Strumming, Picking, and Shredding:
An Oral History of Guitar Player Part 8: Michael Molenda
An original punk who’s listed in Who’s Who in California Rock, Michael Molenda launched San Francisco’s first rock and roll multimedia show (Streetbeat), published the Bay Area’s first gear newsletter, opened two seminal “S.F. scene” recording studios, and has his name imprinted on a plaque hanging at Alcatraz (for his musical score to We Hold the Rock, about the Indian occupation of the island). Currently, Molenda is Editor in Chief of Guitar Player, co-owns Tiki Town Studios in Mill Valley, California (with producer Scott Mathews), and performs in The Trouble With Monkeys and the Eva Jay Fortune Band.
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“Teaching readers how to sound better and play better…”
“Ed Sengstack and Ross Garnick–the magazine’s publisher and associate publisher, respectively–were concerned about GP‘s industry reputation and circulation around 1996, and they contacted me about taking the Editor in Chief role. At the time, there hadn’t been anyone in that position for a while. Joe Gore was Senior Editor, Dominic Milano was Editorial Director, and the hierarchy of command, so to speak, wasn’t as clean or as explicit as Ed and Ross wanted it. Also, Joe was leaving–or reducing his responsibilities–to pursue his career as a guitarist. I was the Editor of Electronic Musician back then, and, thanks to the exploding home-studio market, I had a somewhat undeserved reputation as someone who could overhaul a magazine’s content to secure more readers and advertisers. I had always loved GP, so I was extremely flattered they were interested in me. And, yeah, I wanted the job! Sadly, the day of my big interview with the GP staff was the same day my then-wife informed me she wanted a divorce. I was devastated, of course, and I felt that two life-changing events at once might be a bit much. I turned down the offer, and Richard Johnston was ultimately moved into the top spot at GP. Fast-forward about two years, and Ed and Ross still weren’t satisfied with GP‘s reputation and circulation. In a deja-vu-like situation, they contacted me again, and, this time, I didn’t want anything to get in the way of my getting the best job I would ever be offered. Richard was moved over to the Editor in Chief position at Bass Player (which made sense, as he was/is a brilliant bassist), and I left Electronic Musician to become the Editor in Chief of Guitar Player. Thanks to a fabulous staff, we redesigned the entire magazine in one month, and, within a year, had expanded the subscriber base from under 80,000 to more than 100,000, and had also increased newsstand sell-through. Almost ten years later, I’m still in the Editor in Chief position, and loving every day!