Chuck Prophet

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Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express by Jason Baldwin

Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express by Jason Baldwin

Chuck and his faithful Mission Express kick off the Panic In The Temple Spring 2013 Tour in Berlin, Germany on April 12 and rock it international until returning to the States on May 9 in Milwaukee, WI. Check out the full itinerary here.

The Impound once saw San Francisco treat Chuck Prophet play two sets in a single day at the High Sierra Music Festival. Although a muggy summer day, Prophet didn’t seem to break a sweat as music – great song after great song, all played really freakin’ well – poured out of him. While we’d long been impressed with his six-string prowess going back to his raw-yet-innovative days in Green On Red, something nigh-sorcerous occurred that day where it became clear that Prophet has stealthily evolved into an American counterpart to Richard Thompson, the two men sharing a startling emotional density and seemingly endless range as guitarists.

Prophet’s guitar stings and swings as well as any shredder when he’s of a mind to let loose in that fashion, but more frequently he rides in the meat of the music, his guitar another voice “singing” the heart and soul of the lyrics, a melodic partner that instilling added oomph into each piece. Like kindred under-sung American champ (and Impound fave) Jerry Joseph, it may be that Prophet’s guitar skills are too sharp and too subtle to rate appropriate general praise, but really listen intently to what he’s up to and you’ll hear a true servant of the song whose punctuation, interjections, and intuitive bite are everywhere they need to be all the time. More simply, if what you seek is righteous feel and not showy solos, Prophet’s got you covered.

Chuck was kind enough to dabble with DI’s ongoing survey of guitarists.

read on for Prophet’s answers

J. Tom Hnatow

These United States, The Mynabirds

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The first night I spoke with J. Tom Hnatow was at a chilly Santa Cruz gig for These United States. We fell into a geeky, rapturous chat about the role of pedal steel in the rock setting, praising Jerry Garcia’s gorgeous work with David Crosby and reaching further out to the likes of Michael Nesmith’s steel foil Red Rhodes. And at one point, he said, his eyes a little dreamy but also serious, “It’s gotta have emotion, and you can’t mess with that too much.” It’s a line that’s stuck with me in the intervening years we’ve floated in each other’s circles, an off-handed revelation of the foundation of Hnatow’s style and character.

Whether he’s holding a six-string electric, seated behind his pedal steel or working any number of other instruments like banjo or piano, Hnatow pulses with rightness, his lines always clean, relevant, and just the right length. He sometimes reminds one of the studio cutters that Steely Dan employed in the 70s, except Tom is more congenial, less studied, and free of any cold technician vibe. His eyes tell you how hard he’s listening and figuring out what’s needed AND what isn’t. His solos sting, catching your attention fast and then zipping off well before they’ve outstayed their welcome, the beauty of brevity apparent but also an uncommon poetry that gets done in choice syllables what others needs stanzas to accomplish. Where one most finds Hnatow is in the great texture he brings to songs – a commenter in choice whispers and asides that makes the music fuller.

Whether dishing out newfangled rolling thunder with TUS, chirping appealingly in The Mynabirds, chipping in with pals Vandaveer, or spilling some silver at a studio session, Hnatow is a thickening agent and the rare guitarist that very rarely steps into the spotlight but always has a potent impact.
Here’s what Hnatow had to say in DI’s ongoing survey of guitarists.

read on for Hnatow’s answers

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.

read on for Rothery’s answers

RL Heyer

The True Spokes, Cracker Factory, RL Heyer Trio

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RL Heyer with The True Spokes

RL Heyer with The True Spokes

The True Spokes embark on their Fall 2012 Tour tomorrow, Tuesday, September 11, in Applegate, Oregon, with stops in San Francisco (9/13), Chico (9/15), Sacramento (9/18) and more along October dates in Washington and Idaho. For full itinerary pop over here.

RL Heyer plays with visible purpose and naked pleasure. The True Spokes guitarist-singer-songwriter draws from that deep well in men where the will to build big things or screw with virtuosic abandon lives, where there is need as much as want in the doing of things born from this place. Heyer throws his whole body into his playing, sweating and working notes from his muscles, his face a tableau of emotions, though most often you’ll find him smiling. Without question, the man enjoys what he does, a creature born to wield this particular instrument and delightful to watch fulfill his basic nature.

One picks up on the same intuitive calligraphy in RL found in greats like Marc Ford (The Black Crowes) and Rory Gallagher, where there’s no question of their skill but it’s the emotional thrust of what they do that lingers. While the blues surely flutter in his style, there are also the sharp instincts of Journey’s Neal Schon where compact solos frequently outweigh flights of fancy. It’s a hell of a pairing with his fellow Spokes guitarist-singer-songwriter Josh Clauson, whose innate bounce and improvisational zest brings a jazzy, clean zest to their guitar conversations, which are offered up in their most refined form yet on the band’s self-titled 2012 studio debut, itself a signpost of how Heyer and his cohorts continue to carve their own gorgeous slice of populist rock, a readily enjoyable serving of Every Person tales with a good beat you can dance to.

Here’s what Heyer had to say in DI’s ongoing guitar inquiry.

read on for RL’s answers

Sean Leahy

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Sean Leahy by John Margaretten

Sean Leahy by John Margaretten

The Sean Leahy Trio celebrates the release of their great studio debut album tonight, April 27, at Slim’s in San Francisco, CA as part of the 2nd Annual Guitarmageddon Blues Ball.

Sean Leahy rarely courts the spotlight. He’s more interested in laying in the cut, doing what he can to elevate the proceedings, and generally keeping an attentive eye on where he can nuance the music at hand towards the better. His style as a guitarist harks back to the 70s – packed with muscle and strut – but sheered of that era’s machismo excesses. Leahy has taken the attitude and tone of the vinyl heyday and combined it with the sharpness and brevity of the 80s, a power pop consciousness that makes him a descendent of Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen and the six-stringers that made Thin Lizzy swing back in the day. Yet for all his classic rock echoes, Leahy is a modern kid with a lot more to show off than many folks who’ve only seen him in support roles over the past few years may realize. To get properly schooled one needs to dig into Darkness & Light, Leahy’s just released solo studio debut with his ace rhythm team of Daria Johnson (drums) and Mark Calderon (bass). He brings the same kind of attentive focus he exhibits onstage to this studio effort helmed by producer Jeremy Black (Apollo Sunshine, Coyote Hearing Studio), offering up a tight set of should-be-singles that run the gamut from raunchy to surprisingly tender. It’s damn fine album, and a damn fine way to meet an under-sung musician from the rich SF Bay Area rock scene.

Here’s what Mr. Leahy had to say to our guitarist survey.

read on for Sean’s answers

Will Bernard

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Will Bernard

Will Bernard

No matter how much practice and thought has gone into his playing, Will Bernard possesses an inescapable immediacy. As the licks fly and his fingers knot, the music coming out of his guitar seems to form in the moment. That sly smile Bernard sports so much of the time contributes to this impression, as if he’s just figuring something cool out to share with us. In general, it’s hard to pin down where exactly Bernard’s picking comes from, his style very much a modern thing that draws from the smooth, technical world of high end jazz mixed with the rawness of blues and the up-in-your-grill feel of rock, topped with melting scoops of space funk and New Orleans soul. Wherever he’s getting it from Bernard is a near endless pleasure for listeners, the kind of musician one can just dreamily let take the reins and feel comfortable knowing the ride is gonna be good and cover a lot of ground.

If one isn’t already a steadfast fan, a fab primer in all things Will Bernard can be had in the new Outdoor Living (released March 20 on Dreck To Disk Records), where the guitarist spars ably with his fellow West Coast shredders Wil Blades (Hammond B3) and Simon Lott (drums). The trio – who hits the road again in April (dates over here) – shimmies all over the map, one minute serving up something like a classic 60s soul-jazz trio and at others stretching space and time in a softly cosmic way. The one constant is a conversational feel that makes for delightful eavesdropping; one tied closely to each turn and change of topic, the three men bouncing with seemingly effortless dexterity between bursts of bubbling excitement and passages of calming restraint. It is, in a word, a blast, and a fine jumping on point for Bernard (and his regular collaborators).

We lobbed DI’s guitarist survey to Mr. Bernard and this is what he had to say.

read on for Will’s answers

Tim Reynolds

TR3, Dave Matthews Band

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Tim Reynolds

Tim Reynolds is a ridiculously gifted guitarist, but he has so much fun at his craft and sparks such great things from his cohorts that he doesn’t always get the shredder cred he deserves. Sure, amphitheatres of Dave Matthews Band fans know the score, but that’s just one aspect of this full spectrum musician, whose appetite for metal, jazz, prog and more infiltrates his work with his trio TR3. What also makes Reynolds a standout is how adept he is on both electric and acoustic guitars, a worthy (and rare) walker of the narrow path John McLaughlin began cutting in the 1960s. His work is marked by Reynolds’ gift for flavorful melodies combined with an attack full of sharp bite and interesting changes, offering a smooth yet suspenseful ride. And his aptitude on a range of instruments – percussion, sitar, keys, mandolin, to name but a few – gives his ears and fingers a different lilt than players only skilled at guitar, a trait that keeps the sonics of his music interesting and filled with gently unexpected flashes – something particularly noticeable in his delightfully unorthodox slide work. Plus, he’s one of the few guitarists capable of making one forget about all of Jimmy Page’s multi-tracking when he tackles Led Zeppelin with TR3. In short, this man is serious business who doesn’t need to carry a big stick to impress. He just does what he does really, really well.

It’s a treat to offer a slice of Mr. Reynolds mind to DI readers.

read on for Tim’s answers

Tony MacAlpine

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Tony MacAlpine by AlexSolca

For my debut foray into the great DI section we like to call Hey Shredder, I thought it would be great to obtain the insight of one of the men whose picture should be in the dictionary next to the very term. For a solid quarter-century, Tony MacAlpine has defied racial stereotypes and fleeting sonic trends as one of the most technically proficient guitarists to ever set fire to a fretboard. On his eponymously titled 13th solo album, released June 21 on longtime friend and collaborator Steve Vai’s Favored Nations label, the former member of the underrated 80s prog-rock act Planet X delivers a tour de force of dexterity and versatility that, along with the help of drummers Virgil Donati and Marco Minnemann and bassist Philip Bynoe, delivers a perfect storm of jazz, metal and rock that could very well be his best album to date.

Mr. MacAlpine took some time out of his busy schedule decapitating heads with his indelible skills on his custom-made eight-string (yes, eight) to speak with us about his new album, appearing on That Metal Show with admitted Tony acolyte Tom Morello, his stance on Guitar Hero and whether or not he remembered that guitar clinic I saw him conduct 20 years ago. (Ron Hart)

read on to see what MacAlpine had to say