www.SDMFworldwide.com - Exclusive Interview with Nick Catanese from Ozzfest 2004
9/12/04:
First in a series of exclusive interviews, SDMF Worldwide sat down with Nick Catanese at the Alpine Valley Ozzfest. The Evil Twin gave us the low down on his Washburn signature series guitars, the fans, and Hangover Music Volume VI

World Wide:
Okay, we’re rolling. Nick, let’s start. What made you want to pick up the guitar when you were young and learn to play?

Nick: Eddie Van Halen. I saw the…what was it? I forget the video. I just saw him jamming, and that was it. I mean I just wanted to do it right after that. I mean… the first time I heard Eruption. I couldn’t figure out how he was doing it…what he was doing. And that was it, I wanted learn from there.

WW: What age did you start playing?

Nick: Twelve.

WW: Twelve?

Nick: Actually, okay, I lied. I was 12; I started lessons then I quit because the guitar teacher wanted me to play Clementine. Then I quit for a year and went back at 13, and I started becoming more into it. So, I’d say 13.

WW: Were you a good player right away?

Nick: No, I was horrible!

WW: Did you have to continue with taking lessons?

Nick: Yeah. On my Mom’s side of the family, my grandfather played every instrument. He played, ah…he actually had a job interview for the New York Symphony, and he played everything. He used to tell me before he died, and he died when I was 13, actually. And, ah, he used to tell me to play everyday, play everyday, play everyday. I couldn’t play anything, and it’s like when he died, he passed it on to me, because I could start picking things up by ear. It was weird; it’s just like to this day he’s like my guardian angel. It’s like I’m always at the right place at the right time because of him.

WW: That’s cool; do you play any other instruments?

Nick: I just fiddle around. I can’t really play the instruments like you’re supposed to. Like James is a bass player. Craig’s a drummer. I mean, I can play a 4 x 4. I can play the notes on a bass; I can’t play with my fingers. I’d love to learn how to play piano. That’s like one of my goals sometime is to learn how to play piano.

WW: Do you remember the first guitar you owned?

Nick: Yup. It was called a C-series. It was a Les Paul, like a Honey burst. It was made of wood and cement…and some eggs and cinnamon and some crack, too. (Laughs) It was a C-series Les Paul shape.

WW: Do you still have it?

Nick: Nah, I don’t have that one. But my second guitar - this is kind of weird, too. My second guitar was called a Gibson Sonex, and I sold it. Freddie our guitar tech bought it. So it came back to me, and so I have it at home.

WW: So who’s been your role model in your life?

Nick: My Mom and Dad. Musically, Zakk has been a role model. Eddie Van Halen. Even outside of music, just my friends. You know what I mean? If someone has a genuine quality about them, you learn something from someone no matter what. So, I mean, there are people to me that are role models that are like nobody to somebody else. You know what I mean? But I find something in them that’s a good quality.

WW: How supportive were your parents to your music career?

Nick: They are and still are the most supportive people ever. My Dad raced. My Dad’s a big car guy, and he felt when he had a son that I was going to be a “gear head,” so when I started playing music, I kind of went on a right turn. I started a band when I was 15, and he managed the band, drove us around, helped us load, and got the settlement. My Mom sold merch. So now for them to come out and see it at Ozzfest to where it is now they’re proud as hell. And now with the guitar and everything…

WW: Who are your absolute guitar heroes?

Nick: Guitar heroes? Umm, Zakk, still. I mean even though he went from my hero to my best friend. You know, Eddie, Randy Rhoads, Keith Richards. There’s a guy named Jason Bieler that plays with Saigon Kick. He’s a smokin’ guitar player. John Sykes…those are probably my heroes.

WW: Do you think your music tastes affect how you play guitar?

Nick: Absolutely, absolutely. I mean back when I was in my old band, I was called Little Zakk. I had long, straight brown hair, played a Paul, and I did the pings. And I used to get kind of pissed off, because I wanted my own sound, but I never knew why I played like him until now. And it’s like you’re destined. Your path is laid out for you. It’s like, I mean, they’re a ton of better players than me, you know? But like Steve Vai couldn’t play with Zakk. It would sound like Steve Vai and Zakk. With me, it sounds like the CD. We’ve been playing together so long, I feed off of him. You know what I mean?

WW: And he sort of feeds off of you, too?

Nick: Well, yeah, it’s a back and forth thing.

WW: How did you and Zakk meet?

Nick: E-mail. I saw his e-mail address in Metal Edge Magazine, and I thought it would be funny to e-mail him out of everybody and say ‘if you need a guitar player, let me know.’ And like Tim Bolin our tour manager said, my life changed with a click of a mouse. I didn’t see an ad. I didn’t see anything. I just on a whim, I had quit my old band. I was going to go to computer school and give up music altogether, and I saw his e-mail address, and he said that day him and his wife were talking about needing to bring out a guitar player for Book of Shadows. My e-mail was in their mailbox that night. It was weird, strange.

WW: Do you remember what the first song was that you guys jammed?

Nick: “Throwin’ It All Away.” That was the first song.

WW: What is your favorite album of all time?

Nick: Oh, god!

WW: Try to pick one.

Nick: Hot Rocks. The Rolling Stones…probably that or Fair Warning.

WW: Oh, that’s one of my favorites.

Nick: Let’s go with Fair Warning. Fair Warning would be my favorite.

WW: What are some of the new bands out there today that you’re into?

Nick: Umm…new bands? Probably Sevendust, Deftones, there’s a band called Thornley that’s actually out now. Me and Craig just really dig it. It’s a guy from a band called Big Wreck. It’s awesome. It’s one of the CDs we’re listening to now. Only we can’t even get it out of the CD player.

WW: What other bands besides BLS have you been in?

Nick: None. Just this and my old band. No, I’m sorry. It was my old band, and then I joined Zakk. Then in between, I played in a Sabbath-Ozzy Tribute band. So I did that, yeah.

WW: What was it like meeting Ozzy for the first time?

Nick: I was speechless, pretty much. He was a beautiful guy. He was on the bus talking to Zakk about doing “Down to Earth,” and I walked in. He was sitting there. I had a plate of food, and he just stood up and shook my hand. I was like, I can’t believe it, and it was like he stood up and acknowledged me. He didn’t just give me the rock star handshake and let me pass on through. He stood up and acknowledged me. And I thought, “More people need to learn from him.” He’s just a beautiful guy.

WW: What kind of practice techniques do you use?

Nick: To start out with - I always just do picking. It’s Chromatics. Do the threes, one-two-three, one-two-three up the neck. Then if I mess up, start over again, go back and do the fours. Once you start doing that, start doing some spreads. And always pick, always pick. Once you get the difference between hammer-ons and just picking. I still do it to this day.

WW: You give guitar lessons when you’re not touring. How’s that going for you?

Nick: Good. I had 13 students before I left. You can tell the students that come in that are fans. They want to meet you and take a picture and leave and the ones that want to learn. Those are the ones that stick around for a while. It’s cool seeing progress. Like when they come in and actually do what you told them to do. They do it. It makes the money is worth it. I mean, it’s a job. I’m going to teach them. I’m not going to ‘half-ass’ it and just take the 50 bucks just for them to sit in a room with me. I’m going to teach them.

WW: Is there anything you still struggle with on guitar?

Nick: Finger pickin’—can’t finger pick worth a fuck.

WW: Chicken pickin’ licks?

Nick: Can’t do it! You know, Zakk will throw a solo at me and say double this. If it’s chicken pickin,’ I can’t do it…even if you put a bazooka to my head…I can’t do it.

WW: What is your proudest moment being a musician?

Nick: God, so many. Probably the first time Zakk called me. That I actually talked to him on the phone, and he flew to Pittsburgh, and we actually jammed for the first time. Here’s a guy that you used to look up to and see in magazines and now here he is sitting in your room, playing your guitars, eating chicken, and telling you stories about Ozzy. It’s surreal. Every moment of my life is a surreal moment. Like when we did the pre-show, I got a hug from Glen Tipton and Ian Hill and got a fist from Rob Halford. I mean it never ends. Every day is something new that I just look at and go…Bill Ward rubbed down Craig. It’s like he’s got a sore shoulder, and he gave him some lotion. These are people that we’ve worshipped, and now they’re our friends. It doesn’t get any better, you know.

WW: Nick, what are you in the music business for?

Nick: To play my guitar. Flat out. People that are in it like you see on TV, people that are in it for chicks, are in it for the wrong reason. I mean to me, maybe you are. Maybe getting laid is that important to you that you want to play guitar. I want to play the guitar to be great at it. Nothing beats, like right now, the best part of my day is the thirty minutes…when we play. That is the best part of my day, and that’s the reason I play. I don’t play for chicks; I don’t play for anything like that. That rush from playing my guitar in front of people and knowing that people dig the songs. Watching them sing, making eye contact with the crowd, like being a part of it. That’s why I play.

WW: What would people be surprised to know about Nick Catanese?

Nick: It’s not…I’m just really like a private person. I don’t drink. It’s like sometimes I seem antisocial, but I‘m not. It’s like when the guys go out, I don’t go. I stay in my room, I’m on the Internet. I like to stay by myself to get my mind right. Show days, I am the “Evil Twin.” When I am not, I am not. When I am home, I don’t go out, I don’t go to bars. My girl and I get DVDs and we watch DVDs. Play vids with my friends, I play video games. I’ll go to the mall. I’m real. I’m not like the wild person. There’s enough of it around, so I like to have my own space. Plus, I was a woman…nah, I’m just kiddin’. (Laughs) I’m kidding.

WW: What are some of your other hobbies?

Nick: Computers. Sim racing, you know, racing online with Junior (Dale Earnhardt Jr. - ed.) and I bought a $220 steering wheel that I have. It locks under my desk. It’s got a four-speed transmission. It’s actually got a clutch, gas pedal, and brake. Junior has his own site called DMP-Trucks.com. You’re racing Junior, you’re racing Martin Truex. It’s really cool. It’s so real. When I did the Richard Petty Driving Experience, I actually drove a NASCAR. When I drove Lowe’s, it was exactly like my game. I knew the line. The instructor asked if I’d ever driven before. It’s the most realistic thing to driving on the track; other than the g-force. It’s awesome. Yeah, computers and my video games are my thing…that’s all I do.

WW: Since you’re a big NASCAR fan, what was it like to have the BLS Hellride Funny car?

Nick: Oh, that was amazing. I mean…way different from NASCAR, but it’s like that was my first NHRA race. NASCAR is 800 hp. NHRA is 15,000 hp. It’s like; basically you’re riding in a rocket! My Dad was like a little kid in a candy store. It was awesome seeing a car that had a Black Label paint scheme on it, plus we had the die cast, so it’s really cool. It was awesome.

WW: What was it like being in the movie Rock Star? How was that experience for you?

Nick: Oh, a ton of fun. Like, you get paid to basically be yourself. They had me in that Mick Mars cracked out wig. That was the worst part…having that dead dog on my head for 13 fuckin’ hours. But…you meet a lot of people. To see like Mark Wahlberg and see what a cool guy he is. Jennifer Aniston was like “one of the guys,” she’d come and hang out. Brad Pitt was there. You’re in a real-life Star magazine. There are so many good memories…even doing the soundtrack. I played rhythm guitar for Steel Dragon, but then I had to do rhythm and lead for Blood Pollution, so I had to learn all of Zakk’s solos and go back in and do them. That was the toughest part of the whole thing. Freddie told me later that Zakk would be in studio and he say, “Let’s see if Nick can get this!” He would do this really wicked lick, and I’d try to get as close as I could. It was fun; we had a great time. Obviously, the movie came out three days before 9/11. No, it actually came out September 7, and a couple of days later, September 11th happened. Nobody went out to the movies. Not like the movie was like Schindler’s List, but more people would have came out except for the tragedy.

WW: Since Rock Star, do you have any interest in acting?

Nick: Only if the part called for a part that I could do. I couldn’t play an attorney, you know what I mean? If it was something like a musician or some bum or street thug. Yeah, still to this day, I get residuals from it. You know what I mean? Like from the soundtrack. So, I mean, it’s fun…it’s a really fun thing to do.

WW: What was it like working with Rob Zombie on the music video for Stillborn?

Nick: Awesome. It was surreal to me. It was like…staying and watching the whole thing was awesome. Watching Rob Zombie’s mind at work is like…he had it all drawn out on a piece of paper. And he had each part. When we performed, I’m looking over at him and you’d hear the three beeps and Stillborn would kick in blasting through these speakers. And I remember looking back and going there’s Zakk, there’s Mike Inez, and Rob Zombie. If you had told me when I was 14 that at 32 you’re going to be shooting a video with Rob and people that you’ve played songs of in a cover band, it was surreal. I mean, and finally seeing the final product of it is amazing. When we saw that video, we looked like a band. You know what I mean? He really did it justice. So, it was awesome.

WW: What are your thoughts on Boozed Broozed & Broken-Boned?

Nick: Surprisingly good. We thought it was going to be horrible. We were all so tired after being on Ozzfest. Then we had to do the three weeks; we called it “the 13 days of grief.” Zakk thought his voice was going to be bad. When I put that thing in, it was…I mean there’s mess-ups. It’s live, you know what I mean? There’s going to be mess-ups. I know all the mess-ups I did and all that stuff. That’s what makes it fun. When you can look at it and laugh. I thought it turned out great.

WW: How’s your Web site EvilTwinHQ.com coming along?

Nick: Good. Chet’s doing a great job, and Chad’s sending in great photos. I’m trying to juggle both message boards. It’s fun to see who comes on and what they have to say.

WW: Nick, how did you get the nickname “Evil Twin”?

Nick: He gave it to me—Zakk gave it to me. Before I had a girlfriend, and I’ve been with my girlfriend for about a year and three months now, he had to live vicariously through me. You know what I mean? I’ve never been like a big groupie guy anyway, but if I had any fun whatsoever! Plus, I double his solos, and since we play alike, he used to call me “ET.” Now I got my girl, and I’m not ET. ET shut down. You know what I mean? I’ll double the solos, but that’s it!

(Laughs)

WW: How cool is it having your line of signature series guitars?

Nick: Beyond cool. It’s just an honor. The first time I saw it…it’s mind-blowing. Especially for me. I mean, there’s Dime and there’s very few people…you look on the web sites that have a signature series. There’s a lot of people that are endorsed, but signature series is a big word. And it’s a big honor. I mean when you go to Washburn.com, there’s a list of people that have Washburns. But there’s only six people that have a signature series. It’s like me and Dime. It’s beyond sick. When I play them, it’s my guitar. I look down, and it’s my name on it. Plus, they’re going to be affordable. The customs will be $1,400-1,500. People can buy them, not like wish they had them. I want people to buy what I play. You know what I mean? They won’t be some exorbitant amount of money.

WW:
Who came up with the ET logo and design?

Nick: It was actually a company called DR Logo out of Philadelphia. A guy named Vito came up with the logo, and then we came up with T-shirts. It’s Cafépress.com if you want the Web site. They actually came up with the ET, and I think it’s fuckin’ awesome. It looks amazing, and then when I came out with the guitar, I asked for them to send me the rights to it because it is basically my name, you know what I mean? So they came up with the logo, and it’s awesome.

WW: Is this the first time you’ve used your new guitars on tour, and are you happy with the sound and action?

Nick: Love it! There has not been one complaint. Zakk loves them. The sound is just like my Paul. There’s no difference. It sounds like a Les Paul.

WW: What other kind of guitars do you own?

Nick: Oh, god. I have…I have…I’m actually running out of room in the house! I have six Les Pauls. I had three before I joined Zakk. And then Zakk got me a black ‘68 Custom with silver hardware. He got me a black Custom with the triple pick-ups. I got an Eddie Van Halen Ernie Ball, one of the thousand with the autograph. I got my old Kramer. I got my old second guitar. I got a Fernandez that Zakk gave me one time in Japan. I was playing those Gothics for a long time. Two of the V’s the Explorer and the SG. I got an Alvarez acoustic. I’ve got a ton of ‘em. And, now, I’ve got eight Washburns, so I got my own little store.

WW: When BLS was practicing for Ozzfest, did you ever play any other songs from other bands?

Nick: Yeah, we do. A lot of AC/DC. We do like “Man in a Box,” and we just jam and have some fun. We like some different kind of stuff. We goof around sometimes, and we play some old 80s Dokken songs. We do “It’s Not Love,” and shit like that. You know, it’s cool. We have fun.

WW: When I’m around the band, I’ve noticed that everyone is always laughing and happy. How well do you all get along?

Nick: Beyond. All of us love each other. You have to. The bands that ride on other buses…havin’ two buses is one thing. That’s just growing up, but when you see bands where each band member has his own bus, they don’t get along, or something’s up. You know? When we can all get together and live on the same bus for two months and never…I mean brothers fight… you know what I mean? Some things are going to happen, but at the end of the day, you can say “I’m sorry.” You know what I mean? And the band rolls on.

WW: How well does James Lomenzo fit in with the sound and the style of BLS?

Nick: Beyond perfect! “Jamo” is like John Entwistle on crack! I mean, he’s awesome. He’s a beautiful person and a beautiful musician. I mean like the other day I walked over to his side of the stage and just watchin’ him play is amazing. He’s all fingers and then sometimes he uses a pick, maybe. I can say I’ve played with Trujillo, Inez, J.D. and Steve Gibb. We’re talking Barry Gibb’s son dude, and now James. James is just fuckin’ amazing.

WW: You named Robert, Mike, J.D. and S.O.B. Do you still keep in touch with everyone?

Nick: Yeah. You know since he joined Metallica, I haven’t talked to Robert. Phil the old drummer? I saw Phil in Columbus, and Phil was in a bad way for a while. He looks great…doesn’t drink anymore. I’m glad; I gave him a big hug. People find out the hard way, about a lot of things. It’s just good to have him around. J.D. came out to the show in Jersey. Everybody’s a Black Label brother. I mean, you play with us; you’re still part of the family. Even though you leave, you’re still part of it…it’s like your home.

WW: Zakk calls you his “little brother.” Do you feel that you have that kind of relationship with him?

Nick: Yeah. Absolutely. I mean it’s like a Yin and a Yang thing. It’s like I don’t drink; I’m not violent. I’m not…it’s like we both brought out in each other a certain... He’s brought me more confidence; he’s given me more…like I remember after the first tour when I came home. My Mom looked at me and said, “You’re different.” Not in a bad way, but you’re more confident. You don’t take any shit. If someone gives me shit, I’m not violent by any means. But I will tell you what I think. I will tell you…you got to stand up for yourself and you gotta be a man. Back in my old band, I used to get walked on all the time. If I was in that band now, none of that shit would happen. Because you’ve just got to speak your mind, and that’s what I learned from him, you know?

WW: What is your favorite Zakk guitar, if you had to choose one?

Nick: Favorite one of his? Ummm…probably the Grail. That thing plays so well…it’s amazing. It comes back. You know what I mean? It’s like one of your kids leaving and then coming home. It plays great.

WW: What is your favorite BLS album?

Nick: Blessed Hellride. Blessed Hellride’s my favorite, by far.

WW: What were your first reactions when you heard Hangover Music Vol. VI?

Nick: I loved all the songs, you know? But I knew that we wouldn’t be playing them until we had our own show. When we can wheel out a piano and play and sing. We can’t be doing Ozzfest, opening up for Slayer, and play like...we can do “Stepping Stone.” You need to keep it heavy. Once we have our own show, when we can do the songs that we want to do, we can do those songs.

WW: Do you think the new album’s a good reflection of the band?

Nick: I think it is. I think it just shows that we can be versatile. Black Label is not just a metal band. We play music, and we can have a super-heavy album, we can have a rock and roll album. We can have a really mellow album. It’s like Guns ‘n Roses, kinda like Lies, you know what I mean? When you can actually do that and back it up, that’s nice. It can be Black Label, or like when me and Zakk did the acoustic tour. There’s not a lot of people that can do that. When you can, it’s cool.

WW: What’s your favorite song on the album?

Nick: Stepping Stone. Stepping Stone’s my favorite.

WW: Describe BLS fans.

Nick: Fans? God! It’s almost like an army. I mean, I’ve seen it grow since ‘98. Black Label started doing Ozzfests in 2000, and we’ve done four Ozzfests. On the first Ozzfests we played it used to be three songs into the set - and we only played five songs - there’d be people. Now they’re showing up for the first song. Plus, Black Label merch is everywhere! Everywhere! And you can’t miss it, because it’s black and white. It’s you know, it’s like a cult. It’s like the KISS army. You know what I mean, when they’re into the band, they’re into the band. The whole armed forces love Black Label, and it’s awesome.

WW: Are fans any different outside the US? Like say Japan?

Nick: Oh, yeah. They’re ridiculous in Japan. Any American band…they’re so insane about American music, but then they’re so polite to you afterwards. You don’t know how to take it, but there is a difference.

WW: What can the fans expect from BLS this year?

Nick: A severe ass kickin’. Five songs that put a boot up their ass.

WW: Leaving them begging for more?

Nick: Yeah!

WW: You guys only just get to play 30 minutes at Ozzfest this year. How much do you crave a longer set?

Nick: Oh, I’d love to play an hour and a half. I mean, by the time we’re done, I’m just warmed up.

WW: How do you get ready to play right before you go on stage? Do you warm up?

Nick: To me, it’s more mental. You become that person. The person that you see on stage isn’t the person now. You gotta put yourself in the mindset and know that there are 40,000 people watching you, and deal with it. If something fucks up, deal with it. You gotta be a man and not freak out, and just deal with it. It takes 5-10 minutes before you go on. It’s just, like, we all give each other a hug and a kiss and say, “Let’s go do this.” That’s it. It’s time to make the donuts. It’s time to go. And those five songs kick ass, and when we’re done we just look at each other and it’s like another notch in the bedpost. You know what I mean? It’s like another city fucked. One more down. Let’s do another one!

WW: Do you still get nervous playing in front of thousands of people?

Nick: No. Not nerves, it’s more anxious. I get more nervous when we do acoustic shows, when it’s just me and Zakk. But knowing that I have Craig and James, and knowing that there’s a sound guy there, that we’re loud, and the energy is there and everything’s pumping. It’s more anxious. When it’s intimate, I get scared. That’s more scary to me.

WW: Which BLS song do you really enjoy playing live?

Nick: It varies daily. “Funeral Bell” I love playing because it’s just so straightforward. “Stillborn” is awesome. “Genocide Junkies,” that guitar lick that we both play. (Sings the lick) That’s my favorite. Yeah! Actually, no, “Demise of Sanity,” because we double that solo together. There’s a few.

WW: Describe an ordinary day on the road.

Nick: You can’t! Everyday is different. It could be completely calm, it could be complete chaos. You’ve just gotta get into a mindset. People think that our job’s cake. I always tell them, “C’mon, walk a mile in our shoes and see if you come back normal.” What you see on stage is not what you get. Like I said, the best part of my day’s the 30 minutes we're onstage. The rest of it you’re wrapped up in a tin can for 14 hours in a bus. You can only play so many X-Box games, you know? But you’re around people that you love, so you can talk to whoever you want, crash out, and sleep, or whatever.

WW: What do you miss being on the road?

Nick: My bed, my girl, my Mom and Dad, my friends. Days off suck. That’s the time that you reflect on what you miss. Even still, I mean, the tour’s almost over and I’m still waking up in hotels. You wake up and don’t know where you’re at. If you are in our bunks, you wake up and don’t know where you’re at. Then when I get home, it’s the same thing. I wake up and think I am on the road. And then I wake up and I’m in my room, and…I think it takes you about a week or a week and a half to get yourself back to normal again.

WW: What can we expect from Nick Catanese in the future?

Nick: No idea. I don’t know what to expect from me tomorrow! You know. I take things day by day. That’s the thing I’ve learned. For 33 years, I used to worry about so much shit that’s uncontrollable. I take it hour-by-hour and day-by-day. It’s just whatever…I mean, you’ve got to have a plan, but life’s a path for you. You’re here for a reason. Whatever the reason is, you’ll find it. And, hopefully, you’ll know. I’ve never been a person that expects shit handed to him. I work, even that whole year Zakk was with Ozzy. If I didn’t touch my guitar for year and I came out to rehearsal and couldn’t play. He’d be like, “I love you, but you’re gone! I gotta get a new guitar player.” I gotta keep myself in shape to keep up with him. That, in itself, is a task. Down the road, I might do something. I know Zakk’s got my back with whatever I want to do. I’m always here for him, and vice versa.

WW: That’s it! Thanks.




For more on Nick, go to his website at www.EvilTwinHQ.com
Nick Catanese is endorsed by Washburn Guitars
Also don't forget to check out Nick's old guitars at www.BoogieStreet.com's online Ebay auctions.
Don't miss your chance to own a great piece of BLS history and a great guitar!
All photos ©2003/2004 Shawn Sexton / SDMFworldwide.com. All rights reserved.
Interview conducted by Jason Genung at Alpine Valley on 8/14/04.

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