Blog Archives

Steve Vai Talks Tony MacAlpine Benefit Show, Upcoming ‘Passion and Warfare’ Remaster and Next Vai Academy

vaiAs recently reported, guitar greats Steve Vai, Zakk Wylde and John 5, along with drummer Mike Portnoy, bassist Billy Sheehan and keyboardist Derek Sherinian, are joining forces to play a benefit concert for guitar and keyboard virtuoso Tony MacAlpine, who was diagnosed with colon cancer earlier this year.

The show will take place December 12 at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles.

In addition to this extraordinary musical event, Vai, John 5, Joe Bonamassa, Steve Stevens, Paul Gilbert, Steve Lukather and Joe Satriani have all graciously donated a few of the their personal guitars to be auctioned during the event. MacAlpine’s gear manufacturers—Ibanez, Hughes & Kettner, EMG Pickups, Ernie Ball, Source Audio and Voodoo Lab—also have donated equipment to be raffled.

All proceeds will assist MacAlpine and his family.

Tickets for the show are available here.

For fans who are unable to make the show but still want to contribute, a GoFundMe campaign has been set up for MacAlpine. You can contribute to the fund here.

I recently spoke to Vai about the event—dubbed the Benefit Concert for Tony MacAlpine—and a lot more in this exclusive interview.

GUITAR WORLD: Tell me about your relationship with Tony MacAlpine and how you guys met.

Back in the Eighties when there was this emergence of virtuoso-style guitar players, there was this handful of guys that had extraordinary chops and were always raising the bar. Tony was a part of that movement in a big way. He made some excellent records that really showcased his tremendous guitar finesse and virtuosity.

So I had always known of him, but it wasn’t until years later that we actually met. I was putting a band together and needed a guitar player who could also play keyboards, and I had heard that Tony could play some keyboards. I also knew having someone like Tony in the band would bring everything to a whole different level. It worked out great and we had so much fun. Tony’s a lovely guy and it was such a pleasure to tour with him. Some people are just naturally gifted, and Tony’s one of them.

So when Mike Mesker [Tony’s manager] called me about the benefit, I was completely on board. It’s since snowballed into what’s going to be an absolutely incredible event to raise money to help Tony. There’s a tragedy in it, but there’s also the divine shining through from all the love and support he’s getting from everyone he’s worked with and who’s supported him.

Was there anything you didn’t already know about Tony that surprised you?

When we were on tour, we were at a venue where they had a piano set up in the back room, and I remember hearing this piano playing from around the corner. At first, I thought it was a concert pianist that had somehow been left over from the night before. But when I go around the corner there’s Tony playing this Chopin etude absolutely flawlessly. Just like an accomplished concert pianist with tremendous accuracy and emotional investment. It was something I never expected. After he had finished, I said, “What the heck was that?” He told me it was a Chopin etude. I asked him if he could play some more and that’s when he said, “Which one? I know them all.” [laughs].

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Steve Vai by Clicking Here!

Vivian Campbell Discusses New Albums by Def Leppard and Last in Line

VivianCampbellWe recently caught up with Vivian Campbell, who was eager to discuss Def Leppard’s new self-titled album and his more recent project, Last in Line, which reunites the veteran guitarist with his fellow Dio bandmates Vinny Appice and Jimmy Bain. Their new album, Heavy Crown, is set for a February 2016 release.

You can check out the complete interview below.

GUITAR WORLD: How did Def Leppard approach recording the new album?

The first thing we did was to write, record and play live in the studio, which was something we hadn’t done since ’96 and the Slang album. The one thing I think really unifies all of the songs is the Def Leppard vocals. It makes us who we are. Although it’s stylistically a very diverse record, it also undeniably sounds like the band. That’s why we ended up calling it Def Leppard.

What’s the writing process like for Def Leppard? Does it begin with a melody, a riff, a hook?

All of the above. Sometimes, someone will come in with a completed song or someone might just have an idea and we’ll all talk about it. A lot of times on this record, we started off with a conceptual idea or an emotion, and a song was written to fulfill that notion.

What can you tell me about the track “Dangerous”?

Phil had a musical idea for that song and worked up a demo for it. It’s flashy and punky with a very immediate chorus. It’s very reminiscent of “Photograph” in a way, and it’s one of the catchiest songs on the album.

How about “We Belong”?

That’s a Joe [Elliott] song and one of my favorite songs on the record. Joe had that written just as we started working on the record. He also had a concept that the song would feature all of us individually taking turns on lead vocals. We’re known for our collective, group vocals and it was nice way to showcase us as individuals. That was a first for the band.

Read the rest of my

gw_logoWith Vivian Campbell by Clicking Here!

Interview: EJ Roeder Discusses Debut Single, ‘Pleazer’

EJ Roeder

EJ Roeder

18-year-old EJ Roeder is perhaps best known for his dynamic athletic prowess at Bethlehem, PA’s Moravian College. A freshman who’s majoring in management, Roeder has been playing football and basketball his entire life.

But while his work on the gridiron may make him recognizable, it’s Roeder’s musical acumen that’s really starting to make waves. As evidenced by his infectious debut single, “Pleazer”.

Written by Roeder along with songwriting partner, Flashy, “Pleazer” is not only the young musician’s first foray into the music world, but it may also be a foretelling of the creative genius that’s yet to come.

I recently spoke with Roeder about “Pleazer”, his writing process and more in this exclusive interview.

Tell me a little about your background. Was music something you always wanted to pursue?

EJ: I’ve always liked music but never really thought about pursuing it. Making my first song has inspired me to make more music and see what else I can do as an artist. I want to pursue it now more than before.  I want people to hear what I have to say and understand what I think and feel.

How did this track come about? Does it begin with a beat, an idea or a story line? What inspires you?

EJ: The track really came about when I was hearing beats. This was one I kept coming back to because I really liked it.  The way it sounded made sense in my head and I could vibe to it right away.  Coming up with the lyrics was second nature when I heard it. My homie, Flashy, who’s also featured in the song added some great lyrics as well.

What’s your writing process like?

I’ll usually start by writing lyrics. They just seem to pop in my head at random points throughout the day.  

What was it like recording your first song?

EJ: I’ve never recorded before so it was something that I won’t ever forget. I want to record more because of how fun the whole process is. 

Do you plan to eventually release more singles and  have live performances? What’s next for you?

EJ: My plan is to make more songs and go from there.  I have a lot of ideas. Now they just need to be made into songs.

What excites you the most about this new single? 

EJ: Seeing the feedback and then thinking about what I can do better to improve my future work.

Is there a message you’d like people to take away from listening to “Pleazer”?

EJ: There really isn’t a clear message. I just wanted the first song to be catchy and something you can get hype to. Me and Flashy really wanted to make something that people would remember. 

Ozzy Osbourne and Billy Morrison Talk New Single and Black Sabbath’s Final Tour

Billy MorrisonLast week, U.K. musician Billy Morrison—who plays in guitar for Billy Idol—released a solo album, God Shaped Hole, via his own King Mob Music label.

On the disc, Morrison is joined by Idol bandmates Steve Stevens and Erik Eldenius, plus Jane’s Addiction’s Dave Navarro and none other than Ozzy Osbourne, who sings lead vocals on “Gods,” which he co-wrote with Morrison.

In this exclusive interview, I spoke with Morrison and Osbourne about the new track, Morrison’s album and, as you’ll see, a lot more.

GUITAR WORLD: Ozzy, How did you and Billy get together for “Gods”?

OSBOURNE: Billy’s been a longtime friend of mine. He called me up one day and when I asked him what he was doing he said, “I’m making an album.” That’s when I said, “Well, I’d love to sing on your album!” So we got together, worked up a couple of melody lines and it literally took us half an hour to write.

Billy, when someone like Ozzy tells you he wants to sing on one of your tracks, what goes through your mind?

MORRISON: If the Prince of Darkness says he wants to sing on your record, you don’t say “No,” now do you? I remember Ozzy sent me a text that said, “Do you have a ballad?” and I said, “Yeah!” But of course, I didn’t! [laughs]. So I wrote the music and took it down to South America when we both went and we literally wrote it in about 20 minutes. It was amazing watching him write those lyrics.

OSBOURNE: And I’m not just blowing smoke up your ass when I say it came that quick. I even remember saying to Billy, “You know? I don’t think we wrote this song. I think it was given to us by someone.” Because you can literally sit in a rehearsal room for months and not come up with anything. But then there are times when you just strike gold, and it’s a great feeling when you do something like that. It’s like giving birth… but without the pain!

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Ozzy & Billy Morrison Here!

‘The Wayside’: Guitarists Tyler Bryant and Graham Whitford Discuss the New Shakedown EP, Gear and More

TylerBryant-ShakedownTyler Bryant and the Shakedown have been setting the music world on fire with their soulful writing and tasty guitar work—and for good reason.

Bryant, the band’s singer and guitarist, spent the better part of five tours with Jeff Beck, often jamming with the legend during encores. Meanwhile, guitarist Graham Whitford is about as close to rock royalty as you can get; his father, Brad Whitford, is a founding member of Aerosmith.

On the band’s new EP, The Wayside, which will be released November 13, we find Bryant and the Shakedown—which also features Caleb Crosby (drums) and Noah Denney (bass)—continuing their trend of penning roots-infused melodies and riffs, tightly woven with an alternative, psychedelic mystique.

I recently spoke with Bryant and Whitford about the new EP, their gear and more.

GUITAR WORLD: How would you describe The Wayside?

BRYANT: It’s the first body of work I can say was a complete band endeavor. Every song was crafted by the band. Everyone brought their own personality to the songs and we took some chances we’ve never taken before. It’s a more mature record than anything we’ve ever done. We crafted a record around the songs and a vibe we were all inspired by, which was edgy rock and roll.

What was the writing process like for the new EP?

WHITFORD: A lot of times it starts with a guitar riff, but sometimes we’ll get together and one of us will have a general lyrical idea or a guitar part we think is cool, and we’ll start to dig deep on it. It’s always a different process. There’s no one method to songwriting.

BRYANT: When Graham and I get together, it normally starts with a riff. I also collect lyrical ideas every day and am constantly writing lyrics or thoughts that can turn into something. We jam, sing and talk a lot of trash to each other and before you know it, there’s a song!

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Tyler Bryant and Graham Whitford Here!

Winery Dogs Richie Kotzen and Billy Sheehan Talk Gear and New Album, ‘Hot Streak’

HotStreakAlbumTwo years after taking the world by storm with their infectious self-titled 2013 debut, the Winery Dogs are back with a blistering new album dubbed Hot Streak.

On the new album, which is set for an October 2 release, we find the power trio of guitarist Richie Kotzen, bassist Billy Sheehan and drummer Mike Portnoy once again firing on all cylinders, not to mention expanding their horizons while staying true to their roots.

Whether it’s the blistering guitar attack of “Oblivion,” the Eighties-rock feel of “Captain Love” or the hauntingly beautiful “Fire,” Hot Streak shows the evolution of the Winery Dogs as artists and songwriters.

In conjunction with the release of Hot Streak, the Winery Dogs will embark on their first-ever world tour. Stay tuned for those dates.

In the meantime, see what Kotzen and Sheehan have to say about Hot Streak, their gear and more.

GUITAR WORLD: What was the writing process like for Hot Streak?

SHEEHAN: We approached this album a lot like the first one, without any planning or discussion. We all just got in a room together and started playing to write. The only thing we brought in differently was the experience of having done 100-plus shows on stage together.

KOTZEN: We all had some down time this past January and decided to get together at my place to throw some ideas around. Before we knew it, we had about 15 musical “skeletons,” as I like to call them. I sat with them for a few months and out of nowhere started hearing melodies and lyrics. Then I sent them to the guys and said, “Hey, I think we have a record here!” Everything was fresh from the very beginning. It’s a true representation of what we do together.

Did you take any chances musically on this record?

SHEEHAN: “Ghost Town” is a track that people find appealing. It has spooky, distant lyrics and an unusual breakdown in the middle. “Spiral” is a real wild one that came from an arpeggiated bass line that’s going to be an arm buster to play live.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Kotzen & Sheehan by Clicking Here!

A Tribute To Gary Richrath

Photo by: Ross Marino

Gary Richrath (1949-2015) – Photo by: Ross Marino

I’d like to share with you my thoughts on the passing of guitarist, Gary Richrath….

When I took my first guitar lesson back in the spring of 1985, one of the things I told my guitar teacher was that I wanted to learn as many songs as I could from REO Speedwagon’s album, “Hi Infidelity”.

My teacher, a musical genius as well as an astute professor in the art of all things Hendrix, Zeppelin and Sabbath, took one look at my long blond hair and started scratching his head.

“Uhm, you mean you don’t want me to teach you how to play ‘Purple Haze,’ ‘Stairway To Heaven’ or ‘Paranoid’?” he asked.

“Nope.” I replied. “I want to learn how to play ‘Take It On The Run,’ ‘Keep On Loving You’ and ‘Shakin’ It Loose’.” I then presented him with my copy of the Hi-Infidelity album to prove my intentions were valid.

Little did my instructor know was that just prior to that first guitar lesson I saw REO Speedwagon perform in a college gymnasium on the south side of Bethlehem, PA. Getting to witness a guitarist at the top of his game was a spiritual awakening. It became one of the main reasons I decided to pick up the guitar and start playing.

And so for the next few weeks, in addition to learning chord basics and scales, my teacher and I dissected songs written by Kevin Cronin and Gary Richrath. Immersing ourselves in the sweet sound of a Les Paul guitar while studying every nuance of the power ballad.

Gary Richrath was an inspiration to me as a guitarist and writer. His tasty songs not only included “Take It On The Run,” and “Shakin’ It Loose” but a plethora of others the band still regularly includes in their set. “Golden Country,” “Like You Do,” “Only The Strong Survive,” “Son of A Poor Man” and of course, “Ridin’ The Storm Out”. A track the band closes their show out with each night and one that will now have extra meaning.

Although Gary left REO Speedwagon more than 25 years ago, he joined the band in 2013 for a surprise performance to help raise money for tornado victims in the Midwest.

This is how I choose to remember Gary Richrath. As an artist who used his time and talent to help others and in the process, left an invaluable mark on the music world as well as a teenage guitarist who first learned his songs thirty years ago.

Oh, and in case you don’t believe my story, I did keep all of my material from those early years of guitar lessons….

REO Lesson

Godspeed, Gary.

Midnight McCartney: John Pizzarelli Discusses Reinterpreting Paul McCartney’s Solo Catalog

Pizzarelli_MidnightMcCartneyBack in 2014, Paul McCartney had a great idea for an album. He just needed a world-renowned guitarist and singer to make it happen.

Enter John Pizzarelli, whose musical interpretations of such legendary artists as Frank Sinatra, James Taylor and McCartney’s former band, the Beatles, have received critical acclaim. Pizzarelli even worked with McCartney on his 2012 album, Kisses on the Bottom.

McCartney invited Pizzarelli to delve into his deep catalog of post-Beatles material and take some of his lesser-known tunes and reinterpret them in a mellow jazz style.

The resulting album, Midnight McCartney (which will be released September 11), features “Silly Love Songs,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Coming Up” and other tunes from McCartney’s 45-year-long solo career—all tastefully done in Pizzarelli’s trademark style.

I recently spoke with Pizzarelli about the new album, his work with Paul McCartney, guitars and more.

GUITAR WORLD: How did this project begin?

I had worked on Kisses on the Bottom with Paul in 2012, and we promoted it the following year. We played “My Valentine” on the Grammys and he did a MusiCares event and a live iTunes concert. Then in May of 2014, I got this letter from Paul out of the clear blue sky. He said, “I have this crazy idea to run by you.”

The idea was that maybe I would do a record of some of his post-Beatles catalog as well as some lesser-known songs like “Junk,” “Warm and Beautiful” and “My Valentine.” He said if I liked the idea maybe I could call the record Midnight McCartney and include a dishy little picture of me against the Manhattan skyline [laughs].

I was like, “OK! Whatever you want to call it. Let’s go!” So I went in, did some demos, recorded the record at the beginning of this year and now here we are—Midnight McCartney!

For those of us who have never had the pleasure of meeting him, what’s Paul McCartney like?

I remember my sisters watching The Ed Sullivan Show, getting Abbey Road in the late Sixties and listening to all of the records and then following him through the Seventies and Eighties as well as the new stuff. Then meeting him and going, “OK. Now this all makes perfect sense!”

He’s a fine musician with amazing musical instincts and has done pretty much everything you could possibly imagine. I remember being in my twenties and going to William Paterson College. When he was in his twenties, he was getting off of a plane and there were 50,000 people screaming! Then he played Shea Stadium when he was 23.

To have all of that happen in his lifetime and then find out that not only is he a really great musician but he’s also a very down-to-earth guy—that’s what really stuck with me. There’s no mistaking that he’s Paul McCartney.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with John Pizzarelli by Clicking Here!

Ricky Phillips of Styx Talks Def Leppard Tour and Ronnie Montrose’s Final Recordings

styxTo fans of classic rock and arena rock, it just wouldn’t be summer without the music of Styx.

For more than 40 years the band, whose hits include “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights),” “Renegade,” “Too Much Time on My Hands” and “Come Sail Away,” has been delivering the goods the only way it knows how: through infectious live performances.

This summer, Styx—Tommy Shaw (vocals, guitars), James “JY” Young (vocals, guitars), Lawrence Gowan (vocals, keyboards), Todd Sucherman (drums) and Ricky Phillips (bass)—are teaming up with Def Leppard and Tesla on what promises to be one of the season’s hottest tour packages.

I recently caught up with Phillips to ask him about the new tour as well as his time with Styx, the Babys and Bad English. He also gave me an inside look into his new album project, the final recordings of Ronnie Montrose.

GUITAR WORLD: What can fans expect from the new tour with Def Leppard and Tesla?

We’ve been wanting to work with Def Leppard again for quite some time. We did some dates with them around 2007 and it was a really good fit. If you’re familiar with Tesla’s catalog you already know that they’re a very aggressive, cool, no-frills band. They just come balls out and do it! Then we go everywhere from a little bit of prog to the guitar duo of Tommy Shaw and James Young to having three lead singers. Then Def Leppard come out with their big arena rock show. It’s a special package where fans will really have a great time.

You’ve been with Styx for more than a dozen years. What’s it like being part of such an iconic band?

The cool thing about this band is that everybody recognizes that what we have is really special. It’s rare to get a group of guys that gel as good as this band does. We all have a lot of strengths to lean on personally and musically. There’s a lot of fun and joking around to keep things entertaining, but once we get on stage it’s all business, which is a good time as well.

Has there been any talk of new Styx music in the future?

I can’t talk about it too much, but there’s certainly some stuff in the works. It’s going to happen. We’re just not sure when.

Let’s discuss a few of the other bands you were involved with. What was the story behind you joining the Babys?

I had always been a big fan of Tony Brock and John Waite and thought “Isn’t It Time” was just a masterpiece of cool rock. Shortly after I got to LA, a sound man for the band saw me play and tracked me down. It was around the same time that John had decided he wanted to front the band and not be weighed down by playing an instrument [Waite had also played bass in the Babys].

I was working in the music store across the street from where they were auditioning when the sound man came in and told me that I needed to go across the street and play. I remember pulling a bass off of the wall and (with the price tag still swinging from the headstock), went over and jammed with the guys for about 15 minutes. We played “Run to Mexico” and “Head First” and then Jonathan Cain and I harmonized with John on “Isn’t It Time.” After that, they all left the room and came back in with their manager and asked me to join the band. That’s how it all started.

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Ricky Phillips by Clicking Here!

‘Kicker’: Singer/Songwriter Zella Day Talks New Album, Music and Inspiration

ZellaDay_KickerFrom her days performing her hypnotic blend of hook-laden music in Arizona coffee shops, it was only a matter of time before twenty-year old singer/songwriter Zella Day made the move to the larger pastures of the California music scene – and with impressive results!

Day’s debut album, Kicker is an introduction to Day both as an artist and person. Her hauntingly infectious songs personify the young singer as a cosmic force to be reckoned with.

Songs like “Hypnotic” and “Compass” lend themselves well to the self-conscious while tracks like “Jerome” offer up a revelation to the solace of home.

I recently spoke with Zella Day about Kicker, her music and where she finds her inspiration.

How would you describe Kicker?

This was such a big project for me and encapsulates so many elements of who I am and what I’ve been through. You really get a strong idea of who I am as a person by listening to this record. It’s very eclectic. There are elements of pop, ballads, outlaw country and even some desert gypsy rock.

What was the writing process like for you?

I have so many different voice memos on my phone and song titles in my notes. Sometimes I’ll have a chord progression that will be sitting around for a long time when the lyrics will suddenly hit me. Other times it may start out with just a title. It’s always different but I try to write a little something everyday. It’s important to keep your creative muscle strong and working. My most inspiring method though is just sitting down with an acoustic guitar and coming up with melodies. It’s what I’ve been doing nice I was nine years old.

Let’s discuss a few tracks from Kicker. What can you tell me about the song, “Hypnotic”?

That song was actually written on acoustic guitar. I had my producer bring up a beat that I was really inspired by, wrote a progression and then did a little rap melody over it. That’s how it was born. The song sounds great acoustically, which is something that’s very important to me. Part of my roots are playing my acoustic guitar in coffee shops. So it’s important that these songs can be broken down to the basics.


“High” was written after I saw The National play a show in California. I was so inspired by that experience. I remember it was outside the Santa Barbara amphitheater and it was raining and the whole crowd was immersed in a blue light that they were shooting out from the stage. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. That’s where the line ‘blue line in the sky tonight’ comes from. I came home that night and wrote the song. 


That song was written from a stream of consciousness. I like it when that happens. I don’t know exactly what I’m trying to say while I’m in the moment but later find out that I’ve either taught myself a lesson or got something off of my chest that I needed to. In this case, I had just moved from Arizona to California and the more I listened to it the more I realized that it was a love song for my hometown. “Compass” was my revelation song.


That song was placed #1 on the album because the song is about the woman I was named after. She was the wife of a coal miner in 1842 in Jerome; the town where my parents got married.  I didn’t know much about her but I’ve always had this idea of who she was and what the ghost of Zella is and our connection to each other. I wrote the song about her and am essentially introducing myself by name. 

What was the recording process like and working with collaborators like Wally Gagel and Xandy Barry?

I’ve worked with them for a few years now and we have a great chemistry. We really know each others strengths and know how to write together. By being able to push through the hard moments we’ve been rewarded with good songs. We’ve written a lot of tracks together and I’m so lucky to be able to work with such talented people.

Did always know that music would be your calling?

I’ve always played music because it just feels right and have been grateful for everything I have and the shows that I play. Even when I was playing coffee shops; it’s how its always been. Every day feels really good right now. 

What excites you the most about Kicker?

I’m really proud of every song on this record. I’m not moving forward feeling doubtful or self-conscious about the creative decisions I’ve made. I’m fully behind what I’ve created and put out into the world. Whatever happens, I have that foundation and am really excited to tour the new record and connect with people. There are no secrets and as a new artist I think that’s a pretty good place to start.

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