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Interview

INTERVIEW: DragonForce’s Herman Li & Sam Totman

The mighty DragonForce have always brought the epic energy, triumphant power-metal riffage, anthemic choruses and intense shred to their work, but what makes their new album Maximum Overload stand out a little from the rest of their catalog is their willingness to step outside of their established sound just far enough to keep it fresh. Vocalist Marc Hudson has well and truly settled in now (he joined prior to the recording of previous album The Power Within, and Trivium’s Matt Heafy contributes his vocal power to three tracks as well. And for the first time DragonForce have worked with an outside producer, Jens Bogren, who has also produced, mixed or mastered the likes of Soilwork, Symphony X, Pain of Salvation, James LaBrie, Devin Townsend. Throw it all together and you have Dragonforce’s biggest-sounding album yet. Continue reading

INTERVIEW: Nergal of Behemoth

Behemoth The SatanistThere was a time when it looked like we might not get another Behemoth album. Frontman Adam ‘Nergal’ Darski was diagnosed with leukaemia in August 2010, and an urgent bone marrow transplant was needed. The surgery was ultimately successful, but Nergal was re-admitted after developing an infection. Then when the band finally returned to the road, he found himself exhausted, pushed to the brink by the exertion and intensity required to play a Behemoth show. “I knew I was pretty much fucked and there was a battle to be won, and I had no fucking idea if it was going to take six months or twelve months or maybe four years, because with cancer you never know,” Nergal says. “I learned from being in the hospital that there are things in life that you can control and things that you can’t control. The sooner you realize which is which it’s going to make your life so much easier, and since then I started to focus on the right things. I could be determined, I could have discipline, I could have faith, but everything else is not under my control, and it really was a case of just crossing fingers for the best possible outcome.” Continue reading

INTERVIEW: Sepultura’s Andreas Kisser

andreas kisserSepultura are stayers. They’ve weathered all sorts of line-up changes and shifts in musical style – not to mention shifts in overriding heavy music trends occurring around them – and yet they’ve never given up and never made the same album twice. Their latest, The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart, finds the band (guitarist Andreas Kisser, vocalist Derrick Green, bassist Paulo Jr. and drummer Eloy Casagrande) working with producer Ross Robinson for the first time since 1996’s Roots with incredible results. Inspired by the 1927 film Metropolis, the album is dark, foreboding, mysterious, aggressive and energetic, bursting with intense guitar work and Green’s trademark guttural vocals. It’s been far too long since Sepultura visited Australia, but they’ll be back in October with dates in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. I caught up with guitarist Andreas Kisser.  Continue reading

INTERVIEW: Dan Sultan

Dan Sultan is something of a rarity in the Australian music scene, let’s admit it: a dude with charisma, talent and opinions who isn’t afraid to use all three. Often the dreaded ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ gets in the way of letting artists truly express themselves but Sultan seems to just go for it with a purity of will and utterly without pretence. He doesn’t feel the need to talk himself up, but he doesn’t talk himself down either. That makes him a pretty damn refreshing interview. And it also makes Blackbird, his new studio album, something very special. Named after Black Studios in Nashville, where it was recorded, it’s Sultan’s first album in five years and the follow-up to his acclaimed Get Out While You Can. A lot can happen in five years, especially when you carry the burden of expectation on your shoulders, but Sultan is taking it all in his stride. With producer Jacquire King (Tom Waits, Kings Of Leon), Sultan has crafted a varied, expressive album which sounds at once brand new and comfortable. It’s familiar and yet exciting. And its’ loaded with great guitar tones. Continue reading

INTERVIEW: Joe Satriani

Joe Satriani

Across 14 studio albums Joe Satriani has redefined instrumental guitar, led the charge in popularising shred, introduced all sorts of techniques to the guitarists’ lexicon, and spearheaded innovations in gear that have influenced countless luthiers and modders. While Joe is always looking forward – to the next guitar, the next gig, the next album – 2014 finds him also taking stock of how he got to this point, if only for a moment. This year has already seen the release of TThe Complete Studio Recordings, a 15-disc box set which brings together each of his albums (the studio disc of the two-CD Time Machine album is represented) plus a disc of alternate mixes, unheard tracks and rarities. And he has also released Strange Beautiful Music: A Musical Memoir, which explores his creative output album-by-album, offering unprecedented incites into the conception and execution of his albums, the origins of the G3 tour, the success of Chickenfoot and of course those early days teaching guitar to the likes of Steve Vai, Alex Skolnick, Kirk Hammett and Larry LaLonde. With plenty of touring booked for this year already, Joe has just announced a tour of Australia for November, which means it’s high time we had another chat. Continue reading

INTERVIEW: MONO’s Daniel Kushner

Have you seen what MONO is up to? They offer a range of environmentally, zoologically and aesthetically friendly cases for we guitarists, as well as plenty of other items too – wallets, laptop sleeves, iPad sleeves, backpacks, pedalboard cases, DJ storage stuff… The company has a clear and identifiable design style  too, which gives their products a lot of character. Y’know how products by companies like Apple and Fender always feel ‘Apple-y’ or ‘Fendery’ yet retain their individuality as an item? That. I had a chat with MONO founder Daniel Kushner about the company’s philosophy, product offering and jam-friendly company culture.

How did Mono begin?

MONO was born out of 3 colliding factors: 1. My desire to build a design-driven company, 2. My desire to reconnect with my musical side, and 3. My frustration at the time with the state of soft goods in the music industry. I felt I could really make a difference in the industry designing pro level products for my favorite activity – going to play music. “Go Play” became my mantra, and continues to be our mantra!

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INTERVIEW: Gojira’s Joe Duplantier

French metal band Gojira have been a ‘next big thing’ for far too long. They’ve maintained the same line-up since forming in Bayonne in 1996, and each successive album has pushed them closer and closer to the spotlight. But L’Enfant Sauvage is going to change all that. This is the album that seems finally destined to bump Gojira all the way into at least Lamb of God/Trivium levels of fame. It combines a Devin Townsend-esque appreciation for atmosphere and melody with post-thrash rhythms, post-death metal drumming and a live, human element that’s missing from so much current studio-tweezed metal. After a triumphant run during Australias’s Soundwave Festival (which saw Devin Townsend and Meshuggah’s Fredrik Thordendal join them on stage for a historic performance of their studio collaboration “Of Blood And Salt”), Gojira are ready.

“The reason why we did that tour was to see a kangaroo,” guitarist and vocalist Joe Duplantier says of the recent Soundwave shows. “That was our main purpose! The reason why we came to Australia! And then we played some shows with Soundwave. But mostly we wanted to see a wild kangaroo. The last day of the tour we still hadn’t seen a kangaroo so we rented a car and went to the desert. Couldn’t find one the whole day. But on our way back to Perth we saw one, man! The night was falling and this huge kangaroo was jumping, and everyone was screaming in the car.” But  now that the hunt for bipedal marsupials is over, Gojira is getting down to business. L’Enfant Sauvage is their first album on Roadrunner Records. It’s a diverse collection of tracks, some heavy, some more ambient, with an unusual amount of colour and drama for most bands other than Devin Townsend and Cynic. “I don’t listen to metal a lot,” Duplantier explains. I listen to Massive Attach and Morcheeba and Radiohead, Portishead. My brother [Mario Duplantier, drums] likes Indian music. Christian [Andreu], the other guitar player, doesn’t like music at all! He likes silence! He’s like, “Wow, this is the best.” And the bass player [Jean-Michel Labadie] listens to all kinds of metal. He’s a huge metal fan. So it’s an interesting mix. We have different attitudes, and it creates something more personal. I’d like to think that through the years, as we release albums, it’s getting closer to what we are, closer to the core. It’s a nice feeling. I love this album. We reached something that Im’ really, really happy with.”

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INTERVIEW: Thomas V Jones of TV Jones, Inc

TV Jones, Inc was formed 1993 by guitarist and luthier Thomas V. Jones in Whittier, California. Now based out of Poulsbo, Washington, the company is known for their brilliant recreations of classic Gretsch Filter’Tron pickups in the form of the TV Classic, as well as more modern variations on the theme, like the TV Classic Plus, Magna’Tron, Power’Tron, Power’Tron Plus (developed with Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top) and Super’Tron. They do plenty more too: for the full range check out TVjones.com

How di

d you get started? Did you follow the classic ‘accidentally destroy a lot of cheap guitars as a kid’ route, or more traditional luthiery?

As a kid I took my guitars apart out of curiosity. Later on I did many repairs and even attempted to build a double neck electric guitar (6 string and mandolin). Around 1990 I decided to become more serious about guitar repair and construction, so I got a job at a violin shop called The World of Strings in Long Beach, California. I worked in the guitar department for almost three years, and learned to repair and construct stringed instruments based on orchestral instruments. So I got started as a luthier.

What is it about the FilterTron tone that is so magic for you?

The growl, clarity in the bass, and compression –– it is magical.

I imagine you must have disassembled, analysed and reassembled quite a few vintage pickups over the years – what have you learned from this process? Was there as much variation between FilterTrons as there was between classic-era PAFs?

I learned that it’s not just the coils, or coils that make a great pickup, but the combination of superior materials that make a great pickup. Most vintage pickups were made with high quality materials –– that’s all there was. We choose to have our components and materials made in the USA –– the birthplace of the electric guitar pickup.

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INTERVIEW: Morley’s Bill Wenzloff

Morley Pedals was started by brothers Raymond and Marvin Lubow in LA in the 1960s, when players were first really started to explore how they could use effects to enhance their music. Their first product was an electro-mechanical echo uni under the brand name Tel-Ray Electronics, but a subsequent product – a rotating speaker simulation in a box – provided the inspiration for the Morley name: the new unit was ‘More-Lee’ rather than ‘Less-Lee.’ But what really helped Morley to break into the big league was their line of treadle-operated pedals – wahs, volume pedals and the Rotating Sound pedal, the original ‘More-Lee’ pedal. Today Morley makes a variety of effects, including Steve Vai’s Bad Horsie and Little Alligator pedals, signature gear for Mark Tremonti and George Lynch. The company was bought by Chicago firm Sound Enhancements, Inc in the late 80s but Morley continues to use the innovations of the Lubow brothers as inspiration. I Heart Guitar caught up with Morley’s Bill Wenzloff to talk shop.

Tell us about your background as a player – how and why did you start? What did you play? 

I started playing guitar at about age 12. I was already a Beatles fan but once I discovered Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Deep Purple, Rush and other rock icons, I knew I wanted to play guitar. One of the first rock songs I learned was Dirty Deeds by AC/DC. It felt so awesome hitting those chords out of a loud amp; it felt slightly naughty and yet so cool. I was hooked. I played in many bands throughout my life; some original, some cover and even a few tribute bands (I was Ace Frehley in Kiss Tribute “Kissed” and Brad Whitford in Aerosmith tribute called “Big Ten Inch”). Music has been the one constant in my life and I am continually grateful that I have the gift of playing music.

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INTERVIEW: Garbage’s Butch Vig

When Garbage went into hiatus around 2006, nobody expected the band to be gone forever. It really did seem like more of a ‘recharge the creative batteries’ break than a ‘we hate each other and can’t stand to work together ever again’ thing. So when they announced their plans to return, it was not really a surprise. What is a surprise is that their new album, Not Your Kind Of People, sounds like they never missed a day. It does what Garbage – Shirley Manson, Butch Vig, Steve Marker and Duke Erikson – have always done best, and that’s to sound like themselves. That indefinable quality that makes each Garbage album sound different to the one before it, yet makes them all sound like part of the unified output of those four musicians and the dynamic between them.

“We did not want to reinvent ourselves,” Vig says. “We wanted to embrace the sensibilities of what we like as the four of us. And just basically try to capture what it is that makes it sound like who we are.” Part of that was the realisation that nobody else sounds like Garbage, and that there’s something about having an identity that’s very hard to define and quantify, but that when you find it, you hang on to it. “I think that’s a huge, valuable asset in today’s world, to have that kind of signature sound. So we decided to simply do what we like to do. And that’s the sound of this record. A lot of people said it reminded them of our first album.”

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INTERVIEW: Dragonforce’s Herman Li

It’s always tough on fans when a singer leaves a band. Sure, Van Halen did fine with Sammy Hagar, and AC/DC didn’t exactly flounder when Brian Johnson joined, but there’s always that moment of “Oh jeez, will this work?” Post-Lane Warrant, heck, even post-Hagar Van Halen – there’s lots of scope for a misstep. Well the new Dragonforce album, The Power Within, will immediately shut up anyone who expects the band to lose some of its edge following the departure of ZP Theart. About a year after Theart walked, Dragonforce announced they’d enlisted Marc Hudson as their new voice. And what a voice. Dragonforce still sounds like Dragonforce, but even more musical, more powerful and more exciting. For a band who dishes out killer riffs and impossible guitar licks as easily as walking, kicking it up a notch is quite a feat. But The Power Within delivers.

Hi Herman! We haven’t met before but I remember you kicking around on the Jemsite forums back in the day.

Oh yeah! I still go to Jemsite. It’s got good information.

It’s been great to see forum regulars like you and James McIlroy (Cradle of Filth) going on to such big things. 

Yeah! Actually James gave me the contact with Ibanez to get my deal!

No way! 

Yeah!

Well, first question: What did the switch to Marc bring to the creative process?

With the switch of singer we definitely turned the whole recording process, the rehearsing, the whole band thing upside down and changed everything around. I think it was going to happen anyway, because after we finished the last album I wanted to really look back at the ten years we’d been doing the band – y’know, how we did it, how we wanted to change things, how we could make it better. So for this album and the recording process, I suppose I can almost say it’s completely different from the last album, the last two albums.

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INTERVIEW: Buddy Guy

Blues legend. That’s all there is to it. Buddy Guy is one of the pioneers of the Chicago blues sound, a continually amazing guitarist, highly energetic performer, and a prime influence on one Mr Jimi Hendrix. At 75 years young, Guy is nowhere near slowing down, playing Australian dates in Sydney and Melbourne with Jonny Lang, as well as a standout set at Bluesfest. I spoke to Guy prior to Bluesfest and just after he finished up a string of dates on the Experience Hendrix tour in the USA.

“I’ve can’t count the times I’ve been to Australia,” Guy says. “I started coming down there in 1972. That was my first time coming down and I had never met [Delta Blues legend] Arthur Crudup before. I think it was the guy who created the Newport Jazz Festival, George Wein – he was taking it around the world, and that was my first visit to Australia. And what a country, man. I just fell in love with it.”

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Peter Hodgson Hi! I'm Peter Hodgson. I write for Gibson.com, Australian Guitar, Australian Musician, Mixdown Magazine (including my instructional column, 'Unleash Your Inner Rock God,' which has been running since 2007), BluntBeat (including their weekly hard rock/metal column Crunch) and The Brag. And I'm Assistant Social Coordinator with Seymour Duncan. I've been playing guitar since I was 8 years old, and I've been writing for magazines since I was 18. I've also worked as a guitar teacher (up to 50 students a week), a setup tech, a newspaper editor, and I've also dabbled in radio a little bit. I live in Melbourne, Australia, and my hobbies include drinking way too much coffee, and eating way too much Mexican food. You can check out my guitar playing at Bandcamp or on YouTube, and feel free to email me at iheartguitarblog@gmail.com If you'd like to support the site, feel free to kick in a couple o'bucks using this donation button.

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