Tag Archives: Paul Gilbert

Billy Sheehan Discusses The Winery Dogs New Live DVD, Talas Reunion and David Lee Roth

By Andrew Catania

Billy Sheehan is knоwn fоr hіѕ wоrk wіth Tаlаѕ, Stеvе Vаі, Dаvіd Lее Rоth, Mr. Bіg, Nіасіn, аnd Thе Wіnеrу Dоgѕ. Shееhаn hаѕ wоn thе “Bеѕt Rосk Bаѕѕ Plауеr” rеаdеrѕ’ роll frоm Guіtаr Plауеr mаgаzіnе fіvе tіmеѕ fоr hіѕ “lеаd bаѕѕ” рlауіng ѕtуlе. Shееhаn’ѕ rереrtоіrе іnсludеѕ thе uѕе оf сhоrdіng, twо-hаndеd tарріng, rіght-hаnd “thrее-fіngеr рісkіng” tесhnіԛuе and соntrоllеd fееdbасk.

Shееhаn’ѕ ѕіgnаturе Yаmаhа bаѕѕ раttеrnеd аftеr thіѕ іnѕtrumеnt. Shееhаn аlѕо uѕеѕ twо аmрѕ tо асhіеvе hіѕ ѕіgnаturе tоnе, оnе wіth full dіѕtоrtіоn аnd nоtсh fіltеrіng tо ѕоund more guіtаr-lіkе fоr ѕоlоѕ, аnd оnе ѕuреr-сlеаn fоr thе lоw еnd оf thе nесk рісkuр.

 Shееhаn’ѕ fіrѕt full-tіmе bаnd wаѕ Tаlаѕ, a роwеr trіо wіth Dаvе Cоnѕtаntіnо оn guіtаr аnd Pаul Vаrgа оn drumѕ. Thе bаnd рlауеd a mіxturе оf соvеr ѕоngѕ аnd оrіgіnаl mаtеrіаl, аnd аll thrее іnѕtrumеntаlіѕtѕ аltеrnаtеd оn lеаd vосаlѕ.

Tаlаѕ wаѕ a рорulаr lосаl bаnd іn Buffаlо fоr оvеr a dесаdе, аttаіnіng a сult ѕtаtuѕ whісh ѕрrеаd іntо thе nоrthеаѕt US аnd Cаnаdа. In 1978, Tаlаѕ rеlеаѕеd thеіr ероnуmоuѕ dеbut аlbum, whісh gеnеrаtеd thе rеgіоnаl hіt ѕіnglе, “Sее Sаw.” It wаѕ durіng thіѕ tіmе thаt Shееhаn wrоtе “Shу Bоу” (lаtеr rе-rесоrdеd wіth Dаvіd Lее Rоth), аnd “Addісtеd tо thаt Ruѕh” (lаtеr rе-rесоrdеd wіth Mr. Bіg).

In thе lаtе 1970ѕ, Shееhаn аlѕо рlауеd іn a bаnd саllеd Lіght Yеаrѕ wіth drummеr Rоn Rоссо whо hаd еаrlіеr рlауеd іn a bаnd саllеd Blасk Shеер wіth Fоrеіgnеr ѕіngеr Lоu Grаmm іn Rосhеѕtеr, NY. Aftеr Shееhаn hаd rеturnеd tо Tаlаѕ, thеу ореnеd a ѕhоw fоr UFO іn Buffаlо. Thіѕ lеd Shееhаn tо аn аѕѕосіаtіоn with guіtаrіѕt Mісhаеl Sсhеnkеr аnd аlѕо hеlреd lаnd hіm thе jоb tоurіng wіth UFO іn 1983.

Tаlаѕ‘ fіrѕt nаtіоnаl еxроѕurе hарреnеd іn 1980 whеn thеу ореnеd thіrtу ѕhоwѕ fоr Vаn Hаlеn. Hоwеvеr, ѕuссеѕѕ wаѕ еluѕіvе, аnd еvеn аѕ thеіr brаnd оf whаt саmе tо bе knоwn аѕ “glаm mеtаl” gаіnеd рорulаrіtу оvеr thе nеxt fеw уеаrѕ, Tаlаѕ rеmаіnеd аn unѕіgnеd асt, duе lаrgеlу tо рооr mаnаgеmеnt. Thеу іndереndеntlу rеlеаѕеd thеіr dеbut ероnуmоuѕ “Tаlаѕ” LP оn Evеnfаll Rесоrdѕ (rеіѕѕuеd bу Mеtаl Blаdе) аnd thеn “Sіnk Yоur Tееth іntо Thаt” оn Rеlаtіvіtу Rесоrdѕ.

Sееkіng tо tаkе Tаlаѕ furthеr thаn juѕt rеgіоnаl ѕuссеѕѕ, Shееhаn rеfоrmеd Tаlаѕ wіth аnоthеr drummеr (Mаrk Mіllеr), guіtаrіѕt (Mіtсh Pеrrу, аlѕо lаtеr оf Hеаvеn). And a dеdісаtеd vосаlіѕt, Phіl Nаrо, wіth whоm іn thе lаtе 1970ѕ Shееhаn hаd рrеvіоuѕlу wоrkеd іn hіѕ ѕіdе рrоjесt (thе Bіllу Shееhаn Bаnd). Tаlаѕ wоuld rеlеаѕе оnlу оnе mоrе аlbum, Lіvе Sрееd оn Iсе. Aftеr Mіtсh Pеrrу hаd lеft thе bаnd, hе rерlасеd bу Jоhnnу Angеl, whо рlауеd guіtаr wіth thеm fоr thеіr 1985/86 US tоur ореnіng fоr Yngwіе Mаlmѕtееn’ѕ Rіѕіng Fоrсе. Thеrе wаѕ a fоurth Tаlаѕ rесоrd, tеntаtіvеlу tіtlеd “Lіghtѕ, Cаmеrа, Aсtіоn” tо bе іѕѕuеd оn Gоld Mоuntаіn/A&M, but іt nеvеr gоt раѕt thе dеmо ѕtаgе duе tо Shееhаn lеаvіng tо jоіn Dаvіd Lее Rоth’ѕ ѕоlо bаnd. Shееhаn аlѕо аudіtіоnеd fоr Tоrоntо bаѕеd rосk bаnd Mаx Wеbѕtеr, Shееhаn bеіng a lоng tіmе frіеnd оf Mаx Wеbѕtеr ѕіngеr guіtаrіѕt Kіm Mіtсhеll whо frоntеd Mаx Wеbѕtеr frоm 1973- 1981

In thе еаrlу 1980ѕ, Shееhаn bесаmе іnvоlvеd wіth thе рrоtо-thrаѕh mеtаl bаnd Thrаѕhеr, durіng thіѕ tіmе hе ѕhаrеd thе ѕtаgе wіth futurе Anthrаx guіtаrіѕt Dаn Sріtz. Hіѕ іnvоlvеmеnt wіth Thrаѕhеr dіd nоt lаѕt lоng, but hе dіd рlау оn twо ѕоngѕ frоm thе ѕеlf-tіtlеd LP, whісh hаѕ nоt rеlеаѕеd оn CD tо dаtе.

I spoke with Billy to discuss The Winery Dogs new Live CD/DVD and unreleased EP coming out on August 4th, 2017 and his current and future plans.

Congratulations on your new Winery Dogs Disc, it sounds great, you guys always sound great vibes [Thanks a million] I was going to ask you, was it the band’s idea to put out the live DVD or was it more like the record company?

BS: Well as far as with the Winery Dogs when we put things out, it was pretty much our decision. We had done one on the first tour, but we got kind of, at just launching the band and starting out and our first shows, there are a billion details to deal with. So what somebody managed to sneak into the deal was, they’ll be recording the first or second show you ever do in your lives, for a DVD. We thought of it when we got home was ‘Oh my God! We hadn’t even played the song live yet at all’ we had never performed it yet. So now we going to shoot the DVD, so ‘well, ok, here it goes, ’ and it came out pretty good though. At one point, I think one of us started the wrong song or mixed up one song with another, but we left it in, with mistakes and all, pimples and all, we left it together, and it did well, and people enjoyed it. So we thought ‘well next time we do it we will have something to do with not only when we do it but also where we do it’ because of the audiences in Japan, we love them, but sometimes they are a little sedated.  They just sit quietly and watch, you know, rather than being up and jumping up and down.

So ironically, the next tour that we did, after we had already booked the DVD shoot in Chile, the audience in Japan went crazy, they were out of their minds, it was hilarious. So I thought ‘Oh man we shouldn’t have done Japan again, ’ but we just spread it around a little bit. Fair enough, so we did the Santiago, Chile and the audience was spectacular. Any place in South America or Mexico, they are always fantastic and almost everywhere that we play the audiences always have a degree of that kind of enthusiasm. We did a show in Paris, and you could not fit another person in the building unless you would have cut them into pieces and stuff them in, (Chuckle) it was so crowded, and they went out of their minds. It was a fantastic duo. There were so many shows we thought ‘oh, we wish we had video taped that one.’ So, fortunately, Santiago was the show, and at the end, we said ‘thank goodness we decided to do the video here, ’ and we got I believe, an incredible night captured very well.

You guys have always sounded tight band just being a 3-person band.  Was the Winery Dogs an idea that Eddie Trunk threw at you guys just to line you up or was that more of a collaborative effort of you and Mike and Richie to do it?

BS:  Eddie was certainly impetuous for us to find Richie because of Mike and me, we wanted to do a band, and we talked with John Sykes. We did a couple of meetings, and there were a few demos, and I knew right away from the beginning that the chemistry just was not there. John’s a lovely guy and a fantastic player, but we weren’t all on the same page.  So we bid him a friendly farewell, all good, and then Mike said to me ‘do you know any singing guitar players?’ And I said ‘well, Jeez, let me think about it.’ And I don’t know why I didn’t think of Richie because I go up and jam with him when he plays here locally and we’ve worked together a lot. I did a tour with him in Japan in 2000 something, opening for the Stones, five shows in Japan, so I’ve played with him a lot, I know him a lot, he’s a dear friend. And I don’t know why it just blanked out on that and so Eddie Trunk said ‘you guys should get Richie Kotzen.’ Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? So sure enough, we got in touch with him, went over and had a little meeting, and here we are The Winery Dogs. So yes, Eddie certainly was instrumental in helping the band get together and also on top of it, as he does with so many bands, he’s such a great supporter of music and bands and players. He’s enriched musicians and the musical community significantly, with support and help and promotion and he’s a dear, a dear friend of ours, and we love him completely.

When you guys did your first album, did you demo it before you played it? Or did you guys just go in there like Mr. Big and it was done in like six days?

BS: It was done quickly. We did it in Richie’s studio, so he knew the studio well. And no, we didn’t demo anything. It was just kind of, once we knew what the song was and had played it through and had an idea of it, we may lay down several versions of it, but just so we had an idea of it so we could make sure and learn it and know it so that when we had to record it, we could perform it and record it, as opposed to trying just to try to remember it and record it. When you’re performing it, it’s way different than trying to remember something and manage to get it down on a recording. When you’re performing it, you’re free to move and move around musically and relax with it and experiment with it a little bit. You always get some special magic moment, and we did, we got a lot of special magic moments on that first record. So Lean Into It, Eat Em and Smile and the first Winery Dogs records are my top three that I’ve ever been involved with.

Did you guys do anything different with Hot Streak?

BS:  We did pretty much the same thing except we did the drums in an external studio, well a lot of stuff we did in the external studio. I think Richie’s was in the middle of construction and this thing and we decided to go to an outside studio, and that was a lot more mics and a lot more rooms and a lot more drums. When you leave, especially for Richie, when you leave your house and go somewhere to record, it’s a different vibe than when you’re sitting around in your house, and then you go to another room to record, because the phone isn’t ringing or people aren’t showing up, and you’re really concentrating more. We needed it too because we wanted it quick, and we wanted to move fast because for that type of pressure which brings about better music and also not to just spend unlimited cash in a studio when you don’t have to.

In the old days, that was kind of how it was you know. You didn’t have unlimited cash, you went in, you’d do your songs, they’d hit record, you’d be done, and that would be it. So the spirit of that is what we always try to get and so Hot Streak was very much like that.

How is it different working with Richie Kotzen who also sings, say versus working with Paul Gilbert on Mr. Big?

Well, they’re two separate people so two different finger prints, and DNA.  It is a whole different thing in many ways, and then again, there are similarities. I mean, it’s just two completely different styles of playing, and Richie is quite an accomplished singer, as good a lead singer act as it gets, honestly. And Paul has his world of supreme talent and ability that’s in his direction, Richie goes to his leadership and so I never really think about it, too much about the differences, but they are of course great talent.

Now regarding your playing, you have played with all the superstars, Steve Vai, and just about everybody. With the Winery Dogs live DVD out is there any talk of touring? Are you going to have to juggle the Winery Dogs and Mr. Big?

We did that on a ship one time. We did it on one of the Monster Rock Cruises. I did the Winery Dogs and Mr. Big, I did double duty, and it was cool, so I managed to pull it off. But no, right now we’re going to finish off this year with Mr. Big, and then we’ll decide what our schedule will be for Winery Dogs, how, when, where, what, and probably start writing at the end of the year.

For Winery Dogs I think we’re doing something smart up front, in my humble opinion anyway, not to be self-aggrandizing, but we’re not going just to do album tour, album tour and album tour. After Hot Streak we traveled all over the world, we had a great run. We said you know what? Let’s take some time and get inspired so that we come back; it will be fresh and new again. Pretty much like those first two records, because we were still learning each other and learned things about each other and coming up with ideas that were fresh. So when you spend 4 years together, 3 or 4 years together, it’s great to back off and then when you come in again it’s all fresh and new, we’ve all lived lives, Richie is off doing his thing now, Mike’s off doing his thing and I’m doing Mr. Big and a bunch of other stuff.

When we get back together again, we’ll have a whole big vocabulary of stories to tell as well as musical ideas that mean something to us rather than just forcing it out because the schedule says it’s time for a record and I think that’s a wise thing that we’re doing in the Winery Dogs, approaching it in that fashion. So I believe that we’re going to wait until the end of this year to start writing and I’m always writing anyway. So I’ve always got a couple of pieces of music that I’m working on that ‘this might work for Winery Dogs or ‘this might be a Mr. Big thingy’ or whatever. So we’re always at it.

Would you ever consider doing a solo album at this point in your career?

BS: I’ve done three, and I have the foundations for another one, but it’s just a matter of being able to get the time. And I think, who knows, at the end of this year when we’re writing for the Winery Dogs I just might be able to slip it in. I use the ear of a good buddy of mine on drums, he’s just a spectacular player, and hopefully, he’ll be done touring at that time too, and we’ll put something together. But yeah, I probably will again.

You are such an accomplished bass player, is there anything more that you would like to accomplish with the instrument that you haven’t?

BS:  Yeah, lots more. The adventure never ends, I mean I’m still learning every day, some new thing. I just want to do more; I want to play better, I want to play stylistically broader, I want to go back and revisit things I used to play years and years ago that I haven’t played for a long time, visit them and rehabilitate my ability to play them. I’ll go back and listen to things I played on the record, and I have no idea how I did that. So to relearn it again is like learning it brand new, all over again. So it’s always exciting. I don’t know what 100% would be, but I think I’m at 5% or 6% of what I’d like to accomplish on the instrument.

And then I hear some classical pianist yesterday on the classical radio where some 14-year-old girl from China sits down and goes through a Rock Mononoph, with blistering, mind blowing expertise and ability and I think to myself, who do I think I’m kidding? That’ is a real musician, so those are the people that I listen to inspire me when I hear something (unclear) I think man, I’m barely a beginner. And that’s not a false sense of modesty, it is true, underneath, there is no limit to how good you can get and I will relentlessly pursue it as long as I breathe.

That brings up the YouTube questions that I ask. Do you think the streaming services of YouTube have cheapened making music? I guess it seems like the mentality is everyone wants something for free now when you guys go ahead and work your butts off on an album?

BS:  I don’t think so; I believe that it’s a way for music to reach more people than ever before. I know many people sit down with YouTube and you scroll through, scroll through, scroll through, find great stuff, get inspired by it, play, listen, go out and see that band or that musician play live because we all know you can’t download a live performance. You can see a video or see it whatever, but there’s nothing like being in a room with people of liked minds and watching real performers that do it on stage, and that will never change. The virtual reality goggles or whatever else, it will never be like that. Maybe in a Thousand years, it might be, but I think we’ve got a good 400 or 500 until it starts to encroach upon that.

So, I don’t mind it; I think it’s a great thing; more music for more people in more ways. Yeah, there’s not much money in the record business anymore, but that’s ok. I’ve never been money motivated; I didn’t become a musician to get rich. I became a musician because I love playing music and there were girls. So that was, but no, in fact, that is probably half true with most players in the world. But anyway, it doesn’t bother me at all. I’m glad that there are more ways for more people to get more music. I’m quite an ‘aficionado’ of my iTunes, and I’ve got everything on my hard drive, at any given moment I can find anything from anywhere, somewhere in my collection. I’ve got about 2T of music in my music collection, and it’s glorious to sit down on Saturday night with a glass of wine and a bunch of friends and start scrolling through things and listening and inspiring, and it’s a great thing. So no, I’m not opposed. I was an early adaptor of all things digital, from the very beginning. So especially with recordings, digital recordings and the ease of it, and no longer being a slave to the tape machine and its idiosyncrasies, anybody with a laptop now can make a record that’s as good or better than what you could do in a 10 Million dollar studio in the 70s or the 80s. So it’s evened the playing field in a lot of ways.

And similar to desktop Publishing, when that first began everyone was bemoaning the idea that ‘wow, there are going to be so many writers, writing so many books, we’ll have like thousands of great books every year. We won’t even know what to pick from’. No, the same amount of books, good books were written before desktop Publishing and after it. Sure enough with music, everybody that has got a laptop has the equivalent, again, to a Ten Million dollar studio back 30 years ago. You would think everybody would be putting out these amazing records, but no, the same amount of good music comes out, just about every year, the same number rises to the top, and it’s pretty even. So I think that the digital recording revolution levels the playing field and it gives everybody a chance. But it’s interesting to see that there’s still that same amount of talent out there, as there was before that too. So I think it’s a fair representation and you’ll see the hits and likes of any particular piece of music or whatever, how popular it gets. People are getting good at tracking down the things they like and finding it and pursuing it, and the digital revolution will spread it everywhere.

You just did a reunion with Talas?

Three days ago.  Yeah, we posted it all over the slide footage. There’s footage of me with the GoPro camera on my headstock, and it’s all over the place. But it was the Version 2 Talas. There were 2 Talas (unclear) of the three piece band, mostly in Buffalo and then the four piece band that went on and toured quite a bit more in the USA. Most people know the 4-piece Version for which we just had a reunion for the first time in 32 years, but we’ve had a few reunions with the Buffalo Version, back in Buffalo, starting in ’97 that we did a few through the years, but they don’t play anymore (the guys in Buffalo), so we got together with Version 2, did a benefit for the fire department near Rochester New York, and we had a spectacular time.

I know you’ve been asked these hundreds of times but, is there any word from David Lee Roth about a reunion?

BS:  Haven’t heard, I’m ready if he decides to do it. I’m willing to go, I would love to play with him in any capacity, so it’s really up to him, it’s his thing, it’s his decision, and I respect him for that. I would be forever grateful to date for having him bring me to LA, start a band with me, Eat ‘em Smile. He’s still my hero and playing with him in that is like getting my Ph.D. in showbiz 101, and it was an incredible experience. So I sure hope we do it some day, who knows? I haven’t heard a thing, but I always try to be an optimist.

I know with the Winery Dogs, and you’re playing out with Mr. Big till the end of the year, is there anybody that you have not worked with that you’d like to?

BS:  Amazingly, not actually. The only guy I had such a passion for is Paco De Lucia, a favorite guitarist but he passed away a few years ago and also Rory Gallagher who died long ago. He was one of my all time favorites. So, I’ve been lucky to play with most of everybody that I wanted to. Of course, there’s a lot more guys out there that I’m sure our paths will cross, but I’m very very lucky, and I’m supremely grateful for everything that has happened to me in music, life, and career. And playing with some amazing musicians have certainly been many of the high points.

Well, Billy, you’re a fantastic player yourself.

BS: That’s very kind of you, thank you. I’ll try to live up to that.

How do you feel when someone says you’re one of the best bass players today?

BS:  Well, I am of course grateful and appreciative. In my mind, I do view things differently though. I am the one that’s on the inside looking out so I’m always thinking about that mistake or that something I can’t do or slumming that one part of that one song and so I’m always climbing another mountain and not looking back at any moment, but I may have climbed intentionally or inadvertently. I, of course, appreciate it, and there are so many incredible musicians on every instrument, so it’s hard to pick best. It’s like which is better, blue or green? It’s a different color, it’s a different thing, so I understand that, but for someone to make that kind of statement, it being in an email or a comment or to me in person, I, of course, appreciate it, more than I can express and I’m very grateful for that.

And it also inspires me to do better because I want to make sure that if somebody feels that way about me, I keep my game level. Well, you can’t ever keep it level; you’ve always got to be improving it. Because the world moves ahead and if you’re not moving ahead of it then you’re dropping behind. So I’m always working. Yesterday at my rehearsal room with no air conditioner, no window, it was hot and sweaty, but I was playing bass, and I had a riot, and it was great. And today I’ll do similar and work at, work stuff out and come up with new things.

I’ve got a recording session coming up in a few days with some impossible licks on it. See, unfortunately sometimes when people think highly of you, they throw things at you that they’re sure you can do, but they’re impossible. So there’s a baseline in this song by Japanese artists that I just spent the better part of the morning learning the first 5 seconds of it, and so I’ll be hitting it again for a few more hours then I’m going to record it on the 26th. They expect me to walk in, sit down and rip through it and so my reputation precedes me, unfortunately. So I have to work twice as hard on this to make sure and get it right. I know they’ll be videotaping and filming and everything too, so I‘ve got to know my stuff when I walk in there, it’s a tough one. There’s another side to that.

Do you have any performances planned with Steve Vai?

BS: No no, but Steve and I are good friends, anytime he needs me, he gives me a call, I’m happy to play anytime, any how. When we get together, it’s like we’ve never left. We get to jam. I went up and jammed with his band when he came to LA a couple of months back (unsure) got up with him and played a show. Or played a song rather and it’s always cool. Yeah, Steve’s the greatest, and I love him very much. He’s like a brother to me, and we have some musical things in common through the years.

Now, just in closing, I know you’ve got Mr. Big for the rest of the year. Do you have anything surprising in the works that you can’t talk about, but maybe you can hint at or is it just Mr. Big?

BS: Well without the band, I’m involved with what’s called the Fell, and it’s the guys from Smashmouth, and we have quite an incredible record that accidentally happened. He called me last summer; I was just sitting around ‘Hey, my name is Mike, and I used to play with Smashmouth, and we just did a soundtrack, could you come down and lay some bass on it?’ ‘I was like sure.’ We talked, I played some bass, it sounded great. Cool, few more, a couple more ‘could you do a few more?’ ‘Yeah sure.’ Then he said ‘well you know what, I’m thinking about maybe doing a record. I’ll pay your studio time, or if you want you to be on the record we could do like that’. I said ‘Hey I’ll save you some money; you don’t have to pay me. If there’s a record, we’ll deal with that, and if not, we’re cool’. So sure enough, a year later, this album sounds great, and we put out one single and video, and it was exploding all over the place.

So a good problem to have now is how do I squeeze that into the schedule also. But I’d rather have that problem than not have enough work and not have enough things to do and the more bands that I’m associated with means, the more likely I am to be performing live on stage for more nights, and I live to play live. So this is another opportunity for me to play and so I’m very pleased that more of those are on the way and I want to make sure there’s interest on it.



Winery Dogs New Live DVD On Amazon

Interview: Mr Big’s Paul Gilbert Defying Gravity With His Guitar

By Andrew Catania

There are many guitarists out there, but only a few manage to make a lasting impression especially in a very crowded market. That’s one of the many things that made Paul Gilbert shine, to begin with, as he is a true professional and a great performer which you will enjoy quite a bit. He is known for being an excellent hard rock and heavy metal guitarist. He co-founded the Mr. Big band however he is also a member of Racer X, and he created a few albums with them as well.

Paul Gilbert was born on November 6, 1966, in Carbondale Illinois. However, his family moved to Greensburg Pennsylvania, and that’s where he was raised for most of his childhood. It’s important to note that Paul started to play music at the age of 5 and when he was 15 he had his band. The band was named Tau Zero, and he was touring the local clubs playing various types of music. Soon after that, he was featured in the magazine named Guitar Player with Yngwie Malmsteen.

Photo by Renee Jahnke

He contacted Mike Varney in 1981, and he asked to book a gig with Ozzy Osbourne which was already a megastar at that time. As you can imagine, Mike Varney didn’t think that a 15-year old would be ok to couple with a rock megastar. However, he did give the demo tape a try, and in the end, he was more than impressed with the stuff that he listened to. This led to a 3-year period in which they worked together on various musical projects.

Paul Gilbert moved to LA in 1984, and he started to attend the GIT there, a move that was followed by him being hired as a GIT instructor one year after that. He also recorded the Street Lethal record with Racer X very soon after that.

Photo by Renee Jahnke

The original lineup for Racer X which was created in 1985 included Juan Alderete, Paul Gilbert, Jeff Martin and Harry Gschoesser. The band had a lot of influence from Judas Priest at that time. Paul did work with them for three years, but he left in 1988. He did come back in 1996 after Mr. Big broke up.

Speaking of Mr. Big, he co-founded this band with Billy Sheehan, and they also added Eric Martin on vocals and Pat Torpey on drums. This made quite an unusual combination, and they did reach initial success in Japan. It was in 1991 when they got a lot of achievement with their Lean into It album. This was when they received an international stardom status, mainly thanks to the single named To Be with You which granted them a number 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

The music they played was very distinct and unique, something that still entices people up to this date. Thankfully, the style of Paul Gilbert did remain untouched, and you can easily see that nowadays in many of his projects.

The band did break up in 1996 due to personal differences that weren’t showcased to the public. This was the perfect time for Paul Gilbert to launch his solo career. As you can imagine, Mr. Big was reformed soon after that, but Paul already had a thriving career as a solo artist, so the band replaced him with Richie Kotzen. Mr. Big disbanded once again in 2002, yet Paul Gilbert did reunite with the original members in 2009 for a commemorative tour. They even created an album named What If which was released in 2010-2011, an album that was supported by a tour.

Aside from the Mr. Big projects, Paul Gilbert did work with Racer X many times. He did help them record the Technical Difficulties album in 1999, and he also collaborated with them on Superheroes, an album that was mixed by Bouillet.

Defying Gravity out on 7/21 via Frontiers Records

The band was very successful in Japan, and at that point, they performed to create a live DVD and CD at the request of Universal Japan. They ended up having their first live performance in around 13 years in front of a sold-out crowd in 2001, something that did impress most audiences.

The band finished recording the Getting Heavier album at Paul Gilbert’s house in Las Vegas. The tracks on this album were lighter, and this did upset some fans as they did expect a more conventional, heavier album instead of light tracks. The album did sell very well in Japan. In 2009 they had a massive NAMM show in California, and they performed with Andy Timmons. This is also when Paul Gilbert also had a solo set which was very successful.

Aside from working with Mr. Big and Racer X, Paul Gilbert did end up working with a broad range of other musical projects as well. In May 2003, he performed two different times with Yellow Matter Custard which was a Beatles cover band. They re-formed in February 2011 after many years of breaking up, but in the end, Paul Gilbert was not a part of that reunion. His performance impressed critics, but he did not resume working with YMC at all.

He collaborated with Mike Portnoy on that project, and they also worked on a Led Zeppelin tribute band which was named Hammer of the Gods. At that time, he toured Japan to support that band as well as his solo albums called Gilbert Hotel, Burning Organ and The Best of Paul Gilbert.

He also worked with Portnoy on two other projects named Cygnus and the Sea Monsters as well as Amazing Journey: A Tribute to The Who and he played three shows with the last band. The band destroyed all their equipment as an homage to the show, something that was quite common at that time.

Some of his other projects include an instrumental album released in 2008 which was called Silence Followed by a Deafening Roar; an album named the United States which was published with Freddie Nelson and some collaborations with Richie Kotzen, George Lynch, and many others. He also created two new albums named Fuzz Universe and Stone Pushing Uphill Man.  I spoke to Paul about Defying Gravity and his career.

I listened to Mr. Big a couple of days ago this new album, Congratulations, sounds good. What excites you most about the new album, that’s coming out?

Paul:  Ohhhh my goodness. Well, I like the songs, the melodies are hummable, the rifts are hummable, and I like the guitar playing, I like the singing, the base playing, I like the drumming. It was fun to work with Kevin Elson, that was a fun part of the process, to work with him again. And we get to play some new songs on the road. So all the things we want, and that, we did it at all. We all have other parties we do besides Mr. Big, and our schedules don’t always match up and at the end of if we only had about a week to record it. So I was delighted that that turned out to work out to our benefit because there was a good energy in getting it done quickly, there was no time to mess it up.

Now you only had six days to record the entire record?

Paul: Yes.

Photo by Renee Jahnke

Did you have anything written before you went into the studio?

Paul:  Oh definitely, pretty much everything. Well, I shouldn’t say that, but we had most of it written. There was a couple, I know a couple of my songs, that I had just the smallest pieces of, but it was so exciting to see how a song would go from just basic, you know some lyrics and a basic arrangement into a full sound in a Mr. Big Production. That it was inspiring for the first couple of days that I thought “man I’ve got a couple of little ideas, if I finished this before breakfast, I could bring this in, and it could turn into a finished tune. So a couple of my songs Be Kind  & Mean to Me were both songs that I finished up before breakfast on day 3 [ahahaah], and they turned out well.

Photo by Renee Jahnke

Who does the songwriting? Is it a collaborated effort?

Paul:  Yeah, everybody writes, and even it’s a song that one person wrote, we still put our musical fingerprints on it, and that’s nice. I mean in the end, it’s still going to sound like Mr. Big.


Speaking of music, how would you describe Defying Gravity regarding its sound and how it relates to previous Mr. Big albums?

Paul:  Oh my goodness. I don’t know if I’ve even thought about that. The thing to me that is most stable element is the members of the band. It’s Eric Martin’s voice, the way he sings and the quality of his voice, there’s nothing like it. As soon as he starts singing a song, you’re halfway there; it’s a Mr. Big song. And then, of course, Billy (Sheehan) is one of the most recognizable bass players in Rock, I think. Although he’s known for being able to play very sophisticated, complicated things, even if he plays something simple, just the tone in his hands, you can tell that’s it’s him you know that it’s him and I hopefully have a recognizable way of play guitar. Pat(Torpey) on this record, you see he has Parkinson’s disease. So his physical strength is much less than it was so we used our touring drummer to come in and play the sessions. But Pat was still there, basically as a drum producer and just to make sure that the drums sounded like they would if Pat had played them. Also Pat is an essential part of the vocal sound of Mr. Big, we always do a lot of harmonies and just a part of the decision-making process. During any album, there’s always so many decisions to be made about not only the drums, but which songs to pick, how the arrangements should go, so I was really happy Pat could be there for that, that’s an important part of being in the band.

How is Pat doing? Is he getting any better? Is he kind of stable?

Paul: He will know more specifics than I will, but from the outside, it seems like he’s doing. You know, he was in good spirits, and high energy and was an active force in making the record.

You guys are all collaborative effort in writing, how did you approach the writing of this album, personally?

Paul: Oh I just try to have fun, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that it was all fun songs. I mean it can be a sad song or a serious song. But I really want the process to be something that I enjoy and that’s a relatively new thing for me to learn. I used to think that song writing was a hard, effort & work and you have to sort of wrinkle your eyebrows just to get it done. And more recently I’ve learned the philosophy that anytime you start not enjoying the process, that just means that you have to change something to make sure that you are enjoying it, to make sure you’re kind of keeping it moving forward, because with songwriting you can get stuck. The trick is as soon as you find yourself getting stuck or getting bored with it or not enjoying it, you have to take the song in a different direction, so you will enjoy it. That’s what I try to do, to always make it so I’m excited about where the song is going, and I find if I enjoy the process, I usually enjoy the result.

Photo by Renee Jahnke

What is more important to you, speed on the solo or the melody?

Paul: Well, hopefully sometimes they can be the same thing. I would say at the beginning, a lot of the songs began as a lyric, because Mr. Big is very much a vocal band you know I had to lyric 1992 before I had anything, same thing with Be Kind, those were songs that began as lyric. But it can also start as a rift you know. Open Your Eyes began as a guitar rift and then later I came up with the lyrics for that one. Certainly Mean to Me was a guitar rift, well actually that was sort of drum part first, then I tried to make it into a guitar part and then gave it some lyrics on top of that and then, I’m trying to think of the other song that I wrote. Let me look. Oh, Nothing Bad About Feeling Good, in a way that was a lyric song as well, it was just the first part of the verse. I Know Who You Love, was another lyric I had then I tried to fit the melody to it. So really the guitar soloist is often the very last thing I’ll come up with. It’s something that I usually almost have to panic to finish because that’s when we’re running out of time and we’re like “oh yeah the solo”. As a songwriter it’s a very different way of thinking than being a lead guitarist, it’s really an entirely different art. For songwriting I’m thinking about the lyrics, the arrangement, the chords and the melody and then at the very end, I get to put on my guitar hat and be a guitar player.

Photo by Renee Jahnke

How do you find the balance between your songwriting and guitar soloing and which is more emotional for you and which is harder for you?

Paul:  We just want them to work together. As a soloist, it still notes and it’s rhythms so sometimes I’ll get musical ideas, and as I explore soloing, I’ll come up with a phrase that might work as part of a song. For example, in the song Open Your Eyes there’s a line that Billy and I came up with (musical note) and it’s a Jazzy line, it’s almost like a dominant 13 or something. I don’t use the route of it; I try to skip over the way, which is a very Jazz thing to do. I wouldn’t have known to do that without studying soloing, and it just became sort of a melody that we used in the song. So that’s where the two can kind of crossover, but a lot of times when I’m doing the song I have to make the decision you know, is this going to be improvised or is it going to be a set melody that’s important for the way the song works. And I just take that case-by-case, depending on how it’s feeling.

Are you going to do two months run and then take a break and then are you going to do your solo projects?

Two months this year is pretty much all Mr. Big stuff. I think I have a camp coming up where it’s two days with Joe Satriani’s G4 Camp, that’s a little thing I’m doing on my own. But, most of the rest of this year I’m doing with Mr. Big. I mean earlier this year I went to South America, I did a European clinic tour on my own, but from now on, the rest of the year is all Mr. Big.

Photo by Renee Jahnke

Are you doing your online teaching? 

Paul: That’s been going about five years, so I’ve done a lot of videos for that, about Five Thousand videos even more. So I’m very active with that; that keeps me quite busy. Any spare time I have goes into that, and I enjoy it. The teacher is always the person that learns the most because I feel an obligation to know what I’m talking about. You know, sometimes the questions I get from the student, at times I know the answers and sometimes I’ve got to research it. So I’ve learned an enormous amount about music & guitar playing from that experience.

Now, are you still offering VIP lessons or is that something you’ve stopped?

Paul: I usually do that with my solo tours, and with Mr. Big, it doesn’t make as much sense because you know, part of the VIP thing is coming in to see the sound check, and I think with Mr. Big we might still be doing that. When I do the VIP tours I do a guitar lesson with it and with Mr. Big is more just a few sound check and meet the band, get a photo and maybe get some goodies. So that’s the difference. When I do mine on my own, people sit down with guitars and spend an hour jamming.

From the day you were featured in Mike Varney’s article, which I still have, by the way, Racer X & Mr. Big and all that, how have you evolved as a musician, as a songwriter, as a guitarist?

Paul: That was when I was Fifteen years old I think and so it’s been a long time. I’ve explored a lot, I’ve learned a lot of songs and I’ve learned what you have to do to make a song work. At that time my guitar style was based on the songs I was hearing. I was playing a lot of UFO and Rush and Van Halen and Triumph and even Punk stuff like Ramones and Sex Pistols and Robin Trower, I mean those were the artists I was copying, so my style was reflecting that. As time has gone on I’ve expanded the music that I’m interested in and the music I’ve learned. Sometimes I’ll learn it in order to perform it but sometimes I just hear it for my own enjoyment. And so like in my Twenties I really got into I would call sophisticated Pop music. Stuff like Todd Rundgren and kind of Pep sounds and Beach Boys era, indeed the Beatles and rediscovering that. So that was a big thing, sort of getting into the way piano players write and trying to get those chords to work on a guitar. Then in my Thirties I sort of got into Punk Pop. I was into the Wild Hearts, a great band from England, and Green Day and I wanted to be a singer and I found that with kind of music you didn’t have to be like an opera, heavy metal Geoff Tate style singer to be able to have this sort of voice in order to do that kind of music. So that was appealing to me as a solo artist, and I should mention Cheap Trick which is also another sort of pioneers of Pop Punk.

Aren’t you a big Beatles fan?

Paul:, yeah, so that was earlier on. More recently I’ve gotten into Blues and also the Jazz players from the 50s & 60s that play Blues, but with a Jazz sophistication. It’s still music that a guitar could play but they know stuff that guitar players don’t know. So I listen to a lot of saxophone players and clarinet players and that kind of thing, to get new ideas.

Have you been trying to shred away that Shred term with your playing, you know, trying to expand on that? When people think of Paul Gilbert, they don’t just think of you as Shredder now because you’ve got so many different styles of playing.

Paul: Well I think what happened is if a guitar magazine took a list of people who are considered to be Shredders, a lot of them would really be very different from me in what they’re trying to do and actually the techniques they use are really different from mine. My methods are really based on 70s Rock guitar players. The way that my hand, the hand position I use is similar to what you would see from the guys that played in the 70s. Brian May and Robin Trower and Nick Ronson, and players like that, and Jimi Hendrix, players that tend to have their thumb way over the top of the neck when they play, Jimmy Page. Those were the guys that formed my voice on the guitar and that voice is related to that way of holding the instrument. It tends to be keeping it lower because that actually works well for having your thumb over the top of the neck.  Where a lot of the new Shredders wear their guitars up really high and have their thumbs behind the neck, more of a classical style, which to me works ideal for a traditional, conventional type of guitar but is really weak in terms of hand vibrato and actually sort of severs the Blues style from guitar playing. You can really get a traditional Blues sound that way and that classic Blues sound is so important to me even if I’m playing fast I want to have that as part of my voice. So I think that majority of people that are in the Shred category are more of that modern, wearing the guitar up high and having the thumb behind the neck style, which that’s not me. I really feel different from that in the way I play. And it’s funny I didn’t really know what it was at first, but I really learned about that from teaching and seeing, slowing training my eye to look for that. I felt something was different but I didn’t know what it was. Now I know very precisely that oh, they are holding the guitar differently, they’re playing with a different part of their hand. That kind of technique just doesn’t allow you to get the kind of bending and vibrato that you need, you know to sound like Brian May or Robin Trower the heroes that I had growing up. So I feel much more like a 70s Rock guitar player more than a Shredder, just because of that.

What musician would you like to work with that you haven’t?

Paul: Oh let’s see, actually anybody who just jams Blues. I would love to jam Blues with Angus Young, I would love to jam Blues with Robin Trower and the reason I say I would love to jam Blues is, because that’s the kind of music where jamming where really works. There are Heavy Metal musicians that I admire enormously, but that’s not a style that really lends itself to jamming. Heavy Metal you’re loud all the time and you’re fast all the time and there’s not as much room for conversation. Things tend to be worked out and the goal is to sort of have this military tightness you know, when you see like 300 Chinese military guys all moving the same way, that’s almost like what Heavy Metal should be. You’ve rehearsed and you got it perfect and it’s beautiful, but it’s not a place where you’re going to improvise and suddenly just be in the moment and do your own thing.  And that’s what Blues opens the door for, you can sort of take your time, you can relax a little bit, you can be quiet or loud, you’ve got a lot more space for improvisation, there’s not this panic that you’ve got to do it exactly or a certain set way. And so that’s why when it comes to playing with other people, that style is so welcoming, it’s part of the nature of it. I was listening to Saxton the other day and I love those early Saxton, Heavy Metal Songs but I wouldn’t think of that as a jam. I would think of that as, you learn the song exactly the way it is, you play it perfectly, don’t mess with it you know. It’s almost like learning classical music.

I was watching a NAMM video from this past January where you and John Petrucci and Steve Lukather were all at Earnie Ball booth, and that right there would have been a great G3 tour.  I mean you’ve got different styles. You’ve got Steve; you’ve got yours, you’ve got Petrucci’s. Regarding 2017, Are you going to be doing your camp as you did back a couple of years ago?

Paul:  I’m not doing the Great Guitar Escape this year, I’m a guest at Joe Satriani’s  G4. Which is basically, that’s not a tour; it’s a camp, G3 is the tour. I’m excited about it because of course, it’s always fun to play with Joe, but the other guys that are the featured artists are  Phil Collen from Def Leppard, and Warren DeMartini from Ratt and those guys are kind of from my era like I was telling you about. They are still like 70s Rock guys, they were made famous in the 80s, but they are from the same place that I’m from musically, and they’re also guys from bands. I like that. They play with vocalists, and I feel a strong connection to what they do.

Your solo record came out last year. Do you have anything you’re thinking about in 2018, putting another one out?

Paul:  Oh well, I haven’t thought about it yet, I probably will you know, I do as much as I can. It might be some solo stuff or some Mr. Big or even Racer X, I never quite know what. I usually think about three months ahead. When it gets to October, I’ll start thinking about January.

Mr. Big’s Defying Gravity will be out on July 21, 2017.

Please check out Paul’s links:

Rock Guitar Lessons with Paul Gilbert

Paul Gilbert Signature Series Guitars From Ibanez



Paul Gilbert And His Legacy

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, the 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 utmost 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.


Paul Gilbert’s playing style is unique and unbelievably complexed to be true. His one mere shred occurs with such 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’s technique, and improvised to include a fusion of his own. It is because of this, that he’s equally famous among the fandoms of other heavy metal legends, as his style reflects a flavor of his prime influences while maintaining its 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 rule over all genres that he plays. His fusion of fast picking, combined with legato, and his precise-to-perfect staccato-picking, is a powerful 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.

Mr. Big’s new record, Defying Gravity, will be released on July 7th, 2017 via Frontiers Records.

Interview: Shrapnel Records CEO Mike Varney Discusses Current Projects, Yngwie Malmsteen, Vinnie Moore, Paul Gilbert and Much More!

 By Andrew Catania

I caught up with Mike to discuss what’s going on with Shrapnel Records, current and future projects.

How have you been? What have you been up to?

Well, you know I have some records coming out. I got a new record with a guy called Steve Conte. Steve was a guitarist who played with Chilly Band; he toured Asia; He either played on or one of the big hit songs that he played the solo on. He’s done a lot of stuff, and he’s got a bunch of records out on CDS and other jazz labels. He’s pretty well known, that’s one of our front and center labels. Then I’ve got a guy called Dario Lorino, Dario’s the guitar player for Black Label Society along with Zakk,  he’s been in the band for years. Dario did Zakk’s Book of Shadows to RV; he’s had duo gigs with him, and Zakk, two unplugged, Dario plays keyboards, sings and plays guitar.

Dario just made an excellent record called Death Grip Tribulation and it’s great, it’s our record. It’s been up sections for eights. He’s got that base player from John Deservio who toured with Vinnie Moore when he toured on his section album Time Odyssey. JD played with Vinnie Moore back then; the band was Vinnie Moore, JD, and another member.

Dan Conway is one of those drummers like when I, you know, like Deen Castronovo, when he was a young guy or Jeremy Colson.   When I was introduced to Steve Vai. When Jeremy was 21 or 22, they’d be calling and trying to get him off the deck, Dan Conway is that kind of drummer, he’s a freak, and I found him some Dario stuff. He’s played on other records of mine since Dario’s first record; he’s on Dario’s second record. Just had him play on a new album by a guy called Indigenous. Then several records of Indigenous as the guitarist Mato Nanji, he’s been out. I think he’s front runner with the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Rick’s tour, and he’s out there, and Zakk’s on the tour and (either passing Advi) or Johnson, I don’t know who is on the tour this year but I know that Zakk’s playing a part of it and this guy Mato has been, he’s been the most consistent guitar player I think in all the years they’ve been doing Experience Hendrix, I believe he’s been on the more tours than any other guitarist. Anyway, I just finished recording with him and Indigenous, and there’s a band here call Count’s 77, the guitarist is a guy named Stoney Curtis, he’s been in about more albums I think on Bruce (Barrow). A lead singer is a man named Danny Koker, who’s the star of the TV show called Counting Cars on History. He’s been singing forever; they called him the Count, he’s also on Pawn Stars, he’s a car guy. Anyway, Danny’s got this great band called Count’s 77, it’s a classic 70’s style Rock band.

So I made a record, two records with them, the new one’s coming out March 10th. Dario’s record was just released last week, Dario’s got a video to the title track that’s Tribulation to be released later this week, so that’s kind of what I’ve been doing here the last few months. I’ve got other stuff planned; I’ve got things in the works. Oh, I’ve got a new record coming out with Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, Jimmy Haslip on bass and Robin Ford on guitar, that’s called JNGCHI, kind of a Bluesish, like a Blues Fusion kind of a thing.  So that’s that in the works, and I’m looking for some more stuff that, the biggest problem is that when you finance records, it costs money and the money that comes back in now is so little.

Streaming pays such a small percentage, compared to all the people who listen to the music and the sad thing is that I don’t think the industry, or even the consumers thought about it much and projected what will happen in the future. What they didn’t think through is that you’ve got artists, you know, I’ll use Robin Ford for example. I’ve done some records with him, but I don’t know him well, met him but don’t know him well. A guy like that has worked with the world’s best engineers and some fantastic records, but let’s just say that if Robin isn’t the man that wants to sit at home and to hear his records, (I’ve never heard that he did that, I guess he does that, this is all guesswork) but I’m just saying with the industry you know will not go out and purchase enough records to support a great artist.

Give an Example.

Just say a great artist. I don’t want to act like it’s a negative put down; I don’t mean it to be that way.  If you have an artist that’s in a niche ok, and that niche artist doesn’t sell a lot of records, you know, but the record still costs money to make.  By people not buying music and thinking that they are doing great by the artist by streaming it, by them not buying it, they’re helping to bring about at some point, the end of guys recording career unless the guy has his studio, and can engineer it himself. Or unless the guy is some improvisational wizard and can go in and blow in one session and record in one day, like some jazz guys maybe. But you know, otherwise, if nobody is buying the records, then who is going to pay for them?  You know, that’s the hardest thing. Not every artist is Richie Kotzen and has a home studio, or Paul Gilbert, that can record a lot of the album in their home studio. A lot of these guys are used to the only top line equipment; they have ears that tell them that no, that digitally is not, it sounds like it needs a console, through the pre-op roll, tape. Sure people get used to a certain standard, and the public is accepting so little, in general, as a stereotype.

The public, they are allowing a telephone as a medium of listening to music or communicating music or an MP3 Player, or through a port in their house. A lot of the public is not demanding. They will take a lower quality resolution download; you know what I mean? They’ll extract less, and a lot of artists will feel that they would rather not play than deliver less. So, there is still some CDs and vinyl being sold so, you can still sort of cut your budget down and work really hard with your fans, you can still sell enough records may be to break even, but if that keeps going the way it’s going, at some point in time the money won’t be coming back to the people. I even know an artist that’s in the band that started making a solo record, and he said that half way through it, he realized that nobody was going to pay me anything for it. He’s going to put a bunch of his money into recording it but then, start talking to labels, and they are like, there are just not big budgets up like there used to be. He wasn’t willing to go out and become a salesman.

A friend of mine, he’s got twenty grand raised on a Kickstarter campaign which is making his record with one of my artists. He said, we’ve been together forever and I know it’s a weird question to ask you but, I think I should make my record on Kickstarter. And the artist said, there’s one thing about that, though, the people that buy my stuff they think of me as a guy that’s at a certain level, of a particular standard. It’s bad I’m fucking begging them for money like I can’t get it somewhere else, I’ve got to go and ask them, it almost takes that feeling of this guy is special, I revere this man. Like, a lot of people don’t realize that the artist that they love is living in worst standards than they are living. That’s when you can make money from selling records [starving artists], so the artist is like, I don’t know if I like the idea of how that looks, me getting money from my fans. I said well, there’s the other thing too if you want to, you know. Let’s say the record cost Thirty grand and you have to sell 3,000 records at ten bucks a piece or whatever up front, you take their money and say “I’ll give you a record, give me ten dollars” then you have to go deliver 3,000 records to your house, which looks like a lot more boxed up than you think it is. Then you have to open them all up, and if you’re signing them as part of the deal to get them to, then you have signed them all, you have to put them in packages, you have to go out and buy the packaging, you have to address them all, then you have to go the mailbox and mail them, I said as long as you’re willing to do that then it might be viable, if not forget it. I don’t want to do any of that. So that’s kind of what we’re looking at now, is that you have people that are forced to go their fans but sometimes the fans won’t give them what they need to make the records, and it’s embarrassing for them. Wow, I only made five grand here, I’ve got to go give it all back to the fans that revere me the most and gave me money. [Right] Now I have to go give the five grand back, I feel like an idiot, some of these guys are thinking. So it’s just sad that we’re in the state that we’re in.

I honestly think, that there has never been better guitar players on the planet than there are right now. I mean, it’s amazing what’s out there, and there are better guys out there now than there were in 1980 when I started my label looking for great guitar players. They’ve had YouTube, and better teachers and a much more of higher standards and the bars have been raised. Unfortunately whenever the bar has been raised, there are less people that can pass muster than there are that can achieve that level and at some point, it happens all the time, music gets to be so difficult, all the other people that are out there that want careers too but aren’t that good, they have to make it cool not to be good. Then good is not good; it’s like ‘aw man, that’s Pre-Madonna thing, that guy is over singing, that guy is over playing. Ohhh that once Mariah Carey, look at all those extra notes that are all you know punk shoots coming back or grunge music or whatever, which, I like a lot of the grunge music and a lot of the punk music, but I mean those genres require less technical proficiency as most musicians in the band. Those styles keep coming back because we raised the standards to be so high that the average player will never get there. Back when we had Inga and Paul Gilbert, I mean guys out there at a certain point, rock musicians are like ‘Fuck that’ [yeah], I’m never going to be that, I’m going to do something else. So there is always more people with little talent than there are those few individuals with great talent, so that’s when they get together and they create a movement and just overturn things. So, we’ve been in an interesting place in music for years now where all this stuff can co-exist. It’s not like; disco takes over this, this takes over disco, you know what I mean, right now it’s an interesting time because all this stuff co-exist. Before you know, the metal fans were into grunge, and a lot of the fans were into this were into punk, and the punk fans were into this, you know what I mean, they kept mutating.

Seems like not there are so many genres out there and people swimming them that fans anchored down and they support their genres, but there is this. It used to be that everybody liked Led Zeppelin, or everybody liked Pink Floyd or that many years ago, everybody liked Van Halen or if you were young, should you like this, but now there are so many niches for people to listen to. Some guys are only into EDM, some kids are only into rap, some kids do like classic rock, so there are many that like other stuff. So I think we have better music than ever, the only problem is that it’s spread out over so many genres that it breaks up the fan bases, again with so little money coming back in, it just makes it difficult for artists to keep making records and keep recording. So, I’m going to make records still, but I don’t have, I’d be lying if I said I thought I was going to make a lot of money from it, it’s just what I do. I don’t know what else I would do, so and I love music, when I’m not making records in the studio or paying someone to make records in the studio, I’m buying music for my collection. I will buy CDs like a mad man; I can’t believe how much good stuff there is out there.

A few years back, I know you did a publishing deal with another company.

What happened was it got to be so many digital outlets out there and so many other revenue streams from streaming, all this stuff. I have so many records that I have made; it was getting difficult and costly too, a lot of times it cost more to render a statement than what the checks were for. We had an accountant for X amount of money; you only take X amount of time rendering accounts; it was just getting to cost prohibitive. That’s without having a zillion different money coming in from different places and having to figure it all out. So, I usually go to an aggregator, somebody that could make the music available in more places, I listed in Itunes for years. I believed that the way I felt, I felt people were kind of like me, if I want something I go to Amazon right up, I don’t need to worry about anybody else. The fact is all these little players, they all add up to something. I just didn’t want to think about it, because the idea of having all these other things, You follow what I’m saying, [yes] I had the best deal with Itunes, I didn’t need to go anywhere else, I had a direct deal with Itunes.

I didn’t want to have to worry about pennies trickling in from zillions of other sources because as I said, accounting for that would have been a nightmare. So rather than getting into streaming, or getting into other digital people other than Itunes, I made a deal with a company called Orchard which is one of the very first pre-Itunes digital companies and they are owned by Sony and me had other people come, wanting to acquire the catalogue but I wanted to leave it in the hands of somebody who really knew what they were doing, they were going to make the most amount of money for the artists; Because if I was going to hand it over, I wanted it to be a positive thing for everybody, not a negative [right]. So the Orchard stepped up, they are handling all the stuff, and they deal with it, and I now have a new deal with them for a new product, which I’m doing, and now I just don’t have to worry about hundreds of records, I only have to worry about a few it’s a lot easier [sure]. They are handling not only Itunes, but they are managing YouTube and Amazon, they are handling all the sources [Spotify and all them] Yeah they are doing all that stuff, and they have to all that because like I said all those other sources are slowly becoming The source.

I didn’t get this from the Orchard, but I heard it from somebody else, that within the next couple of years CDs are going to be pretty much non-existent you know, or very boutique. It’s like cars don’t even have CD players in them now, they are making most cars without them. So they are going to phase out that and so I’ve been doing this since 1980 and it has just felt like it was time to let somebody else, that was putting all the energy and money into all the infrastructure, money and time into building up such infrastructure to let them deal with it. They have it all figured out, how to track all that stuff, it’s a significant investment in software, you know [yeah]. You profit all that stuff, but as a small label it just, there was less & less money coming in and it would have been from more and more sources and would have to go along, it would have been tough to track all that stuff, so by working with them, they track it all, and it makes more sense. I think it’s a better situation for everybody. To have a warehouse and staff and to have records selling so few, it just didn’t make sense anymore.

How are you picking your guitarists?

Well, it’s funny. I met Dario when he was 15 or 16 and people would say ‘come out and see him, he’s amazing, ’.’ and I would say ‘no he’s not, he’s not amazi.’ I met Jason Becker at 16 and Paul Gilbert at 15 and (Stevie Ray) at 19, and now they are amazing. Over the years, Dario was touring with (Jenny Laid of Warrick) when he was 16, and then a few years later he got into Lizzie Borden and toured with them. So he’s been on the road for the last ten years. He’s 26 or so now. I don’t know his exact age, but he’s somewhere in that ballpark. He’s had quite a journey, with all the stuff he’s done with Black Label now with Zakk. So, I signed him, and he wasn’t with Black Label at all, and we put out the first record and within a few months of the record coming out, just as luck would have it, whether his talent met the right opportunity, Black Label hired him to be the second guitarist in the band. So, I have, to be honest, that was a determining factor for the next record because we had something to build on and I invested in the record with him because I thought he was the kind of guy that would go out there and do something. Personable, got a strong work ethic, he’s really easy to get along with. He wakes up every morning and says what do I have to do get further up the ladder. He’s not a guy who is going to be lazy and lie around and wait for someone to do something for him. He’s extremely motivated, and he had that motivation, he had that thing that I could see in Richie Carson back in the day and a lot of those artists that were just not going to be denied, they are going to keep going until somebody takes notice. So I saw that in him and the Black Label thing sort of kind of proved that. I did a record with Jackie Vincent. Did you know about that record?

Sure do! Amazing record!  Jacky’s very talented!

Well yeah, you know, there’s an example, I mean, he’s a great player. Jacky Vincent when he came to me, such a beautiful person, and Dario, just the nicest guys ever, both those guys. So you just get a sense that Jacky Vincent wasn’t going to be denied. The fact that he went out there, made his record, raised all that money, that just goes to show you that he had that quality, you know that I believed in when I signed him and Dario the same thing. So for me, I guess I’d be looking for younger people that are going bust ass. I mean like Richie Carson is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever known, and there’s not a year of his life since I met him, where he wasn’t productive. He’s probably made, I don’t even know how many solo albums, I think he’s made 20. I don’t even know; it’s some insane amount of solo albums. All the stuff with Mr. Big and Virtue and Winery Dogs, you know, Richie Carson sent me so many demos, it was like ‘oh it’s Monday, a RichieCarson demo, oh Tuesday, two more songs.’ [Chuckle] I’m not kidding you, he was whipping those things out and sometimes I’d get two demos a week or demos within seven days or something like that. He was putting all his time into writing and trying to come up with better stuff so we could get signed. You don’t see many people like that, that are that motivated these days you know and I understand why, because of the returns when you think ‘well what am I going to get?’

There are guys making $75,000 a year teaching, and nobody knows whom they are and they are as good as anybody. But they realize, they have two kids, teaching is what they do, if they go away on tours, they may lose their children. I mean, not lose them, they are going to have to be away from their family. It’s not a lifestyle they want. There are guys here in Vegas that are amazing; they are getting their paycheck every week. It’s hard to tell somebody ‘hey go on the road with this metal band and live hand to mouth’ when they are making Fifty grand a yeah playing top 40, [chuckle] because they are giving up something solid for something maybe, and so that’s the hardest thing. That’s the kind of like when you were younger; you can afford to, you don’t have all those ties.

I’m impressed with Jacky Vincent, he’s got a son, and he’s got all this and been a great father from all appearances and done all this stuff. That is impressive, that’s one of the reasons why I was pulling for him too. When he came to me he had a young son; I was like ‘how old are you?’ He was like ‘23’, that’s a child. He was really about being there for that kid and taking care of him. The one point is, Jacky & Dario were two guys that impressed me as just motivated. They wanted to be the next generation of traveling guitarists. They wanted to work with me, and I wanted to work with them, and it was great.These YouTube phenomenon but they don’t play anywhere. If you don’t play anywhere, it’s hard to make any money.

Do you think YouTube has cheapened the guitar?  It seems like nobody does traditional lessons anymore.  Everyone is using YouTube now.

I’ve got a really good friend that, a lot of the world knows who he is, he’s a fantastic technician, I won’t say his name, but an amazing tech. He has a degree from Berkeley School of Music, he has to go out and teach at a store that charges $50 an hour for whatever, and then they take $25 or something and give him the rest or whatever or give him $30 and they take $20, it’s some crazy split. They do find the students, and they have overhead there, the building and stuff. He’s great! If he had come around back in 1988 or whatever I would have given him a record deal. Now he’s just another guy that’s got great chops, and he’s even actually thinking about maybe doing something else. That’s the sad thing that you were talking about. With a degree from Berkeley, being able to chart out the most difficult (chardle)stuff you ever heard of and then play it back, sit there and play anything you can think of, play a Bach, a guy like that shouldn’t be having a hard time making a living. Like you said all these guys and YouTube lessons and the reality of guitar teaching, you only have to be one lesson ahead of your student. You don’t have to be as great as this guy is, so there are plenty of, or other guys that are a tenth the guitar player this guy is that is making the same money. It’s a little strange out there, but yeah if there was a guitar player that had something going on that wanted to do something that, I’m always looking for something.

What do you think 2017 is going to bring to you?

Well, I don’t know, I’ve got five records coming out right now, and I’ve got some more in the planning stages that I won’t mention but, it’s funny. It was always whatever kind of came down around the corner. You never know what is left at my post office box next, I could walk in there and listen to 20 terrific guitar players, I could listen to 2 great ones, 4 mediocre ones and 16 you know whatever, horrible or I can find 5 great guys in one batch and never for 3 months find anybody that sounded like anything. You never know what kind of the way it’s going to come. Oh, so the Japanese Young Guitar Magazine just did an all shrapnel 150 pages Special Edition, and it’s not only a magazine, it’s more like a book. It’s got a hard glossy cover; it’s got a corner of it like a book. It’s not like a magazine; it’s more like a book, 150 pages. It’s all the Shrapnel records that were ever done are in there, all the interviews with the top artists, it’s got sheet music.

Japan loves to shred.

Yeah, they like to shred, but they quit being willing to pay much money for it. If I came up with a guy that was the next big thing in my mind they might not even want to put it out. It’s very; they’d put it out if I gave it to them more than if it just came off the street maybe. It’s still, the perception that things are big in Japan, but it’s just a small segment of Japan. It’s a fetish; the average Japanese person doesn’t think about shred guitar. They have those fans there, but it’s a pocket of fans in Japan. They are way into their music indigenous to Japan; you know Japanese artists and whatnot. In America, people used to think like ‘aww Japanese family would believe that shred guitar is a fad for them’ no; it’s just that there was a following for it. You know what I’m trying to say.

Look at Yngwie; he releases all his records to Japan. Young Guitar did a huge spread on him.

Yngwie is in a class of his own pretty much. I don’t know any artists that consistently released music that didn’t change much, and that’s by design. Yngwie wanted to make sure that when people bought an album, they got everything they wanted on the album. It wasn’t like he was going to listen to EDM or something and try to incorporate or whatever, he wanted to give the fans that experience and I think that’s why he has kept the fanbase because they always know what to expect from him. A lot of times artists lose that fan base because when the fad takes a turn, they take a turn with the fad. Then they lose that focus, but Yngwie never did that. Would you say Yngwie stands in a class of his own?

Yngwie is in a class of his own!

Yeah Yeah, he is in a class of his own, I’m happy that I happen to be the guy that found him Luckily, I don’t think anything would have kept that guy down, so I just happen to be in the right place at the right time.

Here’s the thing, Yngwie from what I know is that, unless he’s been drinking too much or something, a lot of that stuff that he would say was deliberately meant to get people going mad. I say he called me up one day laughing, oh man I need a guitar player, are you in Guitar World. I told him I’d never heard of Jeff Spike, but he asked if I liked him, I told him never actually heard his music. Stuff like that, he would say stuff just to get people ‘Yow what the F’ to get them upset. That was his humor. One time I think he said ‘have you ever listen to Willy Raw?’ or something like that, I said nope, that was just him being of character. I think he like the idea of creating that persona. I think Black (Fork) kind of had that persona, kind of a dark persona, but Yngwie is a lot of humor. I mean he’s a hilarious guy, he loved Monty Python and can sit there and run down Monty Python skits, reenact them, but I don’t believe that most of the stuff that was said about him, when people go ‘what a jerk’, I think he knew exactly what he was saying and I think that’s why he said it. As far as him being, the stories of people who met him and he was mean or whatever; I never saw that side, he was always sweet and kind of that wise ass streak. People had to know how to take him.









Check out the New All That Shreds Podcasts!

By Andrew Catania


I’m pleased to announce that All That Shreds now is doing podcasts!  We’ll be playing some kickass music and awesome interviews!  Check us out, follow us and spread the word!  Shred on!


Metal’s Best: Top Guitarists Ruling the Genre!

By Andrew Catania

Recent decades have turned out to be a booming era especially for rock and metal genre. Many eminent names have emerged and the influx of improvisations in playing techniques has expanded the scope of genre by a huge margin. They’re many talented metal guitarists.  Aside the usual big names we hear about, here are some of the most eminent metal guitarists who have been setting a milestone for their descendents in their individual capacities.


Vinnie Moore


Acclaimed for his harmonized and melodic style, Vinnie Moore is considered as one of the most virtuosic guitarists of the 1980s. Also known for his association with the UFO, Vinnie holds a unique identity when it comes to improvised shredding and licking. He establishes his tones on multiple parameters in octave and the resultant effect itself speaks for the mastery of his technique.

Rusty Cooley

A relatively new name on the heavy metal genre, Rusty Cooley has managed to outclass his contemporaries through his highly refined, self-improvised and incredible shredding technique. Rusty is characterized as the fastest guitarist of the world, for his exceptionally fast 17 nps alternate picks. His playing speed is the prime identity of his technique and over time, he has infused some considerable variation in his tones.

Michael Angelo Batio’s playing style clearly reflects his theoretical knowledge. His is acclaimed for speed as well as intricately designed and expertly articulated alternate picking. An expert when it comes to anchoring and using the extra fingers, his tones are dense and fluid and are also punctuated with arpeggios and taps.

John Petrucci

John Petrucci is a distinguished name in the metal genre and is acclaimed for his finesse over high-speed alternate picking. He has redefined the use of seven stringed guitars by using the additional string for dense and speedy riffs to extend the range. Petrucci also experiments on his tines by fusing a variety of skills such as blending metal shreds with soft solos.

Alex Skolnick

Alex Skolnick is acclaimed for the extensive variety and diversity of his techniques. From walloping thrash, rock-jazz blend, to audacious progressive metal, Alex Skolnick is an axeman when it comes to the intricacies, density and nuances of the tones. He has been declared as one of the greatest guitarists of all times on popular vote.

Kiko Loureiro 

Primarily known for his association with Angra and Megadeth, Kiko’s figures magically pull off a variety of techniques with utmost perfection and accuracy. His improvised styles of full sweep arpeggios, double-handed taps, blending staccato and legato, run on phrasing, and alternate picks are rendered as his best contributions to metal playing techniques.

Richie Faulkner

Richie Faulkner, the lead guitarist for Judas Priest, has contributed his skills for a number of releases from the band. Richie Faulkner is characterized for his fine, nuanced and excessive riggings and has made a significant mark in the music sphere in a short span of time.

Paul Gilbert

Paul Gilbert is the cofounder of Mr. Big. Paul Gilbert and has been ranked as one of the ‘Top 10 Greatest Shredders of all Times’. Paul enjoys an unrivaled supremacy when it comes to fast and furious picking. An axeman at staccato and a master at incorporating fats picking with legato, Paul’s signature playing style is intuitive and his tones flow out of the chord naturally.

Jeff Loomis

Primarily known for his association as the lead guitarist for Nevermore and later with Arch Enemy, Jeff Loomis is considered as the unrivalled wizard of shredding techniques. Jeff has aced a variety of playing techniques such as alternate picking, riffs, shreds and pulls. His signature shredding, in particular, is considered as an emblem of seer brilliance and aesthetic finesse.

Is Rusty Cooley the Modern Day Randy Rhoads? Or Better?

By Andrew Catania

Declared as a ‘Master Shredder’ and one of the ‘Fastest Guitarists in the World’, Rusty Cooley, aged 46, has managed to lift himself to legendary status in a short span of time. Rusty is praised widely for his highly refined guitar techniques, and has made significant contributions to his genre; he has embarked on a journey to impart the treasure trove of knowledge he has gained over time to the budding music generations of today.

Rusty’s entire career and all notable achievements on his profile revolve have stemmed from his non-conformity for the conventional techniques and his penchant to push the boundaries of his forte and refine his skills in the sphere of improvisation. Having set his fingers on the chords at the tender age of 15, Rusty initially landed under the supervision of some guitar instructors. Disgruntled by their typical, and current patterns of tones and techniques, Rusty decided to take a solo flight and embarked on a journey to strengthen his knowledge and nurture his natural skill sets through a self-taught methodology. His learning style was based on the main parameters such as trial, error, improvisation, and perfection. This, coupled with his dedication and commitment towards his passion, has brought out the bets in him. It is no wonder that he is acclaimed as a truly virtuosic master musician today.

Rusty’s playing technique is neat, and a sure tell of his expertise at fine, harmonized and well-grounded articulation of tones. The graduation, density, and versatility of his sound have evolved through consistent refinements. Rusty possesses a sound knowledge base about a variety of playing styles and genres. This great command over the playing intricacies of multiple genres has enabled him to imply improvisations in heavy, progressive and power metal genre which is his prime forte.

Rusty was primarily influenced and inspired by legendary music virtuosos, including eminent names such as Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Vinnie Moore, Paul Gilbert, Randy Rhoads and Tony MacAlpine. However, his technique is majorly compared with the likes of Randy Rhoads. Rusty is famous for jamming on a variety of instruments, of which, his personalized six, seven and eight stringed guitars are most noteworthy.

Rusty’s signature style of sweep picking has stemmed from the original sweep picks of Randy Rhoads and Eddie Van Halen. He set on to master the art of sweep picking at a time where the technique was only being practiced by Randy Rhoads and EVH and had yet to gain popularity in the rock and metal world. Rusty plunged into this relatively untapped domain and eventually aced the sweep picking skill.

Aside from that, Rusty also possesses immense expertise over hammer on, alternate picking, pull-offs, and one finger tap.  Rusty is personally fond of incorporating a lot of pinkie-tapping in his tones, a tricky technique that has become his signature. Rusty’s shredding is fast, fluid and dense and each shred is well-established and perfectly designed. Rusty’s tones are smooth and audacious and carved over graduating nuances that give it a fluid flow and an enchanting dexterity.

Rusty’s style makes him an eligible descendant of Randy Rhoads regarding his approach towards music. His tones often reflect the essence of Randy’s picking and those music enthusiasts who have seen the era of Randy Rhoads and the likes, will get it better that Rusty Cooley’s style is a unique and worthy tribute to the legacy of Randy Rhoads.

Paul Gilbert and his Amazing Career!

By Andrew Catania

There are many guitarists out there, but only a few manage to make a lasting impression especially in a very crowded market. That’s one of the many things that made Paul Gilbert shine, to begin with, as he is a true professional and a great performer which you will enjoy quite a bit. He is known for being an excellent hard rock and heavy metal guitarist. He co-founded the Mr. Big band however he is also a member of Racer X, and he created a few albums with them as well.

Paul Gilbert was born on November 6, 1966, in Carbondale Illinois. However, his family moved to Greensburg Pennsylvania, and that’s where he was raised for most of his childhood. It’s important to note that Paul started to play music at the age of 5 and when he was 15 he had his band. The band was named Tau Zero, and he was touring the local clubs playing various types of music. Soon after that, he was featured in the magazine named Guitar Player with Yngwie Malmsteen.

He contacted Mike Varney in 1981, and he asked to book a gig with Ozzy Osbourne which was already a megastar at that time. As you can imagine, Mike Varney didn’t think that a 15-year old would be ok to couple with a rock megastar. However, he did give the demo tape a try, and in the end, he was more than impressed with the stuff that he listened to. This led to a 3-year period in which they worked together on various musical projects.

Paul Gilbert moved to LA in 1984, and he started to attend the GIT there, a move that was followed by him being hired as a GIT instructor one year after that. He also recorded the Street Lethal record with Racer X very soon after that.


The original lineup for Racer X which was created in 1985 included Juan Alderete, Paul Gilbert, Jeff Martin and Harry Gschoesser. The band had a lot of influence from Judas Priest at that time. Paul did work with them for three years, but he left in 1988. He did come back in 1996 after Mr. Big broke up.

Speaking of Mr. Big, he co-founded this band with Billy Sheehan, and they also added Eric Martin on vocals and Pat Torpey on drums. This made quite an unusual combination, and they did reach initial success in Japan. It was in 1991 when they got a lot of achievement with their Lean into It album. This was when they received an international stardom status, mainly thanks to the single named To Be with You which granted them a number 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

The music they played was very distinct and unique, something that still entices people up to this date. Thankfully, the style of Paul Gilbert did remain untouched, and you can easily see that nowadays in many of his projects.

The band did break up in 1996 due to personal differences that weren’t showcased to the public. This was the perfect time for Paul Gilbert to launch his solo career. As you can imagine, Mr. Big was reformed soon after that, but Paul already had a thriving career as a solo artist, so the band replaced him with Richie Kotzen. Mr. Big disbanded once again in 2002, yet Paul Gilbert did reunite with the original members in 2009 for a commemorative tour. They even created an album named What If which was released in 2010-2011, an album that was supported by a tour.

Aside from the Mr. Big projects, Paul Gilbert did work with Racer X many times. He did help them record the Technical Difficulties album in 1999, and he also collaborated with them on Superheroes, an album that was mixed by Bouillet.

The band was very successful in Japan, and at that point, they performed to create a live DVD and CD at the request of Universal Japan. They ended up having their first live performance in around 13 years in front of a sold-out crowd in 2001, something that did impress most audiences.

The band finished recording the Getting Heavier album at Paul Gilbert’s house in Las Vegas. The tracks on this album were lighter, and this did upset some fans as they did expect a more conventional, heavier album instead of light tracks. The album did sell very well in Japan. In 2009 they had a massive NAMM show in California, and they performed with Andy Timmons. This is also when Paul Gilbert also had a solo set which was very successful.

Aside from working with Mr. Big and Racer X, Paul Gilbert did end up working with a broad range of other musical projects as well. In May 2003, he performed two different times with Yellow Matter Custard which was a Beatles cover band. They re-formed in February 2011 after many years of breaking up, but in the end, Paul Gilbert was not a part of that reunion. His performance impressed critics, but he did not resume working with YMC at all.

He collaborated with Mike Portnoy on that project, and they also worked on a Led Zeppelin tribute band which was named Hammer of the Gods. At that time, he toured Japan to support that band as well as his solo albums called Gilbert Hotel, Burning Organ and The Best of Paul Gilbert.

He also worked with Portnoy on two other projects named Cygnus and the Sea Monsters as well as Amazing Journey: A Tribute to The Who and he played three shows with the last band. The band destroyed all their equipment as an homage to the show, something that was quite common at that time.

Some of his other projects include an instrumental album released in 2008 which was called Silence Followed by a Deafening Roar; an album named the United States which was published with Freddie Nelson and some collaborations with Richie Kotzen, George Lynch, and many others. He also created two new albums named Fuzz Universe and Stone Pushing Uphill Man.


During many interviews, Paul Gilbert stated that his style was influenced by a wide array of artists. Some of the people that influenced him to include the Ramones, Jimmi Hendrix, Steve Clark, Alex Lifeson, Randy Rhoads, Eddie Van Halen, Judas Priest and Pat Travers among many others.

Aside from that, Paul Gilbert also stated that his uncle did help influence him with the heavy metal addiction as he was a fan of many popular bands at that time. According to Pail, he grew up as a fan of the Beatles, Todd Rundgren, and Cheap Trick. He also said that George Harrison is one of his personal favorites in regards to the guitar styles.

Guitar World named Paul Gilbert one of the world’s 50 fastest guitar players of all time. Paul is known for its hand speed and the fact that he has an excellent stylistic versatility. He is also widely recognized for the staccato style picking technique that he has which is very fast and efficient.

Paul worked and still collaborates with a combination of musical styles. He created metal, funk, blues, rock and pop music as well as a mix of all these!

He is known for using the Ibanez PGN signature guitar series which has some painted F-Holes. He was using whammy bars at first. However, he did end up using a modified version of that model named PGM301 after he stopped using the whammy bars sometime in the 90s. in regards to amps, he opts for the A/DA MP-1 preamps. He also uses many effects like the BOSS DD-3 Digital Delay, the MXR Phase 90 and 100, the TC Electronic Nova Delay and the HOF Mini as well as some Home Brew Electronics effects like the Compressor retro, Bajo Mos, and the Detox EQ.

Paul Gilbert flourished as a solo artist, and his large number of solo albums shows that. The list includes:

  • King of Clubs (1998)
  • Flying Dog (1998)
  • Alligator Farm (2000)
  • Raw Blues Power (2002)
  • Burning Organ (2002)
  • Gilbert Hotel (2003)
  • Space Ship One (2005)
  • Get Out of My Yard (2006)
  • Silence Followed by a Deafening Roar (2008)
  • United States (2009)
  • Fuzz Universe (2010)
  • Vibrato (2012)
  • Stone Pushing Uphill Man (2014)
  • I Can Destroy (2015)

Paul Gilbert received many distinctions for his work, which includes 4th on the Top 10 Greatest Guitar Shredders of All Time by Guitar One magazine and he also got included in the 50 Fastest Guitarists Guitarists of All Time by Guitar World. His career is filled with amazing performances and the fact that he still is one of the few performers that still have an extraordinary career even nowadays is very impressive. Paul Gilbert is a great example for all guitar players that never want to give up. He continues to improve his sound even nowadays, and that’s one of the main reasons why he continues to be a guitar playing legend that will impress people for years to come!


Chris Impellitteri Interview – The Guitarist of the Ages

By Andrew Catania

A mere finger shred on the guitar chords does not make one a great musician. It has to come from within as if you’re tugging on not just the guitar strings, but the chords of your heart. It is only then that the noise turns into music and profound melodies are created that resonate in the air, casting a soulful impact around. Judging on this precise criterion, Chris Impellitteri has definitely aced his job!

Chris Impellitteri is one of those rare guitarists that vent out their internal restlessness, noise, rage and anger by pulling out on the guitar chords and squeezing out tones that seem to touch and enthrall the minds and hearts of listeners.

In the raging rhetoric of the music world, Chris Impellitteri rose on the music horizon to gain a significant prominence in the music scene of the late eighties, when his band ‘Impellitteri’ that he cofounded along with Rob Rock, launched their debut album ‘Stand in Line’.

However, Impellitteri had made a notable hinting teaser about the grandeur he was to achieve through a black EP that he released in 1986, simply titled the ‘Impellitteri’. While not technically a full album, this was the release that established the band’s sound and is heralded by guitarists all over the world.

Their premiere presentation was an immediate hit and his unique style and signature vibrato was perceived to be of grandeur that matched with the likes of the notable music maestros of that time and even more.

The success of his EP and Frits Studio Release kick-started his career into high gear, establishing a credible profile with a myriad of music accolades and awards. He was officially declared as the ‘Fastest guitarist of all time’ by Guitar World Magazine in 2008, making him stand on a legendary plane with the likes of Yngwie Malmsteen, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhodes and other maestros in the fast, heavy metal genre.

A mere look at his discography, rig rundown and the style that only evolved to get better with time is a testament to the fact that he not only made it to the legendary bars but also elevated his celebrated stature to a height no one thought he’d be able to achieve.

His career profile encompasses numerous feats, albums, and accolades including ‘Grin and Bear IT’ (1992), ‘Answer to the Master’ (1994), ‘Screaming Symphony’ (1996), ‘Eye of the Hurricane’ (1997), ‘Crunch’ (2000), ‘System X’ (2002), ‘Pedal to the Metal’ (2004), ‘Wicked Maiden’ (2009), ‘Venom’ (2015), along with some notable guest appearances in ‘House of Lords’ in 1990, ‘Dragon Attack – A Tribute to the Queen’, and ‘A Tribute to Randy Rhodes’.

Here we share the tidbits of the recent interview that we had with Chris Impellitteri to satiate the cravings of his loyal fan base. The ‘fastest musician of all time’ was humble enough to spare some time out of his fast and busy schedule to touch upon the various aspects of his entire career and enlighten us with his personal thoughts, views, and experiences.

Photo taken at Mates in North Hollywood on 08/04/14.
Photo taken at Mates in North Hollywood on 08/04/14.


Chris, welcome to All That Shreds!  It’s a pleasure to have you here!

Glad to be here.

You grew up in Connecticut, that’s one thing that really kind of caught my eye, cause so did I but where exactly did you grow up at? 

Are you familiar with Ledyard?


So I grew up in Ledyard Connecticut

Where Foxwood’s Casino is

Yes. It didn’t exist when I was a kid.  I went to school actually with the two kids, I think it was their family actually got the funding and got all the permitting and went thru the legalities to actually create it.  It was crazy because I went back in like seven years after graduating high school it was a completely different place.

Yes, that’s pretty much how Foxwoods is and a lot of concerts actually go on there.  Mohegan Sun has got the arena but Foxwoods has this small amphitheater and that’s where a lot of the hard rock groups go and play their concerts at.

Yes I think I’ve seen some of that footage, you know in that place.  I used to be managed years ago by a man named John Sheard he was a really big concert promoter like in New Jersey and New York City in like the Meadowlands and Madison Square Garden.  One of his partners was a guy Jimmy Koplic. Jimmy did all the shows.  I think eventually he ended up doing things for Foxwoods directly.

Yup Jimmy Koplic and Shelly Finkel from Cross Country Concerts.  We’re really going back in time there.  I still got my ticket stubs.  


Well Jimmy, yes, I know Jimmy but Shelly he stopped many years ago he promoted Evander Holyfield the boxer he got out of it but Jimmy stayed in it.  I think he still does that for Foxwoods directly.

Your background I was going through because I have pictures of you and Joe Satriani from Guitar World back in 1998 it says Master Shredders.

You know I think Dustin had an email.  I saw that picture.  I do remember that.


How did you start playing guitar?  Did you work an early age; did you have any other instruments?

How did I start?  Well the truth is and then again not due to violence or anything like that.  So, when I was nine I lost my parents you know.

Oh, that sucks, I’m sorry, I didn’t know about that

No, no dude really it’s cool, it’s been so many years.  It was kind of a tragedy.  So, at nine years old I was, literally, I had no family.  Went to bed woke up and my grandmother, who adopted me, my grandparents’, they thought look, nine years old, lost his parents, we need to get him doing something so he doesn’t come up a screw up.  So basically, she asked me if I wanted to learn how to play an instrument and I’m sure probably the first thing I wanted to do is be a drummer, right, and they were probably like “NO”!  So, she brought me to a music store and I forget and um and on the wall, I will never forget this it’s been many years, there were let’s say a copy of a Les Paul it was like a black custom it was by a company called Cameo and then there was a kind of like a cream strat kind of like what Hendrix played, you know Fender.  I actually chose the Les Paul.  I was like, “I want that”! So, I picked it up and it was weird.  It was just something about it, as soon as I touched it, it was like, it felt like a part of my body, it was weird.  I can’t explain it, and from that moment on I immediately started taking lessons, started music theory.  You know and I just became addicted about playing my guitar.


So that was basically how I began.  I wish I had a cooler story but that’s the truth.

When you started playing into your teen years did you have any like little bands that you belonged to or did you do anything to make yourself known outside of where you grew up?

Well yeah definitely of course! Like any kid playing music, I started in 7th grade.  I started like dances in high school, we were doing covers doing anything from Van Halen to Foreigner and that stuff.  You know we would do covers and of course, we’d do all the local keg parties.  Anything we could do, we would play. A lot of house parties.  I remember the backyard parties, you know.  Do they still call them keg parties?

I don’t know, I’ve been out of that scene for quite a while 


Well back when we were kids, basically kegs of beer in the back yard on Saturday night and literally 1,000 kids would show up from high school so we would always be the band that would play that.  You know so I did that all through like 7th & 8th grade started doing the dances, 9th & 10th grade I was doing that and honestly by the 11th grade I was actually playing in the bars.  You know, I was sneaking, I was playing with all the guys, you know I was playing and they used to kind of sneak me in, get me up on stage and I’d do my thing, then of course take me out of there.  So yes, I did that for years and that is actually how I met Rob Rock.

Photo taken at Mates in North Hollywood on 08/04/14.
Photo taken at Mates in North Hollywood on 08/04/14.


Yes!  This is what most people don’t know it’s funny because we’re going way back.  This would be like early 80’s there’s a band called QT Hush and my band used to open up for them. My band we would play a lot of Van Halen covers, Ozzy you know stuff that was more guitar driven. This band QT Hush was a tribute to AC/DC and they were massive.  They were literally borderline playing in arenas on the east coast it was that big.  We opened up for them, and it was good because we were playing in front of thousands of people and their guitar player quit so they asked me to do the Angus thing and I actually did it for about a year.  You know you would dress up playing Angus and I would play mad solos, shredding and you know whatever, masturbating to the solos, Van Halen or whatever you know.  So, that was it, then I met Rob Rock and hence that’s where this whole thing began.

And that was in your teenage years? 

Yes, that was in my teens.  That’s probably around, I think I must have been 18 or 19 or something like that when I joined that band.  I almost didn’t graduate high school because of it.

How did you go from that band to your own band with Rob Rock?  Because the Black EP is like Holy Grail in the guitar community with others.  That was your beginning record.

Well Rob and I after that QT Hush band, we actually were on the New England circuit you know.  We would play all the places in New England.  We had a band called VICE and it was probably about 75% covers 25% was original music.  It didn’t really, we didn’t really push.  It didn’t go anywhere really.  The label that Ozzy Osbourne was on at the time that was called Jet Records.  The first two Ozzy records it was for Diary of a Madman and Blizzard of Oz and they were going to sign us.  Bring them to LA, to be honest the band hated me!  Because I was so driven.  They wanted someone that was going to be more pop, you know. Someone that was a little more. I think I was a little too, probably because I was 18 years old and I was full of fire.  I just wanted to do it my way, so anyways, they fired me. I went to LA so I figured, screw it.  Mainly because I was always pushing them to be better.  Yes, you know, I wanted to practice 12 hours a day play as many notes as I can, at that point I just wanted to play.  I didn’t realize at that time, oh there’s this thing called pace and melody.  Anyways,  I went to LA then I don’t know what happened.  My bud Rudy Sarzo was in a band.  Anyways they were looking for a singer and they had done a bit of reiteration to the band and they called Rob.  Rob Rock eventually got the gig.  They did a record.  Unfortunately, it didn’t go anywhere, they couldn’t get signed at least to a major label so Rudy and Tommy Aldridge quit, they went to Whitesnake.  Rob needed a gig and at that time I was literally writing the music for the Impellitteri Black EP and I was really into at that time I mean you know it’s funny if I look at this thing in perspective and open eyes when I first came out and I get it believe me is the Yngwie, you know I get accused of being a clone, you know like oh you’re ripping him off or whatever, the truth is, it had nothing to do with him or the whole Shrapnel crowd that Mike Varney had which is really a guitar person I really love.  It was really like a band like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest a lot of the British Metal scene but I loved the really fast double kick stuff and I started playing around with that and of course I really had a huge love for John McLaughlin & Di Meola had a huge influence on me so I just started blending all of those different styles you know and that’s literally how the EP came about.  We did it at a place called Baby-O Studios and I’ll never forget it because I was recording it and in Gene Simmons from Kiss came in.  It was really cool, I was this kid, you know.  I was in a studio, we were creating.  You know musically I don’t know what it was I still to this day get a lot of compliments.  I’ve had bands, huge bands, tell me, hey man we got that Black EP and we love that thing.  I’m like, how do you even know about it?

A lot of people have your video’s.  Many people remember you.  Many still listen to you, so yes

Oh, that’s cool!  I got to be careful about the video thing.  I did do a video which there’s one video out there and it’s horrific and I’m so ashamed of it.  There’s a thing I did with this company I think it’s called REH I think it was called, RH Video?  Oh, dude, it’s horrible!  I was literally like it was probably part of that period where you start getting some success and you’re partying all the time and experimenting with things believe me when I did the video I was heavily experimenting with some chemicals and dude I look back and think, I don’t play guitar like that and why would my manager even allow that to be released.  I’m just simply masturbating all over the guitar and it’s senseless! So even I would call myself wanker, I mean come on.

I’ve actually got your video on speed soloing from RH Video on VHS.

Well dude, I must owe you $60.00 and I apologize sincerely!! (laughter) If you pay attention, listen to the Black EP and you can obviously tell it’s much more controlled.  It is extremely fast.  It’s not that easy especially at that age.  That whole movement of shred, if that’s what we’re calling it, it was really evolving.  Yngwie had just come out, really.  Mike Varney was getting his team together.  He had some really amazing guys, obviously, I think the first one I believe was Tony MacAlpine I think and Tony was just a fantastic talent I think you know then of course everyone else.  When I was doing the EP, especially in the infancy stages of writing it and the solos, none of this existed.  We didn’t have that to benchmark so really you had to listen to the Di Meola stuff or the John McLaughlin.

Yes, I can hear a lot of Al Di Meola stuff in some of your music and that’s what I was going to ask you.  Is he one of your bigger influences like some of the other’s you’ve mentioned?
Yes.  I mean I will tell you for Di Meola I’m trying to think of what really affected me the most because I’ve seen Al, I’ve actually hung out with Al a few times.  Let me think about this before I answer this because what I’m trying to do is I’m trying to think exactly what was the Di Meola stuff specifically right, that really affected me to the point where I think it affected my guitar playing and my style. Because obviously with Night in San Francisco you know like Passion, Grace & Fire that stuff was hugely impactful as far as the way I articulate and attack the strings with my right hand you know because when I listen to acoustic players right, when their shredding they have a way of attacking the strings that’s very percussive right? So obviously, I would.  It is huge for me and Friday Night in San Francisco I think, you know Paco and Mc Laughlin & De Lucia that to me probably had the biggest impact on me.  For me the trouble was, how do I translate what they’re doing on an acoustic guitar to an electric?  You know to capture that percussiveness and that’s where my right hand, you know obviously, you have to master the left hand because that steers the ship.  It takes you to where you need to go and obviously, it’s critical for hitting the notes.  But the right hand for me, I want to use it more as a percussive instrument.  I don’t know if that sounds strange or if that makes sense but, you know

No it does! It makes perfect sense

So I’ve experimented and I’ve broken as many rules as I possibly can, not always for the better, but the reason I wouldn’t pick a lot of guys that do more like economy picking.  Yngwie does a lot of it Paul Gilbert does a lot of it and it works really good and I love the way they make it sound but for me I wanted that Staccato that really percussive tone alternately you get when you’re using heavy picks.  I mean obviously when you want to play heavy with your wrist for some reason I just couldn’t get that snap.  So basically, I would find myself breaking the rule and going to the forbidden zone which is not only using your wrist and your index finger and thumb in the circular motion then you’ll also start to use a little bit of your elbow which is forbidden.  You know what I mean?


It’s like the no, no!  It helped me get more of that attack.  Especially on the Black EP you can hear it

That Black EP is one record I and many others go back and listen to many times over.

Oh that’s cool.  You know the only thing, I mean look, I still listen to it, I guess as a fan.  I’m a fan of guitar players period.  But for me, yes when I listen to it I have tremendous respect for what we were able to do with that EP it changed my life in a big way but there’s pros and cons.  The pros are it was honest.  It was no one influence, so really I think we came into finding our own sound even though there were a lot of people trying to say we were clones of Yngwie or always ripping somebody, off right?  Which is just not true and that EP, it was really who we were.  Expressing ourselves, coming into our own identity.  So, that was the pro and I think we did captured it.  It was really a live recording.  As a matter of fact, it was mainly room likes and we did it I think it usually started around 10 or 11:00 every night in the studio because we didn’t have any money you know, we were basically poor at that time and you know we would go into Baby-O Studios which was again that’s where Gene was doing KISS demo’s and we’d use one of the rooms, My God I must have had 8 or 9 white Marshall Anniversary Cabinets.  We had probably 16 mics which people just don’t do.  You have obviously your ?? mic, you have all your ?? right in the center of the cones then we also had a room mic so we could capture the ambiance, you know.  So anyways by the time we did it you know I went, this is great.  As far as the production I wish it could have been bigger but you know it was really meant to be more of a live recording and capture the band live


Photo taken at Mates in North Hollywood on 08/04/14.
Photo taken at Mates in North Hollywood on 08/04/14.

Yes.  I do believe the Black album ?? sticks to the hands of time.  I just wanted to comment on something about people saying you’re a big Yngwie clone.  I’m a big Yngwie Malmsteen fan and you guys have two totally different styles.  You’re each your own person.  So, I would definitely disagree with them about that

Well Thank you and listen to people never for some reason when I say Yngwie absolutely in some manner affected the way I play but It’s unfair to say Eddie Van Halen didn’t or Randy Rhoads I mean come on.  Biggest influence is every guitar player, I mean if you’ve played a song or I’ve heard a demo from you at some point, you’ve probably influenced me.  I used to always laugh at that and I got it.  I was playing a strat, I was wearing the white boots you know in Stand in Line you know what I did with Bonnet and but the funny thing was, the people that were condemning me for it was like ‘dude this is hilarious, you’re not realizing what we’re doing’ and the Standing in Line video I’m actually playing a Richie Blackmore model and it was such a tribute to Rainbow you know like a watered down Rainbow that we were literally almost  dressing comically you know, kind of like Rainbow.  Then everybody goes, you look to rip off Blackmore, I’m like actually those would-be Blackmore guys which means, somebody else is ripping off Blackmore.

Wow! I didn’t even realize that your Stand in Line you had a Blackmore.  Who are you currently endorsed with because you’re using Charvel, Dean?

Yes, I’m working for Charvel now.  I’m definitely endorsing them.  We’re working right now on playing with the idea of making a signature model.  There’s one guitar they gave me recently it was sitting in the warehouse for probably 7 years and it was done by Grover Jackson, hand built, I think it was the original founders of Charvel came together.  They did this Legacy series and the very first run, the three of them actually hand built a couple guitars and they tried to sell them for some ridiculous amount at retail in stores for like $16,000 or $17,000.  Not one guitar sold. They were just too overpriced

Is this the one with the red on it that I see you with?

Yes, the blood splatter?


Yes, that’s the one guitar and dude it’s insane! You know, I mean it’s all hand built.  It’s really unique, you know it’s one piece maple neck but you see like the in lays or the center dots are all rosewood and the side markers are all brass.  You know the body, typical, I think we’re using ?? on that one, but sonically it sounds amazing.  I’ve got a ’58 Les Paul I used a lot on my recordings and this thing sounds equally as good if not better.  It’s different because Charvel sometimes has a compound radius this actually has a 12-inch radius all the way down pretty much like a Les Paul except with Fender. 

Are you still using your spider web guitar from Dean?

No.  I’ve got to be honest, I never did.  The Dean thing started only because when I did this, I did a project in Japan called Animetal.  It was a really silly thing.  We were basically doing a tribute to a Japanese band called Animetal out of the early 1990’s.  Sony approached me and Rudy Sarzo and Scott Travis from Judas Priest and this guy Mike Vescera and asked us to do like an American version of it.  So, we agreed and when I saw the concept I thought, oh my God this is insanity.  Kind of like KISS on steroids but the music has to be covers of famous anime songs but then just bastardize it and shred.  They wanted weird looking guitarists.  So I was literally in a nutshell when I saw that SGV thing which I thought was what I didn’t realize at the time is it was built originally for Zakk Wylde thru Dean.  So, I met the owner, he and I hit it off and he flew me down to his house in Tampa and I said yes I’ll use this and he said hey why don’t we do a signature guitar?   I said well, I’m really a strat guy man.  Really loyal to what I play not just the brand because it’s comfortable.  So, he made the guitar and before I really had any say he already tried to put it up on his website and sell it.  I think he actually sold some of them and I was like dude, I haven’t even approved it.  So, the short answer is No.  I never used the spider web guitar

Photo taken at Mates in North Hollywood on 08/04/14.
Photo taken at Mates in North Hollywood on 08/04/14.

I had no idea!

No. Sorry dude! No! Actually, the closest thing you’re going to find to me doing this, you know I’ve done signature guitars for Fender but mainly in Japan only.  Now Charvel is different.  Charvel, the blood splatter guitar, that’s pretty much what I’m working with.  Now the paint job forgives me, I didn’t do that it was already done.  You know, I don’t care it sounds so good and plays so well through my Marshall stacks.

I thought I saw the spider web in some of your videos on some of your recent Venom record from Frontiers?

No! That’s another guitar we were building.  No, no, no that’s like I don’t know if that’s a Charvel body and some strange neck I was building it literally in like my garage or whatever.  No, and I was actually having fun with that because basically did the graphic where we went well you can’t really do anything unique right?  Because Van Halen has done everything you can possibly do with graphics, right?  And so, I said for my love of Eddie and Randy why don’t I just do both?  So, I basically did some stripes and some dots, polka dots and it’s on the cover I think of the new Venom record.  And that guitar actually had a crazy neck on it.

So you didn’t agree to it?
Well you know it’s cool. I like Elliot very much but yes, they made me a couple guitars.  I think it’s just when you played something all your life, you know I was playing Fender soon after that Les Paul copy.  As a matter of fact, when Van Halen came out, the whole reason I got into Fender was when Van Halen came out that very first record where I lived in Connecticut and obviously, you did I was a little older, we didn’t have Charvel.  We didn’t know what Charvel was.  I looked around, I couldn’t find it.  I wondered what Eddie had.  So, the best thing I could do was buy a Fender Stratocaster which I did and then cut the body.  I did that for a while, then I got some real nice vintage Fenders stop cutting the body because it hurts their value so – hence that’s why I ended up sticking with the single coils for years

During the grunge movement of the 90’s did you do anything different with your music? Or did you stay true to your core and continue writing the music style that you have?

We did one record.  Impellitteri Black EP kind of gets noticed by the industry, you know especially in Europe.  I’m going to get to your answer really quick.  I’m just going to try to give you a quick evolution.  So, we did the Black EP which at that time it was advertised everything guitar.  Really popular magazines like Circus Magazine you know they all have them like the inside covers there’s a lot of advertising and I think it was Kerrang! Magazine in England and that’s where this whole stupid fastest guitar player in the world thing, at least for me, started.  They called me the fastest guitar player in the world it’s some stupid crap right.  All of a sudden from Japan everybody noticed us from the Black EP and then Rob Rock quit and I was screwed.  I was like Oh my God what are we going to do?  I don’t have a singer.  So, at this time Sony and Relativity that’s where Joe Satriani and Steve Vai got signed for their instrumental records, they signed me.  I didn’t know what to do, I just wanted to get this Black EP out and tour behind it and they were like, Yes, but we need you to go do another record so we ended up calling Graham Bonnett, because Graham had ended up calling me gosh probably two years earlier to see if I would be interested in replacing Yngwie when Yngwie was in Alcatrazz.  So basically, I went and did the Stand in Line record, which by the way I really don’t like.  I’m not a big fan of it.

I do!

I don’t.  Cause listen, I was playing with a bunch of older guys.  We were almost 15 years old or something if not more.  I didn’t know what to do.  I was a heavy metal kid and the only thing I could think with Graham is why don’t you do something like a light sort of version of Rainbow and really that’s what I hear it as.  You know I hate guitar tone and it’s buried in reverb and I had no say over it.  With the Impellitteri Black EP, I was very involved with everything from the playing, the recording, the production.  Stand in Line I felt like literally it’s got my name on it but I have no control over this.  You know what I mean?


So there, we’re coming into the 80’s and MTV starts playing our video a lot Stand in Line which I do like stand in Line to this day.  It was just too big of production but I like the song.  So, we started doing MTV and I guess we were in the eye of the media and we were getting a lot of coverage and Japan all of a sudden really really take off for us.  You know like really big.  And I know like that when people say oh when you can’t make it in America you’ve got to go to Japan you’ll be a rock star right but for us all of a sudden we were playing arenas, masses.  Not like the smaller version would go to Japan and play clubs.  You know our first show was at the Tokyo Dome.  So, we were doing really big things and that kind of gave us life.  Even though what was about to come around the corner is grunge right?


So at this time, also let’s not forget Guns & Roses are really changing.  The music scene you know, you’re coming out of that.  I was more of a shred guy borderline thrash with the Black EP you know again, Maiden, Priest even Metallica I love.  So, when this happens, Japan offers us a really really good record deal but now I’m listening to Guns & Roses.  Everybody in the media is slamming shredding, you know or anything that has anything to do really with the 80’s.  So, we do a record called Grin and Bear It for Japan it’s really riffy, it’s really more funk, you know funk rock.  So, that’s where you asked me did I do anything, did I change?  The answer is yes for that one record.  You know some of the stuff was really cool.  I still look back and listen and say you know that was really fun to play but it was not in the direction we should have been going with

Impellitteri, so thank God, we do that, it sold, Ok.  We probably sold like 50,000 records or something like that in Japan, not very much.  The label they said look, we’re going to give you one chance, you need to go back to your roots, more like the metal stuff.  We did an EP called Victim of the System for Impellitteri and that’s only released in Japan.  But we’re getting more back in the direction of our Impellitteri Black EP and from there on in we just started being true to ourselves and kind of developing from the Black EP as we should have always done.  I know it’s a really long answer to your question about the grunge thing did make a change but that was kind of I don’t know if it’s a good answer but that was the evolution.  There was a little bit of change really quickly and then we realized, we’re deviating, go back.

Is that what you did to Answer to The Master in 1994?

Definitely! Definitely. Answer to The Master that’s a perfect example where you see like you know we’re getting thrown in with guitar players like I said I love all of the shredders and all of these instrumental guitar players but we are never one of those guys.  So, Answer to The Master you can hear it.  It’s more about the riff more about the band never mind the guitar player, if that makes sense.  I mean it has moments you know where you’ll see shredding but a lot of times it’s not the focus by any means.  It’s really about metal, the riff, the melody the song, the hook.

You’re absolutely correct.
When you went after you guys did that you went to Screaming Symphony did you stay the course there too?

Yes, I think so.  It was, when you say course, for me I’m always thinking once I came off that little deviation I kind of set my mind to say look that was kind of like the beginning of our identity.  Now of course you’re never going to repeat the record over and over again because that means you’re not growing.  So, every record is evolution but hopefully yes of course back on course from where we should have always been back with that EP.  I don’t know if that makes sense, but for me there is a direction.  You start, you kind of develop your sound.  You know which we did with the Black EP.  To me that’s like us, I mean three guys, we actually had a studio guy helping on bass as well you know playing in a room and you get that feeling of what do we sound like live, let’s capture that which kind of really tells you what the band really sounds like.  From there we just evolved.  So, then we’re on a course for whatever our sound is so that’s kind of what each record was.  I think Screaming Symphony was you know another evolution of where we’re going.  Remember we’re only getting older on every record.  So, the more you play guitar, the more you are influenced because remember every time we tour we are around other people, other bands.  We’re listening to other music.  You’re evolving as a human being and you’re absorbing like a sponge so it’s effecting you some way otherwise you’re dead.

That’s true.
What is your creative process when you’re writing songs for your records?

Well if I look at the newest records or even Wicked Maiden before that the way it really starts is that I every day, I don’t care where I am or what I’m doing I’ve got to have a guitar somewhere.  Whether I’m sitting down talking, or I’m outside at my pool right, I mean there’s always a guitar near me.  I could be upstairs in the house, I could be in my studio, I could be downstairs. You know no matter where I’m at there’s a guitar I’m playing.  The way my writing process works is all guitar players, we’re constantly we’re noodling, right?  We’re shredding, we’re playing, we’re having fun just making ourselves happy by playing the instrument and a lot of times what will happen is I will stumble upon a riff and I’ll go, oh that’s kind of cool, what’s that?  And if I really like it, I run into my studio quickly and I will literally record it.  You know just really quick or a drum machine.  Just a really quick track.  Identify what the tempo is and then I’ll just play it in a clip and I’ll just keep playing the riff until you know what I’m hearing or I think is really cool I’ll keep developing and eventually it leads me into a song.  That’s literally my writing process and sometimes it turns out to be a great song and other times I’ll listen back and go, God it’s horrible, what was I thinking?

You know what I mean?

Oh Yes

And sometimes, when I begin writing it’s always the riff first without a good riff to me, it’s nothing.  I mean you could have the greatest solo in the world but without a riff or a good song, it really doesn’t matter.  So, for me, it always begins with a riff and that’s another thing too.  That’s where guys like Tony Iommi, Richie Blackmores riffs, those guys had a huge, huge impact on me.  I think even Van Halen we all love Eddies soloing his innovativeness think about the riffs he wrote.  They were great riffs.  So, for me, it always has to start their first and that’s the way I write

That sounds great.  What is your rig set up like these days?

Well to be honest, over the last 15-20 years I’ve been really using the same amps which are really, they’re vintage Marshalls. They’re 100 Watts.  The main one I use is a 1973 it’s a white Marshall head but it’s heavily modified.  When you look at the front of it you wouldn’t be able to see it still looks like a standard form put head but actually John Suhr and Bob Bradshaw had a company called Custom Audio they developed and they developed a pre-amp I don’t know how many years ago.  It was like a 3-channel pre-amp and what we did was we took channel 3 and we used that mod it’s my Marshall head.  So, it’s one of those heads even with a strat with single coil pickups you can plug directly into that thing and just start playing.  You don’t need anything to over drive the front end.  You know you don’t need any boosts, EQ or anything.  It’s one of those heads that it just screams.  So, I use that and I can’t even tell you I had how many heads, virtually I owned everything so on the records a lot of times I always start with my vintage Marshall and then I’ll blend.  I think on Wicked Maiden I was using Diesels I think we had some Engls but it’s always blends around the Marshall.

Were you ever using Engl amps?

Yes, of course! I was endorsing them for a while.  I was using the Powerball’s which I really like a lot.

Yes because I remember having pictures of you in front of them.  That’s why I knew you were using Marshalls but I didn’t know if you were endorsed by them previously

I did endorse Engl.  So, the answer is yes.  They gave me a ton of heads.  They gave me all these Powerballs.  They gave me, I don’t know what they’re called, they’re really expensive heads.  They’re like 3 channel whatever.  So, you know I had everything Engel.  I used it, I loved it, I liked it but to be honest, I was always finding myself even in my live shows, I would always be playing through my Marshall.  You know Marshall going through Engl cabinets this time but either way I was right back to Marshall.  So, when I was doing Venom I called Nick Bowcott and said, dude can I endorse you guys?  He said totally cool, absolutely, we’ll take you so I just decided to stick with what I was always doing to be honest about it which is hence, back to Marshall.  Which I never really left

Are you using Marshall heads in cabinets exclusively now?

Yes, that is all I am using, yes.  And like I say, mainly it’s always vintage Marshall heads.  You know I like plexis.  The cabinet’s I use differ.  On Venom, I was using both cabinets with a Celestion 25-watt Greenback and also Vintage 30’s.  So, I would do that and there were times with something on like with Venom where if you wanted a little more depth what I’d do is I’d add a 30:20 electrifier, just to triple track and bring it under the other guitars just for a little more body, depth.  I did that a lot especially on Wicked Maiden as well.

Nice! Nice!

That’s where you get that real full body.  You know your typical stereo track with your Marshalls.  And just for more meat you go up with the rectifier

You’re absolutely correct about that

You had some phenomenal songs on this album.  How was it to work with Rob Rock? Did you guys have a good relationship?

Yes, well first of all, we’d been friends first. You understand we grew up together playing in the bars together so as you’re maturing as a musician right you’re learning; you’re mastering your craft.  Every time you do that, if you’re doing it with someone like a team player your kind of evolving but your kind of understand how each other evolves musically and how they write and what their style is like.  So, for him and I it’s just really natural.  It’s just so easy.  I know when I’m writing a song I will always send Rob a vocal melody.  You know cause you’re a guitar player.  You know how it is.  You’re playing guitar, and you’re writing something, there’s a voice in your head and you’re singing, right?

Very correct

So that’s what happens.  So basically, as I’m singing that voice in my head you know I’ll lay it down in a demo and give it a quick vocal guy, give it to Rob because I already know how he’s kind of going to sing it and then you know if he likes it or he’s got something better he just takes it his way and then we get back together, we practice, go into rehearsal and work it out until we think it feels natural.  So, it’s great working with him.  It’s easy and there’s no drama he’s a great guy.

That’s really important to have no drama especially with the singer of the band

Well believe me, I’ve gone down that road.  He is one of the few guys and vocally you know I mean he’s one of these guys were like. You know he had a little bit of a struggle on one of the most recent shows we did.  He had a node or nodule on his vocal that he just developed but up until then, I mean look we’re 20 years now this dude is just on note for note.  I don’t care if he’s sick.  No matter where we’re playing, a 17-hour flight somewhere he’ll get up, play, no sleep.  He’s just great every time, you’re just like, wow! He has one of those rare gifts that what he does he can easily do live night after night and that’s pretty rare.

Yes, Rob has some pipes on him.
The Venom album did you do anything differently in terms of writing processes with Rob and the band or was everything just the same musically?

No.  Obviously, there were some differences John Dette who I played with in Animetal he played with Slayer, and who were the other artists? Testament and Anthrax recently filling in for Charlie on bass.  So, he came in.  He and I have been playing together with Rudy Sarzo for about two years and after Scott Travis in that Animetal band.  We were touring in Japan constantly and we did multiple records and we had built a good rapport and John is really an aggressive drummer so that affected me on Venom.  It really made me hunger more of an aggressive approach.  Even on the melodic songs we still wanted something more aggressive nature or an aggressive foundation for it.  So, that affected the way we were writing Venom and also because I am a fan of music.  I listen to everybody.  Everybody’s new record, I’m always going to listen to it.  What I do find a lot of times is that bands get older and when they are getting older they kind of slow down.  They tend to get more groove and whatever and I was like on Venom, no it’s actually the title track, let’s go the opposite lets push ourselves.  We’re not 19 anymore but we’re going back to that world.  We’re going to rest up, sleep, we’re going to get hungry.  Practice nonstop night and day.  We’re just going to push ourselves until we can get back to that time when we were just really hungry for it.  We loved it, we were energetic and you know when I was doing the Black EP remember shred was kind of evolving.  There really wasn’t anybody yet there to have said it on shred except Di Meola and the forefathers.  Yngwie had just come out so we can’t do a record and have that kind of style unless we’ve already kind of been mastering it for years before that. It was really fun because there were all these great players, Paul Gilbert, Vinnie Moore, Michael Angelo Batio there was Tony MacAlpine of course and with the element you have all these guys doing amazing stuff it pushes you.  So, with Venom I actually was going back and listening to a lot of different things.  You know when I was young doing the Black EP for Venom I would put on the Black EP and play along and go man this was fun let’s get back into this and then you go wait a minute, what were my peers doing, the other guys that were starting in this you know what was something like Racer X doing?  I’d just try to get energized by it.  So, that was some of the difference when I was doing Venom

John is an incredible drummer.  When you watch the videos, and listen to Venom it’s got your signature sound.  It doesn’t like, you know people get older and it starts getting softer.  You’re still balls to the wall.  You got John you’ve got an excellent band there and hopefully we’ll hear more from you in the future. 

Well, I hope so, yes! You know I just wrote another cool song the other day.  Right now, we’re working on something called Warhead for Impellitteri.  Next year is our 30th anniversary so you know I just got off the phone right now with a guy who kind of manages and is the agent for Twisted Sister.  So, it looks like next year we’re going to try I’m not saying certain what is going to happen yet but we’re going to try to go out and do a full-blown anniversary tour.  You know we just got back from doing some really amazing festivals in Europe and Asia.  So hopefully we will keep this going.  Especially next year since it is the 30th anniversary of the band.


And that was my other question it seems like you’ve been having a good time, out there overseas and you’ve been to some of the big rock festivals out there 

Yes!  This is the funny thing about Impellitteri if you were to ask your mother or sister, neighbor, brother or whatever 9/10ths of the people are going to say who? They don’t have a clue but it’s funny we go over there and they put us on the bill where we’re really really close to the headlining slot.  We just did Rock Fest with Iron Maiden.  We played right before Anthrax and Anthrax was right before Iron Maiden and so many bands before us.  Then we just headlined in Ansan Rock Festival in South Korea and dude it was probably close to 100,000 people came.  It was massive.  It was insane.  You can see footage on YouTube or whatever they posted and it was just unbelievable what we draw on some of those markets.  Even on the festivals we did this time all the big bands are probably going dude, why don’t you guys play, we got your records and we’re like, really, you even know who we are?  It was really quite funny

Yes that’s a question I’ve asked other people about the European audience vs American.  The European audiences seem to hold true to what they grew up with and they don’t change when the trends change like the wind like over there like they do here.  Over there you’ve got the Wacken Festival, you know all of them.  They have some huge, huge festivals out there.  Europe just seems like that’s where you’ll be more profitable.  You’ve had better audiences.  Forgive me if I’m wrong.  I was looking at your YouTube videos out there when you were at the Bang Your Head Festival, The Rock fest in Barcelona the Jisan Rock Festival in South Korea.  They were all into it you were really rocking those guys out there so I’ve always asked people is there a difference between European and American audiences?  It proves it right there in the videos

There’s no doubt about it! I mean listen we are and I also acknowledge this, we are really really lucky.  We were at the right place at the right time for Japan because you know when you said 30 minutes ago about grunge and the change?  You know grunge destroyed so many of my friends and their careers were over.  You know I cried for them because they were good bands, they worked really hard but there was really no other country that would embrace them.  For us the saving grace and this is where I really thank Graham Bonnet.  Even though I don’t really like Stand in Line the record, I owe Graham because Graham in Japan especially coming out of the group Rainbow and then he was in Alcatrazz, Michael Schenker Group he was massive in the early 80’s in Japan.  Even in Europe remember when he was in Rainbow it’s called Download Festival now but back then it was called Castle Donnington and he headlined as the singer of Rainbow with AC/DC opening, Judas Priest, Maiden.  You know Graham was this legendary guy he joined Impellitteri it immediately whether I was good bad it didn’t matter it seemed, to that audience, because they were going to give me a chance and it was just massive, it was all of a sudden they took us and all of a sudden now Impellitteri is competing with Metallica.  Not a band at Impellitteri level I mean literally we were competing for covers of magazines and big shows and record sales we are are up against these bohemas and that was a gift I really do believe.  There are plenty of other great bands that should have had the opportunity so Japan and some of that filtered off to parts of Europe for us and it’s weird it just keeps growing.  You know it just keeps spreading, it’s almost like a little disease.

It does.  
I know I said back we’re going to hear more from you in the future.  Are you working on a record right now?  I know you have the 30th anniversary coming out you wrote a song, are you going to have another release from Frontiers?  

The answer is yes.  I am working on something.  I haven’t made up my mind yet what I want to do.  Do I want to do an EP?  Do I actually want to do a full-length record?  I’ve already got some killer songs literally recorded.  So, I already know the sound of it.  It’s in the direction of Venom there’s no doubt about that.  So, I’m really happy with it.  The industry has changed so much. The Venom record we did, it was expensive.    I know a lot of people can do their records in their house now with pro tools, we didn’t do that.  We went to NRG Studios where you’re going to see Slash, Guns & Roses guys like that doing their records.  We spent an insane amount it was a lot.   We were talking to a guy from the 80’s where it cost half a million dollars to make a record so it was not cheap to make.  At the end of it we say man we spent a ton of money and no matter what we do, we’re never going to sell enough records to be reimbursed to re coop that.  Now I’m trying to look at it as an artist, like you, I don’t ever want to stop making music or recording so to continue to do that, how does our audience want to hear it or absorb it?  Do they want to hear it as a full record?  Will they even sit down ever and listen to 10 songs?  Or do they want to hear 3 songs?  Because remember we live in a world now where our attention span is very limited.  Think about all the things we have to preoccupy our time so I’d rather do a 3 or 4 song or maybe even 5 and do videos for every song and whatever that ‘new children’ is that we bring into life of music, I call them ‘the children’ whatever those are, they get 100% of our attention and anybody that wants to listen to us it would be accessible to us without giving them too much to absorb.  That’s where I’m at right now.  I guess it leaves me saying, I don’t know if I want to do a full-length album or an EP


Your 30th-anniversary tour, are you going to be touring the states with that?

You know honestly, I’ve wanted to tour the states for 15 years.  It’s really up to demand and the promoters.  I don’t really know if you know what goes on behind the closed doors of this industry.  A lot of it believe it or not is who you know, who’s managing you, who the agent is and 90% of these big festivals you see in Europe are all bands on there that are bought to be put at those festivals and it’s usually by a record label, like back in the past maybe it’s like a roadrunner:  Hey I’m putting all my bands on this label or on our label to be at this festival.  So, the same thing happens in the states with its promoters.  They’re looking for: hey how many videos do you have?  What’s your twitter account?  And dude, I am the worst, we have never embraced social media.  We don’t even, I don’t even think we have an official page.  People have hijacked my name.  There’s a bunch of Facebook pages.  I do have one that I recently got that I think it has a 7 in my name like Chris Impellitteri7 or something like that on Facebook and I do that but most of it is done by other people and we can’t even get our own page back, like Facebook, Impellitteri, I don’t even know who that is.

So when I met with you on Facebook, it’s probably not you?

Well it depends and I don’t know, I think I did actually get that one.  If there is a number 7 in that.  Then I had a personal Facebook page and someone said to change this to a band page and you can use both as soon as I did that I lost my original Facebook, I mean I can’t speak with people or something like that you’re talking with a guy that is horrible with this stuff.

 Impellitteri.7 that is where I messaged you or something.

Yes.  I would have gotten that definitely.  There is another page out there, it’s Chris Impellitteri it had like a brick wall picture or something like that and that’s someone else.  Then there’s Impellitteri for Facebook period.  You know like on Facebook “Impellitteri” Official page or whatever, and I don’t know who that is.  I’ve been trying to get that page back.

I’m sorry, where I was going through with the United States, promoters look at this stuff.  So, they don’t really care if you’re good or bad.  All they want to know is do you have ten million Twitter followers?  Are you with the managing company who also manages Brittany Spears or whoever because then there’s some sort of package they can negotiate and get you on.  You have to understand a band like us, we have a good strong cult following around the world.  I’m sure in the United States because we have done warm up shows in LA where literally we didn’t even do an announcement and we’d get to places where we are playing and there’s a line around the block for people waiting to get in and we’re like Jesus!! So, we don’t know how to convey that with promoter’s in the United States.  So, a lot of times they are going to try to promote us in some small club and unfortunately we’re not a club band.  We don’t want to do that.  You know we’ve always played theaters, arenas, stadiums.  America is challenging.  I can say we want to go out on our 30th anniversary tour it’s really dependent on the new agents we work with this year.  We’re going to try to see if they can make it happen.  We will definitely go out and do Europe and Japan of course, the U.S. I’m not sure.  I hope it happens, but you know, I’m not holding my breath.

Social Media wise, do you think that you’re going to embrace it?  It seems like that’s the platform that most bands have to do to survive in this new music age

I think ultimately the answer is yes.  You know it’s funny.  I’m aware of all these other bands because of social media, but yet I’m one of those guys who never embraced it myself.  I guess because I’m one of these guys, I’m not really good at networking.  I’ve never been one of these guys who has to go out and sell myself to people:  “hey we’re great, listen to us” I never wanted to do that.  I’ve always wanted to leave it up to the people.  If they discover us, and they like us maybe they’ll embrace us maybe we’ll make an impact and we’ll grow as a band.  I was never one of these guys out every night who tried to convince people to listen to our band and whatever.  I guess that is my issue with social media.  I feel like I’m doing the same thing again, like I’m trying to force myself onto people.  The answer is yes.  We need to do it.  Maybe we’re a little lazy.  We are very very blessed.  I mean we sold millions of records especially in Japan, we’ve done really well.  So, I sometimes think, oh we don’t even need to do it, everybody already knows who we are, you know, well everyone does not know who we are!   You know?


I think a tour of the states would be good for the bands, you know when you look at some of the 80’s bands that have replaced singers and all that you know they talk, they are very big on social media it seems like with Twitter that just seems like it’s part of the equation to keep yourself alive out there and keep your name out.  It would definitely, especially with you, you’d have a huge following.  I’m sure you know how big of a following you have especially here in the states.  The promoters need to see that

Yes, we have a huge following in America.  I really don’t know.  I can only tell you that in Los Angeles a lot of times we’ll go and do these festivals or we’ll do an Asian tour you know we’ll always book a place.  We might sneak into a place like the Whiskey a Go Go or something like that but we don’t announce it until you get there, you do a sound check and you literally have hundreds of people around the block waiting to get in, you’re like geeze it’s literally 3:00 in the afternoon.  So, you know there is definitely a presence or people definitely know who we are and have interest but can we play a 4 or 5,000 seat place like we do overseas in the United States?  That I really am very skeptical about.  I’m not sure I could do that.  You know would people even come see us if we were in Texas?  You know 5,000 people or 3 people?

I totally understand. Do you have a picture of that Charvel?  Is that going to be your signature guitar?  Or have you even thought about talking to them yet?  

No, we are talking.  As far as the image of the guitar, I’m not sure.  I mean that is the guitar.  That guitar originally came to me and when they gave it to me it was a single coil guitar that was it.  So obviously, we routed it, we put a humbucker in it.  We changed the position of the volume and the toggle switch.  Basically, I hate the volume switch.  A lot of people like it with their pinky while their resting on their bridge, they like to roll their volume knob.  So, for me I actually developed and this is another weird thing, if you look at the video in Venom about two and a half years ago I again was experimenting and I actually changed my picking technique a little bit.  What I was finding with this picking technique which was really loose was and really a lot of attack, it was hitting the volume knob.  So basically, we moved the position to about an inch and a half and then we took the 5 way out and we put a small mini toggle so that way you could never hit anything below the bridge with your pinky or your ring finger.  So, those were small changes we made, small little embellishments.
So the answer is yes.  If you’re going to put a picture on your site just put the Charvel because that’s definitely the guitar I am using.  I’m actually using on the recording.  So, I’m doing a record, the stuff I recorded already, it’s all that blood splattered Charvel

Alright.  We’ll look forward to seeing that signature model pretty soon.  I’m sure Charvel makes some fantastic guitars

 Do you play any acoustic guitar?  

You know actually I just sold my Taylor’s.  So, the answer is yes because I love practicing.  I always practice acoustically period but I do play acoustics as well.  I am looking right now for an endorsement for acoustic.  So, I did think about going to Ovation because I used to love their older stuff and you know Rudy Sarzo just played with me in Impellitteri when we did the Korean shows.  He was playing bass for us.  So, I think Rudy told me he was endorsing basses for Ovation for acoustics so he told me to check them out.   I’m going to look into it


Why don’t you design your own pickups? I’m sure a company has offered.

I’ve had offers to do that.  To be honest, I’m really happy, like in the Charvel those are just PAF’s they’re 59’s in both of the bridge and the neck and for me I just love that tone.  With single coils with strats, I just feel like screw it.  Why design it if it’s already there?  For me, I love it, like the ’71 that’s all it is a 71 bridge pickup on that guitar you know you’re familiar with Impellitteri Black EP, I’m 99% certain the guitar did almost all of that record on was a 1979 Fender Stratocaster with just ’79 pickups going in to at that time I think I was using the vintage Marshalls and a of course I had a JCM 800 at the time and a tube screamer and that’s all  it was,  but the pickups there’s something about it.  They have a hollow tone to them so you get a little bit more of an ambience.  I think that’s what I like about those pickups.  Really weird, I know

I think just as a fan of yours, I think you should approach Seymour Duncan or Di Marzio and you should just design your own.  That’s probably the best way you can do it and you can do just trial and error and then put it to your new signature line.  You want that old strat sound 

I see what you’re saying.  Remember I’m deviated on the guitar because I’ve been old the last few years.  People don’t realize a lot of the years I was playing strats I always had Charvels too with humbuckers and as a matter of fact outside the Impellitteri record the Black EP and Stand in Line every one of those records have a routed guitar with a humbucker.  You know sometimes there is a single coil and a solo but a lot of time the rhythm stuff is all humbuckers.  So, in the last couple records it’s all been humbucker pickups and for me the 59’s just seem to work for me.  I’m pretty happy with them.  I don’t really know what I would do differently to be honest.  Because some have a weird pickup which works great when you run your amp wide open

What is your preference Japan or American strats?  

I’ve got to be honest with you I’ve played some amazing Japanese models.  Obviously, a custom shop in America is where I really got all of my custom strats from outside of the vintage strats and believe me I’ve had almost everything for vintage strats.  For me it was obviously they were U.S. because there was a point where they really were not manufacturing in Japan especially when you’re doing late ’50, late 60’s, 70’s early 70’s that’s all U.S. based.  Recently the stuff I’ve played, I’ve got to be honest with you some of the new it’s the American Standard.  I forget what they call it, whatever they’re making now out of the U.S. out of chrome or whatever, that start plays really nicely.  So, I actually like that a little bit better than what I’ve played with from out of Japan for Fenders.  There’s really no set answer.  It’s really just set on who in Japan or in America was building guitar.  Were they paying attention? They have pretty good quality control and it’s pretty consistent.  Right now, Jackson who is Fender they own Charvel, they own Jackson they own the EVH for Van Halen they just sent me a top of the line I think it’s called a Monarch.  It’s kind of like a Les Paul it reminds me very much of ESP’s Les Paul version. So, Jackson just gave me that guitar the other day and it plays insane and I asked the guy’s great who made it here in the custom shop?  They go dude it was made in Indonesia and I’m like oh my God it plays and sounds amazing.  It’s their top of the line guitar so they’re not even building that here in the U.S.  So, I guess at this point it doesn’t even matter where the guitar comes from as long as the luthier, whoever is in charge of building the guitar, is competent, paying attention and really cares about what he’s doing as far as quality

Yes, I’ve seen some guitars that are by the endorsee they are not made in the American shop they’re coming over from Korea.  I’ve got a MAB4 and it was made in Korea.  For a $400.00 guitar that thing sounds pretty good 

Andrew you are absolutely right! When Elliot flew me down to Tampa he said here let’s go into his little private stash and he said just start picking up guitars.  So, I started playing everything and my favorite guitar that I played there, out of this one split tail he gave me was a Dave Mustaine Flying V that was made in Korea and I go dude this thing is insane, the neck sounded great, it played great and I think I picked up they made something in the custom shop similar and I was like, the Korean one smokes it!

And that’s the difference between $499.00 and $5,000 exactly right! 

You know at the end of the day, listen to be fair it’s almost like saying it’s made in Korea it can’t be as good well think about it. What about some of the classical piano’s that come out of Korea.  They’re insanely good.  Are they less talented because they come from Korea?  It’s senseless! So, it’s the reality of quality control, what’s the components?   Years ago, people would kind of roll their noses up at it which means kind of snobby towards Japanese guitars and the problem would have been, what kind of metal were they using in the bridges, cheap right? Obviously, the tone, there is going to be some degradation in the tone of the instrument. So, that’s a big problem.  Japan has like overcome that.  Now the quality whether it’s Japan, Indonesia or Korea or where ever they all are kind of using similar components.  It’s now just a matter of does someone really is with someone, is there an element of pride in their job?  Because technically with everything they’re playing right now for God’s sake we live in the digital age where everything has a scan or some sort of numerical metric at the pitch of the neck and there is some sort of laser that you can see exactly if the pitch is off 100 mm of an inch, it has all of that stuff.  So as long as you’re paying attention it’s really inexcusable now to make a bad instrument

There is a difference.  When you pick up one of the Deans of Batio its so lightweight.  It’s smaller.  Then when you pick up an Yngwie strat it is heavier and bigger.  It’s almost like night and day if you take a picture in front of them.  I go from playing that and then you go to one of the Fender strats there’s just so much heavier and larger.  

You know it’s interesting you said that because weight remember is critical.  So, for me I guess this is really plagiarizing Van Halen’s word, I am also a tone chaser and believe me I am a studio nut.  I’ve owned major studio’s in Los Angeles and I have a major studio in my house.  I’m not talking about the little pro tools only thing.  I’m talking about big rigs and SSL’s and all that and for me personally I am absolutely addicted to tone and I find the heavier guitars, it’s probably why the tracks I do especially on Venom we’re talking about the new stuff but now I’m using the Charvel mainly but for Venom 90% of that record is my 1958 Les Paul which is heavy.  You know even the title track of Venom is actually I’m using it in the video it’s called Face the Enemy that’s the Les Paul I recorded all the record on and that thing is a tank.  It is so heavy.  Your left should be just killing you after it.  You’re like oh my God this thing is so weighty! Now do you hear a difference tonally?  Now it’s hard because Michael’s guitar has a humbucker while Yngwie’s has a single so the humbucker is going to have an advantage immediately because the width, the coverage of that pickup really acoustically, which one has the better tone?


Yes! It would make sense. Yes, that is what I would assume and then again, I’m not certain I have to hear it myself.  But I would assume because of the weight and obviously, it’s a maple board and all that, that would probably resonate more.  Where Michael’s guitar without an amp would probably resonate more in the shower, acoustically.  You need more of that kind of environment where it’s more ambiance to it to fill out a sound

Are you a producer of anything?  Because I realize you have these studio’s.  Have you produced anything that is out there?  

Yes. You know I don’t get into that. I’ve played on some of them records and you would know who the rock bands are.  I just don’t say it.  I will just say this I am a big junkie in the studio so I’m one of these guys I still believe in we love where we are with pro tools and digital but I think what the new bands are missing now is they’re missing capturing the bands live tonality.   Now when people record drums a lot of these people are doing drums on some sort of program.  They’re missing what the drums sounds like if you’re in a beautiful auditorium or in a really big room where you can do a 40-piece orchestra where the room lights up.  You’re missing so much of the instrument.  So, when I produce my stuff or produce or work with other bands if there is a budget there the first thing I do is ‘big studio’ not because it’s cool to be there it’s because you have the room

Yes, that’s very true.  I will look forward to seeing your signature guitar out probably next year or the blood splatter.

Who was the first to do the spider web design?

It’s Charvel.  They’re the first guitar company that did a spider web on a guitar.  Kramer did it years later in the early 80’s I believe but yes Charvel.

I didn’t know that.  Kramer, I knew had one but I had no clue that Charvel did 

Oh yes.  Just google it, put Charvel vintage spider web.  They were the first guitar company I think I had their catalog in 1981.  I bought one of Randy Rhoads‘ first guitar in production ever.  It had the original Floyd Rose that I wish I kept.  It had no fine tuners on it and again back then they had catalogues and it used to be able to see I think it was even in 1979 that Charvel I think you’ll see it it’s a pink Charvel strat with a spider web.  I kind of laughed at the Dean thing because you know I’m already heading back to Charvel and I didn’t even know it

Chris thank you for your time.  It’s been a pleasure talking to you.  


Copyright 2016 by All That Shreds



Doug Marks – The Metal Method and his Legacy

By Andrew Catania

Doug Marks, a prominent figure in the contemporary rock and metal guitar community thanks to his more than 30 years of experience as a guitar teacher. He developed what would be known as one of the most popular guitar methods of the world: The Metal Method. Doug’s early days as a teacher started doing private guitar lessons in Denver, Colorado as a way to help other fellow guitar players to develop their potential; he also learned from his students’ questions: when he didn’t know about something, he did the necessary research to find the answer, making him grow as a musician and teacher. When he later moved to Los Angeles, his students were interested in keeping in touch with him. They thought that Doug’s method of instruction was excellent, so he was encouraged by his pupils to find a way to give long distance guitar instruction.

By 1982 he was pursuing a career as a heavy metal musician with his band, named Hawk. Doug had the opportunity to work this project with many great musicians that were not so known at the time: Charlie Morrill (ex-Black Night), Teddy Days (ex Hellion), Scott Travis (Judas Priest, Racer X, Thin Lizzy), David Fefolt (Forgotten Realm, Valhalla) and  Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver). Doug managed to release the first Hawk studio release independently in 1986 as his personal project, a solid ten track album with Marks taking the leading guitar role, demonstrating a clean, bright and virtuosic heavy metal sound that was going to support his reputation as a metal guitar teacher.

The Metal Method

To keep in touch with his former students from Denver, and to make his method available to a larger audience, Doug Marks started to develop what was going to be known as The Metal Method. Metal Method Guitar Lessons has founded in 1982 thanks to his students’ questions; this was the way in which the method was shaped from the very beginning, and it owes his success and popularity to the fact that, to this day, Metal Method answers your needs as a guitar player.

The method consisted of a mail-order business in which Doug made his lessons available through audio cassettes and video tapes, where he explained the foundations of guitar playing, from the very beginning, under the assumption that you never picked up a guitar before. This was going to be known as the Basic Course in 1982, and it was the genesis of all. Doug takes you step by step into the paths of heavy metal technique and musical theory in a moderately increasing difficulty that is reasonable regardless of your playing level, avoiding you the pain of getting frustrated with impossible goals and overwhelming information.

The examples are played at different speeds, so you can easily keep up with the music, allowing you to analyze and practice each lesson in a way that you can get the most out of it, without being overwhelmed trying to play them at full speed right away. One of the most successful factors of this course was the fact that you can feel how Doug Marks is talking to you, not to a microphone or recording equipment, but to you as a student, as someone who’s eager to improve! That’s something that was not being offered in the market back in the day: a personal relationship between tutor and student, which is something the Metal Method offers.

The method was successful right from the beginning thanks to the philosophy of great guitar lessons at a lower price, with a high volume of sales. It was expanded into many editions that focused on specific areas of the guitar technique: Speed and Accuracy for Lead Guitar, Easy Guitar Modes, Guitar Mastery Package, Classic Guitar Licks and many others made in collaboration with guitar legends like Michael Angelo Batio: Speed Kills 1 and 2, Star Licks Master Series videos are an example. The Method has grown into a thriving business with plenty of information for all guitar players out there. In Doug’s website, he interacts with the people, answering their doubts and hanging around with them, showing how down-to-earth he is, and proving that he cares about the students and their learning process.


The Metal Method Legacy

It is amazing how the Doug Marks legacy is evident to this day. Worldwide known guitar masters such as Rusty Cooley or Myles Kennedy have said how important the Metal Method was to them! Doug is right when he states the following on his website: “We’ve been in business since 1982 for one reason – our program works!” The basic course is still going now in his 2016 revision! In the field of guitar lessons, we are always searching for the perfect answer to questions like “how can I play faster?” “How can I approach lead guitar?” “What is the musical theory I should know to play what I like?” and the Metal Method is positively answering these questions to all of us!

The influence of the Method has been around for 34 years already, helping many guitar players out there to achieve the desired improvement in their guitar playing technique. And don’t let the word “metal” fool you: if you are into any other genre like blues, country, jazz, rock, and roll…you will get plenty of advice and useful information from the Method, because of all the resources it has to give to any aspiring artist.