By Andrew Catania
Can a childhood birthday present set the entire course of future for someone? This might be quite a random and subjective thought to ponder, but that’s what happened to Rusty Cooley’s life, to say the least!
Who knows what the person had in mind when he presented Rusty with a guitar on his 15th birthday. The guitar turned out to be that lucky charm that one needs just once in their life, to meet their fate and make everything fall into place. The moment his fingers first encountered the chords, it was the defining moment of his life, and he has never looked back since.
His interest in music landed him into the supervision of a couple of instructors in the initial years of his learning phase. However, disgruntled with the way guitar lessons were taught back then, Rusty opted to test his own mettle and decided in favor of a self-learning approach.
This proved to be just the right learning medium as it not only improved his basic knowledge about the physics of guitars, but also helped him familiarize with the tact and intricacies of the chords. This probably is the reason why he’s titled as the ‘Fastest Guitarist in the US’ as well as a master shredder.
Rusty’s career debut as a guitarist was different from his contemporaries, unlike a typical debut norm of a studio album or record label release. Rusty, through his self-taught approach, had become so competent at playing guitars that he started giving guitar lessons at a local music store. In 1989, at the age of 19, he kick-started his professional playing career with the famous rock band Revolution.
After a couple of performances on ‘Metallurgy’, ‘Metallurgy Unplugged’ and an EP release, Rusty parted ways with the Revolution and joined hands with Dominion. The same year when Dominion broke up, Rusty bagged the title of ‘The Best Guitarist in Houston’ in the Guitar Master Series Contest.
After spending a couple of years polishing and refining his skills, leading ‘World Class Guitar Leading Techniques’ (a local TV show), and teaching at the World Class National Guitar Techniques for 3 consecutive years, Rusty joined Outworld in 1997.
Rusty released his personal guitar playing tutorial, called the ‘Shred Guitar Manifesto’, in 2000, which managed to gain endorsements from Seymour Duncan Pickups and Jackson Guitars. In 2003, Rusty released a solo album titled ‘Rusty Cooley’ to his name. The same year, he was ranked as the ‘7th Fastest Shredders of All Times’ by Guitar One Magazine, in April 2003.
Rusty’s style has evolved from a variety of genres, including Country, Classical, Funk, Blues, and Rock. His initial inspirations include some legendary names including Becker, Bach, Vai, Tafolla, Kotzen, Firkins, Malmsteen, Gilbert, Paganini, Holdsworth, and Rhoads.
Rusty has also tested the luthier in him, releasing his signature six-stringed Dean model in 2007, and the improvised eight-stringed version named after his initials, ‘DC RC-8’, in 2011. Rusty’s lead work has been promoted in the ‘Double Brutal’, Death Machine’s second album. Rusty has been affiliated with a number of acclaimed luthiers, including Morley Pedals, Ibanez Guitars, GHS Strings, Maxon, and Jackson Guitars. He’s currently endorsed and recognized by Dean Guitars. Rusty marked his return to the playing domain by joining ‘Day of Reckoning’. He also released a new album ‘Into the Fire’ last year along with other band members. Aside from bagging various recognitions and acclaims, Rusty has been imparting his treasure trove of theoretical and practical knowledge and intricacies of guitaring through regular lessons. He will make a special guest appearance in ‘John Petrucci’s Guitar Universe’, a guitar camp to be held in August of 2017. Rusty has continued teaching and putting music out with Day of Reckoning. I spoke with Rusty to catch up on what he’s been doing.
You’re teaching guitar lessons all day and night in Texas?
Well not all day and all night. I don’t start until 3 in the afternoon and I’ll go until 3 to 9 and then sometimes when I get home I’ll do skype stuff, like after this interview I’ve got a Skype lesson. I was out-of-town for a couple of days from Friday to Sunday night doing a guitarclinic in Maryland and just doing some make up stuff, you know just business as usual
What are you doing presently? I know you’ve got Day of Reckoning happening
Yes, I’ve got Day of Reckoning. We’ve got a CD out and its one of two parts it’s Into the Fire Part 1 and we just released that well not just its been out for a little while but we released that and then ran into a couple of hiccups with band members and we got a new drummer which we had to import all the way from Bangalore India. It’s sad when you can’t find a drummer you know in your hometown or let alone in the United States but he’s an amazing drummer so he’s been back and forth a few times but he’s moving over and he’ll be a permanent feature after the first of the year. Then we had an issue with our bass player he just had too many commitments with some personal issues so we had to find somebody to replace him and I thought that was going to take forever but we actually found his replacement pretty quick and that’s not any reflections on his playing he’s an amazing bass player but I just got lucky and it was a guy I tried to get in the band a long time ago was available named Michael Milsap or aka Dr Froth he doesn’t actually play a bass he plays an AT Stick it’s got like 8 strings on it or something 7 or 8 strings and it’s got the full bass range and it’s got strings like you find on a guitar as well and he does all this tapping and crazy stuff so it fits in with all the insanity so just trying to get out there and get things rolling again you know. You know it’s been a long time between Outworld and Day of Reckoning so it’s just not easy finding guys that play on that level that are committed and dedicated and can do it so. We’ve done some cool things this year. We did a tour with Darkest Hour earlier this year and then we just opened for Alter Bridge in Dallas at their CD release party. That was cool and some other things just trying to get the momentum and get it rolling again you know what I mean? It’s a long time in the process
I’ve been reading in 1996 you said you couldn’t find any musicians, you did not have any musicians in your hometown that just didn’t even satisfy you, you did your own solo thing, is that pretty much where it started?
At the time when I decided to do an instrumental album It wasn’t so much that I wasn’t satisfied with the level of players it was just you know sometimes you’ve just got to take a breather. I needed a change and that’s when I decided, you know I had my son and I had taken a year or so off from teaching and was trying to reevaluate life; my assessment. I was 26 at the time you know I had to go through some changes; metamorphosis and get back on the right track and really assess what I wanted to do and how I was going to do it. Luck of the draw it’s all a timing thing really because when I started writing that instrumental album I started playing 7 string at the same time as my first child and started going back to teaching and the internet started to take off and I just happened to be there at the right time to be known as ‘internet guitarist’ or whatever whether that has a positive or negative I’m not sure. I can surely tell you this if it wasn’t for the internet I wouldn’t who knows what would have happened and how else do you reach the world without getting out there touring? Back then you would swap cassettes with everybody to find out about guitar players and bands you know so it’s just luck of the draw I guess, I don’t know but it all kind of came together at the same time and then I had to get back out there and find guys in my hometown that could play the stuff. So really my instrumental band became Outworld and that’s when we got a singer. The instrumental album didn’t have a real drummer on it me and my old keyboard player Bobby I would give him rough drafts of the songs that I had programmed drums for and I’m not a drummer by any means so I gave him the stuff and he spiced it up to what it became. Before he played keys, he was a drummer. Basically, the drums that ended up being on the instrumental album were a combination of the three drummers we had gone through in that year. We kind of took the best parts and spliced them in and turned them into what became so there’s a little bit of all them guys on there somewhere even though they didn’t play on it. It’s tough man!
I understand! You started teaching your third year of playing
That’s mostly unheard of. You didn’t like the people that were teaching you?
Well the thing is I would have taken lessons and continued to take lessons if I could have found teachers that taught me that kind of stuff. I got my guitar and signed up for my first month of lessons and it was like Twinkle Twinkle little star and stuff like that and ironically, I didn’t being a teenager, you know I would come in every week and say hey you should look at this Van Halen riff my friend showed me and my teacher is going “and what did you practice?” So, open position chords that you strum on acoustic and it wasn’t really much interest to me. After a month of lessons with him he told my mom, it’s just not working out so I basically just got fired I guess, if you can be fired from guitar lessons. He said why don’t you try my friend, so I signed up for a month of guitar lessons with this guy and after two weeks of lessons from him I quit because it was the same thing, just a different teacher. And that’s when I found out about Metal Method. I call it self-educated. I’m not self-taught. Self-educated you know through books and stuff like that. A friend of mine had been carrying around an ad that he had cut out of Hit Parade or Circus Magazine back then for heavy metal guitar lessons which was Metal Method Doug Marks and whatnot. He had it in his wallet and I said dude if you’re not going to use that, let me take it. So, I ordered my first two lessons from Metal Method and it was all over from there because it was exactly what I was looking for because it was like taking lessons from Randy Rhoads or Eddie Van Halen or whatever because it was guys playing the stuff that I wanted to hear and was listening to and he was teaching it you know. So, I did the whole Metal Method’s course and then just started buying books and that turned into VHS tapes, that kind of dates me but that’s Ok! I’m lucky and fortunate to have grown up in that era because that era is some of the famous rocking guitar players that ever existed came from that era and don’t really get it or respect that a lot of people don’t realize how much Yngwie or Randy Rhoads or Eddie Van Halen plays the same guitar and I get it. A lot of those guys can play faster than some guys but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about what they brought to the table you know. It’s not just getting up to their speed they brought a whole new style of guitar. They did things that no one was doing before or at least in the main stream media you know. And going back to the internet thing there was no internet back then so you know if there was someone else doing it somewhere it wasn’t like they got online and saw them doing it or heard them doing it you know. We all tapped into similar sources so that was cool. So, it just built from there and this was even before Yngwie came out and Randy Rhoads was my base influence when I was getting started and whatever Randy did I wanted to do so Randy taught so of course I wanted to teach. Randy listened to classical music so I started listening to classical music. I would absorb anything I could any interview, any bootleg cassette or album whatever I could find I had to have and unlike now those days I was starving for information whereas now online you can get as much information more which is not always a good thing because you don’t take it for what it’s worth sometimes I think. It’s like I like to buy cd’s or buy albums I don’t want to buy one song you know how do you get to know an artist from one song? Well I bought the one song, then I bought one song over here or they probably didn’t buy it because I don’t think kids know today know that you buy music. I think they just think that it’s free you just get online at this certain website and you download it or hijack it or whatever you want to call it but that’s a whole other rant I’ll save for later.
I tell everybody that if you support the artist try to go to their website. Try to buy the CD directly from them. Anything, T shirts, guitar picks anything that you get through your website because that’s how you must survive. If you are not out on the road 360 days a year like some of these bands are because the music Industry is not what it is anymore
Yeah, I honestly don’t completely blame them and I probably should but I think it’s from lack of information. I think sometimes that people are just naive and just assume that because you have an album out or whatever that you’re like rich you know. I think the music industry and artists and certain level of actors are the only people who experience this I’m not sure ,maybe I’m being naive but it’s the only industry where you can be world-famous and be struggling at the same time you know what I mean. And it’s the only industry that you don’t necessarily go for the best of the best because it’s based on style and what the media is shoving down your throat you know what I mean. People don’t know to look elsewhere, how do they find out you know. And it’s just like non-musician types don’t really look beyond the radio. A lot of people just get in their car and turn on the radio and whatever it is, it’s like background noise. I mean if you watch the NBA or NFL you don’t just root for the guy on the bench you want to see the best of the best get up there because the excel and they’re great at what they do. But when it comes to musicians their art is not necessarily about how good they are or how good their choreograph is or what their stage show looks like it’s not even about its performance it’s about the music sometimes well most of the times it’s not even about the music and stuff the show you know, so the musician just gets lost in it. It’s a matter of taste I suppose because music is in the ear of the beholder so to speak and lack of education can also be a problem too
That’s true! Your kind of getting ahead of my questions here. (laughter)
No, that’s Ok! Do you still have the Peavey Decade Amp and the Peavey T27 your first guitar?
No man, I don’t. That first Peavey guitar I think I sold to one of my school teachers for their kid and I don’t know what happened to the guitar maybe the guitar went with it. My best friend who always says I quit playing because Rusty kept getting better than me but he had a Peavey also and I ended up with that. First, we turned it into an Eddie Van Halen guitar and took it out in the garage and spray painted it, put all the pinstripes all over it and later I turned it into my Steve Vai meets Yngwie guitar which we painted fluorescent green and scalloped the frets and that one again, I don’t know where that one vanished to. It just funny looking back and seeing how things come full circle that I started with Peavey guitars and amps and ended up going on to endorse their amps you know it’s cool. But yeah, I have no idea where that guitar is at
OK. You’ve gone through Ibanez you’re with Dean Guitars now. How did you get involved with Elliot and Dean Guitars?
Well that’s an interesting story. I got involved with Dean with a good friend of mine Mark Tremonti was at the Dean factory cause Mark’s a PRS guy so he was there with a friend of his Bill Beck who is a Dean artist also they just live by one another and they’re friends so Mark was tagging along and Elliot was talking to Mark and Elliot said hey many we’re trying to corner the shred market do you know anybody and Mark says well yes of course! You need to call my friend Rusty and that’s where it all started. This was like, I think it was around December 2005 I think, if I remember correctly, I guess it’s been a while now and he asked me if I was going to NAMM in January and luck of the draw again I had been endorsing Intellitouch Tuners and one of the guys said hey man why don’t we get you out to NAMM this year? I said OK so it was all a last-minute thing. So, I told Elliot yes, you know, I am going to be there this year. So, he said well stop by the booth and let’s talk. I said OK. So, I get out there and I sat by the booth and we’re talking and sheepishly we’re talking and I say well I don’t really play the crazy shaped guitars I play more like super Strat guitars you know what I mean. Because I wanted to hear more of what he had to say but I knew I’m not really like the ML type player you know like Dime plays or V’s but I went by and I talked to him anyway and he offered me a signature deal and he offered to build me whatever guitar I wanted to build and along the way on the conversation I brought up the fact that I play 8 string guitar and I played two different versions. I played an 8 sting that was high string A lowish B and I played an 8 string that was high E to low up sharp and I mentioned you know it’s like I don’t want to be playing a Dean Guitar and endorsing a Dean Guitar on this song and playing this brand of guitar on another song and this brand of guitar on another song which he completely agreed which I really didn’t think about that but why would he want me playing anything else but Dean Guitars and the Fan Frets is not an easy guitar to make and they never made one before and he looks over to one of his guitar builders and says, hey man can we do that? And the guy looks over and says, yes, we can do that! And that was it. February, they had me fly into Tampa they picked me up and took me to the Dean Factory and signed the RC 7. So, that’s pretty much how that happened. It’s cool. Just like that you know and its funny I had also been with another guitar company before for Ibanez I don’t like mentioning company names but this company got bought out by Fender and after that happened it wasn’t very cool. Then Ibanez called and I went with them and I was happy to go with them because I’d been playing Ibanez 7 strings before that and then when I got the call from Dean it was an obvious, hey yes! Yes, let’s do this because the prior company wasn’t interested in any of my design ideas. They didn’t want to do anything to change how their guitars looked and when I got with Dean my Dean the RC 7,8 & 6’s were designed to the very last details down to my specs down to volume, knob placement, pickups to the cutaway neck thickness, fret size I mean every detail of my guitar. I mean that’s how they believed in my ideas. The previous company wouldn’t listen to my ideas and a year after my guitar came out the previous company started putting out with a guitar with my ideas on them it’s like oh, I get it!
Was this Ibanez?
No I’m trying not to name names it’s the best thing to do when you’re with a company, they don’t want to hear me saying other companies’ names and I understand that
I got you
When’s the RC 9 coming out?
I don’t know about that yet because I’ve already had a 9 string and I wasn’t really that happy with it because when you have a high A to a low B you must have a fan fret I’m not sure if you’ve seen, do you know what I’m talking about fan fret?
And if you go any lower that means the fan must be even greater so I’m not sure that a greater fan for a high A to something below an F sharp I don’t think, what I would want with a 9-string guitar would be high A to low F sharp. That would be my version of a 9 string because I don’t want to go lower than an F sharp it’s just like bass town. I’m not sure the technology is there for it yet because the 9 string that I had been 23.5 to a 26.5 and that’s a good fan and the low string was still just too floppy and I wasn’t happy with the pickups but this is way more before anyone else did anything like that. I did the 9 string in like, I did my first 8 string in 2001 I think and I did my 9 string during like 2004 or 2005
You were doing 7 strings in ’95 & ’96 weren’t you?
In ’96 I got my first 7 string yes and when I got that, I put up my 6’s and never looked back. I started playing the 8 string with the high A because all the classical influences the violin stuff. There’s no way to get up in that violin range and play some of those classical lines and I didn’t even know that such a thing existed and a friend of mine sent me a web link with these guitars and I said oh, I’ve got to have one of those. As far as innovativeness goes I think the high A string is much more challenging than playing a low F sharp model. With low F sharp model you can still have standard straight frets and when you go down to the low F sharp you just change on the same fret you know but when you have a high A string you’ve got that B string transference so that shifts everything over one and plus you’ve got one more string above that throws everything off a little, it’s much harder to grasp than learn how to play fluently than it is to go into one lower string and most of the guys that play low F sharp string aren’t doing anything really innovative with it, it’s just rhythmic stuff which that’s cool but it’s not really challenging taking the instrument to some place new
You just had a guitar come out back a few weeks ago, didn’t you? It’s the RC8 but with a different style of graphics on it. Isn’t it?
What was it? You said it was an 8
I believe it’s an RC 8. I just saw it. Because I saw it on Guitar Center and it says available 11/4. It’s a new model
Oh! I haven’t seen it.
It might not be a new model. It might be a that they just now started carrying it. If you have a link for it, I’d like to see it
Yes, OK! It’s got a nice price tag of $2,505.00
Yes, can you send me that link so I can look at it?
Yes, I’ll send it
You know what they’re making now is RC 6’s which is a smart move because regardless of how you know of the 7 & 8 string guitar more people play a 6-string guitar. I think the innovative idea is to go on to the RC 7 & 8’s. A 6 string should be able to reap those benefits as well. There’s a company called Axe Palace that ordered a bunch of custom USA 6’s but the cool thing the thing about Dean is you can call up Dean and have any version of my guitars made. Say you want an RC 7 in hot pink with purple polka dots and green inlays or whatever, they’ll build you any version of if you want. A lot of these guitar shops like Drum City and Guitar Land and Axe Palace or what not, they’ll call up and they’ll have several of their own design configurations. Like we want this kind of wood on the body and this kind of wood on the neck and pickups and tuners. It’ll be an RC 7 but it will be built to their choices of wood and paint, pickups and stuff like that so this might be something they put together just for Guitar Center that I haven’t seen yet or it’s something that Guitar Center hasn’t carried and new to them
Here it is. It says Xenocide. It says right here available 11/4/2016 I don’t know if it was just out of stock
I don’t know. If you can give me the link, copy and paste it to where that text box is I can look at it. I’d like to do that. I’d like to see what it is because that is a USA priced guitar. Let’s see, look here
I don’t know if they’re out of stock on it or not but that’s new
This isn’t new but it’s new for them. I don’t think they carried USA models until this point. So, this is the first version of the RC 7. This is what the very first RC 7 looked like except for some of the modifications that we made to it. I’ve changed some things on the body since then but this basically represents the RC 7 in its truest form and the very first form we ever released. So, they’re carrying USA models now, that’s cool
They have the lesser expensive models and that’s what I was going to ask you. The Dean models that are in the $400, $500, $600 $700 range, they’re made overseas. Do you have any input with the international models that are made in China and Korea?
Absolutely! I do because the import models used to be RC 8 models up but they haven’t been up until recently. They had a different neck spec on it a different, one of my things that were super important to me was that we got right and they changed factories and everything changed.
That doesn’t represent what the new imports look like. The new imports look just like the Xenocide up there that’s got the sticker price of $2505.00. You can see if you look at the skull model the upper horn is different it’s not as thin and that’s one of the main things. You can’t see the other things I am talking about unless you can see the guitar on the neck. That’s cool man. Thank you for making me aware of that
I do know this, sometimes with the imports sometimes you get lucky with some of the wood. Most of the import models are supposed to be made from alder and my USA models all the bodies are mahogany with a maple top or just all mahogany. A couple of students come in with Xenocide’s and just by the weight alone I can tell it’s not alder you know. So, I think getting an import sometimes you run across something you might not have gotten somewhere else. A good example of that is like Eddie Van Halen’s first guitars, the one’s he built by himself. He used to get those parts I think from Charvel and he would build great necks and bodies and he didn’t know what that meant so he would just take the B grade stuff and look at the tone he got out of all that you know that is some of the greatest guitar tone recorded. Another one is like James Hetfield look at the flying V that he played on all those Metallica records that he’s still famous for that tone. That’s not a Gibson that’s an Epiphone you know. Most people don’t know that they thought it was a Gibson. It’s really an import Epiphone V not a USA Gibson
I didn’t know that
When the Megadeth situation came around and they got in touch with you, I read just like anybody that you were for it then you kind of stopped in your tracks, like I don’t want to play solos of 20 years of different people from Marty Friedman all the way up, how did you weigh that?
What really happened was that’s not really what happened at all. My number one decision not to play with Megadeth, which gets overlooked because I think the way Blabbermouth posted it and after Blabbermouth posted it everybody else posted the same thing. Blabbermouth posted Rusty Cooley turns on Megadeth and it wasn’t like that at all. If you watch the interview there’s a video interview that I did and that’s where all this came from. They just cut and pasted things out of it but if you watch the video interview I turned down Megadeth because (yes, my daughter) I got divorced in 2011 she asked me to move in and I said, of course, I felt like I had already missed enough of her life that I don’t want to miss any more of it. If I go do this Megadeth thing she’s going to have to move back in with her mother, I’m going to be gone and I just thought about it the grand scheme of things and 15 years from now when I look back and know that I was here and not on the road playing other people’s music you know when that’s not what I got into it for. I looked at it like this, what could Megadeth do for me that I can’t already do on my own? You know most of Megadeth’s fans probably already know who I am is that going to help me sell my own music? No. What am I going to do? I’m going to be on a tour bus for 18 hours a day play a couple of hours of other people’s music, even though it’s Megadeth one of the greatest metal bands ever! You know, I love Megadeth. It was an honor and Dave Mustaine was nothing but a true gentleman to me the whole time which is the exact opposite of what the media was saying. I never saw that side of Dave he was super freaking cool. I just couldn’t you know I write too much music and do too much of my own stuff to sit on it you know. It takes too long to do what I want to do anyway and if I go out on the road and do this I mean I’m not going to get to any writing to record my own solo’s and I’m sure that will be overseen. I don’t know now that I know where I am mentally I don’t know that I would ever be happy playing for anyone you know and no matter how big the gig was. I don’t know I think I’d just have to do what I must do because that’s what I do
I can’t really express it any other way. Maybe you know I certainly would have gone out and tried it if my daughter wasn’t living with me and I certainly would have done that. What I didn’t want to do is I didn’t want to get out there be two or three months into it and go this is not what I want to do! Because I don’t want to waste anybody’s time especially Megadeth’s.
You got some backlash about your decision.
Yes and I try not to get involved in all of that stuff because you know people, if I see myself being misrepresented or misunderstood sometimes I will chime in but I don’t usually I try to stay out of that because I didn’t join the band because my mom fell out of the truck and was dying, it doesn’t matter what you were doing or whatever they have predisposed beliefs about you and you can’t change their minds theirs no use trying to bend to that level. I just don’t get that whole thing you know because if I’m on the internet I’m going to go somewhere that I want to be and go look at the things I want to look at. I’m not going to go surf and find the things I don’t like so I can go hang out there, you know. Just move on. If you’re not into it just click on the next link and just keep going. I don’t have time to spend and waste on negativity when I can find things positive and inspiring that influence me or work on things that motivate me to do better and be a better person. I don’t need the whole negativity thing and fucking shit!
Did you help test out Jason Beckers pedal? How did that come about?
You know it was just logistics thing you know I had to test it out which it was an honor to be able to help whatever I could do so that’s kind of how that happened.
Are you using your old amps?
No, I’m not really playing that stuff now. The company got bought out, changed people and I don’t know. I’m back to using what I was using before that which honestly I ‘m much happier with which is I got a Bogner Uberschall and a Squall Nitro a Peavey 6505 plus and I use two of them at all times just based on my mood or whatever that night. I might switch one out and put the other one in but I always run two heads at the same time. So, I’m running those and I’m endorsing EMG pickups and I have been forever, love that stuff! Swiss picks there’s the new one, 2.0
Oh, wow you’ve got the thick ones!
Oh, yes and I actually pretty much designed this one pick too because Swiss Picks contacted me about a year before I started playing this stuff and they sent me a model and it didn’t have the point on it you know like this does and the edges had a different kind of edge on it. They didn’t even make 2.0’s at the time and I told the guy thanks, man I really appreciate you sending it out but I use something that has a point on it or pointier and different kind of edges and he said cool. That was the last that either of us thought about it for a while. Within the next year, he’s like hey where you at? I’m at NAMM and I have some picks for you to try out. So that was the year I didn’t go so he sent me the pick it looked just like this but it’s a the cheddar model ‘Sharp Cheddar‘ that’s why it’s orange and not yellow like swiss but it was made out of a different material and while I liked it and I was definitely going to do the deal I really wanted him to try a different material I think the original material there made out of is called Derlin or something like that and I wanted something that had more attack in the and looked brighter and he was really hesitant on it and you know looking back he would tell me well if you don’t really want to use the picks man don’t do it. I said well it’s not so much that I don’t want to use the picks I just don’t want to sell on something until we try it you know; can we at least try it? Finally, he tried it and when he got one in his hands he said oh this is so awesome I love it dude! I said see! You should have listened to me six months ago,
So, it’s funny I kind of must laugh and joke with him about that but anyway, that’s the Swiss Pick it’s amazing I love it. It’s got a great attack it’s got great tone. So, I use that and I’ve got my own signature model strings with S.I.T. Rusty Cooley 7 string signature set and it’s almost like I’ve got to go down the line. EMG pickups, Dean Guitars, the strings, Intellitouch tuners these little guys right here the clip on the head stock, awesome! I’ve got my own signature model cable with Spectraflex and on my pedal board I use Morley wah’s and I use Maxon OD808 in the flanger and MXR. I’m not endorsing MXR but I have one of their gigs on my pedal board and I’m currently trying to hook up with TC Electronics so guys if you’re listening. I’m good friends with John Petrucci and John sent me some contact information so I’m trying to get in touch with them. John sent me one of his signature model pedals’s that they make called Flashback, no not the Flashback, it’s a modeling pedal that’s got like flanger and chorus and stuff like that on it and some different things but I’m using the Flashback delay and then I use, I just got one of these the new model of this , this is made by Radial Axis it’s the Switchbone 2 my pedal board has the original switchbone on it and they just sent me this one to try out so I use that and this is what allows me to go into two different heads. Once I plug-in all my pedals I’ll come out of my last pedal on my pedal board and plug it into this and then this will go out into two separate heads and it’s got all kind of cool features on it so I can just put an A/B box it’s got adjustable gain and mid features and like a mute function so that if I switch my guitars I just hit the button I can just unplug I don’t have to hit standby on both heads you know which makes it convenient with live performance and stuff like that so that’s really cool I love those and that’s pretty much it. I’ve got a little Voodoo labs power supply thing that power up all my pedals and I think that’s pretty much it. Probably forgetting something so sorry if I forgot you guys
You hit on a topic just a few minutes ago, about the state of the music industry, YouTube was brought up by like Nikki Sixx and others that you guys weren’t being compensated fairly just like Spotify takes like 10,000 different people to listen to a song before it’s considered like one record sale
How do you feel about that?
Yes, well we personally did not release our stuff on Spotify because of that. We did iTunes and Tunecore. Tunecore is a company that will take your stuff on iTunes and stuff like that. That was a better route to go financially because that’s just ridiculous you know, I mean really, it’s just hard enough to make a living you know and for somebody like that to just want to take that much of it and play the hell out of it and most of the kids aren’t even buying it anyway the music industry is crazy I don’t even know where to begin on it. It’s a whole new thing because with technology now you can record your album at home you almost don’t need a record label but at the same time that means you’ve got to get out there and do everything on your own financially you know which most of the time getting out on the road they don’t have the money to begin with so then that’s a whole new thing and when everybody is ripping your stuff off and you aren’t getting paid well how are you making money? Well it goes back to completely making money off touring so you’ve got to have money to put into touring and when you don’t have money to put in the van or the trailer all that stuff so it’s crazy out there. I don’t know what’s going to become of it because you know I had some friends that are in big high-profile bands that the way they make their money is totally different from when they made it you know now because of the way things are. It almost seems impossible for a band to ever get to that level like Van Halen or Ozzy or any of the bands we grew up listening to like that massive level of where you’re playing in arenas and things like that. It’s almost impossible it seems nowadays.
You know what I mean? Music has changed a lot too so.
Is iTunes and Apple Radio that better for you financially than Spotify or Amazon?
Well, I don’t know. I’m not doing the Spotify thing but if I’m on their it’s certainly not because I put it on their somebody else did and I’m not aware of it. So, somebody is making some money out there and it’s not me
In 2008, you remastered your 2003 release?
Right. Yes, the 2008 release was different just a remix and remaster of the original release. We re-did the drums. The mix sounds so much better. I was always dissatisfied with the original release because of the recording because I was doing it on my own it’s not like I went in the studio one day and set up recorded all the guitar tracks and was done and when you do that over a period it’s done in sessions. You’re not getting the same mic placement you know it’s not the same thing because it’s set up differently
It’s not like when you set it up and you don’t tear down until you’re done recording the album. The tone doesn’t remain consistent. So, I was always just dissatisfied with it in that area and you know when I was getting it mixed there were financial issues there. You just always had to cut corners and at some point, you let go and that’s what I did but I could come back later and get it to sound the best we could with what we had to work with you know. And writing an instrumental album was a chore. Everybody always asks, when are you going to do another instrumental album? It’s like it’s not like I don’t want to do another instrumental album I like to play the guitar. I don’t enjoy writing drum parts and bass parts and keyboard parts and all that stuff and when I’m writing an instrumental album you know that’s where I’m back to. If I had some musicians to sit down and work with you know to write their own parts and it was the right situation, you know if I could go in the studio and walk in and not leave until we were recording this album and not leave until we were done you know I would do that. That would be cool. That would be the ideal situation really. Doing it working on it here and there spread out over a period and having to sit down and write drum tracks and program bass lines and keyboards and all that, it’s just not very appealing to me you know I could be working on becoming a better guitar player worrying about the things that I really need to worry about instead of that so that was the downside to it you know. That’s the things that I didn’t enjoy it. The things that I did enjoy it far out shadow that I mean that’s what landed me on the road map so I’m very thankful for that but I only did the instrumental album again to go with back what we were talking about earlier that just happened to be what I was doing earlier when the internet took off. You know I always liked playing in bands I wasn’t interested in being a solo artist per say but that album came out when the whole internet thing took off and that’s what the world got to see me first, outside of Houston. So, that’s what everybody thinks of first when they generally think of me as a guitar player, the instrumental guy and it was never intended to be that it was just kind of a break. You know I took a break from the local scene and you know like we talked about earlier to just kind of take a breather and regroup and the rest is history.
Are you using social media to your benefit as to reaching out to existing fans or to people to know more about you? Are you embracing social media? Because some musicians aren’t
Yes, I mean that’s how I got my starts. So absolutely. I don’t do it as much as I used to because there are so much social media. It’s like I’ve got like 5 Facebook pages that I’m involved with. My personal page, my band page, Day of Reckoning, music school, there’s like two music school band pages. So, there are 5 Facebook pages, I’ve got a Twitter page, I’ve got a YouTube channel, I’ve got Instagram, LinkedIn, you know that’s a lot of multimedia to keep up with.
I know I sent you a request (laughter)
Right! So, that’s like going back to a team of one when it comes to stuff like that you know. So, I try to keep up with it as much as I can and what I try to do is I try to only get on that stuff when I’m doing something productive. I try not to get on there to surf around just to see what everybody’s saying and just waste time because my time is very limited. So, when I do get on, it’s work and I get sidetracked. You must maintain as I said, living on the music train is like a freight train you either get on or get out-of-the-way. And if you’re not continually you know making some sort of updates or keeping the fans aware of what you’re doing you don’t stay current. Social media is a great advantage that’s the way you stay in tune with the world, not unless you’re out on a world tour. If you are on a world tour you’re only on one part of the world at the time
There you go!
So, the only way to stay global is the world-wide web.
Gotcha! What can we expect from you in 2017?
You can expect Day of Reckoning – Into The Fire Part II with our new drummer. Jarred redid all the drum sets on part II, that’s going to be awesome. And because we did the drum tracks we’re retracking all the guitars and probably the solo’s and stuff like that as well also that’s going to be a fresh release. Hopefully, we’re going to be out touring. There are talks for us doing some touring with Tremonti and his band. There are talks of us touring with Nile and some other things. That’s the goal to get out there and get on the road and really bring the music to the people. I mean I haven’t been able to do it in the past but it’s doable now so that’s the big thing to just get out and play. So, put out some new records. I’m doing something brand new it’s the John Petrucci Guitar Universe next August. I’m going to be one of the teachers at that so it’s a four-day event. Yes, it’s a four-day event and it’s up in New York. John Petrucci Guitar Universe four-day and four-night Summer Shred Festival in Glen Cove Mansion in Glen Cove, New York. It’s me Andy James, Tony Mac Alpine, Andy McKee, Mike Mangini and of course John Petrucci. I and John have been friends for a long time and he was one of the first guys that I think he requested me to teach out there with him so it’s awesome
Andy James, Tony Mac Alpine, Mike Mangini wow!
Yes, dude! Me too I’m so excited, Tony Mac Alpine is one of my original guitar hero’s you know after Yngwie. Tony set the whole world on fire really in that era and that style of guitar playing so it’s going to be cool man. I had the pleasure of meeting Tony it was right before he got sick or before he made any kind of announcement that he was sick and had to go into the hospital and all that stuff. He played in Houston and I got to meet him and have him sign my Edge of Insanity cd and sorry not my cd my Edge of Insanity vinyl record. I’ve got that on vinyl that and Maximum Security as well as all the early Shrapnel stuff I’ve got it all on vinyl you know Steeler, Vicious Rumors with Vinnie, which Vinnie signed the Vicious Rumors album back right before Time Odyssey was released. He did a clinic in Houston back then and I met him back then, had him sign the Vicious Rumors vinyl and Mind’s Eye so it looks better!
You know Outworld was a challenge. I think in the end before Outworld broke up the only people from Houston were me and Bobby everybody else, Matt was from Washington state, Shawn was from Georgia, Carlos was from Brazil. Bobby and I were the only two Houston natives really left the band and we had to go all the way to India for our Day of Reckoning.
So, that’s crazy you know? That’s the beauty of the internet you know we saw Facebook posts and since it’s since those video demo’s you can see those online. I was just playing with it, it’s impeccable. I mean I this goes to show you how good the guy was. Whenever we would bring in drummers to audition on Day of Reckoning we had an additional test besides being able to play the songs because anybody with any technical ability can copy someone’s song you know what I mean. The true test for me in joining the band is how well they can write on the spot. So, after we get done auditioning all the songs, I’ll just throw some new riffs at him for song ideas and nobody that we brought in could ever get anything that I was trying to show them on this new stuff no matter how well they covered the old drummer’s parts. Me and the old drummer had great chemistry. I could no matter what I threw at him he would just start riffing off it and that’s what I need. I need somebody that can write on the fly that’s what most kids and upcoming musicians are missing there. They use Pro tools and copy and pasting ideas back and forth via the internet and online and e-mail. That’s not how you write as far as I’m concerned you write in a room with a few guys and a band on the fly. You’ve got to be able to play in real-time. Not have something to listen to in a few weeks and figure out what you’re going to play to it. It’s GO time, you step up to bat and you play. The point that I’m trying to make is that you know, no matter what I showed these guys and told these guys in rehearsal room is it never is or was happening and so Jarred the new drummer on a whim I sent him this mp3 of me just playing guitar to a click and one without the click and I said here man see what you can do to this and the next morning I had it back in my inbox and I didn’t even say a word to him about what I wanted or what my vision for the song was or nothing and he played exactly what I was looking for and not a word had to be spoken. That’s what happens when you have chemistry with people. You don’t have to say a word. Or when you’re playing with people who are on your level you know what I mean? Because when you’re playing with professionals what’s spoken is through music not through words you don’t have to tell somebody what to play. I might suggest but I don’t have to explain to someone how to play or approach playing to the part before he plays to it so that is super important. In Outworld we had guys that would call and go well I think I can play, I’d like to try to play some double bass it’s like, this is not on the guy training man! You either commit or you don’t.
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