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

The Music Careers of the “Young Guns” from Guitar World September 1991

So I am flicking through an old issue of Guitar World that goes back to September 1991 and there is a D’Addario ad with the title “Young Guns II”. Pictured on the ad are the following guitar players;

Gary Hoey
John Axtel and Atom Ellis from Psychefunkapus
Tommy Bolan from Freight Train Jane
Gerard Zappa and Adam Holland from Valentine
Black Eyed Susan guitarists
Tristan
Matt Prudoehl

So what happened to these “Young Guns.”

Gary Hoey auditioned for Ozzy Osbourne in 1988, during the search for Jake E.Lee’s replacement. We all know that Zakk Wylde got that gig. He also auditioned for Def Leppard, which ended up going to Vivian Campbell. Then he teamed up with a few LA vets in “Heavy Bones” who released one album in 1992 and when it did nothing, they broke up shortly.

Good musicians never quit. He went solo and had a hit with “Hocus Pocus” a cover of the Focus hit. This led to some chart success, some soundtrack work and a monthly column in Guitar World called “Hocus Pocus” which I found informative and helpful to my guitar playing.

Although Extreme became famous for the funk rock in the early nineties, Hoey broke it down to a teachable lesson called “Get The Funk Out” from Guitar World June 1994 issue. But the best lesson for me was “Arpeggio Acrobats” that appeared in the November 1994 which involved playing string skipping arpeggios. Since then he has more or less released an album each year.

A true warrior of the music industry and a diversified artist. He doesn’t have the world-wide recognition but he has what a lot of musicians that had world recognition wish they had. A career in the music industry.

John Axtel (guitarist) and Atom Ellis (bass) from Psychefunkapus got together in 1986 and by 1992 it was all over. Two albums came out on Atlantic. 1990’s self titled debut and “Skin” in 1991. Then it was all over.

John Axtel has been around the scene with various projects and the same for Atom Ellis.  They also have shown their diversity and that is why they have been around in various bands and different genre’s.

Tommy Bolan was part of “Warlock” and then joined the solo band of “Black N Blue” vocalist Jamie St. James, which in the end became “Freight Train Jane”. “Mitch Perry” was the first choice however he was unavailable. Then Tommy Bolan auditioned and St.James had his “guitar guy”.

The band got together around 1991 as the ad for the “D’Addario” strings shows. The album “Hallucination” didn’t come out until 1994 and it did nothing.

Everyone is quick to blame “Grunge” however the decline of glam rock and hard rock bands has a lot to do with the songs and their messages just didn’t connect with the new generation of kids. For example, “You” from the album is great song musically but lame vocally. And when you compare it to another song called “You” from Candlebox, you would understand why connected and one didn’t. Tommy Bolan for all of his talent has been hit and miss. His most recent execursion was an instructional video/book out called “Metal Primer”.

This is one person that should have achieved more however for some reason didn’t.

Valentine started with Adam Holland (guitarist), Craig Pullman (keyboardist) and Gerard Zappa (bassist) in 1986. Once all the other band members joined they moved to LA and did some demos. Columbia Records came knocking only to see a record label re-shuffle put the band in a tough position which then turned out okay as their original A&R rep took the band with him to Giant Records who then released Valentine’s debut CD in 1990.

They they became Open Skyz, a new label deal with RCA eventuated and another self-titled album came out in 1993. Another label re-organisation meant no label and compounded with fatigue after almost a decade of music industry ups and downs, they called it a day.

However they have all remained in the music business and to this day continue to have a career in the music business. A new album called “Soul Salvation” came out in 2008 after a positive response to their Firefest appearance. Adam Holland is also the guitarist in the Steve Augeri Band (former Journey lead vocalist).

Blackeyed Susan had Dizzy Dean Davidson on vocals/guitar, Rick Criniti on guitar and Tony Santoro (RIP) also on guitar. Critini and Santoro both did time together in the band “Rage” while Dizzy Dean Davidson was fresh from his “Britny Fox” stint. Criniti also worked as a live keyboardist for Cinderella.   This band was talented and they had pedigree, however it wasn’t to be. The band split after their label Mercury pulled the plug and stopped the touring support dollars from filtering down in late 1991. However all three have had a career in the music business that lasted decades, even Santoro until his untimely death at 40 due to a heart attack.

Tristan and Matt Prudoehl I haven’t even heard off. Not back then and not now. Probably a reason why they failed to have a music career.

 

Advertisements
Standard
Music, My Stories

The Game Of Rock Stars Claimed Vito Bratta

“I didn’t like them, and they didn’t like me!” said White Lion’s guitarist Vito Bratta as he tried to explain why bassist James Lomenzo and drummer Greg D’Angelo abruptly left the band at the end of their European tour.

“We didn’t fight – it was like me and Mike were a separate band from the two of them.”

Within four days they had recruited bass player Tommy T-Bone’ Caradonna – a veteran of Lita Ford and Alice Cooper’s backing bands – and drummer Jimmy DeGrasso, formerly with Y&T.

“The way it is now,” Vito said excitedly, “there’s so much attitude it’s scary to me.” 

The above was printed in the Hot Metal September 1991 issue.

When White Lion departed with bassist James Lomenzo and drummer Greg D’Angleo in 1991, a lot of people saw it as the end for the band.

A change was coming in the musical climate.

The record labels didn’t have no moral obligation to keep their hard rock rosters in tact. The only obligation they have is to the shareholders and their bottom line.

So with every major label signing bands from Seattle, the poor old hard rock bands that made the labels billions over the last 10 years suddenly disappeared. White Lion was one of them. The label never dropped them, however in my mind they would have dropped them eventually if the band stayed together.

White Lion finished up because Vito Bratta became conflicted. Disillusioned.

The recording business in 1989 was not interested in originality or allowing artists free reign in the song writing process, even though it would have made the record label more money in the long-term. The recording business only cared about short-term income and total control. So you have two entities trying to do business with each other and of course, their goals are not aligned.

Vito was never afraid to make observations about the bands exploding on the scene. He made various comments in Guitar magazines and rock magazines, about the sad state of guitar playing and how the song ceased to matter.

Vito wanted longevity and he didn’t like how White Lion was seen as part of the same movement of bands that he was commenting about. He was an artist competing in a game of rock stars. He was an artist competing in a game of profits. With each game, there is a winner and a loser.

By 1991, every artist needed a hit to get recognition. The album format was already dead due to MTV playing the “HIT” video. If a band had a hit single then people were interested in buying the album to see what that band is all about. This is Vito’s disillusionment. When he made an appearance on the Eddie Trunk show, he said words to the effect like “how do you write a hit single” when he was talking about Big Game, the following up to Pride.

Vito should have trusted himself and pushed the songs that connect with him. We are drawn to emotion. We all want to be touched. Trust your heart. White Lion was never a band that played the singles game, however the industry forced them into it and their main musical songwriter started to second guess himself.

Standard
Alternate Reality, Music, My Stories

Cold Case – Connecting The Dots With Motley Crue And It’s Vocalist Problem.

“MOTLEY STILL SINGERLESS” is the headline from a news break item that did the rounds in an issue of Hot Metal from June 1992.

For everyone that had a vested interest in hard rock music knows, Motley Crue and Vince Neil parted ways in February 1992. The actual argument took place on February 11, 1992, with Motley Crue issuing the official statement on Neil’s departure on February 14, 1992.

Now from all evidence, it looks like the band started working with John Corabi immediately, from as earliest as February 17, 1992, however it wasn’t until September 27, 1992, that John Corabi officially signed a contract to be Motley Crue’s new lead vocalist. The below is from the June 1992, Hot Metal magazine and it is an update from Walt Woodward III (RIP);

In a conversation with Walt Woodward III, drummer with much touted and Hot Metal-approved The Scream, we just had to ask what exactly was going on with the band’s singer John Corabi? It seemed to those on the outside that just as The Scream was about to explode Down Under, John Corabi was gonna bail for Da Crue.

Well, as of April 15th no confirmation had been made. Says the very friendly Walt, “We’ve just finished recording a song with John. It’s for [MTV comedian] Paulie Shaw’s new movie Encino Man. Sure, Motley Crue are really interested in John. He’s been writing with them, and whether the songs end up on our album or the Crue’s is yet to be seen.”

Walt went on to explain that he was a big fan of dedication. Y’see, since becoming The Scream, John Corabi, Walt, Bruce Bouillet and John Alderette”…had really grown together, become good friends. I would hope that dedication would win through.”

If John was to bail from The Scream though, things would definitely go on. Says Walt, “We’ve all talked about it and if John did leave I can honestly say that there’s a couple of cool cats out there who’ve rung us up and will definitely blow some people away.”

The above is interesting for two reasons. As far as the guys in “The Scream” where concerned, the songs that John Corabi was working on, could have ended up on a Motley Crue album or a new Scream album. That would mean that even though John Corabi was working with Motley Crue, he was still technically or legally in The Scream.

This also goes against Nikki Sixx’s viewpoint on the matter that John Corabi was the only guy on the scene. The comments from Walt Woodward, gives some street cred to Sebastian Bach’s claim that he did in fact audition, as it was almost seven months from when Vince Neil left to when Motley Crue officially announced John Corabi as the replacement. The other vocalists that also auditioned are Stevie Rachelle from the band Tuff, Marq Torien from the band Bullet Boys and Stephen Shareaux from the band Kik Tracee.

Now if Sebastian Bach did audition in 1992, it would have had to have been between February 1992 and September 1992. Due to the fact that John Corabi had to wait until September to be officially recognised as the lead singer, it points to one thing; some reservations existed within the Motley Crue circle of managers, record label reps and road crew if John Corabi was the right man.

During the period December, 1991 and June 22, 1992, Skid Row was touring the U.S. Plenty of free days in between to tee up an audition.

From July 8, 1992 to August 11, 1992, Skid Row did a South American tour and wrapped up the month of August with an appearance at Castle Donnington in the U.K. Again, plenty of time to fit in an audition after the tour ended.

Skid Row didn’t hit the road again until October 1992 for a small Japanese tour and then they wrapped up the “Slave To The Grind” cycle, by supporting Guns N Roses on their “Use Your Illusion” Australian tour from January 30, 1993 to February 6, 1993. Of course by the time this cycle completed, Sebastian Bach had committed to Skid Row.

It is not uncommon for different theories to emerge when band members are replaced. Even Dream Theater got caught up in it, when the stories came out that Marco Minnemann got the Dream Theater drummer spot when Mike Portnoy left. That is why on the videos of the drummer audition that came out, you don’t see footage of Dream Theater telling Minnemann that he didn’t get the gig, however there was footage of when they told all the other drummers that auditioned they didn’t get the gig.

By connecting the dots, Marco Minnemann got the gig and then turned it down when he was told he needed to relocate to the other side of America.

Standard
Copyright, Music, My Stories

Danny Stag – Guitar World – September 1989

The interview below (in italics) appeared in the September 1989 issue of Guitar World.  It was written by Brad Tolinski.

Kingdom Come lead guitarist Danny Stag speaks with the humility of a man who knows he’s been blessed. ‘”It was a mind blower” he says, describing last summers’ Monsters Of Rock tour.   “Our U.S. debut was in front of 40,000 people.  Some bands only get to do that a couple of times in their whole careers, and many never get that chance at all.  We did a whole tour to those numbers.” 

We got short changed in Australia.  We never got these mega bills of super star bands.  I remember buying Circus, Metal Edge and Hit Parader and reading about the Monsters of Rock tour.  It had Kingdom Come opening, followed by Metallica, then Dokken, then Scorpions and the mighty Van Halen headlining.  Kingdom Come formed in 1987, taking musicians from various other rock groups that were paying their dues on the club circuit.  By 1988 they had gone multi-platinum with their debut and are playing to 40,000 people. It was this kind of ride to the top, that a lot of kids expected to happen to them once they formed bands.   When it didn’t happen within one to two years, they would call it quits.  

On the tour with Stag were some of rock s most lauded guitarists, including the legendary Edward Van Halen. When asked whether he found such fast company intimidating, Stag launches into an illuminating examination of his roots.  “I realized that I was the only a blues based player,” he says. “Rather than competing, I was playing in my own ball game. My tastes run more towards Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Jimi Hendrix.  People don’t usually think of Hendrix as a blues traditionalist, but I feel he was one of the masters, maybe the ultimate.” 

As an aspiring guitarist, this is what I wanted to read.  Who influenced the people that are influencing me?  Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Willie Dixon.  Back in 1989, I had never heard of those players.  There is that name again Jimi Hendrix.  His name just kept on popping up in interviews from the Eighties.   

Although one wouldn’t immediately detect the Mississippi Delta in the arena rock anthems of Kingdom Come, interludes like the funky acoustic intro to “Highway 6,” off their latest, In Your Face, suggest a refreshing depth and sense of history.  Stag is pleasantly forthright and even passionate about his music and his influences. However, he makes only brief mention of the band Kingdom Come is most often compared to Led Zeppelin.  How valid does Stag see those comparisons to be?

“I must admit, I used to scratch my head in disbelief when people compared me to Page.  He was an influence, but not a big one.  I really liked Zeppelin’s first two albums, but I didn’t care that much for what followed.  I think younger people are missing the Hendrix part of my playing because they aren’t as familiar with him as they are with Page.” 

“This Led Zeppelin/Kingdom Come comparison has been blown way out of proportion. Some of it comes from the way Lenny (Wolf, Kingdom Come’s vocalist) sings, but if you listen to Lenny and Robert Plant back-to-back you’ll find they don’t sound anything a like.  Plant’s voice has completely different tonal qualities.  Maybe we come out sounding like Zeppelin when everything is mixed with our drummer, who plays a monster back beat.  It’s hard to escape the fact that Zeppelin created certain hard-rock conventions that every band uses.” 

“But you could accuse Hendrix of ripping off Muddy Waters,” says Stag with increasing irritation. “Voodoo Chile is a lot like Water’s (I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man.  The Beatles were influenced by Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers.  The difference is, the Beatles and Hendrix did variations on the music they loved and their influences were more like tributes. Paying respect to your musical forefathers is part of a long tradition.   Ex-Zepsters Page, Plant and John Paul Jones, who’ve been openly hostile to bands like Kingdom Come and Whitesnake, should perhaps re-examine the condition of their glass houses.  It’s fairly common knowledge that Led Zeppelin brazenly borrowed, almost note-for-note, several Chess-label classics.”

“Whole Lotta Love, one of their biggest hits, was proven in a court of law to have been taken directly—without permission or subsequent knowledge—from a Willie Dixon tune.  After I read an interview with Page where he accused me of stealing from him, I wanted to do a solo album and call it Houses of The Bitter.  I’d record Whole Lotta Love, I Can’t Quit You and You Shook Me and write in huge letters who really wrote those tunes.  To be influenced like we’ve been is one thing, but to steal songs without acknowledgement is another.”

“I don’t know.  Maybe some of the bad blood started when a journalist misquoted me.  This guy told Page that I claimed to never having heard Led Zeppelin.  That’s obviously absurd and Jimmy would have a right to feel ticked off.”

Back in September 1989, this was a shock to read.  Led Zeppelin borrowing songs from other artists and passing it off as their own.  These days, I am older and wiser, but back then I was green.  They even stole the intro riff to Stairway To Heaven and failed to acknowledge it.  I have said it many times, musicians are the sum of their influences.  No music is created in a vacuum.  Kingdom Come is very similar to the hard rock version of Led Zeppelin and they hit pay dirt with that similarity.  The audience wanted Led Zeppelin to be around.  Since Led Zep was not around, other bands stepped up like Whitesnake and Kingdom Come to fill the void.  The audience lapped it up, sending these bands to the top of the charts.   

Stag sounds defensive but he doesn’t need to be.  His manic, hormonally charged soloing, aggressive pick attack and tightly would vibrato remain distinctive whether filtered through a single coil Strat pick up, a fat sounding Les Paul or a plain old acoustic Martin. 

“I never work out solos,” says Stag.  “I just wait til I’m inspired.  Then I have the engineers crank the music real loud in the control room and I go for it.  I just shut my eyes and improvise.  It’s like a short burst of emotion.  When you want to comment on something, you use the words available to you in your vocabulary.  Soloing is like that with me.  I’m commenting on what’s happening musically by reaching into my built up musical vocabulary of licks and scales and use whatever is relevant.  I don’t worry about how it’s going to work, it’s just a feel thing.”  

I used to read the comments from guitarists who said they never worked their solos out with a grain of salt.  My idol Randy Rhoads worked his solo’s out and he created masterpieces, Vito Bratta the same.  Solos are meant to add to the song.  This is what guitarists forgot towards the late eighties.  In saying that, Stag’s leads where good on the ear.  By having a musical vocabulary, he had that knowledge to work out the solos on the fly. 

To translate that feeling in the studio, Stag uses a 1962 Stratocaster with a bridge-position humbucker, in tandem with a 50-watt Marshall head. All of Stag’s Stage effects are by T.C. Electronics.  “My system is pretty simple. The 2290 has five effects loops, and they’re completely programmable.  Most of the time I just use a little delay panned so that two of my cabinets are dry and two are wet. I keep the dry cabinets so I never lose punch.  I have some parametric eq’s, but I only use them on one song and a couple of solos.  They help emphasize my single-coil sound.”

How minimal the set up?  That is what Rock N Roll is all about.  Plug the guitar into the amp, turn it up and bash away.  These days, the guitar rigs are a plethora of schematics. 

Now that Kingdom Come has comfortably settled into star status, what does the future hold for Stag?  
“I’d like to experiment more with sound, like the weird stuff Hendrix was doing on Axis: Bold As Love. I don’t really think you lose your identity when you change tone or pickups; it’s what ‘s under the fingers. You could tell it was Hendrix whether he was playing clean or whether his sound was balls-to-the wall.  Having sound is everything, but having a sound is not.  Kingdom Come is close to taking its place alongside the great bands.  We’re like a Deep Purple, a Rainbow or a Led Zeppelin. We might not be as original as those guys were in their time, but we have that kind of musicianship. We’ve got the depth.”

The interview appeared in the September 1989 Guitar World issue.  It was obviously done around April / May 1989 when the In Your Face album was released.  Kingdom Come called it quits in August 1989.  So by the time the magazine hit the newsstands, Kingdom Come was no more.  They left us with two magical albums.  In Your Face is a very under rated album and it deserves more attention than what it got.  However that is for another day.     

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

C.C. DeVille Guitar World – September 1989 and Persistence (Quitters Never Win and Winners Never Quit)

GW – What was the best piece of advice ever given to you as a guitar player?
“Be your own man,” which carries into every aspect of life. Listen to other people, but realize your opinion counts as well. There’s always someone to tell you how bad you are, but not always someone to tell you how good you are. So you have to depend on yourself not to quit. In the words of Body By Jake Steinfeld, “Quitters never win and winners never quit.” Remember, rock n roll was invented for people who can’t play regular music.

Learn from others, but never forget who you are.  Don’t let the haters win.  As pointed out by C.C. there will always be someone there to tell you how bad you are.  C.C. is a perfect example.  The Shrapnel Guitarist Elite dished him.  Why? It’s because he made to multi platinum status and they didn’t.  Rock N Roll was always meant for the outcasts, the ones that where not professional and did not practice 15 hours a day.

GW – What would you like your epitaph to read?
My epitaph would read: “Here lies the music worlds best kept secret.” When I go to bed at night I’m very hurt that people consider us a joke band. We concentrate on writing good pop songs, so I have to be careful not to overplay. I guess one of these days I’ll have to sink to the level of playing a “jack off” solo featuring hammer on pyrotechnics and flying whammy bars. Ain’t Nothing But A Good Time is a brilliant summer song with a good solo. It fits the song very well. That’s what I’m preoccupied with, rather than showing off.

It’s okay to show emotion, to feel hurt when people dish on you.  That is expected behaviour.  Pretending to be fine is fake behaviour.  The gospel is above, CONCENTRATE on writing good songs, play for the song, not for the hype.

GW – Pick the C.C. DeVille “Dead or Alive Dream Band” excluding members of Poison?
John Bonham on drums, obviously. Paul McCartney on bass, because he’d help me write some great songs. I’d live to hear Paul Rogers on vocals and Max Middleton from the old Jeff Beck Group on keys. Jeez, what a weird combination of people. You probably couldn’t even get a jam going, but somehow mentally it works for me.  T
o tell you the truth, I quit thinking about ultimate bands because synergy in rock is a strange thing. Superhero bands like Blind Faith and Asia never seem to work out. On the other hand you can put together several average musicians and create something special.  Hell we did our first album in 12 days!  It was raw, but there was a chemistry that people seemed to like, and that’s all that matters.

David Coverdale has played with a lot of musicians, but when John Sykes came into the picture, they created hard rock, blues rock / metal history with the Whitesnake 1987 album.  Coverdale then wrote Slip of The Tongue with Adrian Vanderberg and got Steve Vai to play it, however he never got the same magic, and within 18 months Whitesnake was no more.   That synergy is like lightning in a bottle.  The Beatles where four average musicians that created something special, Sabbath was the same, Deep Purple and the list goes on.  Ritchie Blackmore found that synergy again with Rainbow, however once Dio left it was all downhill from there.  You never know with whom you will have chemistry with.

Standard
Music, My Stories

C.C. DeVille – Guitar World September 1989 – Part 1

The below article (which I have re-typed in italics) was written by Brad Tolinski and it appeared in the Guitar World issue of September 1989.  

When Poison colleague Bret Michaels was asked to suggest an appropriate alternative career for the flamboyant C.C. DeVille, he immediately replied: “C.C. is obnoxious, so he’d be a great game show host.”

C.C. DeVille, I remember was the winner of the Worst Guitarist Polls in the Guitar mags back in the late eighties and early nineties.  When guitar playing got exposure via Shrapnell Records,  a new audience niche was born.  I called that niche, the Guitarist Elite.  This new niche hated guitarists like Mick Mars, C.C. DeVille, Scotti Hill, and many others from successful hard rock bands, as they where too sloppy and too safe (always referring to the Pentatonic scale).  The funny thing here is that this same elite revered Ace Frehley, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and other players that also had strong roots with the Pentatonic scale.

GW – Who are your favorite guitar players?
Jimmy Page.  Not because he’s trendy at the moment, but because when I was eighteen I thought he sucked.  I had to mature as a player to really appreciate him.  Youth never understands nuance or phrasing.  I initially hated all the great guitarists. The local players would say, “Dude, listen to this.”  They’d play some Page or Hendrix, but I wasn’t able to comprehend it.  I wanted to hear speed.  When you’re young you approach things from a different perspective.  There’s peer pressure to always burn and your emotional thing isn’t very developed.

I will admit that when i was starting off, I couldn’t get into Hendrix and Page.  Growing up in the Eighties, I loved the hard rock / glam scene.  At that time it was all about Warren DeMartini, Randy Rhoads, George Lynch, Eddie Van Halen, Mick Mars, Yngwie Malmsteen, John Sykes and David Mustaine (I actually like Megadeth first before i liked Metallica, and that was courtesy of Mega).   I didn’t get into Page and Hendrix until 1993.  That was when the Labels abandoned the eighties scene in favour of grunge.  I took that as a cue to delve deeper into the Seventies.

My next major influence would have to be Jeff Beck.  “Because We Ended As Lovers” off Blow By Blow is the pinnacle of confidence on a guitar.  It’s a brilliant example of the guitar as an emotional medium.

To be honest, C.C. is spot on here.  Jeff Beck’s Blow By Blow album was another album that I explored in the nineties.  I remember reading a lot of interviews from Slash, where he talks the world of Jeff Beck.  Then he appears on Blaze Of Glory from Jon Bon Jovi.  Then he was set to appear with Guns N Roses on the song Locomotive, but didn’t because of a cymbal crash sending him partially deaf for a while.   I was interested and i wasn’t disappointed.  Try telling a current Metalcore guitarist that can sweep over eight strings and play a million tapped notes a minute to go and give Jeff Beck a listen.

Jimi Hendrix was amazing because he destroyed all conventional knowledge of what it meant to play guitar.  We all tend to play it safe.  If someone says a song is in A, we immediately jump to a familiar scale in that key.  Hendrix didn’t think that way, he just followed his own vision.  My favorite cut by him is Little Wing.

Again, my nineties “Seventies Boot Camp” began with Jimmy Page.  Hendrix was next.  Clapton was third.  Beck was fourth.  Tommy Bolin was fifth.  Paul Kossoff was sixth.  I was already aware of Richie Blackmore, Tony Iommi and Ace Frehley.  They where the big three for me originally.  Now it involves so many other great guitarists/songwriters like Steve Lukather from Toto, Ted Nugent, Neal Schon, Carlos Santana, Larry Carlton, Al DiMeola, John McLaughlin and so many other’s.

I first heard Little Wing when Skid Row covered it.  Then I heard Stevie Ray Vaughan’s version.  I liked the little differences between each.  Nothing can compare to Hendrix’s version.  Even the vocal line is sorrowful.  You can feel the sadness and the hope all rolled into one.

If guitar playing has turned into an athletic event, then Eddie Van Halen is the Olympic champion – he lit the flame.  Speed is a great thing to have when you need it and something I’m always trying hard to develop, but Edward is the master at using it properly.  You’d have to be a fool to deny his influence  on every rock player in this decade.  Eddie saved Rock N Roll.  In 1979 music was starting to head towards synthesizers and skinny ties, and Van Halen came out and made it very chic to play guitar.  He’s still the greatest.  You hear kids saying he’s not good anymore, but they can’t appreciate what a good songwriter he’s turned into.

This is true.  Rock N Roll was always in the scene, buried with the coming of disco and ignored with the movement into new wave.  Van Halen made it cool again to be a rock band.  They had the stiff middle finger raised and we all wanted to be part of that attitude.  They paved the way for the eighties destruction that was too come.

Another major influence was a guy named Lee Pickens who played with a band called Bloodrock in the early Seventies.  He was way ahead of his time.  It was lucky for me that my brother bought their record or I would  have never known about him.  My favorite track was something called Cheater.  One of the greatest solos of all time.

This is what we want as fans.  Musicians telling us their influences.  Cheater was on the second Bloodrock album.  From the 5.10 mark, Lee lets it burn.  Its melodic and its brilliant.  The cowboy style yeahs, just add to the climax.  Its the like the end of the world.  Apocalypse will happen when the song is over.  Check it out.  Just click on Cheater.

As I get older I understand that the guitar is not about showing off, it’s a conduit for emotion.  I’m a stylist, not a size of your penis type player.  Playing guitar is about music, it’s not a contest.

The Nineties made me re-evaluate what it is to be a guitar player.  When i started playing in the mid 80’s my main focus was rhythm.  Then when i picked up the Randy Rhoads Tribute album, my focus initially was on the wonderful RR riffs.  Then i started to delve into the leads.  The Nineties was a time with no bass player.  Due to that I had to adapt the way i write riffs so that i always had a bass note running, so that when we jammed a song, it sounded complete.  So the solo breaks ended up turning into riff driven breakdowns.

 

Standard
A to Z of Making It, Music

Nuno Bettencourt – Guitar World, September 1989

The article was written by Andrew Hearst, and it appeared on page 17 of the September 1989, Guitar World Issue.

“Be sincere.  Whatever you do.  If its Lawrence Welk you’re into or if its Eddie Van Halen, just be honest about it and love what you’re doing.”   Words of wisdom from Nuno Bettencourt, guitarist for Extreme, a Boston – based hard rock band whose self titled debut album was recently released on A&M Records.

A guitarist speaking his mind.  How many people speak their minds these days?  Not a lot, and if they do, they are scared of the haters.  Well guess what, if you seek the limelight, there will always be haters.  Remember, not everyone will love you, but your audience will.  If you love what you are doing, the audience will be able to feel it, they will be able to relate.  Your fans are not stupid, they will know if you are faking it.  Like when Def Leppard delivered Slang, or Motley Crue delivered Generation Swine, or Bon Jovi delivered What About Now or Metallica with Load and ReLoad.  We know that these albums are about chasing some fools gold, chasing an idea implanted in the musicians head by a manager, an agent or a producer.  That is why the people didn’t respond.

Extreme’s first album was produced by the super experienced Reinhold Mack, aka Mack.  His resume is a list of who’s who of classic albums.  Some of my all time favorite albums like Scorpions – Fly to the Rainbow, Deep Purple – Stormbringer, Deep Purple – Come Taste the Band, David Coverdale – White Snake and most of the ELO and Queen albums from 1975 to the mid 80’s had Mack involved, either as sound engineer or as a producer.

Born in Portugal 22 years ago, Bettencourt moved to Boston with his family when he was four.  As a freshman in high school he heard Edward Van Halen and was inspired to pick up the instrument.  Soon he was playing covers and originals in a succession of casual local groups; he calls Extreme his “first really serious band”.

Back in the eighties, bands normally were formed, they would chop and change musicians until within a few months a stable line up was confirmed.  It was expected that once you had a stable line up, you would start to play shows, build an audience and write killer songs.  By doing that, you are creating a buzz, and with that buzz, the good old Mr Record Man Gatekeeper, would come along and make you famous.  What no one told these poor suckers, is that the good old Mr Record Man Gatekeeper will also make them sign contracts that where far from fair for the band.   To put this into context, Extreme, were formed in 1985, signed in 1987, assigned to work with a master producer in Mack so that they develop their songs and sound and their first album hit the streets in 1989.  That is what bands expected in those days.

It doesn’t happen like this anymore.  Labels in the old sense do not exist.  They do not spend money on artist development anymore.  Why? Wall Street.  Labels need to answer to a board of directors and shareholders.  Their memo is to make money, not waste money on artist and development.  Remember Warner Music is going into business with Kickstarter.

“The biggest lack in eighties’ guitar playing is rhythm,” he says.  “There’s a whole other three minutes of a song to be enjoyed.  I love playing solos, but there’s a time and place for that.  There’s a whole other world out there to play with and people are missing it.”

Such balls.  Here is a new up and comer hot-shot guitarist and he is blasting 80’s guitar playing.  To be honest, he is not wrong.  I cannot list the amount of albums i purchased where the songs are lame as, however the guitar solo spot is a song within a song.  Keel is one band that comes to mind.  Yeah they had a few good songs on each album, however the rest of the songs where shite with good solo spots.  MacAlpine is another.  This was Tony’s attempt at having a vocal oriented band around his guitar playing.  The only problem is, you need to have the songs to make it work, not just the guitar solos.  He did it well with Project Driver (the supergroup featuring Rob Rock, Tommy Aldridge and Rudy Sarzo), however that was with more accomplished musicians.   Not a lot of people show balls these days.  We all want to be loved, even by the people who only like to hate.

Extreme headlined a scheduled 15 city club tour in April and May.  The group now hopes to land the opening spot on an arena tour.  “We just want a fair shake,” says Bettencourt.

That is what every band wanted back in the day.  Their careers where in the hands of the people who controlled them behind the scenes.  The label, the manager, the booking agent and so on.  They had to rely on all of the above to get a fair shake.  Seriously how fair was that shake to begin with.  All of the above mentioned people, take a generous cut from what the band makes.

These days, the fair shake is up to you.  You determine how high or how low your career goes.  You determine your definition of success.  Adam Duce got fired from Machine Head, because his heart wasn’t in it anymore.  His definition of success was different to what Robb Flynn’s was.  He felt like he toiled for over 25 years and still hadn’t made.  He wanted to be like Metallica.  But there is only one Metallica.  And since he wasn’t as famous as them, he didn’t see the point in continuing.

Standard