Bio: The band for “Resurrection” isn’t a band per se. I was fortunate to have several guest musicians help me complete the record. Andy DeLuca, the bassist for the entire album, added very interesting and tasteful technical sections to the bass tracks and always kept the low end locked in. Jason Bittner (Shadows Fall, Anthrax) blazed through three of the more “metal” songs on the record. Matt Garstka (Animals as Leaders) played on four songs and did a great job of building intensity while maintaining the groove. Mark Zonder (Fates Warning, Warlord) played on one track, “Let Them Fall”. The song has lots of odd meters and a very progressive arrangement. Mark’s amazingly complex yet grooving style really drives the song. I also have guitarists Mike Abdow and Oli Herbert (All That Remains) guesting on “Spine”. What I like about that song is how the ideas from each player musically morph into each other. I begin with phrases that are blues & jazz influenced, playing off the 11/8 groove. Mike gradually takes things into more melodic territory and Oli finishes with a perfectly composed and very tasteful solo.
Genre: I started playing in local bands as soon as I was able to, playing cover songs and original music. I quickly learned that when you’re in a group, especially doing original material, compromising during the creative process and playing what’s best for the group is sometimes part of the gig. So I started doing instrumental demos in my spare time to explore ideas that didn’t “fit” with my vocal bands. Recording the demos became so gratifying that eventually, I decided the best use of my time was to go instrumental full time.
Initial musical and thematic elements: I always begin constructing songs by improvising rhythm guitar riffs to a drum beat. I have a pretty extensive library of MIDI drum patterns, grooves that I’ve transcribed from my favorite drummers and loops from “player pack” libraries, that I run through EZ Drummer. Once I have at least two riffs that I feel function as strong A and B sections for a song, I start experimenting with drum, meter and key variations of those A and B riffs. This process gives me at least four strong ideas that I can begin arranging into a song structure. At this point the song starts telling me where it wants to go; maybe more or less riffs are necessary, perhaps a key or meter change is needed, a different drum groove, etc.
Once the rhythm guitar arrangement & drum parts feel right I begin improvising instrumental melodies that, if I were writing a vocal song, would fit into where the verses and choruses would occur in the song structure. After the melodies are set, then the bass line is added. I like bass parts that both lock into the groove as well as have melodic flair to them.
At this point I have a clear idea of where the solos belong. When working out the solos I improvise ideas until I start finding a direction I want to take. Once the direction becomes clear I start developing the initial improvised ideas more fully, adding or subtracting ideas from the melodic and technical parts until I have something that feels like a good fit for the song and is fun to play.
Ideas about the album: Keith Merrow’s post production and mix are very polished and crisp. I’m also very proud of the performances of the guest musicians on the record.
Because “Resurrection” is my re-introduction to the instrumental genre, the standard for what it meant to be “finished” with the record was set very high. If a performance sounded questionable, it had to be re-recorded. If a song wasn’t working, it had to be rewritten or scrapped. I’m very satisfied with the record and I wouldn’t have done anything differently.
Reception: The reception has been strong! My goal when writing the record was to merge my favorite styles of metal songwriting with a melodic and technical lead guitar style. When a listener hears the songs they easily recognize traditional metal, progressive, and modern hard rock influences. Because of that stylistic familiarity the response to “Resurrection” has been very strong not only from instrumental guitar fans, but also fans of metal in general. “Resurrection” will make you bang your head, pump your fist, and speed in your car just as much as any CD with vocals.
Preference; live or studio: That’s a tough choice. In a live setting the amp is loud and you feel the sound physically pulsing through you, you’re locked in and burning through your parts and if you’re lucky, the crowd is invested and giving back some energy . In the studio when you hear the playback and you’re proud of the take, that’s an indescribable rush of satisfaction and pride.
Next step; live or studio: It’s very tough to gig an instrumental record in the United States. So I’m focusing on teaching clinics in retail stores and/or master classes at music camps and independent music lesson studios. Clinics are great because you’re in front of your target audience, a room of guitar playing fanatics! I also keep active on my YouTube channel, updating it regularly with lessons and song play throughs. I would like to work in a band project with vocals if the right opportunity presents itself.
Future plans: The future is looking bright and promising! I see more instrumental releases in the future and hopefully a vocal oriented project at some point. I want to keep improving as a musician and a guitarist and also get more into engineering and production.
Themes and concepts: The themes of the songs are abstract since I’m not bound by lyrical content. My songs have an edge and intensity, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re angry. A listener could easily take the music in as an expression of darkness because of the aggressive rhythmic patterns and mostly minor scale melodies. But another listener could hear it as the soundtrack to a day where you are out on the town and feeling like a badass, like you’re James Bond.
I make time to play guitar at the end of every day. And I mean playing for enjoyment. Not practicing or thinking about technique & music theory, just time spent listening to the beautiful sound of a distorted guitar through a loud amplifier. When I’m playing and an idea that I like finds me, I catalog it by either recording it or writing it out. That becomes the starting point for building a song.
Composers: I compose and arrange the material, often with fairly detailed drum machine programs and bass lines. The scratch drum and bass parts I send to the musicians as demos are pretty close to what I want for the final product. But those ideas would never have come come alive in the same way if I wasn’t open to any changes suggested by the other musicians that naturally developed through the learning and interpretation of my original ideas.
Inspirations: I have my lead guitar influences: George Lynch, Paul Gilbert, Derek Taylor. My rhythm guitar influences: Chuck Shuldiner, Dimebag Darrell, Jeff Loomis. And my songwriting influences: Sevendust, Disturbed, Alice In Chains, and Fates Warning.
Preference; cater to the audience or music for its own sake: It’s most important to me to let the music go where it wants to. Songs always seem to tell me how they want to be composed as long as I’m listening to what they’re trying to say. That said, I would never allow a polka breakdown in the middle of an instrumental tune, no matter how much the song might tell me it wants one.
Greatest Accomplishment: “Resurrection” is my greatest accomplishment . . . the playing, the production, the artwork . . . I couldn’t be happier!
Anything else? Thanks to all who check out my music and support the instrumental guitar genre through legally purchasing and downloading my shred guitar music, buying my CD’s in the shops and through mail order, and interacting with me through social media!