INTERVIEW: Yngwie J Malmsteen

Yngwie

Yngwie Malmsteen is the undisputed master of neoclassical guitar. Other players like Richie Blackmore and Uli Jon Roth had explored elements of the style but none pushed it to quite the extremes that Yngwie did. A million guitarists arose in his wake to try to copy what he was doing but none have managed to capture Yngwie’s pure power and dazzling technique. As Yngwie himself puts it when discussing the various Yngwie clones who sprung up over the years, “And that’s why I call myself Yngwie J Malmsteen, not to be confused with all the other Yngwie Malmsteens.” And Yngwie is about to hit Australia for his first concert tour since 2006 (tickets here). Read More …

INTERVIEW: Veruca Salt’s Louise Post

Veruca Salt were an anomaly when they hit it big in the mid 90s. Louise Post and Nina Gordon created a wall-of-guitars sound upon which to hang their intricate harmonies and hooky-yet-edgy songwriting – and when you step back and think about it, Louise was one of the few guitarists to get solos on the radio consistently throughout the 90s. The partnership of Louise and Nina ended in the 90s but now the whole gang is back together and touring, and they’ve released two new songs – “The Museum of Broken Relationships” and “It’s Holy” – to show us where they’re at before a full album is released in the near future. I spoke to Louise on the eve of the band’s Australian tour. Read More …

INTERVIEW: Devin Townsend

Devin TownsendThere’s like a secret knowing wink between Devin Townsend fans, a shared understanding that within the multiple layers, in amongst the links between songs, albums and projects, nesting in the balance of depth, introspection, humour and expression, there’s something in there that we all relate to and that Devin has been able to articulate in a way that resonates with us. This year is a great time to see the extremes of this musical voice, with the space country of Casualties of Cool and the forthcoming Z2. And for those of us who like to throw on the headphones, sit back and think “How does he do it? How can I dip into that well too for my own musical expression?” Devin will be hitting Australia in October for a series of masterclasses for Thump Music where he’ll give us a peek into the guitar, vocal and production ideas that inform and express his work. So with the masterclass tour coming up and the release of Z2 just around the corner, I caught up with Devin to talk about what’s what.

I’m stoked about this clinic tour.
So am I, actually! It gives me an opportunity to dig into some of the things I’ve wanted to share with people, to be fair. I’ve spent a long time making records and I’ve kinda gotten to this point recently where it’s like, shit, now it’s time to step it up and get other people to start taking over.  Read More …

INTERVIEW: Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt

Opeth Opeth unashamedly alienated some of their fan base with their 2011 album Heritage. While a large portion of their fans were drawn to the Swedesh masters for their progressive death metal leanings, Heritage was primarily inspired by 70s fusion in the style of John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra – and there wasn’t a single death-growl to be heard anywhere. And now, with Pale Communion, Opeth has moved sideways again, a little away from some of the jazzier moments of Heritage and towards more of a 1970s progressive rock feel, while still a million miles removed from death metal. It’s an album which will challenge some fans while thrilling others, but the overall impression from a chat with frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt is that he’s driven solely by his artistry, and this is what he’s feeling right now.  Read More …

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. Read More …

INTERVIEW: Shihad’s Jon Toogood

Shihad FVEYShihad worship at the altar of The Riff. Few bands this side of AC/DC have managed a knack for instantly identifiable, eminently air-guitarable riffs. But although they’ve enjoyed a consistent career of killer albums and shows, new album FVEY stands above their immense catalog as The One That Will Probably Move Them Up A Notch. Produced by Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman, this album encapsulates everything everyone has always loved about Shihad – the riffs, the song craft, the energetic performance, the melody, the thought-provoking lyrics. But there’s something more happening on this one. I caught up with vocalist/guitarist/riffmeister Jon Toogood to talk about it.

First thing we all want to know is ‘Where the hell do these riffs come from?’

Okay, we’ve been experimenting with this tuning which is basically standard E with the bottom string dropped to a bass-register A. So you’re doing the A, an octave A, and then the rest of the guitar is tuned normally. And it’s quite hard to play because the low string is really floppy but once you get used to it it makes this wall of sound. You get a decent amp and turn it up loud, and then you play with a great bass player like Karl and a great guitar player like Phil, and when you all play in unison and are in tune it sounds like Satan’s bass player. Read More …

INTERVIEW: Debashish Bhattacharya

Debashish BhattacharyaDebashish Bhattacharya has an international following not only for his playing but also his extraordinary instrumental arsenal. But more than that, Debashish is a voice of pure inspiration, helping to bring Indian classical music to the masses and tirelessly sharing his love of the form and his passion for life itself. Seriously, a 20-minute interview on the phone with Bhattacharya is like a session with a therapist, a music teacher, a learned scholar of sociology and a kind, trusted relative all rolled into one. His distinctive, idiosyncratic instruments include his lap-slide chaturangui, the 14-stringed gandharvi and the anandi, a four-string slide ukulele, but although it’s fun to dwell on the technicalities, all it really comes down to is that Debashish Bhattacharya has tapped into a whole other musical realm, and wants us all to join him there. He’ll be performing at the Dunstan Playhouse in Adelaide on July 18 as part of the Adelaide International Guitar Festival.

You play guitar like a beautiful voice, and that’s something that everyone can relate to whether they’re familiar with Indian classical music or not. 

That’s something I’ve been doing for the last 30 years: performing for both sides. The people who know the kind of music I do, but I am also very much accepted by people from places where Indian music has never been heard.  Read More …

INTERVIEW: Jack Johnson

Jack_Johnson_From_Here_to_Now_to_YouJack Johnson is primarily known for his laid back, intimate acoustic-based folky, rocky, breezy sound. He helped to kickstart a whole new generation of dudes who take guitars to the beach. But he’s also a devoted student of the electric guitar, and it should not have come as a surprise when he picked up various electrics – Telecasters, semi-hollow Gibsons – for 2008’s Sleep Through The Static and 2010’s To The Sea. Both albums could simply be seen as new angles on a sound and style he’d previously established. But the acoustic guitar is a seductive temptress, and she’s lured Johnson back to her earthy embrace on his latest album, From Here to Now to You. Produced by Mario Caldato Jr., who Johnson worked with while recording his most successful album In Between Dreams, it offers a sound that’s at once familiar and exotic, with lush instrumentation augmenting steel-string and nylon-string guitars. Read More …