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The Haunted: Ola Englund Lesson – Eye Of The Storm (Solo)

January 25th, 2014 in Artist Licks by

 [Ola's signature Washburn Solar guitar is tuned down one step to D Standard: D G C F A D.]

Eye Of The Storm Solo

Ola Englund shows us his Swedish roots as he breaks down his Yngwie Malmsteen/John Norum-inspired solo from The Haunted’s ‘Eye Of The Storm’ from this year’s EP of the same name.

Ola’s frequent half-step bends give the solo much of its character, along with his aggressive unison bends at the solo’s end. In between all that stretching, you’ll get a nice finger workout with the burst of legato speed in bar 8. The final technique to note is the pedal tone lick that begins on the adjacent 4th and 3rd strings in bar 6 and jumps into string-skipping by the end of bar 7.

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Ola Englund - The Haunted - Eye of the Storm - Solo

 

Check out this solo in context in the following video where Ola demonstrates the crushing tones of the classic Mesa Boogie Mark II C+ amplifier:

Stay tuned for two more lessons with Ola where he’ll teach us the solo to Feared’s ‘Mass Destruction’ and offer some helpful tips on downpicking. In the meantime, check out our Part 1 and Part 2 of our interview with Ola to learn about the disciplined life of an ambitious entrepreneur and family man who’s carved out a career for himself in the new music business!

 

[Special thanks to Chris Dingman and Alexander Pierce for their video work, Chris for his additional editing assistance, and Paul Schneider for his transcriptions!]

Jarle H. Olsen Interview

October 20th, 2013 in Interviews by

Jarle H. Olsen InterviewHailing from Norway, Jarle H. Olsen is one of today’s finest guitarists and composers of melodic progressive metal. His full-length debut album, Quadrasonic, showcases his talents through its emotive atmospheres, surgically precise performances, and lavish harmonies. Rooted in neoclassical metal and fusion playing styles, Jarle has forged a recognizable voice on his instrument; one which he never fails to pair with memorable melody and elegant songwriting.

IC: Can you tell us about your current projects? I know that last year you released your first full-length solo instrumental album, Quadrasonic, and you have a new record out with your thrash metal band Pitch Black Mentality. 

JO: My main project is Quadrasonic and I’ve started working on some new material for it, as well. Apart from that, I have another funny project with Bjarte and a friend coming up, featuring over 30 tunes. So stay tuned…

Yeah, my buddy [Frank Natås] recently released a new album called The Pitch Black Reality, which I happen to play all lead guitars on. It’s basically old school thrash metal with some new twists here and there. I can recommend it to any metal fans, as there are plenty of kick-ass thrash tunes on the album.

IC: How would you compare the writing and recording processes for Quadrasonic and The Pitch Black Reality? What were some of the challenges of each project?

JO: The songwriting sessions for Quadrasonic were a very evolving and lonely experience. It was about identifying my own style, as much as it was about challenging myself, musically. The dedication and challenge with Quadrasonic came more from the compositions, rather than the performances, actually. I really wanted to make a unique and solid-sounding album, based on my perspective of what a good sounding, complete album should sound like. As I look back on it, I feel that I’ve achieved that goal of mine.

For the Pitch Black sessions, they started out with my buddy Frank who invited me to join him for the songwriting. He had some heavy riffs and cool ideas, and we cooked it all together to complete the tunes. He is generally more inspired by harder hitting metal stuff than I am, so his aggressive riffing style, combined with my more melodic and progressive ideas worked out well.

This was more of a collaborative experience and my challenges here were the leads. I wanted to play more intensely and aggressively for this kind of music style, yet melodically and in control. For instance, Alex Skolnick was a major influence for me in the early days and I really enjoyed his contributions to Testament. He’s by far the best and most underrated thrash guitarist when it comes to lead playing.

IC: What is the significance of the album title, Quadrasonic?

JO: Quad means four and sonic means having a speed about equal to that of sound in air. The project has four members and the music may at times become kinda speedy in terms of notes. So there you go… hehe.

Jarle Olsen - Quadrasonic Album Cover

Quadrasonic album cover. Click to enlarge.

IC: You re-recorded one of your signature tracks, Osiris, for Quadrasonic. Since its original 2002 release, the composition has evolved into three movements. How has the meaning of the piece changed for you since you first recorded it and were the additional movements written around the same time as the first?

JO: That’s the oldest tune on the disc, from a 2002 demo, and I didn’t have any more parts to it then. I later wrote a tune that had the same kind of dark vibe as Osiris, which eventually became part three. I also had this ethereal, floating string progression, which reminded me of the Middle Eastern music culture, which I really love and wanted to add in there.

So I decided to make a saga of these three parts, since they fit together pretty well. It tells the story of Osiris, the omnipotence, in a musical language. From his days as the almighty king to his resurrection in hell… if you’re into mythology and that kind of stuff.

IC: One of the ways in which the compositions on Quadrasonic stand out to me is through the fresh use of harmony throughout the record. In particular, tracks like ‘Dark Matter’ and ‘From Deep Within’ stood out with some unusual note choices and chord progressions. What are some of your favorite scales and tonalities that you have been exploring?

JO: I don’t have any favorite scales or tonalities really. Although, I do prefer playing in darker modes and writing serious sounding music. It has such a unique depth. I can’t write exclusively major modal music or music that contains humor… it doesn’t move me, but rather bothers me.

IC: The tones on Quadrasonic sound fantastic! What’s your current gear setup?

JO: I use Carvin guitars and Dimarzio pickups exclusively. That’s also what you hear on the entire album. For the amp setup, I used various things. The rhythm tones are two 50w VHT heads into 4×12 cabs, with a two mic setup – a Shure SM57 and a Neumann. The lead tones are one of my two custom made “piece of shit” amps, which I now use exclusively.

IC: Can you fill us in on what you’ve been up to in the gap between Quadrasonic and your previous release in 2002? How have your influences and musical preferences changed over the years?

JO: Now that’s a long period of many life happenings… As for the musical aspects, I did some gigs with Quadrasonic back then. We did instrumental stuff, but slightly different sounding than what it is now. I also contributed to various other musical projects throughout the live scene. I was rehearsing and perfecting my style of playing, I suppose.

IC: You have some of the most precise and cleanest picking skills in the business. Are there any tips you can offer for guitarists looking to clean up their technique?

JO: You know, I see technique as a tool. It helps me to bring the ideas in my head to life, and for that you don’t want any physical limitations. I guess I use a mix of alternate and economy picking, depending on what sound I want. Again, I hate limits and don’t want to be trapped in a specific technical pattern.

Jarle’s 2011 feature – ‘Sweeping Harmony.’ Click HERE for the full lesson.

You mentioned clean… well, electric guitar can be a very noisy instrument when you’re using overdriven tones. If you’re not precise, it can easily become an unlistenable mess, especially at high tempos and with complex patterns. You want to make what you’re playing loud and clear to the listener. Make it easy for the listener to understand what you actually want to say with the notes. After all, it really doesn’t matter if you have the cleanest or fastest chops on the planet if you can’t use them to make good music – which is what matters.

IC: Though your home is in Norway, you also spend time in Chile working with projects like ASP4 (Alejandro Silva Power Cuarteto). How did you get involved with this project and what is it like traveling back and forth across the globe? 

JO: I’ve been to Chile several times since I first went there back in 2003. I met up with ASP4 in 2004 and we played a cool event together. After that, we kept in touch throughout the years and I met some really good musicians over there, whom I later toured with within the country. There are loads of fans and dedicated people within the metal scene there, very nice people. In 2011, we did a major tour there, which was pretty successful. It’s a great experience traveling, meeting new people from other cultures, and knowing that your music is being appreciated by dedicated fans!

IC: From your experience, how would you compare the music scenes between the two countries? 

JO: The expression and dedication is much different, although it’s kind of unfair to compare the countries due to the extreme population differences. Interestingly enough, many more people shows up at the gigs there, than here in Norway. But I also believe that it has to do with the hunger for experiencing real music live. The audience there knows what they want and you have to deliver.

JO: The Internet has provided a vital connection between artists and listeners, particularly within the guitar instrumental music niche. With the web becoming more saturated every day with music-related content, is it still as reliable of a medium to connect with your fans as it was in the past? How do you balance your career in terms of live performances, lessons, clinics, etc… and your online presence?

JO: It’s so much easier to connect with new people because of the global network and media sites such as Facebook and YouTube. You suddenly get every musician in the world on your laptop. There really is no need to suck these days! hehe… With such an enormous amount of information on the web, the only issue I can see  with the amount of lessons, videos, etc…. is that a lot of people seem to forget the most important part of it all – to actually play!

Jarle H Olsen Interview

The web can so easily consume all your time in a blink of an eye, if you’re not disciplined enough. I remember sitting with tape recorders, rewinding the tape until it got all fucked up, just because I wanted to learn a specific part of a song so badly. It really sharpened my ear training abilities. Nobody “wastes” time on that now, of course. Instead, everybody wants it served on a plate, and if not well-served, they go browse for the easiest solution on the Internet. Sometimes, the easiest way ain’t the best. It happens with games, as well as with music, and everything else.

The only reason I do have Facebook, is to promote myself and my music. Nothing else. If I didn’t do music, I would probably not have an account. Some people like to upload pictures of what they eat every day or even how damn funny the cat next door looks. I’d rather prefer posting stuff regarding my musical career. Different pleasures…

IC: Surely a great deal of your time is devoted to music, but what do you like to do in your off-time? What are some of your hobbies? 

JO: I love going on extreme mountain trips. Experiences in the wild and fantastic nature are when you’re in inner harmony with yourself. It’s a refuge and it’s soul refreshing, just like music, allowing you to forget about all the shitty things going on in this forsaken world. I’m also a huge movie fan and have way too many blu-rays already. I also enjoy going out, being social, having some drinks with friends once in a while. Love swimming. Got to do other things apart from music, as it’s my everyday work.

IC: What are your plans for the rest of the year?

JO: There may be some touring plans with Pitch Black. I also wanna try to play more live with Quadrasonic, as always. And we’re going to finalize another major music project, which I briefly mentioned earlier. Probably other plans too, but I do not like to plan too much in advance. Things usually turn out differently than you would expect, anyway.

IC: What advice can you give to aspiring musicians looking to take their musicianship to the next level?

JO: The sky is the limit. If you believe in yourself and your goals, realize them! But for god’s sake, please do have some self-awareness. Know your abilities and limits and work them hard!

For more information about Jarle and his music, please visit JarleHOlsen.comFacebook.com/jarleholsen, and YouTube.com/jarleholsen.

Tony MacAlpine Interview

November 18th, 2011 in Interviews by

Tony MacAlpine - By Kris ClaerhoutWhether you know him as the young shredder who made 1986′s Edge of Insanity or as the architect of the heavy prog riffs for Planet X and Devil’s Slingshot, Tony MacAlpine has never failed to wow and sway his fans as he does once again with his latest release. Having acknowledged the self-titled Tony MacAlpine as his greatest solo work to date, he backs up the claim with his virtuosic luster through his convictive guitar leads and heavily structured rhythmic passages.

Not merely content to contain his keyboard flourishes as a lush ambient background, he flexes his piano prowess with fluid mastery and unrivaled authority honed since a gaspingly early age. And just as he enjoys riding his motorcycle through the scenic routes of Pasadena, California, he knows from his own carefully crafted legacy that he has paved a new way with this tour-de-force of a solo album.

JA: Your album Tony MacAlpine is an incredible landmark in your work as a virtuoso guitarist and keyboardist. What made you decide to put a solo record together after years of focusing on collaborative work?

TM: Thank you. Years of collaborative work with others and the desire to create some of my own new works after such a long time away from it really fueled the fire for me. I am happy that you enjoy the new CD, as there is such a fine line of doing things that you want to do at the moment and doing things that you should.

JA: How would you compare the making of this album to the making of previous solo albums?

TM: Not much has changed in that I am still working in my own studio to write and record all parts, but aside from that the opportunity presented itself to work with Ulrich Wild as head engineer and mixer… and wow did he ever knock this one out of the park. He really is something!!!

JA: Besides your work on the guitar, you are also a classically trained-pianist, and on this album you covered Robert Schumann’s ‘Dedication’ as the final track. In light of that, how much of your classical background would you say is prominent in your present day writing/playing?

TM: Classical music is one of the many foundations of art form that I have been blessed to have in my life at such a young age and for so many years later. I practice and play piano still a lot more than the guitar and I am constantly finding and discovering new works – for example, the writings of William Alwyn 1905-1985. I am able to really absorb the thinking of many composers, because I am very fortunate to be able to play their compositions. For me, this is something I cherish and also realize it has great bearing on what I am willing to write and record.

JA: Who were some of your primary influences during the making of Tony MacAlpine?

TM: I can’t say I have primary influences, because I am not really enthralled with listening as much as I am with the music making process. I also have quite a lot of previously recorded music that I can draw from to keep my inspirations slightly more grounded. And then, of course, from there I am able to take ideas that I might have explored before to a deeper level. Playing music for me on various instruments is also a great source of music inspiration – therefore I feel I am usually motivated. It’s really just a matter of deciding what it is I am trying to say in a piece.

JA: How challenging was it to adapt to the 8-string guitar? What kind of difficulties did it provide to you at first, if any?

Tony MacAlpine - By Lenny KlacicTM: There are no difficulties in playing the instrument. But the instrument itself has to have a place, sonically speaking, to fit into the modern instrumental band. After all, it is so low at times, pitch wise, that it has the ability to get in the way of what a bassist would play. On the other hand, it’s a worthwhile risk because the sonority of tone that the seventh and eighth strings produce is exciting and, at times, limitless.

JA: What made you decide to stop using Carvin guitars after so many years? Do you see yourself sticking with Ibanez for a long time after your recent switch?

TM: The folks at Carvin are just super people who make first class instruments and I have had such a wonderful time playing their instruments for so many years.  I was working with Carvin long before I was playing their guitars and the same with Ibanez. I used Ibanez effects in my guitar rig in the early days, and have always had a great communication with the people over there. It was a wonderful progression to be able to work closely with Ibanez on producing some really great guitars that I am able to incorporate into my style both in the studio and live.

JA: Apart from the Ibanez 8-string guitars used on this album, what other gear (pickups, amps, effects, etc…) was used? How has your setup changed over the years?

TM: I have used Hughes & Kettner Amps for many years, going back as far as the mid-90s. In the studio I have some great Tri-Amps that I record with and some very good Source Audio pedals to mess around with. I also have some Ernie Ball wah pedals and volume pedals that are a must for me in any session.

I am now using DiMarzio pickups in my main guitars on stage and I do not use any effects for recording. I record the amps pure and at mix down we start to add different things. Mainly, I would say for a live setting this is where my setup has changed the most, because I am using Hughes & Kettner Coreblades, which have all effects built into the heads and are just really simple, solid, and powerful.

JA: In addition to your solo career, you’ve worked with a number of bands and performed alongside Steve Vai. How have these experiences shaped you as a musician and what have you taken away from the collaborations?

TM: Steve is a wonderful player and music personality. His unique sound is unmistakable, as is his compositional strength. I am lucky to know him as a friend and musician and I’m of course super thrilled that I have had the time of my life playing music with him on stages all over the world. You gain many usable additives in life both as a person and player when you work with talent such as his.

Tony MacAlpine - By Julia KosterovaJA: Are there plans in the works with any of your bands, including your most recent collaboration with Seven The Hardway?

TM: Our plans right now are centered around touring and staying on the road as long as we possibly can. We have such a great line up in this band with Aquiles Priester on drums, Bjorn Englen on bass, and Nili Brosh on guitar. This band really cannot wait to get out and play some shows, where we can venture into the early recordings, as well as the new!

JA: When you aren’t making music, what do you do for fun to take a breather?

TM: I guess riding my bikes and watching movies. Old ones… really old ones. Haha!

JA: You’ve recently appeared on That Metal Show on VH1 Classic, as well as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno back in ‘93. How does performing on these kinds of television appearances differ from your live concerts? What was it like working with the producers and hosts of these shows and others you have appeared on in the past?

TM: Television is great. And I feel natural doing it, because when I was a young kid, my little sister and I would pretend we were on TV all the time. I mean I was on thousands of TV shows back then with her in the family living room! It really is no different for me.

If you already enjoy what you do, then that is half the battle.  The other half is to just try and play well. I have been lucky to work with some of the greatest show producers and television personalities here in the USA as well as around the world.

JA: Who are some bands or solo artists that you would like to be touring or collaborating with in the future?

TM:  I don’t know at the moment. We are making quite a few decisions on what steps to take concerning that and you know I am always excited to work with other bands that are like-minded. Our goal right now is to play this new CD or as much of it as possible in live formats.

JA: What advice can you offer to other guitar players out there trying to follow in your footsteps.

TM: Learning your craft and loving what you do is very important for me. Without that there really is not much of a reason to pursue the field of music. It’s a tough, rough road and it was never meant to be easy. So make lots of friends and always try to learn what you can from the more experienced players out there.

[Special thanks to Kris Claerhout, Lenny Kalcic, and Julia Kosterova for their wonderful photography!]

Tony MacAlpine Masterclass

November 16th, 2011 in Artist Masterclasses by

[Tony's 7-string Ibanez guitar is tuned to Standard Tuning for all examples in this Masterclass: B E A D G B E]. 

Tapped Arpeggio Sequences

Tony likes to incorporate arpeggios into his playing in sequential patterns, whereby a given arpeggio shape can be repeated in different octaves across the fretboard. In this example, he uses hammer-ons, pull-offs, and tapping to outline a Dmaj7 arpeggio shape.

The lick starts with the 7th degree of the arpeggio hammered-on to the root on the high B-string. This move is then followed by a hammer-on from nowhere to the 3rd degree on the high E-string, which in turn is hammered-on to the 5th degree. The line finishes off with a tap on the 7th degree and the entire pattern can then be applied in reverse across lower octaves. Note that this lick does not involve any picking.

 

Tony MacAlpine Masterclass - Ex1

 

Alternate Picked Scale Sequences

‘I like to incorporate some really fast, high-speed picking ideas in a lot of my music. I like the intensity that it adds to the particular runs…’ In this example, Tony presents an approach to playing scales that allows us to break out of the traditional scale fingerings that can confine us to one area of the fretboard. Similar to his approach to tapped arpeggios, he demonstrates a 2-string scale shape that can be repeated in octaves across the fretboard. The repetition of this same shape lends itself to consistent alternate picking, which in turn makes playing at higher speeds more comfortable.

The specific fingering pattern is of particular importance in this example. Tony plays an A Minor scale starting first finger on the root of the scale on the 5th fret of the A-string. He then shifts his entire hand up two frets to the seventh position where he uses his first finger again, this time playing the second degree of the scale. The rest of the scale is then completed in the same position and the whole pattern starts over in the next octave.

 

Tony MacAlpine Masterclass - Ex 2

 

Fire Mountain Melody

In this example, Tony breaks down a melody from ‘Fire Mountain,’ the third track from his self-titled album. The melody can be heard several times throughout the song, making its first appearance at 36 seconds. Being a classically-trained pianist, Tony often shifts between composing on the piano and the guitar. This melody serves as a great example of  piece that started out on piano, but was then translated onto the guitar. Note how the arpeggiated line weaves through the chord changes and is embellished by 7th and tension notes.

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Tony MacAlpine Masterclass - Ex 3

 

Serpens Cauda Improvisation

The final example is an improvisation over Serpens Cauda, the powerhouse opener of Tony’s self-titled release. In this whirlwind solo, Tony displays a vast array of his signature techniques and inflections. Take note of how his smooth phrasing ideas connect the time signature changes throughout the piece.

 

Tony MacAlpine Masterclass - Ex 4 aTony MacAlpine Masterclass - Ex 4 bTony MacAlpine Masterclass - Ex 4 cTony MacAlpine Masterclass Ex 4d

[Special thanks to Peter Boyle for his excellent transcription work.]

Vinnie Moore Interview

May 13th, 2011 in Interviews by

Vinnie Moore - by Marco OrellanaThough his first big break came in the form of a Pepsi commercial, Vinnie Moore’s guitar playing is anything but saccharine. He’s able to adapt his phrases to spice any auditory feast, dropping whole jaws rather than rotting teeth with ear candy. Moore began gigging at a very early age and by his twenties he was signed with Shrapnel Records as a solo artist, placing him in the pantheon of eighties shred meisters, such as Yngwie Malmsteen and Tony MacAlpine.

Moore went on to record several songs for Alice Cooper’s Hey Stoopid album before lending his hand to Mr. Cooper’s following tour. In 2004, he realized his childhood dream of joining the ranks of UFO to fill in the shoes of Michael Schenker. While recording and touring with the British rock legends, Moore has maintained a healthy solo career, most recently with his 2009 release To The Core. Taking a few precious minutes before shaking B.B. Kings’ in Times Square with UFO, Vinnie sat down with me to talk about the duties as UFO’s young gun and what’s in store for his future as a solo artist:

LD: You’ve been playing out with UFO for much of the past year in support of the Best Of A Decade release. Have you been focusing the set list more towards the past 10 years since you joined?

VM: No, we’re doing a lot of the old set. We need stuff from Strangers in the Night, Obsession, Light’s Out, because you gotta play that stuff. That’s what the fans want to hear. To me that’s that amongst the most fun stuff to play because I grew up listening to a lot of those old tunes, so it’s a lot of fun for me.

LD: Does the dynamic shift when you turn towards newer material in the set?

VM: It kind of flows pretty naturally, I think. I write a lot of the new stuff for the band and when I write for UFO it’s more in a straight ahead rock style with what their doing musically, as opposed to my solo stuff which could be all over the place musically.

I only give Phil [Mogg, UFO’s singer] the stuff that I think is right for the band so I think it all flows together pretty naturally. I immediately know whether something is right for UFO or not, like if something is too fusiony. I just submit a bunch of songs to Phil and he just chooses what he likes the best. I throw everything out there, but I throw my more rock stuff to the band and not the more experimental side of things.

LD: You came on after Michael Schenker left for the second time.

VM: I think there might have been somebody in between, but I can’t keep track. I think they told me at one point that I was the ninth guitarist in UFO. I mean there was the original guy and I think Schenker was second or third, Paul Chapman, somebody named Atomic Tommy, countless others that I’d never even heard of.

To The Core - Album Cover

LD: When you first joined the band, did you feel obligated to curb your personal style to imitate a lot of Schenker’s playing or was it a more organic process?

VM: Actually, the first thing when I joined the band was that we were going to do a new record, so I was pretty much immediately called upon to be a writer and contributor for the record, which turned out to be You Are Here.

I wrote a bunch of songs for that and we did that before we played any live shows. So when we started touring we did two shows in Greece and played stuff from the You Are Here record and a bunch of the old classic material.

I pretty much approached the UFO tunes like I do my own solo stuff. Some of the parts of the song are very important and they just have to be played. They’re just simply part of the song. And there are other things where you can improvise because it’s more open and no matter who was playing guitar in the band would be improvising.

LD: What’s your favorite classic riff to play?

VM: I like playing “This Kid’s” a lot, “Light’s Out,” and “Rock Bottom.”

LD: Do you feel like your identity as a guitar player has shifted since you joined the band?

VM: I don’t know. It’s kind of hard to say. I think my identity shifted even before I joined the band. I was known early on with my first couple records for being the neo-classical shred guy, and then I came out with a couple more rock-oriented records like Meltdown and Out of Nowhere and then all of a sudden I was viewed differently because I was playing a different style.

I think, stylistically, I tend to be all over the place and shift back and forth. I just do that because I want to stay interested in music and if I’d do the same thing over and over again, then I would get bored. So I guess people look at what I do in UFO differently than what I do as a solo artist, but it’s still part of what I do, it’s just more the rock side of what I do. It’s just me and a band. I don’t try and take over any band or any project I play with and impose something different. I try and fit in and work as a team and still do my own thing within the context of the band.

Vinnie Moore Signature Guitar

LD: Like with Alice Cooper?

VM: Yeah, that was a lot of fun. That was way back ’91. I did the Hey Stoopid record with him, played a couple songs on that, and then did the whole tour. It was a blast.

LD: Were you writing for him as well?

VM: I wasn’t. Initially they asked me to play two songs on the record and so I did that – rhythm tracks and solos. I think they were called “Dirty Dreams” and “Hurricane Years.” It went really well, and then they were going out on tour, needed a guitar player, and they asked me to join so I said “Okay! I’ll do it!”

LD: Let’s go back to the Shrapnel Days. Amongst that whole stable of artists, you were known for having a really clean picking technique. Can you talk about how you developed that in your shedding days?

VM: I used to do a LOT of right hand picking exercises and it really focused and concentrated me. I grew up and I heard Al DiMeola and he was just a master of picking fast with the staccato and the harmonic minor and I just thought “Wow! That’s amazing! I’ll never be able to do that.” I figured if I could just come close it would be really cool. So I really started to get into that style.

I started doing this workout routine with my right arm. It lasted 60 minutes a day. It was just over and over “upstroke-downstroke,” alternate picking back and forth. I just got way better to the point where the 60 minute workout started to take almost 35. I was getting quicker at it and I could see progress. It helped to not only get my right hand better but to get my left and right hand more in sync with one another.

LD: What was the revelatory Al DiMeola album that first pointed you towards that style and drove you to practice that hard?

VM: Casino. Elegant Gypsy was great, but Casino was my favorite.

LD: There was a while where you were picking from the elbow, and watching your live performances now, you have shifted towards picking from the wrist.

VM: You know, someone said that to me at a clinic once and I really wasn’t aware of that. I guess it’s kind of a gradual process that has happened over the years without me consciously being aware of it. It just sort of happened.

Yeah I used to pick totally from the elbow, but I’m actually not picking as much as I did in the old days. I’m doing a little of the fast picking, but I’m mixing it up a lot more, doing the hybrid picking, more bluesy and legato. Sometimes I use the arm and sometimes I use the wrist and I don’t know why. It just sort of happens.

LD: You’ve had your own signature guitar with Dean since 2008. Is that still your main axe?

VM: Yep, it’s called the Vin Man 2000. We released an American model which is made in the Dean custom shop in Florida. Really nice guitar. Now we’re just getting ready to release an import model which is going to be a quarter of the price. It’s going to be made overseas, but I’ve tried the prototypes and they’re pretty spot on. They play very well. The only big difference will be the pickups, but the guitar, playing-wise with sound and the wood is really happening.

Vinnie Moore - by Luke Dennis

LD: What amps are you playing for the tour?

VM: I’m using Marshalls on the road right now – the Marshall JCM 2000. At home in the studio I have the Marshall, I have a Mesa Boogie, a Carvin, a Peavey Classic. I have my old Marshall that I use with a Tube Screamer. I just kind of mix it up at home.

LD: The last album from UFO, The Visitor, was released in 2009 – the same year you dropped your solo album To The Core. Is there anything new you have coming down the pike?

VM: We’re working on the new UFO record, and hopefully that’s going to be coming out in the next couple months. We’re in the process of writing and getting it all together. As far as solo, I have a bunch of instrumental songs laying around.

I also have vocal songs, and I would like to do a record with a singer or maybe a few singers. I don’t know. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I want to do a solo vocal thing. It would be much different than what UFO is doing.

LD: If you could have anybody sing on it, who would you get?

VM: Chris Cornell would be great. That’s just one of the guys that comes to the top of my head.

LD: Have you been playing any of the new UFO material on this tour?

VM: No, we’re just in the stage where we’ve demoed and we haven’t really heard what Phil’s going to do with it yet vocally. He doesn’t let anybody know what he’s up to until the last second.

LD: Your career started when you first got discovered on a Pepsi commercial back in the eighties, and the music industry has changed a lot since then. How do you think the cult of the guitar hero has changed with it?

VM: Wow, it’s just so unpredictable these days. I wouldn’t really want to be a new artist starting out in this climate. It’s so weird. A lot of it’s the Internet and the illegal downloads, but at the same time it’s a great tool because it enables me to record records at home on a computer. It’s a double-edged sword, I guess. I just do what I do because I love it and I’ve been lucky enough over the years to continue doing what I love, and I’m thankful for that.

LD: Around the turn of the millennium, guitar virtuosity took a back seat to the garage rock revival. Do you think it has made a resurgence since?

Vinnie Moore Pepsi Commercial

VM: Well, I don’t know if it’s coming back. There just seems to be a hardcore cult following type of thing. It’s not huge, but I think there are people that are really into that and they’ve always been there and they’re still there.

LD: What advice would you have for young guitar players?

VM: First I would say you have to love what you’re doing. Be passionate about it and everything else falls into place. Find a teacher and study and learn and just go with it. Love what you’re doing and that carries you.

LD: What was the best technical piece of advice a teacher has ever given you?

VM: Man, that’s a tough one… Learn as much as you can and then just forget it all and let if flow.

LD: Do you feel that theory and scales are still a conscious part of your playing and improvising?

VM: I don’t really think about what I’m doing harmonically or with scales or chords. I learned all that stuff and I kind of just feel it. When I write and play, I just go for it. I go for what I feel or anything that pops into my head.

I’m not thinking about theory or superimposing certain notes over a chord as much as I’m hearing it naturally. More feel, less thinking. But you have to learn it first of all to have it sink in.

LD: Having toured all over the world, what are your favorite audiences to play for?

VM: Really, the fans have been great everywhere, and that’s being totally honest. I had never been to Russia, and when we played there and I just remember looking into the crowd and I could have been anywhere in America. It just seemed like great fans. And it’s the same everywhere.

Michael Romeo Interview – Symphony X (2011)

April 23rd, 2011 in Interviews by

Michael Romeo - By JoannouAfter touring the world in support of their acclaimed release Paradise Lost, progressive metal mastermind Michael Romeo and his band Symphony X returned to their studio, The Dungeon, where the band would craft their newest epic. The resulting record, Iconoclast, amplifies the band’s unmistakable blend of classical influences and progressive metal with some of their heaviest tracks to date.

The album’s gritty, industrial textures carve a new dimension in Symphony X’s sound, while simultaneously laying a solid foundation for the driving riffage and fluid lead work that Romeo is renowned for. I had the opportunity to catch up and speak with him at Symphony X’s tour stop in Worcester, Massachusetts:

IC: I love the sound of the new record. How did Iconoclast come together and how was that process different from previous records?

MR: Probably the biggest difference is the texturing of it. Basically it’s the same kind of thing – some heavy riffs, some long songs, a little bit more involved arrangements, and some more straight ahead rock and metal tunes. With Paradise Lost, the orchestra and the choirs are in there a lot.

It has that kind of theme – a little darker, a lot of strings, male chanting, bells… that kind of gothic, epic thing underneath the riffs. With this one, we were trying to figure out what we could do that would be cool as an underlying texture, but not do the same thing again.

A lot of times I’ll be doing shit around the house, and I’ll throw on some CD’s or have my computer playing or whatever. Usually, I’ll go back to old Sabbath, and I have a lot of soundtrack stuff too – I love all of John Williams and all the big epic film stuff. I was probably listening to the Matrix soundtrack or maybe the 300 soundtrack even – it has a little bit more of that gritty, industrial… there’s some distorted percussion, it’s a little more modern, a little more intense, and there is some of the orchestra in there.

With some of the initial ideas, I was just screwing around with a heavy riff and laying some texture underneath… maybe something more synthetic or some dirty percussion with distortion. It started taking on that mechanical theme. It just had this machine vibe. So that’s how it started.

It’s like Paradise Lost or The Odyssey, basically, with the music thing, but instead of having the more organic orchestra, it’s all synthetic stuff. I mean, there is some of the orchestral stuff, but it is always laid in with that kinda texture and it’s all subtle. It doesn’t sound like an industrial record or something. You can’t take it the wrong way – it’s tucked in there, it’s just a little bit of an atmospheric thing going on. But it’s still frickin’ heavy, still has all the shit going on.

 IC: Yeah, I mean Symphony X without the orchestral aspect – I can’t even imagine what that would be like. It’s so integrated into the music. 

MR: Yeah, I love all that shit, you know? We just didn’t want to do the same thing. Even though the music is different, we were just trying to find something to add to it even more… maybe not totally change it, but just add something kinda cool.

Every album I just get some basic riffs, or put together something with a drum machine to hear what’s going on. And there was some stuff with the orchestra, and I’m like ‘yeah, that sounds cool, but what else? What else can we throw in there?’ And it was probably just listening to the stuff I said and it evolving from there.

IC: What about the actual recording process? The last couple of albums came out of your home studio – The Dungeon. Was that the case this time as well? 

Michael Romeo - Chris Robinson

MR: Yeah, and for us it’s cool and it’s not cool. It’s cool because we can take our time and a lot of the time we’re actually writing. I’ll spend a couple months getting together the riff, basic song outline, putting some bullshit keyboard parts in just to let everybody get an idea – ‘here’s kinda what I’m thinking,’ and then let everyone come in and build on it.

Once we start recording, it’s always open. ‘Maybe we should go do another verse here, or maybe we should extend this solo here, or maybe whatever…’ So while we’re recording, we’re still writing. And since there’s no time restriction, it’s cool sometimes, because we’ll be done whenever we’re done. But the bad thing is we’ll be done whenever we’re done. So months go by, and we’re still fucking around with one song and everybody goes ‘what the hell are you doin’ down there? Are you done yet?’ and all that shit.

But I like the way that we have it, because a lot of the stuff does happen as we’re recording. I think there’s something about that spontaneity… instead of practicing a guitar solo for months and saying ‘I’m gonna record it today,’ I’d just rather hit the record button and see what happens, you know?

And it’s the same with Russ [Russell Allen, vocals], too. Sometimes he can be too over-rehearsed and thinking about it. But sometimes he’s just like ‘oh, let me go in there and try something.’ I’m like ‘go ahead man,’ and he goes in there and it’s like ‘dude, that’s fucking perfect! Great! Moving on.’ Ever since we’ve started doing stuff at my place, that’s always been the way that we’ve been doing it.

IC: Did you engineer everything as well?

MR: Yeah. And it’s cool and it sucks, because it’s a lot of work. But once everything’s set up and we’re in the zone, it’s fine.

IC: When your solo album, The Dark Chapter, and Symphony X’s self-titled debut came out in the mid-90′s, they initially picked up in Japan. Eventually, you gained popularity in Europe, and then here in the US. Do you still find the relationship between these different markets to be similar to how your records are received today?

MR: I think now everything’s spread a little more evenly. Back when we did the first record… I mean, even the first record I consider a demo. We were kind of a band but we were thrown together so quickly. I’d done The Dark Chapter and that got some interest from a Japanese label. I had the bass player Tom [Thomas Miller, former bassist], whom I played with in high school, so he was around.

And then a friend of mine knew [keyboardist Michael] Pinella. He worked at a music store. Tom and I knew the singer Rod [Tyler] from another band. So it was kinda like throwing guys together… the first record I think is just a demo. Even the recording wasn’t too good. It was so long ago; we didn’t know what the hell we were doing.

IC: I would love to hear some of the material re-recorded sometime. 

MR: Yeah, we talked about doing that. And then the other thing is the material itself. Back then, I think we all thought differently and then over the years you just kinda… probably if we were doing the first record and we were talking about some of this industrial texturing, I think we’d be like ‘pff, we’re not doing that!’ Or with too much of the orchestra, it’s like ‘oh man,’ you know? Because I think back then it was just a different thing.

IC: Can you describe some of the highlights and low points of your career throughout all those years? What are some moments that stand out?

MR: I don’t even… there’s so many, man. We’ve been lucky that every album does better for us. So every day, it’s good. The first record we put out, it was only in Japan and at that time here the whole grunge thing was going on and no one gave a shit about guitar playing. It was the total opposite of years before, like when I first started playing.

Iconoclast Album Cover

You had Van Halen, you had Malmsteen, Paul Gilbert, Vai, Satch… you had all these player guys and that’s what I was into. And the band… we liked Rush, Priest, Maiden, the metal, the progressive stuff and all that. Here at that time is was all the grunge thing taking over, and there was really nowhere for us to play. We probably couldn’t get a record deal if our life depended on it here.

Luckily, in Japan they still liked the player stuff, so that’s how that whole thing happened in Japan first, and then eventually in Europe. And I think over the years, too, just the material… the last couple albums we’ve just been going back to the metal thing. Just me personally thinking, ‘man, when I was younger putting on that the new Priest record or something, it was like ‘fuck yeah.’’ So I’ve been going to back to the riffs.

IC: I can definitely hear the last few albums getting darker and heavier. Would you say that’s the case with Iconoclast as well?

MR: Pretty heavy. It’s not like stupid heavy, but for us it’s that blend, it’s that balance. It’s pretty heavy, but a lot of the choruses concentrate on the melody, and this whole texturing thing with the orchestra, and some of these industrial, kind of mechanical, synthetic things. It’s just an evolution over time of doing our thing.

IC: Let’s talk some gear. How has your rig changed over the years? Last time we spoke your live rig was centered around the Line 6 Vetta amp. 

MR: I used an ENGL on The Odyssey for the rhythm stuff and probably a lot of the solo stuff, but at that time I had been using Line 6 live. It was so easy – you had the head and the pedalboard all contained. So it was easy to bring around.

But I really liked the guitar sound on The Odyssey and then eventually I just brought out all the ENGL stuff live and that’s what I use now. So I have the Powerball as the main head, and I have a Fireball, and I’m using a TC G-System for chorus and delay and all that. It’s split in stereo, so that’s why the two heads. And that’s it – really simple.

IC: Is that what you used on Iconoclast as well? 

MR: Yeah, I used the Caparisons and the ENGL and that was it.

IC: Do you boost the front end of the ENGL with a Tubescreamer or anything? 

MR: Yeah, once in a while. The ENGL has a lot of gain, so just plugging straight in – it’s a lot of gain. So I’ll back it down maybe 9 o’ clock, maybe add a little Tubescreamer, but I have certain patches where there’s no Tubescreamer. It just depends.

Sometimes with the Tubescreamer you get a little bit more definition. I think there’s a couple of solos that are slower, a little more the melodic where I turn it off. I just bypass it, so the head is a little more open, you know? But yeah, I’m always noodling around.

IC: Any new studio gear? 

MR. Lots! All the time man, that’s where all my money goes.

IC: If you had to pick one piece of gear that made the biggest difference on this record, what would you say that would be? 

Michael Romeo Rig 2011

Michael's 2011 Tour Rig (Click to enlarge)

MR: Before we started recording I bought a couple of new preamps that I needed. Because I have no real big console in the studio, it’s all outboard gear. I had a couple of Neve preamps, and then I went and got some SSL’s before we started this. I have some compressors, like the 1176. Pretty basic, normal stuff, but I think now I have a good amount and a good choice. Different mics, too. As far as the whole front end, that’s pretty much what it is.

And then on the software end, you would think that all the hardware is expensive and then you look at some of the software, and it’s like ‘what the fuck? These prices are insane!’ With the software, probably the biggest thing over the last couple of albums that helped is the Vienna Symphonic library. It’s the best I think. I mean, no one can touch that thing and it adds a lot.

Paradise Lost was the first time I was kind of getting into it. And now I got it all full-blown. There’s a lot of software things, especially with some of the texture stuff, just like the little odds and ends kinda thing. I definitely have so much stuff to choose from.

IC: What’s your typical guitar signal chain, starting from the mic? What’s your mic of choice?  How do you route it? 

MR: Well, we’re always running late, so what I’ll usually do is I’ll just have my reamp going in. I’ll play through my amp to feel, and I’ll print it. But usually for me, I’m a night dude, I’m up doing guitars at like 4 in the morning. Wife and kids are upstairs trying to sleep and the studio has some sound absorption going on, but when the amp’s at like 10 dude, no way…. So I’ll record at a moderate volume to do my thing, but I’ll print the reamp track. Last time Jens Bogren did some of the reamping on the guitars.

IC: Did he also mix this album? 

MR: Yeah, he mixed this one. And this time there was a guy that I’ve known for years – Eric Rachel at Trax East studios, a good friend of mine, and I told him ‘Man, I’m getting backed up here. I have these reamp tracks, let me bring my Powerball down there.’ And he has a nice, big room, so he actually put up some room mics for the guitars, which was cool. But usually if I’m home if I’m doing it myself or trying to do it, it’s a [Shure SM]57 on the cabinet, right into the Neve with as little EQ’ing as I can. And no effects either, just into the head, dry.

IC: So you do all the rest in the mix?

MR: Yeah. Jens did such a good job with mixing the last record, so it’s like ‘yeah dude, do whatever!’

IC: In terms of your lead guitar playing, there are always some new things for us to check out with every record. 

MR: I try! Running outta shit to do! [laughs]

IC: Is there something in particular that you’ve been working on for this record, just in terms of guitar playing?

MR: Not anything in particular. There’s always one or two solos where I try to find something cooler to do, and maybe only do it on that song. Like the last record, in the song ‘Eve Of Seduction,’ trying to do this glissando with the pick. And that’s cool – don’t do it on any other song, let that be its’ one cool thing. And on this one I’m trying to think the same way. I think on the first song there might be like a whammy pedal thing going on.

Michael Romeo - by Chris RobinsonI’m just trying to make the solos fit, too, you know? If it’s a melodic song, I try not to overplay or I try to play the right feel for it. A lot of times it’s just hit the record button and see what happens. It’s like, ‘oh man, maybe if I did this thing and I had the Whammy jump an octave. Alright I’ll plug the whammy in. That’s cool, but let me unplug it for the next thing.’ I’m just trying to find what’s right for each song.

IC: There are a few moments on a couple of the previous records where you’ll go into bluesy mode, and I love hearing that. Is there much of that sound on Iconoclast?

MR: Yeah, I think so. Especially with this record, some of the blues things are maybe a little more appropriate, you know what I mean? With the more neoclassical kind of thing, I would stay in that way of thinking. A song like ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ is definitely more classical sounding and then for the solo it’s the Malmsteen kinda thing, and that’s what works.

There are a couple of songs, like ‘Serpent’s Kiss,’ where it’s more of a heavy riff and with the solo I’m just thinking ‘well, maybe the neoclassical thing really ain’t gellin here. Maybe I’ll just do a little blues thing with a whammy at the end or something.’ It’s whatever fits. Nothing wrong with playing some blues licks!

IC: Last time we spoke and I asked you for advice for upcoming musicians, and you were talking about being able to take in different influences and not just confining your influences to a set number of artists or even one guitar player. 

MR: I still believe that.

IC: Is there another piece of advice that you can share with aspiring guitarists and musicians trying to make their way in the industry? 

MR: Yeah, I still think that’s a pretty big thing. Talking about the older stuff that we would do, me and Pinella had the classical thing in common. He was coming from a classical background and I liked that stuff, too. But I think back then I was more… I think if I had heard [Igor Stravinsky's] ‘Rite Of Spring’ way back then, I wouldn’t have liked it. But years later, that’s the shit.

IC: But it took going through what you went through before to come to a point where you could appreciate that piece. 

MR: That’s what I’m saying. I think me, personally, I wouldn’t have given it a chance. I was young, you know? And you kinda get stuck in a way of thinking… a little stubborn. You kinda think you know everything. Aside from guitar guy influences and stuff like that, even about music in general.

Even if you don’t like Jazz, there’s just something you can get from anything I think. I think for this band, that’s helped the most. This new record – I’m talking about like The Matrix or 300, and it’s like ‘what the fuck does that have to do with metal?’ but there’s something that you can get out of it, make it cool, and make it your own thing. So yeah man, just gotta be open-minded, I think.

IC: For sure. Plus I think 300 definitely has something very metal about it, just in general. [laughs]

MR: Oh yeah dude, it’s badass. That’s something cool to kinda, I don’t wanna say steal, but borrow ideas from some of the things going on there. You take that, and you put it over a tough riff man, and cool shit happens! Cool shit evolves I think, if you just give it a chance. That’s my advice – listen to everything!

IC: Obviously so much of you time is dedicated to Symphony X, writing music, recording, and being on the road… Who is Michael Romeo outside of music? What are you into and what do you do when you’re not making music? 

Michael Romeo and Ivan Chopik

Michael Romeo and Ivan Chopik

MR: Man, this is it! It’s so much and it’s so time consuming. Aside from that, I’m a normal dude. I just put in a new sink in my house and I gotta do my roof when I get back. The same shit, you know? My basement’s a mess, so I gotta clean my basement. I try to balance [music] with the home stuff.

For us the writing takes a lot. Once that starts, for me, that’s pretty time consuming. I’ll just go down there all day and try to start building the basic songs or trying to find some cool riffs, or something different.

IC: Is the writing aspect something that once it starts you have to keep going with it, as opposed to coming back to it and going back and forth? 

MR: Yeah, I think I’m a workaholic a little bit. But it’s not work – I love it! I work a little and then go hang with the kids – get my ass kicked on some video games. Kids today, it’s just like they’re crushing me. They used to think I was good and now I’m like ‘what the fuck!?’ My typical day like that: I get up, make a big ol’ thing of coffee, and I head down in the studio and I either plug in and start noodling around, or maybe listen to some stuff, put on some different things.

Sometimes I’ll put on things that I maybe haven’t heard in years. Like The Matrix and or 300 – it’s not something I listen to every day, but I got this soundtrack a friend of mine gave to me, and he knows I like that stuff, so I’m like ‘yeah, let me check this out.’ And then all of a sudden the wheels start turning, and you’re like ‘ooh, you know what? This could be pretty cool if… ‘ and then the whole day goes by and it’s dark out and you go to sleep and the next day same shit. That’s it man, that’s me. Just average Joe.

[Special Thanks to Rachel Joannou (rjimagesphotography.com) and Chris Robinson (myspace.com/infinitedescentfor their wonderful photos, and Cigar Masters of Worcester, MA for their warm hospitality.]

YNGWIE MALMSTEEN Prepares To Release ‘RELENTLESS’

September 27th, 2010 in News by

Yngwie

“Shred guitar” and “neo classical metal” are two phrases that have been commonplace in the world of heavy metal for decades by this point, but both can be attributed to the unmistakable work by Yngwie Malmsteen. Ever since the early 1980′s, Yngwie has been pushing the limits of guitar, and influencing countless other players in the process.

And he continues to impress to this day, as evidenced by his forthcoming album, Relentless, the highly anticipated follow-up to 2008′s critically acclaimed Perpetual Flame (Yngwie’s first album for Rising Force Records).
The album is the second to feature ex-Judas Priest and Iced Earth singer Tim “Ripper” Owens, and features over 60 minutes of incredibly complex, kick ass arrangements.

“This title truly is the right one for this album,” explains Yngwie. “I mean, after all these years, some kind of force is driving me to create something that totally surpasses everything I’ve done before. I tried to capture the raw energy of a live performance, yet push myself to the most demanding level of playing and composing to harness that elusive magic that can’t just be switched on. All the way out, caution to the wind, but disciplined performances was what I went for. Maybe I did it too, check it out!” Confirmed song titles for Relentless include “Relentless,” “Look At You Now,” “Shot Across the Bow,” “Adagio B Minor Variation,” “Caged Animal,” “Critical Mass,” “Into Valhalla,” “Enemy Within,” and “Caprici Di Inferno.”

Bursting onto the scene with such classic releases as 1984′s ‘Rising Force,’ 1985′s ‘Marching Out,’ and 1986′s ‘Trilogy,’ Yngwie instantly made a name for himself, by recreating the spirit of celebrated composer/musician Niccolò Paganini, but within the realm of heavy metal guitar. Soon, countless other guitarists were copying Yngwie’s style…but there is simply only one Yngwie. Yngwie’s career continued to thrive throughout the world, including such additional triumphs as his totally classical work for orchestra and solo electric guitar, ‘Concerto Suite,’ which proved once and for all that his classical credentials were genuine.

Yngwie continues to receive accolades worldwide, such as recently being selected as one of Time Magazine’s “Top Ten Greatest Electric Guitar Players” (amongst the stellar company of Les Paul, Jimmy Page, and Jimi Hendrix). A respected musician among both his peers and his fans, Yngwie continues to play and compose at a level of mastery that many career musicians only dream of. Relentless is a must-have, which will appeal to all Yngwie fans and rock music fans alike. Prepare yourself for a Relentless classical metal attack!

Exclusive clip of Yngwie Malmsteen’s cover of BEAT IT

December 2nd, 2009 in News by

Yngwie Malmsteen will release a new album called “High Impact” on December 8 (one day earlier internationally). The set is described as “a mind-boggling, high-paced instrumental compilation record” featuring a “surprise” bonus track  Yngwie’s never-before-released interpretation of the MICHAEL JACKSON mega-hit classic “Beat It”, which contains Malmsteen’s own magical touch and Tim Ripper Owens on Vocals…

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Yngwie Malmsteen new album details revealed

November 6th, 2009 in News by

Yngwie Malmsteen’s new album is called HIGH IMPACT and it’s set to release on December 7 (Europe) and December 8 Worldwide.

“Can’t wait! The rumor is…It is mind boggling, high paced compilation record with a surprise bonus track that is a unique song choice for the guitar god!!”

In other news, Yngwie has recently parted ways with DiMarzio. Here’s an excerpt from Blabbermouth.net:

“Legendary Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen is no longer a DiMarzio endorser. DiMarzio, the Staten Island, New York-based company that produces magnetic pickups for electric guitars, will continue to manufacture the pickups and guitar straps that Yngwie endorsed minus the YJM designation and, in some cases, with a change in the model name or part numbers.

* The DP217 (formerly the YJM) is now called the HS-4. Only the name has changed.

* The YJM ClipLock (DD2230YJM) and YJM Standard Guitar Strap (DD3310YJM), are now named the Cheetah ClipLock (DD2230CH) and Cheetah Standard Guitar Strap (DD3310CH). Only the names have changed.

* The pre-wired pickguard YJM Setup is now named the HS Setup and contains the HS-4 (formerly YJM) in the neck and middle positions and the HS-3 in the bridge position. Only the name has changed.

* The Yngwie Malmsteen Signature Cable has been discontinued.

Legendary Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen is no longer a DiMarzioendorser. DiMarzio, the Staten Island, New York-based company that produces magnetic pickups for electric guitars will continue to manufacture the pickups and guitar straps that Yngwie endorsed minus the YJM designation and, in some cases, with a change in the model name or part numbers.

* The DP217 (formerly the YJM) is now called the HS-4. Only the name has changed.

* The YJM ClipLock (DD2230YJM) and YJM Standard Guitar Strap (DD3310YJM), are now named the Cheetah ClipLock (DD2230CH) and Cheetah Standard Guitar Strap (DD3310CH). Only the names have changed.

* The pre-wired pickguard YJM Setup is now named the HS Setup and contains the HS-4 (formerly YJM) in the neck and middle positions and the HS-3 in the bridge position. Only the name has changed.

* The Yngwie Malmsteen Signature Cable has been discontinued.”

UPDATE

Yngwie Malmsteen will release a new album called “High Impact” on December 8 (one day earlier internationally). The set is described as “a mind-boggling, high-paced instrumental compilation record” featuring a “surprise” bonus track  Yngwie’s never-before-released interpretation of the MICHAEL JACKSON mega-hit classic “Beat It”, which contains Malmsteen’s own magical touch and Tim Ripper Owens on Vocals…

“High Impact” track listing:

01. Caprici Di Dablo
02. Brothers
03. Blitzkrieg
04. Trilogy Suite
05. Red House
06. Finale
07. Magic City
08. Arpeggios From Hell
09. Far Beyond The Sun
10. Cantabile
11. Blue
12. Overture 1622
13. Fugue
14. Beat It (MICHAEL JACKSON cover)

Artist Lick: Joe Stump

November 21st, 2007 in Artist Licks by

Click HERE to view GuitarMessenger.com’s exclusive interview with Joe Stump.

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This lick/passage is in B Harmonic Minor/F# Phrygian Dominant. I start out with a 5-note alternate picked grouping that’s fairly standard where I’m playing 6 tones in a circle (3 notes per string). Then I ascend through a 4-string 2-octave shape (3 notes per string). This is a cool scale shape I use all the time, instead of just moving straight up diatonically I ascend 4 strings and then that same shape an octave higher. That passage is economy picked, as are all of the ascending scalar passages I play. Using this kind of picking enables me to play across the strings at fairly terriflying speeds.

Then I snake through a cool mixed minor shape I use all the time. “Mixed minor” meaning I’ve got notes from both B Aeolian (Natural Minor) and B Harmonic minor. It’s a cool symmetrical shape and works great in a Phrygian Dominant or Natural Minor context depending on how you resolve it. The descending portions of the run are alternate picked, but all the ascending stuff’s economy picked (down, up, down). Then I economy pick through a hexatonic shape. I use those all the time as well, where you just take a 6-tone scale shape and play it in 3 octaves. The lick ends on an Uli Jon Roth type of melodic phrasing idea with some wide vibrato.

Shred on my metal brothers- Joe Stump

Joe Stump - Artist LickJoe Stump - Artist Lick

James Byrd Interview

November 26th, 2006 in Interviews by

James ByrdJames Byrd is perhaps one of the most underrated guitarists out there today. In fact, Guitar One Magazine named him one of “The 10 Best Guitarists You’ve Never Heard.” However, among those who know him he’s considered one of the most elite players around – one who makes every note count.

He describes his style as Symphonic Metal for the New Age, in which he focuses much more on composition for the entire band – or orchestra for that matter – rather than having all other instruments play around lead guitar parts, which is a common trait within the guitar virtuoso community. Byrd is definitely an artist to check out – he’s got a new release coming out in early 2007 and until then you can listen to albums such as Anthem and Flying Beyond The 9 and his band Atlantis Rising.

IC: Can you tell us about your current projects? Any tours coming up?

JB: I’m working on a new album, which I anticipate will be finished in the spring of 2007. I took a lengthy break from writing and recording after my Father passed away in October of 2004, and just concentrated on my guitar company, which of course I am also currently working on.

IC: How did you get started with playing the guitar?

JB: It’s hard to put an exact date on anything other than the day I got serious about it, which was September 18th 1970; the day Jimi Hendrix died. Prior to that, I had always had a guitar, but it wasn’t a serious thing to me. I remember when I was only two or three years old, my older Sister got a guitar for Christmas, and I got one of those little Mickey Mouse guitars with the four plastic strings and the little hand crank which played music. I remember throwing a bit of a fit and wanting the real guitar my Sister got. But up until September 18th, I just knew a couple of chords on the guitar and didn’t put much time into it.

I had never seen or heard Hendrix until the day he died, and when they showed him on the news playing The Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock, that was it for me. I grew up on a college campus during the 60’s and my much older Brother (16 years older) was in Vietnam. My parents were bitterly divided over the war. The reaction of both of them to Hendrix on the news that night was negative in the extreme; it really upset both of them. Being the rebellious type I was, I saw what Hendrix was doing as having a great power in it. They say good art has to upset someone. I saw what I considered great art that day, and knew from that moment that I’d pursue the guitar.

IC: Who would you say are your greatest influences both for guitar playing and composing?

James ByrdJB: There were distinct phases. My earliest and two most important influences were Ritchie Blackmore, and Jimi Hendrix. My infatuation with Hendrix lead me to want to understand his music better, so I began listening to the blues guitarists who’d influenced him. I immersed myself in the blues for several years. My first ambition in terms of technique was to develop a great vibrato and phrasing. I learned almost all of B.B. King’s classic solos and also some songs by Hubert Sumlin. I also loved Paul Kossoff of Free because he had a great vibrato. I hate to toot my own horn, but by the time I was 15, I had as mature a vibrato as Paul Kossoff and could draw crowds in music stores with the first note.

My Blackmore infatuation led me to an interest in classical music and 1930’s jazz especially D’Jango. That influence lead to more progressive things in my late teens, and I briefly delved into what was called “fusion” at the time, especially Al DiMiola. Frank Marino was also an inspiration, especially to play very fast and with a lot of intensity. I remember sitting around with the Mahogany Rush Live album and playing along note for note with his solos. I listened to a lot of different players of different styles and learned from them in the 70’s.

IC: While there’s still plenty of virtuoso guitar-playing throughout your work, you seem to also leave a lot of room for the music to breathe. What kinds of things do you look for when creating a balance within the song?

JB: You know, I don’t think about it too much. I never consciously think “I have to start out low and slow and build up” or “make this shorter”. I just play what comes to me naturally. I almost never listen to so-called “shred” guitarists or instrumental techno-fests; I like melodies. Great solos have to be well played, and memorable.

IC: I really enjoyed to listening to one of your classical works – ‘Avianti Suite Op.1 No.63’ off the Flying Beyond the 9 album. Do you ever plan on recording a full concerto?

JB: Thank you. I’d love to, but the budget is way out of my reach in terms of using a real orchestra.

IC: How did you go about learning how to compose and arrange classical music for a full orchestra?

JB: Well, first, what you’re hearing is not a real orchestra; it’s approximately 60 tracks of samples painstaking put together by me. But I did follow a composer’s template in that undertaking for each instrument, I knew the range and function, and composed the parts accordingly. This isn’t something I formally learned, it was just something I undertook on my own. Except for the Harpsichord part, nothing was scored. I just heard the finished music in my head, and recorded each layer that made it up according to my composer’s chart of instrument ranges.

IC: You are perhaps the only guitarist in the neoclassical-metal genre who has been supported and endorsed by Yngwie Malmsteen. What are your thoughts on this? How do you feel about his latest work, Unleash the Fury?

James Byrd and Yngwie Malmsteen in 2003

James Byrd and Yngwie Malmsteen in 2003

JB: Well, given his stature it’s very flattering. I’m a bit embarrassed to say so, but I haven’t heard it. The last album he sent me was Magnum Opus. I thought that was quite brilliant. A lot of people who don’t know my history as a musician, hear my music and assume Yngwie was a huge influence on me. But really, I’m anything but an expert on him. One of the reasons we became such good friends, is because we have remarkably similar backgrounds musically. We share an almost identical experience regarding Hendrix on September 18th 1970, and we both loved Ritchie Blackmore and Uli Roth. What’s funny is that he doesn’t think I sound like him at all, but he once actually mistook a Tony McAlpine solo for his own.

I recognize our playing similarities more than he does; I was on the phone one night in a three-way call with him with Uli, and we were taking turns playing music we were recording for each other. Yngwie thought I sounded like Uli, and Uli thought I sounded like Yngwie. I think that was one of the more memorable times I had hanging out with other players. Uli was a big influence on me during his Scorpions period; I could hear similarities to both of these guys, but they could only hear the other guy. When Yngwie got Uli on the line it was pretty funny the way he introduced me; “James, I want you to meet Uli, my God and your God” he said. If you listen to Yngwie’s earliest playing like “Black Star”, it’s almost note for note Uli Roth from the Electric Sun albums. I took a lot of stuff from the same albums at the same time.

IC: What kind of gear are you using nowadays? Can you tell us about your custom guitars?

JB: It’s remarkably simple, but also has had a lifetime of effort put into it. I don’t have a rack, or even a pedal board. My guitar goes into a DOD 250 overdrive, an original Dunlop cry baby, and then straight into a 50 watt Marshall plexi I bought in 1996. The amp is stock except for some extra fuses across the mains –it caught on fire once-. It’s not a high-gain amp at all; if you don’t use an overdrive pedal, it stays 90 percent clean at full volume with single coil pickups. The overdrive box has just enough gain to push the amp into power tube distortion with my guitars. I also had the pre-amp wiring re-routed to make the amp a bit quieter, but that’s it. My speaker cabinet is rare; it’s a Marshall model 1990 from 1967. It has 8 original ten-inch 10 watt ¾ inch cooper voice coil alnico Celestians in it. It sounds amazingly better than any 4X12 cabinet, having both more top end and more bass because it’s a huge cabinet. I only use plain carbon batteries in my two pedals, I find this actually makes a real difference to the tone. I use matched Tesla EL84 tubes in the amp.

Byrd ™ Super Avianti ® Guitar

Byrd ™ Super Avianti ® Guitar

My multi-patented Byrd ™ Super Avianti ® guitars are where my biggest effort went. I’d had endorsements with a slew of companies in the 80’s and early 1990’s. I wanted a guitar that gave me everything a great strat could, but no one had ever really addressed what I had considered to be the annoyances of the Fender over the years. Everyone just assumed it wasn’t up for re-evaluation. I thought it was. I never liked the block neck joint, and I never liked the lower body horn; if you assume the classical position on the upper end of the fret board to play arpeggios, you bang your wrist right into that horn.

I also thought the headstock design was fundamentally backwards in terms of string tension. I used to use left-handed necks on my strats because it made bending the higher strings easier. I had played strats for 99 percent of my time as a guitarist, but the other guitar I had favored was the Flying V. I liked that the upper fingerboard wasn’t occluded by a lower body horn. That was really all I liked about it; the control placement was terrible, and I don’t like shorter scale length guitars. So the beginning of my idea was to build an ultimate guitar, which would marry the three – single pickup array and scale length of the strat, with a new body shape. They are an off-set asymmetrical V shape, but unlike any other asymmetrical V shaped guitar, it’s backwards with the longer body wing being the lower one. This wasn’t done for cosmetics; it was done to balance the guitar’s center of gravity by compensating for the material removed from the control cavity.

The shorter upper wing is also ergonomic. I came on the idea of actually inlaying the entire pickguard assembly into the instrument, instead of just screwing it on top as other manufacturers do, and it uses polished flush screws instead of the usual oval head screws. Everything is dead flush and smooth. It took me several years of experimenting with different pickguard materials and methods of doing the precision inlay before I hit on the final method. The pickguards are made from a material called Acrylite ®, which is a very hard acrylic. They make a big difference in the tone of the instrument actually, giving more definition and spank to the sound. The guitars also feature a sculpted bolt on neck heel that feels as nice as a set neck. I found bolt-on necks to actually have a more lively sound than set necks for a number of reasons too lengthy to go into here. The guitars also feature a patented reverse 2+4 straight-pull head stock design that uses no string trees, and they stay in remarkably good tune without the need for a locking tremolo.

My guitars are also available with my unique UDC fingerboard, a type of scalloping that’s contoured according to where you actually put your fingers rather than just a standard scoop. They also feature 7 way pickup combinations, and noiseless DiMarzio ® Virtual Vintage single coil pickups. I now offer the instruments to the public by custom order, and players can specify their neck size and shape in ten one thousandth of an inch increments and choose from about a dozen different pickup winds. Byrd Super ™ Avianti ® Guitars can be seen and ordered at BYRDGUITARS.COM

IC: What would you say have been the high-points and the low-points throughout your career?

JB: Being chosen by Guitar Magazine as “One of the ten best guitarists” in 1996 was definitely a high point. The low point came early when I had to have major hand surgery in 1989 for tendonitis that was bad beyond steroid injections.

James ByrdIC: What kind of music do you listen to these days and how do you feel about the overall state of the rock genre today?

JB: Short answer is whatever my wife has in the CD player in the car! Other than that, I either listen to the same music that originally moved me, like Deep Purple or Hendrix, or I listen to classical music. I like everything from Blackmore’s night and Paco Delucia, to Debussy and Mozart.

IC: What advice can you give to aspiring musicians here at Berklee?

JB: Learn to play blues well. There’s probably a lot of focus on the intellectual end of music in college, but all the knowledge of theory in the world won’t enable you to communicate your deepest emotions through the instrument to a listener; that is primal and really learning the deep blues will teach you to approach musical phrasing from the perspective of a vocalist; you will learn when to ignore playing in time – rather a lot really.

Far too many guitarists play like they’re practicing to a metronome and it’s just horrid sounding to me. It’s why I don’t listen to all these so-called shred players; it’s usually just a metronomic stream of 32nd notes without phrasing or dynamics. I lose interest after about 15 seconds of that and I think most non-musicians do as well. It’s just not musical or natural sounding. I’d much rather hear David Gilmour. Listen to how great singers handle the phrasing of a basic melody. You can’t go wrong with Sinatra or Ottis Redding; they both understand the art of phrasing.

You have to have something special to really pull off the blues because they’re so simple in terms of notes. But they are not simple to play. Don’t be musically stiff. If you can develop looseness and freedom of feeling, you can add all the modes and knowledge of advanced technique to expand the music and also still reach people emotionally. Record yourself and listen back. If you’re not happy, that’s a good start. You should never be too satisfied because there will always be room to improve. Be self-critical and you’ll prevent others from doing it for you. Finally, strive to be authentic; there will always be someone faster, more advanced, or technically better somewhere. But if you’re authentic (honest) with what you put down, it will always stand out.

Joe Stump Interview

May 1st, 2006 in Interviews by

Joe StumpShredlord Joe Stump is a professor at Berklee College of Music and is the head of the department of metal. GuitarOne Magazine rated him as one of the Top 10 Shredders of All Time. One of the leaders of the modern neoclassical metal scene, Joe has released seven solo albums and 4 more additional albums with his band Reign of Terror. Look out for upcoming releases later this year from his new band Holy Hell, as well as his new instrumental solo album. For more info on Joe and his music, visit www.joestump.com.

IC: 2005 was a very busy and successful year for you. What do you have planned for 2006?

JS: Right now I’m working on a couple of records. I’m recording the Holy Hell record, which will be out sometime in the fall on Magic Circle/SPV worldwide. Then there’ll be a big world tour in the fall, beginning in the States. It’s the same package that went out in June 2005, which featured Manowar, Rhapsody, and Holy Hell – the Demons, Dragons, and Warriors tour.

In addition, I’m also working on a new solo record, which I’ll probably end up recording before the fall. That’ll probably come out after the Holy Hell record is released, because that too is gonna be on Magic Circle/SPV… meaning I got a new solo deal cooking now with a larger company, which means much larger distribution and a lot more money behind my release. I’ll be rich in no time! [laughs]

IC: Tracking back a few years, how did you get started with playing the guitar and what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

JS: Well, I played the guitar a little when I was 10, ‘cause I used to watch the Glenn Campbell Show and I thought it was cool. Back then, when I was a kid in the early 70’s, Glenn Campbell and Johnny Cash had regular shows on TV. And then I played a little bit out of Mel Bay’s Easy Way and that horseshit… you know, this is an E this is a B. All on some piece of shit rental guitar.

Then I kind of got sick of it and didn’t pick it up again until I was 13 or 14, just being inspired by all the rock of that time, all the great guitar players of the ’70s… Michael Schenker with UFO, Ritchie Blackmore with Deep Purple, Hendrix, and Jeff Beck, Tommy Bolin, Rory Gallagher, Robin Trower, Frank Marino… the ’70s was a great time for rock guitar. I was lucky enough that even when I was kind of stinky, I was playing in a band only a little bit after I started and we used to play at dances and shit like that when I was like fourteen. Then when I got to be fifteen, sixteen, seventeen we were playing in bars. 11th and 12th grade I was playing in a club like three times a week. So I didn’t have much time for school or any of that. I was going to high school with a hangover. [laughs]

Joe StumpIC: You already mentioned some of your musical influences. Who else influenced your style?

JS: When I was at Berklee, I used to listen to a lot of Jazz and Fusion guys. I was heavily into Al Di Meola. He was one of the guys that drove me to come to Berklee. That kind of blew me away when I was just about to come here and I heard somebody play electric guitar that fast. It was a step up from all the other guys like Blackmore and Schenker. But I mean my main guitar guys are Blackmore, Schenker, Yngwie [Malmsteen]; of course, has a massive impact on my playing. Gary Moore, Uli Jon Roth, Jimi. Those are my big six guys, but I love some of the other guys I mentioned, as well.

IC: What’s the writing process like for you? What comes first? The groove? The melody?

JS: If I write a really strong theme or a strong melody, I always write the melody first. Sometimes, I’ll write a chord groove and then all of the sudden I’m vamping on it with the drums and I just hear a melody. A lot of times when I’m writing a melody, I’m thinking of what kind of groove it’s going over. But I never write a chord sequence and then a melody to it.

The only time I do that is if I’m writing a vocal tune. But also if I write a vocal tune, sometimes I’ll write the melody and then I’ll write the chords behind the melody. So it’s kind of different each time, but as fast as a lot of the shit that I play is, a lot of my music has very strong themes and melodies, as opposed to some of the other guys that make those kinds of records that just sound like fuckin’ guitar exercise. So it’s really organic, I always hear it in my head and then write the chords around it.

IC: Let’s talk a bit about your gear: guitars, amps, effects. What kind of stuff do you use?

JS: I have a billion guitars, but I have an ESP endorsement, so they built me six custom shop Strats and they have all kinds of features… locking tuners, scalloped neck, and I have a DiMarzio endorsement so I use DiMarzio pickups. I use the YJM Malmsteen signature pickup in the neck and then I use the HS-3 in the back, or sometimes a Fast Track or Virtual Vintage Soloist, which is another really good DiMarzio pickup.

Joe showing off his ESP signature model

Joe showing off his ESP signature model

As far as amps go, it’s always Marshall. I have a bunch of old heads from the ’70s – some early ’70s heads with no master volume and then some later ’70s heads with the master volume. And I also have two other amps. I have an ENGL Ritchie Blackmore Signature amp, which is a great sounding amp. And I have the Rhino Yngwie Malmsteen signature amp, which was only around for a short period of time. It’s just a carbon copy of his favorite 50-watt head that he used on many of his records and it sounds great.

When I put it next to one my 50-watt Marshalls from the 70’s, one of my better ones, it sounds almost identical, because that’s all it is. The guy at Rhino told me they just got a Russian engineer and Yngwie’s favorite Marshall and said ‘clone that.’ So it’s just a Marshall in a Rhino case. But both of these amps sound great, I use them all the time. And then with the ‘Holy Hell’ thing I was actually using the Marshall JMP-1 preamp and the Marshall all-tube 100-watt power amp, which actually sounds quite good as well.

Effects wise, I’ve got a bunch of Boss stuff on the floor – Delay, Flanger, Phase Shifter, and an Octave-box. And I use the old trusty DOD pedals that I’ve been using since like 1987 or 1988. I saw one in the Yngwie video on his pedalboard and I was like ‘Eh, fuck it. Yngwie’s using it, it’s gotta be cool!’ Then I saw it in the junk bin of a music store and I bought it. I have a bunch of those, the old grey and the old yellow ones, plus I have a bunch of the Yngwie signature pedals, which are just a little bit less noisy and a little cleaner. But I’ve got a bunch of different distortion boxes that I use for different things. I’ve a got modified FuzzFace and a copy of a Hornsby Skewes Treble Booster, which is a distortion pedal Blackmore used back in the early Rainbow days. The guy that actually modded Blackmore’s did the mods on mine, so I got the whole Ritchie thing going on with it.

IC: What would you say are the defining highlights in your career?

JS: I guess it’s all the things that come along with it, like all the endorsements… you get free guitars in the mail, which is kind of nice. You get a guitar built with your name on the headstock and it’s built for you, and all that kind of stuff. All those things are really nice. And I’ve played many shows in many different countries all over the world and I love the travel. But for me it doesn’t matter, I love to play. Whether I’m playing in Europe with my own thing in a pub with 250 people, or I’m playing in a festival in front of 10,000 people, to me it’s the same shit. I love to play, so it’s not like I get nervous in front of more people, only if my shit doesn’t work.

Joe StumpI was playing a festival in the Czech Republic, the biggest show I’ve played, (18,000 people) and my guitar rig was all fucked up. I had to play the whole show with my guitar sounding like a nasty bumblebee… horrible. I mean, I bit the bullet and played good and all that, but it was quite a painful experience. But I lived through that… that would be one of the low points. And being in the guitar magazines that I always read… the first time I was in Guitar World, first features and stuff, getting great reviews and being compared to guys that were my heroes that are now like my peers, or whatever. All that kind of shit is really gratifying. You work hard and it’s nice to get recognition from things like that.

IC: You obviously spend a lot of time on your music. What do you like to do outside of that?

JS: I love to watch the New York Yankees. Except when they lose, then it’s all a bit more painful. I’m a huge Yankee fan so during the baseball season I watch the Yanks, go to games and stuff. And then I like to travel and go on vacation, go different places. I’m a city guy, so I go back home to New York and hang out in New York City, or I go down to New Orleans, or different things like that. I’m not like a laying on the beach kind of guy in a vacation, I’m more on the street.

IC: Instrumental guitar-oriented music has been regaining some popularity and getting more exposure in magazines and on the Internet. Where do you see this style of music going in the future?

JS: Well, I don’t think it’s ever going to explode like it did when it first happened, decades ago in the 80’s during the shred craze. But proficient playing is certainly coming back in a big way and a lot of it is because a lot of the younger players were kind of fed up thinking there’s got to be more to doing this that these clowns that are making records in this day and age… all that false metal, grindcore horseshit metal, and stuff that they pass off as metal.

Guys that are playing guitar get tired of listening to guys who can only play two chords. Especially some of the younger guys now making records are listening to their Dad’s record collection that has all this shred playing and all these burning guitar solos and they’re like ‘Oh fuck, that’s the way it used to be. I better start practicing!’ So I mean it’s definintely starting to come back, which is great.

Joe Stump

IC: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

JS: I’ll hopefully have, with the amount of exposure I’ll get with the larger record deal now, (I’m in a band. The ‘Holy Hell’ thing has got a lot of money pumped behind it) my touring and clinic schedule probably will be more hectic and heavier.

Obviously I’ll still be working at Berklee, doing my thing here. I don’t think that’s really going to change at all. I’ll still be making records and touring and all that kind of stuff. I don’t anticipate retiring or any crap like that by any means. So I would imagine having many more tours, shows, and records under my belt – reaping the rewards of all my hard work hopefully.

IC: What advice can you give to young, aspiring musicians?

JS: If you’re really serious about playing and you really love it, then that’s what you should do. But you shouldn’t be fucking around. I’ve been playing guitar for over 30 years and I still play for hours and hours a day. I love to play. All the students are at that age where they should be living, eating, breathing, sleeping their instrument if that’s what they really want to do. That’s what you have to do, because guess what, everybody plays fucking good, who cares? And if you don’t have that kind of dedication, then you’re certainly in the wrong place.

Yngwie Malmsteen Interview

February 24th, 2006 in Interviews by

Yngwie Malmsteen - by Ivan Chopik 1Yngwie Malmsteen is the undisputable king of neoclassical metal. Drawing from hard rock and blues influences in combination with classical music, he pioneered the genre in the early 1980’s and inspired countless musicians to this day to pursue extreme levels of guitar playing. Yngwie’s (pronounced ING-VAY) first album, Rising Force, rewrote the book on heavy metal guitar playing. Now, more than 20 years later, he shows no signs of slowing down with his latest release, Unleash the Fury. For more info on Yngwie and the new album, check out his website – www.yngwie.org.

IC: Unleash the Fury is definitely one of your strongest albums to date. Was there anything you did differently during the creation process of this album?

YM: Up until the War to End All Wars album, which was the last album I did under the old management, it was pretty much done the way it always has been done; You tour on the album you have out and as soon as you come in you start writing songs, usually you keep someone in the room with you like a keyboard player or a drum programmer, and then you demo 20 songs or whatever and then you bring the band in and you rehearse it and then you bring an engineer in and you go to a studio and record the drums or whatever and then you finish your album that way. You’re basically under the gun of “this is the time you write, this is the time you record, and so forth and so on.” … now it’s a much more loose feeling. In a lot of ways, Unleash the Fury was done like Attack [previous album] only completely substance free, so-to-speak. (laughs)

IC: Can you tell us how the title Unleash the Fury came about?

YM: It’s obviously a tongue-in-cheek thing. It was a couple of years ago, when a sound byte came up on the Internet of me screaming on an airplane. Yeah, it happened. But it did happen in January 1988. Most people don’t know that, they think it happened in 2002. It’s a long story, but the whole band was flying to Japan and everybody at the time was really into drinking and being real assholes. So we were making all this noise on the airplane… the keyboard player was the worst. And then we fell asleep.

All of the sudden I got woken up by a lady that poured a pitcher of ice right on top of me saying ‘cool down, boys.’ Of course me, not everybody else. [Yngwie then shouted ‘You stupid bitch! You've unleashed the fucking fury!’ which later inspired the new album title] And for some reason, some twisted person in my crew actually recorded the incident and then 16 years later decided to put it on the Internet, which is very bizarre, but there you go. These things happen and I laughed at that when it came out and I thought it was just a funny thing to call the album that. Plus, the songs on the album I think are actually unleashing the fury… so that’s how the title came up. (laughs)

Yngwie Malmsteen - by Ivan Chopik 2IC: Usually, you let other vocalists take care of all the singing on the album, but on this one you sing yourself on several tracks. How did this come about?

YM: Well, I used to be the singer in my band back in Sweden 27 years ago. It was a power trio. That was more out of necessity than anything else. I was never really into it too much, but that’s what I did. Over the years, I’ve been singing a lot on stage and I figured I’d just give it a go. And that particular take for ‘Cherokee Warrior’ is funny, because I just got a new microphone and Keith, my engineer and I said ‘hey, let’s sound test it’ and check the mic out for Doogie [White, vocals]. So we just screwed the mic up in a room and I said ‘ok, the let’s do the song that I’m probably gonna sing then.’

Then while we were mixing it we recognized that we got a pretty good performance, so we decided to just leave it. A lot of times, that’s the way I do things. Probably most people don’t know this, but I’m very spontaneous about these things. A lot of people still think that I’m really calculating this shit. But no – not at all. Fuck it, that’s the last thing that I’m gonna do. My playing maybe suggests that, because it’s pretty technical and all that shit, but the improvised spontaneity is always there and I like it like that. I hate when things are all figured out, I just don’t like that. This makes you work a lot harder to record, because to capture a moment, you gotta capture the right moment… because not every moment is gonna be fuckin’ great.

IC: What is your musical background? Have you ever received formal music education?

YM: That’s a good question. I can’t say that I didn’t, and yet I didn’t. I grew up in a family where I was the youngest. My older brother and sister were very good musicians and they played piano, violin, bass, drums, vocals, you name it – everything. My mother sang in the choir, my father played guitar, and my uncles were opera singers. So I grew up being surrounded by that all the time and I learned a lot from it. All the musical theory, because I do know it, came from that. But I did not go to school per se for it. To me, you learn it from somewhere, so it doesn’t matter where you get it from.

IC: People have been wondering – do you have perfect pitch?

YM: I do. It’s funny because my tennis teacher sometimes hits the tennis racket and goes ‘what note is this?’ and I joke around and say ‘it must be an F#.’ I’d say that I do, but it’s kind of a weird thing at the same time. Relative pitch I have for sure – 1 million percent. Basically, what I do when I sit around watching the TV or something (and I also have the Marshall and my guitars here) and if a commercial comes on or whatever I’ll just pick my guitar up and play what I hear from one time. That’s pretty much the same thing as perfect pitch. But if I was to stand in front of a piano and you hit the note, I might or might not say the right note. What I’m saying is, if you sing a melody, I can play it back at the same time.

Yngwie Malmsteen - by Ivan Chopik 3IC: What kind of influences did you have early on and how did you get started with playing the guitar?

YM: My mother gave me a guitar on my 5th birthday, so I had a guitar. And I didn’t really play it then, because I was playing the trumpet, flute, and piano and all that shit. I didn’t like any of it, I wasn’t a very big fan of it. But when I was 7, I saw a news special on TV that Jimi Hendrix died. And they showed him burning the guitar. You didn’t hear the music, it was just him burning the guitar at Monterey Pop. It was the visual that made me wanna play guitar. So I started playing and right away I learned some blues licks and stuff like that.

About nine months later, I got Deep Purple’s Fireball for my birthday and that was a big impact on me with double bass drums and the way the band sounded and all that stuff. So Deep Purple’s Blackmore was definitely my biggest influence when I was 8 years old. But then after getting into that for a long time, by miles my biggest influence was violin, not guitar. And I know that sounds strange, but that’s when I heard Niccolò Paganini and his 24 Caprices. And I heard the vibrato and the arpeggios and everything, and I said ‘fuck, this sounds so cool. If I could just do something similar to that on the guitar, it would be cool.’ Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, Paganini, Bach – with the pedal notes, arpeggios, linear scales – that’s all coming from there. But then the really hard sound of rock, I got that from loving to listen to Deep Purple’s ‘Speed King.’ So that came first and then the classical influence became very prominent.

IC: Can you talk a bit about your gear setup?

YM: Well, it’s very simple, very basic stuff. I use only Marshalls – old Marshalls without master volumes on them. So they’re not very practical for most people, because they’re all so fucking loud. You have to go all the way up – if you don’t, they don’t sound right. So Marshall is what I use for amps. As long as I can remember, I’ve been using Fender Stratocasters and they’re customized in some ways – scalloped neck, DiMarzio HS-3 and YJM pickups, and basically that’s it for changes to the guitar.

Yngwie's live amp rig at G3 2003

Yngwie's live amp rig at G3 2003

It doesn’t really have much as far as effects go, in fact actually nothing. I use a DOD-250 preamp overdrive to smoothen the notes out and get more of a singing tone. It’s not a fuzz pedal, because that’s gonna give you distortion but that’s not gonna give you smoothness, because it adds shit that you don’t want as well. And that’s why with Marhsalls it’s so beautiful, because if they’re pushed right, (and you gotta push them all the fucking way) they will distort in a very harmonic way. And you can’t have really hot pickups. If you use really hot pickups that some people have, you fuck up the tone to begin with. You shouldn’t have a distorted signal from the guitar – the guitar should be clean and let the distortion come from the amp.

IC: You mentioned that you play scalloped necks. How did you come upon this concept and how exactly does it help your playing?

YM: It’s really a funny story about that. When I was a huge fan of Blackmore when I was a kid, there didn’t exist any internet, magazines, or information on what kind of gear people use or what they were doing. There was just a little picture in the album where you could see maybe a little bit of a guitar. I didn’t know that he was scalloping his guitar – I didn’t know that.

But I was a chosen apprentice when I was about 12 or 13 in a luthier shop in Stockholm and this old lute came in and I saw this scallop on it… so I just filed one of my necks and then I started doing it on one of my main guitars and so on. That’s just the way it happened. I think that the control you get over the string itself and vibrato is so much better. It doesn’t make it easier to play fast; it’s the other way around. (laughs) It makes you get a better grip on the string, that’s it.

Yngwie with Ivan Chopik in 2003.

Yngwie with Ivan Chopik in 2003.

IC: What direction do you see your music going into in the future?

YM: I just let that happen the way it does happen. I notice though when I write my new songs that the things that I like or don’t like are going to go in a certain [direction]. People are going to be like ‘oh, that’s Yngwie Malmsteen,’ because that’s just the way it is. And I don’t try to do that and I don’t try not do that – it’s just something I do. And it tends to happen like a natural thing.

IC: Is there any advice you can give to aspiring musicians?

YM: Play as much as you can with other guys and learn from each other. Being a musician is not necessarily being what someone already did. I think it’s important to have heroes, goals, and influences, but at the end of the day when everything is said and done, you gotta make your own mark. And it’s a tough thing to do. I think it is maybe the most difficult thing to do. But if you find something, God bless you – all the best. There’s really no shortcut to anything, it’s just a lot of practicing, playing, and jamming – that’s the way to go.