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One way of looking at Joe Satriani’s 15th studio album, Shockwave Supernova, is that it’s a concept record—and indeed, the disc does follow a loose narrative that the guitar superstar dreamed up concerning the spiritual death and rebirth of an outlandish and extroverted alter ego for Satch named, appropriately enough, Shockwave Supernova.
Another way would be to call the 15 songs that comprise the disc “inspired by,” which is how Satriani actually prefers it.
“Nothing against Tommy and a few other records, but I’ve never been a big fan of straight-up concept records,” he says. “The real idea for this was more functional; to allow me to make creative decisions song by song, establishing moods and feelings. So, in that way, it’s very elastic and free-form, although there is an overall tone of renewal and awakening, and a bit of a story if you want to follow it.”
Sessions for Shockwave Supernova took place at Satriani’s home away from home for the past few years, Skywalker Sound in Lucas Valley, California, where the guitarist and his longtime co-producer/engineer, John Cuniberti, hunkered down with keyboardist-guitarist Mike Keneally, bassist Bryan Beller and drummer Marco Minnemann.
“It’s hard to ask for a better, more responsive and creative group than that,” Satriani marvels, “although the guys I worked with on the last album were pretty great. And hey, you get to hear them, too.”
Satch is referring to the inclusion of four tracks—“Keep on Movin’,” “In My Pocket,” “Crazy Joey” and “Scarborough Stomp”—held over from his previous album, Unstoppable Momentum, that feature the rhythm section of drummer Vinnie Colauita and bassist Chris Chaney. “Those tracks weren’t fleshed out at the time, so I put them away,” Satriani explains. “When I started this record, they still spoke to me, and they made sense musically and thematically with the new batch of songs, so I brought them back and finished them off.”
Shockwave Supernova sees Satch offering his idiosyncratic take on swing, samba and blues shuffles while refining his blockbuster approach to pile-driving instrumental guitar rock. Interestingly, amid the widescreen riffs and solos, Satriani employs a more naturalistic guitar tone than ever before, and when set against the lofty, sci-fi conceit of the album, a deeply humanistic message emerges.
“On past records I went out of my way to really trip out the guitar,” he says, “but I think by playing things a little straighter, it reaches people easier. They can connect to the moods in a more personal way because the sounds are more direct. Some people have said that this is my best-sounding album. That’s always the goal, of course, but it’s nice to think that you’ve hit the mark.”
Satriani sat down with Guitar World recently to walk through the entire record track-by-track.
“Upon returning from South America, I was doing a series of songs that had a bit of a Latin vibe to them. I did a demo of this song and sent it to John Cuniberti, and he said, ‘I really love it, but the verse could be a bit more emotive.’ I listened to it and said, ‘Yeah. He’s probably right.’
“I tried a couple of different things, and then I tried a contrary experiment, which was, ‘What if instead of everybody playing and continuing, they just stopped and I played something in an entirely different key?’ It's a great exercise. The melody lines were recorded over many different days where I had a lot of different guitars. It would go from six-string to 12-string to some other 12-string all on one track. It was pretty undisciplined.
“I was searching for something, something undefined and unknown. I was trying to push my own buttons with it. It can be frustrating to work like that—‘What is it? What am I looking for?’ But when you get it, it’s really joyous.”
“Lost in a Memory”
“I started writing this song in late ’87 or early ’88. I jammed on it with [drummer] Jonathan Mover and [bassist] Stu Hamm, but it didn't have the melody; it was only an improv construction. I’ve always loved the track because it had these two-chord progressions. The idea of getting an enormous payoff from the fewest number of chords was appealing to me."
“Right before the Unstoppable record, I brought it back and I came up with the whole melody. I was very excited, but it still wasn’t happening. I thought, Maybe it’s in the mix.’ We mixed it, but I remember looking at [producer/engineer] Mike Fraser and saying, ‘We did everything we could, but it’s not ready.’ It had only been 30 years. [laughs]
“Most people would just toss it, but I took it home and played the “turn off the tracks” game. I started turning stuff off and I listened to what was good. Finally, I said, ‘You know, you told Chris and Vinnie to play those beats from the late Eighties. Maybe that's the problem.’ I just sort of re-did the drums and the bass, created the demo, which was basically the album tracks from Unstoppable minus Vinnie and Chris, and then I added some programmed drums and some of my bass as an example.
“Then I showed it to the guys and I said, ‘Something like this.’ Since Mike Keneally and I had already done all of our parts that day, it was really just Marco and Bryan coming up with this new groove. And I was so happy to hear it. I realized, like, Why didn't I think about that 30 years ago? That was just one of those funny things.”
“'Crazy Joey' is about a crazy guy with a lot of swagger walking down the street—he’s got his playful, guitar slinger-like chops, that kind of thing. I thought this was perfect because it shows one side of Shockwave, all of this positive energy. It's in a major key, so it’s upbeat, and he's playing these ridiculous hammer-on/pull-off arpeggios.
“It has an absolutely insane performance from Vinnie—just crazy. I recorded the whole thing at home and brought it to him. I had chopped up this wild drum performance from a Brain DVD and put it at the beginning of the song, like, ‘Here, what do you think of this?’ Vinnie came up with his own thing, a whole other vibe, but it was based on the Brain DVD stuff. It was one of those times where somebody pours some different creative thoughts into something and it puts the biggest smile on your face.
“In My Pocket”
“There were two personalities on this. The first was the melody in which I imagined myself being part of a three-piece horn section. I thought, If I’m a guitar player, I’m not going to be doing all of these guitar-y kinds of things. That helped me eliminate techniques, so I could focus on getting the melody to work."
“The solo is the total opposite of that. It’s the kind of solo that you would imagine somebody in front of an audience playing. It starts with a crazy high note that’s impossible to get, and then it goes to a lot of flash. You can picture me just pointing to the audience and having a blast. And I was—only I was pointing to Vinnie, Chris and Mike. It’s me overplaying and having fun.”
“On Peregrine Wings”
“In the beginning, it’s as if you had wings and you stepped off a precipice—things would be wobbly, right? So when those first couple of chords come in, it’s like, ‘Whoa…’ The beat takes off and it's like you’re gliding, and man, the song gets really fast. I mean, that was so much fun to do—it's just crazy. It was very difficult to keep in tune, though. I did it a million times. It's way up there on the fretboard, and I’m playing the last two strings that aren't too reliable past the ninth fret in terms of intonation. It's a song that's got a lot of reckless abandon."
“The amp on the solo is one of my old Marshall Super Leads from when I was in the Squares. It was stolen but I managed to get it back years later. It had been painted orange, but it was mine. I had it worked on, and it sounded just like it used to. The thing is all over the record, actually. You plug into it and it just growls and makes all of these cool noises. You get such amazing feedback with it. It’s like it just talks to you.”
“A song about facing everything going wrong. Like in those CGI films where a character turns around and sees a thousand-foot-high dust storm approaching—it’s coming and there’s nowhere to run.
“I built this one and thought about how some early metal was, quite funky, like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. It was loose and grungy. I played bass on this one with that kind of swinging attitude. I showed it to the guys and said, ‘You’re younger and you grew up playing very intense metal. I know you’re thinking that's what I want, but I'm actually looking for something a bit stranger.’ So we kept my bass track."
“I think Mike Keneally wound up adding a really cool sweeping thing on top with some synth, and Marco gave us a very unusual drumbeat with a riff. If there’s such a thing as ‘exotic metal,’ that's what he gave us that afternoon.”
“San Francisco Blue”
“There are so many kinds of shuffles. Some move around, others are more metronomic, and then there are levels of swing. The melody here is stretched out, so we reined in the swing a bit, which kept the song tight and moving forward."
“In the demo stage, I played with different swing loops to find the level that was right. When Marco heard it, he lined right up with it. And I should point out that Marco is famous for his opposition to playing shuffles. He laughed when I brought this in—‘Oh, no, a shuffle!’—but he gave me six different versions that were all great.”
“Keep On Moving”
“The melodies are very blues oriented, but the wah-wah solo is very jazzy, almost as if a jazz horn player picked up a guitar and could instantly play. It’s got a Sixties tenor sax approach."
“I brought the song in and John Cuniberti asked me, ‘What’s going on in the middle part?’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And he said, ‘It’s like nothing is happening, at least not for me.’ [laughs] I went back and realized he was right. Mike and I were busy playing, but it was all kind of background stuff. It was interesting to us because we played it, but it wasn’t interesting to anybody else."
“John sent me a stereo mix, and I added those bluesy, in-your-face solos for the middle. They worked out beautifully, really straddling the positive/negative vibe of the song. The song needed some more powerful stuff to balance the jazzy wah-wah solo. I couldn’t hear it at first, but John could.”
“All of My Life”
“I was making Chickenfoot demos, and this one started as an attempt to show Sammy Hagar in a different light. I underplayed as much as I could so that Sammy would feel comfortable singing without a lot of overbearing guitar. When it looked like that record wasn’t going to happen, I moved the file into my ‘new record’ batch."
“I found that I loved this subdued Joe Satriani sound; it was like there was nothing on it. It was very un-Shockwave-like—you know, ‘He would never play like that.’ I tried to make the song achieve new heights by omission. It’s very laid back in the technical department. There’s no real bridge, either. I love it. It’s a simple, single-coil blues sound that does what it needs to do.”
“A Phase I’m Going Through”
“John Cuniberti was working on mixes, and he put the guitar track through a phaser. It immediately reminded me of what we did in the early Eighties. Back then, your only choices besides recording everything straight-up were to use reverb, delay or a phaser."
“Sometimes you really regret putting a phaser on a track, but I thought, I’m going to embrace the phaser. In fact, I’m going to call the song “A Phase I'm Going Through,” just to prove a point.’ I leaned on the sound and used it as a way of explaining a changing of sorts. You notice that you're doing something weird, out of your normal personality, but you're explaining it to yourself by saying, ‘Hey, it's just a phase I'm going through.’ ”
“It's called ‘Scarborough Stomp’ because of the fact that it's a Dorian mode—people originally thought it had origins in the town of Scarborough, in the U.K. I’ve always loved this kind of beat. We used to try to write a ton of things like this in the Squares. This one came together during a writing session where I was plugged into an AdrenaLinn III foot pedal controller, and I was recording these little song bits. I’d write a song for a minute and a half, and then another one and another one."
“I wrote this piece of music and thought it was good, but when I re-recorded it there was something missing—the playfulness. We tried doing the guitars fresh. We created a template where the rhythm guitars were copied and pasted in certain sequences to give us the feel, and we eventually wound up with a really slamming-sounding track from the rhythm section. Ultimately, though, I thought we straightened out too much—that can happen."
“I threw it back to John Cuniberti, who is just so good at pulling faders and rebuilding tracks. He created a stereo performance of the original rhythm guitar and allowed it to play more liberally throughout. By doing that, we were able to keep all the guitars I did at home, and then we were able to use Vinnie, Chris and this crazy harpsichord thing, too.”
"Butterfly and Zebra"
“This is a song about two lovers realizing that even though they’re experiencing profound love, they’re simply too different for it to ever work. I focused on these two creatures that I thought couldn’t be more different, a butterfly and a zebra. They’re analogies, you know, for two people who fall in love but shouldn't, but even just that few seconds of a connection might be enough."
“That’s a Sustainiac and the JS2400. I generally like to record DI at home, and then we re-amp almost everything. I’m using a Sansamp here. Every once in a while, the Sansamp has a way of dealing with dynamics that's quite unique and different from a vintage Fender or a modern Marshall head. Sometimes that’s what a song calls for, as it was here.”
“If There Is No Heaven”
“I think at some point people all say or think, ‘All this stuff that’s going on doesn’t matter, because someday I'll die and I'll be in a better place.’ For Shockwave, he’s dissolving; he’s going through a metamorphosis. He’s saying, ‘What if there is nothing after this?’"
“Somebody loaned me a 1959 Chet Atkins guitar, and I was plugged into a Two Rock amp, one that was made especially for me. We were out in the studio room—[amp repair expert] Gary Brawer, John Cuniberti and myself—and we're just listening and saying, ‘That sounds really beautiful. Let’s record this right now."
“I just played the chords without any time, and I explained to the guys, ‘This song is about a guy going into the light, except when he gets out there, there's nothing.’ John asked me to go out and make some other noises, and then he fooled around with it and added some pink noise to illustrate what it might feel like way out there in the middle of nowhere, being confronted with nothingness, like, ‘What's the sound of nothing?’ ”
“Stars Race Across the Sky”
“The repetition of the arpeggios, to me, was key in representing the feelings that are on opposite sides of the heart. One is ‘I’m stuck. I’m standing still.’ The other is ‘Life is moving so fast. How can I get my feet on the ground?’ Instead of having arpeggiated chords that move together as a group, I decided to come up with a tuning in which three strings would be fretted and the others would be open, but they would work with all of the chords in the song."
“Sometimes there’s beauty in that and it’s very calming, and at other times it’s tense because of the dissonance. It’s such a noisy affair to try to get an acoustic guitar with that tuning to display proper intonation. I gave the part to Mike Keneally, who had the thankless task of playing the arpeggios through the entire song. His level of Zen concentration was pretty brilliant.”
“This is really where he's saying goodbye. When I came up with it, I was envisioning something much more melodramatic. To get myself to not play certain things but to play certain other things, I envisioned myself telling everybody, ‘I'm out of here. This is my last statement. You can all go to Hell.’ Then I thought, Oh, you shouldn’t be negative. It should be a celebration.’ But each time I would work on the song I would jump into whatever mood would come to my mind. If it was anger or spite or feeling revelatory, or if it was pure joy or something, I would just run with it."
“The song announces itself with how it's going to be ending, but then it quickly changes key and goes minor when the orchestra comes in with those arpeggios, because Shockwave's got some shit to say, right? Those blues verses are all about venting, of finally getting it off his chest, all that was troubling him in his life."
“A very weird guitar comes in, so that’s rebirth. Then the piece rides out on this beautiful solo. You know me—I'm not afraid of a major scale. As I’ve said before, no scale is more important than the other. In this particular case, the major scale is really working better.”
Gus G. is best known as the guitarist in Ozzy Osbourne’s band—the latest addition to an esteemed lineage that includes six-string legends like Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee and Zakk Wylde.
But prior to joining up with Ozzy in 2009, the Greek guitarist had already made a name for himself as the mastermind behind Firewind, a power-metal unit whose bracing and soaring anthems function as a platform for Gus’ over-the-top, acrobatic shredding.
Over the years, the 34-year-old has also played with Euro metal acts like Nightrage and Mystic Prophecy, and even did a short stint with Swedish technical death metallers Arch Enemy, standing in for Christopher Amott on the 2005 Ozzfest tour.
Needless to say, Gus is not one to take it easy for any length of time. And so, in 2014, while Osbourne was otherwise busy with the Black Sabbath reunion, the guitarist took the opportunity to launch a solo career, releasing his debut album under his own name, I Am the Fire.
The record saw Gus not only flexing his technical guitar muscles but also honing his songwriting chops. The album boasted a mix of hooky hard rockers and speedy metal anthems, on which Gus was joined by an array of guests that included vocalists like Mats Leven (Candlemass), Jeff Scott Soto (ex–Yngwie Malmsteen, Trans-Siberian Orchestra) and Ralph Saenz, a.k.a Michael Starr (Steel Panther) and bassists like Mr. Big’s Billy Sheehan and Megadeth’s David Ellefson.
Now, less than a year later, Gus is already back with his sophomore effort, Brand New Revolution.
As for why this record followed so quickly after I Am the Fire, he explains, “I just had the songs, really. On this album I wrote a lot with Jacob Bunton, the singer for Lynam and Steven Adler’s band, and the thing about Jacob is we did a song that ended up on the first record, and then after I mixed that record we just kept on writing. And the next song we came up with was ‘Brand New Revolution.’ I even wanted to include it on the first record but the label was like, ‘No, no, we have enough.’ But I thought it was a pretty killer song and so I said, ‘All right, there’s the title track of my second record!’ So we were on a roll and we kept on writing. Before I knew it, I had an album.”
On Brand New Revolution, Gus is once again joined by several guest vocalists, including Bunton, Levin and Soto. And, like I Am the Fire, the new album sports more than its fair share of guitar pyrotechnics.
But, first and foremost, it is a collection of songs; in fact, other than the opening number, a dazzling display of technical ferocity called “The Quest,” there are no instrumentals on the record. “That’s really what I was going for,” Gus says. “I’m actually getting a lot of pressure right now to put out an instrumental album, but I’m not the kind of guy who can write 10 or 12 of those. It’d probably take me 10 years to do a record like that. I like to write songs—I’m a band guy and I like to work with singers. I’m very old school. I just like three-minute, catchy songs. But they have to have cool guitar parts—that’s the difference. If you know how to write a great song and you can put a killer solo to it, to me, that’s it.”
Days before leaving for Germany for a string of dates as the support act for Hellyeah, Gus spoke to Guitar World from his home in Thessaloniki, Greece, about his influences, how he sees himself as a guitarist and creating Brand New Revolution.
He also took time to discuss the status of Firewind and how his solo work differs from his output with that band, as well as give a bit of insight into what it’s like to have “the most coveted guitar position in the world” with the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne.
How did Brand New Revolution come together?
It’s almost like two EPs in one, because it was done in two sessions. The first session was done in L.A. with a band in a live room, with Jay Ruston [Anthrax, Steel Panther] engineering, and we caught that live energy and atmosphere and vibe. The other half, I came back here to Greece and we did it the more traditional way for me, where the drummer lays down the tracks first and then I do the bass and the guitars. So it’s half and half.
Do the two halves sound distinct to you?
They do. I don’t know if other people can tell so much, but I can hear it. But overall I think this record actually sounds more cohesive than the last one. Because doing the L.A. sessions let me know the direction I wanted to go in with the record. So even though the second half was not done with the band all together in a room we tried to capture the same vibe.
You’ve said that you like to write songs, not instrumentals. But Brand New Revolution starts off with a pretty intense instrumental, “The Quest.” Is that type of thing more difficult for you to write?
Yeah, it is. That song is just me going apeshit on the guitar. Just really fucking balls out on every aspect. And that stuff comes out of nowhere, really. Every time I write an instrumental I don’t know where the hell it comes from. Because I really don’t know how to develop an idea for an instrumental. It’s always in my mind that I’ll play a riff and I’ll hear a vocal melody over it. I’m always thinking, Where’s the chorus? The only guy I know who can write a proper instrumental is probably Joe Satriani. He’s very good with that.
He’s a guy who can keep it melodic and catchy, even while he’s shredding away.
Yeah, he uses his guitar as the voice. And he does it in a very normal songwriting way. But, I don’t know, when it came to “The Quest” I thought, first of all, it’s a good opening track. I needed something fast. But the song has an impact on the whole record. Because it’s the one instrumental, and it starts the album. So it’s almost like a trick. I can understand if some guitar fans might be like, “What the fuck?” when they hear the rest of the record. [laughs] They might expect 10 songs like that but that’s not what they get. But that said, there is a lot of guitar work all over the album. There’s a lot of solos, a lot of cool stuff.
Do you work out your solos in advance or do you tend to improvise in the studio?
Both, really. It depends on the song. For example, the outro solo on “Behind Those Eyes” [from Brand New Revolution] which is kind of a ballady, Eighties type of thing, I improvised a few different ideas and then kept the best parts. But a lot of the other stuff, I like to plan it out. I’ll do some takes and see what ideas I like and then start building up from there.
What gear did you use to record Brand New Revolution?
I used my ESP signature guitars—the Random Star and the Eclipse models. And they’re loaded with my Seymour Duncan pickups, the FIRE Blackouts. The idea for them was basically taking a passive pickup and making it active. They’re pretty hot, and the output is insane. I also have a Washburn acoustic that I used on a couple things. For amps, I used my Blackstar Blackfire 200 signature head, and I also recorded some parts with a Blackstar HT Stage 100. For a lot of things I also went back and reamped my parts with an EVH 5150 III 50-watt head.
What about effects?
I never record with effects. I just go straight in and then we add stuff later. There’s chorus and flangers and delays, all that stuff, but those are things Mike Frazer added when he mixed the record. I didn’t use any of that stuff when I recorded my parts.
On both solo albums you’ve opted to use several different vocalists, rather than stick with one voice throughout. Why?
It just sort of happened like that. I’ve always made records with Firewind where we have one singer. But going solo it was like, you open this door of opportunities. It’s a new thing and it’s exciting again. On the last record there were a lot of guests, and maybe seven or eight singers. This record it’s a bit more pulled in to those few who are closer in my circle as musicians and friends and cowriters. I just really enjoy playing with them so that’s what I did. It’s a bit different from what a lot of other people are doing, but being different is good, I guess. [laughs]
Even though Firewind is a band, most people see it as your project, more or less. So why do a solo album?
Because with Firewind, we’ve made seven studio albums in 10 years. And we’ve been through a lot of lineup changes, especially singers. It became a bit frustrating for me. And I just happened to be very tired of the whole band thing and just doing the album-tour cycle again. At the same time, I had all these ideas that were a bit more hard rock rather than speed metal or power metal. So I wrote a couple songs with Mat, I wrote a track with Jeff, and I thought, Maybe this is a good time to do this…
What is the current status of Firewind?
Right now we’re on a hiatus. I have a few new demos and they sound pretty good but, to be honest, I haven’t really had all that much time to focus on them. I’ve been so busy the last year and a half with my solo thing. But that said, I’m not stopping Firewind. We are going to come back and do another record, maybe at the end of next year, or the year after, who knows.
How about Ozzy? Where do things stand at the moment?
He was supposed to do another Sabbath thing this year but I guess now it looks like it’ll be in 2016. So I think Ozzy is basically filling the gaps by doing some solo gigs. We just did a mini tour in South America—the Monsters of Rock with Judas Priest and Motörhead. And now we’re doing two shows in Mexico in August and then Ozzfest Japan in November. Other than that, we’ll have to wait and see.
When you were first invited to audition for Ozzy’s band, it was through an email, correct?
Yes. It was just one of those crazy things that never happens…but then it happened, you know? The person who emailed me, I knew he worked for Sharon because he had been at Ozzfest. I figure they had probably checked me out in 2005 when I was there with Arch Enemy. And I was also doing a lot of work with Firewind at the time, so I guess I was one of the younger-generation guys coming up.
Did you have any idea Ozzy’s camp was looking for you?
I had no idea. Originally I thought they were contacting me because maybe they wanted Firewind to be on Ozzfest. [laughs] But they were like, “No, we’re actually thinking of you for the guitar player position. Would you like to come out and audition?”
What songs did you play at the audition?
“Bark at the Moon,” “I Don’t Know,” “Suicide Solution,” “Crazy Train,” “Paranoid”…and one more that I’m forgetting [It was “I Don’t Want to Change the World”]. We did six songs—six of the “must haves” on his setlist. Ozzy came in the room and we played them all back to back with no breaks. The second that one song ended he would just call out the next one. It was like “Oh, shit!” But it was cool—at the end of it he turned around and said, “You’re fuckin’ great!” Then they all went into a room next door for a few minutes, and I was sitting there all alone like, “What’s going on now?” Finally everybody came back in and they were all smiling. They asked if I wanted to come play a gig.
That gig was the 2009 BlizzCon video game convention in Anaheim.
Yeah. And that was fucking nerve-wracking, man. Looking back now, I know I could have done way, way better. Because all I knew was how to do my band. I mean, okay, I did a thing with Arch Enemy, but I didn’t really know how to approach another gig. And all of a sudden I’m in Hollywood, you know? But it was a big change for them, too. I’m from Greece and I show up with my weird pointy guitars, and Ozzy looks at me like, “You’re great…but do you have any Les Pauls?” [laughs] I just said, “I don’t really play Les Pauls…” But that first show I played a Les Paul–shaped guitar because I thought it would probably make him feel better. It’s more familiar to him because of Zakk and Randy.
So as much as you were uncomfortable in your new position, you were actually more concerned with trying to make Ozzy feel at ease.
Of course! That’s my role, you know? It’s to make him shine. That’s what I’m there for. And if that dude’s happy, then I’m happy. That’s what the gig’s about.
With Ozzy you’re playing songs that originally featured iconic guitarists like Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee and Zakk Wylde. Who’s the most difficult to replicate?
I think all of them had difficult moments, really. I don’t think it would be fair to say, “Oh, that guy’s stuff is more difficult.” Randy had amazing modal playing and chordal work and detail. And Jake had his own tricks and licks and stuff. And then you have Zakk, who’s a beast on lead guitar. But I’m a different kind of shredder than that—I’m more from the Yngwie school than the Zakk school.
I still love Zakk’s licks, but I guess I have a bit more of a European sound. Then you also have Tony Iommi’s stuff, and he’s the master of riffs. You can’t get any heavier than that. So you take stuff from each guy and you kind of blend it all together. That’s how I’ve always looked at it—you have this big bag, and when you’re 10 years old you start putting all the licks that attract you inside of it. You keep collecting them, and then one day you open that bag and there you have it—your style.
The first Ozzy album you appeared on was 2010’s Scream. I recall hearing that Sharon Osbourne made you re-cut your guitar solo for the first single, “Let Me Hear You Scream.”
Yeah, that’s true. I did the whole record, and then I went back to Greece. But after that I got a call from Sharon and she said, “I want you to come back to L.A. and redo that one solo.” [laughs] She said, “Because that’s gonna be the first single and I want you to go out there with a big bang. That’s going to be the first thing Ozzy’s fans hear from you, so it had to be something really cool.” I was so stressed about it that I worked out the new solo before I even got on the plane to go back to L.A. But it was totally worth it. I flew back to LA and I spent a couple days in the studio and we nailed it.
In addition to the great players that preceded you in Ozzy’s band, in the last few years you’ve toured with guys like Marty Friedman and Uli Roth. Were they influences on you?
Yes. Of course. I grew up listening to their records and I told both of them, “I stole all your licks!” [laughs] These are guys who inspired me as a kid and still do. I think, really, if you dissect my playing you’ll hear a lot of the stuff those guys have been doing. I picked it up from them, straight out of their books. So it was mind-blowing to share stages with players like them. I especially didn’t expect it on my first solo touring cycle.
One guitarist you always point to as an early influence is Peter Frampton. He’s a player who you don’t hear much about in the metal world.
You’re right. I haven’t really heard any other recent metal guitarist say, “Oh, Peter Frampton…” But for me, Frampton Comes Alive! was just one of those records. My dad didn’t really listen to rock and roll but he had a handful of records he played from time to time. One was the Eagles’ Hotel California. The other was Frampton Comes Alive! And just hearing that talk-box effect blew my mind when I was nine years old.
Plus, you know, he can solo like a motherfucker. He’s an amazing musician. He’s not one of those guys who just plays standard blues licks. He can go beyond that—he can do modal playing, all those Dorians and Mixolydians, those kinds of sounds. He can get jazzy, he can play fast. And I just dug his tone. He was a very different guitar player compared to the cats that were out there at that time.
Are there any new guitarists out there that you like?
Well, even the newer players I listen to are pretty traditional. For example, a newer guy who is a good buddy of mine and who I really admire is Richie Faulkner of Judas Priest. Me and him, we’re both huge Michael Schenker fans. That’s the kind of style of player I like. I really love what Richie does. He breathes new life into Judas Priest but in a very traditional way.
You’re part of the vanguard of modern metal guitar, but in some ways you’re a traditionalist as well.
Yeah, definitely. I realized pretty early on I’m not gonna reinvent the wheel. So you have to see what your strengths and weaknesses are and then do what you’re comfortable with. And my style is really just a blend of all the guitar players I love. Obviously I hope I’m doing it with a bit more modern approach, but it’s like, I’m not creating anything new. I’m just doing my own thing.
Growing up in Greece, was mainstream hard rock and metal music easy to come by?
Back then, you didn’t hear American and British music on the radio. On TV, you might see a video by Alice Cooper or Guns N’ Roses on the Top-10 shows, and as a kid I loved that. That was probably my first exposure to heavy metal. And then, of course, there was MTV. But, yeah, it’s not like rock was too popular then. It became more of a thing later on.
But I grew up listening to the Beatles and the Doors, Frampton and the Eagles. Then I got into heavier stuff like Metallica and Guns N’ Roses. At one point a friend of mine handed me a tape of Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality, and that was a life-changing moment. And then a few months later I had another friend who gave me a tape of Yngwie Malmsteen’s Trilogy. That was like, “Whoa…” So as a kid I basically wanted to be Tony Iommi and Yngwie Malmsteen together. [laughs]
Between the music you make on your own and with Firewind, and then also playing with Ozzy, you’ve wound up pretty close to that.
[Laughs] Yeah, man, that’s true. I’m definitely a lucky bastard!
Photo by Travis Shinn
Rock guitarists have been obsessed with delay in its many forms since Cliff Gallup achieved that ultra-cool delayed-echo effect on the first few Gene Vincent albums in the mid-Fifties.
But, along with delay, they've also longed for reverb, that wonderful effect that makes things sound so much warmer, friendlier and twangier, all while fooling your poor brain into thinking you're rocking out in a fan-packed stadium.
With that in mind, a group of Guitar World staffers, including (of course) Technical Editor Paul Riario, have assembled a list of 20 of the best delay and reverb pedals on the market today.
Enjoy the photo gallery below, and keep in mind that, as always, this list is presented in no particular order.
Prestige Guitars has announced the addition of British rock icon Ginger Wildheart to the company's A&R Roster.
“We can’t express how pleased and honored we are to welcome Ginger to the Prestige family," said Adrian O’Brien, VP of Artist Relations at Prestige.
"He is a true artist that has always played by his own rules, challenging the boundaries of all things rock and exploring new directions. He has delved successfully into uncharted territory with his PledgeMusic campaigns, showing the next generation of professional musicians just how it should be done. There are big things to come from Ginger Wildheart and we are thankful that Prestige Guitars will now be a part of that story,"
Wildheart began in the early Nineties as founder of London-formed the Wildhearts, an anarchic and hard-to-define band that forged their own distinct brand of melodic hard rock, combining elements of punk, glam rock, metal and harmony-fueled pop.
As principal songwriter and lead vocalist, Ginger carried the Wildhearts through eight studio albums between 1990 and 2010, including Earth Vs. the Wildhearts and the critically acclaimed P.H.U.Q., The Wildhearts Must Be Destroyed, The Wildhearts and Chutzpah!.