1) Tell us about your musical background
I started playing guitar when I was around 13 years old. My dad played keyboards and was into a lot of 70’s Progressive Rock bands such as Genesis, King Crimson, Yes, and ELP, so those bands were what originally ignited my passion for music and to this day, I really consider the old prog rock bands, especially early Genesis and King Crimson, to be among my favorite bands of all time. The first two big bands that really made me want to take guitar seriously, though, were Pink Floyd and Rush. It wasn’t until I was around 16 and got into bands such as Dream Theater and Symphony X, and guitarists like Michael Romeo, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Jason Becker, that I really started getting into the shred metal guitar thing and practicing for hours and hours a day. Eventually I got into more extreme forms of metal, like death and thrash (Death and Carcass being my two all time favorite extreme metal bands), but simultaneously developed a taste for jazz/fusion artists like Allan Holdsworth and Shawn Lane. I also really enjoy classical composers like Bach, Bartok, and Satie, 70s European classic rock bands like Deep Purple and Rainbow, and 80s goth rock/new wave like Bauhaus and Depeche Mode. I think its important for a musician to have a pretty wide palette of listening tastes. Its like a well balanced diet, you know? You can’t just eat one kind of food all the time without getting sick of it.
2) What are you working on now?
Since 2006 I’ve been performing lead guitar, death vocals, and being the primary songwriter for the Progressive Metal band, Dark Empire. We started out as a little bit more powermetal sounding, but we’ve started to move away from that and towards a heavier progressive/extreme metal sound over the course of the last two albums. I really love the heaviness and aggression of death and thrash metal, but still really love the melodic vocal delivery and explorative songwriting of progressive rock, so in Dark Empire I try to marry the two styles together. In March of 2012 we released our latest album, From Refuge to Ruin, and its the first album to feature our new vocalist, Brian Larkin, as well as a switch over to 7 string guitars. After the release, we formed a brand new lineup which also features fellow Pickboy endorser Christian Colabelli sharing guitar duties with me now. Actually, its the first time we have a lineup local and steady enough to gig regularly with, so right now we’ve been trying to play live as often as possible and build momentum in the NYC/NJ area. I also started endorsing Vigier guitars recently, and I currently play their Excalibur Supra 7 string model. Long term plans right now are to continue gigging steadily with Dark Empire and to start working on a 3-4 song EP sometime next year. Now that I know I have a guitarist like Christian in the band with me, I plan on having a lot more dueling guitar solo type stuff. It’ll be pretty sick for sure. I also teach guitar at the School of Rock in Chatham, NJ as well as online Skype webcam lessons.
3) What is the role of education in music?
As someone who teaches guitar for a living, I think its pretty important. In the end, all teachers are, are a resource of information, and I think its important for any musician to grow to seek out new information. It could be from a private instructor, a book, DVD, youtube, or even listening to and coping licks and ideas from new music. I don’t think there is a set path to be traveled by every musician, though, and I believe it is my role as a teacher to cultivate and guide each student on their own path. I really love the Japanese word for teacher, sensei, because it literally translates to “one who has gone before.” This is a perfect description of how I view myself, because I don’t claim to know all the answers, but I really enjoy sharing my knowledge, experience, and musical philosophy with my students. The most important piece of information I can give to any student would be to learn to use your ears and to develop a solid understanding of intervals, since those are the building blocks of all harmony, melody, etc.
4) How do you feel about the current ‘state of the music industry’?
Its a weird spot that we’re in right now. Modern recording technology has made it really easy for artists to create and release their music. Its enabled many bands to get heard that might not have been able to 20 years ago, but the downside is that now there is such an overflow of artists out there that the competition is pretty fierce. The internet has been such a double edged sword in this regard. With that said, things like youtube, Facebook, instagram, twitter, etc enable artists with such a great outlet for connecting with their audience, and i think that direct connection with the fans will be where the future of the industry is going.The one thing I fear is the devaluation of music and musicians that is a result of illegal downloading and file sharing. Please, if you enjoy an artists work, pay for it, and support what they do. And artists, please take advantage of streaming media as a way to showcase your work to potential fans!
5) Why do use Pickboy Picks?
I was introduced to them via my co-guitarist in Dark Empire, Christian Colabelli. I have to be honest, when I first got my samples in the mail I was way skeptical. I’ve been a Jazz III user for as long as I can remember, and really haven’t found any other picks that have come close to feeling as comfortable for me. Despite the fact that the majority of my lead style involves very little picking and mostly right hand tapping, there,s some pretty intense riffing going on in Dark Empire tunes, so having the right guitar pick is crucial for my rhythm guitar playing. As soon as I tried the Jazz Pos A Grip 1.50 mm, all skepticism was cast aside. The slightly-larger-than-Jazz-III size felt perfect, and I actually found the broader surface area allowed me to have a more relaxed grip on the pick. The beveled edge gives an incredibly fast response as well, and I found it super easy to let the pick do more of the work for me. The only downside is figuring out what the hell I’m gonna do with all these Jazz III’s lying around that I’m not going to use anymore!