade, the word was getting around school that I was a pretty good guitar player. I was working part-time at the Baltimore County Recreation Council, so I was able to upgrade my equipment. It proved to be challenging to get into a band with others my age. Instead, I hooked up with some older guys, 19 and 20, who had some chops, equipment, and gigs.
The other kids in High School would be going to the big homecoming football game while I’d be heading to gigs. I was only seventeen and legally was not supposed to be in bars or night clubs. I remember one time the band loaded into this bar on a Friday night around 6:00pm.
We loaded in, set up, sound checked, and went home to shower. When I returned at 9:00pm, the doorman carded me and wouldn’t let me in. One of the other band members standing behind the bouncer motioned for me to meet him around back.
He snuck me in, and I was able to perform. That was 1980, and I haven’t stopped performing in front of a live audience since.
JAMES VAUGHAN (J.V.): Are you a founding member of High Voltage?
GREG KUTA: A friend of mine would have a New Year’s Eve party every year. One year he leaned over and asked me to join his Irish Band—Rossnareen. I said I like to hear your Irish band play, but it’s not for me. The next year he asked me to form a classic rock band with him.
I had done that in the past and was currently performing in a classic rock acoustic trio playing at pubs and private parties, so again I declined. The next year Highway to Hell was playing on the stereo, and he comes over to me with a big smile on his face and says, “how about an AC/DC tribute band?”
I had always wanted to do that, so I looked over at my wife for the approval nod, and she said yes, go ahead. That’s technically when the band was formed. So yes, I am a founding member.
J.V.: As a tribute band, why AC/DC and not let’s say Metallica or Black Sabbath?
But somehow, the power of the AC/DC sound was overwhelming to me. Throw in Bon Scott’s lyrics and attitude, the driving drum beat and bassline, and its balls to the walls power rock for me.
J.V.: What do you find is the key to getting that distinctive AC/DC sound?
GREG KUTA: I’ve played with a lot of different guitars, effects pedals, and amplifiers during my classic rock days to try and mimic the unique sound of each artist we were covering. With Angus and AC/DC, it’s simple, you plug a Gibson SG guitar straight into a Marshall amp and crank it. The only device I use is the tuner.
It’s essential to note Malcolm and Angus are often playing different things on the guitar to fatten the sound. It’s subtle sometimes, but it is a must. A good sound man who puts the guitars out front is significant. We found a great one and use him for almost every show.
Two years ago, I invested in ear monitors, and it has been a revival for me. I can hear everything I want to listen to, no matter where I am standing on stage or in the crowd.
J.V.: Is High Voltage merely a local band, or do you guys tour at all?
GREG KUTA: I’m probably touring more than I play locally. In fact, when I do play local, it’s usually so packed with friends you can’t move.
We’ve performed from New York to Florida and Ocean City to Tennessee. We are currently working on an armed services tour in Europe.
J.V.: Roughly how many shows a year do you and the band perform?
GREG KUTA: I have played thousands of gigs in my forty-year career. I’ve had my share of Spinal Tap moments.
I’ve seen the stage catch fire. I saw amplifiers tumble over, stages collapse. Even people that were passing out. I’ve seen amps blow up, guitars break, trucks break down. Even locked out of venues during gigs, great story!
We played outside during thunderstorms. I’ve seen marshmallow fights in the audience. We’ve played in front of three people after the venue had their liquor license revoked, etc.
High Voltage performs anywhere from twenty-four to thirty gigs per year. Spring, summer, and early fall are the busiest.
J.V.: Because we have to ask! Do you believe in the paranormal, i.e., do you believe in hauntings, cryptids, and if so, which ones?
GREG KUTA: Hell yeah! I haven’t seen any orbs or anything like that, but I have felt a paranormal presence and sensed it in other ways. My mom used to say if you hear a loud unexpected noise, someone you know just passed.
This has come true in my life many times. I believe in hauntings and used to love exploring vacant houses and insane asylums. I am interested in visiting old battlefields like Gettysburg as well.
There are plenty of spirits roaming around there. I also believe in extraterrestrials and think it is naïve to assume we are the only intelligent life in the galaxy. I believe that Bigfoot existed up to thirty years ago but is now extinct. I think the same for Chessie and the Loch Ness monster.
J.V.: Do you know if any of the actual members of AC/DC ever seen or heard you guys perform?
GREG KUTA: You know what, people laugh when I tell them this, but I have never seen AC/DC perform live! I do not believe any members of AC/DC have heard us perform.
The singer has met Brian Johnson and says he’s a cool dude. I believe they met at a race track in Florida.
J.V.: High Voltage also works with a charity called cares. What is Casey Cares?
GREG KUTA: We perform at an annual fundraiser for Casey Cares every October called the Rock and Roll bash. Casey Cares helps families with critically ill children get through difficult times.
They help keep families’ spirits high by arranging to program—whether it’s a simple movie night and a fresh pair of pajamas or attending a major sporting event.
Casey Cares makes life a lot better by adding a personal touch throughout the year and creating lasting memories for families throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, Florida, and portions of the Midwest. Visit https://www.caseycares.org/.
J.V.: What can GBM followers look forward to from High Voltage in 2020?
GREG KUTA: We are incredibly excited for the 2020 season. Not only are we playing our traditional venues but many new venues and events as well.
We love playing charity events because it gives us a sense of purpose. It means a lot to us when you can help raise money for an important cause. Look for a fun-filled power rock show with plenty of audience participation every time. You will be surprised at how many hit songs AC/DC has.
You may find yourself singing along to most of the tunes. Please like us on Facebook and bookmark our website www.HighVoltage.rocks. When you make it to a show, don’t forget to mention to us that you heard about us on GBM!
Also, if there is anything else you would like to add, please feel free to do so. If you feel like there is a question that you would’ve wanted to answer, add it, and it will be part of the final interview on the website.