Edward Box Interview - Melodic Lightning
Ed Box first came to my attention back in 2000 when his track ‘130R’ was featured on the Guitarist magazine CD. Hurrah! A British rock guitarist virtuoso who possessed not only world class chops, but also a supreme melodicism, silky touch and a sinous lyricism redolent of prime era Warren Di Martini and George Lynch – Ed was a refreshing breath of fresh air in those dark virtuoso guitarist unfriendly days of the late 90’s/early noughties.
Fast forward to early 2006 and at Alloutguitar Towers we were planning a UK wide team of top guitarists to help develop and promote the magazine – I remembered Ed’s name and made it an absolute priority to track the man down.
In May 2006 Alloutguitar.com exhibited at the London Guitar Show, and we had a fantastic line up of players on our stand playing throughout the weekend. Ed agreed to come down from Gateshead and spend a weekend with us ‘shandy drinking, spritzer supping southerners’, and upon his arrival on the Saturday afternoon had the daunting task of following the phenomenon that is Andy James. Armed with his Floyd Rose equipped Strat Ed duly let loose, and within literally a couple of notes we all knew that here was someone truly special. Even in an environment where there were many world-class rock guitarists, Ed stood out with his effortless elegance of touch – an indefinable ‘something’ unique that all really great players have. In another era Ed would no doubt be better known as he is surely one of the top rock guitarists out there. Ed has a completely evolved signature sound, but if you search you can detect elements of Michael Schenker, Eddie, the aforementioned Lynch and DiMartini, John Norum, Kee Marchello, John Sykes and Viv Campbell all combining together to create a wonderful player – ‘Melodic Lightning’ indeed!
We talk at the tail end of 2006, a few months after Ed’s second solo album ‘Moonfudge’ was released on Lion Records, and as Ed is deep in rehearsals with his new band ‘Vendetta’ – a traditional metal band whose debut album is a prime combination of riffs and melodies reminiscent of Dokken, Queensryche, Dio and even a little bit of Judas Priest.
Early Days and The NWOBHM
I grew up in Kendal, in the Lake District in Northern England. Growing up in such a traditional rural community there wasn’t exactly loads going on musically to inspire an aspiring guitarist, but I started to get a real taste for music in the late 70’s through TV shows like Top of The Pops – I remember really liking Queen. Around that whole 79/80 period Punk and New Wave was still big, so we could be listening to anything from The Stranglers and The Police to Tubeway Army and even Abba – you know, your typical late 70’s stuff.
But, what made the biggest impact on me, was when my older brothers started listening to Hard Rock and Heavy Metal around 1980 – and it was at this time that first stirrings of the ‘New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’ came through. Iron Maiden, Saxon and Def Leppard were the best known bands but there were loads of others that you’d hear on the Radio One’s ‘Friday Rock Show’, or read about in Sounds and Kerrang! That whole new scene also rejuvenated the careers of bands like Motorhead, AC/DC, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath (with Ronnie James Dio at this time) which was great – you had all these great new bands many of who had this big back catalogue – some of the bands were on their 7th or 8th albums! I was still very young to be into music like that – barely 9 years old when most people into this were at least 15 or 16, but it had a massive impact on me and I had a great time exploring the previous 10 years of rock and metal…and the next step was to get a guitar.
At Christmas 1980 I got a cheap nylon string acoustic and started on that with a few lessons at school – these were from the visiting Violin teacher who played a bit of guitar, so me and a friend were shown all the usual open chords and single string type melodies. My friend actually progressed a lot quicker than me – I was a bit useless! – so I went to have out of school lessons in Kendal with a bloke who did it part time. This was just classical stuff, so being very young I quickly lost interest – at that time I just couldn’t grasp the logic behind the guitar. I struggled on for a year or two – and had even made the effort to get an electric – but it wasn’t really working so I gave up at the end of 82. I sold everything and got a BMX!
The thing was I was still listening more than ever to rock – and it was still the guitar that really got my attention. Thin Lizzy’s ‘Cold Sweat’ solo by John Sykes got my attention, as did Dios’ great ‘Holy Diver’ album. In 84 we had some great stuff as well – Deep Purple’s ‘Perfect Strangers’ and Van Halen’s ‘1984’ – and I was passionately reading every issue of Kerrang!
Mr Van Halen and Mr Lynch
What made you go back to the guitar – was it a single event, or just a gradual realisation that you still had unfinished business with the axe?
Early in 85 I was watching TV and Van Halen came on and it was ‘Unchained’ and I thought “Right, I have to get that NOW!” I went into Lancaster, which was the nearest city, and bought ‘Van Halen ‘Fair Warning’ and just had a massive overwhelming desire to play again. I grabbed back my old nylon string – I’d given it to a cousin or something – an dit now had steel strrings and an action of about 2 inches! I noodled around on this whilst saving up all my money from doing the paper round to get another electric. This time around I went at it very seriously and I was totally focused on it – very quickly I had taught myself bar chords, power chords and the minor pentatonic scale. My old friend from primary school had continued playing so he showed me a lot of stuff and I started devouring all trhe guitar magazines that were available – which back then wasn’t many! I think I started to get Guitarist from around May or June 1985 – and I remember a mate had somehow got hold of the American mag Guitar For The Practising Musician and that particular issue had a Jake E Lee feature which is where we learned all about palm muting. This was a real breakthrough as up until then we hadn’t any idea how they got that great chugging metal rhythm – we’d been playing away using open strings normally, thinking it must have been their cool US amps or something that got ‘that’ sound!
My first proper riff using this was Dokken’s ‘Breaking The Chains’ and it was an amazing time – we’d be jamming away whenever we could, swopping licks and riffs. Adrian Brookes was his name, and he was a really good natural talent – he transcribed ‘Dee’ by Randy Rhoads perfectly at 15 – so it was great learning with someone like that.
When did you start playing in a band?
At my school there were only 3 or 4 people into music; the music department was pretty much non-existent, and there was very little in my home town area either. So, mainly what I did was load of bedroom practise – playing along albums, recording chord progressions on tapes and jamming over them. It was a great time to get into the guitar as, after Van Halen in 84/85, suddenly all the LA guitar scene was big news. I lived and breathed Geogle Lynch and Warren Di Martini, Eddie, John Sykes – and from earlier eras Michel Schenker and Frank Marino. As far as techniques go, I got a hell of a lot of stuff from when they showed Ozzy’s perfotrmance at the US Festival from 1983 on TV. Jake E Lee was playing, and anyone who’s ever watched this will agree that it was an incendiary rock guitar performance – a master class on modern rock guitar with tapping, pinch harmonics – which in my ignorance I used to call ‘peaks’! (Editors Note: When growing up and learning a few hundred miles south of Ed, both Owen and Rory Sullivan both had similar experiences and influences – and we used to call pick harmonics ‘Wahs’) and, on the whole, general flamboyance that rock guitar now had.
I listened a lot to George Lynch – getting down his vibrato and phrasing (and use of ‘peaks’!) – you know, trying to get that slippery tone. Then, a bit later on, when Malmsteen and Tony Macalpine were big I put in a lot of time to getting my alternate picking and sweep arpeggios down.
Did you ever get any lessons from older players locally, or pop into Lancaster to see a ‘proper’ rock guitar teacher?
No, I was totally self taught – I think a lot of our generation got all that sort of stuff down from Vinnie Moores video! At school those of us who were into the guitar were pretty serious though; in addition to Adrian who I talked about earlier there was a lad called Johhny Phillips (who I remember lent me the Yngwie ‘Trilogy’ album) – he was a real rocker who nowadays is part of well known London jazz group ‘The Fire Collection’.
What did you take to more naturally – the neo classical or the LA style?
Well, the LA style is inherently blues based – but with loads more fast pull offs and everything – and I had been edoing this pretty naturally for a while, so I would say the Lynch/DiMartini and Schenker stuff. The neo classical style is much more methodical and regimented – you know the note groupings and sequencing is often almost mathematical with lots of symmetrical melodies and so on. I didn’t really get all that picking and sweeping down to any serious degree until I myself became very much more regimented and serious – which wasn’t until the early 90’s really.
Did you use a metronome then in order to help gain the accuracy and timing needed to pull off that style accurately?
I never used a metronome at all – at least not until recently which incidentally I am finding a great help.
Music College And The Early 90’s
What happened when you left school?
I left school halfway through the sixth form, and it was at this point (1988 or so) that I tried to get into a proper serious practise regime – although a lot of that was the joys of practising in front of the TV – an essential tool!
What happened was that I applied for – and got accepted on – a course at Newcastle College in ‘Popular Music & The Performing Arts’ – one of the first courses of its kind in the UK. This was really an excuse to move to the city and play all the time and have the chance to play with loads of other musos who were as serious about it all as I was. We’d do lots of projects, lots of playing and writing together and it was great for me in particular as, up until that point, I hadn’t much experience playing with many other musicians.
Was there any specific guitar tuition?
They had a few guest instructors come in, but basically that often consisted of them showing us a few jazz chords and giving us some practical theory lessons – and a lot of us who were there had already got a lot of chord construction and theory down from our won study efforts and reading all the guitar mags. Still, it sort of filled in any blanks and meant that by the time we left we were fine with modes, applying keys, chord/scale and arpeggio construction – as well as knowing a few of the more obscure ‘exotic’ scales and when to apply them.
One of the guys I met there was Dave Moore, who is a really great guitarist in the Newcastle area. He was very much into Gilbert, and really very different to me stylistically as an actual player (although we liked all the same people) so we used to blag stuff of each other after college and decided to form a band. That was XLR8R.
Do you think it was a good move going to college?
Oh yeah, it was great fun – although as a course it was so new that it was pretty disorganised! Still, it made you get your theory properly down and those sort of courses are always great for meeting other musicians. Whilst still at college XL8R started rehearsing properly and writing songs. It came together fairly quickly – a drummer who lived in the building where we rehearsed decided that he wanted a go at singing: he came down and looked great and although he didn’t have the best voice in the world we thought he would be great as a frontman. Pretty much straight away we found ourselves gigging and that is what I concentrated on for the next few years.
When was this?
That first gig was when I had just turned 19 and it was at the 244 Rock Club in Newcastle – it no longer exists – which was just a grotty little room with a bar full of rockers. We did all original material from the start – never covers; in fact the only covers I’d ever done had been on assignments at college. So, I bypassed that whole covers band thing, and went straight to original material – which may have been a bad thing in retrospect as having to play a lot of covers may have taught me more about songwriting earlier…
Anyway, from that moment onwards we gigged at least 2 or 3 times all around the Newcastle area, occasionally going down south a bit. We another did 3 or 4 demos – and got a 4 star review in Metal Hammer which was a real boost. At that time we really went for the whole LA look and spent a fair bit on photos and the whole package – which I suppose was just about respectable in 90/91!
How did the band do?
We always got a good crowd in our local area, maybe 2-300 regularly – and we got some good reviews in Kerrang!, Metal Forces as well as various fanzines. We built up a good live reputation and got a serious level of interest – we supported various bands including Thunder at the Newcastle Mayfair.
Any record company interest?
We got an offer with Now & Then Records, which at the time was a new independant label…but, for the usual reasons it fell though. We were really excited about that at the time, and were due to get a budget agreed for some proper studio time, only for a new bloke to come in – and it all went tits up!
By now this would have been 1992/93 and, as has been chronicled by many of the interviews over the last six months the beginning of the Seattle invasion…
That was the beginning of a bad time for us as when the grunge thing came in full force it was like there was nowhere to go. Despite this, we soldiered on and self-financed a studio album which got us some management…who ended up being crap! Actually that’s a bit unfair – the first few months with them were fine, and we actually got some optimism back again. Allegedly we were offered some money from Geffen to record some demos…but guess what? Same old story – a change of personnel and the whole thing gets pulled. That was the last thing we really did as a band – which is a shame as were very popular, had had interest in the national media – we got a great review in Guitarist – but, as with a lot of players of our generation, it was just a little too late. By the time we were of a standard that a record company was willing to sign us, put us out on tour and properly promote us – well, the whole music scene was so different, and the audiences had changed so much, that trying to get anyone to take the plunge seemed impossible.
Of course, looking back what we should have done was simply take the whole thing over to Europe. We were so influenced by what was happening in America and the UK – and with what all the press continually went on about – that we didn’t consider whether there was actually still a sizeable market out there.
We should have sorted something out with a European Independent label and hit the European market – because that kept going throughout the 90’s and a lot of the more traditional bands, and melodic rockers, kept their careers going. I am sure that if only we had had the foresight we could have fitted in well.
What were you doing to make ends meet at this time?
I was on the dole for most of that period – but that was the same for pretty much every musician in Newcastle as it wasn’t a prosperous place back then – it was pretty depressed as a region in the early 90’s. To try and get by I used to do a bit of work for a music collective and teach. ‘The North Tyneside Music Collective’ was an organisation to try and boost the local music scene – it would put on rock schools, promote local festivals and try and build a local music scene. I got some teaching off the back of that, and actually got a bit of theatre work – I remember playing at a local theatre doing the Best Little Whorehouse In Texas amongst other shows. That was a good one as I had to emulate a lot of pedal steel playing – a good one to try out all those Michael Lee Firkins licks! These shows were great fun – often week long shows stints that were great for getting experience in a wide rang of musical styles.
However, I knew that I had to try to get something else behind me so went to University from 1997-200. I was steadily building up my teaching business at this time to tide me over as well, and got involved in another original band called Arch Stanton.
Did you ever consider doing the pub circuit?
One of the things in the Newcastle area that put me off was that if you were a covers band the main place where people would book you to gig was at working mens clubs. These places paid alright, but the whole thing required a certain mentality that I haven’t got. I’ve been offered the chance to join a few of the big club bands over the years but it never appealed and so, as far as earning money out of my playing, I have always concentrated on teaching.
In 2001 your ‘Plectrumhead’ demo received a great review by Simon Bradley in Guitarist magazine – and the track ‘130R’ appeared on the cover mount CD – which is, of course, how I first heard of you. How did this come about?
When I was at University me and a friend put together Arch Stanton – we didn’t do that much, a few demos, a few gigs, got some really bad management..! At first it was just to keep me involved in the music scene as I had a few ideas licking around and my mate had a few songs written. The good thing was that as I wasn’t doing a load of full on metal type of stuff like XLR8R it sort of took a lot of pressure of my playing. In XLR8R there was always this pressure to really keep up on your chops – it was pretty intense, almost full on shred, playing.
In Arch Stanton, by taking a more relaxed musical approach my playing seemed to free up: I started to hold back a lot more and concentrate on really cool phrasing and melodicism – and I got back into Schenker heavily and really paid attention to vibrato, timing, space – all those types of things that can get lost when you are harmonising 32nd note runs and arpeggios. I started tinkering around with a few instrumental ideas, a few riffs and melodies that lent themselves to guitar instrumentals as opposed to full on vocal tunes. Eventually I came up with 3 or 4 finished songs and decided to go and record these at a mate’s studio – all done pretty cheaply – get a few copies pressed on to CD with a cover, and send them off and see what happened. Guitarist magazine gave it a great write up and put it on the CD, and I suppose that was a bit of a wake up call again – that I could maybe still make a career of sorts out of my playing.
Was this the best review that you had had to date?
No, not really – XLR8R got a 5 star review in Guitarist back in 95, and Total Guitar featured a track on their CD and Arch Stanton also got a good review in the demo section of Guitarist – so the reviews have always been pretty kind to me!
This time it spurred me on to write a few more tracks and get them recorded, as then I would have a full album. So I spent a few months getting that done and then trawled the internet and all the guitar magazines to see what sort of labels were putting out this sort of music. I sent a few CD’s off with a package of my reviews and everything, and Lion Music came back and said that if I re-recorded the songs to a higher quality then they would release an Ed Box solo album. And, with that, I bit the bullet and saved up enough to go in and record the songs properly: that is what became the ‘Plectrumhead’ album.
The album was principally sold through online retailers and it got a lot of reviews from various websites, such as Sea of Tranquilty and Metal Resource. Overall I think it averaged about a 7/10 which was pretty good for that kind of music. If you do a google search on the album title it usually brings up a load of these but I also have some links to reviews on my website www.edwardbox.com.
The Realities of Being A Rock Guitarist
Did you receive any sort of advance to cover the cost of the recording?
No, I had to front all the money and when they received the master I got an advance off future sales. I also got some complimentary CD’s to sell myself. When I got into this they said from the outset that they were a small company selling to a small niche market: a company like that can’t afford to pay for people to go into studios. Even so it was a great opportunity – and they were also the only people who I had an offer from! – so I went for it. ‘Plectrumhead’ is made up of the original track from the demo that Guitarist reviewed and 8 further tracks that I wrote after.
This was late 2002 and whilst the instrumental scene is arguably healthier – five years on – that it has been for a considerable amount of time, back then we were still coming out of the nadir that was the 90’s…what sort of sales figures did you achieve?
It did OK, but not great – they did one pressing and sold out of that – so I sold around 1000 copies. At the time I was hoping it would do at least double – hopefully triple – what it did; I remember talking with them about sales as at that time Lion were licensing some of the Tony Macalpine’s back catalogue. These were shifting 3000 plus units, so as they were reissues of an old product I hoped at least to get to around those figures.
What is your take on the realities of being a solo artist in the ‘virtuoso’ instrumental rock guitar genre then?
From what my own experiences suggest, it is pretty brutal. If you are a name like Vinnie Moore or Tony Macalpine – guys who in their heyday were selling sometimes in excess of 100,000 units – well, I imagine they are doing around 20,000 plus in today’s climate. Likewise if you are on Favored Nations, I think that most artists should comfortably be doing something like that – and the bigger names a whole lot more. But if you are starting out now with one of the smaller labels – or even more so if you try and do it all yourself – realistically it will be hard to break the 1000 sales mark.
The reason is that most labels start by doing pressing runs of 1000 CD’s; after 500 a record company gets a glass master from the pressing plant which means it’s cheaper to burn future runs, so they might as well do 1000.
Now, from a record company’s perspective for every CD pressed they have to pay a mechanical copyright . This means that if the record company press 1000 and the artist sells well enough that they decide to press another 1000, but then the album stalls after only a couple of hundred – bringing a total sales to around 1200 – the record company still has to pay the MCPS on all that unsold stock – which if it happens regularly can put a small record company out of business. Even an artist who has used the internet well and built up a real name in this scene – someone like a Rusty Cooley, who is also on Lion Records – well, I would bet that he is hard pressed to exceed 3000 units…
So it is safe to say that none of us are in this game for the money!
To be honest, you press a CD and hope to break even really. But they are very good (if not essential) for promoting you as a guitarist – whether it’s to write for magazines like this site, or to attract students, to use as a business card for getting into bands and/or trying to get into some sort of local session scene – or even to try and play at music shows and guitar shows around the country.
What about the music trade shows such as Music Live and the London Guitar Shows (not to mention the host of regional ones that have cropped up)? I remember Simon Bradley in his review of the ‘Plectrumhead’ demo saying what a spectacular choice as an equipment demonstrator you would be – did you take those compliments on board and try and get some work in this field?
When ‘Plectrumhead’ first came out I went down to the Birmingham NEC to Music Live and tried to do exactly that: I went around as many stands as I thought were suitable, got some business cards, gave out some CD’s, sent some off to companies etc – but I found the whole demonstrator thing is very tied up – which is why you see the same old faces every year.
It was very disappointing; with all the good press about the CD I thought that I should be able to get an endorsement deal, could do some shows and get a cool job demonstrating at shows…but it doesn’t work like that. Over the years I have got to know and speak with a lot of players who sell more than what I do and they say it’s the same for them as well; it’s very much a closed book – the not what you know (or can play) but who you drink with!
Teaching Advice and Approach
In common with many of today’s professional rock virtuoso guitarists, Ed’s main source of income is as a teacher.
How did you go about building up your students?
Firstly, I put up lots of business cards in all local music shops – I think the best way to get business is by getting in with your local guitar and music shops. Word of mouth is always important – and anything that raises your local profile like gigging helps. If you are out there doing and being seen playing well, you always get people coming up to you asking questions about this and that – it’s often easy to turn it around and suggest they come done for a lesson: do this a few times a month and pretty soon you’ve got all your students.
Personally I haven’t been gigging that much over the past few years (although that is changing with my new band Vendetta) but it is something that is guaranteed to help. Some teachers, I know, have tried the Yellow Pages – particularly if a parent is looking for their child and they know nothing about guitars this is probably the first place that they will look. I haven’t done that yet – but I see that Simon Lees has done this successfully for years so it is something to look into for 2007: as long as you get a couple of people from it will have paid for itself, and anything after that is a bonus.
I still think that the best place is music shops though – and a lot of people are realising this now as there definitely seems more competition out there.
What about a website aimed at attracting students?
Well, it’s good to have a website but to be honest, in my experience you get them through someone being told about you, or through a music shop and then phoning you up – I have never had a lesson booked through my website!
Have you broken into teaching at schools?
Yes I have, and again this was through people who knew of me so it was word of mouth stuff; basically, about a year ago I got a call from someone who taught at a primary school and she asked if I was interested in teaching guitar at that school, so I started there. Around the same time Jimi Savage called me and said that he was dropping a couple of schools as he wanted to concentrate on his private work – Jimi runs the really successful ‘Savage Guitar Studio’ in Newcastle – so I took those on as well. I enjoy it; it’s nice and regular so it’s something that I am looking into doing more of in the future.
What are your practical goals – 6 schools and 30 hours a week private?
Well, truthfully I think that it would be hard to build up to that level around here – maybe it’s different down south – but it’s something to try and aim for!
Moonfudge & Vendetta
In 2006 Edward released his second album ‘Moonfudge’ which has received great reviews around the world.
This is available at all the sites that ‘Plectrumhead’ is, and it’s had great reviews on All Out Guitar, Hard Rock House and Guitar and Bass Magazine. The average rating is better than ‘Plectrumhead’.
How did you go about preparing for ‘Moonfudge’?
I had some song ideas kicking around when Lion Records asked if I wanted to do another album. At that precise time I was very busy with teaching and some work I started for ‘The Sage Gateshead’ – which is the big international music centre located on the banks of the Tyne – so for a year or so the writing had fallen by the wayside a bit. However, about 18 months ago, I made a decision that I needed to start working again on this. I got out some older ideas and started to pull everything together – trying new melodies over rhythms, trying out new riffs: I already had some backing tracks and riffs recorded from old demos so I started working on melody lines and refining those basic ideas. I got five new songs together as well; recorded them all and mixed them down at the tail end of 2005. It took a while to sort out, but eventually I got it together – but it was definitely a harder album to work on than ‘Plectrumhead’, more drawn out and prolonged.
What do you think are the main differences between the albums?
‘Plectrumhead’ was recorded in a ‘proper’ studio, whereas ‘Moonfudge;’ was at a mate’s home set up so it hasn’t got quite as polished a sound – for example the drums were recorded in the garage, the amp at the bottom of the stairs and everything! Yet, I actually think we achieved a tighter and more focused guitar and drum sound – which lends itself well to the finished album as it’s a lot more groove and riff orientated, less ballads and more almost a classic power trio approach.
I was very inspired by Andy Timmons ‘That was Then, This Is now’ album – which is brilliant! – and the fact that he was breaking with that standard classic Satriani thing where every track has a rhythm guitar and the lead guitars over it. Here was a very open and honest sound – when there is a solo it is over just the bass and drums – just like Cream and Mountain and all of those classic power trios. Just check out my track ‘Welcome To The Grindhouse’ as that in particular is inspired by Andy.
That is interesting, as Mike Blackburns alloutguitar.com review highlighted the Timmons connection…
Definitely; I have been inspired again by Andy’s phrasing and everything. Yet, thinking about all of this it’s funny that I am even doing instrumental albums as I don’t really listen to them myself – I think there are about 10 that I listen to and that’s it! I’ve always been into bands and songs so it’s definitely weird that I have found myself going down this road. I suppose the reason a lot of us do it is convenience; you don’t have to have a band – as long as you know some mates who can play on the recording sessions – you can work away on it yourself and get a finished product out of it that is truly your own.
How is ‘Moonfudge’ doing?
It’s very early days, but it had some good advance orders that lead us to hope it will do better than ‘Plectrumhead’.
Who handles the marketing – all the label or is it a team effort?
Pretty much the label; they’ve got good connections with all the e-tailing and webzines that are out there – and typically I should get about 40 reviews of this – sites like Hardrockhouse.com, YTSEJams.com, Seaoftranquility.com, Guitar9. Lion have a really good promo guy in the UK who pushes it out to these places as well as the specialist guitar and metal press.
Obviously this end I do what I can – for example I managed to get it into Guitar & Bass magazine here in the UK ran a little feature and it was a featured on their website.
What can you tell us about Vendetta?
Well, we’ve just found a permanent drummer and our first gig is booked at my local pub in Gateshead so we’re locked, cocked and ready to rock! We’re going to be doing some covers as well, stuff like MSG, Scorpions, Priest and Maiden.
How would you describe Vendetta?
It’s melodic metal with influences from Priest to Queensryche; pretty British/European in approach, although with lots of tight picked riffs there’s a definite Dokken feel in there. I’m doing the lead vocals and I’m working with another guitarist called Pete Thomson. He’s an 80’s old school player like me, so we do lots of trade offs and harmony stuff – again really tight song arrangements.
Mick – who played drums on this as well as ‘Plectrumhead’ and ‘Moonfudge’ – couldn’t do it on a permanent basis so that’s why we’ve changed drummer, but everything else is in place. This is my main musical priority for 2007.
Are you going to put it to the labels?
Eventually yes; we will spend the first few months of 2007 getting everything in place and getting some gigs booked; and then we will make a concerted effort to get it out there properly.
Techniques and Playing Styles
We’ve covered some of your earlier days and influences earlier on; but firstly what is your music reading ability like?
I can tell you the notes on the stave and note values – but to be honest it’s only something that I’ve got up to a very basic level; like most guitarists this is something I should sort out! I suppose I can do Grade 3 or 4 rhythms and sight read to Grade 2.
Do you have a set practise routine anymore?
Not really; although I always do a lot of scale and picking exercises. Nowadays I tend to put the serious hours in when I am writing or working on specific songs. I focus in on the actual playing a lot more; if a part suggests a particular lick that I can hear in my head then I will work on whatever technical aspects I need to realise it
I think that when you’ve been playing a long time and your style is essentially pretty much fully evolved then you tend to play more for the sheer enjoyment of playing – or to actually maintain your existing chops. I play a lot less than I used to in the earlier days when I was still developing and evolving as a player and know that if I have to get something new down then experience means that I can generally pull it off.
Are you listening to anyone in particular nowadays?
Classic George Lynch; UFO/MSG era Michael Schenker, early Malmsteen – the same old, same old really! I love Doug Aldrich, and still appreciate much of what Satch does. Most of what I really like is from the 80’s heyday; I’m not really up on too many newer players. Classic rock guitar: Eddie, Kee Marchello, Ronnie Le Tekro.
Straight off I’ll say two George Lynch solos: ‘The Hunter’ off ‘Under Lock Key’ – amazing phrasing! – and ‘Heaven Sent’ from ‘Back For The Attack’ – absolutely fucking awesome! Malmsteen’s ‘You Don’t Remember, I’ll Never Forget’ from Trilogy – very passionate; ‘Big Trouble’ by Vai, from Dave Lee Roth’s ‘Eat ‘Em and Smile’; a Doug Aldrich solo from a band he was in back in the 80’s called Lion – ‘Hard and Heavy’ is great; Kee Marchello’s ‘More Than Meets The Eye’ from Europe’s ‘Out of This World’ – very lyrical; Van Halens ‘I’m The One’, Schenker’s ‘Hot and Ready’ from UFO’s ‘Obsession’ album…and I also like lots of Matthias Jabs stuff. The ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’ solo, from Scorpions ‘Love At First Sting’ album is great – it really does exactly what a rock guitar solo should do! ‘You’re in Trouble’ by DiMartini from Ratt’s ‘Invasion of Your Privacy’, ‘Catch Your Train’ by Uli Jon Roth. The list goes on and on!
Let’s go into specifics; for example who do you like for picking, tapping, vibrato, legato etc?
For picking it’s easy – Malmsteen full stop! His alternate picking technique – he has the best tone, the best attack – anyone interested in developing this aspect of their playing should really listen to Malmsteen.
How about that doyen of uberpickers, Paul Gilbert?
Gilbert seems to have a more metronomic ‘guitar school’ approach – which is great and super accurate; I mean, almost everyone has learnt stuff off Gilberts great instruction videos, and his exercises and runs are brilliant for building raw technique. But, for me, it’s the tone and aggression of Malmsteen.
For vibrato and general phrasing it has to be George Lynch – and Michael Schenker and Satch.
Legato is not something that I do too much specifically, unless it’s integrated into certain phrases; I don’t make it an actual feature of my style like someone such as Satriani does.
Tapping is something I do a lot of, but if I am using it I tend to apply it more in scalar patterns like Steve Vai does.
Rhythmically it has to be Eddie Van Halen, Warren DeMartini and Ronnie LeTekro but I do have an aggressive down picking technique for faster metal stuff. I think you have to cover all styles form LA to modern metal.
Are there any areas of your playing that you think you need to improve; conversely what areas of your playing are you happiest with?
That’s a difficult one: when you’ve been playing as long as I have I think you are what you are. Every player reaches their own level – or plateau – whether you are a pub player on a Saturday night, or someone like Yngwie or Steve Vai. I try to keep with where I am, and to be honest I am not sure how to approach getting my own playing to the next level – after 20-25 years of playing it’ll be amazingly difficult to radically change and develop what I do.
What about having some lessons with some of the monster players at places like Guitar-X or BIMM?
It would be interesting to get a different perspective – and I’d like to hear if anyone out there similar to me has tried it. Watching other players play is the best way to learn and always will be.
What is your theoretical knowledge like?
I can read chord charts and am fine with extended chords and jazzier ones like 7/6’s, 9ths, altered chords…I might not instantly be able to play some of the more extreme shapes but I can work them out without any problems. The thing is, in my style of music there aren’t many situations where I’ll be needing to use these so I am a bit rusty. Still, knowing chord construction and chord/scale theory means that it would be simply a matter of working them out. Of course, this means that if I had to do a Jazz standard or something from a Jazz Fake book I would be sitting there a while!
How about scales and modes – I can detect lots of Dorian Blues and Aeolian – and some Harmonic Minor – amongst the pentatonic riffery…
Scalewise I know and use all the regular Major Scale Modes, and also some of the Melodic Minor Modes – Mixolydian b6 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, b6, b7) is a particular favourite, and I use Lydian dominant (1, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6, b7) a lot as well.
That’s interesting, as many ‘traditional’ rock guitarists run a mile from anything melodic minor!
Well, to me it’s simply a matter of the fact that at certain times they seem the most appropriate scale to use to create the melodies and music in my head – and Lydian Dominant sounds cooler to me than straight Lydian (1 2 3 #4 56 7) as you’ve got that great rock bend from the b7th to Root.
In a rock context, you could be playing over a riff based backing – or a straight Major chord (rather than something that specifically spells out a Major chord with a maj7th) – or that famous Satch Major 3 to #4 feel. Strip it down further and you could simply be doing that Lynch favourite of a power chord (1,5) to b5 (1, b5) diad type riff. If you wanted to emphasise the Major 3rds in there (which technically means that the Diads are going 5th to #4 (1,#4) ) to get that Lydian feel, but make it sound a little more ‘Rawk’ Lydian Dominant works really well.
Mixolydian b6 is a fabulous mode and used by a lot of film composers to create ‘Epic’ music. The last track on ‘Moonfudge’ – ‘Big Screen Love Theme’ – utilizes this most John Williams’ of modes!
Often I find that I don’t necessarily use these on purpose, but realise when I analyse it later that I have been using these ‘advanced’ modes. It is purely melody driven: I don’t ever compose thinking I shall use such and such a mode; rather its as a result of composing by good old fashioned inspiration and my ears.
How are you over jazz changes?
Well, I’ve done a bit of that in my time but even then I used to get through it relying on my ears. I did a few Jazz standards at college, and recently I was down at Jimi Savage’s studio jamming with him. It’s the sort of thing I need a few goes at rather than straight in; and with Jimi he was cycling these changes so I had time to work out what was suitable and get a handle on it. It’s something you have to work on regularly and keep at it – and as I am not a Jazz guitarist it is something that I don’t focus on.
If I needed to get something specifically down then I know I could – three years ago I decided to have a go at the Grade 8 RGT LCM exam and got a 95/100 pass – and most of that was guitar playing that I do not do on anything like a regular basis, but I went through everything and got through it. At the time of taking the exam my core reading an ability to play over changes wasn’t bad – but if I tried it now it would be difficult because I haven’t had any call to use those skills. If I was at The Jazz Café every weekend on a paying gig it would be something I would get down because the job required it – but as I am not then it doesn’t figure in my playing.
I think that if you know the rudiment of theory and chord/scale construction, key’s and everything, then you can basically work out anything you want – it’s just a matter of applying it to a whatever style is needed for the job in hand.
Ed has an instantly recognisable tone, which as we have already discussed evokes comparisons with those masters of tone George Lynch and Warren DiMartini. One imagines a mega expensive and pro rig… but as you will red this is not the case and another example of that old adage that tone is all in the fingers…
I’ve still use the same amp that I’ve had for the last 15 years – a solid state Peavey Special, which is basically a 160 watt version of the Peavey Bandit. It’s got a great, very tight and focused sound. I have the distortion at about 5 for a tight rhythm sound, with the Bass and Treble at 8 and the Mid at 3. For Lead tones, the bass, middle and distortion are all upped a bit.
I sometimes use amps in tandem via a splitter box – but whatever is the situation I will always have that Peavey in there; If I am recording I will often use a Soldano or Rectifier in tandem with the Peavey.
The Soldano, for example is a more brassy and valvey sound, so you get a great combination of that very tight and focused transistor gain (for pedal note riffing you need that clarity, for example) combined with the warmth of the valve amp. I find that Valve amps, by themselves, can be a bit farty and undefined, so this gives me the best of both worlds.
On other occasions I have used a Peavey 5150 and a Triple Rectfier in combination with the Peavey, and had the three sounds blended together. With a splitter you are playing one combined sound, but with each amp mic ‘d up seperately. The sound created can be immense, and can be mixed and blended to suit your needs.
I am a Strat man all the way – and my main guitar is a black Fender Japanese Strat with 22 frets and a Floyd Rose. This has Seymour Duncan pick ups: a Jeff Beck at the bridge, an SSL6 in the middle and a Jeff Beck Junior at the neck with the humbuckers coil tapped. My other main guitar is a 50’s strat reissue which is basically all stock. I’ve also got a Simon Patrick acoustic – so you can see that my gear is pretty lo-fi! I should probably get into gear a lot more and think about upgrading – but to be honest it’s always worked brilliantly so I am wary of changing for changes sake!
Pretty simple: MXR Phaser, Jim Dunlop Crybaby Wah pedal, Chorus, a delay unit and an Octaver – which is really good for thickening up and defining melody lines and a great compressor. Again, I’m old school, so these are all good old stomp boxes – none of that rack stuff for me!