Tag Archives: shrapnel records

Tony MacAlpine Discusses His New Record Death Of Roses

By Andrew Catania

The existence of the soul within often reflects on the accomplishments on the outside. Tony MacAlpine unearthed the alchemy of soulfulness in the mirth of music from when his fingers played with the keys of the piano at the age of 5.

Strumming through the cords as a solo, rock instrumentalist, pianist, and guitarist, Tony MacAlpine has artfully succeeded in coalescing the elements of jazz, hard rock, metal and classic beats on both, guitar and keyboard – crafting melodies as sinful as they are virtuous.

The dominating dazzle of neoclassical rock, the Hartford graduate, released his debut masterpieces – Edge of Insanity and Maximum Security in the late 80’s. But Tony’s teeming talents stretch beyond abysmal. In mid-1986 his thuds as a heavy metal guitarist in M.A.R.S drove flocks of frats wild, uncloaking an all new side of this innovative rock star.

A more commercially inclined endeavor in the hard rock led to the manifestation of Eyes of The World in the 90’s, but with the strike of realization, Tony resumed his passion for instruments and consecutively crafted magnum opuses as renowned as Madness, Premonition, Evolution and Violent Machine. Truly outshining his work, Tony sealed the decade of success with a blockbuster album Master of Paradise where he contributed with his authentic vocals as well.

The sweep trapping trickster was compelled to join aboard a hiatus when he revealed a health scare in the last couple of years.  After the release of Concrete Gardens, MacAlpine was pummeled with the revelation of a colon cancer, marking a pause to his musical accomplishments.

But like an unstoppable tornado, the legend has stormed back into the realm of harmonies with his album, Death of Roses.

Is this EP part of a set?

TM: it’s the start of we have another. It’s an ep we have a set of songs coming out shortly to complete the whole process of this writing of 14 songs.

What made you split the EP’s up?

TM:  I’m composing some material that I would say is descriptive exposure to a particular style that I’m unveiling now. I mean the next songs are something from a different era. They’re all part of the same suite, but they’re flavor and a different type a whole different approach. So I didn’t want to put the two on the same record because you said that your records are connected, so that’s why I chose to separate them.

Where did you find Nasser Abdalla?

TM:  Nass played in a band that opened for me a couple of tours ago.  He caught my attention back then and when it came time to find players I gave him a call.  He was all ready for it.

You have tour dates for September and October.  Do you have any plans to tour Europe?

TM: I delayed the European tour when I was sick, and the instability of situations going on in Europe happened at once.  I’m doing fine now.  Trying to book this tour came about we just realized that it’s just not a safe environment right now.  So we’re going to wait and see what happens.

Are you 100% healthy now?

TM:  Yeah, everything is fine. I’m doing great, and I’m happy to be out there and healthy just working again.

How did you creatively coming up with the music for Death of Roses?

TM:  Each record that I do is an exposee of where I’m at. And so at least five months or a year before when the record comes out, I’ve moved on to some other things that I find musically interesting, but I play lots of music. I play lots of piano music. I play music from many different genres, and so my influences are very far and wide. But the problem is with music that you become known for if you’re a solo artist you know you can’t just keep changing you don’t know the direction as soon as you feel like you know you need to you have to kind of bring things along at a slower pace because you know people build up a certain listening to your memory. And for them to be able to play when he records they want to hear something that they think reminds them of your style. Even so, your style might be evolving. It’s important for an artist to do things slowly. So I mean there’s so much stuff that I do, but just having the right combinations of musicians is one of the things that makes it whether or not it’s you know plausible or not. And that mix of musicians is here now. Obviously piano was my first instrument, so I’m employing lots of keyboards live now on this thing, and then we have not spent a lot of different guitar parts. We do a lot of guitar parts to be together. So it’s this music this whole thing is more of a freedom of sounds, and when the listeners get down, they get to more of your adventure instead of a songwriter that from one direction. So that’s really what it is. It’s just a combination.

Has your rig changed?

TM:  It’s always evolving.  Live now I’m using Hughes and Kettner Core Blades which are all tube heads with all of the processing built inside of the head. So it’s a real simple setup but very consistent. I also I also use the Hughes and Kettner GrandMeister Deluxe 40 which is the same idea of that it’s a better amp and a much smaller package about the size of a lunchbox.  Everything’s evolving,  the guitars are.  I’m using an extended range seven string. Even as guitars with various EMG setups you know the guitars are active and have one passive guitar.

Did you recover your gear that was stolen in Texas?

We got all the guitars back except one.  I didn’t get the TV back or the floorboard.  That’s easily replaceable.  All of the Ibanez guitars are back.  I had some friends in Mexico that went to a guitar swap and they some them there.  They brought them back for me.

Do you have a signature guitar coming out?

We’re working on something.  I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. So unless I come up with something that I think is a must for all players to have I don’t know if I’m going to do it, but we’ll see what happens regarding a future.

Any advice for aspiring guitarists?

Music is its art, and an artist is fostered by practicing and confidence. And one of the things that you really must come to the realization is whether you love you know the sacrifices you have to make because it’s a huge one. You know the time that it takes to write practice songs and cause the other bands and do that type of thing is it’s the rewards are not as great as many we think. You know they come along in time and so just really make sure that this is something you want to do and work extremely hard at it and love it.


All That Shreds Podcast With Legendary Axeman George Bellas

By Andrew Catania

George Bellas is a Guitarist, Composer and Recording Artist.  He plays guitar, bass, keyboards, sings, and composes for all instruments in neoclassical, neo-romantic, progressive rock, and strict classical and jazz styles.  George Bellas start playing guitar at the age of 7 on a classical guitar his father purchased for him.  George began performing live very early on and gigged extensively with this bands: Union Jack, Destiny, FreeFall, and Prodigy, all the while advancing his education by constantly studying Music Theory, Harmony, Rhythm, Counterpoint, Form, and Composition.

Gеоrgе bеgаn tеасhіng guіtаr іn hіѕ еаrlу tееnѕ аnd ѕhоrtlу thеrеаftеr ореnеd a tеасhіng асаdеmу саllеd “Prоdіgу’ѕ Sсhооl Of Muѕіс”. Durіng thіѕ tіmе hе соntіnuеd tо реrfоrm lіvе wіth hіѕ bаndѕ аnd соmроѕе a ѕееmіnglу еndlеѕѕ аmоunt оf muѕіс. Gеоrgе hаd аn аttrасtіоn tоwаrdѕ Clаѕѕісаl соuntеrроіnt аnd оdd rhуthmѕ vеrу еаrlу оn whісh аrе nоw a unіԛuе ѕіgnаturе оf hіѕ ѕtуlе.

Thrоughоut hіѕ tееnѕ аnd еаrlу 20’ѕ Gеоrgе еxеrсіѕеd аn еxtrеmе аmоunt оf dіѕсірlіnе аnd рrасtісеd оbѕеѕѕіvеlу оn a Fеndеr асоuѕtіс wіth .013 – .058 gаugе ѕtrіngѕ. It wаѕ durіng thіѕ tіmе thаt аnуbоdу whо mеt Gеоrgе ѕаw hіѕ blасk аnd grееn fіngеrtірѕ оf hаrdеnеd nаіl-lіkе ѕtrеngth. Whіlе оn thе wау tо thе NAMM ѕhоw, Phоtоgrарhеr Rоѕѕ Pеltоn соuld nоt bеlіеvе Gеоrgе’ѕ fіngеrtірѕ; hе еxсlаіmеd thеу wеrе unlіkе аnуthіng hе hаd еvеr ѕееn bеfоrе. Gеоrgе Bellas wаѕ a mасhіnе аnd соmрlеtеlу unѕtорраblе wіth hіѕ еxtrеmе ѕеnѕе оf dіѕсірlіnе.

Shоrtlу аftеr ѕіgnіng wіth Shrарnеl Rесоrdѕ, Gеоrgе gоt a саll frоm Mіkе Vаrnеу аѕkіng hіm іf hе wоuld bе interested іn jоіnіng UFO. Gеоrgе bеgаn trаvеlіng tо Pеtе Wау’ѕ hоuѕе аnd ѕtаrtеd wrіtіng аnd аrrаngіng thе ѕоngѕ wіth bоth Phіl Mоgg and Pеtе Wау. Aftеr mееtіng ѕеvеrаl tіmеѕ and dеvеlоріng thе ѕоngѕ, it wаѕ tіmе tо flу оut tо Sаn Frаnсіѕсо аnd rесоrd thе аlbum. Thе rесоrdіng tооk рlасе іn Fеbruаrу оf 1997 аt Prаіrіе Sun Rесоrdіng Studіоѕ іn Cоtаtі, Cаlіfоrnіа.

Happy Birthday Jason Becker

By Andrew Catania

Jаѕоn Elі Bесkеr (bоrn Julу 22, 1969) іѕ аn Amеrісаn hеаvу mеtаl guіtаrіѕt аnd соmроѕеr. At the аgе оf 16, hе bесаmе раrt оf thе Shrарnеl Rесоrdѕ-рrоduсеd duо Cасорhоnу wіth hіѕ frіеnd Mаrtу Frіеdmаn. Thеу rеlеаѕеd thе аlbumѕ Sрееd Mеtаl Sуmрhоnу іn 1987 аnd Gо Off іn 1988. Cасорhоnу brоkе uр іn 1989 аnd Bесkеr bеgаn doing ѕоlо wоrk, hаvіng rеlеаѕеd hіѕ fіrѕt аlbum Pеrреtuаl Burn іn 1988, аlѕо thrоugh Shrарnеl. Hе lаtеr jоіnеd Dаvіd Lее Rоth’ѕ bаnd аnd rесоrdеd оnе аlbum wіth hіm, A Lіttlе Aіn’t Enоugh.

Bесkеr’ѕ реrfоrmіng саrееr wаѕ сut ѕhоrt bу аmуоtrорhіс lаtеrаl ѕсlеrоѕіѕ (ALS). In 1996, Bесkеr lоѕt thе аbіlіtу tо ѕреаk, аnd hе nоw соmmunісаtеѕ wіth hіѕ еуеѕ vіа a ѕуѕtеm dеvеlореd bу hіѕ fаthеr. Dеѕріtе hіѕ dіѕаbіlіtу, hе соntіnuеѕ соmроѕіng bу uѕіng a соmрutеr аnd hаѕ ѕіnсе rеlеаѕеd wіth Shrарnеl Cоllесtіоn, a “bеѕt оf” аlbum оf hіѕ fаvоrіtе ѕоngѕ аnd thrее nеw ѕоngѕ.

Cоnѕіdеrеd аn еxреrt guіtаrіѕt and оnе оf thе tор рlауеrѕ оf hіѕ tіmе, Jаѕоn Bесkеr ѕtudіеd thе wоrkѕ оf vіоlіnіѕt Nіссоlò Pаgаnіnі аnd wаѕ a рlауіng раrtnеr wіth Mаrtу Frіеdmаn. Hе lаtеr аrrаngеd Pаgаnіnі’ѕ 5th Cарrісе, реrfоrmіng іt during аn іnѕtruсtіоnаl guіtаr vіdео. Bесkеr’ѕ соmроѕіtіоnѕ оftеn іnсludе hіgh-ѕрееd ѕсаlаr аnd arpeggio раѕѕаgеѕ trаdеmаrkѕ оf hіѕ ‘ѕhrеd’ ѕtуlе оf guіtаr рlауіng. Oftеn іnсоrроrаtіng аdvаnсеd tесhnіԛuеѕ ѕuсh аѕ ѕwеер рісkіng, аltеrnаtе рісkіng, аrtіfісіаl hаrmоnіс ассеntіng, аnd tарріng; hе wаѕ аmоng thе lеаdеrѕ іn thе fіеld durіng thе tесhnісаl ‘ѕhrеd’ guitar, аnd Nео-Clаѕѕісаl Mеtаl trеnd оf thе mіd tо lаtе еіghtіеѕ аnd іѕ ѕtіll rеѕресtеd аnd hоnоrеd bу hіѕ musician рееrѕ tоdау.

Pеrhарѕ thе mоѕt hіgh-рrоfіlе аrtіѕt bаttlіng ALS іѕ Jаѕоn Bесkеr, thе tаlеntеd guіtаrіѕt whо ѕееmеd роіѕеd tо еmbаrk on a brіllіаnt саrееr bеfоrе hе received hіѕ dіаgnоѕіѕ іn thе еаrlу ’90ѕ. Rіѕіng tо рrоmіnеnсе аlоngѕіdе Mаrtу Frіеdmаn іn thе ѕhоrt-lіvеd рrоjесt Cасорhоnу, Bесkеr rеlеаѕеd a ѕоlо аlbum (‘Pеrреtuаl Burn’) іn 1988, аnd thеn саught thе еаr оf thеn-fоrmеr Vаn Hаlеn frоntmаn David Lее Rоth, whо nееdеd a rерlасеmеnt fоr dераrtіng guіtаrіѕt Stеvе Vai.

Rоth еnlіѕtеd Bесkеr fоr hіѕ thіrd ѕоlо LP, 1991’ѕ ‘A Lіttlе Aіn’t Enоugh,’ but whаt іnіtіаllу арреаrеd tо bе thе fіrѕt іn a ѕеrіеѕ оf bіg brеаkѕ еndеd uр bеіng a tеѕt оf endurance. Aftеr nоtісіng a lіmр іn hіѕ lеft lеg, Bесkеr ѕоught mеdісаl аttеntіоn аnd gіvеn thе grіm nеwѕ thаt hе hаd ALS. A рrоgrеѕѕіvе nеurоdеgеnеrаtіvе dіѕеаѕе thаt аffесtѕ nеrvе сеllѕ іn thе brаіn аnd thе ѕріnаl соrd, ALS grаduаllу rоbѕ іtѕ vісtіmѕ оf thе аbіlіtу tо соntrоl muѕсlе mоvеmеnt, ѕtаrtіng wіth fіnе mоtоr ѕkіllѕ (ѕuсh аѕ рlауіng guіtаr). Cоntіnuіng thrоugh dаіlу асtіvіtіеѕ mоѕt оf uѕ tаkе fоr grаntеd, ѕuсh аѕ wаlkіng or bеіng able to ѕреаk. Thе gеnеrаl рrоgnоѕіѕ іѕ grіm, wіth mоѕt раtіеntѕ раѕѕіng аwау wіthіn thrее tо fіvе уеаrѕ frоm thе оnѕеt оf ѕуmрtоmѕ.

Dеtеrmіnеd to рrеѕѕ оn еvеn аftеr hіѕ dіаgnоѕіѕ, Bесkеr mаnаgеd tо fіnіѕh thе ‘A Lіttlе Aіn’t Enоugh’ ѕеѕѕіоnѕ, but he wаѕ unаblе tо jоіn Rоth on tоur аnd ѕооn lоѕt thе аbіlіtу tо реrfоrm. Hе’ѕ lіvеd wеll bеуоnd the іnіtіаl lіfе еxресtаnсу thе dосtоrѕ оrіgіnаllу gаvе hіm, hоwеvеr, аnd thаnkѕ tо ѕоmе unіԛuе ѕоftwаrе thаt trасkѕ еуе mоvеmеnt. Hе rеmаіnѕ аblе tо соmmunісаtе аnd соmроѕе hіѕ ѕесоnd ѕоlо LP, ‘Pеrѕресtіvе,’ wаѕ rеlеаѕеd іn 1996, аnd he mаіntаіnѕ аn асtіvе соnnесtіоn wіth hіѕ fаnѕ vіа hіѕ оffісіаl wеbѕіtе.

Hіѕ ALS grаduаllу rоbbеd hіm оf hіѕ аbіlіtу tо рlау guіtаr, tо walk, аnd еvеntuаllу hіѕ аbіlіtу tо ѕреаk. Hе nоw соmmunісаtеѕ wіth hіѕ еуеѕ vіа a ѕуѕtеm dеvеlореd bу hіѕ fаthеr. Hе rеmаіnѕ mеntаllу ѕhаrр аnd, wіth thе аіd оf a соmрutеr, соntіnuеѕ соmроѕіng. In thе bасk оf thе Pеrѕресtіvе CD саѕе, Bесkеr ѕtаtеѕ “I hаvе Amуоtrорhіс Lateral Sсlеrоѕіѕ. It hаѕ сrіррlеd mу bоdу аnd ѕреесh, but nоt mу mіnd.” His mеdісаl соndіtіоn hаѕ rеmаіnеd ѕtаblе ѕіnсе 1997. Hоwеvеr, whеn Bесkеr соuld nо lоngеr рhуѕісаllу рlау еvеn a kеуbоаrd, hіѕ frіеnd аnd muѕіс рrоduсеr Mіkе Bеmеѕdеrfеr helped hіm wіth a muѕіс-соmроѕіng соmрutеr рrоgrаm thаt rеаdѕ mоvеmеntѕ оf hіѕ hеаd аnd еуеѕ, еnаblіng Bесkеr tо соntіnuе tо соmроѕе аftеr hе lоѕt соntrоl оf thе rеѕt оf hіѕ bоdу.

Thе wrіtіng оf thе muѕіс hаd bееn ѕtаrtеd before ALS соmрlеtеlу сrіррlеd hіѕ аbіlіtіеѕ. Bу uѕіng guіtаr, аnd, lаtеr, whеn hе wаѕ unаblе tо uѕе bоth hаndѕ, a kеуbоаrd, hе соntіnuеd tо соmроѕе whіlе hіѕ dіѕеаѕе wоrѕеnеd. Whеn the lаѕt nоtеѕ оf the аlbum fаdе, уоu wіll nоt buу оr еnjоу Bесkеr’ѕ wоrk bесаuѕе уоu feel ѕоrrу fоr hіm, but bесаuѕе hіѕ ѕріrіt аnd wіll аrе unѕtорраblе. In 1999, Bесkеr rеlеаѕеd ‘Rаѕрbеrrу Jаmѕ’ аnd thеn ‘Blасkbеrrу Jаmѕ‘ іn 2003, bоth аlbumѕ mаdе uр оf demos аnd оuttаkеѕ frоm Jаѕоn’ѕ раѕt. ‘Cоllесtіоn’ соntаіnеd rе-rеlеаѕеѕ оf hіѕ bеѕt wоrk аnd thrее nеw соmроѕіtіоnѕ, сrеаtеd vіа соmрutеr uѕіng еуе аnd hеаd mоvеmеntѕ.

Happy Birthday Jason!

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



Black Label Society’s Dario Lorina And His Successful Solo Career

By Andrew Catania

A delicate balance of danger and sophistication, Dario Lorina is an urbane version of the extreme death metal fanatic and a raw version of the revered Paul Gilbert.

Lorina’s talent came to the limelight at the tender age of sixteen, which was when he undertook his first tour with Jani Lane, the departed lead vocalist, and songwriter for the metal band, Warrant. At 19, he shifted to Lizzy Borden.

Since then, Dario toured for seven years with Jani Lane and Lizzy Borden before releasing his very first solo recording in his mid-twenties on September 10th, 2013 under Shrapnel Records. Titled “Dario Lorina,” songs consisted of an eclectic collection of raw and loud tracks like Demon Rum and classically animated versions of evergreen tracks like House of The Rising Sun. Characteristic of other albums produced under the label, Lorina’s music was more influenced by musicians like Paul Gilbert and Eddie Van Halen and less by artists like Yngwie Malmsteen.

The incredible success of his first album led Black Label Society to replace their longtime guitarist Nick Catanese with Dario Lorina. On this departure, Lorina’s previous band, Lizzy Borden graciously paid tribute to their loss by posting a beautiful social media message, parting with a heartfelt,” Dario will be missed in the Borden camp, but he will always be one of us, and we wish him all the luck in the world.”

Before signing with Black Label Society, Dario had created a buzz around his talent during his worldwide tour with Lizzy Borden. The year 2010 was a defining year for Dario, as he traveled through the USA, Europe, Japan and more – performing at some of the most famous music festivals. Lizzy Borden, the frontman and namesake of the band Lizzy Borden once famously proclaimed “I just know all the Lizzy Borden fans around the world are going to be blown away when they see him play.”

His success on tour was satisfying, yet Lorino had an unquenchable thirst for making his name, under his art – without being associated with a band. This desire for self-realization led him to his second instrumental record titled “Death Grip Tribulations,” a relatively new album that came out recently in February 2017. His young age of 27 often comes as a surprise to his fans that have never previously been able to put a face to the name, simply because of the uncharacteristic talent for someone his age. Urbane, fresh, classic and guided by technique, Lorino’s style is filled with shredding and vintage musical techniques. To take from the words of Mike Varney from Shrapnel Records, “Lorino truly is a force to be reckoned with.”


Black Label Society’s Dario Lorina To Headline At The Whisky A Go Go June 30th

By Andrew Catania

Black Label Society’s Dario Lorina will be headlining a show at the world famous Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles, California on June 30th, 2017.

Lorina has previously worked with Jani Lane and Lizzy Borden.

His current solo album, Death Grip Tribulations, was released on Shrapnel Records earlier this year.

Dario will be talking to All That Shreds next week!

Image result for dario lorina

Jacky Vincent Talks Guitars, Power Metal and Genre Elitists

By Andrew Catania

Jacky Vincent is a famous name in the present-age music industry who is receiving a constant influx of product endorsements and brand ambassadorships, has released his personal hit solo album, is equipped with his signature Dean guitar, and writes a monthly column titled ‘United Stringdom’ in the Guitar World Magazine.

All these feats combined and a roster heavily punctuated with years’ tours in advance – Jacky Vincent, at the young age of 27, has bagged more accomplished feats and accolades to his professional profile than most of his compatriots. This is a sure-tell sign that he is going places, and that the present age celebrity is a burgeoning legend of the future generations.

Jacky Vincent is the present-age music sensation that has exploded onto the musical horizon, jolting the contemporary trends through his expeditious, reverberating, and swift-sweeping playing techniques. His style stems from its core, and this is precisely what accentuates his music’s originality.

His technique is an amalgam of nuances and extremity, with blistering effects and chiming sweeps. Besides that, his true discontentment towards the common trends and humdrum techniques compels him to experiment and play his magic.

His sweep picking, infused with taps that he introduced in his solos, has received a tremendous applaud from the audience’s and the critics’ camps alike. While many of his coevals are still in their learning phase, Jacky Vincent has already mastered his signature technique and has engraved his name in the list of the most promising musicians of the present and the future.

A look back at his career is an innuendo of his extraordinary brilliance. Whatever he has been into, he has come out of it by acing it. Incepting his professional career at the platform of ‘Falling in Reverse,’ a band formed by a controversial musician, was a quite risky feat. It turned out to be just the right decision since the group gained significant prominence in the music industry.

Jacky Vincent’s association with ‘Falling in Reverse’ spans over half-a-decade, from 2008 to 2013, and is punctuated with his contribution as the lead guitarist and backup vocalist. Vincent has managed to infuse his magic that takes ‘Falling in Reverse’ from its initial striving years and landed him at a stature where its hardcore, metal, pop, punk and glam-blended music is blazing through the modern age music spheres.

Last year, the ‘Axe-Man’ of ‘Falling in Reverse’ announced that he was bidding farewell to the band on good terms and with consent, and is intending to focus more on building his solo résumé. His debut solo album, titled ‘Star X Speed Story,’ was released in 2013, under the Shrapnel Records Label.

His portfolio entails three studio albums, titled ‘The Drug in Me is You,’ ‘Fashionably Late’ and ‘Just Like You,’ under the label of ‘Falling in Reverse.’ Aside from working on his solo feats, he is also playing the guitar for the acclaimed ‘Cry Venom.’ Jacky was awarded as the ‘Guitarist of the Year’ in 2012 by the Alternative Press. Jacky Vincent, with all these feats, is a promising talent that is destined to set new milestones and raise the bar for the rest to come.  Jacky was gracious enough to sit in the Shreds lounge and answer some questions.


When did you first pick up a guitar?  Was there a particular artist that influenced you?

I started playing around age 6 or 7 after I heard Guns N’ Roses and Joe Satriani. My dad had these albums around the house, and he is a great guitar player. My older brother too.

While growing up, did you take any lessons or were you self-taught?

I took lessons as much as I could at school and taught myself Iron Maiden songs when I got home. I was lucky enough to study at music school when I got older.

What was your first guitar? 

I had a Tiny 12 fret nylon strings acoustic kid’s guitar that my brother and sister had used before me. My first electric was a tangle wood Stratocaster. It was pretty much my best friend for many years.

What was your practice regime like? 

It’s changed a lot over the years. Right now, I split five areas into little 20 min training sessions throughout the day. I will interchange these periodically to introduce new learning material.

As you got older, who were some of your influences? 

As I’m getting older, I’m starting to love more blues style players. Andy Timmons is a big one for me lately. My core influences have remained the same. Some of my favorites are Shawn Lane, Alan Holdsworth, Greg Howe, Scott Henderson, Derryl Gabel, Rick Graham, Frank Gambale, Paul Gilbert and Jason Becker. But that list can go on for hours, so I’ll leave it there.

I know Falling in Reverse found you on Myspace, and I watched on your DVD that you were staying in contact with Ronnie while he was serving prison time.  Did you play guitar for him over the phone?

Yeah, that’s an actual story. I played some arpeggios over the phone, and he thought we were pranking him, and it wasn’t true ha-ha. I was happy about that.

When you came to the US,  Was there any cultural shock coming from England?

I came by myself. It was a huge culture shock coming from a small town to Vegas. But I love America.

You were with FIR from 2009-2015.  You have a very diverse fan base.  You have your FIR fans, and you have fans of your solo stuff.  I’ve heard people say you should be in a heavier band than FIR.  What are your feelings about that?

I joined in 2009. I think a lot of people could tell I was influenced by a lot of genres outside of that world. I don’t know about heavier, but I went on to start a fast melodic metal band, Cry Venom. I’m not really into a lot of heavy music. I like it sometimes. But I love the melodic stuff. I listen to a lot of X Japan, Galneryus, Angra, etc.


Your solo album, Star X Speed Story, has received incredible reviews.  I haven’t seen one bad one.  I gave it 9 out of 10 stars.  How does it feel to get praise from such veterans as Joe Satriani, Michael Angelo Batio, Vinnie Moore and others?

It makes me happy when someone gets a kick out of the album. It was supposed to be a fun guitar record.

Your new band, Cry Venom, you say has more of a “power metal” sound to it than FIR.  Is this new band going to fit your style of playing better than FIR?  Or both bands fit your style?

I’ll be able to express myself a lot more in Cry Venom as I’m the primary songwriter. But my style is pretty free. I’ll jam over anything.

The stereotypes of music, does it bother you that one person might not like another genre of music you play?

In the words of Jimi Hendrix “All I’m going to do is just go on and do what I feel.” I never worried about whether someone would like my music or not. It doesn’t change what I am.

How would you describe your style of playing?

I’d say it’s like Kenny G meets neo-classical ha-ha. I try to sound almost like a futuristic saxophone/synthesizer mix. My goal is to not sound like a guitar at all. I would probably be a keyboardist if I had taken to it like I did with the guitar.

With the praise, you’ve gotten on your playing from veteran players, excellent reviews, I wrote an article calling you the next Yngwie Malmsteen of the new genre of rock/metal guitarists.  How does it feel hearing all of that?

That is very flattering! Although I don’t see myself in that league whatsoever. I am a huge lover of Yngwie’s music and playing.

Your Dean Jacky Vincent Signature Guitar, how much input did you have in the development of it?

I told them everything I wanted from scratch. I flew out to Tampa to have the neck shaved down to how I wanted it. I love super Strats, and I was going for that 80s vibe. What amazing guitars Dean makes. I am I love with my JCVX.

Will we see another solo album on Shrapnel Records from you?

The 2nd solo record is definitely in the works. I haven’t spoken to Shrapnel about it yet, but I would love to put it out with them. Being a Shrapnel artist has to be one of the greatest achievements of my life, and what a cool/ influential guy Mike Varney is. I love Shrapnel.




Follow Jacky at http://www.jackyvincentofficial.com/ and on Twitter @ https://twitter.com/JackyCVincent

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.









Shrapnel Record’s Count 77’s “Soul Transfusion” Record

Shrapnel Records to release Count’s 77’s second record
“Soul Transfusion” March 10th 2017…


Las Vegas, USA. – Count’s 77, a hard rock band from Las Vegas, is fronted by lead singer Danny “Count” Koker, star of HISTORY’S hit series, “Counting Cars”.
With roots in 70’s hard rock, Count’s 77 is further powered by the twin guitar team of Stoney Curtis and John Zito, the former of whom has an international following as a recording and touring blues guitarist. With musical roots as diverse as Thin Lizzy, Foghat, The Allman Brothers and Led Zeppelin, Count’s 77 stands poised to be one of the leaders of the new classic rock revival. Soul Transfusion is the logical step forward in this stellar hard rock band’s recording career whose first record received critical acclaim internationally and established the band as one of the most promising new hard rock bands on the scene. The band recently completed their first video of their song “Summer of 77” which will be released imminently.
Danny “Count” Koker, is Count’s 77’s charismatic front man and was singing long before he came to international fame as the owner of Count’s Kustoms, his Las Vegas-based hot rod and chopper shop which is the subject of History’s hit TV show “Counting Cars” where the band was featured performing live with George Lynch.

Stoney Curtis, lead guitarist for Count’s 77, has amassed an international following as a recording and touring blues guitarist, releasing a steady flow of product for the last ten years, with international airplay and CD’s which consistently have made Amazon.com’s blues charts. Tommy Paris, is not only the band’s incredible keyboardist but he has been known internationally for nearly 25 years as the lead singer of platinum rockers Britny Fox. Rhythm and slide guitarist John Zito forged a career on the LA rock scene before bonding with Koker and Curtis. Virtuoso rock bassist Barry Barnes, having played bass in the critically acclaimed show “Rock Of Ages” and powerhouse drummer Paul Disibio form the rhythm section with strength and authority.
A lot of great things have happened for the band since their self-titled release in 2014. The band has played a series of charity shows for war veterans, drawing 5,000 to 10,000 people per event. They also performed at the Les Paul 100th Anniversary Party at the Hard Rock in Times Square with acts such as Steve Miller, Joe Bonamassa, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and a host of other guitar legends and they were also the house band for the all-star jam that ensued post party at the Iridium. The band headlined nine Autorama shows this past year and also played numerous large bike rallies, including Sturgis’ Full Throttle Saloon, The Roar On The Shore in Erie PA and Bike Fest in Piqua Ohio playing for up to 25,000 people per show. They also headlined The Big E in Eastern Massachusetts which events drew 5,000 to 15,000 and Ally Bank recently began their sponsorship of the band.
Look for Count’s 77 to play a series of Autorama shows in 2017
and other venues in the USA and Canada