INTERVIEW: David Ellefson

image002Megadeth’s David Ellefson has seen it all. As one of the cornerstone bassists of the thrash movement he helped to create a style of playing that simply didn’t exist before. And he’s forever willing to share what he’s learned with the world, through his books, bass clinics and now spoken word. He’ll be hitting Australia in March for a spoken word tour billed as My Life With Deth – also the name of his latest book – and I caught up with him recently to talk about all things Ellefson. Read More …

INTERVIEW: Unearth’s Buz McGrath

Unearth

Unearth have been slogging it out on the metal scene for 15 years now and have proven themselves to be real stayers, helping to remind folks that seven-string guitars can be used for more than just open-string chugging and showing that you can combine the punishing groove of Pantera with the melodic sense of Sweden’s Gothenberg sound and the power of traditional metal, all filtered through an aggressive metalcore lens. New album Watchers of Rule (3Wise) is a consistently brutal chunk of metal by anyone’s standards. But this far into Unearth’s career, it’s almost exhilarating to hear them continuing to release vital albums full of songs that are destined to live on in the setlist. I caught up with guitarist Buz McGrath right after the album’s release.

Want to win a copy of the album? Email iheartguitarblog@gmail.com with ‘Unearth’ in the subject line and I’ll draw five winners! Australia only.

Let’s start with the guitar stuff. What did you use on this album?

We used a Rhodes amp. I don’t know what it is. And I think we used one of Ken’s old custom Ibanez RGs that won the shoot-out. Usually what happens is we go through a stack of about 15 guitars and we record the same piece of music, the same riff, with each guitar, and you go through and listen to which guitar is sounding the best with what you’ve got, and that one won. It was between that one and, Ken had a custom three-pickup Ibanez Iceman with EMGs in it. That thing weighed a fucking tonne but it sounded sick. But the other one just beat it out by a little bit. We recorded with a Kemper via DI, and then [producer] Mark Lewis took it back to his studio and re-amped it through various amps, which I wasn’t a part of the process for. He would send me mixes with different amps and I’d say ‘this one sounds good.’ So I never even saw the amp. It’s a real weird way of doing it but it worked out good. Read More …

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 …