Congratulations to Kristel Blackman from Australia for making Les Paul Girl #14! Tell us a little about your musical experience. I have loved music and wanted to play some kind of instrument since I was little. My dad always worked until late most nights when we were growing up and when he came home my sister and I used to nag him until he’d play ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ on his acoustic guitar and we’d dance around the kitchen! I started playing keyboards when I was nine, then violin from 11 to 13 and then bass guitar from 14 to 18…then I finally got to playing six-string guitar around then. In high school I played in an all-girl band called Tantalum (but with different members) on the bass (I played my dad’s 1980 model Rickenbacker 4001) and also developed a taste for recording and producing music in the studio. How long have you been playing? People always say to me “Please don’t say two years”…and that used to be my answer! I’m 22 and I only started taking guitar seriously at about 19. I played acoustic a bit before then, just chords and learning the technique properly after playing bass – using my fingers! – for so long. I reached a point in my life when I had finished high school and had begun my first year of my Diploma of Audio Engineering and was finding the transition difficult so I just stayed home and let it all out on guitar and that’s how I picked it up so quickly. I also have a few exceptionally talented close friends who invited me to jam with them, and they were like teachers – which has been so helpful to my playing. What would you like people to know about you and/or your band? Got a Website? I play guitar in the all girl band Tantalum! Our website is MySpace.com - Tantalum- - Melbourne, AU - Rock / Metal / Pop - www.myspace.com/tantalum - you can hear our music there, find links to You Tube videos, look at pictures and keep updated on our gig dates! We’re a young, vibrant, multi-talented bunch, Cassie (bass) and I have Diplomas in Audio Engineering and are currently completing our degrees; Mel (guitar) studies Graphic Design and is an incredibly talented artist; Anthea (drums) is a qualified Nurse and Elysia (vocals) studies music business and performance. Mel designs a lot of our flyers for our shows and tours as well as our website and I’ve recorded and produced three of our songs – it’s more economical to do it ourselves! Who are your biggest musical influences? Eddie Van Halen of course! I learnt to play some of the two hand tapping parts in Eruption a few years ago as part of the first stuff I learned to play – I’ve been told I overuse the technique in my band’s music…but I love it! I also find the soul in Paul Kossoff’s playing really inspiring – not all solos have to be fast, he took his time in a lot of them, and had an incredible vibrato, and that’s where real talent is. The Donnas have also always been my idols since I can remember, I dyed my hair just to look more like Allison…but I’ve learned to be myself over time. What led you to play a Les Paul? When I wanted to move from acoustic to electric I learned to play on my sisters abandoned Fender Strat. I hated the top horn poking into my chest and found it awkward to play. I eventually saved enough money and went down to a music store to check out some guitars. My favorite female guitarist, Allison Roberston (The Donnas), plays a Les Paul, so does Slash and so does Ace Frehley (and I was listening to a lot of Kiss at the time…like, a lot). So I picked out an affordable Epiphone Les Paul studio, but it felt too small. I tried the SG too but that was way too flimsy…and then I saw the Les Paul standard in vintage sunburst. I tried it out two days in a row and bought it on the third day. It was my first guitar, it sounds better than my blonde Les Paul standard and I’ll never let it go. What do you love most about your Les Paul? I love a sturdy, heavy guitar – I used to play a Rickenbacker! And the Les Paul standard is weighty enough for me, but I’m still able to lift it in the air and throw it around for my rock star moves. I love the rounded body as well, no pokey bits! And the fingerboard is smooth and easy to play. I’ve tried playing my sisters SG’s but they feel stiff in the neck, I can’t get around them! And they’re so flimsy, I feel like it’ll fall out of my hands. I love it most because it’s my first guitar that I bought with all my own money, I named him Senor Flamenio. What's it like playing in an all-girl band? I wish I could say it’s just like playing in an all-boy band and that we’re just any old regular music playing bunch…but we’re simply not! We’re one of a kind. I’d say we’re more like a boy band when we get on stage and rock, we load our cars and unload just like blokes do, and no, we don’t need any help thanks! Unless there are stairs…then we’d like some help, please. And we set up our stage and play just like boys do. It’s at rehearsal that it’s different. Because instead of playing, we come and talk about the weekend and catch up on the gossip, order pizza, make trips to the vending machine for chocolate and talk about girly stuff that guys HATE hearing about. There’s also the occasional tear-fest because someone was feeling sensitive or because of horrible boys and their wicked ways. Do you find as a woman that you have a harder time in the music biz than guys do? I actually think I have an easier time than guys might. A month or so ago an A & R rep saw me at our rehearsal studio as well as one the posters for our show and he asked “are you in that band, is that you?” and I said yes so he told me who he was and said he would come see us play sometime just because we look like we would sound interesting. The hardest road for me has been in the audio engineering field, I work hard and have a good folio, but being young and female I’ve noticed that I get looked over in terms of opportunities for work. Regarding the band however, I believe we have it easy. A lot of people check out our webpage, or come to a show just to see that girls can play good rock’n’roll. I think it’s a lot more acceptable these days that women can be just as powerful as men in the music industry – if not more powerful. I still get the occasional guy coming up to me after a show and saying “you play really well…for a girl”. Lame! Funniest thing that happened to you on the road, stage or backstage? Getting homesick on our first interstate tour, calling home and telling my Mum I was going to fly home because I hated the tour bus so much! The high I got from playing to an enthusiastic crowd soon proved a great antidote, though. We also get some interesting crowd members, such as at our last show, some guys at the front were yelling “show us your box!” and then they lifted up their shirts and played with their nipples…and they thought we were the entertainment for the evening! Where do you see yourself a few years from now? Although I might not be sure of the path to get there, it’s my dream to play huge stadiums such as Wembley or Madison Square Gardens and be on the cover of Guitar Player or Rolling Stone magazine. I also see myself recording and producing in a high-profile studio, or in my own studio set up in a nice part of town. Visit Kristel at http://www.myspace.com/tantalum Thanks to our fellow forum brother, Roman Rist, for finding Kristel!