Tony released his 3rd solo album “Universal Melody” in 2011 digitally with Steve Vai’s Label Digital Nations/Favored Nations featuring keyboardist Derek Sherinian and keyboardist Vitalij Kuprij (Artension, Trans-Siberian Orchestra).
Greg Prato puts out books I just can’t put down. Shredders: The Oral History Of Speed Guitar is just one of them. Prato has a way of getting the people he interviews to open up and tell stories. I would suspect from what he says about himself in his forwards; it might be because Prato himself is a fan of these people and the subject matter. What’s particularly cool about this book, is it that you feel like you’re traveling back in time to the dawn of shred during your reading. On top of that, you don’t need to know who all the players are to be engaged. Shredders are a 5/5 book. My only complaint is that Chris Impellitteri isn’t included in the book. A super fun read that I recommend to any and music fans!
How fast can you play?”
“What guitar do you have?”
“Who is better, Eddie Van Halen or Steve Vai?”
For metal fans in the 80s, these were common and important questions. Tune into MTV, pick up a magazine, or walk into an instrument store, and more often than not you’d be exposed to what is now known as shredding – the fast, virtuoso soloing popularized by musicians like Vai and Van Halen, Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen, Randy Rhoads and Dimebag Darrell. Inspired by these pioneering guitarists, thousands of young musicians would spend hours at home in their bedrooms, perfecting both their playing and their poses.
Though shredding fell out of favor during the grunge/alternative rock era, it has become increasingly popular again in recent years, spurred by the rise in popularity of bands like Children Of Bodom, DragonForce, and Trivium. Drawing on more than 70 exclusive interviews with the principal shredders past and present, author and guitarist Greg Prato has assembled the definitive guide to the fastest players of them all.
Greg Prato is a New York-based writer, and author whose books include Grunge Is Dead: The Oral History Of Seattle Rock Music, Survival Of The Fittest: Heavy Metal In The 1990s, and A Devil On One Shoulder And An Angel On The Other: The Story Of Shannon Hoon And Blind Melon. His writing has also appeared in publications including Guitar Player, Vintage Guitar, and Rolling Stone.
Shredders: The Oral History Of Speed Guitar is available at Amazon.com and other online retailers. Grab a copy today!
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.
I am a Guitarist, Songwriter, and Singer from Auckland, New Zealand. My music styles crossover from Metal, Rock, Neo Classical, Progressive, Instrumental, Pop and Country Rock.
I am a mostly self-taught shredder who studied Music Education at the University of Auckland. I thought one day if I don’t become a rock star I might be a music teacher in a school. My guitar shred skills were just developing at this stage.
Luckily a fellow student, an excellent pianist with proficient music education, taught me a lot about music theory. Especially scale, chords and the link they have with modes.
I didn’t start playing guitar until I was sixteen. By that, I mean fewer chords and more shred. I wanted to be in the front of the stage…show boating a Stratocaster.
I initially always saw myself as a songwriter. But later in my teenage years, I was turned onto what I call my ‘BIG 3’. Malmsteen, Vai, and Satriani. Up until then I was more into blues and rock and influenced by Hendrix, Richie Sambora, and Eric Clapton. I’m currently going through a stage of listening to Richie Kotzen and John Petrucci again. Amazing what you can still pick up about the instrument from great players.
Technique wise I am influenced mostly by alternate pickers like Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Morse, and John Petrucci. Style wise today I enjoy the use of Modal approaches like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani with Neo-Classical touches here and there.
I originally got into music as a drummer. I soon realized that playing the drums wasn’t the best way to express what I wanted to do musically. But still today I can say I can play drums pretty well as a consequence. I think that is where my love of the percussive attack you get from alternate picking, comes from.
As a young shredder and musician, I am from the pre-youtube generation. I was trying to nail Yngwie pieces from books and tabs from the internet back in the 90s when everyone else was into Hootie and the Blowfish. YoutTube would have made it easier back then. I was into the Harmonic Minor Scale, Neo Classical Rock, and Bon Jovi. A bit out of step really in 1995.
I also loved great song writers like John Rzeznik from the Goo Goo Dolls, and he influenced my songwriting and fashion style I have to admit for a while there.
While living in Auckland, I have worked as a musician in top cover Bar Bands (Ultrasound, Nstinct) and Acoustic Duos(LA.Thompson and Dynamic Duo). Also as a solo artist playing Flamenco with loop pedals to sustain my first love.
During my stints in Auckland, I also carried out the odd bit of session work for other New Zealand artists. I have played many numerous events and festivals and have played some of my best gigs for charity benefits and fashion events where I wirelessly strutted the cat walk with models shredding their faces off. I just love to play up for the audience and try to play my ass off as best I can.
As ‘Chris Barclay’ I often play as a three piece band or with backing tracks. I recently played a gig first utilizing acoustic flamenco Phrygian/Neo-Classical arrangements of my more pop work, then a Rock set with vocal, and finished up with my shred oriented Instrumental work. I stole John Mayer’s idea from some of his live work to do three music styles in one show and put my spin on it.
I record and produce my music in my home studio and master my work post production over seas. I like my recordings to sound as live as possible. This makes it more authentic to play live.
It would be fair to say the United States culture influences my music. I love the USA. America has the most fascinating, delicious and paradoxical culture. I love to visit there often and can’t help but be touched by it.
Even as a Kiwi ’Down Under’ it is hard not to be influenced by the United States. My songs ‘I Won’t Fade’ ‘Go Let It Out’ and my Neo Classical instrumental ‘The Freedom Love and Fire Of America’ are all influenced by California and New York.
My songs are also influenced by my personal experiences of loss, love, lust, ambition, triumph, and death.
The death of my mother and my mortality with a diagnosis of Leukaemia in 2003 are themes in ‘Go Let It Out’ and ‘I Won’t Fade.’
‘I Won’t Fade’ won the Guitar Shop TV showcase on June 2013 where I was headlined as a ‘Charismatic Kiwi Virtuoso.’ In this track, I start off very much as a Joe Bonamassa inspired guitarist and then I tried to cram a little of Yngwie, Vai, and Satch in my outro solo. I love my Wah Wah pedal work in that song. The video on YouTube plays homage to many other great athletes and guitar heroes too.
In 2009, My song ‘Open Your Eyes’ featured on ‘Rock 4 Life’ volume 4 to generate money to help research for the liver disease.
In 2016 The Akademia awarded my song ‘Go Let It Out’ best Rock song in February 2016.
One of my biggest highlights musically is having met Steve Vai three separate times. One of these was at the Vai Academy where he remembered me from his time visiting New Zealand. Humbling.
I love Mr. Vai’s style, his guitar genius, but to my biggest surprise, I love his private views on life and the universe.They were so aligned with my own. I could listen to him talk all day. He is like a Guru. His contribution and generosity to the guitar world are awe inspiring.
I play Fender Stratocasters. I love their organic simplicity and strength. I like both single coils and hum buckers for their different charms. I mix it up a little. I think you need both.
I own several American Strats along with a Malmsteen strat. I am changing the pick guard on that one soon to a mirror finish. My favorite two Stratocasters are a 1997 teal custom shop with Texas Special single coils and my trusty 2007 white pearl Deluxe fat Strat.
As far as Amplifiers go, I have always been mostly a traditional Marshall guy. I have owned, rented and borrowed several JCM800s, JVMs, JDMs, and Plexis with 4×12 1960 cabs.
Just recently I reluctantly tried digital modeling amps thinking I would hate them. I have been impressed with the Line 6 Helix and am trying it out live into the P.A directly for my shorter, smaller gigs.
My music can be found on many digital streaming platforms including, iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, and Soundcloud.
My goal is to contribute to this amazing guitar culture and to leave my mark in some way as an artist.
An accomplished solo artist with his signature style, a competent band member, an enthralling session player, a master producer, and a crackerjack bitten by the travel bug – Tony MacAlpine is a name that rhymes and resonates in perfect unison with the modern techniques and contemporary trends of the guitars and music acoustics of the present age.
His style is unique, majorly inclined towards classical, rock and fusion. Holding a substantial expertise on his instruments and chords, he sure knows how to squeeze the tones and carve out music planes, in rock as well as metal domains, through guitars and keyboards alike.
Born on 29th August 1960, Tony set his hands on a piano at the age of 5 and moved on to explore and ace the intricacies of guitar chords by the time he was 12. Having started playing at such a young age, it came as no surprise that Tony MacAlpine was introduced as an emerging music sensation in the Guitar Player magazine in an article by Mike Varney in 1984.
Having started learning the tidbits and intricacies of the chords, keys, and strings, Tony MacAlpine made a brisk and promising start to his professional career in the 1980s, launching his debut studio album ‘Edge of Insanity’ featuring Billy Sheehan and Steve Smith in 1986. A year later, he teamed up with George Lynch, Deen Castronova,Atma Anur, and Jeff Watson to produce ‘Maximum Security’ in 1987. Both records received a tremendous applause from the music enthusiasts and critics alike. Not looking back since, he has progressed to ace his domain and has produced some records and releases, solos and joint ventures, to extend his music profile.
Tony MacAlpine is known for the variety of his fusion techniques. He possesses this magical tendency to play complex shreds and pulls. One of his most famous techniques is the eccentric modification of sweep picking into sweep tapping, which he manages to pull through a perfect blend of his skills. Once influenced by the neoclassical metal genre, Tony MacAlpine explored and tapped into a variety of, not only experiencing it through his fingers, but leaving his signature mark on them before he finally landed in to play and ace the rock metal domain.
Besides his natural brilliance and learned expertise, the credit for the nuances and variety of his techniques can also be accredited to the equipment and instruments that he plays. From the Kramer, BC Rich, Mason Bernard, Peavey, Washburn Mercury Series, Carvin, and Ibanez guitars to DiMarzio and Seymour Duncan pickups, and from GHS and Ernie Ball Strings to Peavey, Rockman, and Hughes and Kettner amplifications, Tony MaCalpine’s fingers have befriended an extensive myriad of instruments over time, and a chronology of his releases and discography clearly indicates his passion for experimenting with new equipment and chords.
Some of the most notable highlights on his professional career include ‘Eyes of the World’, ‘Premonition’, ‘Madness’, ‘Evolution’, ‘Chromaticity’ as a solo, ‘Universe’ Live from Oz’, ‘Moon Babies’ with Planet X, ‘Cab Saga’ with the CAB, ‘Ring of Fire’, ‘Edge of the World’ with Mark Boals, ‘Live at Astoria London’, ‘G3: Live in Denver’, and ‘G3: Live in Tokyo’ with Steve Vai.
Infamous for his much sought after vocal contributions, Graham Bonnet is still alive, rocking and touring even at the grand old age of 70 years – anyone doubting it should check out his incredible live performance at Michael Schenker’s recent Tokyo International Forum shows! With stints in Rainbow, MSG, Impellitteri, co founding Alcatrazz and more recently his namesake band, Bonnet has also sung either as a lead vocalist or guested on projects too numerous to mention!! Spending the last two years touring regularly around the world and this past winter releasing his latest double album “The Book,” it’s been 33 years since Bonnet released his last live album. With an opportune moment presented in last year’s Frontiers Rock Festival, Bonnet chose to put on and record a stellar set that could only be described as a ‘best of’ of the bands above, and of course his solo material too. Backed by Bassist Beth-Ami Heavenstone, Brazilian guitar sensation Conrado Pesinato and veteran drummer Mark Zonder (Warlord, Fates Warning), Bonnet’s performance is once again in fine form over 15 classic numbers including ‘All Night Long’, ‘Assault Attack’, ‘Lost In Hollywood’ and of course, the mighty ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ where he is literally singing his lungs out, and given his passion and soul, it’s hard not to join in too! Whatever his past criticisms, it’s hard to fault the man musically, and as he’s decided to let indeed that do the talking on this release, For a band that had a long plane ride, went from limo to the stage on total exhaustion, they knocked it out of the park! “Live… Here come the Night” ranks as a definite must have for anyone appreciating his work over the years! 8/10 stars
Elmo Karjalainen is a Finnish guitar player, who plays in Kilpi, Seagrave and Helena & Kalevi. In the past, Elmo has played with the band Deathlike Silence. On top of that, he has released three solo albums and a live album. In 2015 Elmo won the Finnish Tilu & Lilu competition, a competition which looked for the best Finnish shred guitarist. In 2016 Elmo got into the top 8 in Yngwie Malmsteen’s Guitar Gods competition and performed with Yngwie, Steve Vai, Nicko McBrain and others in Miami. The same year he was also a runner up in Lee Ritenour’s Six String Theory Competition.
What made you decide to pick up the guitar? Did anyone influence you? Schooled or self-taught?
EK: I was 11 when my parents bought me a guitar and a crummy little Aria transistor amp. It took me a while to get going though. I almost quit after the first year. I wasn’t progressing, and my teacher didn’t inspire me. The second year my teacher was ill one day, and he had a substitute. He seemed actually to take an interest and asked me to play something. I was into Gary Moore, so I played something of his. The teacher then proceeded to correct how I held the pick. That made an impression. Shortly after I changed teachers completely (the regular guy was back, he’s a good man, just not a good teacher for me).
My new teacher started by asking what I wanted to play. The previous guy had never actually asked me that, or if he had it hadn’t shown in the lessons. I said, Gary Moore. My new teacher, Sasa, taught me proper bends and vibrato, plus some finger exercises to coordinate the left and right hands. Other than that his method involved getting rid of me as quickly as possible. He gave me all the tools I needed to be able to study on my own. The other great thing about him was that he was such a good guitar player that every time I listened to him back, then I just got a silly grin on my face. He was that good. We’re still good friends these days, and he builds and repairs my guitars for me.
Sasa’s question has been the guiding light for me when dealing with my students. I try to dig for what they want to play (some of them don’t know when they’re beginners). I find that’s key to learning. If you’re forced to play something you’re not into, then interest fades quite quickly, especially as the beginning can be quite difficult. I also try to apply that to my online lesson site, although that’s a bit more challenging, as it’s a site that consists of videos, not of one on one teaching. The good thing is that I have an idea of how to do that. For anyone who’s interested, you can find the site at http://ejkguitaracademy.com
Who’s influenced your playing?
EK: I’ve been influenced by a whole bunch of guitarists and bands. Yngwie is probably my biggest influence along with maybe Vai. Satriani had an impact, as did Steve Lukather, SRV, Hendrix, Danny Gatton and some others. I was also heavily influenced by Genesis and Devin Townsend. Later influences include Mattias IA Eklundh, Fredrik Thordendahl, and Pat Metheny. Oh, and then there’s Jeff Beck. He’s amazing. And Zappa. A couple of other notable influences have been Sasa, of course, and a guy called Masi Hukari, who’s a Finnish guitarist I used to play with. He’s one of the nicest guys on the planet, and also one who has an incredible amount of knowledge about music. He’s also a man who likes to have fun with music and made me realize that you can laugh at your music while still be serious about making it. You don’t have to think it’s the be all and end all of the music, and that there can be loads of fun to be had when you ditch certain conventions. That, in turn, leads to a surprising amount of people connecting with the music, probably because it has a human element that’s often missing (which is not to say that other music lacks a human element, just that this is one more human element you can add).
How have you evolved as a guitarist?
EK: Tough question. I think I’ve been all over the place a bit, but then again that’s what I’m like. I like so many different kinds of music that it sometimes makes it difficult when making an album. There’s a risk of it just becoming a mishmash of stuff. I went from shred to blues, to jazz and fusion, to a bit of country, and back to shred again. I also played evergreen stuff, and Finnish dance music (waltz, tango, etc.), and at some point, I had a significant phase of learning odd meters, mostly because I liked some Balkan music (Vlatko Stefanovski most of all). There was a constant undercurrent of shred there, and when I got back into shred mode, all of the other stuff was there.
I stopped practicing repetitive stuff at some point and just started jamming over cassettes and CDs. That was good for me because I’d gotten a bit bored with practicing, and that rekindled the spark. Also, it was perfect for my improvising. I also started transcribing stuff quite early, which I think is essential to any musician (although you don’t have to write it down).
Also playing with Masi (who I mentioned earlier) opened up new doors for me. We started out playing jazz standards and quite quickly realized we weren’t any good at it. So we started to play regularly well-known songs but making bizarre versions of those. For instance, we played Paranoid with a bossa nova feel and changed every chord to a maj7. That sounded strange and fun.
I started doing solo stuff in 2012. That’s when I released my debut album, Unintelligent Designs. In 2015 I released The Free Guitar Album, and an acoustic album, Where We Belong. In 2015 I also won the Finnish Tilu&Lilu shred contest. I guess that means I’m a Finnish shredding champion. In 2016 I made it into the top 8 of Yngwie Malmsteen’s Guitar Gods competition. That meant I got to go to Miami and play in the final, which also included performances by Gus G, Steve Vai, and Yngwie himself. I got to meet them, and Yngwie even said to me: “you’re excellent”. That was probably the most fun I’ve ever had.
That year I also released my latest album, “Age of Heroes.” I got some cool people to play on it, including Mattias IA Eklundh of Freak Kitchen and Derek Sherinian who’s played with basically everyone from Dream Theater to Yngwie to Billy Idol. At the moment I think he’s in Black Country Communion. Mattias played on two songs, and the solos he did were just crazy. He’s so good it made me feel nervous having to trade solos with him. In the end, it was fun, but that was kind of my reaction when I listened to what he’d done. Playing with Derek was a dream come true. I’ve been a fan for ages and hearing his tracks almost made me jump up and down with excitement. It turned out to be a perfect record, and one reviewer even called it the best instrumental album since Surfing with the Alien. That was some review.
Do you have any current projects other than your record you just released?
EK: I play in a band called Kilpi. It’s a Finnish hard rock band. We have a new video out (you can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sfn_609PDDg), and we’re about to release something soon. It’s remastered and a couple of new songs. The video is about a guy remembering the summer of ’86. It’s all in Finnish, so some of you people in internet land might have a tough time understanding what’s going on.
I also play in a band called Seagrave, but that’s been quiet for a while and in something called Helena & Kalevi. H&K is a band, but we also do gigs as an acoustic trio, two guitars, and vocals. I also do troubadour gigs occasionally.
On top of those I have a couple of other projects in the works, one called Rising Horse and one called Insomniac.
What musicians do you want to play with?
EK: How much room do you have for an answer? Devin Townsend, Mike Mangini, Dennis Chambers, Jorn Lande, Jens Johansson, Pat Metheny, Thomas Haake, Brad Mehldau, Vai, Satch, Yngwie, Tower of Power, the guys from Snarky Puppy, Gene Hoglan, Victor Wooten. I could go on and on.
What does your current rig consist of?
EK: The main stuff is a Strat of some kind going into a Marshall 50W 1897X head, which goes into a Marshall cab with Celestion Greenbacks. The Strats are either Yngwie Strats or variations that Sasa has made. He did one version which has a mahogany body but is otherwise basically a Yngwie Strat, and it’s absolutely killer. Other guitars include a couple of Ibanez Universes for the heavy stuff, plus a Schechter 7 string. I also have one Jem copy which Sasa made.
Between the guitar and amp, I have an overdrive. These days it’s the Fender YJM overdrive. I also have a Proctavia which I’m trying to incorporate, plus a Morley Bad Horsie Wah. I also like lots of delays. I use the Axe FX II for that. For smaller gigs, I use the Axe FX with a monitor, but I’ve modeled my Marshall sound into that, and it’s quite close. So close that it’s great fun to play. I also have a Taylor acoustic that I play a lot. It’s the one I made my acoustic album with (should get around to recording the next one before summer ends).
What was the first band you played with?
EK: That was in school. We had a group that was first called “The Face,” but we quickly renamed it to Duck. We played what we liked. We also wrote some original material. I remember the first song we wrote. We’d just finished it, and it was just a chord progression with no melody, and one day I heard a song on the radio, and immediately thought, that’s our song! It was Sweet Home Alabama. We’d just written the same chord progression.
What are your plans for the rest of 2017?
EK: I’ve meant to record my next acoustic album. It’s already written, but it seems like stuff keeps getting in the way. I’d like to have a week where I wouldn’t have to think about anything else. That would create some flow. I like doing things quickly and not second guessing myself, and flow is essential to that for me.
I’ve also been meaning to get a couple of bands going. One is called Rising Horse, and it’s a tongue in cheek neo classical thing. Then there’s something called Insomniac (both bands have a great vocalist, called Maya Liittokivi, she’s brilliant), which is much more progressive and cumbersome. It’s also a bit more happy at times with primary keys. We’ve had trouble finding a drummer though. We found one, recorded an EP, and then he quit. He left to take up gardening. That was a seriously Spinal Tap moment. I’m also thinking of making some influences album, but we’ll see. Time is limited.
Has streaming hurt your ability to make money?
EK: I honestly don’t know. I do know that what streaming pays is peanuts, and that needs to be fixed. I have read that music consumption is up, which is good. But it’s a hugely problematic thing. Spotify just made a huge loss again. It seems they don’t have enough paying customers. Aren’t people willing to pay for music? I’m having a hard time making money from music. That’s probably partly my fault, and I’m probably doing lots of stuff wrong, but I know I’m not the only one. Maybe there are too many musicians. Maybe people think players will just make music regardless of whether they get paid because they love music. That’s an attitude I bump into quite often that a musician is so lucky to be a musician because he/she gets to do something that he/she loves, while many people just come home from a job they hate and then lie on the sofa. I don’t know what the solution is, although I do know that people need to start treating music and musicians with more respect for it to change.
Think about the question players often get asked after they say they’re musicians. “Yeah, but what’s your real job?” I don’t know about over there, but over here it’s a common enough question or some variant of it. Streaming pays little, partly because so many people just use the free services (YouTube anyone?), but a few years ago it was piracy. Same thing there. Too many people don’t think it’s important to pay for music. They might pay for some. But you don’t walk into a supermarket and buy some of the stuff, and take the rest for free. The difference is of course that then it’s physical product. One thing remains the same, however. It all takes human work to produce, and if you’re just taking it without giving something back, then you’re stealing someone’s time, and time is money. Now I’m all for free music, but it has to be the musician’s choice if it’s free or not. But it’s gotten to the stage where it’s the norm that music is free, and you pay if you want to. You can get it all for free on YouTube or wherever, entirely legally, and it’s fine. No one blinks an eye. So maybe the short answer to your question would be “yes”… or “no.” I don’t know.
On the other hand, I was in a band once, and we were signed to a decent sized label. We sold some CD’s, but it all leads to absolutely nothing. So the label thing isn’t always what it’s sometimes cracked up to be. It’s a tough business. But then again, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
Are you endorsed by anyone?
EK: Other than Sasa making my guitars, no. And that’s not an endorsement, although I will bang on about his guitars, it’s more of a friendship thing. I also get great support from a local music store called Soitin Laine, but that’s mostly down to the fact that my father used to work there (he’s retired now). So to anyone reading this: give me gear!
Would consider putting vocals on your next record?
EK: Sure thing. I love a good vocal. If I get Devin Townsend to sing on my next album, I’ll even cut out most of the guitar solos to give him more room. Most of the stuff I’ve listened to has included vocals. Steve Vai usually has vocals on his records, and Malmsteen always does. Maybe I’ll even sing myself. Then I can kiss what little career I have goodbye…
Thе fіnаl lіnе-uр оf Thе Grаhаm Bоnnеt Bаnd іѕ Grаhаm Bоnnеt, Vосаlѕ; Joey Tafolla, Guіtаrѕ; Bеth-Amі Hеаvеnѕtоnе, Bаѕѕ; Mаrk Zоndеr (Ex-Fаtеѕ Wаrnіng), Drumѕ. Thе bаnd wіll rеѕumе tоurіng tоwаrdѕ thе еnd оf 2016. On thе 4th оf Nоvеmbеr, 2016, Thе Grаhаm Bonnet Bаnd rеlеаѕеd thеіr dеbut аlbum, ‘Thе Bооk.’ GRAHAM BONNET BAND’ѕ реrfоrmаnсе аt thе Frоntіеrѕ Rосk Fеѕtіvаl оn Aрrіl 24 аt Lіvе Club іn Trеzzо (Mіlаnо), Itаlу is out on CD and DVD through Frontiers Records. I caught up with Graham to talk about the new live CD before he was to fly off to Europe.
Congratulations on your DVD. I was listening to it, and it’s like listening to you all over again through Alcatrazz.
GB: Yeah, we are doing quite a lot of Alcatrazz and Rainbow stuff, yeah. One day, we will have some different songs to sing, I hope, but we do have an album that came out a year ago, and we got great reviews. I’m trying to work in those new songs you know slowly, but we have to do what we have to do you know, few of just, they want a sing-along, so what can I say?
You have worked with superb guitarists; you worked with Yngwie, Stev, Vai and Chris Impellitteri Did you have any particular one that you liked working with better?
GB: They were all excited to work with because they were so different, you know. I was fortunate to be asked to join Rainbow a million years ago, and I’d never done that kind of music before, I’d never played in the so-called ‘Heavy Metal’ or whatever, underground band as they were called at the time. I knew it was something new for me to experience and from then on I’m just lucky to find or play with people who were so different. Probably Yngwie Malmsteen was nearest to Ritchie Blackmore I’ve ever heard. Because when I put my band together on Alcatrazz here in 1980 something, he was the perfect fit for the band. He looked like Ritchie and dressed like Ritchie anyway, and he played like him because he was a Richie fan. But he took it a little bit further you know, he had his style and went about it.
Then after Yngwie was gone, then Steve Vai comes into the band, who was an entirely different player. Oh, my God, I wish I had loved him, he wasn’t the usual kind of noodling the fretboard. It was pretty cool to listen to that stuff, but he was a different player. More adventurous, with chords, progression, etc., and he was around for a while, and then he was stolen by David Lee Roth. That kind of thing keeps happening to me you know but why not? The players that I’ve had and played with, the guitarists, they are the soloist on the run, and I always expect them to go out and do their own thing eventually anyway. But probably Ritchie Blackmore was a different kettle of fish because he’ kind of wanted to be in a band always. Then Danny Johnson came along and Chris Impellitteri. Danny is a very ‘Blueszy’ player, again, entirely different from all the other guys, but a great Blues player and of course Chris Impellitteri is like one of the best guitar players ever. He’s also one of the fastest I’ve ever seen. I’ve been lucky to play with different players, and they’ve always given me inspiration for writing songs, and I appreciate EVERY one of them, and I’m fortunate to have been chosen by them or me choosing them, just a coincidence or luck, I don’t know.
How have you kept your voice so high after all these years?
GB: We rehearse at home and my God, like out in the outback here, we’ve got a shed outside, we’re a garage band basically, and my God it’s so damn hot. As far as, I don’t know. I’ve just been fortunate, I’ve got a loud voice, speaking voice as well as singing voice. I can still do what I used to do, but sometimes it fails me if I get so tired or whatever, you know. But it’s there most of the time. I remember when we did that show in Milan, we were all so damn tired; I can’t tell you. I said to my guy, ‘that was the worse job I’ve ever done’ and we had been traveling for like 24 hours. We had hadn’t had any sleep, we did the show, and we pulled it off somehow, but I wasn’t moving around very much, I remember, it worked ok. I have to say, I don’t know how I’ve kept it, but I always said my voice has changed, all the time before I go on tour. I went to the doctor probably about two months ago to see what was happening regarding my vocal chords, and he said ‘well, the left side, my left side vocal chords is like a piece of lemon,’ basically.’ It’s very scarred from years of singing. And he said ‘sometimes your vocal chords don’t quite meet, kind of hiccup in your voice.’ And that’s been happening recently, like a little soul beat in the voice. It’s a natural reluctance you know, that’s through age, and that’s what it is. But those notes can still come out I just have sometimes to hold back or use my head voice as opposed to using the diaphragm so much. But I try to get as much volume as I can because that’s where I get the tone of my voice from, somewhat immediately, the volume. But as I said, it doesn’t work all the time, some days iit’skind of like rough and I have to shut up, but it comes back after a few hours you know.
Do you have any preparation before you go on stage, regarding vocal preparation?
GB: Just nerves and hoping for the best. I’ve never prepared to go on stage ever. I remember Ronnie James Dio used to say ‘it’s a waste of notes if you start warming up in the dressing room’ and I agree with him completely. Because you start warming up and you’re singing, and it’s like ‘wait a minute, I have an hour of whatever it is the shown to do, an hour or hour and a half, whatever it may be. And that time warming up so to speak, for me, is wear and tear on the lungs and the chords. So, it’s ok for a guitar player to do that because they can just turn up and impress everybody anyway. But with the vocals you can’t just turn it off and on to the limit, there’s no switch, so it doesn’t work that way. So I’ve never warmed up and I just hope for the best. Some days it’s ok and sometimes it’s not. It’s ok, but it’s a little creaky sometimes, but it hasn’t been too bad over the last couple of years, I must say.
Let me ask you about your wardrobe. Do you want to be different?
GB: Before Rainbow, that’s the way I looked. I mean, I lived in London at that time, and I was kind of punking, and everybody was kind of dressing Punkish or in the kind of Rock ‘a’ Billy style sort of thing back then. Some 1950s thing and I were very much into 1950s music you know, Gil Wappen and the Platters and whatever, Little Richie and all that kind of stuff, and Chuck Berry, I love that music, that’s my era, that’s what I grew up as a kid on, you know. And my friend who is a tailor in London said ‘well why don’t you adopt that style, which 1950s style?’ He said ‘I’ll make you some shirts with the cuffs exactly as they used to make them back then. The body and shape of the shirt were the same as it was in the 1950s and we’ll cut you a suit or two that was the 1950s style’. And so that’s what happened. I was doing a solo thing as I said before Rainbow, doing solo albums and that’s just how I looked, because I liked that look and that was a bit of a shock to Ritchie Blackmore when he first met me, he said ‘what the hell is this?’ cool that he called me the bank manager (unclear), so it was a bit straight forward. I hadn’t used the Hawaiian shirt yet, that came later, which I didn’t realize that much anyway. It was just something that, that was the way I was, and I wasn’t going to change it to be in a particular band you know.
Whose idea was it for the live DVD? Was it yours or Frontiers?
GB: Yeah it was Frontiers. They told us what to play and also, not what to wear, but what to play. We came over on a freaking ferry to do that. We were straight on this ferry into a car and onto the stage. So that’s what I was saying that we were all exhausted and so we went on stage in our street clothes on. I wasn’t very dressy that night, I remember. But they told us what to play for the audience, and they knew what the audience wanted to hear. So it was their idea to do this and mainly to promote the new band.
With the new band, you made a switch in guitarist, is that something you felt was necessary or just the right timing?
GB: Well it was something that we thought about for a while because I think Conrad was probably losing a little interest in the band because he plays with another band here. And he’s a young man, he’s only in his 30s and he’s got a long way to go yet, and I think he was getting a little uncomfortable, probably tired of what we were doing. We just decided that ‘if you wanna go, go’ Basically, the feeling was mutual. We knew that something wasn’t quite right. He was getting uncomfortable with doing what we were doing. He’s been doing it for three years with us now, and I understand, as I said he’s a young guy. We all have our hopes and dreams when we’re 30 years old and want to get out there and do our thing. Like when I left Rainbow, I was 33 and so if you feel you can do something different then give it a shot and if it doesn’t work then you go back to square one. But it was something we knew we had to change because of him. He wasn’t comfortable, and so, it was a mutual agreement that he should do something else.
How did you get your new guitarist?
I think Jimmy Waldo was a guy that knew Joey. So Joey came along, and I probably played with Joey in a show somewhere, I can’t remember where we played it now. He sat in for Conrad because Conrad was away, working in South America I think somewhere. So kind of what happened, Conrad was working South America, we didn’t have a guitar player because he’d be away somewhere and we didn’t know what to do. So Joey came in and sat in with us, and I was impressed. He was a friend of Jimmy’s, I’m not quite sure, it was either our manager or Jimmy’s, but anyway, everybody knew who he was, and he fits quite perfectly with the band now. And we’ve been rehearsing, as I said, all week and he’s got a lot of steps to learn, but he’s catching up well. He’s an outstanding player.
Are you touring mostly in Europe? Is there a reason behind that? Everybody I’ve talked to, it seems like they’re touring Europe and just not doing anything in the States because the States just doesn’t have the dedication that the European audience has.
GB: so to starve them 1980, roughly 1980s kind of music and we played Russia and The Antarctic, anywhere that a Rock band hasn’t been. It used to be like that years ago in Japan when Rock bands from here started to go over to Japan. It was a big deal like it is in Russia now, or Finland, anywhere in Europe. It’s just incredible and also it’s kind of a good following in England, which is great and it’s a new audience now. The people that bought all that music are now in their 60s or 70s, but their kids have listened to what their mom and dad are playing on the whatever. And young kids are catching up with the stuff and they’re saying ‘what is this? It’s not like the stuff we hear on the radio’ because it’s real Rock & Roll, which I love. When I was a kid I used to listen to Little Richard sing, that was true Rock & Roll now. That guy just blows me away; he’s just the greatest Rock & Roll singer ever. He was an influence on me, but I was probably 10 years old when I listened to him. I think that’s what’s happening with kids now. They hear this so-called Heavy Metal or whatever it is music we do, and they’re impressed by it, because they see the sweat, they see the veins sticking out, they see that guy playing guitar like a fucking maniac, the drummer going crazy and the whole band actually working and not covered up by 100 dancers and people lip-syncing. This is the real thing, and that is what young guys are impressed by and young girls too. I signed an autograph for a kid who was eight years old, and I was blown away by that; that was in Finland I think or somewhere.
It seems like some of the bands are doing big packages as a necessity like that’s the only way that people or a group is making a dollar or two.
GB: Yeah it is. I mean, that’s what we’re doing now. We’re going to be doing festivals later, but we have tour dates coming up in the States. I’m not sure of the actual dates right now but I know I have some gigs and Michael Schenker as well. I’m doing a guest thingy with him next year which is going to be in the States with the other singers from the Michael Schenker band, so we’ll all come in and do a couple of songs each. That will be good for this group because it will show people I’m still alive, apart from the other guys who used to sing with him. So that will be a good sort of intro, a foot in the door, to start playing more in the States, I think we have some dates coming up in Texas in a while, I’m not quite sure when.
Going back to your album, which was released last year, are you going to be supporting that throughout your tour? I assume that you are going to be in Europe, that’s what you’re rehearsing for?
GB: Yeah, we’re going to be doing a few songs from that album, obviously. And as I said, I’d like to incorporate some of the new stuff because it sold so well. We’re very very lucky, it did so well, and people appreciated it, they liked it. Because I was a bit worried about it being a bit too dated or something, but it sounded pretty modern. But anyway, that’s what I aim to do and eventually it would be nice to squeeze out some of the older songs than sticking up to the new ones, so to speak. So if you promote the new album and that’s what I want to do, unfortunately, we have to the sing-along songs; the ‘Since She’s Been Gone’ and the ‘All Night Long’ and whatever else. So we will be paying more of those songs and writing more.
Do you have any music written down so far for a future album?
GB: Yeah, in fact, today I’ve got Jimmy Waldo coming over just for the demo; I’ve got songs. I’m just going to play them on my acoustic or something and just put down for the band because we’re leaving tomorrow, Bethany and me, and then the other guys join up a little later. They are going to rehearse while we’re gone for a couple of days. So that’s what I’m doing today, I have probably 10 or 11 new ideas, and then, of course, they have their stuff, I think, which I’ll find out eventually. But I have ideas already; I just need to play it to them so that they can turn them into band songs and that’s how I always do things. Acoustically, and then say ok now, what can you do with this? Drums, guitar bass, keyboards, what do you think? But it’s up to them to help me get it into an electronic sound. it’s so groovy.
How do you handle songwriting? Are you the principal songwriter or do you split it amongst the band members?
GB: It depends on the play on the idea. If they’ve got a ripple or two or some kind of arrangement they have in their head, yeah I can roll with them. I usually work out an agreement before I play it to the band so I have all the ideas in my head, the base part, the keyboard part sometimes and the way the song should feel, you know. If they ‘nah I don’t think you should do it that way’, then I would say ‘ok show me how you think it should be’, and then we change it if necessary. But when I played with Yngwie, I would play it with him or he would come up to my house and I would play it with him and I’d say ‘well I’ve got this, what do think? Can you make this more your own kind of thing guitar ‘playing wise’?’. And that’s how I’ve always done it. It usually starts with the guitar player and the other guitar player with the lead guitar player, so to speak or keyboard player, and then we’d develop it from then on. Then the drummer will add his two cents and the base two cents or maybe ten cents, whatever, then it develops. Usually, I have the idea in my head, I hear it and I say ‘it should sound like this’, then they agree or disagree. Which is ok with me, I like input from everyone, but it basically starts with me, so I can take the blame for everything.
Are you going to be touring mostly with your band for the rest of 2017?
GB: Yeah, with my band and till the end of the year as far as I know. Then next year I do a guest thing with Michael, but the rest of the time I don’t want to do all these guest things much more because it’s becoming a bit of whole freaking band are you in? It’s ok, but after a while it’s tiresome. I want to do what I’m doing right now and concentrate on this band. This is the most important thing to me, and it’s important to the rest of the guys too. I don’t want them saying ‘well are you going to be here? Are you going to play with Michael Schenker?’ Oh, you’re kidding. It’s ok, it promotes the band a little, but after a while, people wonder ‘am I joining? Is Robin McAuley joining the Michael Shanker band? it’s got to stop at some point. And I’ll be glad to say well ‘that’s the last time I’ll going to do that’ but work we’re saying is very hard to find over in America and to do that thing with Michael in America next year, it’s great because I don’t have to go anywhere, well not long journeys anyway. It’s a thing I’ve got to knock on the head eventually because this is important to me that we develop this band and not kind of ‘oh remember this song from the yesteryear with the Michael Schenker Band. But I appreciate the work, I really do, don’t get me wrong, but it’s so damn hard to get work for this band here, that’s what I’m saying.
You can purchase the Graham Bonnet Band’s live DVD from Milan at your online retailers.