Conal "Tone Monster" O'Donoghue – Lead Guitar/Backing Vocals


Conal first picked up a guitar at age 12 … and it is doubtful that a day has passed since then when he has not been playing. He was initially unhappy when his father insisted he take lessons in classical guitar but now appreciates how this has helped develop his technique. Conal likes investigating a wide variety of musical genres but is, in his own words, “a blues guy at heart”. He is fascinated by the different sounds that can be achieved with a guitar and habitually plays with heavier 12-guage strings to serve that end (something that has earned him the nickname of “Tone Monster”). Within the band, he is also known as the “Riff Factory”.

Conal is currently studying, simultaneously, for his Music Diploma (majoring in performance and composition) and A-Level Music and aspires to pursuing a Music (Performance) Degree at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts.

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Interview with Conal


Conal O'Donoghue

When and where were you born?

26th December 1997  -  Jubilee Maternity Hospital, Belfast.

What got you started in music?

One of my earliest memories is driving with my dad listening to Thin Lizzy’s Whiskey in the Jar and that, plus other tracks, got me hooked. I tried the keyboard after hearing Jon Lord of Deep Purple on Lazy and then picked up a guitar after listening to God himself in the form of Eric Clapton. I knew from the start that I wanted to make music of my own.

Tell us about your gear. Which one item of gear could you not live without?
The essence of my current set up would be my Fender Eric Clapton “Strat”, into a (probably overly large) pedal board then into a Victory V40 head set to a kind of clean sound just on the verge of breakup when I lean into the strings but which cleans up when I play lightly or just roll a little volume off my guitar … then into a Zilla "Fat Boy" cab.

A key part of my sound is my Plimsoul OCD: a fantastic overdrive that cleans up really well. I can leave it on all the time and manipulate it with my volume control! It’s probably enough on its own but, unfortunately, my addiction to pedals is greater than my desire for practicality...

Strymon pedals are also great and in my opinion worth every penny.

Chapman guitars are fantastic for the money and with the addition of some after-market pickups they rival guitars of double the price in my opinion.

My Faith Mercury Parlour acoustic is fantastic and I’d be lost without it.

My newest addition to the family is my MusicMan Y2D Steve Morse signature model. While not a very "Blues" guitar, it’s the first and only one I reach for when I need something to rock: it screams in the bridge pickup and the neck pickup is smoother than butter and works equally well for heavier genres and songs with a light crunch. It can really make a lead line sing.

When did you start to play / sing?

I dabbled with keyboards when I was about 10 years old, but didn’t get on with it. I started playing guitar at age 11/12 and the rest, as they say, is history …

Who are your influences?

Joe Bonamassa, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Robben Ford, Toni Iommi, Ritchie Blackmore, Martin Barre, BB King, Carlos Santana, Joe Walsh, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Al Di Meola, Tommy Bolin, Beth Hart, Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin (I've listed singers because I believe the guitar sounds its best when playing a solo like a singer would sing and using things like vibrato and bending to communicate emotion as a singer will do, but I also love some of the more technical guitarists out there) my dad (he doesn’t play but for his love of music, especially blues, and obsession with high quality sound), Paul Kossof, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Guthrie Govan, Warren Haynes, Sonny Landreth, Bobby Harrison and many more …

Coke or Pepsi?

The only reason people drink Pepsi is when you order a Coke and are asked “Is Pepsi OK?” and you don’t want to be rude.

What are your favourite colour, film and food?

Pewter grey, Monty Python & the Holy Grail and my dad’s homemade lasagne.

If you could take only three albums and one luxury to a desert island, what would they be and why?

Pink Floyd – Pulse

Eric Clapton – 24 Nights

Joe Bonamassa – Sloe Gin

 My Faith Mercury Parlour guitar.

 Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself.

I’m a fan of video games.

I think Counter Strike is a waste of time.

I feel very strongly about what colour jelly beans to eat.