A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Guitar Heroes

“There are guitar heroes and there are band guys. Guitar heroes are the top dogs – whatever they say goes. Band guys are team players, committed to the chemistry of the whole. Steve Howe is a band guy from way back.”

October 1989 Guitar World…

Players like Zakk Wylde, Slash, John Petrucci and Marc Tremonti could easily be classed as band guys. James Hetfield is all about Metallica and of course there are many more that have come and gone.

In that same issue George Lynch spoke about his relationship with Don Dokken and how his new band Lynch Mob is a band that will not have a revolving door of musicians just because the band leader might have woken up on the wrong side of the bed. We all know how that turned out.

So it got me thinking about guitar players who are plying their trade day in and day out without getting the recognition they really deserve. It’s tough to be an artist regardless of era. Today, the main focus is on money. However music slays money all the time if done right and when it is done right it usually generates a pile of it anyway.

And I started focusing on two guitar bands that are doing the rounds at the moment. The only criteria I used is that the guitar partnership was formed/created at the start of the 2000’s with their respective bands.

Tom Englund/Henrik Danhage

Evergrey is about to make twenty years in the business and they are stronger than ever in popularity. Thank Tom Englund for keeping the flame burning. They are a band that doesn’t go out to write hit singles however some of the fan base believe they did just that with the “Monday Morning Apocalypse” album in 2006. For me, Evergrey is Evergrey. Dark, honest, melodic and hopeful.

The Englund/Danhage partnership started in 2000, ceased in 2010 and rekindled again in 2013. Clearly the magic is still there. For the uninitiated check out the albums “Hymns For The Broken”, “The Inner Circle” and “Torn”.  “The Inner Circle” album gave me a whole new inspiration to create music again.

They are the antidote, the complete opposite of our phony culture.

Zoltan Bathory/Jason Hook

Five Finger Death Punch are record label darlings at this point in time. With the first three albums all going Gold and the current Volumes 1 and 2 both pushing close to that mark what isn’t there to like from a record label point of view.

Underpinning the mighty PUNCH is the rhythm playing of Zoltan Bathory. Rooted in European metal and its modes, with a dash of hard rock and melodic death metal, Bathory consistently delivers head banging, foot stomping riffola. And no one could have predicted the success that would come.

The Bathory/Hook partnership started in 2009. For the uninitiated check out “War Is The Answer”, “American Capitalist” and “The Wrong Side Of Heaven Volume 1”.

And yes, Five Finger Death Punch are consistent sellers proving once again, people will invest their time and money if they believe in the MESSAGE!

Adam Dutkiewicz/Joel Stroetzel

This partnership started before 2000, however Dutkiewicz was the drummer back then. But in 2001, Dutkiewicz took up the guitar again and a whole new era kicked off.

For the uninitiated check out “The End of Heartache”, “As Daylight Dies” and “Disarm the Descent”. “As Daylight Dies” was an important album for me, as it combined melodic vocals, with brutal riffs and technical playing. Even though the band is not classed as a progressive band, they are progressive. It is a shame that in 2014, progressive music is seen as how fast and technical you can get, where in the past progressive music didn’t mean that. And that is the definition that Killswitch Engage inherits.

Robb Flynn/Phil Demmel

They are like an old act that took four albums to find their voice and hit a groove. And what a groove they found in “The Blackening”. Enough said.  Also “Unto The Locust” is no slouch either and from what I have heard so far, “Bloodstone and Diamonds” is shaping up to be a monster.

Their Machine Head partnership began in 2003 although they knew each other from their time spent in Vio-Lence, it wasn’t until they got together to write the follow-up to the backs to the wall comeback album, “Through The Ashes Of Empires” that they set a new standard in metal and thrash circles. A three-year touring cycle followed. A deserved victory lap for a brilliant album.

And the thing about Robb Flynn that I like is that he fights back. If he is wrong, he apologizes however if he is not wrong he defends himself. Just because someone is criticizing him it does not mean they’re right. And Robb Flynn doesn’t give in so easily.

Claude Sanchez/Travis Stever

Coheed and Cambria have played a vital role in my developing skills as a songwriter. The “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth” and it’s follow up, “Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV” showed what can be achieved when you mash-up so many different styles into a story line. “Welcome Home” is a perfect example. It has punk elements, pop elements and classic rock elements. “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth” they showcase prog rock, atmospheric rock and classic rock with a twang of modern rock.

In other words, Coheed and Cambria are unlike anything else. They are so far from the me-too artist that is always trumped up by the media reporting outlets. An artist tests limits and Claude Sanchez definitely falls into this space.

Synester Gates/Zacky Vengeance

There is nothing about Avenged Sevenfold that hasn’t been planned and analysed to the smallest detail. Before they even started they decided on stage names, which is a throwback to the classic rock artists and the Eighties metal heroes. With their BLACK album “Hail To The King” they finally have songs that just rock on the stage.

I witnessed the energy the new songs output compared to the older more complex material. In relation to guitar playing, check out “Afterlife” and “Second Heartbeat”.

Even the mighty Zakk Wylde said that Gates is “the torchbearer for the young kids now to play solos, learn the scales, and develop a feel.”And with Synester’s influences ranging from Zakk Wylde, Dimebag Darrell, Slash, John Petrucci, Allan Holdsworth and Frank Gambale, a torchbearer he is.

Luke Hoskin/ Tim Millar

These guys are a perfect example of succeeding through hard work and hewing to their own vision and refusing to adjust to others’ input. While other artists might have had more of the limelight, all this did was allow the Protest The Hero guys to refine their song writing in relative obscurity.

For definitive albums, you can’t go past their new one “Volition”. Funded by the fans and written for the fans.

Matt Heafy/ Corey Beaulieu

Many of us are hooked by something. Trivium is one such band that hooked me. I put it down to their cover version of “Master Of Puppets”. Hell, they sounded better than Metallica.

And the thing that really connects with me is that they are always exploring themselves as artists. They don’t know if they are on the right path, but they are always trying to get there and that is important.

“Shogun” will be seen as their masterpiece album however songs like “In Waves” and “Strife” have proven to take a life on their own. I am really looking forward to their gig with In Flames in November.

Jake Pitts/Jinxx

With so many hard rock or modern rock bands out there, who does a person decide what band to gravitate to as our time is precious.

Having two guitar players that bring back memories of the early eighties is a good start. And that is where Black Veil Brides come in. Now the vocals are hit and miss but there is no denying the quality of the guitar playing and the song writing.

Dee Snider even called them “rockstars”.

Matthew Tuck/Michael “Padge” Paget

A similar set up like Trivium and their career trajectory is almost identical.

Like “Shogun” for Trivium, “Scream/Aim/Fire” is a definitive thrash metal album for Bullet For My Valentine.

Then there are songs from “Fever” and “Temper Temper” that have taken a life of their own. In this case “The Last Fight” and “Breaking Point”.

With so much new music, I usually stop paying attention and go back to my favourites. The above artists have proven themselves since the start of the 2000’s to become my favourites. For other up and comers, yell at me to notice you and I will ignore you. Yell a little bit more, and I will just retreat and burrow down deeper into my favourites.

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Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

1991 – The Year Of Disruption

1991.

What a year of disruption. I was reading two Hot Metal magazines from October and November 1991 and it got me thinking about 1991. Hard Rock, Power Metal, Glam Rock and the pedal point Heavy Metal that we got used too was facing obliteration. The smarter acts started building their Ark’s. They saw the warnings. The rest all drowned in the flood. Castle Donnington in August had AC/DC, Metallica, Queensryche, Motley Crue and Black Crowes. All of those bands survived the flood, however Queensryche managed to commit hara-kiri many years after.

Guitar Heroes Looking For Work

Jimmy Page
He announced that he was working with David Coverdale. The media reported it as White Zeppelin and Led Snake. The band was filled out with Denny Carmassi (Heart) on drums, Ricky Phillips (Bad English) on bass with Johnny and Joe Gioeli from the band Brunette rounding out the band. Fast forward to March 1993, “Coverdale/Page” finally came out. The wheels of motion in the recording business travelled slowly once upon a time.

Of course the following month, it was also announced that Neal Schon along with Deen Castronovo signed a band to MCA. The band at the time didn’t have a name however it featured Johhny and Joe Gioeli from the band Brunette, whom Schon discovered when he started dating their sister. The bands line up was completed by Todd Jensen (DLR) on bass. Of course that band would go on to become “Hardline”.

Vinnie Vincent
It was announced that he was writing songs with Gene and Paul. Most of those songs would end up 1992’s “Revenge” including the excellent “Unholy”.

John Sykes
Rumours started circulating that he joined Def Leppard to replace Steve Clark and those rumours started to earn some credibility when Carmine Appice and Tony Franklin quit Blue Murder. Then the rumours started that he would be a touring guitarist for them, as Def Leppard had plans to bow out at the top. Of course we all know how that panned out.

Adrian Vandenberg
Was out of a gig after David Coverdale disbanded Whitesnake. Rumours started circulating that he was forming a project with
John Waite as Bad English was more or less over. Then he had a solo deal with Victory Records. Then rumours persisted that he was tapped to join House Of Lords who also had a deal with Victory.

Of course, Adrian Vandenberg went on to be involved in the supergroup “Manic Eden” that had Rudy Sarzo, Tommy Aldridge as well as Little Caeser vocalist Ron Young. Of course, the House Of Lords connection was there in the early incarnation of the band, as James Christian was the original vocalist.

Steve Stevens
Another guitar hero in between employers. He was also on the radar to fill the guitarist slot with House Of Lords and then he was working on a solo record and then he was announcing plans to work with Michael Monroe. Of course the Monroe project went on to become Jerusalem Slim.

Randy Jackson
He spent almost 5 years working on the “China Rain” project, assembling a brilliant band that included Brian Tichy on Drums, Ronnie Snow supporting Randy on guitar and Teddy Cook on Bass. Then the label decided to not release it.

Lita Ford
Released “Dangerous Curves” which got her a Grammy nomination. However it was a big price to pay to have that all-star backing band for a tour that didn’t take off. The band included Myron Grombacher (Pat Benater) on drums, Dave Ezrin on keys, Matt Bisoneette (DLR) on bass and Joe Taylor on guitars. Joe Taylor suffered the indignity of being fired by Jim Gillete, Lita’s husband at the time because Jim wanted to cut Taylor’s pay.

Dave Navarro
Rumours at the time stated that he was asked to replace Izzy Stradlin in Guns N Roses as rumours started circulating that Janes Addiction was more or less over as Perry Farrell and Eric A started to hate each other over their views on drugs.

Vivian Campbell
Was in a new hard rock band called Shadow King, with Lou Gramm of Foreigner, Bruce Turgon on bass and Kevin Valentine on drums. Eventually went on to become a Def Leppard main stay.

Vito Bratta
At that point in time it was known that Bratta had tied down a solo deal with Atlantic. Of course in 2014, we know that nothing panned out.

Jeff Watson
Was rumoured to be in a project with Carmine Appice, Bob Daisley and Derek St Holmes. That project ended up becoming “Mother’s Army” and the final line up consisted of vocalist Joe Lynn Turner, guitarist Jeff Watson, bassist Bob Daisley and drummer Carmine Appice. Again this news was out in 1991 and it wasn’t until 1993 that the self titled debut hit the market.

Neal Schon
Along with Deen Castronovo signed a band to MCA. The band at the time didn’t have a name however it featured Johhny and Joe Gioeli, whom Schon discovered when he started dating their sister. The bands line up was completed by Todd Jensen (DLR) on bass. Of course that band would go on to become Hardline.

Richie Sambora
He didn’t know if Bon Jovi would continue and released a solo album based on the blues infused with a little bit of pop and rock. He never achieved the platinum sales that he got with Bon Jovi, however he got to show a side of himself that could never have been shown in Bon Jovi.

Cemented Their Guitar God Status In An Hostile Environment

Zakk Wylde
Cemented his status as a guitar god with “No More Tears”. Every track is rock solid.

Paul Gilbert
Guitar players knew him from Racer X, however it was “Lean Into It” that brought him to the mainstream. Shame that it was a ballad that did it. Regardless the album is guitar heavy.

Dave Sabo and Scotti Hill
They came into their own on “Slave To The Grind”. Fusing rock, metal and blues with a shitload of groove. Add to that Rachel Bolan, the Nikki Sixx type persona of Skid Row.

James Hetfield
The whole “Black” album. Enough said.

Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch
They ramped it up on “Psychotic Supper”. Check out “Song and Emotion”, “Freedom Slaves” and “Had Enough”.

The New Winds

Nirvana dropped “Nevermind”. Earache Records had the big three in Napalm Death, Morbid Angel and Massacre.

Pearl Jam gave us “Ten” and it started to get some traction.

Soundgarden dropped “Badmotorfinger” and NIN was slowly rising in the background with “Pretty Hate Machine”.

Smashing Pumpkins released “Gish” to little fanfare and Prong released the critically acclaimed “Prove You Wrong.”

Alice In Chains sure did it tough, appearing on a few tours were even the people said “WTF”. Clash of The Titans saw them get pelted with rubbish and the Van Halen shows had people saying “What The”.

A Band Ahead Of The Times

Galatic Cowboys
Showed that diversity didn’t belong in the music business as at 1991. Mixing gospel, thrash, punk, bluegrass, rock and metal with a touch of prog and signed to Geffen. What could go wrong????

Tours

“Clash Of The Titans” did terrific business in major cities and dismal turnouts in rural cities and even cancelled a few gigs due to terrible advance sales.

“Operation Rock N Roll” with Judas Priest, Alice Cooper, Motorhead, Dangerous Toys and Metal Church earned the reputation as the biggest travelling failure of the summer.

GNR and Skid Row operated on a 70% of tickets sold tour.

Lollapalooza blitzed all comers.

The shift was happening.

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