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

Saints (Winners) and Sinners (Losers)

WINNER
Machine Head are doing the opposite of what all the other bands are doing. Playing smaller venues, selling them out and doing “An Evening With..” extravaganza. The prices of tickets are affordable and not extravagant. This is one band that realizes their niche place in the metal music business and they play to their core audience, the Headcases.

In Robb Flynn, they have one of the best frontmen in thrash/metal circles that is not afraid to take a stance on an issue. He speaks to his core audience via his journals. He controls his own narrative and not the press, which is the downfall of a lot of other artists.

Flynn, along with Monte Conner from Nuclear Blast have realized that music is all about the souvenirs. The “Killers and Kings” single release for Record Store Day with the four different tarot covers proved once again that if people believe in the artists, they will spend their money. Machine Head weren’t selling music, they were selling collectibles. I purchased all four and I still haven’t opened them.

WINNER
Megadeth. As a guitarist I didn’t really dig Broderick’s uninspired lead breaks so I am pretty happy that he has left. Just because a person is super technical it doesn’t mean they are good songwriters. Seriously put those lead breaks up against the jazzy shred work of Chris Poland, the neo – classical shred metal of Marty Friedman, the tasteful phrasing of Al Pitrelli and the pentatonic chaos of Dave Mustaine and you will see where Broderick stacks up. Drummers are plentiful so I am sure that Megadeth will have no issues here finding one that will suit.

LOSERS
Chris Broderick and Shaun Drover.

The history of guitarists and drummers that have departed Megadeth is vast. The real good ones have had stellar careers pre and post Megadeth. Marty Friedman had a fan base before he joined and then he became a Japanese musical icon post Megadeth. Al Pitrelli also had an established fan base prior to joining and he was already in demand as a session guy and touring guitarist for various projects. Chris Poland did “Damn The Machine” which was an unbelievable album/band that wasn’t embraced by the waves of change that happened to metal in 1993 and Poland’s instrumental album “Return To Metalopolis” was also a favourite back in the day.

WINNER
Streaming. Fans of music didn’t care at all that The Pirate Bay got raided or that Kickass Torrents got taken down. Those raids/takedowns are all pure PR stunts by the associations and a waste of money/legal resources because copyright for the last 15 years has been hijacked and used purely for criminal pursuits and nothing to do with aiding the artist.

LOSERS
Artists and entities that compare the streaming dollars earned today to those pre 1999 sales dollars without understanding that streaming is all about scale. The more people using the platform, the higher the payments will be in the future. But no one can look that far, when everyone thinks about “right now”. The ones complaining about streaming royalties just don’t have enough fans interested in listening to their music consistently.

WINNER
Slash. He has shown that he is more Guns N Roses than Axl Rose is. His output has been solid via his many projects, like Slash’s Snakepit, Velvet Revolver, Slash (the guest vocalist album) and now Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators. He is doing what every other musician should be doing, which is releasing product and touring.

LOSER
Duff McKagan. His views on piracy/copyright infringement are restricting him from doing what he needs to do, which is, to create music.

WINNER
Dee Snider. His views on Doug Aldrich are spot on.

LOSER
Doug Aldrich. He’s a good guitar player but nowhere in the league of the Eighties guitarist he was competing against when he was with “Lion”. For the years he has been involved in music, there is not one definitive song/riff that can be attributed to Doug Aldrich.

WINNER
Data. The era of feeling it or rorting the charts is over. It’s all about the fans and what they listen too.

LOSER
Sales. Just because Spotify is killing off piracy, it doesn’t mean that people will start to buy physical CD’s, vinyls or pay to download MP3’s again. Seriously there is a lot of rubbish reporting out there stating something like “sales are worse now since Spotify has entered the market”. Well, hello genius, Spotify and streaming for that matter are also competing with sales.

WINNER
George Lynch. He realizes it’s all about the music and without making new music, he has no career. That’s why people come back. Lynch Mob, his solo career, KXM, Sweet and Lynch and now the announcement of a new project called “The Infidels” which is another pseudo-supergroup.

LOSER
Don Dokken. Without the involvement of Lynch and Pilson in the songwriting department, the band Dokken is a shadow of its former self.

WINNER
Indegoot Entertainment. They have a roster of bands that make up a very large portion of the U.S Hard Rock market, that have proven to be consistent sellers in a recorded music sales market that is contracting instead of expanding. Shinedown, In This Moment, Halestorm, Chevelle, Adelitas Way, Black Stone Cherry, Theory of A Deadman and Story of The Year.

Rock is far from dead when you have rock artists like these. And with a good roster of talent comes power on the live circuit. That is why Indegoot is a winner.

LOSER
Any metal or rock band that is spending months upon months creating their new album and being out of the public consciousness. The modern way is to be in our head space every day. If an artist today takes a break then they are on their way to being forgotten. And you don’t want to be in the news if it is not about your music. No one can forget what their core business is.

Slipknot took almost seven years to release their new album, only to have “The Devil In I” rack up 9.6 million streams. What about the other songs?

Yngwie Malmsteen has delivered a lot of dud albums in the last ten years and he still takes his time before issuing the next one.

WHY?

You would think after one crap album, he would get going with delivering a better song quickly to make amends. Malmsteen can be doing much more to keep in touch with his fan base which doesn’t revolve around issuing ten to twelve songs every two years under his own name.

Take a leaf out of George Lynch’s or Michael Sweets or Marc Tremonit’s or Russell Allen’s playbook.

WINNER
Kevin Churko. Everyone wants to work with him. He is the modern-day version of Tom Werman or Keith Olsen. Five Finger Death Punch, In This Moment, Hellyeah, Papa Roach are all bands that have used the might Churko as producer and on some occasions as songwriter. If you want to use sales as a statistic of reach, then bands produced by Kevin Churko are some of the best sellers in the genre.

LOSER
EVH.

My EVH Peavey 5150 Combo that I purchased back in 1995 is still my favourite amp to record with. So it is a shame that the greatest and most innovative guitarist cannot get it together to deliver new music worthy of his stature. Reading Sammy Hagar’s bio recently cemented my views on EVH who has become a person that is so out of touch with reality and a victim of his own vices. His future without any doubt is with Sammy Hagar as the front man.
WINNER
Allen Kovac’s move from management to the label business has paid off. Eleven Seven Music is another label doing their bit in bringing hard rock back to the masses. Artists involve Hellyeah, Mötley Crüe, Papa Roach, Pop Evil, Sixx:A.M, Nothing More, Art Of Dying, Apocalyptica, Escape The Fate and Drowning Pool.

LOSER
AC/DC without Malcolm Young have lost their foundation. Don’t get me wrong, I love AC/DC and always will. They will make a killing on the live circuit however no one cares for their new music. On top of all that their views about withholding their music from certain digital outlets (while it is available for free on pirate sites) shows how out of touch they are. They are leaving money on the table.

WINNER
Marc Tremonti. He showed the world that he was the brains and driving force behind Creed. He kept his career going with Alter Bridge. He started his own solo band. He went away and mastered the art of shred. His PRS guitars are state of the art and brilliant to play. Trust me on that one as I have one. The PRS through the 5150 is the perfect sound for me.

LOSER
Metallica. They are trying to replicate the corporate deals of U2 and the product saturation of Kiss. This in turn leaves the hard-core fan base squeamish. Meanwhile it has been seven years since they released “Death Magnetic” and music is the very reason why Metallica is in the powerful position they are in right now. However it seems they have forgotten that part of their career. “Lords Of Summer” will most probably be turned into a totally different song however if it doesn’t, then it doesn’t bode well for Metallica as they sit down to write the next album.

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

Band Harmony: Is There Such A Thing?

Who remembers watching interviews or reading interviews from their favourite bands about how much the band members love each other and all of that other rubbish about how great they are for the band.

The cold hard truth is this. Bands/artists want to show a solidarity, a unity.

They don’t want people and fans of the band to see weaknesses, so they try their best to make it look like everything appears fine on the surface.

However underneath it is a different story.

Every biography I have read, from “The Dirt” about Motley Crue, to “Enter Night” about Metallica, to “Lifting Shadows” about Dream Theater, to “Face The Music” about Kiss or to Dave Mustaine’s bio about his career. The same theme is prevalent throughout. The band members didn’t like each other.

No one really speaks their mind as it would cause problems in the band.

Others want to speak up and do more, however since a band member has already taken on that responsibility they step down as they don’t want to step on any toes.

Others want to have their songs included, however they keep on getting rejected or changed until the song loses it’s soul.

So they hold their tongue until it gets to a stage where they can’t anymore and all hell breaks loose.

Look at a few bands that are doing the circuit today and there is a pretty good chance that they do not have the original members in there.

Volbeat – holding on to lead guitarists proved problematic.

Five Finger Death Punch – holding on to bass players and lead guitar players proved problematic.

In This Moment – holding on to bass players, guitar players and drummers proved problematic.

Shinedown – holding on to bass players and lead guitar players proved problematic.

Dream Theater – where do you start. Singer changers after one album, three different keyboardists and a drummer change.

Trivium – changed drummers.

Evergrey – only Tom Englund is the original member.

Machine Head – only Robb Flynn is the original member.

When a record label signs an artist/band, they want to know that their newest signing/s are committed to the cause.

Want some advice.

Sacrifice everything. If you are in a band that means you are only as good as your weakest link. If the other band members don’t have the same committment, then they need to be sacrificed or you need to sacrifice yourself from the band.

If you don’t sacrifice everything then it is just a hobby.

Want to know about sacrifice. About change.

Look at Marty Friedman. Megadeth is on a high, selling platinum records (we’ll excuse the “Risk” album) and Marty Friedman leaves. As a fan of Megadeth and a fan of Marty Friedman’s solo work, I didn’t want it to happen.

Friedman reinvented himself by describing it as the best decision he has ever made, because, he was looking at the music that was making up the Top 10 in Japan and he liked it. Then he compared it to the music that was making up the Top 10 in America and as a musician he felt that Japan was the scene that he should be in.

It takes guts.

I can’t say I was a fan of the music he did while in Japan, however a musician needs to follow their muse. And that is what Marty Friedman did.

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Music

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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