Hey Shredder

7 questions for guitarists

Steve Rothery

Marillion, The Wishing Tree

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Marillion’s new album, Sounds That Can’t Be Made, will be released in the U.S. on October 2, and is available directly from the band here.

Steve Rothery by Josh Miller

Steve Rothery by Josh Miller

Music undoes the lie of the Tower of Babel. We might not all speak the same tongue but there are languages that transcend grammar, syntax and colloquialisms. Just witness what happens when English speaking bands perform to throngs in Japan or Brazil, where a portion of what’s being said is fully comprehended but the impact – emotionally and experientially – lacks for nothing. Communication is obviously taking place but on a plain far from dictionaries. Steve Rothery plays in this place beyond words, a guitarist for whom descriptors like “eloquent” and “feeling-filled” were created.

Since the early 80s, the Marillion co-founder has etched his unique signature in rock’s big book, a voice as distinctive and difficult to duplicate as clear touchstones David Gilmour, Steve Howe and Mike Oldfield. While there is great intelligence and skill to Rothery’s work, what slices one to the core is the emotional verisimilitude of his guitar voice, a choice of notes and textures that translates emotional truth into sound, be it the longing of a lost love lament or the angry growl of righteous upset. Rothery plays to the song, rarely using the often elongated platforms in the Marillion catalog to showboat, nearly always a model of economy and pinpoint expression.

Few six-string wranglers can lay claim to such an unbroken chain of quality performances, especially given his continued evolution (to wit the Guernica-esque rawness and noise he exhibits on Sounds That Can’t Be Made opener “Gaza”). More than any single piece or even grand extended opuses like Brave, the take away from Rothery’s rich career is a musician of enormous honesty, craftsmanship, and above all, pleasure triggering style.
Here’s what Rothery had to say in DI’s ongoing survey of guitarists.

Favorite effects pedal? Why?
Effectrode valve Tremelo pedal. It is the warmest, most musical effects pedal I’ve ever used. It really adds character to the guitar and I’ve used it a lot on the new Marillion album.
Tastiest guitarist — i.e. not just soloing but also overall playing — currently working six-strings?
Jeff Beck – a true genius who never lost the fire.
A guitar solo I never get tired of listening to is…
Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.” Could it be any better?
Preferred brand of axe? Why?
Jack Dent – a guitar builder from North Carolina who’s built me a range of truly stunning guitars. They’re works of art that are incredibly inspiring instruments.
AC/DC, The Beatles, Radiohead or The Byrds – which one gives you the biggest guitar boner? What makes them SO sweet?
The Beatles. So many incredible songs and George Harrison played just what the song needed. A lesson to all guitarists.
One lesser known guitarist folks should check out is…
Dave Foster of U.K. band Mr. So & So. An amazing technician who also writes unique and astounding guitar parts.
What aspect of being a guitarist always makes you happy?
Connecting with an audience is a great buzz but writing and recording is what really makes me happy.