Guitarist Dee J Nelson Discusses “It’s Alive”

Guitarist Dee J Nelson is making a name for himself. The Chicago based southpaw shredder, whose DVD “Monster Power Chords” has become a huge hit on Metal Method, has recently released “It’s Alive”; an album of guitar wizardry that will have players everywhere asking, “How’d he do that?”

Dee J credits some of his early influences to the Sex Pistols and Naked Ray Gun. But it wasn’t until he saw Steve Vai perform that everything changed.”When I saw Vai play for the first time, that was it for me”, Nelson says with a smile. “That’s when I knew I wanted to be a guitar player.”

From there, Dee J hunkered down and began to seriously improve his chops. He studied with Shrapnel alum George Bellas and majored in music composition at DePaul University. While studying guitar and writing orchestral music in college, he supplemented his time by regularly giving as many as fifty students guitar lessons each week.

I had the chance to speak with Dee J and get the inside scoop on his new album, how he became a Metal Method instructor and also what he’s up to now.

Where did you find the inspiration to record songs for “It’s Alive”?

DJ: I usually start out with an inspiring idea or concept and build the song from there. Often times it’s riff inspired. I’ll find something that I really like and it will remind me of something.

Other times, I’ll have a concept in mind for song. “Scream Bloody Dream”  is a good example of that. I decided one day to write a song about a chick screaming with a neo-classical feel. Another track with a plan was “The Living and The Dying”. That song was something I had a vision in mind for. I pictured it being a zombie-esque story and started out using ominous chords which eventually become something more when the “zombie” actually comes out (high bends). Those ideas were both planned well before even writing a note.

Who were some of your early guitar teachers?

I studied with George Bellas, who was one of the Shrapnel recording artists. He’s a phenomenally intense player and someone who really inspired me a lot. During college, I studied classical guitar with Mark Maxwell and jazz with Bob Palmieri, who’s worked with Ray Charles, Nancy Wilson and The Pat Metheny Group, among others.

How were you introduced to Doug Marks and Metal Method?

I was introduced to Doug by Stephen Jensen. Stephen designed the logo for Metal Method and does artwork for other major bands. He also, coincidentally designed the cover for my book, “Monster Power Chords”. The book was a basic program I developed based on power chords that players could use to practice their rhythm technique. Stephen introduced me to Doug who then made the book available to his students. There was such a great reaction to it that we decided to change the format of it to DVD. So, I flew out to Doug’s studio in LA to film it.

What was it like working with Doug?

Amazing. Doug really is a great guy and a metal legend. At one point, we took a break so that we could go out to dinner and I remember just sitting there thinking how cool it was to be there with him. I had always remembered him from the magazines and had been inspired by him, but to be there with him in person was pretty cool.

What other projects are you working on right now?

Edsel Dope invited me over to his studio to do some recording and we’ve just recently completed a guitar track for the WWE. It’s going to be used as the new entrance music theme for Ryback, so watch for it!

Guitarists: Check out DJ’s fingering exercise (Click on image to enlarge)

You can keep up with Dee J Nelson on his official website.

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