The playlist of my life


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.

johnny teen

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.

johnny sinister sam

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!!

Wanna HEAR?


How I helped Meshuggah get their Ibanez endorsement

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 (, and I was teaching guitar and doing Ibanez clinics for Australis, who was (and still is) the importer for Ibanez out here in Oz.

arty gayness in Long hair pics by John Sanders

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, 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.

bsb jem

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.