Sept 24, 2013: Scott Olson from Seymour Duncan is hooking me up with pick ups to both of my Ibanez guitars (RG1570 AND 3120). I’m not sure it’s an actual endorsement, but I am in love with SO and SD. We’re having a baby in June.
It’s pretty cool, James Ryan is also hooked up. And Dean Wells from Teramaze (who lives right down the street from me) is also hooked up. WILD!!
Nov 13, 2013: Today my black RG1570 was outfitted with Seymour Duncan pickups; JB Trembucker, Classic Stack Plus for Strat, and Custom 5.
In 1989 these amp heads were $500 from Guitar Center, and worth every penny. Footswitch controlled clean – dirty, reverb, and chorus.
SINISTER SAM: Scot and I had the exact set up: Ibanez guitars, EMG 81 pick ups in bridge AND neck, plugged straight into the Ampeg SS140Chalf stack. This was just after Pantera’s Cowboys from Hell came out, and we were looking for a sound that could cater to muted rhythms (a la mesa boogie) and which also had enough gain for leads, and this amp had both. It also had cleans (with chorus) that were extremely close to the Roland Jazz Chorus.
We were using the Marshall Artist 30 watt head, which we bought together (we were still in high school). As soon as these Ampegs came out, we were hooked. We ended up owning two each. Amp colors came in blue, then black.
Wanna hear what it sounded like recorded? Well, hear ya go (recorded at Prairie Sun Studios in Cotati, California. The lead tones in the beginning were played through the amp with Scot’s intellifex lead patch, chorus, delay, and reverb. Rhythm tracks were one each, panned hard left and right, played live through halfs stacks).
Same song live: (our rigs were the same as the recorded version – Scot had intellifex, I used head’s reverb for solos)
Live, our singer Gary was hellbent that we put some mids in there, so onstage it was always a battle; he’d walk over and put our mids at 11 o’clock, we’d walk over and put therm back to zero. This went on at every gig (along with the sermons on how important mids were). I can appreciate mids and tube amps now, back then? Not a chance. This was djent before djent was around.
And lastly, at rehearsal (pre intellifex)
I still own mine, I think. It’s at Luke Walton’s joint, I should ask..
And to the Ampeg people responsible for making this 130 watt gem; I love you!! Never had a problem with the amp, could drop it out of a plane and the fucker would still work. We used it for years and years with no complaints, and Scott and I loved our metal tone and were extremely content.
Ace Frehley got me into lead guitar. It didn’t hurt that he looked bad ass!! (yes, I know you don’t hear with your eyes, but I was TEN!!)
I believe I bought Double Platinum and Love Gun on the same day. I’m a bit bummed that I showed up to the party late, but at least I got there.
The first time I heard two handed tapping on guitar wasn’t Eruption, oh no. It was Ace’s solo on Alive II. In the 70’s KISS were absolutely at their zenith in terms of everything. Yeah, Gene may have fucked up the brand by putting their name on every single thing under the sun, but what can you do? I owned about roughly 15 of their albums, bought the KISS dolls (well, mom did as a XMas gift back in the day), and one year I was Peter Criss for Halloween. Yeah, Peter. But that was my drum phase. As a ten year old, I didn’t know they were average players. I was more into enjoying music and not worrying about what technical level these dudes were at as players. I even taped Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park on audio tape!! We didn’t even have a fucking VCR in ’78!!
My favorite albums would be Hotter Than Hell, Dressed to Kill, Destroyer, and Rock and Roll Over. That artwork is straight up bad ass. I think I was totally done after Animalize. I do, however like The Oath off of Music from The Elder. What a putrid time for them.
Obviously I love the Ace solo album, just like most people with ears. I’m glad Ace cranked that out, as I see Gene being a bit of a dick. Gene’s solo album was pretty shit, if you ask me. My wife screams whenever she hears When You Wish Upon a Star. I laugh my ass off. I will say, as much of a douche as Gene is, I do like his bass playing. I think he writes good bass lines that are pretty musical, so hats off to him there.
Favorite era costume? Probably Destroyer or Love Gun. Although with Love Gun, it’s like he had a touring suit and a photo op suit. I like the real silver suit. I’d like to know the story behind that. So yeah, most likely getting Ace Frehley solo album portrait as a tattoo at the end of ’14. I was gonna get Zappa, but I know a mad ass tattooist that will knock it out in no time. And he loves KISS, so why not? I’ll most likely YouTube the experience as well. If it wasn’t on video, it didn’t happen, right?
Imagine you’re 19 years of age and it’s 1988. One of your first club going experiences is Racer X at The Stone in San Francisco.
So, as I remember, it was a four band bill, with Vicious Rumors, a band I had never even heard of, in the support slot. Set times: first two bands, half hour sets. Support, 45 minutes, and headliner would get an hour plus.
So, first two bands went on, had pretty good guitarists. By this time in my life I was very much into the Shrapnel label, George Lynch, Gary Moore, EVH, Vivian Campbell, etc. I could differentiate between good and bad playing, and I knew what I liked.
Out comes Vicious Rumors. Man, you would have thought THEY were the headliners!!! These guys were awesome!! They’re described as power metal. I’d even call it High Energy Metal. The band consisted of two guitarists (both lead players) and an absolutely kick ass vocalist, who had the vocal gruff of Ronnie James Dio, but with the range of Geoff Tate. All the boxes were pretty much ticked. Drums / bass combo were cool as well, holding that shit DOWN. The drummer had a pretty cool presence.
Vicious Rumors (as it turns out) were a Shrapnel band. Vinnie Moore used to be in it. Well, the guy I saw (Mark McGee) was on par with Vinnie, easily. Long ass curly hair, moved around lots, provided backing vocals, this guy was my inspiration!! Every now and then I forget, but he was, and there’s no denying it. Racer X hadn’t even come out yet and I was ready to leave (glad I didn’t, as they were fucking nuts as well). Ahhhh, what a joy to be there. I loved that gig and I’ve seen YouTube footage of that era for both Racer X and Vicious Rumors. For the people who post those gigs, a trillion thanks.
(Mark’s second from the left, and his site is HERE, and I have Dave Starr the bassist as a Facebook friend. Cool!!)
I had seen VR quite a few times, and eventually had the balls to walk up to Mark and tell him that he was awesome and I loved him very much, ha ha. I even gave him a steel pick during one of our post gig meetings. He was always nice, and he told me how much he loved the band Heart. I thought that was cool. Variety.
Half a year later or so Vicious Rumors were headlining The Omni in Oakland. I was wayyy into Siouxsie and The Banshees at that stage, and I was wearing this pretty gothy Siouxsie shirt, that had her black and white face on the front:
Carl with my shirt, possibly? A dude who read this blog posted this photo in the comments section below. If this picture was taken at The Omni in Oakland, then this is most definitely my shirt. If the sleeves are cut off then this was definitely my shirt and I am drunk in the audience. My one regret was that I didn’t let him keep the shirt. I should have at least traded for a VR shirt. But 21 year old boys will be 21 year old boys. Read on!!
Very cool if you’re a goth (which were called ‘mods’ in the late 80’s). And I was letting the world know that, yes, I am a metalhead, but I love other shit, too. Well, the singer of VR, Carl Albert, saw my shirt. Before they went on, he comes up to me and goes, “Dude, that is a killer shirt, let me wear it for the gig, we’ll trade shirts..” I go, “okay, but I want BEER.” He takes me backstage into their room, we trade shirts, and he shows me where the beer is, and I start a chuggin’. I was in Heaven!! Not only am I seeing a rippin’ band, but I’m drinking their fucking beer backstage!! Loved it. And no, I wasn’t driving so I was fine, thanks.
They played a great set, Mark had a guitar solo, which of course was nothing short of bad ass, and after the gig, Carl and I traded shirts again. In hindsight, I probably should’ve told him to keep it. I think I was going to, but while that was spinning around in my head, we were both taking off shirts to re-swap.
Many years later I found out that Carl had died in a car accident. How utterly upsetting. This guy’s voice was fucking incredible, and to lose a talent like that would’ve been absolutely horrible for his band, fans, friends, etc. The world lost a great singer. It still makes me sad.
Cheer up!! The music lives on!! Check out VR’s Digital Dictator and Vicious Rumors, and thank me later. Mark? You are an inspiration! You took the time out to talk to a 19 year old kid who had never even gigged by that point in time, and you treated me as an adult, and not a kid or a ‘fan’. Cheers for that.
It’s a blessing and a curse. You have websites, video clips, and content coming out of your ass, but you also have a short attention span and 397 other commitments. I don’t envy you one bit. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure if I was a teenager in this current era, I’d be a crappier guitarist than I am now. Lucky I did all my woodshedding pre internet. Otherwise I’d be waaay fucked. It’s all about time management and organizing, anyways. So, this blog is dedicated to the guitarist who is going to learn without a private guitar teacher.
I’m just going to list the way I’d learn things in somewhat of an order. Now, obviously, this isn’t etched in stone, as there’s young kids out there who can grasp music, technique, feel, all that shit intuitively. And to that I say, skip over this and join a fuckin’ band, write and record some songs. Because songs are where it’s at. That’s always gonna be where it’s at. But yes, I am painting with broad strokes here. Take what you like, throw away the rest.
I find it odd that many people want to burn like Loomis or Gilbert, they want to do sweeps, but they don’t even know the note names. So this’ll be a fairly broad list of stuff you should know (or want to know), and the order. Finding a buddy to jam with early on is also in your best interest. In high school I had a few friends to exchange ideas with (Scot Miller, Dave Hull, and Eric Fraser. All still playing today).
1. Note names / major and minor chord names
2. All 5 boxes on the Major and Minor Pentatonic scale. In E minor and A minor. You’ll understand later.
2.5. Vibrato. Andy James says it’s categorized under the ‘feel’ category. Paul Gilbert says vibrato and phrasing are the two biggest challenges in guitar today. Do me a flave, watch this clip and rip off George’s finger vibrato. You’ll make everyone pleased as punch. for reals.
3. Modes of the C major scale in three note per string form. Why? In shred/burn, all the fast stuff is usually three note per string. Makes sense. This will help get you there.
4. Ear training and jamming with a band. I was in bands since I was 14. The earlier you can start jamming with people, the better. This can actually go at 1.5, ha ha.
5. Legato (Left hand burning, a la Nuno, lynch, De Martini, Garsed, Holdsworth, Govan)
6. Staccato (picking every note, a la Yngwie, Gilbert, Becker, DiMeola)
7. Tapping (EVH, Rhoads, sweep taps, etc etc)
8. Sweep arpeggios (This is usually first with every young fucker I run into). Can’t write a song or grasp even basic theory, but you’re happy to sweep all over the place. The enthusiasm is cute, but mostly annoying. It’s like trying to teach a toddler jiu jitsu. It ain’t gonna happen.
9. Hybrid picking (If you’re into that. I’m trying to get into it now and finding it quite a lil’ bitch, tbh).
10. Ugggh, I’m running out of steam. Repeat all that shit until you die, I guess.
When I was 19, The first Paul Gilbert Video (Intense Rock 1) came out. I was busy for years. I still don’t have all of it down. I’ll add that video and the Vinnie Moore one, and that’ll seriously keep you busy for a good 3-5 years.
Practice time. I did 3-6 hour days from about the ages of 18-21. I’d say if you REALLY want to make some progress, do a minimum of an hour a day. Jam with friends, listen to all kinds of music. Check out what Chris has to say on practicing below.
GOOD LUCK!! I have once again run out of steam. Oh, and limit the fucking forums you’re on. Wouldn’t you rather be playing than typing?
I was lucky. I had a musical family (Mom played piano by ear, aunt and grandfather played acoustic guitar and sang). Not to mention we always had a jukebox in the house. I’d listen to Zep’s Black Dog every morning, putting on clothes in front of the heater. This was Fresno, California early to mid 70’s. PS – I hate Fresno.
I had three older sisters (who were stoners, let’s face it) and they were into Credence, Zeppelin, Elvis, Deep Purple, The Doors, etc. I was the last born, annoying little brother who destroyed all their record player needles, one by one. I was an asshole early on.
My sweet sisters, they’be both retired! The blonde is Lori, and Lynda’s the other one. My other sister Kim was either too cool to be in the pic or she wasn’t there.
When I was 5, my oldest sister Lynda gave me Emerson Lake and Palmer’s Brain Salad Surgery. Even as a 5 year old, I embraced that album wholeheartedly. I loved Giger’s artwork, the length of the songs, the sheer craziness of the whole thing. It was music, sweet music, and I was HOOKED!!
Later that same year, my grandmother took me to see Elvis at Fresno’s Selland Arena (the place that Van Halen loved playing so much). This was during his fat years, and we were pretty far back in the nosebleed section. All I really remember is kicking the seat in front of me, Elvis constantly drying his face, and throwing the towel into the crowd. The women screaming and fighting over towels was WILD to say the least. Even at 5, I was going, “Fighting over towels? For reals? That’s batshit crazy”
Life in Fresno kept moving along at a nice pace, I guess. I liked whatever was on the radio; Styx, Queen, Cameo (Shake Your Pants was a huge fave of mine), ABBA, Fleetwod Mac, etc.
I was probably more into baseball than music at this stage, and that was fine. Until I heard KISS.
I was 10. I think I bought Love Gun and Double Platinum on the same day. My mom gave me $10 a week in allowance and that went to KISS albums for a very long time. I was soooo into KISS that I remember being at this girl’s house, she was playing VH’s Women and Children First, and I thought that shit was way too heavy for me!!! Can you imagine that? “Hmm, not KISS, so fuck it.” Idiot. Hey, I never said I was smart. But Jennifer Brown sure as fuck was. My obsession with KISS was sad. I even audiotaped KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. This may have been PRE VHS days. Ha ha.
At 12 or 13 I had come to accept there were other bands besides KISS. I was getting stuck into lots of AC/DC and Van Halen II at this stage. Hadn’t even heard Eruption yet, but when I did, it was Xmas. I was 13, and then I knew what I wanted to be. I wanted to be Eddie Van Halen.
So my teenage years comprised of being in love with any band who had a killer guitar player. Van Halen, Dokken, Icon, Ratt, Dio, Frank Marino, Gary Moore, anyone who could burn on guitar. Rock radio in San Jose California (I had moved, thank GOD!!) was AMAZING, to say the least. KSJO and KOME opened my step bros and I into even more heavy music.
I’d do a lot of trying to learn a lot of songs and solos by ear. I spent countless hours in my bedroom doing this, and at times it did feel like work, but once I nailed something, it was a celebration. I learned how songs and solos were written. Totally invaluable. I was in my first band when I was 14. All we could play was You Really Got Me, Pretty Woman, two Y&T songs, two John Waite songs, and that was it. We’d have six hour band practices and just jam on four songs, ha ha ha!!
Electronica. When I was 13, we had taped over a Thomas Dolby cassette; The Golden Age of Wireless with VH’s WACF. But after the VH ended, TD began, and my step brothers and I started really digging the new wavey electronica vibe that Thomas Dolby was kicking down. I bought that particular album on CD as well as TD’s Aliens Ate my Buick. Fucking awesome!!!
My sister’s husband Dave was a MASSIVE Zappa freak; had all his albums. So, I’d go visit, grab his headphones, throw on a Zappa record, read the lyrics, check out all the visuals, and laugh at the hilarity of the words and the absolute impeccable musicianship. Some people need to work at liking the Zappa catalogue. I got that shit right away. My favorite albums are Sheik Yerbouti, You Are What You Is, Broadway the Hardway, Overnight Sensation, Tinseltown Rebellion, The Man from Utopia..Lots, from the sounds of it.
1986 was the change from cock rock to Thrash, and it’s all thanks to Van Halen’s 5150 album. It was 1986, 5150 had just come out. I bought the album, went to my girlfriend’s, played the whole thing once, and said, “Wow..Fuck this..” I was sad. The cock rock era was getting more and more pussified, and I was 18 and angry. Thankfully, Anthrax had rescued me.
My love affair with Anthrax started June of ’87.. Their muted power chords (for me) were on par with hammer ons or pinch harmonics. I fell in love with that sound immediately. And I had never heard double bass drumming played that fast!! So now I was on a Thrash binge. Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth, Forbidden, Vio-Lence Which Sinister Sam eventually supported) Iron Maiden (who I’d been into thanks to MTV). Loved it. I even saw the Among the Living tour in SF, with KISS as the headliner. KISS were unmasked and fairly gay at this stage, so it’s pretty safe to say that I had watched four KISS songs and fucked right off. Now in addition to all the trash I was getting into, I still had my ear to the ground. One of my girlfriends had turned me onto Siouxsie and the Banshees, who I still listen to even now. And Tears for Fears Songs from the Big Chair had a pretty big impact on me as well. The bass line in Head Over Heels is very catchy.
And let’s not forget the Shrapnel catalogue. Racer X, Cacophony, Tony MacAlpine, Greg Howe, Apocrypha, Joey Taffolla, man…By the time I was 18, I was totally and utterly burnt out on guitar instrumentals. I even hate them to this day. If you’re not Holdsworth or Satch, I don’t wanna fuckin’ know about it. Wait. My all time fave guitar instrumental album is probably Jennifer Batten’s Tribal Rage, and not because my friend Glen plays drums on it. It’s just perfect. For me.
Sinister Sam was started in High School. I had met Scot Miller (the other guitarist) in 1986 and he totally influenced my musical catalogue. He got me into Sting, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers (Hillel period), Fishbone, Toto, They Might Be Giants, Billy Idol, Mr Mister, Steely Dan, etc. In high school we were just a shitty cover band playing parties without a vocalist. Pretty bleak I’d say. It was until we got out of school, started adding Funk and Jazz into the mix, and not putting solos in every songs that the shit started getting wild. I’d say Sam was Pantera style thrash rhythms with Jazz and Funk interludes. Man, that was a great time to be in that band.
I’m starting to get a headache, ha ha. What do I listen to now? Classic VH, Basia, The Orb, Thievery Corporation, Endorphin, The Orb, Goldfrapp, a shit ton of electronica. No words? Even better. I like soundscapy stuff. I respect bands like Periphery and that group of metal/shred three-guitarists-in-a-band vibe, but I don’t listen to it. Not often, anyways. And if you’re a band that plays to backing tracks, well, that’s horseshit in my book. It’s band karaoke, and I won’t be apart of that, thanks.
I won’t lie, there’s music I abhor; all R’n B (from every era), all country music (aside from instrumental shit and anything Brad Paisley does). And commercial rap. But I LOOOVE gangsta rap.
So, listen to everything!! I have dishes to do and a birthday party to attend. Rawk!!
So Alarum and Levitation Hex did the European tour, we landed at the Melbourne International Airport, put all our gear in our respective cars, and away we go: HOME.
Now, I was going to take a cab, but Scotty from Levitation Hex said I could go with him and his lovely girlfriend and they’d drop me home. This was Thursday October 25 (2012) at 2:45 in the morning, mind you. I gladly accepted.
We get to my joint, Scotty open the trunk, I grab my backpack, and my Ibanez (in the Hiscox case) was under his guitar. I grab the handle, pull with semi manly force, and viola!! Out comes the guitar.
Now, just as the guitar was at about face height, the handle broke off and the guitar hit the concrete face down, with a kick ass SPLAT!!! Ha ha, I wasn’t worried about the guitar at all, I knew that bad boy was fine. I was more worried about showing up to future gigs cradling a no handled guitar case looking like a douche.
After the jet lag, a gig in Perth that very weekend we got back, and a bit of downtime, I decided I’d email Hiscox and see if I could buy another handle. I have two of their cases as well as my Ibanez J Craft moulded case, so I’m not totally helpless, ya know? I’ll use one of those for the time being.
Now, what you don’t know is that this particular guitar case had been overseas two times prior to the 3 week tour I went on. I lent it to someone and he’d taken it for a good two months. I’ve had both cases for roughly 6 years with no issues. Ever.
Anyways, I email Hiscox from their site: Hola, I’m Doug, I want to buy a handle, bla bla bla. Hit send.
I don’t hear anything from them for about a week. I mentally keep a note of that, but life gets in the way….
On a Monday after work I pull up just outside our gates and go to my mailbox. Ah, a package, nice!! I see who the sender is: HISCOX!!!
They sent me the handle, screws, all the shit I need to put the new handle on. I am floored!! Here I was, happy to buy another handle and these dudes give me one!! Turned my semi shit day totally upside down! The spring in my step returned. They also included good, solid directions on how to install that bad boy. Which I’ll need because I’m fairly dumb when it comes to building shit.
Later that day I told my wife what had happened and she gently reminded me (because she bought both cases for me as gifts) that those cases come with a lifetime warranty. WHOAAAAA!!! I had no idea!!!
Yo, Hiscox: I LOOOVE YOUR CASES. They are very lightweight and sturdy protective sonsa bitches. And they are very balanced when you’re walking with two. Sooo awesome. Thanks so much. I’m speechless and I encourage any serious travelling musician to purchase the case you need.
It was roughly 1996 or ’97. I was living in San Jose, California, and I was getting ready to move to Melbourne, Australia. I was deeply entreched into the album Destroy Erase Improve. I hadn’t had a favourite band in years, and these guys came along and I was totally hooked.
Anyway, fast forward a few months. I was living in Melbourne (Greensborough, to be exact) Australia, I had just acquired my first free email account (email@example.com), and I was teaching guitar and doing Ibanez clinics for Australis, who was (and still is) the importer for Ibanez out here in Oz.
Pic of myself around the time I was trying to help the guys, that Jem right there was a loner. Bummer!!
By this stage I had emailed Marten (Meshuggah rhythm guitarist) a few times to kiss his ass (as well as the band’s), and I figured since I’m doing Ibanez clinics and they’re playing the Ibanez 7 strings, why not try to get them an endorsement? Surely it can’t be that hard.
Through Marten I received Fredrik’s email address and started contacting him. I also emailed him questions for a website I used to run called killuglytv.com, and asked him some technical questions about the production of DEI. I told him I was doing Ibanez clinics and I was going to try and get them an endorsement, but that I needed CD’s of all their material to give to Ibanez. I think I said I wanted two copies of each album, ha ha; one for myself, one for Ibanez. I think that’s pretty fair. Fredrik gave me the email address to his manager, and I emailed him. (Note: at this time I was known to these guys as John Sanders; I hadn’t done radio yet. That’s a whole other blog)
And then, nothing happened. At least that’s where the momentum stopped, pretty much completely. I can’t remember why I couldn’t get the CD’s. I was fairly annoyed, because finding a complete Meshuggah catalogue in a cd store was not an easy thing. Well, it was easier at JB Hi Fi , but I don’t think I knew that then.
In the end I thought, what’s more important, getting free CD’s from my favourite band, or trying to help starving musicians maybe get a break on some guitars? So I emailed Ibanez . I don’t remember exactly what I wrote, but it was to the effect of, “Hey, I do clinics for you guys out here in Oz, and there’s a metal band out of Sweden that pretty much kick the shit out of everyone, and if you want to do the right thing (and you should, because they’re already using the 7 strings), you had best snap them up.” Or something like that. Probably a lot shorter and a lot nicer, ha ha.
A few weeks later, I got a call insanely early in the morning (Australia’s 17 hours ahead of the US). It was Rob Nishida from Ibanez, who was running the custom shop at the time. He wanted Fredrik’s phone number, which I had. We did small talk, I told him Ibanez were stupid for not mass producing the BSB Jem as a 7 string. The conversation was roughly no more than two minutes.
So that’s it. I stopped emailing both Marten and Fredrik. I figured they were busy and they probably had lots of people befriending them, etc etc. I wasn’t gonna be a thorn in their sides. I was happy to listen to the music, buy the CD’s and shirts, and support my favourite band. I mean, I sure wouldn’t have turned down a 7 string BSB Jem as a thank you from both the band and Ibanez, but that’s fucking fantasyland style shit. Ha ha, still, one can dream.
And yeah, I sent an email to Ibanez and a dude from there called me and I gave him another dude’s phone number, I’m not stupid; Meshuggah were gonna get a guitar endorsement regardless. I just facilitated the speed a touch.
Never dismiss the power of an email. I emailed Line 6 regarding Meshuggah with the same Spiel. Twice, bitch, twice!! (And the funny thing is I ended up doing clinics for those guys as well. Another blog, yeah?)
Now that I’m in a signed band, I should probably hit Ibanez up.