Every musician out there has at least one other musician that has influenced their musical perspective.
Stealing From One Source
It’s been said that mediocre artists steal entirely from one source. Hence my opening line that we all have at least one influence. I remember very distinctly a music teacher that uttered those very words about mediocre artists when I was learning as much as I could about music. His point was – don’t be mediocre.
Stealing From Everywhere
One the flip side it’s also said that great artists steal from more than one source, or with my twist – everywhere. This is where I’m going to divulge at least 5 musicians that had varying degrees of profound impact on my guitar playing and my musical sense. Believe me, I’m well beyond the 5 musician mark of “stealing” ideas from, but I don’t wish to overwhelm you with them all.
Seriously, there is no order to this, but I gotta start somewhere and the first guitarist is Joe Satriani. His guitar abilities and his musical sensibility are, to put it mildly, out of this world. Which is probably why one of my favorite albums of his is called Surfing With The Alien. Joe’s writing is insane for what is almost an entirely instrumental career. His melodies are often very memorable and his rhythmic sense is top notch. If ever there were a guitarist alive today that I’d want to do an instrumental album with as a co-writer and co-player, Joe is it. Hopefully I can make this happen before he kicks the bucket.
May the force of the original be with you. The original guitar made by your own hands that is. See, the next guitarist was so cool that he made his own instrument with his father. He also helped create some of the most memorable tunes in history with a little known band called Queen. This would be Brian May. Like Joe, I have not met Brian. Though I have met a band mate of his. Despite that, Brian has heard at least one story about me through someone we both know. How the hell that came up in a conversation is beyond me.
Despite that, I heard that he was flattered in regards to the story as it did relate to me playing his guitar parts. Would I love to meet him? You bet. Would I love to write a song with him? You bet. Like Luke, his chordal and theoretical musical abilities are incredible.
Eddie, Eddie, Eddie… As much as I’d like to humor you and say I’m referring to Eddie Wilson, I am in fact referencing a very different Eddie. Rather, it’s Eddie Van Halen. I did make a a post recently about how some of my career has paralleled Eddie’s. Which was a rather bold thing to say looking back on it. Maybe not so much paralleled as has some similar things about how we both approach music from a work ethic and sonic desire standpoint. Sadly Ed has passed, but his music and his insane guitar wizardry has been captured and archived for the world to remember him by. If you need a reason for his influence on me, it would be rhythm. Yes he was known for his wild solos, but his rhythmic sense was way beyond most guitarists. I believe that has rubbed off into my ethos as well.
Luke! No, he’s not my father. That’s the nickname to the 2nd guitarist that I would say had an indirect but amazing impact upon my playing life. I write indirect because I never truly studied his playing, but there is no doubt that his writing and playing has had a profound impact well beyond those that are even aware of his name: Steve Lukather. Even non-musicians know his music. His chordal and melodic sense are amazing. His improvisational skills are jaw dropping. To boot, he’s a funny human being and a super cool guy to hang out with. There’s a story I can relate at some point in the future. Until that day I get the gumption to write about our initial meeting, you’ll have to Hold The Line.
This is a goddamned toss-up so I’m going to mention two name in this paragraph and by no means is this a definite list. If I were to write about this at another time, I’d likely have 5 other names on the list. So here they are rubbed together like two buffalo nickels: Steve Nuno Vai Bettencourt. Oops, I mishmashed them a little too much. Steve Vai and Nuno Bettencourt. When you want a guitarist who has passionate chops for days, that’s Steve Vai (a student of Satriani) who also had the pleasure of working with Zappa.
Man, just thinking about him brings up several stories. Yes, I’ve met and hung out with him and that’s a post for some time in the future. When you need Extreme chops you don’t need to look much further than Nuno. His rhythmic chops rival those of Eddie, but he goes somewhere all his own. Which is the name of the game. I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting him and seeing him play live on multiple occasions. He’s definitely a force. It’s those rhythmic things that he imparted on me as well.
There it is
As I’ve mentioned if you were to ask me about 5 guitarists at any other time, you’re likely to get another 5 answers. There’s two many amazing guitar players out there. At least now you have some perspective on my musical perspective based on just 5 guitar players that have had some sort of impact on my career.
Sitting here waiting, like I’m on the remarkable long road, for my studio machine to export video to a podcast. As if I don’t have enough to do. Much like you. As I’m twiddling thumbs waiting on the export, I’m thinking about the vocals I’ll be tracking later tonight. Then I got the wild idea of writing a random stream of thoughts instead of filling my head with things I can’t control.
That’s not entirely true, I could control when I tell the computer to crunch the video / audio data. I could even stop it right now if I desired. However, that would be putting the work off until later. Experts call that – procrastination. I’m not a good procrastinator.
Knowing that I have a data backup that I need to do tonight as well, I opted to let the machine do its thing while I get some busy work done for the podcast. Getting the YouTube page ready. Getting the website page ready. Writing out the description of the episodes coming up for Tuesday and Friday. Monday has become my relegated Podcast prep day.
Yet another facet to my musical life, passing on the knowledge I’ve learned about recording, mixing, mastering music. The remarkable long road of a career musician who puts in too much time.
Speaking of which, I read an article earlier today about a famous musician that passed away a couple of weeks ago. Of course the initial tributes that came out for Eddie Van Halen were warranted. I wondered how long it would take for the dark side stories to start cropping up. I had heard some of them prior to his death – the music business isn’t that large. Then again, it isn’t that small either. Today was that day. I came across an article written by a film maker talking about his time spent with Eddie.
To paraphrase, there were DEFCON one moments and apparently kinda often in his remarkable long road of a career.
One of the things I learned in reading the article was Eddie’s work ethic. It was tireless. Borderline merciless. Which got me thinking…
I know there are several musicians who have played with me that would agree to the following statement. I am notorious for doing long rehearsals to make sure everyone knows their part. I don’t care how long it takes to get everyone on the same page, so long as they really want to be working on the music. I often would rehearse songs for hours and hours on end. The goal was to make playing the music, the songs, 2nd nature to the point where I didn’t have to think about it for it to be done right.
Pushing myself for that type of practice and rehearsal is normal. That’s how I roll. Unfortunately I also expect from the musicians that I play with or who play with me. Some handle that well, many don’t. Which leads to frustration on their part and on my part. I expect people to do their musical homework. To come prepared. I always feel like I’ve let other musicians down if I haven’t gotten the music memorized and into muscle memory before a rehearsal. I don’t want to rely on reading charts.
Turns out, Eddie had this type of drive too, according to the filmmaker. I had no idea. I figured he was an alien. However, one paragraph struck me. I’m paraphrasing here but, Eddie would play guitar when writing/recording songs 15 to 18 hours a day, then sleep. As if sleep were only there as a necessary evil. He’d go to sleep for several hours, get back up and go back to the studio and the guitar. Doing it day in and day out.
In the studio he would expect the same of the the musicians. He expected they would put in the same work he did. Often, they didn’t and he’d get bummed out. Did you know Eddie played the bass on all Van Halen records other than Van Halen I? Learned that today too…
Oh that is so familiar to me. I work alone much of the time as I find I can get things done quicker that way. Not always true, but often enough. I learned to sing, because I couldn’t find a singer with that kind of work ethic.
When I do work with others, whether I’m bringing them on for something I’ve written, or I’m producing another artist – the most common phrase I hear is: Damn, I’ve never worked so hard in the studio. I’ve got multiple stories of musicians like that. When striving for that type of perfection, it can take a toll. Especially on others. I know I’m not the easiest guy to work with musically, based on that work ethic. Though I have had multiple musicians that prefer to work my gigs because – I’m consistent, I know what I want, and they don’t have to guess. I will always go back to guys and gals that I’ve worked with who can handle the work.
Getting asked how I’ve managed to make a remarkable long road career out of music, I think it stems to that work ethic.
BTW – **ding** my export is done and I need to get on with the uploading of the video and podcast audio, so that in an hour or so I can get to tracking vocals. Have a great evening!