Archive for the ‘Guitar’ Category

Interview: ’24 Hours’ in the Life of Richie Kotzen

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

From an early age, Richie Kotzen was tagged as a virtuoso, a guitar hero, a shredder.

All true, of course, but with time, Kotzen proved to be so much more — a multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter who can play at the speed of light one minute and then do a complete turnaround with an acoustic guitar and ballad.

Kotzen covers that spectrum, and his wide range of influences, on his new album, 24 Hours, which he’ll debut at a CD release party on October 23 in Los Angeles and officially release on November 11. In this interview, he discusses the improvements to his craft as a result of taking full control of his career and what he looks for in the musicians who help translate the material live.

Going into this album, or any project, do you feel the weight of expectations from fans to do this, or play this way?

That’s something I fought for years, because when I write music, I just write what I write. I don’t write with the idea of being a certain kind of guy and thinking about my guitar playing. I just write songs. That’s why, if you listen to my new record or the one before it, there’s songs like “Bad Situation,” where the whole thing is the keyboard, and there’s some songs where the guitar takes a backseat. When I say I fought it is when I would deal with record companies.

The record companies always want to market you in a way they think they can get their money back, and when you start messing with an artist like that and say, “You have to write something that showcases your guitar playing,” suddenly your writing changes from being driven from a real emotional place that people can relate to, to something contrived. The minute that it gets into the world of contrived, people sense that and they don’t like it. It’s not pleasing, so they shy away from it.

So what happens with me before I make a record now — I don’t deal with record companies; I make records the way I want, and a whole year might go by and I might write 20 songs, but if I don’t have ten that I feel make sense to me on a record, I won’t make the record. A song like “24 Hours,” for example, clearly is a guitar-driven thing. It’s probably the most over-the-top thing that I’ve done in years as far as crazy guitar playing, but it’s something that just happened.

I wrote that riff quite some time ago and I developed it into a song almost a year later. That’s been lurking on my hard drive for a long time and suddenly I realized, There’s a song here. That’s a very organic way to work. It’s very heartfelt and very true. It’s not contrived or pre-thought. That’s the kind of thing I like, and I’ve kind of gotten into that luxury over the last five or six years when I started making my own records without having to deal with a label. I think my records got better.

You were a teenager when you got your break, and it happened because of a write-up in a print publication. With print basically dead, how would a young guitarist get his break now?

I guess they go on The X Factor. It depends on what you want to do. I guess if you want to be a teen pop star, there’s a path to that and it is those reality shows. You get famous in so many different ways now. Before, you got famous because you sang great or had a great song. Now a lot of people are getting famous just because, and “What can we do with this person?”

They’re famous and we can make money and what should we do? Should we put them in a movie? Should we try to make them a singer? It’s kind of a twisted thing. For people like me, who play guitar and sing and want to play rock, I think there’s still the whole thing of having a band, playing live, getting a following and your social networking and your fans can go to your website and buy your CDs. You build it from there.

I think it still comes from that grassroots thing of playing in front of people and getting people to come see you. That’s the one thing you can’t download. You can download a concert, but the notion of being at a venue, hearing a band and experiencing that is not something that you can steal on the Internet. You still have to go somewhere to do that, so I think that’s still very powerful.

What does it take to be a member of your band?

I’ve had this lineup for about two years. It’s interesting, because a lot of people would say, “You’ve got to be able to play a certain way,” but … obviously you’ve got to be able to play the music. And I think you have to understand where the music is coming from, because a lot of people could play the music, but I don’t think they understand the feel, the bass lines or the placement of the notes. It’s not just playing the lines; it’s your pocket. I grew up outside of Philadelphia, so a lot of the music I heard as a kid was soul music.

It has to be someone who understands that genre, but they obviously also need to have chops because there’s a lot of crazy lines that we play in the songs. So it’s kind of weird and not a lot of musicians are really qualified for that. Some guys have the feel but don’t have the chops and some guys have the chops but don’t have the feel, so it’s tricky finding players like that. That’s the music side of it.

The other side that’s equally important is the attitude, because there’s only three of us, so we need to be able to get along. We’re riding around in close quarters and weird things happen on the road, uncomfortable things happen on the road, we got robbed once on the road. All kinds of things go on. You have to be with people that can adapt. “Well, I wanted to eat this today,” or “I want to eat that,” and “No, we’re eating this because that’s the time that’s allotted and that’s the restaurant that’s open, so we’ve got to deal with it.” Those little things of how you see the big picture are very, very important.

I like treating people well and treating people like it’s a family, but they also need to understand that it’s my gig, I am the artist and I don’t have anything else. I don’t go out and do the so-and-so gig and then go out and play with this guy and then get picked up by such-and-such band. My whole world is being me and my music and my tours, so I don’t have anything else. I need people that take it seriously because my ass is on the line. I need people that get that, that are professional, and a lot of guys aren’t. A lot of guys think maybe they should be the man but it didn’t work out for them, so you get that kind of weird energy and it’s not productive.

I have my CD release party on October 23 at the House of Blues in Los Angeles and there’ll be four of us, a keyboard player I’ve known since I lived in Los Angeles. We worked together for the first time in the early ’90s. He plays with me on and off. He plays a Hammond B3 and refuses to play anything that isn’t the real instrument, if you know what I mean, so to take him on the road I’d have to have a truck just for him and a tech just for him!

You once stated in an interview that your guitar playing “stands out because of all the years I spent as a teenager shredding to learn Alan Holdsworth and Eddie Van Halen licks.” That was when radio was diverse, newsstands were full of music magazines, and kids bought albums as study guides. Now, you can listen to one type of music on satellite radio and look online for tab and video instructions. Is the spectrum of influences and education gone?

This is an interesting question and I think I have some insight on that because of my daughter. I have a 14-year-old daughter who has been in School of Rock and she’s surrounded by young people that are learning music. These kids are interested in all kinds of things, different genres, and some of them that play guitar are very versatile for their age.

They understand blues and can play some rock and jazz stuff, so I think that her generation, the 14- to 17-year-olds, really are digging, and in some ways digging deeper than I did when I was that age. It’s very interesting for me to watch and I’m very curious to see how see how these kids develop, the ones that stick with it. I think a handful of them will, and I’m very interested to see where they go.

— Alison Richter

Alison Richter interviews artists, producers, engineers and other music industry professionals for print and online publications. Read more of her interviews right here.

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Epiphone EJ-200CE Acoustic-Electric Guitar, Shadow Preamp, Vintage Sunburst

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

We’ve modified the “King of the Flattops” by added a graceful cutaway for added fret access and a preamp EQ. The EJ-200CE gives you the features of the EJ-200 in an acoustic/electric, ourstanding projection and a great low-end response.

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Yamaha APX700II Natural Acoustic Electric Guitar Complete Guitar Bundle

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Yamaha APX700II Natural Acoustic Electric GuitarYamaha APX700II Natural Acoustic Electric Guitar, Yamaha Acoustic, Yamaha Guitar. Guitar BUNDLE including the Yamaha APX700II Acoustic Electric Guitar in a Natural Finish, On-Stage GCA5500B Hardshell Guitar Case, On-Stage XCG4 Guitar Stand, Instructional DVD, Ernie Ball Guitar Polish, Two Yamaha FG12 String Sets, Yamaha String Winder, Yamaha Guitar Strap, Yamaha Guitar Capo, Twelve Yamaha Guitar Picks, and Standard Guitar Inspection.

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Learn 6 Guitar Fingerpicking Patterns in Minutes

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Here’s a video guitar lesson for learning fingerpicking patterns on the guitar. In just a few minutes you can learn half a dozen new fingerpicking patterns to play on your guitar.

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In a few minutes, you can be playing half a dozen fingerpicking patterns.

Yamaha SLG130NW Silent Acoustic/Electric Guitar

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Wherever there are people, there is music. And wherever musicians are, their music is always with them, waiting to get out. Yamaha’s Silent Guitar now means that wherever you are, and whenever you want to play, your guitar can be right there with you. Cutting edge design and master-luthier craftsmanship are uniquely combined to create a guitar that offers outstanding playability matched with incredible practicality – all with the same attention to detail as the guitars that have been played by some of the biggest names in music, players such as Jimmy Page, Brian May, John Lennon, Paul Simon and Joe Bonamassa. At home or on the road, with headphones or direct into a recording console, in the rehearsal studio or on stage in front of 20,000 fans Silent Guitar performs perfectly and gives you something new. The ability to really have your music with you, wherever you are.

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Saxons’ Biff Byford Interview: It’s Just Within Us to Create New Music

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

By: Rob Cavuoto

One of the leading bands of the ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal’ movement, Saxon, has just released their 19th studio CD, Call to Arms, and is currently touring U.S. in support of this latest release. As evidenced by such ass-kickers as “Hammer of the Gods” and “Call to Arms,” the group hasn’t lost their grip on composing hard-hitting yet anthemic heavy metal with their latest offering.

Comprised of members Biff Byford (vocals), Doug Scarratt (guitar), Paul Quinn (guitar), Nibbs Carter (bass), Nigel Glockler (drums), Saxon is responsible for penning some of the 1980′s most enduring metal anthems, including “Wheels of Steel,” “Strong Arm of the Law,” “Motorcycle Man,” “Princess of the Night,” and “Never Surrender,” and along with the likes of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, helped breath life back into a metal scene that many had left for dead at the time.

It’s been 35 years since Saxon was originally up and running and the group can still easily hold their own.

I was fortunate enough to sit with Biff Byford in NYC and chat about the new CD and what it was like to ride the British invasion of metal.

Biff ByfordBiff Byford


Rob Cavuoto: The thing that I love about your new CD, Call to Arms, is how you managed to recapture your sound and vibe from ‘80s. What was your secret?

Biff Byford: We have a good team in place on this CD. The drums were recorded straight with no samples. All the guitar songs were organic. We went back to a more working-class sound. We intended to get back to our roots and got into that mindset from the beginning.

Rob: It seems with this new release there is resurgence in Saxon. Do you agree?

Biff Byford: Definitely, there is a fantastic vibe out now with for us with Call to Arms.

Rob: Many bands from the ‘80s have given up on making new CDs and just go out as nostalgia acts. Why do you continue to make and release new music?

Biff Byford: We are still climbing mountains because they are there. It’s just within us to create new music and we are fortunate enough to do so. To write songs, put them out, and have people still find them relevant is exciting is a great feeling.

Rob: Tell me about the significance of the CD’s title and artwork?

Biff Byford: We originally had all the song titles and once we finalized them we could have used any of them as a CD title. I really liked “Call to Arms,” and it goes with the flavor of that song with the First World War. It’s also a rallying cry to our fans as well. It works on two levels.

Rob: You voice is every bit as good as it was back in the ‘80s, your still a powerhouse. What do you attribute that to?

Biff Byford: I stopped smoking a while ago so I’m sure that helped. I guess I didn’t abuse myself as a young man with liquor and drugs. We were too poor for those things, so that might have worked in my favor.

Rob: In the ‘80s Saxon was riding the crest of the British invasion of the metal scene. Looking back how important was it to be involved in that?

Biff Byford: It was massive. The metal scene is growing again, where many people who were young back then want to relive it now and the new young fans like the sound of it. They want to know how it all started and who influenced who.

Rob: Denim & Leather and Power and the Gloryreally spoke to me as a metal fan as well as a guitar player. Do you think it still speaks to kids nowadays?

Biff Byford: I think they do. The young fans in our audience are really getting off on them as well as the fans that have been with us since the beginning. Songs like “Power and the Glory” as well as the songs off Call to Armswere written to be performed live. People forgot that a lot of bands from our genera wrote songs for live shows and then went back and recorded them.

I think bands have moved away from that with huge productions and a million guitar overdubs. So we went back to that way of thinking. Take “Crusaders,” the production wasn’t as great as it could have been, but the actual song is a monster with over a million hits on You Tube. It was our biggest selling CD and when people hear it live it takes on a completely different meaning.

Rob: How do you keep yourself satisfied with touring after all these years? So many bands get tired of it at this point, but Saxon keeps going. How do you keep something that’s so “old hat” fresh?

Biff Byford: We have a good chemistry in the band and we play quite aggressively. We aren’t just standing up there. That keeps you on the edge and we are quite adrenalized on stage. We are playing all the big hits and always changing the set list a bit to keep it fresh. We are playing five new songs off Call to Arms. We also play a couple of songs also off Power and the Glorysince that was such a big LP here in the states.

Rob: I read that Spinal Tap was based on Saxon, is that true?

Biff Byford: I don’t think it was totally based on Saxon. We’d have to be a big band to have it based off of us. The bass player in Spinal Tap modeled himself off Steve Dawson, I think that is connection. Steve is also a bit of a Spinal Tap type of character.

I think the old members in the band are trying to drum that up since they are planning to release a book. I personally think the movie was based on a lot of different bands.

Rob: Can you give me a great Spinal Tap moment?

Biff Byford: The first one that comes to mind is the time we were shooting a video with a lot of models in Spain. The truck that we were traveling would pull to the gig, and would back up to the back of the stage. Then, the doors would open and we would burst out onto the stage.

Unfortunately someone put something in front of the doors and we got stuck and couldn’t get out. There we are in the back of this truck thrashing about trying to get out. The audience could see the truck wobbling and thrashing about.

Poll: What Was the Best Guitar Album of 1992?

Friday, October 21st, 2011

As evident in the list below, by 1992, guitar music was going through a change.

It wasn’t just the emergence of grunge repositioning the function of the instrument in popular music. Flashy, over-the-top guitar pyrotechnics had run their course. Players like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Eddie Van Halen seemingly pushed virtuosity as far as it could go. The only response was deconstruction.

It’s not as if the electric guitar could vanish, though. It had been the foundation of rock ‘n’ roll since Leo Fender began rolling them off the assembly line more than 40 years prior. And regardless of style, rock ‘n’ roll — the ultimate channel of angst and rebellion — was still in the hearts and minds of music fans. It just needed a little revolution.

There was still great technical work, harmonic and rhythmic complexities, textural layering and unusual effects processing. It wasn’t, however, your typical diatonic scalar noodling. It was undoubtedly something new. Was it better or worse? That’s still up for debate.

Poll: What Was The Best Guitar Album Of 1992?