Sunday, October 5, 2008

Album Review - Jeff Treadwell "Nightmare"

Jeff Treadwell is a professional guitarist, composer, and instructor from the Chicagoland area. His musical style ranges from progressive rock to extreme metal, although he is best known for his ability to write extremely dark and heavy music. While primarily self taught, Jeff has studied guitar with fellow Chicago guitarist Zack Uidl to further improve his musical skills. He is co-authoring a book with Zack on Vibrato, which will be released soon.

Jeff has recently released his first solo album "Nightmare" in September of 2008. It's dark, it's gloomy and you probably won't make it out alive.

Let’s look at the tracks:

The first track, “Prologue”, starts off with a haunting orchestral intro which flows into an eerie arpeggiated acoustic guitar section. A crushing 7 string riff enters at 1:21, introducing the main guitar theme. A quick guitar solo cleaves the heavy section in two, like the Grim Reaper claiming another soul, while the augmented arpeggios in the outro serve to further freak the listener out.

The second track, “Walk through the graveyard”, revisits the orchestral theme from the first track, but this time it’s all creepy clean guitars. The songs tempo is somber and the guitar melodies are sorrowful and scary. The epic solo starts off in the neoclassical realm, but shifts into more accessible rock style-phrasing. The song then quiets down before another climax of spine tingling shredding, and explosive swept arpeggios.

“Nightmare”, the third track, certainly lives up to its name. Starting off with the freakiest clean riff on the album, and moving to a nightmarish verse section, I nearly checked under my bed for monsters. The main theme is held down by a scary synth motif which is the canvas for Jeff’s terrifying solo’s and trademark, wide vibrato. I would peg this track as the single on the album.

“No More Will” starts out with some counter point guitar melodies (jazz metal anyone?) while the middle section sees Jeff sticking to tried and tested soloing strategies before the song emerges in a hell-fire of furious chugging guitar riffs, multiple guitar harmonized leads, and a huge guitar solo.

Track five, “Silent”, is lighter (though not brighter) than any of the preceding tracks. It is lead by tragic clean guitar riffs and a heart-wrenching solo. At 4:00 the song build up and introduces my favourite riff on the record, followed by another emotion filled solo.

“Intermission” comes out of left-field with a dreamy clean guitar intro and some bluesy leads. But just as you think that light has broken the darkness, a piano section straight out of the most frightening horror movie you ever saw, sends you right back into the nightmare.

The seventh track, “The Ferryman”, is all about the gloomy acoustic guitars and haunting sweeps which fade in and out like ghostly apparitions. A dramatic guitar solo and three-part harmony setup another horrifyingly aggressive, demon slaying shred-fest.

Track eight, “The Gatekeeper”, is the longest and most dynamic track on the album. Starting with a dark acoustic riff (which appears many times later in the track) and building into the heaviest section of the album, this track goes through several moods ranging from furious outburst to silent rage. The odd time signature at 3:35 is not for the skittish or faint-hearted, and neither is the shredfest at 3:45, where Jeff and guest soloist Zack Uidl duel it out. The song lets-up for a second, before the rising-up of a huge melodic section which includes another solo by Zack at 8:47.

The final track is called, “Halloween”, because Jeff wrote the whole song on Halloween of last year. The track is huge, crushing, and as spooky as the rest of the album. In this track, Jeff really lets loose the ferocity of his playing with blazing riffs and scorching licks, ending the album on a high.

Jeff’s playing is full of fire and passion. His lead guitar tone, control and phrasing is often far beyond that of a debut record. Terrifying.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Blog Poll

Hey guys, anyone checking the blog? I so, could you please head over to the SA Forums and let us know what you htink of the blog and how it could be improved?

Thanks. Adji

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Moments Silence For One Of The Greatest

Today -September 26th - is the five year anniversary of the death of the great musician Shawn Lane. For those not familliar with his playing (and why not?) Shawn was a fantastic guitarist (still hailed as one of the greatest both musically and definitly technically) in the Fusion realm. He was also a fantastic keyboard/piano player and those who met him say a great and humble guy.
May he rest in peace.

If your not familliar with Shawn i highly reccommend the Powers Of Ten album although its a little hard to source down nowadays but well worth it if you can find it.
You can find Shawn's official site (run by his mother and nephew) here -

Here is a fantastic tribute video to mark the occassion by a guy known over the net as WillJay. WillJay is probbly the biggest Shawn Lane fan and is fighting to help keep his memory alive.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Another Bellas Album!

George Bellas is hard at work on his latest album, Step Into The Future, which is scheduled for a January 2009 release. Does this man ever stop working!?
The album will feature Marco Minnemann on drums and what is special about this album, which is now in the final stages of mixing and mastering, is that on the album there is only one track, but its 76 mins long!

Here is the word from the official Bellas site. -

The new album "Step Into The Future" by George Bellas is complete and in the final stages of production. This new album is the most massive body of music that George will have ever released. It was composed in an intense frenzy of inspiration between December 9th, 2007 and January 12th, 2008. The writing process took place every single day with George frantically composing note by note with only paper and pencil. The album once again stretches the boundaries of the composer's prolific abilities and utilizes compositional elements not found on any of his other releases.
"Step Into The Future" is ultra-modern and progressive in style and very elegantly displays a vast dynamic range of sound. There are melodies on the album that are pin-drop soft, subdued and spine-shivering, and then there are moments of bombastic explosiveness that reveal an entirely different madman type character. There is a big surprise to the album that will be revealed just prior to it's release and will instantly set it apart from the current trend.

Sorry i havent been bringing much news to the blog recently, ive had a lot of going ons in my life to contend with but i feel osme of the other guys have held the fort well so thanks to the rest of the blog team.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Album Review - Dave Cardwell "Gone"

Machine gun guitarist and prolific recording artist, Dave Cardwell, hails from Indianapolis, Indiana. His first three albums were released in 2006 and 2007 under the bandname Raise the Shield, and in the summer of 2007, Dave teamed up with Chicago shred master, Zack Uidl, to release the album “Recollection” in early 2008, as Thoughts Betrayed.

Dave released his solo album, “Gone”, in the summer of 2008, and is currently working on several album projects to be released in late 2008 and early 2009.

While having a well-stocked arsenal of uber-shred techniques, Dave’s albums are never a vehicle for his guitar chops alone. Instead, he exhibits his plethora of talents, including mature songwriting skills, a strong production technique, and decent vocals.

Having listened to Dave as Raise the Shield, I fully expected the songs on “Gone” to be shred-heavy and packed full of Dave’s old-school and modern thrash metal influences, and I wasn’t disappointed.

“Gone” is made up of 11 tracks crammed with all the double kick drums, razor-sharp rhythm guitars, and lightning-quick solos you could shake a pointy headstock at.

What I liked about each track:

Get Me Fired: Massive intro to the album, evil chorus vocals, super cool solos, and excellent old-school ending.

Ages: Head-banging riffs, top-class vocal vibrato, and face-melting solo.

Maya: Very European-sounding atmospheric bridge with a nice guitar and keyboard harmonized outro solo.

Fate: More fantastic harmonized guitar and keyboard.

Echoes: Crazy Rusty Cooley-inspired intro, and driving rhythm section.

Liars: Great neo-classical-inspired intro and outro.

City: A great showcasing of Dave’s ability to produce modern metal mayhem.

Gone: Great vocals and harmonized solo intro, and possibly the album’s single.

Jade: Old school heaviness, twisted riffs, and a blazing solo.

Why: Scary piano intro and awesome breakdowns.

Stranger: Heaviest vocals on the album, with haunting keys in the background.

“Gone” is a great album for both shredders as well as metal fans who don’t play music themselves. In short, get it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Album Review - Paul Kleff "Machined"

Paul Kleff is a rock/metal guitarist based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, and has over 20 years of experience as a musician, instructor, composer and performer. He was originally inspired by artists like Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and The Who, which got him started on acoustic guitar, learning some chords, songs and the basics of guitar playing.

Paul was soon drawn to the fire, expression and speed of artists like Edward Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, George Lynch and Yngwie Malmsteen. He then set out to learn the styles of his heroes and began practicing and developing a lead guitar style based on both blues-influenced rock and the neoclassical shred styles of his newer influences.

Paul was featured on the 2008 compilation CD, “Guitars from the Shadows,” along with 12 other musicians from all over the world.

In mid September 2008, Paul will be participating in a seven city instructional clinic tour through the Midwest USA, along with six other guitarists and international touring and recording artist Tom Hess. The clinics will be held at Guitar Center and local music stores in each city.

Paul teaches private lessons at his studio in Grand Rapids. Having successfully helped hundreds of students, he continues to develop specialized programs of study for each individual student based directly on their musical goals. Paul has also featured as an instructor on and, and will be featured on additional guitar instructional websites in the future. He is also developing new instructional products set to be released in late 2008. A full-length CD is also planned for release in 2009.

Paul’s debut solo release is a four-song EP called “Machined”. It was written during late spring and summer 2008 and recorded during July 2008. The CD is made up of two instrumental songs and two songs featuring guest vocalist Jerry Keyzer.

The songs cover elements of rock, metal and shred. All the tracks are melodic, but what I find most pleasing is Paul’s ability do drop an unexpected twist into his riffs and leads.

All music was composed and performed by Paul and all lyrics were written and performed by Jerry Keyzer. The CD was mastered by Rob Perez.

Looking at the individual tracks:

The first track, “Grind”, has one of the best verse riffs I’ve ever heard. Heavy, driving, and mean, with some trademark Kleff twists. The solos are great compositions in their own right and, while showcasing Paul’s awesome chops, they remain fresh and melodic. “Grind” is a great opener to the CD.

Track two, “Last Stand”, is the first of two vocal tracks featuring vocals by Jerry Keyzer. I hear a lot of Iron Maiden and old Queensryche in both the vocals and guitars in the chorus section. The solo is great and fits the song well, as opposed to being a gratuitous flash of skill, and it remains tasteful and nothing sounds forced.

The third track, “Dead Line”, is the second vocal track. Building from just a clean guitar and vocals, it morphs into a mid-tempo metal anthem, bridging the gap between an air punching epic and a metal ballad. Keyzer’s delivery is powerful, emotional and raw. The fast linier runs, pedal-point ideas and swept arpeggios, combined with Paul’s excellent vibrato create another melodic mini-composition for the solo section.

The opening guitar phrase to the fourth track (and second instrumental) “As If…”, is so cool I immediately picked up my own guitar and learnt it. It floats over a piano-based rhythm section which eases off as the lead guitar builds for the chorus. The melody over the opening and verse sections has a vocal-like quality in both the tone and phrasing. The bridge and outro section show a great use of vibrato and harmonized lines to express a great deal of emotion. The song is essentially a hard-rock ballad and it ends the CD off well.

As a whole, the production is clear and balanced, while Paul’s melodic sensibility is fresh and often unexpected. I can’t wait for a full album.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Summer Song - No Internet

Hey Shred Fiends! I've been away for most of the Summer in France and managed to survive no internet access for a whole month...the first few days of cold turkey were tough, but then I started doing some really weird things...

For example instead of surfing the net looking for new music, tabs, tips, guitar porn and forum chat I treated myself to a Korg Pandora and grabbed my trusty old strat (my first real guitar that I bought in '89) and sat down to actually play! So what was I doing? Well I spent quite a bit of time setting up loops and jamming around neo-classical type phrases using the harmonic and melodic minor and some of their various modes. There's no substitute for practising with a beat and the Pandora is very cool for that! I also explored playing over different types of beat, reggae, hip hop, dance, etc and had some amazing fun using the guitar synth patch. It was loads of fun to plug the pandora in the hi-fi at a post surf party, crank up a hip hop beats and knock some Scott Henderson style licks...nobody complained at all! In fact people were dancing. Wow, why is it when I changed to a metal backing track and started to 'shred' everybody shouted at me...

I met lots of French folks who really love their shred guitar, many of you probably know that guys like the late great Shawn Lane, Ron Thal and Greg Howe are really well known in France, no coincidence that Ron has been playing those awesome Vigier guitars for years, not to mention Shawn Lane. My copy of Guthrie Govan's 'Erotic Cakes' was listened to intently by many French shredders and surfers too. I expect that a few orders from France have been received at

Of course I was spreading the Shred Academy word too, so maybe we have a few new forum members too.

Anyway now that I'm back home it's time to kick off my new covers band, Metropolis, so I'll be sharing some thoughts on that of the coming months.

More importantly, after 9 years from concept to completion, on the 12th Sept I'm taking delivery of my own design guitar from the genius luthier and all round good guy, Colin Keefe watch this space! I hope I like now it's finshed - EEEK!

Finally, over the coming weeks and months I'll be recounting my conversations with all sorts of interesting guitar related folk.

See ya

Shred Bloggs

Monday, August 18, 2008

Nick Layton Interview - A chat with Nick after his album launch

We get to learn more about Nick, his career and the recording of his debut solo album.

What steps have you taken to forge a career in the music industry?

Well, I have just released my debut CD "Storming the Castle." Having a good CD is a big piece of the puzzle, especially as an independent artist. I have had good response from fans and also from many in the industry. So, all of that is very encouraging and bodes well for the present and future of my career as a recording artist.

In addition to promoting the CD I'm also focused on getting out and playing live...and that will be happening very soon with my new band.

I'm also heavily involved in writing instructional material for guitarists as well as teaching privately.

I think that one's mind set is a critical and often overlooked piece of the success puzzle as well. I have a great musical mentor named Tom Hess ( His example and wisdom has helped me immensely in realizing and believing that my success does not depend on others. I don't need someone to give me a record contract to "make it" in the music business. What I need is a good work ethic, specialized knowledge and skill, a good network of musicians and people, and a belief and passion in what I'm doing. I have taken some positive steps already and will continue to move forward each and every day!

During your formative years, what sort of practice regime did you have?

I was self taught so I had to learn a lot of stuff by trial and error. But back when I was learning to play I was obsessed right from the start. I would literally practice and play all day. I bought books on technique and theory...bought all the guitar magazines and devoured them from cover to cover, etc. I learned to play in the late 80' there was no shortage of inspiration for great guitar playing.

The Vinnie Moore, John Petrucci, and Paul Gilbert instructional videos were big for me.I would practice exercises and licks from those as well as learning tunes by ear all day long. I also improvised a lot. Something in me needed to express all the stuff I was learning in my own way. I think that is a critical part of the learning process--application! It doesn't matter how many techniques you can play or how many scales you know. Unless you can apply it and express yourself all of that is utterly useless.

What advice do you have for beginner and intermediate players who are trying to achieve a highly advanced level of playing?

Remember that Rome wasn't built in a day and great guitar playing isn't either. It takes time...and you have to be willing to put in the time necessary and be patient with the whole process. What I have noticed with many beginner and intermediate players is that they become impatient with the process and as a result their progress is stunted. Mastery of anything requires consistent, intelligent work. As an example, I hear a lot of young players these days with some really good chops...but they can't bend strings in tune or apply vibrato to save their life. Why? Because they thought all of that stuff was unimportant and thought they could be great by just developing technique. Being a great musician doesn't work that way. Musicianship involves many things and technique is only one aspect of it.

So my advice is to take your time, work hard and smart, and don't skip over essential skills like vibrato, bending, improvisation and phrasing. You should also have a clear idea of the style of music you want to play and the type of player you want to be so that you don't waste a lot of time on things you don't need to reach your goals.

What is it like teaching other advanced-level guitar players?

For me I enjoy teaching the advanced players the most. Sometimes, with players of that calibre, I become more of a coach or mentor than an actual teacher. Some of them come to me wanting to work on specific things in their playing...but oftentimes they are not sure where to go next with their playing. I usually end up steering them towards developing their own voice on the instrument, if they haven't already. That leads us back to things like phrasing, note choice, greater self expression, etc. Most of these type of players already know the advanced scales, arpeggios and techniques, so we focus on actually making music with all of that stuff.

What gear do you use and (more importantly) why?

I'm currently endorsed by AMT Electronics make some great pedals.

I use a combination of amps depending on what I'm doing. For small gigs I love the Tech 21 Trademark 60. Beautiful amp with perfect tone for me...fat and warm. I hate trebly amps. I have also used a Carvin Legacy 100 watt head recently...pretty cool amp with a very unique sound. On the record I recorded 90% of the guitars direct with a POD 2.0, and 10% with the Trademark 60.

Guitar-wise I'm a Carvin guy. I'm left handed and play lefty so it's hard finding pro guitars sometimes. Carvin does it right! One of my guitars is made with Hawaiian Koa wood and has an ebony fingerboard, neck through construction. Looks killer and the tone is incredible. I use DiMarzio pick-ups in all my guitars. My favorites are the Super Distortion(Bridge), Tone Zone(Bridge), PAF Pro(neck) and Air Norton(neck). I'm mainly a dual humbucker guy although the sound of a single coil strat is unbeatable for some things.

Tone wise I like a pretty clean sounding distortion...I like to hear the wood and the hands make the music and not cover it with a ton of distortion.
Effects--not much really. I use a boss SD-1 to boost the signal for solos but the gain is usually on zero, level all the way up....and of course the AMT Dt-2 Distortion Station is a part of my arsenal now. A touch of delay and/or reverb and sometimes a Crybaby wah is about it for me.

What are you trying to achieve compositionally?

For me, music, guitar playing, and composition is all about expression. I have to "feel" something or it doesn't interest me. So when I'm composing that is first and foremost--it has to move me in some way. Many of my heroes certainly influenced these tunes, indirectly...and I'm actually quite pleased with that. Why hide it? I never spent much time copying other people's licks or tunes but I certainly listened to a lot of great music that inspired me big time. I think you can hear traces of Vinnie Moore, George Lynch, Criss Oliva, a little Yngwie and John Sykes (especially the vibrato), and maybe some Queensryche/Maiden as well. But I think what you get is my voice coming through the loudest...just a nod here and there to my heroes.

I ended up having a lot of sweep picking sequences as part of the tunes...and that's a technique that I've really only mastered in the last year or so. Probably my favorite sound is smooth legato so you hear lots of that on the record as well.

Most of my songs start out as small ideas. Maybe a riff or chord progression. Sometimes a melody. It's usually one or the other and the initial seed usually comes pretty quickly. Then I go about crafting the song, much like a writer would go about writing a novel. A little here, a little there, etc. And all along I have to be happy with each "draft" of each section or it gets revised or dropped. So, I'm always trying to express some feeling, or some idea and a song is never "done" until I'm satisfied. A song like "Storming the Castle" or "Snake Charmer" happened in many different sections over quite a bit of time. If I got stuck I just moved on to something else. Other tunes come quickly and easily. "Daybreak", for example, just sort of rolled right off my fingers...but even that took a lot of work before I was completely happy with everything.

Talk about the process of recording your album. Are there any tips and trick that you could pass on? Who are the guests on it, where was is recorded, how long did it take to compose and record, etc?

I knew very little about recording when I started this album. I had to basically teach myself how to use Pro Tools from scratch. I did get help from some cool people like my buddy Paul Tauterouff and also Rob Perez. That helped immensely when it came to things like panning and mixing.

The best advice I have is to take your time and learn your equipment/recording software. Even if you have the greatest tunes in the world, and the most insane guitar playing , a bad sounding recording will kill it. So take the time and learn how to record and mix your own stuff. And you don't need a million dollar set up either. My entire CD was recorded using Pro Tools and an MBox 2 in my house. I'd say the whole process took a couple years from start to finish. Of course next time should be much quicker but the learning process was invaluable.

I had some talented friends play on my CD.

Paul Tauterouff ( played bass and also did a guest guitar solo on "Deceiver." Dave Cardwell ( sang lead
vocals and co-wrote two songs and also tracked the drums on the whole CD.

I'd also like to mention Rob Perez ( who mastered the CD. I consider mastering an essential part of finishing a CD and Rob did a killer job!

Thanks for the cool interview and to everyone reading this. The Shred Academy is a great site and I'm honored to be a part of it. If anyone has any questions about guitar playing, phrasing, recording, composing, etc please email me at:

If you'd like to know more about what I do including instructional products, articles and of course my CD please visit

Nick Layton

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Album Review - Zack Uidl "Insomnia"

Zack Uidl’s solo album, Insomnia, is a show stopper for anyone into progressive music and a high level of musicianship. Oh yes, there is also a truck load of shredding. The record is a mind bending aural assault that is simultaneously pleasing and terrifying.

The entire album is essentially one song, broken into 8 tracks, perhaps for easier navigation to the listener’s favourite part, or maybe it's a map of Zack's own experience suffering from insomnia. My favourite track is the near-on 15 minute epic “The Crossing”. Crazy time signatures, brutal rhythm guitar, razor sharp leads, chilling melodic break-downs and insane harmony sections, it’s all there, and it’s all great.

Zack is well known as an instructor and for his instructional material, however, he is fast becoming just as well known for his astonishing technical prowess as well and Insomnia is a great show case of his playing skills and melodic ideas.

I hear a strong Dream Theater influence in the heavier songs, though not so much the Petrucci style solos, but rather the rhythmic stabs, climaxes and crescendos.

I’m not going to break the album down track by track, because it’s meant to be listened to as a whole.

The track listing is as follows:

1 Insomnia
2 The Crossing
3 Reverie-The Aspiration
4 Disillusion Theory
5 Reverie- Seize The Accolade
6 Turmoil
7 Reverie-Reminiscence
8 Collapse Of The Depraved

The 3 tracks called Reverie serve as mellow and contemplative transitions between the heavier feel of “The Crossing”, “Disillusion Theory” and “Turmoil” (where Zack’s playing really comes alive) while the last track “Collapse Of The Depraved” revisits and completes the musical themes introduced in the opening track “Insomnia”.

This is an excellent one-man album, and a fantasic debut for Zack as a solo artist. I have listened to the album a lot and I'm sure I will continue to do so.

Zack has also recently received his new 8 string guitar through his Conklin guitar endorsement, which should yield some interesting results, so watch this space.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Album Review - Nick Layton "Storming the Castle"

Nick Layton is a professional guitarist, composer and teacher living in Washington State. He has worked in a variety of professional music settings including teaching private and group lessons, as well as having been the Music Coordinator at both Chorus church in Southern California and Discovery church in Oregon.
Layton has also released a major instructional course called: Phrasing Concepts for Rock Lead Guitar Soloing-- a powerful new instructional course for guitarists who want to learn highly effective soloing concepts to help better express themselves.

In addition, Nick has co-authored the E-Book “The Next Step: Serious Improvement for the Developing Guitarist.” This book is for guitarists who want to learn to play better, faster, technically more efficient, and much more.

Nick has an endorsement with AMT Electronics and he is currently using the DT-2 Distortion Station.

Inspired by the great artists and virtuoso guitarists of the late 70's and 80's, including Yngwie Malmsteen, Vinnie Moore, George Lynch , Michael Schenker, John Sykes, Dio, Queensryche, Savatage, TNT, Dream Theater, etc; Nick became obsessed with the guitar in 1987 and never looked back.

Layton's musical education includes advanced studies with virtuoso Tom Hess in his Music Careers Mentoring program as well as private studies with recording artists/virtuosos James Byrd, Slav Simanic and Howard Hart.

Nick graduated from George Fox University in 1998.

Lets dive in:

The opening track “Storming the Castle” is a hard rock track with an interesting opening melody based on the Japanese pentatonic scale. Nick says that the title of the song was inspired by a scene from the movie “The Chronicles of Narnia”, where a storming charge is lead by the Lion character, Aslan. Nicks solo’s are blazing right off the bat.

The second track “Fire” is one of two vocal tracks on the album. Both the lyrics and the vocal lines were contributed by Dave Cardwell. The song has a chilled out intro incorporating wind and chime sound effects. The rest of the song is all about the driving rhythm guitars and some great phrasing in the solo.

Track three, “Valiant One”, sees the influence that Nick draws from Yngwie Malmsteen. Nick is by no means a Yngwie clone, though he does have a good grip on his neo-classical styling’s.

“Daybreak” is based around the G# minor 9 chord. It’s extremely melodic and shows a hint of Vinnie Moore with a massive slice of Nick Layton. The solo is full of incredible ideas, probably my favourite on the album.

On to the fifth track “Snake Charmer”. Well, with a name like that, you’re expecting something with a Middle Eastern flavour and Nick’s Phrygian Dominant ideas deliver.

The other vocal track “Deceiver” sees all lyrics and vocals delivered superbly by Dave Cardwell again, as well as a guest solo by Paul Tauterouff. Nick says that Chris Oliva of Savatage came through as an influence on this track.

Track seven “B and Me” is dedicated to Nick’s friend Barb who always encouraged Nick to pursue a career in music. The song is very uplifting (well, to my ears at least) and Nick’s unique musical voice comes through strongly in this track.

“Tears of Gethsemane” is probably one of the most emotionally charged instrumental songs I’ve heard in a long while. According to Nick, the song follows the biblical account of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.

The sombre feel of the previous track is completely lifted by the ninth track “Alive Again”. Nick commented that he really likes the way the outro melody and improvised solo came out.

The final track “Palm 91” is different to all the other tracks in that there are no drum or bass lines, just a little synth. Nick explained that the biblical passage of the same name had helped him through some tough times in his personal life. A great ending to an album full of Nick Layton Signature licks.

Nick’s ability to express himself on his two Carvin DC’s is something that not many guitarists ever acquire. In short, he’s a great player and I’m sure you’ll like his music. 9/10.

Pre-Orders of the CD directly from Nick, made before July 21st will get FREE shipping. Pre-ordered CD's will ship no later than July 22nd, one full week before the official release date.In addition all pre-orders may request a free copy of the 16 track compilation album Chronicles: City of Sound.

As of 29 July, Storming the Castle, will be available at outlets such as CD Baby, I-Tunes, Guitar Nine, and several others in both hard copy and digital download versions.

Monday, June 30, 2008

London International Music Show Part 1

Hi All,

The 12-15th of June was all lined up to be a high point of the year for musos, and gear addicts in particular, with the London International Music Show taking place at Excel in Dockland's.

LiMS is in fact an amalgam of previous music trade fairs focusing individually on guitars, drums and music tech, so the question was... was it really bigger, or did it just have more stuff that I didn't want to look at?

Well the answer to that questions was simple, it 'felt' smaller than last year's Guitar Show and for some odd reason, no doubt to do with local councils, you couldn't even buy anything priced above £25! This latter fact had some types looking like extras from a Sam Raimi film...wandering round looking but not touching with credit cards hanging uselessly in their hairy hands. Eeek!

In these days of the on-line retailer it did make me wonder whether the show was there to further encourage people to ignore their local guitar shop in favour of the faceless .com. We'll all regret it when it's too late!

Another odd side-effect of the 'sales ban' was that there seemed to be far fewer people actually trying gear out than last year - was this for fear of wanting to buy something and being told 'guitar denied!' in true Wayne's World style? Maybe, but surely it doesn't help the industry does it?

But the LiMS is not just about the gear, it's about performances too and Shredders...we were well catered for! I was there on the Saturday which meant Jamie Humphries, Dave Kilminster and the outstanding Guthrie Govan set the stage on fire as a Cornford Amplifiers endorsee billed 'C3'. We were later treated to the incredible and legendary Billy Sheehan doing crazy things on a bass further assisted by Mr Govan.

A real chemistry showed through with these two and the mouth watering prospect of a future collaboration between Sheehan and Govan was left hanging in the air! I've got my fingers crossed!

If that wasn't enough, next up was a man well known to Shred Academy...Paul Gilbert. Paul is of course responsible for more shredders taking to the strings than any other guitarist as a result of his terrifying teaching videos and outstanding recording career with Racer X, Mr Big and his solo work. Paul played a jaw dropping clinic style set with backing tracks and you could hear people breaking their own fingers in disgust! Strangely he didn't join former band mate Sheehan on stage...

Phil Hilborne hit the stage next but I've seen Phil before, and he's a real entertaining guitarist with top chops, but there was only so much time in one day, so I hopped out awaiting the headliner...

Yngwie J. Malmsteen!

What is there left to say about this guy? His influence is everywhere and his playing grossly underrated in my opinion. I particularly love his interpretation of classic rock and blues style solos that most people never hear - check out his version of Carry On My Wayward son for example - amazing!

So the opportunity to see the legend was top of my 'not to miss' list. BUT...

The organisation had been a mess...all the timings were well over an hour out of sync by the end of the day (perhaps they had a drummer organising it LOL) and people were drifitng out early (nothing to do with the price of parking, beer or food..RIGHT!), so Yngwie exploded on to stage to a half empty auditorium. To make matters worse, his tone was awful!

I know we say it's all in the fingers, but if your amp sounds rough and the FOH sound is poor there's nothing really you can do even if you're YJM. It looked as if Yng was playing through a DSL, but it sounded like a cheap combo out front. To top this he was playing along to backing tracks in a very 'OK where's the cheque?' sort of way, hilariously shouting 'Track 1, 2, 3, 4 etc' to the sound engineer between numbers! the time I heard Yngwie bark out the order 'Track 5' I'd had enough and went back to try out more gear. I'm sorry but I'd rather keep good memories of Yngwie than this performance. I'm certain his live tour next month with a real band will see him back to majestic form...let's hope so!

Sunday had a performance from Joe Satriani that I couldn't make, so tell us all about that if you were there.

I'll be back with LiMS Part 2 to share some of my thoughts on the gear I tried out...yum, yum!

Now stop wasting time on the net and go and shred!

Shred Bloggs

Hello from Shred Bloggs!

Hi Shred Academy Alumni,

My name is Pete (aka Northerngit) but for the purposes of this, and because it's fun, I've decided to call myself Shred Bloggs!

So what are you likely to expect from the blog? Well, as most of you lot, I'm just an ordinary guitarist who enjoys listening to shred and trying to crank up the metronome myself. I have a particular leaning towards jazzy/fusion type stuff (in fact I love Jazz anyway) but also technical metal and Seven string antics (i.e. Nevermore as opposed to Korn if you get my drift).

I'm going to be covering a wide range of topics, mainly to do with the people of shred, the gear we use, or would LOVE to use, reviews of gigs and recordings, fun things that I'm doing with guitar design and bands and any old nonsense that pops into my head.

So if you want to hear about something in particular, get me to review your latest opus or simply wind me up on a Shred related subject (and no...Lily Allen's 'performance' at Glastonbury isn't shred!) then leave a message.

Let's take this up a few more Bpm!


Shred Bloggs

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Roo interview – The Frenchman is back to talk about his gear and recording his album

Here is the Roo interview part 2. He’s been up to a lot and had gained some nice endorsements. This dude is going places…

What tips can you give beginner and intermediate guitarists who are trying to become highly advanced players in minimal time?

Sure, hehe, purchase my DVD!
Well, start to analyse the other guitar player’s style. Transcribe some of their solos and you will get even closer to their technique.

I suggest practicing on an acoustic guitar because the strings are heavier and you don't focus on the effects. Practice with a metronome. Buy a decent one, with volume control otherwise it drives you crazy, hehe.

Remember to play standing up, using your strap, because in a real situation nobody performs on a chair, at least in rock music...

Don’t be fooled by expensive gear, especially if you don’t have specific use for it.
Focus first on getting the most out of yourself. Find a good guitar instructor, someone that is established and is a model for you, who will push you.

What gear do you use and (more importantly) why?

For amps, I rather like cabinets/head or combos than racks systems. Mostly because I get lost with all the possibilities of too many elements put together. I have been very impressed by Mesa-Boogie amps, especially their amazing clean sounds and warm distortions, they do anything you want. Today I play a PowerBall Engl (amp head with cabinet) it sounds just perfect for metal.

I like different kinds of guitars of course. My main guitar is a Carvin DC127. I like the neck thru, the very light swamp ash body, and the ebony fingerboard. The neck scale length is 25' which fits my fingers well. I'd like to own more Carvin guitars, my dream would be to work with them, visiting the San Diego factory. There's something about this brand that appeals...

I don’t play with floating bridges anymore, it takes to long to tune the guitar, and it’s hell changing strings. I can also switch easily to drop D tuning with a fixed bridge.

I love to try different pickups, I played with many brands (actives and passives) and they all have something special. Basically, I like to have a single coil in the neck position and humbuckers for the bridge. I already tried 5 different bridge pickups in the same guitar!

To conclude, I'd say that the sad truth is that gear is more the reflection of budget than a matter of pure personal taste. It's always a compromise.

As for strings, I’m endorsed by Elixir Strings and I use them exclusively. I’m also endorsed by Brossard Picks which I like very much.

What are you trying to achieve compositionally?

As a guitarist, I really try to achieve a good crossroad between something technically respectable, yet melodic and original enough. I try to mix different styles I like such as country/blue grass with heavy tones, funky grooves and aggressive BlackMetal riffs.

I also use a lot of finger-pickings with distortion, I’m a bit into Michael Lee Firkins, and open strings of course.

Today I practice some 8 fingers tapping and some jazz phrasing but it's quite new for me so it doesn’t influence my playing in compositions yet.

Rhythm is important as well. I want people to be able to beat their foot to my music. It took me years to realize that compositions must be songs first. If it's guitar oriented, there must be enough melody to catch a non-shred listener’s attention. It's always tempting to play technical and fast in order to impress but it's also very rewarding to touch people who don’t listen to the same stuff that you do. Basically when I compose I tend to take as much of each genre I like until it becomes something of my own.

What parts of your playing reflects your personality and self expression most accurately?

Wow, man that is the question, hehe. Well, we're also working on this idea with the graphic designer who works on my album cover. The visual identity must reflect the music...

I told him that I see myself as a funny guy, who is enigmatic and somehow dark... I guess I’m a complex person.

It would be pretentious to say that I can express all my personality on my guitar. Everyday, I learn something new at guitar. It's a process in perpetual motion you know...

Today, I see my playing as a mishmash of techniques and styles that adapt themselves to the musical context. In my compositions, I don’t enjoy playing minor natural & harmonic minor scales in an overly emotional musical context. Maybe I don’t feel comfortable baring my deepest feelings in a sad song. I prefer a bluesy legato phrasing with a syncopated feel, cutting a groovy guitar theme with a weird riff or arpeggio. Something happy…but a bit scary. So I will use diminished scales (that you hear commonly in classical and neo-classical for instance), more in order to create tension at some point, rather than having a genuine neoclassical feel. I try to surprise myself. I sometimes use minor tonalities in my guitar lessons but it's different then. I could say, my song "Double Trouble", as modest as it is, reflects my personality somehow. (Watch the video demo on my myspace profile.)

Talk about the process of recording your album. Are there any
tips and trick that you could pass on? How did you choose the other
instrumentalists (if you did)?

Oh it's me who need tips. It's new for me to work on a solo, instrumental, rock guitar project. Of course it's the same process as with a band, except I handle most of it myself. So basically it will be the drummer and I for the studio work. I had some difficulties with the line up. People sometimes burnout and can't handle more than a few rehearsals, then give up. I lost some time like this. I will record in a professional recording studio. There's a possibility that the drums will be recorded and mixed in a different place.

I wrote and pre-recorded all the instrument parts at home. We'll just have to sit down and do our best. Some people record themselves but I don’t have the money and the knowledge for a home studio. I rather like to leave this task to people who know their job. I also have a lot of admiration for sound engineers. It's always a learning experience to watch them working.

I can only advise people to know their material very well. Prepare a list of the gear. Adjust the intonation of your guitar, or bring it to a luthier for a neck and fret job. Remove the strings two days before recording, not the same day that you’re going into the studio because the guitar will go out of tune a lot. I also recommend writing down the guitar leads note for note to prevent last minute improvisation, which can put pressure on you. Anyway after 10-15 hours of recording, your ears are exhausted and they lose clarity. Then there's the risk of recording something you feel great about at first, but then it totally sucks on mixing day.

That's it. Thanks for the interview.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Album Review - Thoughts Betrayed "Recollection"

Thoughts Betrayed is heavily influenced by such luminaries as Nevermore, Dream Theater, Symphony X, and Outworld. Core members Dave Cardwell (vocals, guitars) and Zack Uidl (guitars) formed Thoughts Betrayed in the summer of 2007 and set to work on what would become their self-released debut album “Recollection”, a thundering, bone crushing album with laser precise guitar work, complex rhythms and strong melodic sensibility.
Dave did all the vocals, rhythm guitars, bass programming, production and mastering, while both Zack and Dave programmed the drums and keys, and shared guitar solo duties.
Lookout for tour dates for the summer of 2008 as well as a music video.

Let’s look at the tracks:

After 5 seconds, you’re deep into super-technical European-style power metal terrain. Dave’s vocals are incredible, he has a broad range and his vocal vibrato is spot-on. The solo’s from both Dave and Zack are as terrifying as can be expected, but the scariest part of the song is the second half of the intro melody which Dave wrote for keys but Zack decided to play on guitar instead!

This track is all about these guy’s prog-metal influences, with a nod towards Nevermore in the form of a brutal rhythm guitar assault, and a doffing of the hat to Symphony X in the form of a strong piano melody. Naturally, Dave’s guitar solo is mind blowing.

More crushing rhythm guitar and accessible vocal melodies from Dave with blazing solo’s from both maestros after a wicked breakdown.

Long Days
I was almost thrown by the ambient intro to this track, but once the driving rhythm guitar section kicked in, I was back on planet TB. Dave’s vocal harmonies work really well on this track, and the breakdowns reminded me of Dream Theater.

Diving deep into Symphony X territory here, this tracks intro is my favourite part of the album. The rhythm guitar is also very Mike Romeo. Dave keeps the vocals mellow, but somehow haunting. Zack’s solo stays true to the vibe of the vocal melody, chilled.

With an interesting strings section on this track’s intro, the guys drop us smack-bang in the middle of the early thrash metal style power ballad. Then, about 2 minutes in, Dave comes out with a deathly snarl, very cool.

The heaviest song on the album is all double kick-drumming and sinister riffage. Dave showcases his vocal abilities ranging from deathmetal growls to high pitched wails. Possibly 2 of the most ferocious solo’s ever recorded can be heard at around the 3 minute mark.

Fading Thoughts
This track, the most subdued on the album, is held together by a consistent piano melody, making for the perfect backdrop to a heartfelt vocal delivery from Dave and a stunning solo from Zack.

A trek into the dark realm of odd meter, this track is not really suitable for background music at your next dinner party. But if you’re interested in some intricate guitaring, this instrumental track is where it’s at.

Another intense and complex rhythm, based on a dominant piano melody, allows dave to launch into a massive vocal ballad while Zack throws down the best, but not the fastest, solo on the album.

Possibly the most progressive song on the album in terms of form, this track cycles through many different sections without much repetition. The last solo section is in 7/8 time, and the vocal harmonies that follow it recall Lane Staley.

The album finishes off with another rhythmically complex track. I liked the tone of Dave’s vocals on this track the most. It was a fitting end to the album as well.

A lot more influences than those mentioned above are prevalent, but I’m not going to talk about what’s in my record collection, or what might be in Dave and Zack’s. These 2 guys took what they know and love, and made it there own. All in all, a strong metal album. 8.5/10

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Lindsey Boullt - Composition (Album Review)

Now as many of you will know by now i'm not a huge fan of progressive
stuff but when Lindsey contacted me asking if I would do a review of his
album i jumped at the chance. It's a great way to achieve an indepth
opinion of an artist i might otherwise have never heard of.

ABOUT LINDSEY (taken from his website)
First picking up the guitar at 21 years old, Lindsey received his music
degree three and a half years later and then graduated with honors from
the Guitar Institute of Technology in Los Angeles at the age of 27. Now an
established guitarist, composer and instructor in San Francisco and
working with some of the finest players in the world, Lindsey teaches at
the renowned Guitar Institute and has just released the 10-song original
work, June 2007.

Joining Lindsey for this album is a wealth of talented musicians.

Lindsey Boullt - Guitars
Jerry Goodman - Violin
Derek Sherinian - Keyboards
Stu Hamm - Bass
Jon Herrera - Bass
Atma Anur - Drums
Sukhawat Ali Khan - Vocals
Jeremy Coulson - Drums
Mingo Lewis - Percussion
Peter Van Gelder - Sitar

Page Revisited - A great introductory track. The track begins very
musically and has some interesting riffs and ideas. By midway through the
track it becomes evident that Lindsey has some chops! After a blistering
duel between guitar and keyboard the main themes and ideas of the song are
returned. A good introductory track that introduces us to lindsey's style.
Chasing The Whirling Dervish - This was quite a strange track, it had a
definite folk / oriental feel in several places throughout the song but
still maintained the feel of a progressive track. By the time the song was
half way through i think it was safe to say I knew what was coming
next...and i was right. A barrage of aggressive runs glued together to
form a solo. I must admit this wasnt one of my favourite solos from the
album. The highlight of this track for me was the string parts, they were
awesome and very filmic in some places.

Moving Panvishnu - This track showes a different element to Lindseys
playing, whilst the previous tracks were seemingly about the speed of the
solo i was much more impressed by the unusual melodies present in this
track. It begins with a strange melody line that sound like a cross
between Frank Zappa and Steve Vai. The guitar tone in this track is really
effective too and made me think of a theremin.Around two minuits into the song there is a guitar solo that makes excellent use of a wah pedal. I'm glad there are guitarists out there that
still know how to use a wah pedal properly and dont just rock it back and
forth repeatedly.At 2.43 comes one of the best melodies on the whole album, i only wish it
was longer. It really took me by surprise and sounded like something the
team behind Animusic would have come up with. As with the previous track,
some of the soloing doesnt fit with my personal tastes but it does fit
into the track very well.

Call For Peace - This track is in a similar style and sound to Moving
Panvishnu but introduces the first vocal lines to the album. The vocal is
quite haunting and stategically placed and well written even though it is
short. The main problem i'm having with this album is that no track really
stands out from the others, if i wasn't reading the track list as i go i
would have no way of telling where i am in the album. The songs are all
quite samey thus far and whilst Lindsey has obviously come up with a
succesful formula i hope he experiments with more styles later in the

Bravo Davo De La Torre - This track started off really promising, it
sounded like something a bit different. The first meldoy line of the song
is great and sounded like something you would expect to hear from Satriani
or something from Petrucci's Suspended Animation album. This track is one
of the more melodic on the album and also one of my favourites, it shows
Lindsey's talent as a guitarist with some great licks and solos, but
ultimatly, this track is about the melody.

Aurora's Aura - From the first beat of this track i immediatly thought to
myself, Allan Holdsworth. About forty seconds into the track the music
changes enough to take away the Holdsworth feel and revert back to the
folk / eastern feel that is becoming very apparent in Lindsey's style.
Unless you are a huge prog / fusion fan this track is quite difficult to
listen to as it makes use of strange timings, odd beats, and unusual
soloing and scales that an ear not trained for fusion can have difficulty
understanding. This is a very technical composition and it is easy to
appreciate how hard it must have been playing this track, but it's not
really for me.

Grooving With Stu - This track is something different, and fun to listen
to. It combines elements of all kinds of musical styles including funk,
jazz, rock, blues and even elements of spanish gypsy and flamenco are
present. There are some great acoustic solos which are reminiscent of Al
Di Meola and it is in these solos where Lindsey's techinique can be truly
appreciated. It is a shame this track is only just over two minuites long.
Taste The Hate - Similarly to the previous track, Taste the Hate fuses and
combines some unusual styles together. The folk and eastern elements are
still there (including a brief sitar solo) but some of the lead playing
has a rock / Satriani type feel. It is one of the strangest tracks on the
album and has a very trippy feel behind it.

Farewell - This is more like it, super-cheesey, lighter-in-the-air, ballad
time. This is definitly reminiscent of Satriani and could almost be taken
from one of his albums. Some great melodies in this piece. At 1.50 into
the track the music takes a different shape that reminded me personally of
Holdsworth or Shawn Lane. This only lasts about thirty seconds and then
the main idea of the music returns. This track definitly shows Lindsey's
'softer' side without taking away his signature sound. My only problem
with this track was that perhaps some of the soloing could've been more
melodic but even so it did fit well with the music.

Cleopatra's Third Eye - Lindsey's love for unusual fusion is again present
in this final track by combining a funky, seventies cop show style bass
line, and some ballad like strings as well as squeezing in the odd bar of
unusual time meters. This track definitly reminds me of something but i
can't quite put my finger on it.

The album is very well mixed and produced and the sound is consistent
throughout. The playing cannot be faultered on the album as all of the
musicians sounded spot on.With a title such as Composition the album had a lot to live up to and in
my opinion it succeeded to be a composition and not a guitar album.
Lindsey uses the guitar as one of his tools but it is by no means the most
important instrument on the album which is a refreshing change. This
album, whilst it does have some enviable guitar parts, is definitly about
the music as a whole rather than about Lindsey's ego.

It would be unfair of me to rate this album as it became apparent it is
not my style of music. What i will say is that i enjoyed listening to the
album and the music was a refreshing change and although similarities can
be made with other artists it really is quite an original piece and one i
hope i will go back to again and again for inspiration.

Reviewed By Adam Ironside (Adji)

Friday, February 29, 2008

Michael Angelo Batio to Guest Star on New Mark Tremonti DVD Project

MAB and Tremonti's friendship and professional relationship is to be taken a step further next month as Michael is due to appear as a guest on Mark Tremonti's new DVD.

This is what Michael's website ( has to say:
''On Wednesday March 20th, 2008 Michael will be working and performing as a guest artist with guitarist Mark Tremonti (Creed, Alter Bridge) on a new DVD that Mark is filming in Chicago, Illinois. Details regarding the release date for the new DVD will be available soon.''

New Yngwie Album, New Band Lineup Revealed!

The new line-up for the upcoming Malmsteen release has been unveiled on the official website of Yngwie (

Here is what the website has to say:
''Yngwie's long-awaited CD is now in its final stages of creation, with a tentative release date of July 2008. The new lineup that will take Yngwie's new album on the road will be Yngwie on guitars (of course!), Tim "Ripper" Owens on vocals, Bjorn Englen on bass, Michael Troy on keys, and Patrik Johansson on drums. ''

I'm already looking forward to hearing some stuff form this lineup.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Album Review – Oscar Ortega “Fruits of the Mourning”

Of Guatemalan descent, Oscar combined his talent with his love of music (which sprang from playing a variety of instruments since the age of 5), resulting in his debut full length album “Fruits of the Mourning”. With his heritage as a strong inspiration, Oscar fused heavy metal, clean guitars and Latin flavour, creating a true signature sound.

Power of One
Staying true to its name, this song is a massive, driving and motivating force. The name also takes a swipe at the blow Oscar took when his band split, a situation where Oscar felt he had no choice but to forge ahead on his own. Big, powerful and in-your-face, this is one side of Oscar you don’t want to mess with.

A very mellow song with some very introspective lyrics and sung in a most heartfelt way by Joel Klimes. This song shows a completely different side of Oscar and provides a glimpse at his limitless diversity.

Mearah’s Ballad
With a fusion of hard rock and some strong gypsy themes, this song has very interesting flamenco-style solo sections that would keep any shredder on their toes.

El Milagro
Piano played by Oscar’s father Rolando, a very strong vocal like melody line and a mind-boggling drum solo come together to create a Latin-rock master piece.

Chopin – Prelude in C Minor
Arranged for five guitars by Oscar, this piece composed by piano virtuoso Fredrik Chopin, is reincarnated in a different form, but captures the same emotive feel of the original.

Apple Valley
Full of fun, easy to listen to, but by no means boring, this song will hold the interest of shortest of attention spans. Watch out for the bobbing and weaving twists.

April 31st
Another song dominated by Joel Klimes vocals. Very chilled, very radio friendly, bordering on a “lounge” type of vibe. Could this be the “single” of the album?

Cherubic Style
Some Vai flavours, some Satch flavours and a generous helping of Ortega. The solo is a treasure trove of euphoria and the break downs are inspired. This was my favourite track on the album.

Dance With Me
Diving deeply into the rhythm and soul of Samba, Oscar whips out the nylon strings again, with a message to forget your worries, forget about tomorrow, dance and smile.

Para Mi Abue
Written with tears dripping from his eyes onto his guitar, this song was composed on the night Oscar’s grandmother passed away. The phasing stays true to what I imagine must have been a difficult time in Oscar’s life, but one that yielded a magnificent result.

This album shows the depths of Oscar’s diversity, and his skill as a musician and as an artist. If you only listen to one genre of music, this album isn’t for you. If you’re interested in fearless self-expression, look no further.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ron Jarzombek interview – The shred veteran talks about his new album and upcoming DVD

What steps have you taken to forge a career in the music industry?
Well, I've hung in there for almost a quarter century now. Perseverance counts for a lot. I've never been able to make a living solely off playing original music, whether it was with Slayer who were a pretty big local band in San Antonio at the time, WatchTower where I still haven't seen a dime in royalties almost 20 years after the release of 'Control And Resistance', Spastic Ink, or my solo projects. Although things on that front are improving because the Internet has opened up new avenues for distribution - digital and otherwise - around the world and helps connect you with people everywhere. These are some pretty exciting times, especially for indie artists, although there is obviously also a major downside with all the rampant illegal downloading. But, hopefully enough people value my music enough to where they want 'the real thing' rather than just an mp3 off some torrent. My latest album, BLOTTED SCIENCE - 'The Machinations of Dementia', with Alex Webster from Cannibal Corpse and Charlie Zeleny from Behold... The Arctopus, is doing quite well and it's still early in the game.

What does a normal Day in your life entail?
I teach five days a week for 5-6 hour each day (which happens in the middle of the day) so I usually have a few hours before and after I teach to work on my own things. If I’m working on a CD, I usually write during the day, then record at night. Alex (Webster) and I started writing the BLOTTED SCIENCE material in early ’05, so it’s probably been a few hundred days of staying up until 3:00 or 4:00 AM writing/recording to get it completed. I also do most of the graphics on my CDs, and just about all of the production, so I take care of that stuff whenever I have free time. Since the Blotted CD has been out I’m taking CD orders and filling them, making a few trips to the post office weekly, doing online interviews, keeping track of the bookkeeping, working with my manager/handling distributors details, website updates, etc.. I gig locally once or twice a week (Fridays and Saturdays mostly) with a Rush tribute band here in town. I’m also working on the guitar instructional DVDs right now, so I’m pulling up tracks from both Ink CDs, the solo and the Blotted CDs, getting remixes, muting out guitar tracks that I’m going to be playing over, doing theoretical animations, transcribing LOTS of my songs and solos, practicing them so I can video tape them soon. And now BLOTTED SCIENCE is thinking about taking it to the stage, so I’m running over that material, too.

What makes Blotted Science unique in terms of style, band dynamics, etc?
For me it was something new because I wanted different influences on this recording. Of course, I had to pull up some death metal CDs since I was working with the chief of death metal in Alex Webster. I had to learn where the music was coming from, and try to get the right vibe across. I also listened to lots of Lamb of God recordings (Chris Adler was the original drummer) and also tried to capture that vibe, and put it all together and create something new and different. Alex brought in the extreme heavy shit and it all just came together. The difficult part was when Chris Adler couldn’t get the recordings done mostly due to time constraints and trying to work long distance, and so we were stuck with the task of finding a drummer to take what was written with Chris in mind, but put his own stamp on the material. I heard maybe one Behold… The Arctopus song to realize that Charlie could cut the gig. And watching him play live only confirmed it.

What are you trying to achieve compositionally?
Alex and I had a few dozen or so parts of songs written but it took a few months before we came up with the brain disorder concept and to fit the musical ideas with song titles. The way we wrote ‘Machinations’ was by sending sheet music and mp3s in attachments via the Internet. Alex uses PowerTab and I use Encore for writing/sequencing, so we both had the program on our computers, and just transferred tunes back and forth. I had a list of song titles and ideas that I wanted to convey with the music, noting what songs I wanted near death metal, which were to be rather quiet and spooky, which were more tech-y and complicated, heavy and straightforward, etc.. Lots of music on ‘Machinations’ follows specific themes in song titles and some follow them as if they are film scores. I’ve always been into concepts, which of course came from Rush. We first came up with the sleep concept, and that evolved into the brain disorders. The whole thing really came into place quite easily. Song titles fit the various music segments with very little effort, and I think it shows on the CD.If there is another BLOTTED SCIENCE album, we’ll most likely stick with the idea of staying very tech, and on the EXTREME metal side of things. As far as the playing on the CD, I’ve always believed that you play what the song calls for, and it’s in the writing that you set that up. I hate when players overplay, and I don’t get much into the whole wankfest vibe. Sure that’s fine for some players, but I’m more into instruments working together to get something across. Having a full band pay a simple vamp while some soloist is blowing his wad never really did much for me. Now if you’ve got all band members playing some wacky shit, all focused on the composition rather than forcing in their favorite triplet 32nd lick that they discovered last week, that’s a great thing. You’ll notice that on just about every CD that I’m on, whether it would be solo CDs, WatchTower, Spastic Ink, or BLOTTED SCIENCE, sure there is ‘shredding’ all over the place, but songs come first, what the players do within those organized structures comes after. Listen to the material on ‘Machinations’ - it’s made up of compositions, not a bunch of wanking going nowhere. Again, I think there is WAY too much emphasis on ‘shred’ these days. I’ve seen too many videos on YouTube where some guitar guys is ‘shredding’ his ass off, then comes in a simple eight note riff with a bit of syncopation and the dude is struggling because he never worked on his timing. And I may sound a bit contradictory here because there will be lots of ‘shredding’ on my upcoming DVDs. However! It will all be within the context of something else. There are already too many guitar videos focusing solely on 5 string arpeggios, string skipping, alternate picking, etc.

Talk about the process of recording your album. Are there any tips and trick that you could pass on?
For me, recording just about always starts with playing along to a click track. Since we all recorded our parts at various times in various places, it wouldn’t have been possible without a click track. I remember WatchTower recorded ‘Control And Resistance’ without a click. Looking back at that I just think “Wow, that was nuts!”. But that’s how we did it. Guitars and bass were scratch tracked while we were playing as a band, and we only kept the drums. Then Doug and I went in an after and rerecorded guitars and bass. For the Blotted recordings, Alex was nearly done recording his bass tracks before we even knew who was going to be playing drums. I was about halfway done with my rhythm tracks when Charlie came on board. Alex records on his laptop, I record at my ‘home studio’ and Charlie also has a studio at his place. I didn’t write or record any guitar solos or melodies until drums were recorded because the feel always changes when going from programming to real drums. I compiled all of the tracks over here, mixed it and did all of the production work.

What’s kinda cool for me is when I listen to the CD - it sounds like we are in total sync, yet the 3 of us have never been in the same room together. We are planning on getting together for a few live rehearsals soon, then possibly doing some shows, depending on our schedules. We are getting lots of invites, and it would be all too cool if we could take them up.

When is your instructional DVD coming out?
I’m shooting for a mid ’08 release but it’ll probably be pushed back a bit. I have so much material that I want to cover. It will be at least 2 DVDs, could be 3. I won’t really know until I start the video taping, dialogue, theoretical animations, all the playing examples, additional technique notes, etc.

What material will you cover in your instructional DVD?
The focus will be the progressive/technical aspect of writing and playing, with examples and insight for material from both Spastic Ink CDs, my solo CDs, and the 'Blotted Science - The Machinations Of Dementia' CD. To be covered (with excerpts/examples from), on the first DVD, will be 1. Common simple scales use and abuse, 2. Changing Keys, 3. Simultaneous Major/Minor Keys/Progressions, 4. Floating Parallels, 5. Timing (Syncopation), 6. Trade-Offs, 7. Starts / Stops, and 8. The A/B Switch. The second DVD will focus on the 12-tone aspect of writing. I started using all 12 tones when writing on ‘Nighty Nite’ on my first solo CD ‘PHHHP!’. This evolved into using multiple 12 tone sets, modulating 12 tone sets, then on the BLOTTED SCIENCE CD, I started using what I call ‘The Circle of 12 Tones.’ The DVDs will not have any chapters titled ‘5 String Arpeggios’, ‘Sweeping’, ‘Alternate Picking’, etc. All of the technique stuff will be played but it will be fitted into the context of other theoretical things.

Many thanks to you for asking me questions that made me think a bit and look into things a bit more. Hopefully your readers will get a few things out of it and those that aren’t familiar with my stuff will be curious to check it out. I definitely want to thank everybody that’s picked up a copy of the BLOTTED SCIENCE disc so far rather than just downloading it for free. We appreciate your support.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Roo interview - The Frenchman talks about the 66 Licks programme

How did you come up with the concept for your 66 Licks lesson

Well, the whole concept isn’t from me but from Ben (Perchard). He asked me if I was interested in recording 66 guitar licks for him and being paid for that, of course.
I thought it would be a kind of sample licks CD. It sounded very easy to do at the beginning. I sent a rough 4 lick demo and he liked it.

It was about recording very short licks, about 2 seconds long, one lick per bar. That was the first challenge, because it’s not that easy to play something interesting that only lasts 2 seconds. The weeks passed and the idea of including them into a program came.

It was about 3 different levels, from very easy to pretty challenging. I sent back a few samples but my licks were too difficult. Then came the idea of licks combos. I was asked to record 12 different examples to demonstrate them in a "live" situation. So I realised that I would have to do everything in the same key, making part of the previous work useless.

The concept was now to have 66 licks of 3 levels, that would fit in any order, to build little solos. The 12 examples had to be recorded "live" (no copy/paste) and the licks had to flow together. That was actually the biggest challenge we had between Ben, the programmer and me.

The program had a glitch, leaving a small gap at the beginning of each lick, so they didn’t flow properly. It took time to solve this problem and the fact that I added a metronome click into the licks helped to check the time accuracy.

I also had to re-record some of the licks that were cutting abruptly. Some lick chains sounded great in a certain order but sucked running in a different order. So I had to work on having the licks fading at the right time and removing the "bad licks".

When I finally played the finished program, with the tablature appearing in perfect time with the lick combos, playing in any order, that was a great feeling. I felt "It's alive! Alive". The concept of 66 Licks lesson programme was born. Ben really did a great job.

How is 66 Licks different to the average guitar magazine or
guitar video lesson?

I'd say 66 licks is a “Tool” which includes musical material, so it's a new concept.
It's an enhanced vocabulary of licks, phrases and ideas to incorporate into your own playing, song writing and improvisation. You increase your ability to construct your own solos from the licks provided and perfect or learn new techniques. The program comes with backing tracks so that you can jam with what you've learned. It's also very easy and fun to use. It is definitely interactive. I can not compare this to a stock standard magazine or video lessons.

Will there be an upgrade or maybe a version 2 for the 66 Licks?
Yes, I have a volume 2 in progress and as you know there are other Shred Academy artists working on their own version. The program will receive plenty of regular and cool updates to make its use even more enjoyable. So it's constantly evolving. Joe Stump's 66 licks will be out soon, I heard a preview, it's absolutely killer material! I ran through a few licks, it was so awesome that I instinctively picked up my guitar to try them out.

What does a normal/average day in your life entail?
The winter, I go to the lake, make a hole in the ice and fish till dusk, hehe. Well, life is always in motion so I can't tell what a normal day for me is. I wish I could do more physical activities and get rid of all the boring daily duties...

Is Finland turning you into a blackmetal fan?
Hehe, yes indeed! Finland is a kind of promised land for metal lovers and there are countless bands here who have international success, especially those from Spinefarm records...

Sure I see the other styles aren't as popular, but as far as the material and the musicians go, they are good. I don't really think "is it BlackMetal or something". When you gig, it just feels great to perform before a lot of metal fans who express their enthusiasm.

What is it like living in Finland as a Frenchman?
Oh God! Haha, they forbid me to eat frogs and garlic snails! I was forced to eat reindeer and moose instead! Hehe, they’re gonna trash me now... Seriously, I'd say Finland is worth the trip!

It's a very modern country, but with strong traditions. People might talk less but things are done more efficiently somehow. Women are more respected here. There are actually a lot of female bands, more than what I figured before.

I like the Finnish way of life very much. Sure, sometimes I am surprised by some culture difference, but I learn how to behave from my experiences... I have a bunch of funny anecdotes. For instance, as we talk about music now: In a musical instrument shop, you can try instruments without asking the salesman. You are being too polite if you ask or else it means you're somehow interested in buying... In France, you can't come in, say nothing, and plug a limited Les Paul in a Mesa, hehe, otherwise it's a lack of respect for the salesman ( "S'il vous plait monsieur")...I even test drove a car alone, the salesman left me the keys.

That's it. Thanks for the interview.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The History of Shred in a Nutshell, Part III: The Shrapnel Guys

Let your practice be your pleasure and let your fingers match the speed of lights, in other words - Happ New Year! All right, shredheads, here we meet again. Coming back to the history of our beloved music genre (at least I assume it’s so), today we’re examining the record label which’s impact on the guitar world in just impossible to overrate. Of course, I’m talking about Shrapnel Records.

Firstly, it would be no Shrapnel without the great MIKE VARNEY. Being not a player, but a producer and the label’s founder, he made indescribable services for the guitar music, promoting hundreds of talented guitarists from all over the world. Everyone who found himself good enough, could send his demo record to Mr.Varney and get rated – thus have many extraordinary players been discovered. Before the actual “shred explosion”, in 1980, establishing a guitar-oriented label might have seemed insane, but today we all know it was just hitting the bull’s eye and the name “Shrapnel” is one of the magical words for the six-string warriors. It was Varney who helped the teenage Yngwie Malmsteen start his career, but hiss further history is connected with another label. However, there are tons of other masters of the instrument which are strongly associated with Varney’s company; here I’ll present just the biggest few:

MARTY FRIEDMAN – Yep, THAT Friedman, that amazing guy from Megadeth. The Dave Mustaine’s band is with no doubt the most famous act he took part in, however, the guitar fanatics praise him equally, if not more for his solo career and the legendary Cacophony. It was a band, in which Marty crossed axes with the great JASON BECKER, providing some of the finest, coolest shred solos ever recorded. Although one can argue about the Cacophony songs’ musical value or the singer’s abilities (which were actually poor), the awesome legato lines or arpeggio sections created by Friedman and Becker have their unquestionable place in the history of shred. The band has released just two albums – “Speed Metal Symphony” and “Go Off!” which are necessary listens to every shred fan. From Marty’s solo work, I’d recommend the debut CD “Dragon’s Kiss” and “True Obsessions”. It’s also worth mentioning that on his latest release, “Loudspeaker” (2006) you can hear him “dueling” with Steve Vai and John Petrucci! Last but not least, Marty has developed very distinctive tone and phrasing, and he’s definitely got much to say, so we can still expect loads of fabulous music from him.

JASON BECKER, whom I’ve mentioned above, was more than the epitome of prodigy. Not only had he played some of the craziest shred lines ever heard being 17 years old on Cacophony’s debut CD, not only had he replaced Steve Vai himself in David Lee Roth’s band being only 19. When you listen to “Altitudes” from his first solo album, “Perpetual Burn”, you’re simply floored and the fact he was only 19 when composing that piece makes it only more impressive. The later history of Jason’s life is like a movie script – at the age of 20 he’s diagnosed with Lou Gehring’s disease, and lands petrified in a wheelchair. Despite that fact, he manages to compose further, and the album “Perspective” on which he didn’t manage to record all the parts, is one of the most marvelous and underrated CDs ever, style-regardless. Presumed to die ten years ago, Jason is still alive and waits for the cure to his disease. And no one knows how the story of the strongest warrior of shred will end.

Jason's MySpace profile

In my humble opinion, no other guitarist in neo-classical genre has a flair for melodies comparable with TONY MACALPINE. He’s widely known to be able to shred like hell and praised for his extremely precise use of alternate and sweep picking, but that simply doesn’t matter when you hear the moving “Tears of Sahara” or “Edge of Insanity” themes and simply can’t get’em off your head! You thought only silly pop hits can do that way? You were wrong! On the other hand, Tony likes to experiment with the harmony, unusual scales or timing, which can be heard on his “Chromaticity” solo album. He is also an excellent keyboards/piano player – it became a kind of tradition that each of his solo releases includes some works by Chopin… Many people first hear of Tony as a member of Steve Vai’s tour band, when he plays keyboards and sometimes grabs the guitar to duel the leader, too. I recommend to you “Maximum Security”, as in my private rank it’s the finest example of melodic shredding of all time !

One of the most important acts to be discovered by Mike Varney was RACER X, where PAUL GILBERT and BRUCE BOUILLET made, along with Cacophony, the coolest shred duo of the time. They easily harmonized some parts that sounded unplayable for average single player and mastered all the modern electric guitar techniques to formerly unheard extent. Their first albums, “Street Lethal” and “Second Heat” are nothing but a sheer shred fest, that still make jaws drop after two decades. Paul became later known as Mr.Big guitarist (each of you have heard him on your radio in “Wild World”…) and successful solo artist, whereas Bruce is still known mainly as “Paul Gilbert’s bandmate”. Today, Gilbert is one of the greatest names in shred industry, and steadily provides his fans with new exciting music. I’m sure you’ll see his name on this site many times!

Those mentioned are in my humble opinion the most important names to come out from Shrapnel, however, the label has “created” dozens of guitar stars and is still discovering new talnets. Some more Shrapnel guys every six-string—fanatic should know: Vinnie Moore, Joey Taffola, Richie Kotzen, Greg Howe and David T. Chastain. But remember – they’re merely the tip of the iceberg!

Uhm, maybe I became too “talkative” this time… If you want to read about some more Shrapnel guys, or have any questions and comments, just mail me! And wait for the last part of “Shred in a nutshell” series, covering the most recent years.