Slayer’s Kerry Fucking King

By Andrew Catania

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Kerry King, also known as KFK (Kerry Fuckin’ King) is as unconventional as a thrash metal guitarist as his self-abbreviated nickname. Although he was extremely intelligent in school with an affinity for numbers, he witnessed his grades plummet when he became more fascinated with girls instead.

As he deviated away from the college route for a more adventurous life, he realized that the ideal career for him would be one in music where he can have the best of all world’s – the music, the parties, the women and the alcohol. In 1981, when he was merely 15, he auditioned to be a part of a band as a guitarist. Instead, Jeff Hanneman approached him after his audition and the two of them began to practice the classic tunes of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.

Little did they know that their little band which they named Slayer back in 1981 would lead to their band one day being recognized as one of the most famous thrash metal bands across the world.

Slayer is today recognized as one of the “big four” thrash metal bands along with Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax. Apart from being dedicated to Slayer since it was co-founded by King, King has also been associated as a guest guitar player for legendary thrash metal and heavy metal artists and bands such as Megadeth, Marilyn Manson, Sum 41, Beastie Boys and Rob Zombie.

The key to Slayer’s success was its release of the album Reign in Blood in 1986, just 3 years after Slayer debuted as a band. In a span of one decade, Slayer sold almost 5 million copies in the United States itself. The music has been deeply inspired by King’s opinions on life itself. The band dictates issues of murder, serial killers, terrorism and anti –religion, the last which is deeply close to King’s heart himself. Extremely anti-establishment, King resonates the belief of living and let live and believes that organized religion goes against basic freedom of living life on one’s terms.

This connection with victims of establishment, criminals, terrorism, religion etc. is probably why Slayer’s music has been described as one following a “wailing style” by Steve Huey of AllMusic. Post Hanneman’s death in 2013, Kerry King became the sole leader of Slayer.

He is now keeping the voice of the band on point with the vision King and Hanneman had initially planned for Slayer and is now also the writer for all the music along with being the lead guitarist for the band. His music continues to evolve and remains dedicated to all the underdogs and outcasts that King believes are victims of establishments and more evolved than those who follow conventional beliefs. Till date, King’s style remains anything but conventional.

Uli Jon Roth: Master of the Sky Guitar

By Andrew Catania

Master guitarist, and an excellent keyboardist, a refined vocalist, and a virtuosic composer: Ulrich Roth aka Uli Jon Roth is an acclaimed German musician, whose name emerged and gained prominence in the early 1970s. Having tested his mettle on a variety of instruments, Roth finally landed on playing the guitar, which turned out to be just the right decision on his part. After that, it didn’t take him much to reach the stature of global fame and repute.

Uli Roth was brought up by his father, who instilled in him a love for aesthetic arts since a very young age. Uli grew up reading classic literature, writing poetry, painting, and learning about visual arts. It wasn’t until 1968 that he realized, his true potential lay in music. Electric guitars, in particular, caught his attention, and having realized what he was going to do in his life, he embarked in pursuit of his passion. Uli staged his first concert later that same year, with Blue Infinity, his first band. Progressing with his high school studies, and after-school music lessons in tandem, Uli partnered with a number of bands during that time, and also cofounded Dawn Road in the early 1970s.

While Dawn Road was still in its incubation phase, Michael Schenker of the famous ‘Scorpions’, was offered a permanent position in UFO. This might have been the end of the Scorpions, but, before leaving for England, Michael invited Uli to join the Scorpions in his place. The end of the year marked the merger of the Scorpions, and Dawn Road, and naming the joint feat after the Scorpions since they held a sounder name in the music sphere.

Uli Roth continued to play as the lead guitarist for the Scorpions. Along with the other members including Achim Kirsching, Jurgen Rosenthal, Francis Buchholz, Klaus Meine, and Rudolf Schenker. The Scorpions released four studio albums until 1977, and a live record titled ‘Tokyo Tapes’, which was recorded during their Taken by Force Tour to Japan. Tokyo Tapes was an ultimate hit and bagged an overwhelming response from across the globe. However, Uli decided to take the high road, and bid farewell to the Scorpions in 1978, before the Tokyo Tapes release.

Electric Sun turned out to be the next milestone in Uli’s career. Cofounded by Uli Roth, Ule Rigen and Clive Edwards, the band’s original lineup was changed after the departure of Clive Edwards. The band released 3 full albums titled ‘Earthquake’ in 1979 which was dedicated to Jimi Hendrix, ‘Fire Wind’ (dedicated to Anwar Sadat) in 1981, ‘Beyond the Astral Skies’ in 1985 and a tribute number titled ‘Enola Gay’ dedicated to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki incidents.

Aside from his band associations, Uli has also established an impressive solo profile over time, in multiple genres including the hard rock, neoclassical, progressive rock, heavy metal, and psychedelic. Some of his highly acclaimed solo feats include two Volumes of Transcendental Sky Guitar (2000), Sky of Avalon in 2008, A Metamorphosis of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (2003), Scorpions Revisited in 2015, and Aquilla Suite – 12 Arpeggio Concert Etudes for Solo Piano (1991).

 

All Hail Rusty Cooley!

By Andrew Catania

Guitar legend Rusty Cooley has an amazing resume.  One thing that gets overlooked is his contributions and guest work on other artists records.  Here’s a list of Rusty’s guest work:

From so Far Away by All Shaw Perish CD Awaken the Dreamers
Let off Some Steam Bennett by Austrian Death Machine CD Double Brutal
Get Your Story Straight,  Austrian Death Machine CD Triple Brutal
Frozen by Fire co-written by Rusty Cooley, and Derek Sherinian CD Molecular Heinosity

Encased In Ice by After Burial CD in Dreams
Aeons of Burning Galaxies and Aeons of Burning Galaxies Instrumental Bonus Version by George Kollias CD Invictus
8 Pillars of Steel, by Michael Angelo Batio CD Intermezzo
Born to Lead, by Falling in Reverse CD Fashionably Late
Bloodcaster, by Ghost Ship Octavius CD Ghost Ship Octavius
Epilogue for Lisa by Shawn Lane CD Tribute to Shawn Lane 1
Verbal Skillz by The Shawn Baker Orchestra CD A Baker’s Dozen
The Illusion Of Choice 3 by Alustrium CD A Tunnel do Eden
To Hell by Black 13 cd Pieces
Phoenix, Guardian of Time, Going Through the Motions, Only one Truth, Book of Illusions, Let it Go by Book of Reflections CD Book of Reflections
Infused by rings of Saturn CD Lugal Ki En
Rogosonic, Leave the World Alone
Michael Angelo Batio Shred Force 1,
Julian Lehman, Mother Nature
Karim K, Thirty-six and nine

 

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Is Paul Gilbert The Godfather of Shred?

By Andrew Catania

A former member of ‘Racer X’, and the co-founder of ‘Mr. Big’, Paul Gilbert has much more to his stake his claim, that eventually saw him rank 4th, in the Guitar One Magazine’s list of the Top 10 Greatest Guitar Shredders of All Time. He has also made into the Guitar World Magazines, list of the 50 Fastest Guitarists of All Times.

Paul Gilbert is a prominent, and sound name in the music sphere, specifically in the rock and heavy metal genre. His penchant for veering off from the conventional techniques, trying improvisations and his natural curiosity to experiment outside the prevalent, and well-grounded trends, compels him to test his expertise in a variety of genres.

Having a firm knowledge of the tactics, techniques, and intricacies of a variety of instruments, such as bass, keyboard, harmonica, and percussion, Paul Gilbert eventually settled to play the guitar. His techniques are finely calculated, intricate, have great depth, and extreme attention to detail. It is this precision of his shredding style, that makes even the loudest of tones fall smoothly onto the eardrum, and makes one experience ultimate musical ecstasy.

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Paul Gilbert’s playing style is unique and unbelievably complexed to be true. His one mere shred occurs with such a force, that few can match. Playing on fretboards, similar to those used by his contemporaries, his exceptional command over the chords sets him a class apart from the rest.

Lightning fast, dense, dynamic and fluctuating with aesthetic and carefully-handled nuances, Paul Gilbert has enchanted millions of rock, and metal enthusiasts worldwide, through his vibrant and addictive tones. His technique is neat and has a ferocious frequency which is squeezed out at an overwhelming speed. Besides that, his immense control over the length, the graduation of tones, and prolonged picking without taking an anchor or bridge is a worthy testament to his incredible, and extraordinary skills. No wonder he is ranked among Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, John Petrucci, Rusty Cooley and other legendary names that have redefined the rock and heavy metal genre.

Paul Gilbert’s signature style has evolved through his self-taught, and experimental approach. He mentions the work of notable legendaries including Randy Rhoads, Eddie Van Halen, Tony Iommi, Jimi Hendrix, Yngwie Malmsteen, Kim Mitchell, Steve Clark, Akira Takasaki, Jimmy Page, Robin Trower, and much more as his inspiration. Being a keen observer and a quick learner, he attempted to learn, and master each individual’s technique, and improvised to include a fusion of his own. It is because of this, that he’s equally popular among the fandoms of other heavy metal legends, as his style reflects a flavor of his prime influences while maintaining its own signature essence, and uniqueness.

While he’s ranked at an unparalleled stature among other heavy metal virtuosos, Paul Gilbert, experiments and composes his music in a variety of genres, including pop, metal, rock, funk, and blues. The speed, versatility, efficiency, timeliness, and seamless control visibly rules over all genres that he plays. His fusion of fast picking, combined with legato, and his precise-to-perfect staccato-picking, is a strong depiction of his nonpareil excellence and is a sure-tell sign that the milestones he has set in the heavy metal genre, will demand a lot from his predecessors to come close to matching his legacy.

Vinnie Vincent – The Icon Lost in the Sands of Time!

By Andrew Catania

Famous for his peculiar and quirky appearance,  acclaimed for his virtuosic guitar playing skills, Vinnie Vincent is a name that you can love, or hate but cannot possibly ignore. This is the reason why the music world has not been able to forget the daredevil guitarist, even though it has been 20 years since he went missing in action.
The ‘Ankh Warrior’ of Kiss holds an impressive career to his claim that is heavily punctuated with accomplishments, as well as conspiracies. While his professional career that kick-started in the early 1970’s, and rocketed after joining Kiss, the conspiracies related to his personal life continue to meddle with his accomplishments. He’d go on-air blazing the stage with his fiery performance on one day and would be featured as a violent lunatic, who loved to starve his dogs to death, sell out his entire possessions, and was fond of domestic abuse on the other. With so much coming from his side to fuel the gossips,  newsfeeds, his absence, escape or recluse (whatever the appropriate term may be) left the music sphere with countless questions, concerns, and doubts over his existence.
Vinnie Vincent will always be remembered for instilling a breath of fresh air in the presumed corpse of Kiss. Despite the arduous efforts of the original lineup, Kiss was somehow unable to make it to his expectations and was consistently losing its fandom. As a ray of hope, and the last resort, Kiss’s bassist Gene Simmons, who was friends with Vincent, invited him to compose lyrics and play as the lead guitarist for ‘Creatures of the Night’, an album that was still in the pipeline.
Circumstances took an unusual turn, and the departure of Kiss’s permanent lead guitarist, Frehley, paved way for Vincent to replace him in a permanent capacity. ‘Creature of the Night’ turned out to be a rocking hit for the band. ‘Lick it Up’, Kiss’s next album, also proved that Vincent had become the lifeline for the band. However, whether it had something to do with Vincent’s intimidating personality, his deviant behavior or some other disconnection that made Vincent an out of place piece in the band’s playing lineup, remains a mystery. Although it was because of him, that Kiss was picking up on its lost pace, after a couple of rifts with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, Vincent and Kiss eventually parted ways.
It was as if the clouds of misfortune had completely taken over Vincent’s life. He was not just unacceptable in the band but had similar unsettling ties with his business partners, record labels, fans and media reporters. He had been bombarded with multiple serious accusations over time, was alleged of heinous domestic crimes, and deprived of his due share of royalties. His fans too took great advantage of him and used his fame to excel with their shady motives. He was hired by a fan, to design his signature guitar, that was later titled VV Guitar and was widely sold, only to benefit the investor. While Vinnie Vincent didn’t pay him a cent for his contribution.
The fellow artisans never missed an opportunity to defame Vincent, with ridiculous yet critical accusations. He was accused of multiple cases of domestic abuse, and starving his dogs to death and had to suffer a humiliating media trial. What makes it more ironic, is that all accusations were revoked, and he came out as innocent and free of all charges. However, the humiliation he had already gone through, got the best of him, and Vinnie Vincent disappeared in the sands of time, leaving behind a deserted house in Tennessee, whose trashed condition speaks for the miseries he had suffered.

Vinnie Vincent reappeared on the news horizon in 2014, to auction his possessions and keepsakes. This is tragic to note, that the lead player who uplifted the struggling Kiss and eventually landed the band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to completely rock the genre through the magic of his fingertips was so conveniently abandoned by his peers, partners, and fans alike.

The Scorching Riffs of John Sykes

By Andrew Catania

John Sykes is a clear-cut reflection of the closest thing to a living legend. In his extraordinary existence of 57 years, he has already played with Streetfighter, Tygers of Pan Tang, John Sloman’s Badlands, Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, and Blue Murder. Apart from playing with such a multitude of artists, he has also created his own legacy by undertaking a career as a solo artist. As of 2013, he had produced 4 solo albums and is currently working on the 5th, which is said to consist of over 30 new recordings.

Sykes had his first taste in heavy metal at the age of 21 when he joined the Tygers of Pan Tang in 1980 as the second guitarist for two of their albums: Spellbound and Crazy Nights. Spellbound was rated as one of the best albums released that year by AllMusic and given a sturdy 8/10 by the Collector’s Guide to Heavy Metal.

However, the success was short-lived as Crazy Nights barely made the half mark cut from reviewers. After the failure of Crazy Nights with Tygers of Pan Tang, John Sykes decided to move on to Badlands – a new band started by John Sloman.

Since then, it was clear that Sykes would go places since he continued to progress his career by moving on to the next big project. Whenever there was a drop in the reviews for his current work or when he felt that his career was no longer growing, he would decide to pursue the next chapter.

According to Eddie Trunk, John really took his time on all his new pieces and was conservative in his approach. It is nothing but this dedication to the deliberate pursuit of his art that led the esteemed critic Mick Wall to write that the album Coverdale wrote with Sykes wasn’t just the best Whitesnake album – but was also the best rock album of the era. It was the fact that Sykes was a part of Whitesnake that even led the critic Mick Wall to enjoy Whitesnake in the first place. Whitesnake, the self-titled album released by the band and co-written with Sykes reached #2 on the billboard 200 chart and sold over eight million albums.
Although Sykes is a guitarist, he has been proven an excellent lyricist and has even recorded rare vocals. His multi-dimensional talent scope has left even the most hardened critic in awe of his capability as a musician.  Hopefully, we’ll see more of John Sykes in 2017.

 

Interview: The Iron Maidens Axe Master Courtney Cox

By Andrew Catania

It isn’t very often that we get to see a female musician breaking barriers and setting milestones in the primarily male-dominated music sphere. Luckily, there’s a whole group of them that has emerged as a popular present-age music sensation. The Iron Maidens, an all-female English rock and heavy metal band, was formed in 2001 to pay tribute to the former 1970s classic English metal band ‘Iron Maiden’.

The band has gained immense popularity over time and has become the voice of millions of hearts, establishing a sound ad crazy global fandom for the beautiful and talented maiden members. Courtney Cox, the Iron Maiden’s lead guitarist, in particular, has enthralled the music world with her power and her audacious and explosive shreds, rocking the rock and roll and heavy metal genre through her refined techniques and extremity of pulls.

Having set her fingers on her very first guitar at the tender age of 13, Courtney decided to pursue her passion for music. By the time she turned 15, she was accepted at The Paul Green School of Rock Music that polished her natural playing skills through guidance under music maestros.

During her time at The Paul Green School of Rock Music, she received immense practical exposure during her tours and stage acts with established artists such as Adrian Belew, Jon Anderson, Perry Farrell and George Lynch. She co-founded Queen Diamond, a tribute band to the King Diamond.

Courtney’s natural playing skills refined and improved under the mentorship of the maestro Chris Gordon. After celebrating her 18th birthday in her native town in Philadelphia, Courtney moved over to Los Angeles where she made shared the stage with the Iron Maidens as a guest performer. Having sensed that she was just perfect missing puzzle piece of the band, the Iron Maidens offered her a permanent position as the lead guitarist.

Courtney Cox joined hands with the Iron Maidens replacing Heather Baker. The event turned out to be a professional milestone and brought her into the national as well as global limelight. Courtney plays for The Iron Maidens under the pseudonym Adriana Smith, to pay tribute to the Adrian Smith of the original Iron Maiden and has staged many shows and guest appearances in the United States and in Japan.

Aside from her guitar playing feats for The Iron Maidens, Courtney has successfully attained numerous other highlights on her professional profile. Courtney shared the stage with the Phantom Blue members at the Michelle Meldrum Memorial Concert, held at the famous Whisky a Go Go Nightclub in Hollywood, California. Courtney also made it to the Guitar World Magazine’s Buyer’s Guide Model Search list, where she was successfully bagged the 1st runners-up position.

After becoming a part of The Iron Maidens in 2008, Courtney has played on the band’s latest album titled Metal Gathering Tour Live in Japan, which was released back in 2010.  Make no mistake about it, this young lady can shred.  Courtney and her fellow guitarist, Nikki Stringfield, are the modern day Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing.   Talented, precision, and dedicated to their craft.

We recently had a quizzy and interactive session with the young, lively and super-talented Courtney Cox. Here’s what she shared about her career hallmarks and future aspirations.

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When did you first pick up the guitar?

I randomly picked up the guitar around thirteen/fourteen. I was definitely a late bloomer but I always took to music quickly. I was playing Metallica tunes within my first week of getting a guitar!  I never looked back after that.

When you started playing, we’re you taking lessons or self-taught?

I am self-taught. I tried taking lessons but never was comfortable with it. I didn’t enjoy lessons because I didn’t want to sound like the teacher. I wanted to find my own sound and found it easier to just figure things out my own way. Some things you just can’t teach I believe. Even when I was enrolled in the School of rock way back when, I never went to lessons, which I got in trouble for. I just went on the tours! lol

Your first guitar was a black Cort electric.  Do you still have this guitar in your possession?

HA! That guitar! When I wanted a guitar, I went to my father randomly and asked him to take me to the music shop in a nearby town called Glenolden in Delaware county, music .Pa. The shop was called Top Ten Music.It was a small shop and my father was still kind of confused over why I wanted a guitar because it was literally soo out of the blue but I just had the feeling I wanted one! I went in not knowing anything about guitars, models, woods, set ups , but saw this black thing on the wall and wanted it ( now thinking back I know there was a pretty cool green Ibanez on the wall that I should have picked up.. Ha oh well )… It was horrible haha but I guess it taught me how to make anything sound good because it was a challenge ! And yes I still have it back at my home in Essington, Pa.

When you enrolled into The Paul Green School of Rock Music, what kind of bands were you listening too?

Since I had no friends (ha) , music was everything. I always surrounded myself with heavy metal, thrash , hair metal etc.   At that time I was really into old Metallica, Mercyfulfate/KingDiamond, Pantera, Priest , Anthrax, Exodus, Vio-lence, Overkill, Kreator to Ratt, Winger, and Queensryche and so on. A good song was a good song. I listened to everything.

When you were playing in the all-female tribute band Queen Diamond, was Andy Laroque an influence on your playing? Who were your other influences?

Andy is still a huge influence on my playing. A lot of my vibrato and whammy bar work comes from playing those tunes back when I was fifteen/sixteen. We were just babies! I still get excited when jamming on tunes like 7th day of July 1777 or black horsemen!   Other influential players are Darrell Abbott, Glen Tipton, Reb Beach, Adrian Smith, Vinnie Moore, Warren Demartini, Jason Becker, Paul Gilbert, Kiko Loureiro, Rob Marcello, Nuno Bettencourt, the list goes on and on. I love players that still make me air guitar to bends and solos!  If I had to name one player that started everything for me, it would be Kirk Hammett.  When I started I had to have everything he had. Same picks, strings, even moves on stage. I was obsessed.  He is probably the only person that would make me feel star struck if I ever met him.

When you moved to Los Angeles from Phili, how did you get an invite to try out for the Maidens?

I always heard about the Maidens on the east coast while I was still in Queen Diamond. I moved out to California at 19 with a backpack and a guitar. I was filling time as Ace in a Kiss tribute when I heard the Maidens had an opening for Adrian. I was all over it. I contacted them through MySpace at that time ( ha MySpace seems so ancient now), but didn’t realize I turned off the reply function so they could not reply back to me! Ha, I thought they hated me until I realized duh they can’t respond. Once I turned that function on, I received their invitation for an audition. I went in and was nervous because I knew Linda from Phantom Blue and I was a huge fan. Nerves aside, I nailed the audition, second one, first show and that was that! A family was forged and is still gaining momentum every day!

When you started with the Maidens, what guitar/s were you primarily using?

I was fortunate enough to have an endorsement with Jackson since I was fifteen. Soo I was using Jacksons, but you could find me also playing an Ibanez or vtype peavey from time to time.

When did you get your Raspberry Peavey Vandenberg?  Are you still playing that presently?

I acquired my vandy from Peavey a few years ago after I recorded a video for one of Peavey’s self-tuning guitars at Namm that received over a million views.  They asked what I wanted for such a rewarding video and I said there is only one thing- A Vandenberg.  They had a few left in the vault and luckily there was a raspberry one!   I play the guitar at home. I used to take it out on the road until an unfortunate situation where some idiot tried stealing it at a jam I took it to. Nice try jerk! It’s irreplaceable at this point so I keep it safe at home.

How about your lime green Jackson Adrian Smith?

My green Adrian Smith model is a one of a kind gift Jackson had made for me. I saw that green when it first came out on a Flying V they released at Namm a good hmmm seven years ago? I had to have it! They were on board with the idea but had to get the blessing from a very important person – Adrian Smith himself. After he gave the green light, Greeny was on its way to me. I love that thing. I still play it today. It has taken a break from tours the last year or so but it may show its face again. You never know.

You being a big Maiden fan, was it easy for you to copy the band’s moves and playing styles?

Yes. The music was second nature to me since I grew up listening to all of their tunes. When it comes to my favorite music, I view myself as a chameleon of sorts. I like tearing things apart and becoming one with anything I am playing. Try to step inside their shoes or brain and try to understand why they choose this note or that phrase. After you do that for awhile you step back and see the huge canvas for what it is and how the paint works.

Do you improvise in the band?

I do. I’d probably go insane if I didn’t. As much as it is a tribute band, I am not Adrian Smith. I have my own twist on things, my own sound.  I embellish on things when it feels right. I don’t intentionally do this but when you are live you get lost in the music and just play from the heart. There is nothing wrong with that.

What does your rig consist of?

My rig has been the same since I’ve been 16. Scary right? I use a valve king half stack from Peavey,  Boss pedals ( chorus, delay, tuner), newly added BBE pedals ( boosta grande for solos) and that’s pretty much it. I get my distortion from the vk head.  I like things simple. Less is more sometimes.

Are you presently endorsed by a Guitar Company?

I have been playing Caparison guitars lately.  Their luthier used to make some of the original Jackson’s so the feel is very familiar. I highly recommend them to all players. Handmade in Japan.    Caparisonguitars.com.   Find them on Facebook as well… Facebook.com/caparisonguitarco.     I still have my Jacksons but after nine years of torture on the road, they need some work. Once I have them serviced I will slowly incorporate them back into my arsenal.

What size strings do you use to play the Maiden songs?

Nines.  We play in standard so they get the job done.  Ghs.

What size picks are you using?

Hmm good question ( tries to find pick in purse) haha.   I use Dunlop tortex Jazz picks 1.0 mm.

Do you have any specific preparations you do before any show?

I stretch and really just try to zone out and listen to music. I try to avoid the green room by sitting at the bar with fans or just walk around.  I usually don’t even look at the set list until I walk on stage ha.  I consider this my ” me” time.

Are you playing with other bands aside from the Maidens?

Yes! I currently play for Femme Fatale and recently joined another group called the ” Chelsea Girls” which is sort of a super group of female musicians from other bands.  I swear I never sleep lol.

With your talent, Have you thought about, or been approached to do a solo album?

Original music is definitely in my near future. I have already been laying down tracks in my small home studio. The solo album thing really doesn’t interest me. I don’t believe in having my name alone on an album. I want a kick ass band that shares all duties and just has fun! I prefer to be in a family then be thrust to the front.  You need people who have your back, not people who want to put a dagger in it haha. I kid I kid.  Stay tuned for the originals.

What other types of music do you listen too? What other guitarists do you listen too?

I listen to everything. A good song is a good song regardless of genre.  Even at the heaviest of shows, you can find me rocking out to let’s say. Backstreet Boys. Not kidding. I’ve been listening to a lot of Duran Duran too.   The guitar work is very intriguing to me. Simple, well placed. And don’t get me started on the bass lines… perfection.

Do you have advice for any aspiring guitarist? 

It’s not easy, not an easy lifestyle but if you truly love what you do there are no boundaries. Everyone has ups and down, we are only human. Play because you want to play. Not because you want to be famous or rich. Passion is something a lot of people lose over the years and it is sad. I’ve seen it happen to many friends. I even tell myself the minute it becomes a job for me I’m done. So stay true to yourself and push forward. Even if you fail, there is only one way to go once you’ve hit rock bottom and that is up.

What should we expect from you in 2017?

We shall see. I plan to take this new year by the horns and completely destroy. With every passing year you learn new things, embrace the tools you have learned or forget things that didn’t work. I’m ready for 2017 and what it has to offer.

 

Check Courtney Cox out @ https://www.facebook.com/Courtneycoxofficial/

https://www.facebook.com/TheIronMaidensOfficial/

 

 

Interview: Gus G talks Firewind Ozzy Osbourne Future Solo Record

By Andrew Catania

Konstantinos Karamitroudis, aka Gus G., is a young name in the heavy metal genre and has managed to bag many awards and achievements in the rather short course of his professional music career.

Born on 12th September 1980 in Thessaloniki, Greece, Gus G. grew up learning music at home. His father’s love for rock introduced him to the acclaimed bands like The Eagles, Pink Floyd, and Santana in his early childhood years. His father, who used to play and sing traditional Greek melodies at the local taverns and bars, wanted to deliver his own passion to his child. His favorite childhood hobby was to listen to his father’s recorded versions of Peter Frampton’s album titled Frampton Comes Alive! Elated by his son’s natural philia towards music, his father presented him with his first guitar, a basic classic piece, on his 10th birthday.

Partly because of his father’s wish and primarily because of his natural talent that seems to have genetically transmitted to him from his father, he opted to learn music at a very young age. He was enrolled at a local music school where his natural playing skills were nurtured and groomed. After having learned the elementary techniques, he switched over to his first electric guitar by the time he turned 14. He joined a local music conservatory and under the mentorship of a rock guitar instructor, he decided to test his fate in the rock and heavy metal genre.

1998 turned out to be a turning point in his life. He got himself enrolled at the Berklee College of Music and decided to focus on building his professional profile. His debut project was a joint feat with his musician friends and was titled as Firewind.

The demo bagged significant attention from prominent record label agencies as well as a couple of growing metal bands such as Mystic Prophecy, Dream Evil, and Night Rage. Gus played a leading role in the debut albums of all 3 bands. The success of those albums might be debatable, but Gus’ talent was too audacious to be ignored. His playing technique received due praise from the critics as well as the audience. This compelled him to focus on his solo career and his own band. Firewind has released 7 studio records from 1998 till date.

Aside from his solo ventures, Gus has teamed up with notable bands and acclaimed musicians for guest appearances, including Nightrage, In This Moment, and the Greek rock band named West Neighborhoods. His natural playing brilliance helped him make a mark in all of his solo, guest, and joint feats and eventually landed him on Ozzy Osbourne’s (The Unrivaled Godfather of Heavy Metal) list of prospected candidates to play as the lead guitarist in his next big album release. Gus was initially invited by Ozzy to learn with him and play for a few minor albums. His talent endorsed him as a wise decision on Ozzy’s part and he was officially offered a role to play in place of Zakk Wylde.

Aside from his associations with the Arch Enemy, Kamelot, Nightrage, Angel Vivaldi, Mystic Prophecy and making numerous guest appearances and solos, Gus mentions that playing for Ozzy was an experience of a lifetime, and the honor itself outweighs all other accolades and awards he has accomplished to date.

Gus’s recent releases include Brand New Revolution and a couple of guest appearances for Attitude and Attitude. Gus has been ranked at 3rd position among the top 3 guitarists in the world by Japanese magazine BURRN! in 2003.

We recently had a chance to interview Gus where he shared his personal insight on his career so far and where he aspires to land in the future. Read on to find what he has to say.

 

Hey, Gus!  Welcome to All That Shreds.  I had the pleasure of seeing you with Angel Vivaldi recently.

Yes! That was a cool show that night I remember

It was a very cool show.  I was wondering where you were going to put all your gear.  I was just like, wow!

(laughter)

Everything fit alright in the end.  It was a cool stage I thought

Yes! It’s a very cool setup there.  That is where a lot of the hard rock metal bands go

Yes,  they told me that.  It was cool

How are you liking AFM Records?

We just started working together and they have their rights to a new album for North America and Century Media is handling the rest of the world.  So I’m curious to see what they do in North America.  The last album I put out on my own label basically

 
Has it been five years now since Firewind came out with the last album?  Anything particular change in recording on this one versus your old one?

Yes.  The last one we did everything in a studio altogether.  We used a couple of different studios we did the drums in Belgium and then everybody did their stuff in their home studios.  Like I have my own set-up here so I did guitar and bass with Petros and Henning he went with the producer studio in Germany and they did the vocals thereI like the album.  It sounds really good.  It’s got your DNA all over it.  I can hear your playing from miles away.  It’s a Firewind album.  I associate you with Firewood.  Whenever you’re doing a solo record, Firewind is you  Yes, Yes! Thanks, man, thanks!!No problem.  Do you have plans of touring Europe?

Yes, it starts in February in the UK and Europe and then I do a little bit of a solo thing in Asia.  I have three shows in Japan and Korea and then we would get back with the guy’s and we would do a bunch of festivals in the summer

OK.  Any plans on bringing Firewind to the states?

I don’t know.  I think a lot depends on how the album is doing over there.  We have not discussed any packages or anything like that or touring plans for the states.  We’ll see! We’re not negative about it, we’d like to come back.  Hopefully,  if we have the right feedback from fans and the right support and it’s the right package, yes we would definitely like to come back

That would be fantastic to see you guy’s back here.  You’re with Jackson Guitar now, that is kind of surprising

Yes!  I went with them I think it was in May or June

I know the other company you do not really discuss much of it.  But the other company I think you were with for 12 years

I was with them for 12 years.  Sometimes you’ve just got to change it up.  I’ve been playing Japanese guitars for a long time and then I fancy playing American guitars and then trying it out.  Jackson was very enthusiastic and they have a good theme.  Not only enthusiastic about the marketing scheme and all that, their team on how they build guitars have good ideas and are not afraid to try them out so to speak and I like that attitude.

So do you feel more at home now with Jackson versus your predecessor?  

You know I’ve had a really good run with ESP I can’t complain.  They gave me my first signature guitars and stuff and we did well.  Now with Jackson, it feels like the right team to be a part of.  Those guys are fans of what I do.  They’ve actually been bugging me for a few years now. It’s like hey man if you ever feel like trying something else out, we’re here.  I met up with them and I went to their factory.  You know they are owned by Fender so  I went to the Fender factory which is pretty amazing.  The whole vibe there was very cool and everybody was really on it.  You know the guy who builds my guitar is Mike Shannon who built Randy Rhoads Jackson guitars and it’s very cool.

It’s quite an honor isn’t it?

Absolutely! Yes

Jackson is part of Fender.  They make a good product there.  Are you still touring around with your 200-watt cabs?

Yes! That is my set-up live.  That is what I had in Orlando

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It was freaking loud!

Yes!  It’s a 200-watt head.  The cabs that I use, those Blackstar cabs they are bigger than the normal Marshall cabs.  They are kind of I don’t know, they’re are designed to be played loud I guess.  It’s cool

Gus tell me how did you start playing guitar?  Was it as a kid?

Yes.  I started playing when I was 9 because my dad had this record at home he kept playing, Frampton Comes Alive, by Peter Frampton.  I just loved the way he did the Talkbox and I thought it was like a robot effect or something.  I didn’t think it was a guitar at the time.  Yes, that is how I was interested in picking up a guitar

Interesting.  Do you remember your first guitar?

The first guitar that my dad got me was a classical guitar.  For the first four years,  I was kind of stuck with that classical guitar and I was going to some local music school basically learning a few chords and stuff nothing really too exciting but when I was fourteen he saved up and got me my first electric guitar, which I still have.  It is a Fender Stratocaster.  It was one of those models and the first attempt that Fender made to try to be a bit more metal.  It was like a Floyd with Rosewood and a humbucker


How did you get into your first band?

I was playing covers when I was 16 around town just classic rock stuff.  I played for a couple years before I went to America after high school.  I went to Berklee College of Music for a while and dropped out of that and did some recordings with some classmates from Berklee and that was basically the beginning of Firewind as a project, as an idea.

And that was back in ’98?

Yes,  ’98.

Ok,  so you were trying to shop at labels to get your project Firewind acknowledged?

Yes.  Just trying to see if there was any interest out there at the time and there was no interest.

(laughter)

Ok.  So Firewind got signed?

Yes, I was still young and my ideas were not developed soI was doing all these 4-track recordings and I would send them to this label in Atlanta, Leviathan Records,  and the owner was David Chastain.  He would write me back letter’s or e-mails and said yes he would encourage me to keep working at it and eventually he offered me the first contract and that is how we signed with Leviathan.

Wow! That is awesome.  With Firewind do you do most of the writing or is it split up amongst the team?

It depends on every album.  Sometimes it used to be me and Bob, Apollo, our previous singer.  In the very early album,  it was just me and the other singer we had back then.  On this record,  it changed up again.   I did all the music and co-wrote it with Dennis Ward who co-produced the album with me.  So he and I basically co-wrote and co-produced the whole thing

Very good.  Tell me how you got the Ozzy Osbourne gig

I got an e-mail from his management in 2009 asking me if I would be interested in auditioning.  I was like yes, of course!  I learned a bunch of songs and a couple weeks later they flew me out to LA and I did the audition.  It went really good and they asked me if I wanted to come back and play a show with him and that was it.  In August 2009 we did the first show which was like a televised appearance or something.  It was a show in Anaheim and that was a warm-up thing.  Then I went back home and two weeks later they asked me to come back and play another show with him, The Sunset Strip Festival and the next thing you know I was hanging out at his house the next day and he played me the record he was working on and I ended up staying for a few days recording some guitars and the next thing you know I am working fully on the next album and everything took off from there

I’m sure it had to be pretty exciting touring the world with Ozzy and playing in stadiums and festivals

Oh yes, of course, man, it’s amazing!  These are things very few musician’s get to do and it definitely is mind-blowing

Is there any word from his camp that you guys are going to be going back into the studio?

No,  I have not heard anything.  I know he has been hinting at press a little bit the past few months but I really don’t know.  Yes there is apparently a plan for another album but it’s probably not set in stone right now, still busy with that Sabbath final tour

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Yes, he’s still doing that until February

Yes apparently and maybe there is going to be some more gigs they said or festivals or something like that.  Didn’t Naomi say that or something?

They did say that yes.  It’s supposed to be in February I guess I saw one report where he was writing with Steve Stevens which scratched my head because that makes absolutely no sense

Yes.  That’s not new.  Those demos, those are from last year.  He was telling me about it.  I really don’t know.  There’s nothing really official I know he is busy doing this other thing right now.

That’s good.  Who are your endorsements?  Obviously,  we know Blackstar and Jackson.  What else are you endorsing?  Are you endorsed by a pick company or pedals?

A lot of people! A lot of good people actually.  Seymour Duncan for pickups, I’ve got my own pickups through them.  DR Strings.  Morley pedals and Boss Units, Line 6 for my wireless units.  Red Monkey makes my guitar straps and some of the accessories like the cuffs that I’m wearing, wristbands

I know you came to America from Greece but did you find it hard to be noticed?

You mean back then when I was 18?  It was a tough time for heavy metal in America back then.  Like in the late ’90’s it was about wrap metal and new metal was emerging and all that stuff.  The traditional stuff was nowhere.  I was a bit discouraged back then.  I ended up going back home a year later and I ended up living in Sweden for a while and that’s when I got started with Dream Evil

Oh wow ok! That I did not know.  In 2017 Firewind is going to be your top priority until the Oz-man comes calling?  How is that going to work out for you?

Yes, obviously we have a new album so to promote it we have the tour, we have a lot of festivals that we’re going to be doing and just keep doing that and in between that keep writing my next solo record.  I have some sporadic solo gigs here and there and we’ll see what happens after that.  If we get to work with Ozzy then that’s what’s coming up next and if that doesn’t happen then I’m going back into a solo record I guess

Your last solo record is awesome.

Thanks!!

 

How does it feel to have your name thrown in with some of the heavy-weight guitarists like Steve Vai and all them?  Because your name is in the mix there with them

It is a big compliment of course!  I am nowhere near as good or as big as those guys but some of those guys are my heroes.  I grew up their posters on my wall and listening to the records and stealing their licks.  Anytime you get to do a show with those guys, open with them or jam with them or with any of those guys it’s a big moment for me

 

Good luck on the album.  I look forward to the next one.  If the Oz-man comes calling, I will see you on the next tour!

Firewind’s new record will be released on January 20, 2017.

You can follow Firewind @ http://www.firewind.gr/2013/home.html

You can follow Gus G @ http://www.gusgofficial.com/home.html

Is Eddie Van Halen The Greatest Rock Guitarist Since Hendrix?

By Andrew Catania

The history of heavy metal rock will forever be highlighted by a select few who managed to achieve far greater heights than their contemporaries. Jimi Hendrix being one, with the sheer brilliance and expertise par excellence, had no boundaries or restrictions to limit his potential and the magic he was capable of with the guitar.

With no rules to abide by and no sequences to follow – he was unstoppable, with an unwavering courage to explore and carve musical planes that have never been heard of before. Jimi Hendrix made it totally worth it, to be considered as the undisputed God of the heavy metal genre and escalated legendary milestones to a whole new height, making it even more challenging for his successors to touch that level of greatness.

It is quite refreshing to note that the post-Hendrix era is populated with a number of names that took it upon them to take forward the ‘Hendrix legacy’ and took pride in following the path laid by the eternal maestro of the heavy metal world. Eddie Van Halen, for instance, is one of those few names who made their own signature mark on the music scene of the 1970s and 1980s.

The mastery he had held over his personalized six-stringed instruments ensured that it was him that controlled how his guitar would work and what he squeezed out of the chords, not the other way round. So, it all makes perfect sense if we say that the musical planes and the untapped realms that he ventured into was not a coincidence, rather his own brilliance, forte and excellence.

An analysis of his notes and techniques is a strong validation of his great and intricate attention to details. Fast, furious and with an extreme audacity to make your ear drums experience new heights of musical ecstasy, Eddie Van Halen himself compares his playing style to a racing car, going down the  road, blitzing though everything that comes in between.

Just like Hendrix – the rock maestro, Van Halen too had little to stop him when it came to playing the whammy bars and gave a whole new meaning to the heavy metal rock through ‘Panama’, ‘Eruption’ and ‘Hot for Teacher’. His notes made a profound impact that was anything but distortion. Perfectly planned, and intricately carved, every single fluctuation and nuance still makes an impression as if a farfetched fantasy is coming to life.

His musical virtuoso is a depiction of his uniqueness, and entails his signature master moves, as in, the dive bombs, fun licks, finger tapping and pinching on the natural harmonics. He was not just a pioneer or inventor of a new style; he made them popular and inspired many young artists and musicians that took pride in following his lead. The way he used effects pedals, hot-rodded amps and tricking out guitars, it escalated the set bars and ensured that hard rock still had a lot in it to be explored.

It was all worth it, for apart from countless other awards and accolades, including the Grammy Award for ‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’ (1992), American Music Award for ‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’ (1991), MTV Music Awards for ‘Jump’ (1984), ‘Finish What Ya Started’ (1989), and two awards for ‘Right Now’ in 1992, Eddie Van Haken was declared as the ‘Greatest Guitarist of all Times’ in a poll conducted by Guitar World Magazine.

More than the awards and accolades that mark his musical career, it is his inclination to develop his signatures taps, his understanding of the strings and chords and the perfect chemistry between his  finger tips and his instruments, that enabled him to produce not just a piece of music but a real treat to cherish for a lifetime. It is his successful attempts at turning the impossible into possible with a mere finger tap that justifies that if anyone could be rendered as a successor to the ’Hendrix legacy, Eddie Van Halen almost makes it to that honor.

Is Yngwie Malmsteen the Greatest Rock and Roll & Heavy Metal Guitarist Since Jimi Hendrix?

By Andrew Catania

The historical archives of the heavy metal rock speak for the sheer class of Jimi Hendrix. As soon as his fingers came in touch with the metal chords, it was as if he was magically squeezing out tones that poured into the ears as profound musical fantasies that humanity had never heard before. It was as if his riffs, shreds, and chord pulls came out of a parallel world and evolving a musical plane out beyond the restriction of the physical dynamics of the contemporary music world. This is why, he is undisputedly worshiped as the God of heavy metal rock, and apparently, with the milestones he had already established, no wonder it demanded a lot from his successor musicians to achieve a class even close to his grandeur.

A look over the post-Hendrix era of music, we see a couple of names like Jimmy Page, Angus Young, Steve Vai and Eric Clapton. But if observed in the retrospect of the extremity of pulls, the non-conformity to contemporary technique and experimenting with the tones and chords, is it Yngwie Malmsteen who stands as the most eligible and deserving heir to the ‘Hendrix Legacy’? And would it be an exaggeration if we sum up Malmsteen’s career in a single statement as “he came, he saw, and he conquered”?

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Comparing the career hallmarks, mastery at hand and the technical blueprints of rock and roll musicians, Yngwie Malmsteen seems to have made a loud and explosive mark in his musical career, straightaway challenging his fellow musicians of the neoclassic, heavy metal, rock and roll genre, right from the start. The mastery he held over his six-stringed, personalized instrument is a worthy testament to his in-born brilliance. The new hard rock and heavy metal sensation took the world by storm, jolting the musical status quo of the 1980s, Malmsteen eventually turned into a name that you would love, or hate, but could not possibly ignore.

His music had this lightning fast, jolting hard and literally exploding-onto-the-eardrums kind of effect. Despite his nerve-wracking tones pulled out of the fusion of metal and classic, he was not exactly the pioneer among the neo-classical maestros to have tried and aced the forte. But still, it might be hard to deny that his tones are addictive and unbearably beautiful for their explosive audacity and keep the audience hooked and bound in an exceptional phase of musical ecstasy.

While the rock and roll world was experiencing Eddie Van Halen‘s hyper fast electric, Eric Clapton’s virtuosity, Jimmy Page’s finesse and Steve Vai’s Zappa, Yngwie Malmsteen made his presence felt through his fiery, fanatical and deviant tones, giving birth to his very own neo-classical, heavy metal genre. And this, precisely, would suffice as a reason why he could be considered a competent, potential descendant to inherit the towering throne of the legendary Jimi Hendrix and his legacy of rock and roll magnum opuses.