Jas Morris Interview

Guitar Idol 2008 Finalist, the supremely melodic Jas Morris Tells All in this Mega Interview!

Jas Morris was a late entry in the first Guitar Idol competition and although he was too late to make much of an impression on the voting public his combination of melodic and eloquent lead playing, stylistic versatility, groove and sheer compositional ability meant that as soon as he was heard by the pro panel of judges his place at the final was assured. On the day of the Grand Live Final at The London International Music Show Jas had the daunting task of opening the show... and he performed superbly. 

For those yet to see the man in action check this out now!

Welcome back! Now let's here about one of the finest guitar players to hit the UK scene in a long time!

When were you born, and what age did you start playing?

I was born on 3rd September 1985 in Torbay (Devon, England) and started playing properly at age 13. I think its cause I saw my dads band for the first time and it blew me away, I knew I had to play guitar right there and then.

Who were your initial influences?

My initial influences were my dad of course. I got really into the 70's classic rock band Wishbone Ash (I still am), I loved the way Andy Powell and Ted Turner were so melodic and rhythmic. I also had a Robben Ford instructional video (yes back when videos were everywhere!!) which I learnt incredibly a lot from.

What albums and songs during this period were particularly influential?

Argus by Wishbone Ash of course, it was an old record when I began listening to it but it was all new to me! I absolutely loved Queen greatest Hits 1 - Brian May's playing and the awesome song writing of the whole band took me by storm; plus after seeing Waynes World ...well you know, it's a great film!

What age did you start to get serious?

I was in a band at school with some good friends and planning on being a scientist or something when I grew up, when my mate said to me.. ‘ you know Jas, we are gonna go all the way, right to the top' and it suddenly dawned on me at that moment that that was what I wanted. I wanted to make it. Well, that band disbanded after 6 months or so but hey, I'm still here playing my guitar and trying to climb up the ladder of success... well, I like to think so anyway!

Did you have guitar lessons, or were you self taught?

Apart from the first few lessons my dad gave me (teaching me how to play ‘Rebel Rebel' by Bowie was the first riff I learnt), I just kinda sat in my room and shovelled at it all myself, so yes, I'm self taught. Robben Ford's ‘Playing The Blues' video showed me all the basics - like how to use pentatonics etc - and then I just listened and learnt all my favourite tracks of CD's.

Can you read music? Or just learn particular songs? Or were these lessons technique based?

I never got around to learning how to read music, but it's something I may do in the future. My learning method was to just learn all my favourite tracks and a few tabs on technique.

When did you start concentrating on technique? Can you remember any particular exercises that helped?

I think I began concentrating on technique when I got my first metronome, maybe when I was 15 or so. I'd start at low speed with a particular scale or lick then jump it up gradually until I reached my maximum.

Have you any tutorial books/videos/DVD's that you recommend?

Yes, I have found recently the Creative Guitar range by Guthrie Govan to be very helpful. Also you can't fault Paul Gilberts Intense Rock Complete for your shred stuff.

Have you ever studied guitar at a guitar school (like Guitar-X, ACM, The Guitar Institute etc)?

No, I never have: but I'd love to be able to dedicate every day of the week to playing guitar all day - and I think Guitar Schools kinda allow that to happen, so on that basis it's something I'd definitely like to have done.

When and how did you realise that you were a properly gifted player?

Ah, the modesty question! Well, every now and then I'll get some wonderful compliments from some nice people about my playing and that started happening back when I was 15 or 16. Of course, now when I'll see or hear an awesome guitarist I think ‘Am I crazy? THATS'S a real 'gifted guitarist'!!

Are you known locally/internationally as a hot guitarist?

I think so. Locally certainly, I have been in the local and national press numerous times and have sold several thousands of my bands CD's. As for internationally... you tell me! Having said that, we've had CD orders over the net from the US, Germany, Belgium, France and even Australia - so we're getting there!

Playing Live

When did you play your first gig?

My first proper gig was at a local music festival in Devon called ‘Air Fusion' back in 2001. It was the first time I'd been on a big stage with a large P.A and it was an incredible experience for me. We made front page news on our local newspaper the day after, I remember the headline - ‘Morris Major' - how original!

In the set was ‘Badge' by Cream, a few Wishbone Ash tracks and not to mention ‘Dirty Fingers', a solo piece by Gary Moore.

You have gained a really strong reputation on the south west UK live circuit...

Well, I've been gigging regularly ever since my first gig back in 2001 - and I think my gig count at the moment is in the late 500's. With my band we have supported a few big names - 70's bands mainly - such as Johnny Winter, Wishbone Ash, The Troggs, Chicken Shack, the Yardbirds and a few more...

We have also done numerous headline shows in various venues around Devon. With regards to getting paid, well all I will say is that most gigs we get paid!

Check out www.morrisbrothersband.com

Do you/have you ever played in a covers band?

Absolutely! I think - if you're a musician and you want to get out there - you have no choice but to get in a covers band, go and do the ‘pub‘ circuit. For the first 4-5 years in my band that's all we did, covers. We gradually began easing in our own songs, one or two at a time, seeing which tracks worked best: thanks to the exposure and experience that doing all that has given us, we're now able to go out as an original band. We have a few headline shows coming up at the moment - and the great thing is that people are now paying good money to see us perform our own stuff.

Do you prefer playing live or recording?

I find them to be two completely different things. However, I'd say that performing live is one of the best things you can do. It's such a rush, the audience response and the feeling of performing to so many people is incredible.

Do you get nervous playing live?

I always get nervous to a degree, however I think these days I can control the effect of my nerves a lot more. As the old saying goes, all the nerves evaporate as soon as you've played those first few chords.

If you could go out with a couple of other artists on a dream tour who would they be?

Artists still alive? I'd have to say Jeff Beck and Yngwie Malmsteen. That way I could top up my playing with some great melodic licks from Jeff and some intense shred stuff from Yngwie! I've always believed that you learn the most through experience - and being on the road with these guys I'm sure would teach me a bag load of great playing!

Have you ever auditioned/been connected with any ‘big' bands that didn't happen (and you can tell us about!)?

I've had offers from a few world touring bands but none of them have materialized much more than that - yet!

What band would you most like to join?

It would have been great to be around in the 70's - I would've loved to have joined a band like Thin Lizzy or Led Zeppelin.

Influences and Other Guitarists

Which 5 guitarists have influenced you the most - or simply five players who you particularly admire (and why?)

In no particular order - Jeff Beck, Steve Morse, Eric Johnson, Steve Vai, Dave Gilmour - and Joe Satriani... Sorry, I know that's six!

Are there any newer players who you really rate?

Yes, I think Guthrie Govan is an awesome player. It seems like he's got the whole package; technical ability and feel. Great stuff!

Can I throw a few guitarists at you and ask you to comment on them?

Jimi Hendrix - I'm sure you've heard this before, but one of the most influential players ever. This guy started a revolution: certainly one of my influences.

Jimmy Page - Made leagues and leagues of people want to pick up a guitar and play, I'm sure.

Eric Clapton - I guess they don't call him ‘God' for no reason! I read his biog recently which I really enjoyed. It was fantastic learning about his climb to success. He has good feel and awesome phrasing.

Richie Blackmore - another classic player.

Brian May
- Queen's 'Greatest Hits 1' was one the records I listened to consistently when I was starting out. I love Brian May's playing, it's so perfectly melodic and the way he always builds up to a climax is great!

Eddie Van Halen - Such credit to this guy! Not only did he ‘invent' tapping, he has awesome accuracy and feel to go along with it. He has that sort of note ‘clean-ness' that only comes from sheer amounts of practise.

Yngwie Malmsteen - The same about this guy, his accuracy is incredible, and his speed is crazy!

Joe Satriani - I think its awesome the amount of music Satriani keeps on churning out. He's one of those players that always considers the melody (which you can probably tell I like) and then puts the shred over the top.

Steve Vai - ‘Passion & Warfare' just completely blew me away when I heard it first. I spend many hours of practise learning that record. He's a great player and a heck of a showman.

Guthrie Govan - As I've said before, I think Guthrie has the whole package of sheer technical ability and feel all in one.

Stevie Ray Vaughan - It always amazes me that Stevie Ray Vaughan used to use real heavy gauge strings and still make the guitar cry. Much respect to this guitarist for what he did for blues.

Joe Bonamassa - Already becoming somewhat of a legend, I think Bonamassa has great feel and that classic bluesy sound with a modern edge to it.

Who is your outright favourite guitarist?!

I honestly can't say because my outright favourite guitarist this week may not be my outright favourite next week! I'd have to say my dad would be pretty high up, because he's the one that got me into guitar in the first place.

The Business of Music and the Internet

Are you yet making any money out of the guitar? If so from what sources: teaching/gigs/CD sales?

Yes. Being a regular gigging musician, teacher and with a couple of albums on our merchandise stand it sometimes pays pretty good!

What would you say is your style of music you play? In your style of music when do you think was the golden period? Do you think the current musical climate is favourable to your particular style? Do you think you can have a career in music?

I would categorise the style of music I play as melodic virtuoso guitar rock. When the band is involved it is blended with modern and progressive rock.

I believe that guitar rock will come back with a vengeance in the not too distant future - and all those throwaway one hit wonders will begin to disappear. I guess by the fact that I earn money from the guitar and I'm getting more widely known means I already have a career in music. My plans are to keep in the industry and who knows where I'll come out!

Has the internet helped your career or hindered it?

The internet has - by far - many more pro's than cons when it comes to bands and musicians. It is such a fantastic and easy way of promoting and spreading your music and it has definitely helped my career.

When did you set up your website? How many visitors do you get every month?

My personal website (www.jasmorris.com) was set up properly about 18 months ago, however my bands website (www.morrisbrothersband.com goes back to 2002 and is approaching 40,000 visitors.

How many Youtube views have you achieved?

I have never really been featured on You Tube a great deal until recently but the few videos we have on there total up to about 15,000 views and counting.

If you teach how much are your rates and what do you specialise in teaching? (Include your contact details so you can get some new business!)

I do teach but not as regularly to be described as a ‘guitar teacher'. I have done a few Guitar Workshops and Clinics in the past that had an entrance fee. Please check my website - www.jasmorris.com for any upcoming workshops I may have.

Guitar Idol

How did you hear about Guitar Idol?

It was approaching the closing date for entries when I first heard of Guitar Idol. My friend was browsing on the net, found your site and was listening to a few of the guitarists. It instantly caught my attention and I knew I had to be involved. Luckily I still had time to enter so I did that same night.

What are you're your opinions on the competition? Was it a good thing for guitar playing in general? Was it bigger or smaller than you thought it would be when you entered?

I think Guitar Idol was a fantastic competition. It seems like it has been a while since the guitar and guitarists have been the focal point in a lot of people's lives. I reckon that Guitar Idol made a lot of players step up a gear - not to mention all the crazy forum activity! Everyday there would be something new up, it was a little like following the world cup!

I thought that it panned out bigger than I'd expected, considering that many of the finalists were spread far and wide around the world. But most of all, I believe that in the coming years it will really spread its wings and turn into an event that all the magazines will be raving about.

Has it helped your career so far?

Yes, definitely. I'm in the process of making an online lesson with Lick Licklibrary.com, I have gained many contacts and my band is in the stage of planning a few mini tours as the competition allowed us to get in contact with a few promoters. I am also in the process of securing some pretty cool endorsement deals!

Have you achieved any media coverage as a result of the competition?

My Guitar Idol efforts were featured in a few regional newspapers and publications.

How many votes did you get from the public?

My vote counter topped at 21 before voting closed.

What steps did you personally take to get the public to vote for you (ie going on forums, putting entry on Youtube etc)

To be honest as I'd entered so late I didn't have the chance to formulate any mass voting promotion. I told a few friends.

If you enter again how will you improve on that?

There are so many avenues of promotion on the net, I guess I'd explore those in a bit more depth. Youtube, Myspace, Facebook, mailing lists, flyers at gigs etc.

Do you think it was correct that Guitar Idol had a pro panel of judges or should it have just been the public?

I thought that having a pro panel of judges is the best and possibly the fairest way of tackling this situation. I think sometimes a selected panel of judges can look a little more deeply into the selection process, where sometimes an audience vote can be slightly more impulsive and dependant on the ‘moment'.

What do you think could be improved upon for the next online Guitar Idol 2009?

I thought the efforts of the Guitar Idol team this year were fantastic. A few unexpected ‘hurdles' were encountered along the way but they were dealt with head on as soon as they arrived.

I think by the fact that it has now been done for the first time, the Guitar Idol '09 organisers will know a lot more about what to expect and be one step ahead of the game this time.

Having a secure room during and after the competition would have been awesome as that would have allowed a lot of us to have a relaxed look around the show without the burden of heavy gear. Also dedicated sound checks for each of the contestants would have enabled us all to feel a little more at ease.

Are you glad you entered?

I am very glad I entered. I have been truly inspired by some of the fantastic guitarists I met during the competition and it has opened a lot of doors for me.

Will you enter again?

Based on the awesome experience it was, I would certainly consider entering again.

What are your memories of playing at the Guitar Idol 2008 Final?

My memories consist of the many great people I met during the event, all the other finalists and the guys from All Out guitar were excellent people. It was awesome being on the ‘inside' of such a great music show as the London International Guitar Show.

Did you stay at a hotel on site or with friends?

I stayed at a nearby hotel that overlooked London City Airport's runway! It was pretty rad seeing planes take off up so close!

How did you find the rehearsals at The Institute of Contemporary Music?

It was good to meet everyone in advance and the rehearsals were certainly vital. The Institute seemed to be a great place, it had a very nice musical vibe to it. I was really impressed with the speed and skill that the guys in the band learned everyone's track in such a short time - much respect!

Did you meet the Alloutguitar and Licklibrary team? If so did you have a beer with them?!

I met most of the guys from both. Unfortunately I had to scoot off pretty quick as I had a gig the same night as the finals over 250 miles away, however I would have really liked to have a beer with everyone as they were top notch guys.

What was the London International Music Show like?

All that gear and all those great players - it was a great show!

Did you see any of the star guitarists (Yngwie, Guthrie Govan, Dave Kilminster, Paul Gilbert, Joe Satriani etc) play?

I caught a few tracks by Guthrie Govan and Dave Kilminster who went straight on after the Guitar Idol performances. Both are fantastically awesome players and it was brilliant to see them live.

Did you play well on the day of the show? What about the backing band?

Due to the short amount of time for sound check on the actual performance morning and a few technical difficulties that go along with being the first on, I felt that I didn't play as well as I would have done had those initial problems not existed. However I enjoyed every minute of it. As a band we encountered a little mix-up in the middle of the track, however it was pulled together pretty quick and no major harm was done.

Were you impressed by the size of audience or disappointed?

I was very impressed at the amount of people that flooded in as soon as the doors opened. It was certainly enough to have a decent crowd surf! When that's possible you know you have a good audience size!

Which of the fellow contestants did you really rate?

Each of the finalists had something which I thought was awesome. I was very inspired by Danielle Gottardo's fluidity with his tapping technique and I thought Gustavo DiPadua rocked out with the best of them.

Do you think the eventual winner was the right man?

For what the judges were looking for in this competition, I thought Guerra was the right man.

What do you think could be improved for the Guitar Idol 2009 live show?

Just a chance for all the guys to have a dedicated sound check on the performance day and maybe a larger crew of helpers to shift gear on and off between finalists.

Did you see any of the Alloutguitar team playing at the stands?

I caught a little of Nick Andrew's take on ‘Flight of the Bumblebee'. He was playing it with considerable skill and gave a great performance!

Playing and Technique

What are your strengths as a player?

I have always preferred to have good melody and to retain the fact that the guitar is a musical instrument and not an arm fitness tool! So I believe my strengths lie in melody and feel.

What are your weaknesses?

I always discover weaknesses in my playing when listening back to recordings of myself, but then I'll practise overkill until it's not a weakness any more.
On that topic, I think that sometimes my weakness is that I practise too much on one thing and end up going beyond doing my playing any good!!

Do you think your physical playing technique is still getting better and better?

Absolutely! However I do believe that the nearer you approach your limit on physical strength and speed that your physical technique may slow down its speed of improvement! I still that I have some distance to go before reaching my limit though.

What areas in your playing do you want to improve on?

I would like to improve upon all aspects of my playing. As said before, Danielle Gottardo's use of 8 finger tapping was incredible - so that is my next venture as regards to improving my technique.

How proficient are you at music reading?

Unfortunately not very much! Being self-taught it has never been a necessity or requirement. It's something that I'd like to be proficient in. There is no harm in learning to read the language of music!

Do you play any other instruments, and if so to what level?

I sing lead vocals on all the material that my band produces and we seem to get by pretty good. Other than that, I dabble on various instruments but that's usually it... just a dabble!

How much do you actually practise nowadays?

Not as much as I'd like to! It seems like the more success you achieve from playing guitar the less you play it! With admin and promotion demands taking up time, the days of me doing 6 hours a day are quite hard to achieve now. It probably averages at about 2 hours a night.

What is your ability like at playing over ‘jazz' changes?

It's not something I've really attempted seriously before...

Could you handle a country gig?

If I had a country gig in the pipeline, I'd go home and learn every country lick I could - and then I reckon I could certainly handle a country gig.

What about a blues rock band?

A lot of the material I played in my band in its early days of doing very regular local club gigs consisted of a lot of blues/rock tracks, and doing that has helped develop how I am as a player these days.

How about an extreme Metal gig?!

I could definitely lay down some serious metal - maybe I'd have to top up my playing in that area a little before-hand - and drop tune my guitar! - but, yeah, I reckon I'd cope OK!

What is your knowledge of theory like - and how much do you apply it?

My knowledge of theory is something that is gradually growing as my playing is progressing. I'd probably say that in most situations with myself I've done it in a reverse order, using theory to explain something as opposed to using it as a tool to create. Sometimes nothing beats the spontaneity of just playing something that sounds good, without abiding to rules.

Who are your top players for the following techniques?

Alternate/speed picking? Paul Gilbert

String skipping?
Eric Johnson

Legato
? Satch!

Tapping?
Mr Eddie Van Halen...

Sweep Picking? Yngwie Malmsteen.

Melodic Phrasing? Brian May

Bluesy Phrasing? Stevie Ray Vaughan - or a guy that played with Paul McCartney for a while called Robbie Macintosh: when I heard his take on the ‘Let It Be' solo during his time with McCartney's band in the early 90's it completely re-wrote the meaning of bluesy phrasing and feel. Great stuff - and a real influence of mine.

Outside/Fusion Phrasing?
Guthrie Govan seems to be incredibly versatile and outside/fusion phrasing seems to be something he does with incredible finesse.

Melodic Rock Phrasing?
Steve Lukather - very melodic, perfect phrasing with impressive technique on his solos - particularly in songs like ‘Rosanna'.

Extreme Technique?
Bumblefoot is pretty crazy!

Trem Use
? Jeff Beck is the absolute musical master of trem technique!

Rhythm Guitar?
Nuno Bettancourt has an awesome funky rhythmic feel.


Equally, how do you think your playing is in all of those categories?

I think my playing focuses on Melodic Rock and Bluesy Phrasing, but I also use a lot alternate/speed picking as well as a a bit of that tapping, sweep, legato and skipping stuff.

But I always strive to have a real sense of groove so my rhythm playting is very important to me: these are the main areas which I prefer to practise, and which I feel my playing concentrates on.

Do you still/have you ever used a metronome?

I reckon the metronome is one of the best tools you can use to become a better player. For increasing speed, but also accuracy and timing. I still regularly use a metronome.

What are your current top metronome speeds at (clean technique and honest answers please!) at 16th notes (ie 4 notes per beat) and sextuplets (ie 6 notes per beat) do for scale sequences not chromatic runs!

I'm not a Metromome junkie by any stretch of the imagination - I don't get that deeply involved, but I can play the fast bit in my track ‘Revelation' at about 180-190 BPM...

So, moving onto Gear and what the future holds for Jas Morris...

 

Gear & The Future

What picks do you use?

Dunlop Stubby 2mm

What gauge strings and make do you use?

I used to use 10-46'S. Nowadays I prefer the nuances you can achieve from 9-42's - I'm endorsed by DR strings, my strings of choice. They feel and sound great.

What are your main guitars?

I have two main guitars. Number one is a Musicman Silhouette Special (Blue) and the second is a Musicman Silhouette Standard (Silver). They are absolutely fantastic guitars, they feel like a dream, have wonderful tone and look great. I'm not at present endorsed by Ernie Ball / Musicman, but I definitely should be... hint, hint!

What effects/pedals do you use?

My pedal board consists of a Boss TU-2 Tuner, a Line 6 Delay Modeller DL-4, a Morely Bad Horsie Wah and a Boss CE-5 Chorus

What amps?

My main amp is a Marshall TSL100 Head and a 1936a 4x12 cab. Very versatile, it really rocks and is rugged enough to withstand numerous falls and knocks. Yes, it has fallen off the side of the stage once, 2 meter fall. No damage at all, just whacked it back on the cab and hey presto, it was fine!

Do you use computer recording?

Very much so - all of my CD releases by my band have been fully recorded, mixed and produced at my home studio.

What program/software?

We use Cubase SX based on a Windows XP platform.

Lets talk about the Future - What are you plans now?

We have a few very exciting plans in the pipeline with the band. Hopefully a lot more people will know of and hear us in the not to distant future.

As far as myself is concerned, I have just returned from the Lick Library Studios in London after recording a web lesson which is due for release on lick library.com by late Oct mid November. I also have a few Clinics and Master Classes that I will be doing in the coming months.

I am also in communications with a few companies regarding endorsement deals.

The band will be returning to the studio at the latter part of this year early next year for our next album release.

Have you let all your fans know about the Guitar Idol album?

Yes I have. I'm looking forward to its release and hearing it.

How many recordings have you released?

I currently have 4 albums, 1 EP and a few compilation albums released. The first album we released was back in 2004 and the latest was released last June. The albums generally feature a selection of instrumentals and songs.

How do you sell them?

Gigs, website and numerous independent Record shops seem to be the best outlets for selling our albums.

Have got/you tried to get a record deal?

It's probably the goal of a lot of aspiring artists - we (Morris Brothers Band) are currently in negotiations with a few people regarding a record deal.

Do you think being on the Guitar Idol album will help?

I think any outlet to spread and promote real musicians music is a fantastic help. Considering the high quality of guitarists involved and the worldwide success of the Guitar Idol competition I'm sure it'll be very successful.

When are your next gigs?

Please check www.morrisbrothersband.com or www.jasmorris.com for updated gig listings. We've just supported legendary guitarist Stan Webb with Chicken Shack. Following that we have a mini 3 date tour of the Cambridgeshire area planned for mid January next year (see web for update) and on the 31st January 2009 we will be doing a real special headline show at the Exeter Phoenix in Devon. Tickets are available via my websites.

What's the proudest moment of your career to date? And why?

Probably when I won Guitarist Of The Year in 2003 at the NEC, Birmingham. I had just turned 18 and didn't expect to win. I remember bunking off college to finish recording the track I used to enter with. I was quite pleased with how it all turned out.

What's the biggest audience you've ever played to?

About 1500 people. That was when I supported Wishbone Ash at their Annual Convention in Nottinghamshire in 2007.

We all hope you will enter Guitar Idol 2009, are you planning on doing this?

I am definitely considering on entering again. However I have a few things in the upcoming future that may clash with it, time schedule wise. So it's all depending on that really..

Please see www.licklibrary.com for my upcoming web lesson.

Also I have done a few smaller scale online lessons for www.thisisexeter.co.uk -

http://www.thisisexeter.co.uk/video.html?id=6242
http://www.thisisexeter.co.uk/video.html?id=13273

Some You Tube live recordings -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEfENBYK_Z4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-PAAJ8uxtY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YD82NjNhylw

This is Revelation done by my band-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liNywTx1Dlo

Cheers everyone!