Interview with Geoff Thorpe from Vicious Rumors

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By Andrew Catania

Vicious Rumors came out at the same time as Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Exodus.  Vicious Rumors are known for killer guitar riffs and headbanging music.  It’s been 37 years since Geoff Thorpe formed his iconic brand.  I recently caught up with Geoff to discuss Concussion Protocol and other happenings of Vicious Rumors.

 

Man last time I saw you were in Windsor, Connecticut at a dive bar in 1990.  I was disc jockeying at a college radio station in Hartford, Connecticut.  McGee was with you guys, and all of us got on your tour bus and went to see Total Recall.

Yeah Man! Well, when you mentioned that about going to the movies in the tour bus, you know, I totally remember that because we’ve never done that before, just taking a bunch of fans, jumped on our bus and went and did something on our off day, so yes, I completely remembered it.  Also, it was totally funny, you were like how did you remember that? My God!

I know 26 years, like 5 albums for you guys.

Yeah, Incredible man!

Are you touring in Europe?
Yes! We’re not on tour right now, but we’re doing a big tour with Dirkschneider.

Yes, I saw that! Is he done with Accept?

Yes, he is doing a tribute to Accept where I think he just sees how popular Accept is and so he’s kind of cashing in on it and it’s totally working.  When he does the Dirkschneider thing, he plays to packed houses, and so it’s a big tour for us. We’re kind of excited about it.

Good! That will lead me to my first question for you. You guys are very popular in Europe.  You guys are playing festivals 40,000, 50,000, 60,000 people and your counterparts, I mean everybody Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica, everybody goes over there, seems like they’re making more money than they are in the States.  Do you think the market is pretty much dried up here in the states for metal?  Could you come back and play a thousand seat clubs? Then you guys go over for the Wacken Festival or whichever festival you guys are at —

Well you know, I don’t think that it’s ‘dried up’ but there’s just, I say the difference between the European audience and the American audience is that you know trends come and go and the European audience tends to, they might embrace something new but just because they embrace something new they don’t reject stuff that they liked before, and I think that the American audience like fads come and things change, and then all of a sudden people might think like, I mean I’m not like you know I’m just thinking out loud what is the possible reason for that? I just feel that European audiences are more open to still loving what they used to love and then embracing new bands that were sometimes American audiences tend to go with new fads and just move on from what they used to do to something new.  I don’t know man, you know the bottom line is there are great metal fans all around the world but there’s definitely something special that goes on here in Europe, and we were lucky enough to start in the 80’s and we were embraced here by the fans here and so you know we just went where the opportunities were, and we’re just really thankful that we have this incredible European fan base here and I always love being in Europe.  I love the people.  I love the way that they can get together in large numbers and they know how to behave you know.  People aren’t getting robbed or beat up or vandalized.  You know they get together, somebody falls down, and someone gets picked up. You understand me?  They don’t get trampled on.  So it’s just a different vibe out here man, and it’s very cool especially for us, we’ve just been very lucky to have this incredible fan base that’s been with us from the very beginning and here we are on our twelfth studio album 37 years later it’s all going strong so it’s just – you know we’re humbled by it and at the same time we just want to give the fans the best possible metal experience we can deliver, night after night.  We just want it to be a metal party that you can remember for all time and that way if we just give our best every time, you seem to be invited back.

Going back to Soldiers of the Night which is still considered a Metal classic is going up with the Carl Albert Fronted band 1988-95 RIP Carl –When you’re doing pre-production for your records, and all are you primarily the one doing the writing of the music and the lyrics, is it a band effort?  Because I know Vicious Rumors is, you see, you found it, how do you dispense what the duties are?

You know I definitely am the primary writer and if the guys don’t do exactly what I tell them, they need to get the fuck out and if we don’t do it my way we don’t do it anyway but really, I’m easy to work with. I’m just kidding bro!

I was going to be like, you’re sounding like Mr. Malmsteen then!

No shit huh! That was insane; it felt excellent to say that though.  No, I’m just playing with you man.  I lead the direction, and I write most of the music.  I do write a lot of lyrics and melodies, and I always have.  When we had Carl, we worked together in that way too. Vicious Rumors has always been a team, and we work together much like a sports team.  I’m the leader of the team, maybe I’m the driving force, but I like to surround myself with really talented creative people, and right now we have a very unique combination.  I never intended to have this  worldwide line up this international line-up with guys in Europe and guys from California it comes down to chemistry, the most important part of having a band is the chemistry within the group, and that’s what made bands like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple and Metallica  they have chemistry together and when you find that kind of chemistry,  luckily we live in a day and age we’re just a  flight away and with the internet it’s possible to have these guys half way across the world and we can still do it and like I said, I never intended to do it but when we got together and when I found Nick and found Tilen they just brought so much to the table in every way they’re super creative;  talented, they got a lot of  great ideas. So to me, chemistry is number one, and if you have that, then the rest will follow. So yes, I do a lot of the writing but we work together as a team, and I’m entirely open to all the guys’ great ideas.  We don’t always use them because I do so much of the writing, but they help me shape it.  The one thing that we’ve had with all the different lineups is my songwriting, and that is sort of like the thread from the beginning to now that’s kind of kept up Vicious Rumors, so I don’t want to lose that but at the same time, I really value the talented guys that I work with.

When did Nick come along?  Was he on the last album or come on the tour?

Well what happened was we had a big US tour in 2013 and then Brian Allen was becoming more and more unavailable you know understandably, he’s got, three kids, he’s a single dad with 3 children, so you know that’s a huge responsibility and so he started looking at, he just became unavailable and the problem was when he decided that he was not going to be available it was four weeks before a giant tour that I had already spent four months working on and so I was just lucky that I found Nick off a recommendation of a good friend of mine in The Netherlands from my brother Jake’s band in The Netherlands he recommended Nick to me and we had just gotten Tilen in the group, and I was just lucky to find him in time, and he came in we did the US tour together and he did the last live album  Live You To Death 2: American Punishment and he had only just joined the band and just crammed in to learn like 20 songs and did a fantastic job and now we’ve had three years of chemistry behind us so if you listen to the last live album and the way he sounds on the new album you can just actually hear in percussion protocol the growth that’s taken place and the way his voice has evolved, you know he can sing
high and clean all day long but we worked on his lower range and bringing out more of a full-voiced thing with his classic high decent thing and really you know he just has the ability and the range to do all the styles of Vicious Rumors music you know.  I think you being someone who really knows Vicious Rumors from the beginning to now know we are aware that we don’t just have one style or one sound we have a lot of different aspects to our music from speed metal to ballads to slow quenched stuff and we need a singer that can sing low and cumbersome, high and clean, dark and moody and also melodic, so it’s  a real tall order to be the singer in Vicious Rumors and Nick’s just done a great job in the band the last few years and a fantastic job on the new record.

Yeah, it’s an excellent record.  I reviewed it for another website that is not mine. I think you guys liked it on Twitter and followed me back as a matter of fact. For Concussion Protocol did you do anything differently in production for the preparation of recording the other albums? 

We did, it was the most I mean months of great lots of hard work man.  I started by just writing riffs on my little digital recorder. Once I had put together the body of twelve songs we actually got together and rented a house in The Netherlands and spent like three weeks together you know kind of finalizing the ideas and taking suggestions for the guy’s and really just working together to try to make the album the best it could be and luckily we had the three years experience together and all the touring we did. Since Nick and Tilen have been in the band we’ve done a major US tour a South American tour, two European tours we had built the chemistry already which was really helpful, we were all really comfortable with each other when we started writing this album and after I kind of assembled most of the songs you know we rented that house in The Netherlands and put the final touches on it.  Once I really felt like the album taking shape I really felt like wow this is going to be probably our heaviest album and one of our most powerful driving records that we’ve ever done, and so I really felt at that point like man I need lyrics, I need a cover, I need a concept to be to be just as heavy and after the guys had gone home I stayed in Europe for like three weeks, just with a notebook and a pencil and my pads and paper and I just wrote lyrics and started coming up with this crazy doomsday story with the asteroid taking out the world and I was just thinking when we went digital dictator we were at the beginning of the digital age, and I was thinking where are we now?  Well, unfortunately, we’re in the age of disasters.  You know with tsunamis and earthquakes, terrorism and all this shit I just thought man what would be the ultimate catastrophe? That would be the whole planet being destroyed in one swift blow! So I wanted to make a bad ass heavy metal loud one and a total nightmare at the same time, and that’s how the whole thing came on the Concussion Protocol.  I hope you know I was just kidding when I said we were going to do it my way and all that.  You know, people, it’s funny dude the way you know how long this band’s been together.

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Yes, I sure do

And anytime you have a band together for half as long as we’ve been together there are lineup changes, and that’s just life. I mean look at any heavy metal band that you can think of at off the top of your head Judas Priest, Metallica,  Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath you know Testament and the list goes on and on everybody’s had lineup changes.  So there’s nothing different from Vicious Rumors to any other bands.  If you love what you’re doing you just fix it and move on and that’s what we’ve done in the past.  Right now we’ve got a very particular combination and I really hope that we can stay together and make a few more albums together in this lineup and if for some reason that doesn’t happen, then I’m just going to go ahead and make another bad ass album without, you know I got a great bunch of guys right now, and we have a real good chemistry together.  I think as long as we can work together you know I think the guys are very excited about the response so far, the views and the ratings that the album’s been getting like 9 out of 10 and 8 out of 10.  People just responding in such a positive way and I really appreciate your comments too man

Oh yes I rated you guys an 8 out of 10 

that’s fantastic man!

Soon as I heard it, I knew it was you! Soon as the opening riff, I knew it was you.  That’s how distinctive your riff playing is

Thank you very much

Drums, everything about that you can always hear a Vicious Rumors song

I really, really appreciate that 

Going on from Concussion Protocol you’re on a German label now.  How was that first back in the day when we had big budgets with Atlantic Records all that compared to now and the market? 

Well, I tell you it’s been fantastic.  Working with SPV has been an incredible experience.  They actually know what they’re doing Ali Han and Merco over there in the office.  They’re seasoned veterans.  They’re into the music they know the market.  They’ve done a great job??? Spinning up the album and this year I think they’ve done more for the band than ever before.  I was just here two months doing Press.  I did like 70 interviews.  So it’s been a really great experience to work with SPV, and you know Atlantic was also you find out when you’re in a band, and you’re trying to get signed it’s a very tough business you know.  When you have the opportunity to sign with the same label as Led Zeppelin and AC/DC you know it’s kind of a dream come true and you take that opportunity no matter what it is but you know there’s also the reality of being  a minuscule fish in a huge pond and so to be with SPV and be one of their  more featured bands it’s also working out quite well

I remember Sylvio Bonvini, the guy that was doing your A & R at Atlantic

Yes, he was one of them it was him Sylvio and Peggy Donnelly.

Talk about names I remember dealing with getting your stuff.  Sylvio hooked me up with posters of you guys. 
Well you know, like I said Atlantic Records is no joke and everything we’ve done in the past has led us to where we are now.  So I have no regrets, I have no excuses, and I make no apologies.  We’re just trying to do the best we can do and do it.  We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel we’re just trying to take our art and our music and make it the best we can

Going on with your music we’re going to kind of go to a different level we’ll get back to that in a second.   The YouTube issue.  It’s becoming a big issue about YouTube, and I ask everybody these questions I always want to hear what everyone’s opinion is.  There are a lot of people like Nikki Sixx, and a few other people are saying that YouTube is not fair in compensating the artists due to all their music being on YouTube and it just being replayed and replayed and people uploading full video’s of the bands without consent.  I mean do you have an opinion about that?  Have you been following that story at all

 

Absolutely, I mean it’s a real double-edged sword. I mean it’s great for people to find the band and get to see it.  Like our albums just came out Friday and I think later that day someone had already put the whole album on YouTube or some link to go and get our entire album for free and it’s just like in some ways it kills the industry so it’s such a double-edged sword I mean in one respect it’s great because people can find out about you they can hear the music and if they’re real fans maybe they’re going to go out and buy it but there are so many people will just bootleg  your stuff and won’t pay for it, and it is unfair in a lot of ways, and you know it just comes right down to being victims of a digital world.

How do you feel about the streaming service like Spotify and Apple music and all them? Do you think they help or hurt the industry?

Well you know there’s some kind of accountability there.  You know with YouTube it’s just the artist ripped off so at least with Spotify and some of those other things there can be some kind of accountability. You know man, that’s just the world we live in today, and it just makes touring that much more valuable.

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Yes to increase the revenues you’re losing on record sales

Exactly and selling your album to the hardcore fans that go to the shows you know luckily in my case and I think the guys in my band, everybody in my band are guys that love what they do it’s not about money, it’s about passion and fire and living out our dreams you know we’re just very thankful to our fans that stood by us and the new ones that we get all the time cause man without the fans there is no band, and we’re all about the fans we’re nothing without them.

Your video that you came out here, are you playing Dean Guitars now?

Yes, I’ve been with Dean for a while now.

I saw I don’t know if it was you playing a Dean Dime Guitar are that what you’re primarily playing or do you have your own signature model? 

Yes, I use the Razorback. You know when I saw that thing I was like my God it’s like a bolt of lightning, and it’s just so fun to play and I’m also a good fan of Dimebag so yes I was euphoric and honored that Dean Guitar would sponsor me with and give me so many great guitars to work with that’s been really a privilege and I’ve been really really proud to play my Dean Guitars around the world.  I have three Razorbacks a Razorback B and ML also an Eric Peterson and actually the Eric wasn’t given to me by Dean it has been paid to me by Eric.  He actually came to my house and gave me the guitar we’ve known each other a long time, and I remember the day he gave that to me I was.  I was like man there are a couple of million people that would just be so blown away to have you come to their house and give them one of your guitars.  Eric and I have grown up together we’ve known each other a long time, so that’s part of being fortunate enough to be a part of the Bay area metal scene that turned out to be something that the whole world looks to is just something very special.  Metallica, Exodus, Vicious Rumors, Death Angel, Testament, Megadeth bands that are still going strong today.

You’ve got Dave Messina on Dean Guitars. You’ve got Michael Androvetti??? Who are in my group, you’ve got Vinnie Moore, and Rusty Coolidge is on there you know I can go on. It seems like Dean is picking up a lot of different artists and all.  Is there any top signature model for you or are you just happy with what they provide you?

Well you know, we’ll see, we’ll see.  I would love to do that at some point but I’ve been very thankful just to be sponsored by Dean, and you know they’ve given me some great guitars. You know I strangle the hell out of them, I beat the hell out of them and they seem to hold up quite well, so it’s not like a top priority for me my priority is the music and keeping the band working.  I would love to have a Geoff Thorpe signature.

What are your rigs consisting of?  I know you have the Dimebag but what else are you using? 

I’d love to tell you, but unfortunately, I’d have to kidnap you.  No man, I use a real classic rig called a Langner power amp and preamp with a very particular amp called a More Sound, and the More Sound amps are made in San Diego California, and he actually did make me a signature amp.  I do have an amp it’s called a Megajet amp.  It is not available on the market is a custom amp that was made for me by More Sound amplifiers and yes it’s pretty bad ass I think we got a really great guitar sound on the record and other than that I don’t have a lot of special gear to tell you about and quite honestly 90% of the way guitar players sound is their hands.  I could go into Guitar Center and plug it into the amp, and I’m still going to look like Geoff Thorpe of Vicious Rumors because it’s me playing, so gear and tone is definitely concordant but like I said you know Michael Schenker walks into a Guitar Center picks up the guitar and amp he’s still going to sound like Michael Schenker, and that’s because 90% of guitar players sound is coming right out of his hands.

That’s what I was getting to are you still practicing before each show? You’ve pretty much been at it for 37 years

Oh yes man, I still rehearse and warm up absolutely it’s important.  I feel like I can play much more freely if I get a chance to warm up.  I enjoy having rehearsals but unfortunately, nowadays we have this international line-up, and so we don’t get to have so many rehearsals. Everybody’s professional enough just to be ready, and we talk about the list, put together the set list everybody’s ready to go.  We get together, have one or two rehearsals and start the tour.

Are you still up in the Bay area?  Are you guys still practicing up there because you guys are playing Europe so often do you guys stay out there?  

Yes, Larry and I and Thaen still live in the Bay area and Nick is in The Netherlands. So usually what happens is when we are preparing to go on the road I’ll have three or four rehearsals with Larry and Thaen just the two guitars and drums and then we’ll come to Europe a week early before the tour and  have three or four rehearsals together as a band and then just do it and then everybody shows up individually ready to go so we can have our rehearsals be very concentrated and we’re already rehearsed and ready and you know when you’re in that situation no one wants to be the guy that’s not ready you understand me? So everybody shows up prepared.

What is your touring schedule going to be like for the next twelve months?  Are you guys going to be in Europe?

No.  We’ve got some large plans.  We start October 31 we’re going to be with Durkschneider playing into November supporting him through Scandinavia and Germany,  Czech Republic, Austria then we’re going to break and do two and a half weeks of headline shows, and then we finish with another run with Durkschneider till December 19. We’ve got the 70,000 tons of metal cruise coming up at the beginning of February.  We have a second opportunity for a tour in Europe that we’re negotiating right now, and we certainly have plans to return to the United States as well as Japan and South America, so it’s going to be a very busy 2016-2017 for Vicious Rumors man we’re just putting the classic set out there with the best material. We just want to make it a heavy metal night to remember every time we hit the stage.

I ask everybody this question too. Is there any guitar player of a younger generation that has caught your eye? 

Oh man, there’s so many good ones.  Everybody’s younger than me though so I’m not sure what the guys in Arch Enemy.  I don’t know how old Jeff Lynne is he might not be that much younger than I, but he sure is amazing.  It’s funny the part playing of soloing and stuff was kind of a lost art for a while, and now it’s coming back again big time, so I think it would be great to see somebody really stepping up the guitar playing again.  Especially with like schools losing music programs and things like that dropping out.

 Well, Geoff, those were exquisite.  Those were the questions I got for protocol, and it sounds like a good album and Nick looked superb on it, the video is sharp there.  Hopefully, you can get your signature endorsement from Dean so you can do that

I appreciate that, and I just want to thank you and the followers, of all your info like I, said we’re all about the fans whether it be the fans from the beginning or they’re just finding out about us you know no excuses no apologies it’s just bad ass heavy metal, and that’s all that matters.

It’s been one hell of a ride with Vicious Rumors in my collection for the past 26 years.  All of us going to see Total Recall are still one of my favorite memories.

I’ll tell you what, just keep rocking my friend and we’ll take you to the movies again sometime ok?

Well if you’re down in Florida, are you guys going to be touring in the states soon or you guys just stay primarily over there because Europe is more of a money maker for you?

Well, we definitely plan on doing a US tour sometime I’d say mid-2017 so yes we’ll be back for sure.

 

 

Vinnie Moore – The Man Behind the Strings

By Andrew Catania

Eight solo albums, five collaborations, 6 UFO albums, 2 Hot Licks’ guitar video clinics, one virtuoso… Of course, we are referring to Vinnie Moore, the “Vin Man” as we the fans know him! He has accomplished quite a lot during his 30+ years of performance, but one wonders: who’s the man behind the strings? Well, to give you a proper answer in a few words is not fair to his career, so let’s take a look at those 30+ years of speed, accuracy, articulation and advanced lead guitar techniques!

He was only 12 when he got his first guitar; a teenager boy who looked up to the great guitar legends of that moment. Records by the Beatles like their eponymous double album from 1968 (from which he has covered While My Guitar Gently Weeps many times), Jeff Beck’s ‘Wired‘, Led Zeppelin’s ‘IV Zoso’, Deep Purple’s ‘Machine Head and ‘Burn, Queen’s ‘A Night At The Opera, Van Halen’s self-titled album and many other bands; all of them were among his early influences. His first guitar was a Teisco and made him, in the Vin Man’s words, a “guitar freak,” always improving and crafting his unique voice through his youth.

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After taking guitar lessons with a private instructor when he was 13, he started to put his skills to work by joining his first band, doing jam sessions and covers of their favorite songs in a typical setup of drums, bass, vocals and two guitars. From there on, he started to work on his ideas buying a 4-track tape recorder and experimented with many fragments, which later evolved into songs, showing his proficiency on the six strings.

By 1985 Vinnie Moore already was a prolific composer. He decided to pursue an opportunity and sent some of his recorded music, in the form of a seven song demo tape, to Guitar Player Magazine, and it caught the attention of Mike Varney and his Spotlight column in said magazine. It turns out that Varney was also owner and producer of Shrapnel Records, and Vinnie’s talent didn’t go unnoticed to him. This event allowed him to get into a Pepsi commercial (see video below) thanks to a Los Angeles agency that saw Vinnie’s picture and submission to Guitar Player; and even when it showed his hands only, it made his sound reach a national audience, getting recognition as a new emerging talent from Delaware!

In this commercial, we can hear an accomplished 23 years old guitar player showing his alternate picking technique: clean, accurate and fast. We can hear every note during the scalar passages, the arpeggios, and the pentatonic licks being perfectly well played along the video. Also remarkable was his sense of climax during the finishing sequence opening the last Pepsi bottle where he pulled off a scalar running which ended up at a high E vibrato, a very neoclassical musical approach that he would go deeper into in his first album, but we are just about to get there!

Following the repercussion of the Pepsi commercial, Vinnie Moore and Mike Varney started to work together in Shrapnel Records to conceive the Vin Man’s first album: ‘Mind’s Eye.’ The album was released in January 1987 and represented a milestone for virtuoso guitar playing of the moment for various reasons. With all the neo-classical hype at the moment, it is hard to stand out among a great number of imitators since it became so popular back then, and yet the Vin Man managed to pull out one single record that earned a deserved recognition by the specialized press, the critics, and other guitar personalities. Although there are some obvious references to the neo-classical style regarding harmony, chord progressions, harmonic minor scale and phrasing, we can hear progressive rock riffs (In Control’s opening, Saved by a Miracle for example), preference for modal harmony and a tendency to put melodic phrasing above non-sense runs all over the neck that were so popular back then (Daydream, Hero Without Honor).

All these innovative elements were combined to bring a new, different and unique sound approach to the guitar world. Vinnie just did the alchemy and made an album that is real modern guitar history for all generations that came after. Shrapnel Records opened a new world to this 23-year-old guitar virtuoso. By 1988, with the release of Time Odyssey, he took his game another level up by emulating and surpassing the success of his previous album, also parting from Shrapnel Records. The Vin Man’s experiments on the progressive, futuristic and melodic approach of virtuoso playing went even further to craft this masterpiece!

The opening Morning Star fusion of classical and passionate melodic main theme’s phrasing, progressive cuts like Prelude/Into The Future or Message In a Dream (in collaboration with Jordan Rudess!), George Harrison’s tribute to While My Guitar Gently Weeps, beautiful rock ballads like As Time Slips By that showed Vinnie’s musical sensibility…the whole album was the refined version of himself as a musician, an accomplished composer that also has the technical ability. This time Vinnie would go for a total reinvention of himself.

By 1991 Vinnie Moore was a worldwide recognized musician and guitar artist, and his career would take a major turn with the Meltdown album. Vin decided to experiment with a groove-infused rock and roll style that became his signature for the following years, combining powerful riffs, virtuosic playing and an even more melodic tendency over the quick runs than his previous albums. The transition from metal to slow, mellow songs was smooth and remarkable (Meltdown, Earthshaker, When Angels Sing, Check It Out, Coming Home). And by 1996, when the grunge and alternative rock reign was at its best, Vinnie, once again proving himself a musician over a guitar virtuoso decided to go for an elegant instrumental approach for his next album, Out of Nowhere, which brought us memorable cuts that reflected Moore’s maturity as an artist: With the Flow, Echoes, Thunderball, Time Traveler, Move that Thang or this writer’s personal favorite VinMan’s Brew.

The Maze in 1999 marked the Vin Man’s return to Shrapnel Records and what a comeback I have to say! It was considered by many critics an epic return to his first two albums, with a modern and progressive approach that doesn’t leave out his accomplished musicianship. Memorable tracks? The whole album! However, special honorable mentions go to The Maze, Cryptic Dreams, Rain and Fear, and Trepidation.

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Excellence and perfection are in Vinnie’s blood.  More albums came with an excellent backup personnel behind: his first live recorded album Live! in 2000 with Barry Sparks on bass (Yngwie Malmsteen, Michael Schenker, UFO), Shane Gaalaas on drums (Glenn Hughes, Jeff Kollman, $ign of 4) and Wayne Findlay doing keyboards (MSG also). In 2001 he followed The Maze’s trail and released Defying Gravity which had Dave LaRue on bass. Remarkable tracks from these periods: Check It Out (Live), She’s Only Sleeping (Live), Daydream (Live), Cryptic Dreams (Live), Defying Gravity, If I Could, Emotion Overload, Last Road Home.

Taking a little break from the Vin Man’s great solo career we got a question to ask you: how cool would it be to play with one of the bands you loved as a kid? It would be incredible, right?

That’s exactly what happened to Vinnie Moore in 2003 when he was recruited to play with one of the world’s most recognized rock acts: UFO, the legendary band that gave us such classics like Doctor Doctor, Rock Bottom, Lights Out (which is Vinnie’s favorite according to an interview), Love to Love and many others. Guitarist Michael Schenker left the band in 2002, and the Vin Man’s talent was required to enrich UFO’s sound. The idea was to relaunch the band career, and to do so they signed with SPV Records and producer Tommy Newton to work on the forthcoming album, You are Here, for which Vinnie did major songwriting work in 11 of 12 songs the album has.

This collaboration proved successful, and it meant to him the most logical step in his career musically speaking, as he was joining the band he grew up listening to and crafting more solo material, he viewed this as a great opportunity that he took as soon as it knocked on his door. In addition to You are Here, there are four more albums in which he has been playing and songwriting The Monkey Puzzle (2006), The Visitor (2009), Seven Deadly (2012) and A Conspiracy to Stars (2015). Remarkable tracks from the UFO new recordings, written by the Vin Man himself are: When Daylight Comes to Town, Mr. Freeze, Who’s Fooling Who, Stop Breaking Down, Year of the Gun, Devil’s in the Detail.

Vinnie Moore, the excellent musician, is also a wonderful person. A very down-to-earth guy he likes to keep in touch with his fans via his Facebook account (which he manages) where he comments on his daily life and his projects, and he’s also supportive of new guitar material that many of his fans submit. Firsthand talking with them during his clinic time and shows is also important to him to see how they experience the music he creates; maintaining this contact enables him to connect with their energy, to create emotions in people doing what he loves most, all thanks to the art he considers as a gift.

His creative process is the one of the inspiration. Vinnie likes to sit and explore many melodies, riffs, rhythms and guitar sounds and let the inspiration do the job while he is working, he follows it and lets himself drown into wherever it takes him. He is not the planning ahead type of songwriter; he likes to give each song the proper meaning once the melody has arrived. To him, the melody and the feeling are the keystones of his music and trademark sound

Regarding the technical aspect, Vinnie Moore has always been a guy ahead of his time. Impeccable alternate picking technique which sounds clean in every passage of his discography; he gladly explains how to achieve this level of mastery via daily workouts in his 2 Hot Lick’s video clinics: Speed, Accuracy and Articulation and Advanced Lead Guitar Techniques. Vinny is also one of the precursors of sweep picking technique, being a constant musical resource during his early and most virtuosic repertoire. He shows a preference for the modal approach to music, in which he explores the many possibilities of the eight Gregorian modes of pre-tonal music and combines it with his rock and roll influences, as we can hear in many of his most popular ballads for example.

When it comes to his gear, he has been working it out through the years and changing it constantly – as the search for the right sound never ends. Ibanez made for him a special Roadstar model in 1987 called VM1, which was his trademark axe until he started to work with Music Man, which made first Axis and Silhouette models for him. In 2007 he is endorsed by Dean Guitars and developed a very productive relationship with them, crafting the instruments with his very own specifications, here’s a list of the models used by him: USA VINMAN 2000 which comes in Gloss Natural/Trans Amber/Trans Black/Trans Red and the unique Vinnie Moore Signature – Mind’s Eye design. Regarding amplification he relies on the good old Marshall JMP 2000 DSL, the always delightful Marshall JMP 100w head and ENGL amps to get his particular tone.

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As for today, Vinnie released his latest production Aerial Visions last year under his label, Mind’s Eye Music, and in the VinMan Studios. In this album, he takes his music even further by exploring his most melodic side in songs like Faith or Looking Back. It was created during part of his development of UFO’s new material for their most recent album, and as a matter of fact, two songs made for this album were heard by Phil Mogg, who wrote lyrics to it and were also included them in A Conspiracy of Stars. Aerial Visions represents another point of inflection in his career due to the wide variety of styles explored in this record in cuts like Mustang Shuffle, Aerial Vision and his tribute to ZZ Top’s La Grange.

As you can see, there’s just so much more than meets the eye in the career and style of the Vin Man, a creative musician who reinvents himself in each new production and is always in the search for real, emotional and memorable guitar music.  Vinnie Moore is one of the best guitarists and a real inspiration for all of us guitar players!

Panos Arvanitis – Meet Greece’s Guitar Master

By Andrew Catania

If you don’t know who Panos Arvanitis is, you will very soon!

It is just fair to say that Greece is a home of talented artists, musicians, and guitarists? In Greece, music has become an intrinsic part of life. Many different individuals living in the country love creating music and enjoy listening to music in a variety of ways and under different circumstances. Individuals define music differently, but as a whole, music can unite nations, people, cultures, and traditions. History of music expands over time, and this has enriched and paved the way for the entrance of great musicians.

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Panos A. Arvanitis is a professional musician and guitarist in Greece. With the aim of sharing his skills and talents, he also teaches and works as an expert guitar instructor. Casus Beli is a progressive band formed in 1997 including Panos A. Arvanitis, and together with the band members, the group released records and albums with the help of their record company.

It was in 1998 when Panos A. Arvanitis met Dedes Fresh from England that time. It was at that point when they started writing the first songs of Casus Beli. In that same year, they released their very first demo entitled “Promo On” which features P. PEAVY WAGNER (RAGE) in a couple of unique songs garnering 9/10 on Metal Hammer Magazine. In 2001, they successfully released their debut album called “Mirror Out of Time” exclusively through Sound & Vision record and distribution company.

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After various gigs and performances, Panos A. Arvanitis has gained the attention and interest of the masses. With his excellent talents in playing the guitar and creating music, record companies have all the right reason to sign him to a record deal or contract. Investing on a talented musician like Panos A. Arvanitis is surely a brilliant idea. Panos A. Arvanitis can promise lots of music and surely has something great to offer to all listeners and music lovers out there.

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Yngwie Malmsteen- Another Great Guitarist and Songwriter in Sweden

If Greece has Panos A. Arvanitis, whom they consider one of their points of pride, Sweden also has Yngwie Malmsteen. Just like Panos A. Arvanitis, the expert in Guitar Yngwie Malmsteen is also famous for his music and talents. Yngwie Malmsteen is a well-known Swedish guitarist, bandleader, and songwriter. He first became famous in the 1980s and had earned positive high marks for his unique neoclassical heavy metal playing style. His talent and passion for music and guitar, Yngwie Malmsteen are expected to display this since he came from a musically inclined family.

Over the years, he amazingly plays the guitar in series of performances and has proven his talent to the masses. Talented bandleader, songwriter, and expert in Guitar Yngwie Malmsteen had successfully released various albums which gained positive feedbacks from individuals who bought them.

Panos A. Arvanitis and Yngwie Malmsteen are amazing music icons. Both are able and famous guitarists admired by people. Though coming from different countries, both are willing to share their good music to the world.

 

 

Jake E. Lee – Guitar Legend

By Andrew Catania

If you’re thinking about iconic guitarists, think about Jake E. Lee.  Lee is a famous guitar aficionado who has been imbued with the music business since early childhood. He is known for his amazing guitar work for Ozzy Osbourne from 1983 to 1987 and his work with the Red Dragon Cartel more recently. When you hear him, you’ll know that this master of music is in it to make beautiful sounds and he’s a natural.

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Lee was born on February 15, 1957, to a Welsh father and Japanese mother. They instilled an appreciation of music in him from an early age. His mother was a fan of classical and his father was a jazz fan. Together, this created a true passion for sound and music. Although he was geared towards the piano by his mother, it was clear that he had rock and roll deep in his veins. A curious thing called to him: his sister’s guitar!

He picked up the guitar and immediately was hooked. It was The Who’s “No Time” that he first mastered and performed. Although piano wasn’t his chosen instrument, it did help him to understand the music-making process. He drew from his training on the piano to concentrate on the guitar and how to make it sing. In the end, he proudly developed into a self-trained rock-musician. He played in bands throughout high school and even at that young age was drawing attention due to his already-evident amazing guitar style.

San Diego was the place where Lee started to really get into professional guitar playing. He began in a band that called themselves “Teaser” but soon transitioned to a different band by the name of “Mickey Ratt”. Soon after they evolved into just “Ratt.” Lee was a formational part of the glam rock band. Soon he left though and joined “Rough Cutt”, a band that was produced by the famous Ronnie James Dio. It took just a few listens for Dio to realize Lee’s expertise and he soon asked him to join his own band, Dio.

The gig with Dio led to being suggested to Ozzy Osbourne after Randy Rhoads passed away. Lee auditioned and got the gig! From 1982 Lee toured with Osbourne. Along with Bob Daisley, Lee began writing for “Bark at the Moon”, an album that would sell over 3-million copies in the states alone. Much of the music that Lee penned was used for “The Ultimate Sin”, by Osbourne.

Jake moved on to form the band Badlands after his gig with Ozzy ended. Badlands was fronted by Ray Gillen. Ray died of AIDS-related complications in 1993. Jake tried a replacement singer. Things didn’t work out and went off the radar for a long time.

In 2005, Jake released a record called’Retraced’. In 2007, he released a covers record called ‘Guitar Warrior’ with several special guest vocalists ranging from Stephen Pearcy to Lemmy from Motorhead

In 2012, Jake made a cameo appearance in a Beggars and Thieves video. The response from the video on YouTube made Jake realize that he’s been missed after all of these years. This was the start of the collaboration for Red Dragon Cartel.

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One thing you can rely on is that Jake E. Lee will perform and write amazing music. He has honed his craft carefully throughout the years and is a true guitar legend. If you need proof, just listen to how he can play guitar. Not only will it keep your feet tapping, but you’ll realize that you are truly in the presence of guitar greatness.

 

Jon Levin – Rokken with Dokken’s Axe Master The Interview

By Andrew Catania

August 21, 2016 

My first interview for my website is with Jon Levin.  Jon is the guitarist for Dokken.  Jon was very gracious with his time and was an excellent person to speak with.  I’m very proud to have Jon Levin from Dokken as my first interview!  Thank you Jon and good look on the road!

 

Jon, thank you very much for this interview.  You’re going to be my first interview and new launch off my new website. With your background being an attorney, a guitar player for Dokken and all that, you have quite a story / history here. 

Cool, Right on! Fire away man what do you want to know??

Basically, I know you’ve been in Dokken for about thirteen / fourteen years, and I know you started playing piano as a kid and all, for people who do not know you, how did you end up trying to play guitar for the first time? 

 

That’s a good question.  Well I started out with the piano, then I went violin, then trumpet and actually, I wasn’t very good on piano or violin but I was a good trumpet player and that was like in third or fourth grade. Then I found I knew I was into music somehow. Then I went to a friend of mines house and he had this electric guitar a very inexpensive old one you know and a Peavey little amp and this Beatles book The Beatles Complete and he didn’t play it at all and then I started monkeying around with it and realized we had this old acoustic guitar in our basement that was once my mothers and it as just lying around down there.  So I started learning how to play a few cords on that and I took a couple lessons I remember, then I took to it quickly and I forgot about the horn playing after that. Once I discovered the Beatles, I discovered the Rolling Stones and that was when I was completely hooked once I found the Rolling Stones.

With the Stones did you progress with the guitar?
Did you get into Clapton or any of that era there before getting into Randy Rhoads later on?

Totally, I started out in my earlier years when I learned how to play I learned how to play like Eric Clapton solo’s. it’s funny you should have mentioned this cause just two nights ago I pulled out — I have a pretty good memory when it comes to music, not always so much for names and places but for music I can remember things just like uncanningly. I just pulled out the guitar and I started playing the Cross Roads solo I knew it pretty much note for note when I was a kid and I remember how to play it now. Funny you should mention that because I haven’t played that guitar solo in probably 30 years or more and I was playing that just the other night.  Yes, I got into Clapton and he was the first major influence when I was a kid. I learned the Crossroads Solo, I learned Sunshine of Your Love, then I learned a couple Hendrix things. I got into Hendrix. When I was a kid, I would try to play these things as closely as I could as be opposed to ‘sort of’ doing it.   I actually really got into it and from there I found, of course, Randy Rhoads, Eddie Van Halen – went down the gammit… Ace Frehley, I was a Kiss fan too when I was kid that was a little earlier.

That’s what I was going to ask you, did you get into any Kiss at all or Sabbath?

Totally Kiss, when I was a kid I remember I had the giant Kiss poster in my room. You know the one of Ace with the smoking guitar?  I don’t know if you remember that but I had that in my room when I was maybe 14.

Yes, I was a baby back then.

You know there were other influences too, I played a lot of different things when I was a kid. I had a phase where I was really into Lynyrd Skynyrd. I learned how to play a lot of that stuff. Then I got into Judas Priest for a while.  I was sort of all over the place. I have phases where I would really get into particular records, you know we had records back then, vinyl and I would just like beat it to death and then I’d somehow get onto the next thing and go to that. I went through many phases and it altered my ability, it altered what I wanted in terms of musical gear too you know.

What were you using? We’re probably back to the late 70’s probably early 80’s when EVH and all the guys were coming around what kind of guitars where are you using at that time?

In 1979 I got my first real Gibson Les Paul custom, it was a gift and I still have it today, I’m the original owner I still have that.  That was my first real guitar. Back then they were inexpensive toy type guitars I had a Univox hi flier that was my first electric guitar.  Then I got the Les Paul and then I bought one of the early Charvels in early 1981 – 1982 right around there one of the original ones. I still have that also. So it started out on the Gibson for a while.  Once I found the Charvel then I knew I liked the ones when I was kid once I sort of latched on to that I went for a bunch of guitars. Then I went veered back when I got a little older early 20’s I went back to the early Gibson and Fender and I started playing vintage instruments.

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Back in Long Island. I was reading that you were playing the club scene in your late teens and early 20’s, was that typically a hard rock band? where are you playing some different music? how did that come about?

That was a hard rock band called Devias.  I went to college for two years and I found this singer whose name is Frank Vestri who’s really a nice guy and we started a band together then I decided to drop out of college. So I dropped out of college and started a band with him and started playing Long Island clubs. There was a bass player that we played with his name was Greg Smith he was an old dear friend of mine who went on to be in many bands from Alice Cooper to Ted Nugent, he’s been in a ton of bands.  That happened when I was a kid, he was a little older than me and he was in a bigger club band called Cintron – I went on to play for him and it was a bit thrill for me, so we got into a club band together did quite a number of dates that was where I developed my ability to play concert and start focusing more as a professional, the transition from just bedroom to taking it to stage.

When that ended, did that end on its own?  You said he went to another band?
Did that end, did you guys actually blossom out together? 

You’re asking a really good question.

Ok here’s what happened. we had a deal with Capital. we got offered a record deal, they said if we had a keyboard player on stage we were signed and it was Clive Davis who was going to sign us but for whatever reason, we did not want a keyboard player in the band so we didn’t end up doing that which we probably should have, we were jerks back then, I don’t know what we were thinking. Tommy Hendrickson who is another dear old friend of mine, saw me play one night when I was in a club and I got a call one night from one of the producers, from Tommy actually telling me he was in warlock and they needed a guitar player , I’ll never forget this, I was 21 years old, the early twenties, and then he said to me , I want to tell you, I know you’ve been in club bands , I remember exactly what he said, “when they tell you something in this band, it happens and he was doing videos and touring and doing it on a real level where I was still in the clubs and I said to him alright let’s make this happen, so I met with him, I started learning songs, I went down and played with Doro. Then I got a call the next day from her manager Alex Grobe.  I didn’t know who he was and he said, can you come to my office in Manhattan and I did that and he offered me the job and I took it. Then when I was 22 I made my first record with Doro and did my first European tour that summer, which was. I think I was 23 when we toured it was 88 we made the record in 88 and we toured in 89.

I remember that video being on MTVs Headbangers Ball, I was 16 years sold seeing you for the first time. I remember you vividly because Doro was a warlock and her playing under her name, then warlock, and I remember bobby rock was in the band too if I am not mistaking?

The videos I was in was in was hard times and whiter shades of hail they were both played a lot, they were played heavily on MTV back in the late 80’s.  No Bobby Rhondonelli. when I was a kid my very first concert I saw was when I was 15 at Madison Square Garden was Rainbow and Scorpions, Bobby Rhondonelli was the drummer in Rainbow and he did this 15-minute incredible drum solo so for me to be in my first situation with Tommy Hendrickson and Bobby Rhondonelli we made for a great band, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever been in.

What happened with Doro and you, did you move on to greener pastures? how did that end?

What happened was me, Tommy, Bobby and myself found another singer, this guy who I’m still friends with again, he lives in Switzerland now.  Eric St Michaels and we had some down time because we finished touring with her, with Doro and we had some down time, Tommy and I decided we wanted to keep writing so we wrote a couple songs with Eric and we recorded them and then all of a sudden they came out incredibly and the next thing you know we had a manager and a deal from Atlantic Records. That was really how that went about we all decided that we wanted to do our own deal. We all left Doro and Doro is a wonderful girl, it was great playing with her, had it not been for that other event with our own thing, I’m sure we would have stayed but that’s just how it went…

When you were with Doro, just kind of getting technical here. what kind of gear where you using at that point and time? Was it endorsements?

Yes, my first endorsement I got in 1986 with Kramer guitars. I didn’t have anything happening at that point. 86/87 I was just in a club band 20 or 21 years old.  I sent in just a tape that we did and they called me because they liked the way I played and said we’re going to endorse you and they gave me my first endorsed guitar and I had a good run with them they were very kind to me.  For amps I remember I was using the Marshall 50 watt, 2205 model  it was the first channel switching Marshalls they had it’s the same amp that Michael Schenker used 2205 and I liked them, I had four of them 2205s and I had one 100 watt one that I got from England, actually when I was a kid  my parents went to England and sent me one of the amps from London it was a great one too and I used those amps, I use the 50 watt version of those when I was in Warlock, you know with  my Kramer Beretta with no effects .. I plugged straight in, I think I had a graphic EQ that I ran through the ??? and that was it. literally, no pedal nothing, I just played direct and I did that for many years and even through the Dokken days I didn’t start even putting a pedalboard together till after I was in Dokken probably for 3 or 4 years, the first 3,4, or 5 years maybe I just played straight direct into the amp with nothing. Wow! yeah, now I have a couple effects I use but they’re very minimum.

Yeah, the Dokken stuff that is the next on my list. 

When the Grunge scene came on with the Pearl Jam and Nirvana and all that, did you. I read the other articles where you said that guitarist position was pretty much DOA because everyone was in flannel and Hollywood and whiskey and go – go and sunset strip and everyone pretty much retired at that time was that the main reason you decided to attend law school how did you go about reaching that decision? 

You know that was definitely a big part of it and there were other outside influences like my mother passed away right around that time, and I think that really once that my mother passed away I sort of gave up the music thing mentally and it was that and the combination of my not being able to see past the grunge thing the lead guitar thing was over at that point I wasn’t thinking it was ever going to change is it going to come back? who knows? I just had to do an about-face at that point, I got into some sort of panic mentality where I saw a job-making nothing from life, there’s no guitar playing thing anymore, I don’t do this grunge thing, you know what am I going to do? It got to that and for reference, I did quite a few number of years where there wasn’t much lead stuff, it went on for a long time.

Right, you’re absolutely right. that went on for a long time… You graduated later from law school, I believe it was 1996?

Yes, 1996 I graduated from law school. right

When you got out of law school, you started practicing law and then the music industry and you had your own record company if-if I’m not mistaken.

Yes, that is exactly right, I started out right away  and I had a record label with my friend Brian Landau who had worked for Electra for ten years at that time we started a record company together.

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What did you do, did you sign anybody of notoriety or did you just kind of keep it to one side or specific genre or music like music contacts?  What did you do?

We did we had a couple of bands, we signed a band called The Dead Life. We got a deal for them on Elektra and we had another band called the Eccentric Sound System, I think was on Sony so we put out a few records and the label was actually doing well but then after this, there goes the music industry.

That brings us up to the late 90’s, like 98-1999 that’s when Dokken started kind of coming in the fold for you 1998, did you start, was that when Jeff Pilsen told you to come down and jam or was that more towards 2003?  How did everything come about with Dokken? Was that the conversation you had?

Yes in April or May, around may of 98, Jeff asked if I would play some solos for him, he had left a message on my office voice mail. He didn’t mention on that message that it was for Dokken, because had he done that, I probably would not have never done it is — at that point, I hadn’t really played guitar from 93/94 or all the way to that point, I played guitar just occasionally it was like in my brain over… so it was my dad, I heard the message at my father’s house, I was having dinner at his place.  I would still dress in my work clothes on that day, I remember, it was a suit and I checked my messages and mentioned to my dad, ‘I just got a call from someone who asked me if I would play and he was like ‘DO IT’ so I said why?  He’s like ‘go and do it’ and I remember it was so much, it was raining that night and I was dressed in a suit and I’m like, “I don’t want to go” my dad pushed me into it. So I drove down to Redondo Beach then the studio door opened and this is how it happened, “literally the door opened and Don was there and he had a Les Paul in his hand and he put the Les Paul in my hands and I think he was skeptical he was just like here, play and you know, knowing now, I  think he must have been skeptical, I mean  who wouldn’t be skeptical.

I remember I threw off my jacket and took the tie off and he just ran the tape. I said, can I hear the section?  at least let me hear what you want me to play over, he was like, it’s in E, just solo … I was like OK. so I soloed on two songs and it actually ended up getting released, one was Iris song and the other was a demo version of what became the maddest hatter, that one didn’t get released by the Iris song got released in Europe or Japan or somewhere and that was in 98. Then in June of 98, Jeff calls me again and I guess George had just quit at that point and said, hey we have to play at Dallas star club and do a headline can you learn all these songs July 4, we have like two weeks, I’m like Ok, yes! So that was my first. actually, we did a tune up show for Don’s birthday.  Don owned a restaurant called the Stake Out, and we played at the Stake Out, I almost didn’t make it, I couldn’t find my way there , I thought he said “The Steak House” but it was Stake Out and I remember I was with my girlfriend at the time and we were just looking around at Redondo Beach and after an hour and a half of looking I was just going to turn around and go home, I’m sure had that happened we wouldn’t be on the phone today and then my girlfriend at the time she says, “wait is that it? I see people outside, you mean the Stake Out? so I said, I guess so!! We luckily found it and after that, I did the Star Plex show


How many people were at the Star Plex show? was that an arena or a club?

It was a typical outdoor amphitheater; it was a large amphitheater.  I would say it was somewhere from 15 to 20,000.

Oh wow. OK
yes, it was big.

So during that time between then and 2003 were you still practicing law or were you still filling in for Dokken ?

Oh yes Between 1998 and 2002 actually not even 98, I think between 2000 and 2002 I did about another dozen or so shows just filling in when they needed somebody and it wasn’t really ever discussed about me joining until one day I got a call from Don in winter 2002, he called me in the winter and asked me to fly out to where he was, and once he asked me that I thought hmm , this might actually end up happening actually and it did!

You kind of had a jest this was going to be happening and you knew he was going to ask you to come on board, full-time, I would imagine at that time?

I didn’t know for sure but I had a feeling that it was somewhat headed in that direction.

Ok, so Don asked you to come aboard full time.  Did you put your law practice on hold while you started working with Dokken on the record in 2003 or did you?

No, I didn’t have to because at the time 100% of my law practice was entertainment law, and when I say entertainment, music, I’m a music attorney.  As a music attorney, all of my work just put on a computer and a fax machine at the time and email. So I actually from that point up until 2008 when we would go on the road, I would just bring, literally all my law stuff with me, I’d bring a brief case, a little portable printer, my laptop, I had a modem, a portable modem and I’d work from the back of the tour bus or in my hotel room.

Wow, that is awesome! That’s really good.  When you started recording with Dokken in 2003, where you a little bit apprehensive you know coming in after George Lynch, I know you said he was an inspiration to your playing — I do believe. Was it hard filling in for that or was it pretty easy for you? How did you handle that? 

You know for some reason; it didn’t bother me at all.  I think it was because you know how I was telling you earlier I had my phases where I listen to like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Judas Priest , I had a very long phase of being, I mean a Dokken phase it was a very long phase for me, I was this George Lynch fan, you know, they were really my favorite band for a long period of time so for me it was a really natural fit, I didn’t have to force it at all, it never really struck me as trying to put a square peg into a round hole or anything, it was just a proper fit for me and I  think that’s why I just always felt comfortable with it.

OK, I was going to say, when you debuted in 2003, die hard rocking fans accepted you and have said nothing but positive – high praise for your playing and I have not heard anything negative about you. Every Dokken fan I’ve known has said that you blend in with Don and the band and mix magnificently.

Well thank you

Like I told you, I sent your picture of to my group and told them I was going to be speaking with you, there was several responses of how they saw you on tour at different clubs and they said that you can really really play guitar and I agree with them, I look on YouTube and I can see the way you’re playing and the albums are just phenomenal, I mean I’m not just talking as a journalist talking as a fan of yours and a fan of Dokken’s 

Thank You! It’s very greatly appreciated

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It’s awesome, that leads to my next question. The Dokken albums that you’ve played on and I’ve told you that you sound amazing with the great guitar work, how different was your gear when recording each album? 

Completely different from each record, do you want me to tell you specifically what it was, I can.

I mean yes, if you can go into details because the guitar nerds that I deal with. this was a question they wanted me to ask you, what kind of gear that you were using. 

Yes, sure! For Hell to Pay, we did that in total access, we did the whole thing in the studio, from what I recall anyway, at least all of the guitar parts we did basic track in the studio and I know I did also all my guitar parts in total access as well, I’m not sure I think Don may have done some of it in his studio and for that record it was my JCM 2000 head, an actual. yeah, we mic that up, I used different guitars for different stuff. I used my ‘57 Les Paul for some of it. and then for all of the solos on that record were from an amp that Don had that’s modified, I think it was a 100 watt Marshall with snakeskin around it and all of the solos with that were with that and I think my Kramer Beretta’s.  From there on Lighting Strikes Again, I did a lot of that in my studio for my part, not all of it but a lot of it, I mean we actually used a few different places for that, we did some in total access, we did some at another studio up in the hills in Hollywood here and then Don did some at his place and I did some at my place.  So for guitar sounds all that was rhythm was I used my JCM 900 in my place, one day Wynn Davis just came here and mic’d up a cabinet in my house, and we bought this thing called the hotplate? it was like a tower attenuator so that basically allowed me to crank the amp all the way up so it sounds like the warmth of a cranked up amp but it wasn’t blasting my neighbor’s head’s off(laughing). so I wasn’t really getting that speaker push it was nice.  My JCM 900 was a tube screamer that was that entire, all the guitar sounds are all of that and that’s more of a retro sound, I wanted something a little more that I would fit in with the Dokken catalog a little better. Then we did Broken Bones , that I decided I got tired of , I didn’t like having time pressure to do my leads and it seemed like that was would always end up happening because you know it’s expensive when you’re on the clock and I didn’t want to just be like ‘Johnny on the spot’  throw a quick solo down on the first , as soon as they get something that somewhat works , that’s like good enough and lets do the next one — I didn’t want to do that, I didn’t like doing that and that’s how I did all the other stuff and at that point, so for Broken Bones I actually got this thing called the ‘Eleven Rack’ and had an engineer come and set me up in my studio and I was able to just record solo after solo with this thing called re-amp track .  So we weren’t so much worried about tone, it didn’t really matter because after I had done when we went to Mick, I was able to run my signal back to anything I wanted. Do you know what I mean?

Yes

Because there was a direct signal running, printing at the same time as the actual tone all at although it turned out at the same time    That sound I created on the eleven rack and I borrowed this guitar, I knew I wanted to use the sustainer?  for something on that guitar on that record that I borrowed from Fender , yes Fender endorsed it , they loaned me a guitar that had a stain mechanism in it, it was one of Phil Collen models , yeah it was nice, it had incredibly heavy strings on it and when I got home, I just plugged it in and played a few solo’s with it on those incredibly heavy strings actually more than a few, I took half, maybe half the album and just had a moment of inspiration with this sustainer on this guitar and I like a lot of what I did but that, unfortunately, had me locking into doing almost the whole record with those incredibly heavy strings and  it really bothered my hands after a while but if you ?? our want to use these parts you do realize you’re locked into this , you want to make a teensy change you have to use that exact guitar so that happens and I actually ended up really liking the lead sound I got and a lot of the rhythm sound too I think for tone wise I am happiest with some of the tracks on Broken Bones with the rhythms some of them are re amps and also incorporate my original eleven rack sound almost all of it is that.  I was pretty happy with how that went and its basically what evolved.

The Broken Bones album, I think between you and Don it felt like you guys were probably the most comfortable of the albums you guys had done together just seemed like you guys, just the flow was there. the music was.

Yes, it was, that’s how it went down when we recorded it like that it was amazing, that translated like that because before we did it you know for some reason when we did that record it felt all along like we were doing something that was just going to be really great you know.

When the album came out, Don said it was going to be the last Dokken album is that pretty much carved in stone?

You never know, we’re talking about potentially doing another one now. Don and I both always did this for the art we love making music and we love to play  and we like to collaborate too, so it was always about that and not so much about anything else it’s the bureaucracy of the record business and all that neither of us really love that you know I guess it’s just part of my only problem with it and I know Don feels the same  is you spend so much time pouring your heart  into these albums that there’s really no outlet for record sales anymore or even to really have it heard there’s just no industry left .
You spend so much time on it and you really can’t sell it and then you want to hear it and just hope people are able to hear it on YouTube so it’s just that, you have to somewhat do it for no reason other than you want to write or play for yourself because it’s not like it was back in the day when there were real record labels and you know there was a lot going on.  There are no record stores anymore.

John, you actually jumped ahead of questions here of mine and I’ll just get right to this, with you practicing law and the music industry I would love your opinion about the YouTube situation? Their compensation bands have many people angry about that Nikki Six is leading the bleed on it and being very vocal about that , that’s something I started studying about and listening to You Tube it’s kind of like Spotify that you’re really not getting compensated for it as an artist because if you have like an end user account like me because I’m a journalist or as a fan and I got one of your videos that if I saw you down here in Orlando at The Hard Rock or you know and I’m playing that less than two minutes , how do you feel about that or what is your opinion about that do you feel that artists should be properly compensated ? If so how do you think that YouTube should police that? 

You know I got to tell you that I really don’t have an answer for that. As far as the music side of things, I always just did it because I love music as far as what it really is. At this point in my legal career the original music law left, you know I’ve veered into other things at this point so I don’t know that I have a definitive opinion on it.  I’ve just always thought that the only real reason to play music is because we love music and you want people to hear music I always felt that if it’s simply for money or business then do something else.

I don’t want to put words in Don’s mouth, but I’m pretty sure he feels the same way. It was always about the music because you love making music and you want to do something great and hopefully the money follows.  You know, look, people need to make a living and you have to hope that the money will follow but that’s not a priority in the reason to do it I don’t think and the reason to do it is because you love making music.

 

I think that anything that can get you heard is a good thing that’s my whole thing with not wanting to make records so much, it’s hard to get it heard and any vehicle that you can access and use to get your music heard is a great thing for the artist.  There’s plenty of other money you can make in touring and other facets but it’s all got to start with getting the music heard.  I’m from a concern that you know ten or twenty years there may not be anything left, the music industry to me is just dying out largely.

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The new bands now, like you said back in the 80’s where we had large budgets for bands, we could spend half a million dollars on videos that are just not the way now and a lot of these bands are touring for a couple years at a time because this is how you guys are making a majority of your income from T – Shirts to concerts and other revenue like that because you can’t get any money off of I-tunes or some of the other places. 

Yes, it’s really a catch 22 because the only way a new band can make money is if you can tour but you can’t tour until you have a name that you can sell tickets, it’s very difficult. That’s the reason for exactly what I was just earlier saying that I’m concerned that a lot of the industry is going to strain even more because new bands can’t find a way to break out.  It’s a catch 22.

Going back to your Charvel signature series guitar. I remember Charvel was talking with you about launching that.  Did it sell out?
No, they’re out and also they sold all of them.

That’s what I thought because I can’t find one anywhere. 

The deal was they wanted to make a limited amount of a custom signature model and they made them and they all sold pretty rapidly and that was that.  Maybe they’ll do more, I haven’t really discussed it with them since, I’m sure it will come up at some point.

Your signature series had rave reviews about it and all.

Yes, they came out and really knocked it out of the park. They came out unbelievably.  I was really happy about that.

I wish I could have played one, I didn’t.  With the younger generation that we have of guitarists and bands and all that was there any guitars that you might have heard that you know that you like or some of the other shredders that you could pass the torch on from musicians like yourself that have been playing for so long and you’re playing in a band like Dokken is there any one of the younger guitarists out there that have caught your eye? 

Yes, there have been a few actually, let me see if I can pull up names.  Frankly one of them was someone I saw, I found on YouTube and it was this young kid he must have been his early teens and he just had an incredible feel.  I wish I could recall his name but I don’t. You know there’s another younger guy, he’s a little older he’s in his early 20’s Brandon Paul, he’s in his early 20’s, he’s a great player and it’s great to see someone in their early 20’s perform. I think it’s great because you don’t want to see this art form die out. cause I hate to say it but today’s kids I hate to say it but they play video games.

 

 

Are you using primarily Charvels now when you’re out on tour with Dokken or are you mixing them up with your old Les Pauls? What are you using these days? 

I still pretty much use all the Charvels I have a bunch of Les Pauls, it’s really difficult, it’s become harder and harder with the airline situations. I don’t like to check guitars so I carry it on with me.  Now these newer planes I just flew just recently and the brand new plane doesn’t have a bin that is big enough to even hold the guitar and now that’s concerning, so you know just the old Gibson thing is I love my Les Pauls but they’re not really conducive to doing this job. At my point, I don’t really want to deal with having to tune mine.  There are enough other things to do without having to deal with it.  I try to keep it simple.  I love my Charvels and they stay in tune with   the sound great so I just stick with that.  I love my Les Pauls too but those stick more home or in the studio. Although I have brought a Les Paul with me in 2004 I took one with me.

Do you enjoy touring? do you like being out on the road or do enjoy more being at home around LA?

I love playing the show, I love playing.  The traveling element of it I can do without but that is just you know you have to suffer through the grueling traveling schedule to do what you love to do.  Nothing comes without a price you know I don’t really love the traveling but I love to play so in order to do what I want to do I have to deal with traveling.

Do you enjoy meeting the fans? Do they treat you well? Like at the meet and greets? 

Yes, the fans have always been great for me and I love meeting the fans. You know we have some of the best fans of anyone in my opinion.  We have really loyal wonderful fans that I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of great people through my travels the band

John my last question is do you have any plans for putting a solo album out with your work? Maybe going the Mike Varney way? You got the talent!

Thanks, Man! You know frankly there’s a whole lot of other facets of how I play that really aren’t exposed in the Dokken situation so it’s not something I oppose to but what I’d be opposed to is just anytime I’ve ever heard anything instrumental just for me for the 99% of it I just find incredibly boring so you know that’s just sort of why sort of I didn’t want to do it. If I could find a way of doing it that it really wouldn’t be, to me I just haven’t never heard much by way of instrumental that I think that it’s great. The only one I’ve ever heard that was able to do it well not the only one’s but one of the only artists I’ve ever heard do it was and in a great interesting way is Nuno Bettencourt.

Yes, I met Nuno on Generation Axe when I was still in North Carolina about four months ago with all the Steve Vai and Yngwie

yeah, I heard that was great and he put on a great show and was amazing in it.

Nuno really put on a great show, Steve Vai was great, Yngwie put on a good show and Zakk Wylde They all put a good show on

John those are my questions you’ve answered every single one of them that I had for you.  I appreciate your music with Dokken I’ve followed you since you’ve been kind of creeping in their 1998 – 1999 then you came in in 2003. Are you guys going to be out on the road after the overseas thing?

We’re back out, we’re not stopping, I’m leaving next Thursday.

Excellent, OK, well good! 
We have a bunch of shows for that and then after that reunion as well

Alright well, fantastic, I hope to see you guys down here if you guys are hitting in Florida down here and all that, I’ll definitely reach out to you guys. 

Yeah sure! 

Yeah, you play excellent guitar with Don and you put on a fantastic show. You’re definitely one of the elite guys out there. 

Thanks so much, I really appreciate your call and I appreciate your time.

Record Review: Yngwie Malmsteen – World on Fire

By Andrew Catania

Yngwie Malmsteen – World on Fire

Release Date: June 1, 2016

Ah… the Master has risen in 2016 with World on Fire.  There are many who undoubtedly kick some major ass but everyone is always compared to the true master Yngwie from Randy Rhoads to Buckethead.

You know that once a Malmsteen release hits the stores, it has a huge impact on the music world. Not only to fans but also to other guitarists who buy it just to see what The Master has come up with in his path to ecstasy. I would never say Yngwie’s music is a great commercial release because his style is not for everyone. But this time around there is some earth shattering songs.

For those who consider themselves disciples of Yngwie, don’t worry — he hasn’t eased up on the technical aspect. If you’re a guitarist, World on Fire is both jaw-dropping and inspiring. Malmsteen knows how to make an entrance, and the first track, World on Fire, is unabashedly meant to impress. Oh, it does. It starts with his impressive vocals, with almost an orchestral vibe. After about 20 seconds, the speed begins and the outstanding solo work never lets up. “Top Down, Foot Down” has an epic feel akin to “Spellbound”, and it’s that over-the-top vibe makes for a perfect opener.


One of my personal favorites is “Lost in Machine”.  Yngwie’s vocals are top-notch on this song. This track, along with “Largo”, are ones that will leave Malmsteen fans speechless but wanting more. The incredible momentum does not falter either when followed by the jaw dropping “No Rest for the Wicked”, “Soldier” and “DUF 1220”. YJM continues to blow you away with his uncanny ability to move his fingers faster up and down the frets than most guitarists still, today.

The album concludes with the tracks “Abandon (Slight Return)” and “Nacht Musik”, both of which somehow manage to keep up the intensity. If anyone is still looking for a Malmsteen record that sounds like his first four, get that out of your head. His sound has been evolving over the last 30 years.  YJM continues on with him in total control of instruments, singing, producing, mixing, lyrics, and his brilliant guitar playing. Any fan of guitar shred will want to add this classic to their collection.

Make no mistake about it.  This is an Yngwie record.  He sings on three of the songs, played all of the bass parts, and did much of the keyboard work. He also produced the record.  The album clocks in under 45 minutes, you’ll be in awe from the opening riff of the title track, “World on Fire”, to the last beat of “Nacht Musik”, Malmsteen has killed it with World on Fire.

I had the pleasure of meeting Yngwie on the Generation Axe Tour this past April.  His presence doesn’t disappoint. He spent time with the fans and signed autographs with a smile.

So once again we have a masterpiece by The Master that will be exalted up by fans and guitar maniacs which will go down as a classic Malmsteen release.  This is why, Yngwie J. Malmsteen is one of the best.

Marcelo Souza, The Next Guitar Legend?

By Andrew Catania

Marcelo Souza the Emerging Brazilian Guitarist will become a legend soon

Marcelo Souza, you might have heard his name on YouTube and facebook, as he is now a famous Brazilian guitarist. He has faced tough times to make his mark in the world and now he is known to the world because of the talent he has expertise in.

The Beginning of Knowledge

At the early age of 13, he started taking the guitar lessons. He got his knowledge in various aspects of music like rock, fusion, jazz, blues, Brazilian music and the traditional classical music. He studied the classical guitar at the famous school of arts Maestro Fêgo Camargo in Taubaté São Paulo in Brazil.

In 2005 he graduated as the bachelor of guitar from the FASC. He did not just stopped there and continued to take private tuitions for the special music theory and arrangements.

Early Career

He started his career by working as a guitarist and arranger. He uploaded several videos that gave him the chance to work with many famous artists that include the Hevelyn Costa and Christian of the young talent twiggy and the prestigious singer Cecilia Militão.

He conducted several workshops and showed his talent in the major events in Brazil. In 2006 he performed in the opening national anthem of Brazil in the event of a national basketball league, this event got the coverage from the global television networks.

In 2007, he appeared as the guitarist with the famous lady singers Daniela Mercury and Rita Lee in an album that was a tribute to Paul McCartney. The track suicide in which he made the guitar notes got him acknowledged.

Road to Success

The event that earned him the credibility and reputation were in 2009 when he was invited to perform as the opener of the workshow guitarist in Faíska in Taubaté and the show gained a record-breaking attendance in the region of Vale do Paraíba.

Marcelo released his instrumental work with the name of Circles of Fire in 2011. The critics wrote many praising articles for his work that were published in the magazine called Guitar Player. When the CD was released with Edu Ardanuy, it got appreciation from the audience in the form of their loving comments.

In 2012, he made his mark on the social media network when he played at the Fire custom shop stands with many great musicians at the expomusic.

In 2013, he got the chance to become a part of 2 major international events. Marcelo personally interviewed Vinnie Moore the legendary guitarist.

Nowadays he teaches in his Musical Institute, where with the help of his instrumental work he is enhancing the expertise, musical and technical knowledge of many.

His passion and dedication have made him reach this level of success that most only dream of. You must check out his videos to know more about him and his talent. He has become an inspiration for many youngsters who want to pursue the same career.