Category Archives: Guitar World Interviews

James Durbin and Quiet Riot’s Alex Grossi Talk ‘Maps to the Hollywood Scars’

mapstohws622

Quiet Riot guitarist Alex Grossi and American Idol finalist James Durbin recently announced a new collaboration, Maps to the Hollywood Scars.

Volume One, the duo’s debut five-song EP, which was released today (February 17), sheds light on the darker side of Hollywood and the music industry—at least from the perspective of two of rock’s hardest-working artists.

Songs like “Roads” and “The Lost Boys” showcase the stinging one-two punch of Grossi’s ace guitar playing and Durbin’s powerful voice, while “Never Ending Ride” is a window to a post-apocalyptic world of ruin.

I recently spoke with Grossi and Durbin about Maps to the Hollywood Scars, Volume One—which is available now via Amazon and iTunes—and more in this exclusive interview.

How did this collaboration come about? How did you guys meet? 

GROSSI: I met James in 2011 via a mutual acquaintance. I remember being taken back, not only by his obvious vocal prowess but by his knowledge and love for real rock n’ roll. Then, last year I went to a Vegas show he was doing, and we ended up jamming together at the after-party.

DURBIN: After the Vegas show I was involved in ended, I unexpectedly received an email from Alex sending me some instrumentals. I took a listen and was immediately inspired. We started sending ideas back and forth and before long decided, hell, why not make an album or two?

How would you describe the EP in terms of its sound—and maybe how it relates to some of your past projects?

DURBIN: We both have our own influences, and there’s an age gap between us, but I think that works to our advantage as far as the writing and crafting goes. It’s all loosely based around rock n’ roll, so it’s not hard for us.

GROSSI: It’s honestly like nothing I have done to date. We’ve both been involved in many different projects, but this happened so quickly and organically, it really stands on its own.

You’ve mentioned that this project was meant to showcase the darker side of Hollywood and the music biz. Can you elaborate on that? 

GROSSI: It’s not really about selling the industry—or Hollywood—down the river. It’s more of a reflection of where the record industry was, is and where it’s going. What once gave artists and record labels a medium to actually sell music has now become a place where the general consensus is that music is free. Where some people will gladly spend $4 on a cup of coffee without batting an eyelash but feel totally fine about illegally downloading a song or record that cost thousands of dollars and countless hours to create, produce and market.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Grossi and Durbin by Clicking Here!

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Nita Strauss Talks “Pandemonium” and Upcoming Alice Cooper/Deep Purple Tour

Nita Strauss

Nita Strauss

When Steve Vai asked guitarist Nita Strauss to take part in his new Favored Nations compilation, She Rocks, Vol. 1, the Alice Cooper Band shredder didn’t give it a second thought.

For years, Strauss has cited Vai as the reason she decided to pick up the guitar in the first place, so getting the chance to contribute an instrumental track to the project was a dream come true.

Strauss’ “Pandemonium”—which you can hear below—is a perpetual burn that showcases Strauss’ infectious style of playing while taking the listener on an extended, hook-laden journey of speed and dynamics.

In addition to the new track, Strauss is gearing up for an Alice Cooper/Deep Purple tour that’ll kick off in August. I recently spoke with her about “Pandemonium,” the upcoming tour, her gear and more.

How did you become involved in the She Rocks project, and what was it like meeting Steve Vai?

It was the most surreal thing. As most people know, I started playing guitar after seeing Steve’s scene in Crossroads. He’s always been my biggest inspiration. But I had never met him until last year, and one of the first things he asked me was if anyone had talked to me about the compilation album he was putting together with [former Guitar World editor-in-chief] Brad Tolinski and Laura Whitmore. I told him I hadn’t, and the next thing I knew, I had gotten an email from Brad.

I wrote and recorded “Pandemonium” in a single evening. My boyfriend, Josh Villalta, played drums and Katt Scarlett played keys. It really came together organically in a very cool way.

How would you describe “Pandemonium”? 

I think by the title. It’s a self-explaining name. I’ve never actually said what the song is about but I really wanted to take people on a journey. An instrumental song doesn’t have any lyrics, but it tells a story, and it could be about anything. I love to hear what journey it takes people on.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Nita Strauss by Clicking Here.

Firehouse Guitarist Bill Leverty Discusses His New Single, “You’re a Natural”

Photo by Mario Leo Fasolo

Photo by Mario Leo Fasolo

It’s been 25 years since Firehouse won Favorite Heavy Metal/Hard Rock New Artist at the 1992 American Music Awards, beating out Nirvana and Alice in Chains.

These days, the band—and its individual members—is still firing on all cylinders.

Firehouse guitarist Bill Leverty has just released a powerful new single called “You’re a Natural.” The song, which features contributions by Firehouse drummer Michael Foster and bassist Keith Horne, continues Leverty’s trend of releasing melodic singles full of tasty fretwork.

I recently spoke to Leverty about the new single, his gear, Firehouse’s upcoming tour plans and more.

How did “You’re a Natural” come about?

Just like every song I’ve written lately, it started backwards with the chorus first. With this one, the punch line was actually the first thing I wrote—“You’re a natural, a natural disaster.” I didn’t want it to be real descriptive, so it could be about athletics or any kind of work you do. I took it from that line and started working with the guitar to come up with a riff and chord progression.

What was it like recording with Firehouse’s Michael Foster and Keith Horne?

They’re phenomenal musicians. Michael took the song to an extremely high level of energy and creativity. As a guitar player, I’m usually thinking snare on beats two and four, but his feel and the way he shifts the beat to go along with the rhythm is remarkable. Keith is another amazing player. You give him the song and he just goes off and does his thing.

What are Firehouse’s touring plans this year?

We like to say we’re always on tour. It’s our creed. I think we already have 15 to 20 dates booked. Last year, we did 62 shows and played a lot of really cool places. We played with a lot of really cool bands and met a lot of new fans as well as ones we’ve known for years. We want to do it again this year. This will be another summer where we’ll be out every weekend and catching up on sleep during the week.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Bill Leverty by Clicking Here!

Bassist Nathan East Talks New Solo Album, ‘Reverence,’ and Working with Eric Clapton

Photo by: Kharen Hill

Photo by: Kharen Hill

Bassist Nathan East’s resume reads like a music industry who’s who.

East, a founding member of renowned, contemporary jazz quartet Fourplay, also is one of the world’s most in-demand bassists with credits that include Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson, Phil Collins and Whitney Houston.

East’s sophomore solo album, Reverence, is a collection of original tracks and cover material spanning the R&B, pop, rock and jazz songbook. Included is a scorching cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Serpentine Fire,” originally recorded in 1991 and featuring Eric Clapton on guitar and Phil Collins on drums. There’s also a soul-stirring interpretation of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that features East’s 16-year-old son, Noah, on piano.

I recently spoke with East about Reverence, his time performing with Eric Clapton, his gear and more.

Did you have a particular musical direction in mind for Reverence?

I always try to go in one direction, and it’s the same with Fourplay and all of the other projects I work on. You always try to go for sonic excellence. The idea is to keep the bar high in terms of quality and sound.

How did you determine what material to use for this project?

It’s a little more of a challenge as a bass player because you have to play bass and then any lead bass is in addition to it. So it’s actually two separate sets of basses on there. The idea is to find songs that lend themselves to that format in writing or covering. You always want to come up with something that will translate to the bass. The other thing I like to do is make records that are song-based and not just chops. Songs that touch a nerve or someone’s heart is also a big criteria.

Your cover of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Serpentine Fire” actually began 25 years ago. How did it come about?

That was originally a project I was working on with my brother called Two Faces of East. We were living together at the time and doing work in the studio, and that particular song was one that we put together. Coincidentally, it was also when I was working with Phil Collins and Eric Clapton. I remember we flew over to England and asked if they’d like to lend their talents.

Sure enough, they put their stamp on it. We pretty much finished it up, but the project never got a deal and the song wound up sitting around in a basement on 2-inch tape.

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Nathan East by Clicking Here!

Zepparella’s Gretchen Menn Discusses Her ‘Inferno’-Inspired Album, ‘Abanadon All Hope’

Photo by: Max Crace

Photo by: Max Crace

Zepparella guitarist Gretchen Menn’s new conceptual work, Abandon All Hope, is an eclectic study of guitar, art and literature.

The instrumental album, which puts elements of classical and romantic composition through a prog- and blues-rock blender, was co-produced by Daniele Gottardo (Steve Vai’s favorite new guitarist) and—most interesting of all—based on Dante Alighieri‘s epic 14th-century poem, Inferno.

You could say it’s a guitar album that’s 600 years in the making—with a masterful, 21st-century approach.

I recently spoke to Menn about Abandon All Hope, her gear and more.

How did the Abandon All Hope project begin?

I’ve always liked the idea of art that incorporates other art and how you don’t have to just make music but can also make images that accompany it. I’m the daughter of a writer and grew up reading a lot of classic literature. I started playing around with the idea of doing something that would be the music to a work of literature I really liked.

Around that same time, Guitar Player Editor-in-Chief Michael Molenda reached out about doing a collaboration. I remember we met in a coffee shop and he handed me this sheet of paper that said, “Dante’s Inferno: A Journey in 11 Different Musical Moods,” and I was just blown away. It was one of those rare moments where I knew exactly what I was going to be doing for the next few years of my life. That’s how it came about.

You said you pored over orchestral scores and listened to a lot of music to prepare for this album. How did that help you?
I read scores every day, and where some people do crossword puzzles, I do counterpoint exercises [laughs]. But I didn’t want to take “x” from Led Zeppelin, “y” from Igor Stravinsky and “z” from Kate Bush. Instead, I listened to whatever inspired me. I’d listen to Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” but I also listened to Roger Waters’ Amused to Death –a concept album he did with Jeff Beck. I really wanted to explore structure and the intense interplay between instruments.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Gretchen Menn by Clicking Here!

Phil Collen Talks Def Leppard’s Explosive New Concert Film, ‘Live from Detroit’

Photo by: Ross Halfin

Photo by: Ross Halfin

Def Leppard‘s new concert film, And There Will Be a Next Time: Live from Detroit, captures the power and raw energy of one of rock’s most dynamic and celebrated bands.

The disc, which was filmed at the DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, Michigan, includes a gaggle of hits from across the band’s 40-year career, including highlights from their monster albums—Pyromania and Hysteria—straight on through to their self-titled 2015 release.

I recently spoke with guitarist Phil Collen about Live from Detroit, the 30th anniversary of Hysteria, gear and more. You can check out the interview below.

And There Will Be a Next Time: Live from Detroit will be out February 10—and the band will be hitting the road again this spring.

What made the band decide to do a live project?

During this last tour, everyone—including the band—was saying this was the best they had ever heard Def Leppard. We knew we had to document it. We had also done Live: In the Round, In Your Face back in 1987 and knew we needed to update it. It was a no-brainer. But there was no real concept voyage behind it.

The first real sellout on the last tour was in Detroit, which has always been a brilliant market for the band. So we said, let’s record the most ravenous audience on that tour and the first sellout and update the whole thing, since it was all going so well. That was it.

Are there any extra nerves going into recording a live show, knowing there are no second chances?

Not so much nerves, but I do remember going over to the side and seeing a drone camera floating around by my head, filming me and taking photos. You get distracted and go, “This is not normal!” [laughs]. All of these kinds of things happen, but it’s all part of a live performance. There’s also going to be mistakes in live things, but it just shows that you’re human and it makes the record even more live.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Hysteria. What was your biggest challenge when making that album?

The biggest challenge was that we had been working with Mutt Lange and then he had to go off and finish a prior commitment, which was the Cars’ album [Heartbeat City]. So we fended for ourselves for a while and it just wasn’t happening. Then when he came back into the fold, he had a vision of what it was going to sound like, and that’s when it really started clicking. It was a joy to actually hear it come together because it had been frustrating working on something for two years.

When Mutt came back in, we saw what he was trying to accomplish. It was something unique that I had never heard before. Now you hear it for what it is, but at the time it was the absolute perfect hybrid of a rock album into the pop market.

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Phil Collen By Clicking Here!

Journey’s Neal Schon Talks Rock Hall of Fame Induction and New Projects

Photo: Schon Productions

Photo: Schon Productions

Neal Schon has a lot to be thankful for.

Last year, the longtime Journey guitarist—and the band’s only remaining founding member—celebrated another season of touring and was reunited with his longtime friend and mentor, Carlos Santana, for the Santana IV album and tour.

The new year is already off to a memorable start for Schon. In addition to the assortment of solo-related projects he’s working on, it was recently announced that Journey–whose current lineup includes Jonathan Cain (keyboards, vocals), Ross Valory (bass, vocals), Steve Smith (drums) and Arnel Pineda (lead vocals)—will be inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April alongside Yes, ELO, Pearl Jam, Joan Baez, Nile Rodgers and Tupac Shakur.

I recently spoke with Schon about Journey’s induction, his upcoming projects and more.

Did you ever think the day would come when Journey would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
I didn’t really think about it. We were up about 17 years ago, and when we weren’t nominated, I kind of forgot about it. One of the main things that got us in was our fans voting so hard. The fans and the music are the main things for me. They spoke and the Hall listened. It’s an honor to be in there and get the nod for some of the staples and cement we’ve made.Do you see Journey’s induction as a stepping stone for other “classic rock” bands to eventually get a nod?

I really can’t say because I have no clue what the voting process is. Personally, I’d love to see it be more fan-based. A hall of fame is about different artists and bands and the legacies they’ve left. Even if the people deciding don’t care for a certain type of music, the artists that have the credentials and sell millions of records deserve to be there.

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Neal Schon by Clicking Here.

Heart’s Nancy Wilson Talks ‘Live at the Royal Albert Hall’ CD/DVD

Photo by: Christie Goodwin

Photo by: Christie Goodwin

Heart’s epic new CD/DVD/Blu-ray, Live at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, captures the band’s first performance—ever—at the legendary London venue.

The sold-out show, which took place in June, was highlighted by hit after hit—from “Crazy on You” and “Barracuda” to “Magic Man” and “Dreamboat Annie”—plus tracks from the band’s engaging new studio album, Beautiful Broken.

Besides Ann Wilson (vocals) and Nancy Wilson (guitar/vocals), the band that night included Ben Smith (drums), Dan Rothchild (bass), Craig Bartock (guitar), Chris Joyner (keyboards) and, of course, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Nick Davies.

I recently spoke with Nancy Wilson about the Royal Albert Hall performance, gear and the stories behind some of the band’s biggest hits.

When and how did the idea for a performance at the Royal Albert Hall originate?
We had been pushing the concept of bringing the band over to the U.K. and doing some shows for some time. That was when someone who had been handling big shows at Royal Albert Hall got wind that we were coming over and asked if we’d be interested in doing a World Symphony show. And we were like, “Uhm, yeah! I think we could manage that!” [laughs]. It all fell together very naturally.

What was the process like in terms of putting orchestration behind the band’s iconic songs?
It was a cool thing because we already had some standard charts from Paul Buckmaster, who worked us on Beautiful Broken. But we didn’t want to give it a pastoral kind of sound. We wanted more of a rock-symphony sound. We came over and had one day with Nick Davies looking over the charts and talking them over. We perused through them together and decided what to add and what take out.

The same day as the show was the only day we actually rehearsed with the orchestra. They’re so insanely talented. Once we got out there and saw how great it sounded in the room, we knew right away it was going to work. That’s when we said, “Ok, let’s go have some fun!”

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Nancy Wilson Here!

Glenn Hughes Talks New Solo Album, Gear and Black Country Communion

glennhughes

Glenn Hughes is an elusive artist with an uncanny ability to jam with Stevie Wonder one night and rock out with Disturbed the next. But perhaps no album showcases the real Glenn Hughes better than Resonate, his first solo album of new material in eight years.

With its groove-oriented, Detroit-style sound, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has made the album his fans have been longing for. Tracks like “Heavy,” “Landmines” and “Flow” spotlight Hughes’ limitless swagger, while “Long Time Gone” is acoustic and secretive.

I recently spoke with Hughes about the new album, his gear, Black Country Communion and a some of the more memorable moments of his career.

Resonate is your first solo album in eight years. Why such a long wait?
I’ve written three Black Country Communion albums, a California Breed album and bits and pieces with others artists. As I was recovering from double-knee transplants earlier this year, I was bedridden for a while and wrote this album. But I didn’t go in to write a solo album. I did it for cathartic/therapy reasons. If you know anything about me, you know I’m always writing.

To me, this album is one long song with 12 breaks. It’s a meaningful record because I sing about the human condition and what gets us through. I’m singing about my father’s death and I’m pissed off, but I’m also sensitive and you get to hear that in the tone of my voice in certain songs.

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Glenn Hughes by Clicking Here!

Guitarist John Roth Discusses Gear and the Roth Brock Project

roth-brockGuitarist John Roth first met vocalist Terry Brock in 2009 while working on Giant’s Promised Land record.

The pair immediately developed a musical bond, not to mention the songwriting chemistry that would eventually lead to their infectious debut album, Roth Brock Project.

For Roth—who gigs with Winger and Starship Featuring Mickey Thomas—and Brock (Giant, LeRoux, Strangeways), the 11-song collaboration of thundering guitars and powerhouse vocals pays homage to the inspired songwriting and style of Eighties arena rock while showcasing the talents of two seasoned veterans.

I recently spoke to Roth about the Roth Brock Project, his time with Starship and Winger, gear and more in this new interview.

How did your musical relationship with Terry Brock begin? 

In 2009, I did a record with Giant called Promised LandDann Huff was the lead guitar player of the band, but he was too busy to do the record. He knew the guitar community, and I got the call to come in and do the record. Terry was the lead singer and he and I did some co-writing for the record and really hit it off.

How would you describe the Roth Brock Project in terms of its sound?

It’s classic, arena rock and roll. It’s got an Eighties vibe but with new gear and new recording technology. I wanted to deliver a record that has the elements of Winger, Starship and Giant. It’s inspired by that kind of sound.

What’s your writing process like? 

I’ve written a few songs from musical ideas, but most are inspired when I hear a melody or lyric in my head. I’ll usually hear the chorus in my head first and then write what would go behind it and then move on to the verse and bridge. For me, it really comes chorus first.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with John Roth by Clicking Here.

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