Category: Guitar World Interviews

Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell look back at America’s remarkable 50-year career

The pair discuss their love of acoustic guitars, working with Beatles producer George Martin, and the band’s 50th anniversary box set, Half Century.

Multi-platinum selling group America is celebrating their 50th anniversary with the ultimate eight-disc box set, aptly titled Half Century. Produced for release and compiled by Jeff Larson, the CDs contain rare archival studio recordings consisting of alternate mixes, demos and rehearsals, including several previously unreleased tracks dating from 1970 to 2000.

Along with the remastered 1973 Bremen in-studio performance and two CDs of radio interviews providing audio overview of the band’s career, there’s a DVD of Super 8 home movies (1972-1975) that gives fans a behind the scenes look at the legendary band’s early years.

Guitar World recently spoke with founding members Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell about the new release and more.

What goes through your mind when you think about this 50th anniversary milestone?

Dewey Bunnell: “It’s mind-blowing, to be honest. Those first 20 years seemed to go on forever but these last thirty have really blown by. We’ve been very active the whole time; writing songs, recording, and touring. It’s like what they say about your babies: enjoy them while you can because they’ll grow up before you know it. It’s true.”

Gerry Beckley: “It really is an immense amount of time and we’re as amazed as everyone else. We’re still very happy to do what we’re doing. It’s not quite as easy as it was when we were younger in terms of travel, but the shows have become even more rewarding.”

How did you decide what to include on the 50th Anniversary Box Set?

Beckley: “We definitely have to give a nod to our archivist, Jeff Larson, who for years has been in touch with all of the stuff in between the cracks. There was a lot more than just the yearly album we would make. It’s a lot to keep track of and he’s done a fantastic job.”

Bunnell: “Gerry and I were very lucky to have held on to a lot of our early material and Jeff had the flexibility of finding out what went well together. We did it together but Jeff did all of the heavy lifting.”

What can you tell me about the newly released track, Remembering?

Beckley: “I tend to do multiple recording of things and that particular track was on one of my solo projects [2011’s Unfortunate Casino]. I’d done an earlier version with beautiful backgrounds from our dear friend, Jeff Foskett, and we put Dewey’s vocal on it. It framed the subject of dealing with time and made a nice addition to the box.”

Read the rest of my
Interview with Gerry Beckley & Dewey Bunell by Clicking Here.

Zach Myers: “Brent told an audience of 2,500 people that we were making a double album… it was the first I’d heard about it!”

Photo: Sanjay Parikh

One half of new duo and Shinedown offshoot Smith & Myers on the pair’s mammoth debut album, and what’s next for the Billboard chart-topping hard-rockers

Brent Smith & Zach Myers, one-half of Multi-Platinum band Shinedown, recently released their full-length double-album project, Smith & Myers Volume 1 and 2. The new albums are an acoustic-flavored combination of original and covers that showcase the duo’s barebones approach to tasty guitar riffs, hook-laden melodies and intriguing vocals.

Included with the cover material is a re-imagined and poignant version of Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World, a grungy spin on Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy, and a darkened take of REM’s Losing My Religion.

The original material is equally as powerful and includes the catchy alt-rocker, One More Time, as well as explores such topics as racial injustice [Not Mad Enough] and romance difficulties [Bad At Love].

Guitar World recently spoke with Zach Myers about the new project and more in this new interview.

How did the Smith & Myers project come about?

“Smith & Myers started with a radio/label contest where they asked us to do a few covers that fans had picked. We didn’t want to do that as Shinedown, as we already have a cover attached to our name [Simple Man], so Brent and I decided to do the songs together acoustically the way they were recorded.

“As far as this project goes, it started when Brent and I did a few shows together as Smith & Myers. I always vamped in between songs while Brent was talking to the audience and one night, he went on stage and said: “You know, a lot of people keep asking when we’re going to do a record. So, I wanted you guys to know that we’re going in and making a double album.”

“It was the first time I’d ever heard about it, in front of 2,500 people, live on stage [laughs]. Brent likes to put things out in the atmosphere to hold himself accountable and follow through, so we did it! We started tracking on February 20, right before the world came to a halt, and finished the last three songs separated from each other remotely.”

What was the criteria for choosing which songs to cover?

“We listened to a few suggestions from fans but most of the songs were ones we just enjoyed listening to. We didn’t want to do them as they were originally written, because if you listen to a song like Rockin’ In The Free World; those are some of the best lyrics ever written.

“Especially when you consider that it’s a thirty-year-old song that’s just as relevant today as when it was originally written. I remember when we had our first meeting and I went in with my own mission statement.

“I said let’s pretend the songs we do had never been written and were brand new. Suppose I handed you lyrics that had never been sung before. How would we play these songs if we wrote them? That was the approach. The cover that really started it all though was Losing My Religion.”

Read the rest of my
With Zach Myers by Clicking Here.

Brad Gillis on his modified Strat, working with Gary Moon and that time he bought a wig for Ozzy Osbourne

The longtime Night Ranger guitarist checks in ahead of the release of his solo album:

What can fans expect from your upcoming solo album?

It’s aggressive and heavy but there are also a few ballads. There’s a track called Sex and the Money that’s about meeting who you think is the girl of your dreams – only to find out that she’s really a hooker. There’s also a song on which I’m singing called World Shut Down.“

The last time you worked with Gary Moon was on Night Ranger’s Feeding Off the Mojo [1995]. What was it like working with him on your solo project?

“Gary’s a great bass player and his voice is so pure; that’s why I brought him back in. I’ve also got [keyboardist] Derek Sherinian, plus drummers Larry Howe (from Vicious Rumors) and Matthias Montgomery playing on a bunch of tracks.“

What’s the story behind your 1962 Strat?

“I’d just finished my stint with Rubicon back in 1978 when a friend knocked on the door with pieces of a sanded Strat he didn’t want. I had a gallon of orange paint and took it to a shop where it was primed and painted. I then had the neck painted black and the original Fender decal put on. Around the same time, word was getting around about the new Floyd Rose tremolos. 

“I loved how Eddie [Van Halen] worked the bar and did dive bombs. I found the third one at a shop in San Francisco and traded a Les Paul Custom for it. They installed the tremolo on my Strat and threw in a fret job. The deal was done and a new ball game began.“

Read the rest of my
Interview with Brad Gillis by Clicking Here.

Phil X: “Livin’ on a Prayer is one of best rock songs ever. I still get goosebumps after playing it hundreds of times!”

Right On The Money is the latest installment from Phil X & The Drills and a dynamic addition to the band’s already explosive discography. The guitar-driven track was recorded at legendary Capitol Studios with Chris Lord Alge and also features Daniel Spree on bass and Brent Fitz on drums.

The new single is separate from The Drills upcoming fifth album, Stupid Good Lookings Vol 2 – it’s a diverse compilation that will feature a different drummer, including Tommy Lee, Liberty DeVitto, Kenny Aronoff and Ray Luzier, on each song.

We recently caught up with Phil X about his new single and Gibson endorsement, as well as an update on the new Bon Jovi album.

Bon Jovi and Bryan Adams were scheduled to tour this summer, but the pandemic cancelled those plans. How have you been spending your time?

“I’ve been keeping busy doing remote sessions in my studio. People will send me their files and I’ll upload the session and lay down the guitars. Then I’ll send them back the session. It keeps my creative chops up. I also feel good about what The Drills are doing right now and being able to include my kids in the video for Right On The Money.”

Speaking of Right On The Money, how did the song come about?

“I do my best writing when I’m driving around. When I’m driving I don’t like to listen to music. I like to listen what’s in my head and one day I had this bouncy riff going on and the phrase Right On The Money.

“It means that no matter what’s going on you just have to stay positive. The song’s an opportunity to lift spirits in this crazy time.”

How did the opportunity to record that track at Capitol Studios come about?

“Chris Lord-Alge is a huge fan of The Drills and he had the opportunity to do a masterclass on recording live bands off the floor at Capitol. So, he called and asked if we’d be interested in coming in and recording three songs. It was a dream come true.

“I’ve done a lot of sessions and my favorites are the ones where everyone is recording together. Anytime I get a chance to do that with my band I just love it.”

Read the rest of my
Interview with Phil X by Clicking Here.

The Go-Go’s: “If you think we’re sweet girls who wrote candy-flavored pop songs, our history is going to be a surprise”

Photo: Paul Natkin

The Go-Go’s Documentary, directed by Alison Ellwood, whose other work includes the Emmy-winning History of the Eagles, chronicles the band’s meteoric rise from the LA punk scene to the world of superstardom.

With rare photos, live footage and shocking revelations, fans will discover the grit and determination behind the band’s early years in the clubs as well as their tumultuous UK tour with The Specials and Madness before returning to the States and becoming the first, and only, all-female band to play their own instruments, write their own songs and have a number 1 album.

The new documentary, which also features candid interviews with both current and former members as well as management, also includes the new song, Club Zero, the first new Go-Go’s recording in nearly 20 years.

Guitar World recently spoke with The Go-Go’s Belinda Carlisle, Charlotte Caffey, Kathy Valentine and Gina Schock about the new documentary in this new interview.

How did this documentary come to fruition?

Charlotte Caffey: “We were approached by Alison Ellwood about the idea of doing a documentary. At first, we were a bit nervous because we didn’t want it come across as a salacious ‘behind the music’ kind of thing. Alison did such a great job. It really puts perspective on things. ”

Kathy Valentine: “The documentary gave us a chance to get something out that was a more complete narrative than what was already in the public eye. The band coming out of the L.A. punk rock scene is something that not everyone is aware of.

“Alison and her team compiled all of this fabulous filmed footage. It was challenging but it’s a testament to her skills as a director in putting together an interesting and exciting story.”

Belinda Carlisle: “A documentary is a heavy thing to commit to because your story is cemented forever. It took a while for us to put our trust into Alison but we’re so glad that we did.

“For a person who thinks The Go-Go’s are these sweet girls who wrote candy flavored pop songs, our history is going to be a surprise.”

Read the rest of my
Interview with The Go-Go’s By Clicking Here!

Nita Strauss: “No matter your skill level, you can always improve on your own style and personality as a guitar player”

Photo credit: Katja Ogrin/Redferns

In addition to wowing fans around the world as Alice Cooper’s touring guitarist and gracing the cover of Guitar World as one of the guitarists of the decade, Nita Strauss is the first female to have her own signature model Ibanez (the JIVA), including two new models that were unveiled earlier this year.

Her monstrous 2018 debut solo album, Controlled Chaos debuted at #1 on Billboards Top New Artists chart and her guitar clinics are sought out by fans and seasoned players alike.

Now the LA-based guitarist is taking her love of teaching to the next level by launching Rock Guitar Fundamentals, a three-module, online teaching program that’s suitable for guitarists of all levels.

Module One is designed for the novice player and goes over the anatomy of the guitar, including all the basics, including how to correctly hold the pick, fret notes, tuning and more.

Module Two is highly focused on technique and modal theory, approached from a rock player’s perspective to be easily understandable for the modern musician.

Module Three is where you’ll uncover Strauss’ secrets of sweep picking, legato, whammy bar tricks, and more.

Whether you’re picking up the guitar for the very first time of you’re an advanced player who wants to learn some shred tips and tricks, aspiring learners can jump in wherever their skill level is. Better still, purchasing the course gives users lifetime access to all future course updates.

In addition to the new course, Strauss is also hard at work on the follow-up to Controlled Chaos. In this new interview, Guitar World got the lowdown on Rock Guitar Fundamentals and much more.

What was the genesis behind Rock Guitar Fundamentals?

“I love doing my clinics and have had so many requests for lessons via Skype and in person. There was no way to fit it all into my schedule but I thought how cool it would be to put something together that took all or the knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years playing guitar and putting it into the same lesson format I learned from.”

What’s do you find most rewarding about teaching?

“For me, the most rewarding thing is being able to pass along the knowledge and skills that I’ve learned. If you’re someone who has a skill or something you can pass along, I feel it’s incumbent on you to pass it to the next generation so those skills and that knowledge can live on.”

Read the rest of my
Interview with Nita Strauss by Clicking Here.

Bryan Adams: “I realized I had made it when I could pay my rent for more than a month without relying on anyone”

Photo Credi: Mike Lewis Photography/Redferns

Bryan Adams has sold more than 65-million albums and performed to sold-out arenas all over the world. With classic hits such as Cuts Like A Knife, Summer of ’69 and the Grammy-winning (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, his music has been heard by most people in one way or another, and his influence on younger musicians is long-lasting.

Guitar World recently caught up with Adams to ask him about his guitars and a few stories behind the albums in this exclusive new interview.

“I use a 1960s Vox AC30, a new-ish Marshall, my 1950s Gibson ES-295, a 1940s Martin D-18 and a ’60s Stratocaster.”

What can you tell me about your ES-295?

“I have a couple of early-1950s ES-295s but the first one was bought from my guitar tech in the early ’90s. I use them all the time, particularly on the road. I love the look, as it’s really a jazz guitar, but the P-90s cranked up are explosive. I sometimes think it sounds like Malcolm Young when I’m playing it, even though I know he played a Gretsch Jet.”

What do you like most about vintage gear?

“Each guitar and old amp seem to have their own particular characteristics. Except on my first recordings, I’ve always used vintage gear, and I know I’m not alone. Take, for example, the U2 song, One, that Edge played a Gretsch Green Country Club on, or Brian Setzer playing any of his songs on his 6120 for that matter. Fucking unreal sound. It just wouldn’t be the same on another guitar.”

You’ve been working with guitarist Keith Scott for more than four decades. How did the two of you meet?

“Keith is a guitar God, even way back when we first met in 1976 in Toronto. Any band that had Keith in it was guaranteed to have someone at the front of the stage (mostly girls). I suggested we go for a coffee from a chance meeting when I was 16. We became instant friends and stayed in touch.

“A few years later, when I was my about to do my first proper solo tour, I came over to his apartment, played him my songs, and asked him to be in the band. I’d been rehearsing with Ric Parnell on drums from Atomic Rooster, and I think that might have sealed the deal.”

Read the rest of my
Interview with Bryan Adams by Clicking Here.

Mike Stern and Jeff Lorber: “Inspiration comes at weird times and you always have to be ready for it”

Photo: Raj Naik

Jeff Lorber first heard guitarist Mike Stern in the early 1980s when his Jeff Lorber Fusion project toured the same festival circuit as Stern, who at the time was performing with Miles Davis. But it wasn’t until bassist Jimmy Haslip, who’d worked with both Stern and Lorber over the years, suggested these two seemingly disparate musical forces come together that their new collaboration, Eleven, was born.

The resulting album is an extremely copacetic compilation filled with harmonic meat and aggressive soloing. From the melodic and catchy opener, Righteous, to Stern’s lyrical, African-flavored Nu Som and blues-drenched jams like Jones Street and Slow Change, Eleven is an inspired collection combining tasty elements from many different styles of music.

We recently spoke with Mike Stern and Jeff Lorber about Eleven and more.

How did this collaboration come about?

Jeff Lorber: It’s a small music community, especially when you get into guys who play fusion and jazz. And although we’d never met I’ve known about Mike for a long time. An early version of my Jeff Lorber Fusion Band had even opened up for Miles Davis back in the Eighties when Mike was in the group. I’ve been working with Jimmy Haslip for more than ten years, and when Jimmy was with the Yellowjackets he did a collaboration with Mike. Jimmy was the one who suggested it’d be something interesting for us to do.

Mike Stern: It was fresh because me and Jeff were in different orbits and had never played together. So when Jimmy presented the idea to me I thought it would just be to play a few gigs, but then he suggested that Jeff and I record together. One thing led to another and now here we are.

Jeff, what was it about working with Mike that appealed to you?

Lorber: The Jeff Lorber Fusion has always been saxophone-focused, so working with a guitarist as the main sound was really appealing to me. Of course, Mike is a virtuoso player who has terrific command of bebop vocabulary as well as rock and blues. He also has a free and fluid approach in the way he improvises and plays melodies. I thought it would be a great challenge because he’s such a high-level musician and I was excited to see what would come out of it.

What was the writing process like for Eleven?

Lorber: Each of us basically wrote half the album. Mike had a chance to re-cut a few songs he wanted to take a new look at and I wrote a bunch of new music as well. We got together and cut all of Mike’s stuff live with Jimmy on bass and Dennis Chambers on drums. For me, I’ll usually start with a chord sequence or groove and try to get melodies involved early on. The song Righteous is a good example. It’s a four-chord pattern with a Motown groove. After I write something I usually let it marinate for a while to see where it needs to go. The element of time is something that really helps.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Mike Stern and Jeff Lorber By Clicking Here!

‘Out of the Blue’: Mike Rutherford Discusses New Mike + The Mechanics Album, Gear, Genesis and More

Photo credit: Patrick Balls

Mike + The Mechanics’ ninth studio album, Out of the Blue, captures the spirit and power of some of the band’s most beloved hits. Featuring music from throughout their 35-plus-year-career, the new album also gives fans a glimpse of the band’s future with three brand new cuts, “One Way,” “What Would You Do” and the album’s title track.

A special deluxe CD version of the album features six newly recorded “as-live” acoustic versions of “Don’t Know What Came Over Me,” “The Best is Yet to Come,” “The Living Years,” “Beggar On a Beach Of Gold,” “Another Cup Of Coffee” and “Over My Shoulder.”

In June, the band will meet up with an old friend, Phil Collins, joining him for the first six shows of his European tour.

Guitar World recently spoke with guitarist Mike Rutherford about the new Mike + The Mechanics album, touring, gear and more.

What prompted the new Mike + The Mechanics album?

We’ve been touring the last eight years with two singers, Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar, and I observed the way the old hits have become something else. The two singers have made them their own with different interpretations. The sound was something quite special and I thought it would be nice to capture that in the studio.

What’s your writing process like these days?

It always starts with some chords, drum machine programming and bass pedals and guitar synths. Just making a big racket to get some starting ideas. Normally a title comes first but the best ones are when you get the words with the chords.

Let’s discuss a few of the new songs from the album, beginning with the title track, “Out of the Blue.”

I really like the title. In this day and age it has a positive statement on life. It’s fast and, in a sense, it’s also written a bit like a love song. Sometimes you’re looking for someone special in your life and you try and try. Then suddenly, out of the blue, something comes along. At the same time it applies to life and the aspirations and hopes you’re trying to achieve.

How about “One Way”?

I went back to the old Akai to get that crunchy sound again. The intro is my drum machine programming and the strings are me plugging away on the Akai. It’s a nice sound.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Mike Rutherford by Clicking Here!

Interview: Kiefer Sutherland Discusses His New Album, ‘Reckless & Me’

Actor and guitarist Kiefer Sutherland, who has more than 300 shows under his belt and a lifetime of love for music and storytelling, will release his sophomore album, Reckless & Me,” on April 26. The 10-track opus follows on the heels of Sutherland’s acclaimed debut, Down in a Hole, which showcased his infectious brand of Americana/country-rock and his whiskey-soaked growl.

Produced by Jude Cole, Reckless & Me also highlights Sutherland’s master storytelling ability, particularly on songs like “Something You Love,” “Open Road” and the locomotive-like “This Is How It’s Done.” All of which lend themselves equally well to both the record and live performance.

Guitar World recently spoke with Sutherland about guitars, songwriting, Reckless & Me and more in this exclusive interview.

What originally inspired you to record your own music?

I never intended to make a record. I had a bunch of songs I liked and took them to my best friend and incredible producer, Jude Cole, with the possibility of sending them off to see if another artist would record them. After the first few songs Jude said, “I think these are great and you should make a record.” Being incredibly aware of the stigma of an actor doing music I was a bit hesitant, but we decided to record a few more songs to see where we were at. I think it was somewhere around the sixth song that I realized how much I loved the songs and the way Jude was making them sound. We decided to move forward and made the record Down in a Hole and it was one of the best times of my life.

What was the musical direction for the new album, Reckless & Me?

Even though a few of the songs on the new album were inspired by things that happened in my life, a lot of them are songs I wanted for our live set. I thought, Wouldn’t it be great if we had a kick-ass honkytonk song with a driving beat to get the audience moving? That’s when I wrote “This Is How It’s Done.” Then Jude and Brian MacLeod (drummer) sped it up with a relentless locomotive-doing-100-mph backbeat. That song went on the record because I knew it would be great for our set. Then there’s “Something You Love,” which is another driving song that Jude and I wrote together. Instead of sitting in the studio thinking about what sounds would work or what was the most emotionally moving, the choice and direction of the songs for the album were ones that would make for a better show. I’m thrilled with how the record came out and am so excited to be able to go out and play it.

What’s your songwriting process like?

I usually have a guitar with me so typically what I’ll do is noodle around until I find a few chords I like that sound good together. Then it becomes a matter of finding out where they go. The thing I love about acting and songwriting is being able to tell an interesting story. So, if I can get a lyrical idea down, I’ll usually come up with a melody as well. Sometimes Jude will even alter the melody, which is why we always write together. He has a great melodic sense.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Kiefer Sutherland by Clicking Here!