A to Z of Making It, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Why did guitarists like Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Alex Skolnick, John Petrucci and Paul Gilbert rise above all the other shredders of the era that came on the scene between 1984 and 1994?

Rising Above

Why did guitarists like Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Alex Skolnick, John Petrucci and Paul Gilbert rise above all the other shredders of the era that came on the scene between 1984 and 1994?

Guitarists like Tony MacAlpine, Greg Howe and Vinnie Moore are all good guitarists, however they are still relatively unknowns outside of their niche market.

When I saw Steve Vai on the G3 tour, I saw that he had Tony MacAlpine as a backing guitarist. I knew it, however the other guitarists I was with, didn’t know it or know of Tony MacAlpine.

Does anyone know that Vinnie Moore played with Alice Cooper? Does anyone know that Vinnie Moore had Jordan Rudess play on his solo album called Mind Control and that he is currently in UFO?

In the end each artist needed the hits.

Steve Vai had Yankee Rose to launch him. Who can forget the talking at the start song, between Steve Vai’s Ibanez and David Lee Roth’s vocals? It was catchy, it was entrancing and it rippled through the mainstream. The music didn’t fit the format, however back in the Eighties you can say that Yankee Rose went viral.

Yngwie Malmsteen had sweep picking. That was his hit. A simple technique. He followed that up with songs like You Don’t Remember (I’ll Never Forget), On The Run Again and Queen In Love. However it wasn’t until the Joe Lynn Turner fronted Odyssey album that Malmsteen had mainstream hits. Who can forget Heaven Tonight?

Joe Satriani is the surfing alien. Enough said. The Surfing With The Alien song and album is perfection in instrumental circles.

Another piece of perfection is Eric Johnson and his piece d resistance, Cliffs Of Dover. Hear it and the let the goose bumps come.

Alex Skolnick took a big risk back in the Eighties leaving Testament just as they were getting traction on the thrash metal circuit. So what does he do, he goes all instructional and jazzy. He started taking standard rock and metal songs and re-doing them in a jazz format. Brilliant.

John Petrucci shredded when it was uncool to do so. He got popular at a time when it was uncool to be popular for the talent he is. Why? Images and Words. That is the DT victory lap. It is that album that gave them steam in the Nineties. When that victory lap was fading away, Metropolis II came on the scene. That took them into the Two Thousands and with the release of the very metal like Train Of Thought, a new audience was won over.

Paul Gilbert is an enigma. On the Racer X albums he was just another shred clone. Then came Mr Big and he showed what a great songwriter and what a great performer he is. When the world wanted vintage Van Halen in the early nineties, Paul Gilbert stepped up. When the world wanted a shredder of the Malmsteen sense, Gilbert stepped up. I remember John Petrucci referencing a Paul Gilbert instructional video as an important instructional tool for advancing his guitar playing. The quick lead break before the Pull Me Under chorus is all Paul Gilbert played by John Petrucci. Who can forget Technical Difficulties? Paul Gilbert at his best.

All of these artists created something so good that it sold itself. It could have been a song, a technique, an instructional video and instrumental album or re doing metal standards in a jazz format.

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Music, Treating Fans Like Shit

Queensryche is nothing without Chris DeGarmo.

I really, really, really liked this band.  Note the emphasis on the three really’s.  They started off as a normal metal band, with a singer in Geoff Tate that had a unique voice for the metal genre.  The musical style of the band evolved much the same way my musical tastes evolved during the Eighties, so it was perfect.

I have been forming an opinion on Queensryche, since Chris DeGarmo left in January 1998, after the 1997 Hear In The Now Frontier album.

After listening to what Geoff Tate has released recently with his Kings and Queens solo album and his F.U Queensryche offering, and also listening to the new song Redemption that the Queensryche/Todd LaTorre fronted version released, I can say without a doubt, that the star in Queensryche was Chris DeGarmo.

To be honest, I purchased all the Queensryche releases up to American Soldier.  That is what fans did once upon a time, and none of the new stuff stacks up.  The songs are forgettable and the music even more so.  I thought that Operation Mindcrime II would be a savior, however that failed to get my attention as well.  Who knew at the time that it came out, that session musicians played on it.

For those that don’t know the story so far, Geoff Tate was fired from Queensryche.  He countered that firing by saying that he is Queensryche, so how can they fire him from the band that he lived and breathed.

Stories continued to come out, about violent punch ups before a South American show, involving Geoff Tate vs the rest of the band members, about how the band members haven’t even played on any of the newer Queensryche releases even though they are credited and so on.  Just go to Loudwire, search for Queensryche and you will be filled in.

They have filed injunctions against each other and I am pretty sure if they could throw each other under a bus, they would.  This is one of those bad blood split ups, more controversial than Vince Neil’s ousting from Motley Crue or David Lee Roth’s ousting from Van Halen.

I saw Queensryche at the Metro Theater in Sydney back in 2009, August 31.  The band at the time was the original four, with Tate’s son in law Parker Lundgren on guitars.  What can I say, they killed it.  The Metro is a small venue, it was sold out.  1,200 people paid $90 to watch them.

They did songs from Rage For Order, Empire and American Soldier.  That was cool, because they promoted the shows that way as well, so people knew what they were paying for.   The American Soldier songs became toilet breaks.

Keeping bands together is a tough gig in itself.  Don Henley said that it was a horrible relief when the Eagles broke up.  That more or less sums it up.  On one hand, the break up feels like shit, you are sad and you are on the angry, but on the other hand, you are relieved its over, you are free, you can start over again.

What is pathetic in all of this, is that the fans are being treated like shit.  Both bands do not deserve the name of Queensryche.  They should have taken a new name, however both versions know, that they need the Queensryche name to sell themselves.

One thing is clear in my mind, Queensryche will always be Chris DeGarmo for me.

It looks even that is not working.   F.U debuted at #74, with 5,500 units sold, last week.  Week 2 saw it at #173 with 2,275 sold.  By week 3 it will be gone.  So expect Tate to start spitting out some controversial comments, so that he can get free press come his way.

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Music, Treating Fans Like Shit

Stone Music Festival, Sydney – The people on Facebook have spoken

The Stone Music Festival could have, should have, would have been great.  It had the makings of a great event.  Taking its name from the cult followed Stone movie, one of the best pieces of Australian cinema, it had everything going for it.  From reading people’s reactions on social media, it is safe to say that organisers missed the mark on this one. They have suffered some serious brand damage on this one, so i don’t believe that another Stone festival will happen.

VH sound was the worst mix I’ve heard in 25 years of watching and playing in bands. Bloody disgrace. Flew up from Melbourne to hear them and walked out after 30 mins.  

Any chance of a free Van Halen concert for those who paid to see one of the greatest bands, and got the worse sounding gig ever?  But only after the sound guy is sacked & replaced with a capable one.

For those that are complaining about Van Halen’s performance last night take note that their music is always turned up loud! I remember the 1998 concert my ears were ringing for one week after seeing them. And being an outdoor arena there’s going to be a lot of echo which most times people may think is distortion. Personally I think their performance was great.  A couple of negatives is that Dave should stick to singing in a lower range as it suits his voice better, and they’ll refuse to play some Van Hagar songs like “Dreams, Right Now and Why Can’t This Be Love”.. They never played them in the ’07-’12 tours.. Overall I think they played great.

The Van Halen’s played great, Eddie is still the guitar God he always was. David Lee Roth had vocal issues, but it was still a great performance overall. Heard no sound issues where I was on the floor, and the set was a great selection of Roth era old and new.

Can someone explain to me how one of the largest bands in the world, have an incompetent sound engineer behind the desk?  Van Halen are getting paid $3 million for this performance, and it’s their only Australian performance, so i would expect some care and precision to be taken with the sound.  Does the band care?  EVH and AVH have not made one public appearance in Australia, nor have they done any interviews recently.  All of the PR is done by DLR.  I grew up on Van Halen, the 1984 and 5150 albums sit behind the Randy Rhoads tribute album as bibles in hard rock guitar playing (also need to add John Sykes playing on Whitenake’s 1987 album).

Aerosmith was the most amazing thing I have seen! Best night of my life by far! Seeing my sexy toxic twins up there blew me away! And Aerosmith shat all over van halen! FUCK YES!

Aerosmith – Amazing, possibly the best band on the day

Mind blowing performances today…. Sooooooo Goood.
Kings of Chaos and Aerosmith stole the showww…

OMG What a totally awesome day/night we had but WOW Aerosmith were fantastic!!! Kings of Chaos were brilliant as well as Noiseworks, Living End, Buck Cherry…. Thoroughly had the best time 🙂

Aerosmith still have it.  Like Kiss, they are seasoned and professional when it comes to performing live, plus Steve Tyler still has the vocal chops.

Just one question about today – why did the merchandise stand not open until 3.00pm? I waited in the queue for 3/4 hour missing Kings of Chaos to get t-shirts not good!

A lot of people expressed their frustration at the merchandise stores and they couldn’t understand why once inside the stadium, no merchandise could be purchased.

How do I go about officially complaining about this event or the promoters? Or whoever I can complain about/to.  Lifehouse was the ONLY reason I bought the $279 ticket and spent $300+ on accommodation and flights.What am I supposed to do now??!?  

Due to Lifehouse pulling out…Selling platinum ticket for tomorrow. $280 ONO.  Section A2 row L seat 6.  Lifehouse was the only reason I bought the ticket. Been waiting 8 years to see them. Won’t be able to get a refund on flights and accommodation already booked, but I can at least sell the ticket (for the price I bought it for) to someone who wants to be there. Inbox me if interested.

Lifehouse must have known that they were not going to do the show for a while, however they announced it on Friday via their Facebook page, with really a pretty shite post.  Fans want the truth, they want answers.  They don’t want stupid PR produced messages that mean nothing.  As mentioned above, fans purchased tickets to watch Lifehouse.  That is one part.  If they came from different states, they would have purchased flight tickets, hotel tickets and so much more.  I like Lifehouse.  I got into them because my wife like them.  However, they have let their fans down by not explaining properly why they pulled out.   The times have changed, however the Lifehouse PR team seems to have missed the memo.

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Music

What made Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet Explode?

What made Slippery When Wet explode?

A lot of people credit Bruce Fairbairn for it.  Others credit the influence of Desmond Child, while others would credit the sound engineering and mix by Bob Rock.  Others put it down to Jon and Richie finally finding their niche as songwriters and finally others put it down to the Pizza Parlour Jury.   Could it have been the labels release schedule and marketing plan?  Could it have been that the scene needed a shake up and this album was right time, right place?

First let’s put into context where the band was at in 1985.  They had just finished a nine-month world tour for 7800 Degrees Fahrenheit.  The band was in debt to the record label for a couple of million bucks.  The guys where living at their mom and dad’s, and wrote most of the songs for Slippery When Wet in Richie’s mom’s basement. 

There is a common myth that once a band is signed, they are showered with untold riches and that they have money coming out of their arse.  That is so far from the truth.   Bon Jovi where in debt and they were lucky that the label gave them a third chance.

From the 90’s onwards, labels didn’t give bands three chances.  One chance was all they had.  If they failed they will get someone else.   These days the labels are irrelevant.  They need to compete on a playing field where the rules change at the same rate technology changes and to be honest, they are so out of touch, it’s almost laughable watching them trying to hold on to the old way of doing things. 

Let’s start with Bruce Fairbairn.  Before he started doing Slippery he was coming off a multi-platinum run of releases with Loverboy and Honeymoon Suite, plus a Gold release with Krokus.   According to Paul Dean from Loverboy, Bruce is super organized.  He charts everything out and every song is broken into parts. 

Slippery would go on to multi – multi platinum sales and New Jersey (also produced by Bruce would do the same).  From Slippery, Bruce would move on to Aerosmith.  Permanent Vacation, Pump and Get A Grip all went multi – multi platinum.  He resurrected AC/DC’s career with the 5x platinum The Razors Edge after a steady decline in sales after Back In Black.  It is safe to say that Bruce had a certain knack for getting the best out of the artists he produced.  His track record is envious to say the least.

Then you have Desmond Child.  

Jon and Richie wanted to write with another song writer, so that other people can perform the songs.  Jon heard Tina Turner singing a song that Bryan Adams had written and wanted to do the same.  That is how Desmond Child came on the scene.  However the plan got skewed, as the songs that came out of those sessions where that good, that it was decided they will be kept for Jovi instead.

The first song Jon and Richie wrote with Desmond in Richie’s mother’s basement was “The Edge Of A Broken Heart”.  The second song they wrote was “You Give Love A Bad Name” by referencing a song he wrote for Bonnie Tyler called If You Were A Woman (And I Was A Man).  The melodies and chord progressions are very similar.

He used the story of his 70’s girlfriend, Maria Vidal who used to work a diner and was called Gina, for Livin On A Prayer.  In interviews, Richie has stated that Jon didn’t want the song on the album, while Richie was trying to convince him it was the best song they had.

I’d Die For You and Without Love where two other songs penned by Jon, Richie and Desmond.  I’d Die For You even has a cult status as a fan favourite.  Desmond brought the pop side to Bon Jovi’s form of hard rock, glam metal overtones. 

The engineer and mixer Bob Rock 

Jon heard Honeymoon Suite’s The Big Prize (another Bruce and Bob production) and that sealed the deal for Bon Jovi to also seek out Bob Rock.

The Pizza Parlour Jury

When Jon and Riche were making the demos in New Jersey, they would go across the street to the pizza parlour. They would ask a bunch of kids to hear some stuff.   As Richie puts it, “It was like a marketing test .  They came in and said, “Yeah, we like this one. This one gets through and that one doesn’t.”

They sure needed it as they wrote a truck load of songs.  Apart from the 10 songs that ended up on the album, other songs that never made it include;

Never Enough For You, Borderline, Edge Of A Broken Heart, Heat Of The Night, Give My Heart, Lonely Is The Night, Too Much Too Soon, Game Of The Heart, Deep Cuts The Night, Stand Up, Walk Don’t Run, Out of Bounds, There Is No Answer, Promise, Take Me All.

Bouncing songs off different independent ears that are not related to the band, helped Bon Jovi focus on the songs that where stronger.

Polygram Records

Doc McGhee the Bon Jovi manager at the time has stated that putting out a record at the right time is very important.  He further mentioned that the label looked at what other labels where releasing and picked a window where there was nothing really there competing against it.

August was the month that was selected and competing against Slippery When Wet where other August releases from Motorhead – Orgasmatron, Vinnie Vincent – Invasion, Warlock – True As Steel and Great White – Shot In The Dark. 

If it was released in July, it would have been up against DLR’s – Eat Em and Smile for listeners’ attention.   If it was released in June, it would have had to compete against Queen – A Kind of Magic, Genesis – Invisible Touch, Rod Stewart – Every Beat of My Heart, Madonna – True Blue and Cinderella – Night Songs.  If it was released in May as originally intended, it would have been up against AC/DC – Who Made Who, Journey – Raised on Radio and Europe – The Final Countdown. 

The Album

Let It Rock kicks it off Side 1.

The weekend comes to this town
Seven days too soon
For the ones who have to make up
What we break up of their rules

This song is written purely for the concert experience.  That is foresight in itself.  Apart from delivering a good album of songs, Jon and Richie are mindful of how they will go down live.  The song is about rebellion, getting that fist pumping in the air, just to let your hair down on the weekend.  Much like Loverboy’s Working for The Weekend.  But in this case the rock is a fire that is burning out of control.  Another analogy to melting rock temperatures (7800 degrees Fahrenheit).  It’s funny where Let It Rock has that keyboard intro, Lay Your Hands On Me from New Jersey, is almost identical riff wise to Let It Rock and it has that long drum intro.  It must be a Bruce thing, as even Turn Me Loose had a long keyboard intro.  A good start by the Jon and Richie song writing team.

“Shot through the heart and you’re to blame, darling you give love a bad name.”  The iconic a capella chorus.  Then the band kicks in and Richie does his vocal melody lead until they start the strip bar sleazy verse riff.

I remember when I saw the clip, I was glued to my TV screen.  I never got the name of the song and I thought it was called Shot Through The Heart, so I purchased the cassette album that had the song Shot Through The Heart.   Of course that was the wrong song.  Right band, but wrong song.   The clincher for me was the chorus part after the guitar solo, where it’s just the voice and the drums (sort of reminded me of Queen’s We Will Rock You).  You Give Love A Bad Name was the one that got the door opened and once the band unleashed Livin On A Prayer, the band started selling 700,000 records a month.    It also featured the song writing talents of Desmond Child, who borrowed the vocal melody and chords from a song he wrote for Bonnie Tyler, called If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man).

Livin On A Prayer was the song that Jon wasn’t even sure should be on the album. 

Bob Lefsetz posted that Livin On A Prayer is where Bon Jovi got the girls and that is what has kept the band going.  He aint wrong there and Jon knew that, hence the reason why he rewrote the song over and over again for each album that came after.   New Jersey had Born To Be My Baby (again a co-write with Desmond Child).  Keep The Faith had the title track (the chorus chord progression is identical, except in a different key and again a co-write with Desmond Child).  These Days had Hey God, Crush had Its My Life (Max Martin comes into the fold now), Bounce and Have A Nice Day had the title tracks.  The Circle had We Weren’t Born To Follow and the Greatest Hits had This is Love, This is Life.  For What About Now, the whole album is following the themes from Livin On A Prayer.  If you are on a winning formula, do it right again and you will hit pay dirt.

Tommy used to work on the docks
Union’s been on strike
He’s down on his luck…it’s tough, so tough
Gina works the diner all day
Working for her man, she brings home her pay
For love – for love

It’s a movie in words.  Life is tough but as long as we love each other, we will be okay.  A lot of people were not okay, but Livin On A Prayer made them feel that they were, as Tommy and Gina were also living the same life they were living.    

Social Disease is the pure filler that needed to be written so that Bad Medicine could be written. 

So you telephone your doctor
Just to see what pill to take
You know there’s no prescription
Gonna wipe this one away

In never should have ended up on Slippery.  Edge of A Broken Heart is far superior.  I know that Jon apologised for that omission.  To be honest the song never had a chance with the listeners coming off three winners already.  It was a poor song from the Jon and Richie team.  At least they made up for it in the next song.

Wanted Dead or Alive was the 80’s version of Turn The Page which Jon more or less copied again for the Young Guns soundtrack and had another number one hit in Blaze of Glory with a cool Jeff Beck solo.    Wanted was written by Jon and Richie.  This song didn’t reach number one, but it is a number one song.  A cult classic.  A radio staple.  When the song was released as a single, the multi-million fan base had already digested it.  They didn’t need to buy the single to make it No. 1.  It was already that in their hearts and minds.      

Sometimes I sleep, sometimes it’s not for days
And the people I meet always go their separate ways

Life on the road is just that.  I am just finishing off reading a Randy Rhoads bio, and it’s pretty clear that Randy started to hate the road.  He wanted to quit Ozzy’s band and study classical music.  He worked his whole life to achieve rock stardom and now that he had it, he was going to give it all up to follow his dream of classical music.  Sadly he never got there.  That is another thing that seems to be forgotten, the road also kills. 

Raise Your Hands (Let It Rock part 2) kicks off side 2.  Another Jon and Richie composition.  The motto of this song is simply.  Come to the show, raise your hands and get wild.  It doesn’t repeat what Let It Rock started, it takes it into overdrive. 

Raise your hands
When you want to let it go
Raise your hands
And you want to let a feeling show

Without Love is the second track after Raise Your Hands on side 2.  This was a Jon, Richie and Des composition and is forgettable.  The first side was pretty much spot on, that it was hard to get into Side 2.    

I saw a man down on lonely street
A broken man who looked like me
And no one knows the pain that he’s been living
He lost his love and still hasn’t forgiven

I’d Die for You is another Jon, Richie and Des composition.  It has become a cult classic for Bon Jovi, with fans hoping that it gets played each night, like Runaway. 

I might not be a savior
And I’ll never be a king
I might not send you roses
Or buy you diamond rings

We are not perfect in relationships, however we try our best.  A lot of the times our best is not good enough and it all ends bad.

Never Say Goodbye doesn’t get out of second gear

As I sit in this smokey room
The night about to end
I pass my time with strangers
But this bottle’s my only friend

And Wild in the Street is a song that could have ended up on a Bruce Springsteen B sides album.    

In here we got this code of honor
Nobody’s going down

As Bob Lefsetz puts “if you want to relive 1986, if you want to know what it was like way back then… You play “Slippery When Wet.”

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VITO BRATTA – Guitar World September 1989 – Part 1

VITO BRATTA – Guitar World September 1989 – Part 1

It’s a different experience when you open a Guitar World issue from September 1989 and re-read it in 2013.

It’s a who’s who of where are they now.  Marty Friedman and Jason Becker are hot off the press with their Cacophony releases and are endorsing ADA Amps, Jeff LeBar from Cinderella is endorsing Ernie Ball Strings, Richie Kotzen is endorsing Ibanez, Kip Winger is endorsing Peavey and Brian Forsythe is promoting Kix’s fourth album Blow My Fuse, before it exploded with the song Don’t Close Your Eyes.  Johnny Diesel  is well known in Australian circles and he is in there promoting Johnny Diesel and the Injectors that went on to make a big splash on the Australian scene during this period.  To a kid starting out playing guitar it just looked like one big hard rock, metal party was going on in the U.S.  I wanted to be part of it.

Marty Friedman went on to join Megadeth and found success.  Then he left to follow his muse writing Japanese pop music.

Jason Becker’s story is a sad one.  He went on to replace Steve Vai in David Lee Roth’s band only to be struck down with a rare disease at the age of 20 called Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  From recording the A Little Ain’t Enough album in 1989 to being given three to five years to live.  He is still alive now and communicates via eye movements.

Richie Kotzen has had a varied career.  Apart from being a solo artist, he went on to replace CC Deville in Poison.  The album Native Tongue was a brilliant album funk, blues rock album and it is a shame it didn’t get the recognition it did.  He also replaced Paul Gilbert in Mr Big between 1998 and 2004.

However, the reason for this story is Vito Bratta.  He is on the cover.  The hot shot guitarist and songwriter from White Lion, promoting their latest release.   Big Game was the follow up album to the mega successful breakthrough album Pride that spawned the hits Wait and When the Children Cry.

Since then White Lion went on to release Mane Attraction in May 1991 and by September that same year they called it a day.  Vito Bratta hasn’t released anything musical since Mane Attraction in 1991.  Brad Tolinski interviewed Vito.

“Guitarist Vito Bratta’s work is immediately distinctive for its strong sense of melody, thoughtful use of dynamics and pick attack, as well as a graceful near-metronomic sense of time that sounds neither forced nor rigid.  Although he’s definitely not from the Malmsteen School of high baroque, Bratta’s liquid phrasing is in spirit reminiscent of certain passages from Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin.  The elegant trills over the A chord in the ninth measure of the solo in “Wait” and the call and response of the alternating legato/dettache phrasing in “Don’t Give Up” suggest a player who understands music in a classic, rather than classical sense.”

To add to that, Vito’s grasp of melody and modes to me was at a very high level.  Songs written by Vito cover a lot of different musical styles.  His choice of notes, different chord voices and harmonies was a pleasure on the ear palette.

“I’ve been developing a more personalized approach to chord voicings and inversions.  The problem is these voicings don’t always sound good through a distorted amp.  So instead of using more conventional inversions, I’ll arpeggiate the chord.  This allows me to mute certain notes within the chord, eliminating some of the ugly overtones you get when you play close harmonies with distortion.  Al DiMeola once said his muting technique was a result of not wanting to wake anyone when he was practicing late at night!  Sometimes good things come out of compromise and determination.”

Apart from being a guitarist in a successful rock band, he was also an artist.  To Vito it was all about the music.

The mention of Al DiMeola and how he came to have an unbelievable muting technique shows that he knows his stuff, he has listened widely, he has studied what others have offered before him and incorporated it all into what he does.

Vito also talks about the limitations of playing through a distorted amp and how he circumvented those limitations, by changing the way he plays.  Instead of standard power chords, he is arpeggiating inversions of that chord and muting the strings at the same time.

GW Brad Tolinski:  Another unusual aspect of your rhythm technique is the extensive use of fingerpicking, particularly on the new record.   How did that evolve?

Bratta: That was another outgrowth of my song writing.  I usually write songs by myself, then play then for Mike so that he can write lyrics.  Because I want to give Mike the most accurate picture, I’m forced into creating a fairly complete sketch with my guitar alone.  I know an easier way would be to use multi-track tape machines, but I’m not into that.  So when I start thinking of the basic feel, I’ll come up with a bass part and play it on the low strings with my thumb.  Next, I’ll try and create a chord progression and try to coordinate the chordal movement so that I can play the bass line simultaneously.  Finally I’ll add a suggested melody line on the top.  The only way to have all three things happening at once is through some form of fingerpicking. 

Since this approach really excites me, I didn’t want to drop it when we went into the studio.  That’s why my rhythm guitar parts have a lot of movement.  If I was going to use the typical heavy metal approach on something like Little Fighter, I would just chunk away on the low E and A strings.

These days, artists would multi track everything in the demo stages.  Hell, I do, it’s easy.  Vito developed a fingerpicking style that combined what classical, blues, country and bluegrass players do however he applied it in a pop sense.   Imagine being the singer and you get given a demo that has the bass parts, the chords and the melody lines all on one track as an acoustic guitar piece.  To me this is what made Vito different to the other players.  He was a guitar nerd and I mean that in a good way.  He knew his shit, but he wasn’t textbook.  I know that the 90’s served up the argument against players with technical ability not playing with feel.  Bullshit I say.  Just because a technical player can step on the gas when they want to and drive at 200km per hour, it doesn’t mean they have no feel.  I was doing something similar like Vito, however as soon as I got my multi track recorder, I stopped doing it and took up the technological alternative.  Looking back, I do regret it, as it is a skill now that has been relegated to beginner’s level again, instead of remaining at an advanced level.  Technology has made us lazy, and it has made us cover up how bad we really are.  If we can’t sing, we auto tune, if we make mistakes, we fix up the note/s.

GW Brad Tolinski:  Many of these concepts were evident on Pride, but the execution was more rigid.

Bratta: The reason for that is kind of complicated.  I wrote the whole Pride record on acoustic guitar.  Then I went into the studio and started playing all these wonderful chord inversions through a Marshall, and it came out sounding like shit.  So instead of rewriting the whole album I kept the voicings, but did a whole lot of muting.  Big Game on the other hand was written on my Steinberger in dressing rooms across the U.S., so I had a chance to audition all my ideas on an amp way ahead of time.  As a result, I was able to create sympathetic voicings so I didn’t have to mute the strings as much.  The overall sound is more legato and less staccato, and the pre-production made me more at ease in general.

I can totally relate to that.  I write every song on acoustic guitar and when it comes time to electrify it, I end up changing it a lot of it and it loses its soul.  Just by replacing an arpeggiated part with a power chord, it is enough to lose the feel you are trying to convey.  I then try and fix this problem by adding multi guitar lines which could either muddle the song even more or bring clarity.  It’s a hit and miss game, and previously when I have been in studios where time is money, it’s being more miss than hit.

One thing that Vito shows is that he is a persistent artist.  He is prepared to persevere for his art.  Not many artists these days, have those attributes.  To use an analogy, a lot of artists will dig away in the mines for years on end, only to stop a few centimetres dirt short from the gold or diamonds waiting on the other side.  And then you have one artist that just keeps on digging and they reach it.  Never give up on your dreams and walk away.  If there is a lesson to be learned here, persevere and keep on getting better.

GW Brad Tolinski: Your latest work doesn’t sound as heavy as it did in the past, yet it does sound more aggressive.

Bratta: After touring with AC/DC and Aerosmith for a year, I felt a little more aggressive.  Some nights I would come up with something pretty, but after seeing Angus bash it out, I would say “Fuck pretty”.

Again the fan in Vito comes to the fore.  He is letting the bands that White Lion is playing shows with influence him.  He is watching what they do, he is seeing what songs and riffs work in a concert atmosphere, because in the end, bands sink or swim based on the live show they deliver.   He is letting their sound, their aggression influence him.  Song writing isn’t just about musical notes and words.  It is about attitude and feeling.  What sound is needed to convey love or hate?  Minor key songs are sadder, major key songs are happier.   Crazy Train from Randy Rhoads is a perfect example, where major and minor combine in a glorious display.  The intro is F#m, the verses are A major and trippy, the chorus is back to F#m as the root.  The song is both pretty and aggressive.   Vito was a master of both.  Like Randy Rhoad’s he was bigger than the band he was in.

Part 2 will be a review of Big Game, plus more from the interview where Vito also talks about Big Game.

 

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Music, Uncategorized

Guitar World – January – 1986

Guitar World – 1986 – January

I was unpacking boxes and I came across all of my Guitar World magazines, Guitar for the Practicing Musician which morphed into just Guitar, Guitar School, Guitar One, Guitar Player, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Australian Guitar and Guitar Player.

This was the first Guitar World magazine I purchased.  I remember purchasing it from the newsagency, bringing it home and slowly taking it out of the plastic.  I remember turning the pages over as delicate as a heart surgeon.   This was all I had back in 86, apart from a tape of Twisted Sister’s Stay Hunger, Van Halen’s 1984, Bruce Springsteen’s – Born In The USA and Motley Crue’s Shout At The Devil.  I also had some seven inch singles from my brothers that had Kiss – I Was Made for Loving You and Hard Times as its B Side.

It had Yngwie Malmsteen on the cover.   I don’t know why I purchased this edition as at that time I didn’t even know who Yngwie was or how he sounded.  However I was starting to get into guitars and the magazine was called Guitar World.

There was a small piece in a section called The Whammy Bar, which stated that Billy Sheehan will be joining David Lee Roth on his new solo project and that DLR is also trying to get Yngwie Malmsteen in there.  Here is the connection for me as I knew who DLR was from Van Halen.  This alone made me interested in seeking out the music from Malmsteen.

Who would have thought how interconnected Malmsteen and Steve Vai where at that time.  Talk about six degrees of separation.  So Malmsteen came to America and played in a hard rock band called Alcatrazz.  When he left that band to do Rising Force, Alcatrazz hired Steve Vai as his replacement.  DLR is looking at putting a new band together post Van Halen and Malmsteen is sought out, however it is Vai that gets the job.

Then I read the Malmsteen interview.

“I’d rather have people dislike my style than change it,” he says. “If someone says, ‘Hey, Yngwie, you play too damn much’ –- I don’t care. The way I play is the way I like to play. If people like it – great.  If they don’t, it’s still fine with me.”

I think 27 years on; it’s safe to say that Yngwie didn’t conform to any record label standard.   I have listened to every album he has produced and while quite a few became a yawn fest and a waste of time I will never get back, he never gave in and he never sacrificed his ideals to please the  corporate empires.  For any guitarist or musician coming out, this should be your motto especially when you have musicians from ‘successful ‘ groups departing and issuing comments like this (from Adam Gontier – ex Three Days Grace vocalist);

“The music BUSINESS.  Remember this people…, in my/our case; it’s always been about the “business”.  The money.  What about the love for creating real music from the heart?  Where did that fit in? Pretty much nowhere.  No room for music from the heart, when it’s just about music for the radio.”  

You can safely say that Malmsteen has always been about the music.

It’s okay to have haters.  You cannot please everyone.  However as soon as you lose what made you special in the first place, you are the same as everyone else.

“I’ve always sacrificed things in order to become the best musician I could be. “

Malmsteen dropped out of school at 15, got a job working in a guitar shop which further developed his skills (being able to play is one thing, however knowing your equipment and knowing how it all hangs together is another).  How many kids these days drop out of school at 15?  Why would they?  Isn’t it better to get an education and even go to Uni/College so that there is something to fall back on?

“If guitar players just listen to other guitar players it’s almost impossible to avoid sounding like them,” says Malmsteen, who acknowledges only Jimi Hendrix and Ritchie Blackmore as guitar influences.”

Isn’t that so true.  Look at all the metal guitarists around today, they can do all the guitar tricks from so many different styles, all packaged into one.  Malmsteen sweeps, Van Halen taps, Al DiMeola alternate picking, Steve Morse string skipping, John Petrucci legato, Randy Rhoads modal theories, and so on.  The ones that truly stand out are the ones that do it a touch differently.  Disturbed is a prime example that comes to mind of this where guitar and drums where one.  The guitar acted like a percussion instrument.  Great music can be born out of the syncopation of drums and guitar.

“It’s also important to me that what I play fast will also sound good if the same notes are played at a slower speed. I play classical runs, arpeggios and broken chords that if played at a slower speed would sound very nice as well. “

Has anyone ever done it?  I have.  I remember taking Trilogy Suite and playing it at 100bpm instead of the 200 bpm it is supposed to be.

“Anyone who’s witnessed Malmsteen on stage knows he is an intensely exciting performer. Most guitarists with mind-boggling technique are actually quite boring in concert, but Malmsteen manages to impress as well as entertain. He is always in constant motion, whether playing his Strat with his teeth or effortlessly twirling it around his body.”

This is a general rule for every musician.   The definition of musician also takes in the definition of performer.  You need to deliver the goods live and make it exciting.  You need to make the kids want to be you, you need to inspire the almost there musicians to be you and you need to leave the mouths wide open of seasoned musicians.   Otherwise the million plus other musicians will come along and push you aside.

“Much hard work, of course, has gone into honing his style.  “I’ve been playing constantly since the age of eight,” says the twenty-two-year-old guitarist.”

Yes that’s right, Malmsteen was 22 in 1986.  He came to the U.S in 1983 as a 19 year old.   This is what kids need to realise.  It takes time.  Nothing happens overnight.  You need to be in it for the long haul.  In the case of Malmsteen, he came to the US and joined Steeler and then Alcatrazz.  Both bands where stepping stones.

Would Led Zeppelin have been so great if they formed in 1964 or 1966?  Would Jimmy Page write the songs he did if he didn’t do time with the Yardbirds and the British studio scenes.

Would Metallica be where they are if they kept their original bassist and never hired Cliff Burton?   Would they have written Master of Puppets if Dave Mustaine was still in the band?

Basically it was a long road to success once upon a time and that hasn’t changed in the current internet era.  Even someone like PSY had put in time before he went viral.  His first album was released in 2001.  It wasn’t until 2011 that the world knew who he was and that was achieved without the traditional mainstream press and radio.

Even though the news carriers publicise the one in a million stories of people found and made into overnight sensations, there are still a billion of other artists still paying their dues.

“I’ve always been aware of recording techniques,” he says, “and I’ve always felt I could do a better job than an outside producer because they obviously don’t know the songs as well as I do.  I mean, I don’t think a painter would do the background and let someone else finish the rest of the painting.”

The musician definition just keeps on growing.  You create, you perform, you know your gear and tweak it to suit, you practice your art, you record your own music, you produce it and release it.  With the internet and advancements of technology, every musician should be doing the above.

 “Malmsteen’s desire to do it all obviously puts a lot of weight on his shoulders. Will he keep a clean head and progress? Or will he get caught up in the rabid attention he’s been getting and stagnate? The answers to these questions will prove if Malmsteen becomes the legendary guitarist he is so capable of becoming.”

The magazine came out in January 1986.  Malmsteen was promoting Marching Out which came out October 1985.  In September of 86 he released Trilogy.  Three albums in three years as a solo artist.  In total if you include Steeler and Alcatrazz releases that is six releases in four years.

Remember Malmsteen’s motto, it’s all about the music.  Keep on pumping the music boys and girls, that is how it was done back in the day so that artists could get traction and that is how it should be done in this day and age.  Six album releases in four years.  A total of 50 songs over a 48 month (as one Alcatrazz album was a live release).

A song a month should be the aim of every artist as a minimum.

Did Malmsteen become the legendary guitarist?  My view is YES.  He released Odyssey in 1988 with Joe Lyn Turner which became Malmsteen’s most successful album of his career and the one where you could have questioned if he was becoming another record label slave.  Remember his motto, its all about the music and the very commercial sounding Joe Lynn Turner was fired.

Did he maintain his legendary status?  My view is YES.  When shredding and neo-classical became out of fashion in the record label controlled U.S Malmsteen still forged a successful career in Europe and Japan during the 1990’s.  He never gave in to suit a flavour of the year style.  He remained true to himself and that to me is the sign of a legend.

Yes there are stories of his ego, his erratic behaviour, his fury (remember the plane incident) and his controlling manner however he never gave away himself, he never sold out to cash in.  As soon as he became commercially successful, he fired the singer and started a new again.

I remember reading in Metal Edge or another music rag sometime during the mid 90’s that Malmsteen and Ronnie James Dio ended up getting together to write some songs or where going to get together to form a supergroup.  I don’t know how true that is and what happened to the music they created.

Other guitarists mentioned in the magazine where Spacey T. from the band Sound Barrier, Kazumi Watanabe, George Thorogood, John Martyn, Lonnie Mack, Steve Stevens, Dave Meniketti and Al Di Meola.  But that is for another day.

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