Russell Mofsky of Gold Dust Lounge: Guitar Heroes of South Florida

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Mofsky and his trusty Fender Jazzmaster

Russell Mofsky is a true student of the guitar whose story has been told, thus far, via the strings of his guitars.

The Miami-bred guitarist and composer's life has been motivated by the beck and call of the six-stringed muse. From his early days performing with the unsung Miami punk legends Quit to a period of wandering through the flourishing abstract jazz scene of New York in the '90s, Mofsky has traveled many sonic paths to arrive at his current point. He composes and performs as Gold Dust Lounge, a project that mixes equal parts surf guitar and mid-century noire to make a final product that is altogether sublime.

Mofsky employs as interesting an array of tools as one would expect of such an aural alchemist, including a few lovely vintage guitars and a dizzying collection of unique effects pedals with which to morph and meld new and old sounds. We spoke with the guitarist about his fretted life as he prepared for a weekend of festivities celebrating the release of an album he says he's been trying to make for years.

New Times: What was your path to the guitar?
Russell Mofsky: My mom says I started asking for guitar lessons or a guitar when I was 4 -- that's when it started -- but no one ever acted on that. My mom's side of the family is not a musical bunch.

So, when I was eleven, I was chasing a cat at my cousin's house in North Miami and it ran under the bed in my uncle's bedroom. I lifted up the little cover to see if I could get to the cat and there was something in the way, so I pulled it out and it was a guitar case. I immediately forgot about the cat and opened it up and it was an old '60s Gibson Melody Maker that had been refinished in like this awful tan color, and my uncle gave it to me! So that night, finally, I had a guitar.

Mofsky's 1960 Gibson Les Paul Jr. and 1965 Jazzmaster

Who would you cite as early influences, being that you came from a non-musical family.
I was really into AC/DC, Iron Maiden, and Van Halen. I didn't really have any direction early on. I had a guitar teacher that was trying to turn me on to a lot of college rock at the time. He had me get the Replacements' Tim when it came out, and Aerial Boundaries by Michael Hedges, and he was trying to get me into the Smiths, and I couldn't stand the Smiths at the time. I was like, "Dude, I wanna learn Ratt, I wanna play like that!" And the irony is that now, the Michael Hedges or Tim -- especially Tim -- are such an amazing albums for me, and I hardly listen to any of that crap rock anymore, with the exception of AC/DC, because that's not crap.

I went to school with this girl Patti Reinert and she was always telling me, "You've got to meet my brother Sean." So, finally I met Sean and his friend, this guy Paul Masvidal, and the two of them already had this band, Cynic. They're a thrash band out of Miami and they backed up Chuck Shuldiner and Death on several world tours, and Cynic are legendary. So, I started hanging out with them.

And early on I was never into guitar players really, I was into bands. I practiced guitar for a couple of years in the early, early days and I learned the pentatonic scale and power chords and had some facility, so as soon as I got in with the guys, I got into bands -- which is where I really learned how to play.

Mofsky's early '60s Silvertones.

There were warehouse shows out in Kendall in 1986-87, and we'd go to the Cameo Theater and check out everyone from the Bad Brains to Dead Kennedys or whoever happened to be in town with all the punk shows back then. Then finally Quit got going, and I just kept going with different bands.

I went to like these summer classes at UM and there was a guy in one of the classes, Jeff -- who is a jazz guitar player -- and we got to talking just because we both play guitar and I remember he asked me what guitarists I listen to, and I was like "I don't know what to tell you man, I listen to bands. I guess I like guitar players in the bands that I listen to?"

Mofsky's 1989 Takamine and 1959 Gibson classical guitars

It seems like all of the stuff you gravitated towards and all of the stuff selected for you by that teacher featured guitarists with very unique voices that happened to also be athletic.
I think coming from a band point of view, there's guys that are just shredding guitar players, but maybe they can't write a song to save their life. I feel like I straddle this line between being a writer and being a guitarist, and I can play, but not like a shredder or something. Those two sides were always equal, and then the desire to just make all kinds of noise, early on discovering feedback and reverb, and like, shaking the amp and getting the reverb tank and springs to make an earthquake sound and having my parents be like, "Shut off that God awful racket!"

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