What is your role in the BA (Hons) Creative Music Performance – JTC Degree?
I’m Head of Guitar and course writer for the technical development and improvisation modules. Both modules are fully integrated to provide a structured and progressive course of study in guitar-based musicianship, with advanced concepts approached by building key underlying skills. Guided through a progression of harmonic stages, the modules present a highly detailed course of study for developing a range of contemporary techniques which can then be used to build vocabulary and improvisation skill.
All chords, scales, arpeggios, licks and concepts are presented in full with tablature including all technical directions and notation. The course also features unique multi-layered, colour-coded diagrams, providing a new visually based approach to online learning. Along with high quality professional backing tracks, the course also comes fully supported by high definition video demonstrations, and guest lessons by some of Jam Track Central’s most popular players including Martin Miller, Marco Sfogli, Jack Thammarat and Sergey Golovin.
Who were some of your influences as you progressed as a musician?
In the early stages, I was mainly drawn to the sound of rock based music and as I progressed with my playing, I became more focussed on the guitar instrumental style, with players like Yngwie Malmsteen, Tony Macalpine, Vinnie Moore, Van Halen, Joe Satriani, Greg Howe, Ritchie Kotzen or bands that featured good guitar playing, which was more of the hard rock acts of the day like Ozzy Osbourne (Randy Rhoads, Jake.E.Lee, Zakk Wylde), Dream Theater, King Diamond along with the thrash bands like Megadeth, Metallica and Slayer.
I was also interested in extreme styles like Death and Cynic as well as the more mainstream hard rock like Van Halen and George Lynch. Apart from that side of it, I was also inspired by the 1970s jazz-rock bands like the Mahavishnu Orchestra with John Mclaughlin, or Al DI Meola and Allan Holdsworth. I was also a fan of classic rock bands like Deep Purple, Queen, as well as the progressive-rock style with Yes, Rush and Genesis. I’ve always been a fairly broad-ranged listener and try to take influence from a lot of different music.
How did you establish yourself as a teacher?
I began teaching when I was nineteen, at around the time I finished studying. Starting with a few beginners and then a few local rock guitarists, I took on more students while working in a guitar shop and from there went full-time privately teaching 1 on 1, as well as at a local school. After a while I was invited to work at another school by Shaun Baxter who was my teacher at that time and from there I started taking on more advanced students and specialising more in the rock/metal style.
Nowadays, as well as being part of the DIME ONLINE & JTC Degree team, I am senior tutor at another institute, having written a higher diploma and degree rock programme. I’ve also worked elsewhere teaching masterclasses and as a columnist for many of the magazines including Guitar Techniques, Total Guitar, Guitar World and currently Guitar Interactive. From my work over the years, I am lucky to be visited by students from all over the UK, many of them also teachers and professional players, and enjoy a busy teaching career as an aspect of what I do within music.
What was the first record you ever bought?
I think the very first vinyl I ever had was ‘Runaway Boys’ by the Stray Cats, which was given to me as a present in 1980. I loved that rockabilly sound, but the first record I actually bought that made me want to play the guitar was ‘Powerslave’ by Iron Maiden-which I got on tape in 1984! I’d spend all my free time listening to that album on my Walkman, focusing on the sound of the distorted guitars!
What was your best experience in music? – (Recording session, live, etc.)
Writing and producing for my band Linear Sphere has been an amazing and all encompassing experience, working alongside excellent musicians and writing original music outside of conventional boundaries. With two albums ‘Reality Dysfunction’ and more recently ‘Manvantara,’ one of the best experiences was sharing the stage in support of tech-metal pioneers Cynic to a sold out show in London.
What gear and equipment are you using?
I’ve used Ibanez guitars for a long time now and for modern rock and metal they are my main choice. I have an old customised RG550 from the early 90’s along with a trans-blue flame maple J custom. For my band Linear Sphere, I use a custom built 7-string made by my luthier Ian Allerton at Guitar Works, all loaded with Bare Knuckle pick-ups. I also love traditional guitars and have a Tokai Goldstar, a 62’ strat and a Les Paul 59’ custom made by Ian and featuring Bare Knuckle and Suhr pick-ups.
For amps, I love the older vertical input JMP Marshalls which I have modified for high gain by friend and amp guru Robert Bohner, along with Mesa Boogie dual rectifier heads and Zilla cabs. Nowadays, I’m using the Axe FX II more and more in the studio for magazine columns and other jobs where it’s easier to record direct to DAW.
What’s your top tip for being a professional musician in the modern age?
I think being a professional musician, for me is something that happened after many years of practice and listening to music, studying with the best teachers I could find, playing different styles, recording, living and breathing it. Getting comfortable with the guitar and controlling the tone, building the vocabulary so you instinctively know what to go for, developing the technique and feel, the finer details of timing and control. It’s a constantly evolving journey and if you want to market or present yourself professionally, it goes beyond the years developing the necessary skills as a guitar player to having a working knowledge of recording software, music notation programmes and video editing.
A lot of music is created and moved around using the internet from tracking to product, so it’s important to have access to the technology if you want to work with others. If you are focussed, you can have a lot of things under your own control and that is the benefit of the modern age. In that light my top tip would be to keep up with all the advances in technology that may be useful in writing, recording and networking with others, and with the work ethic of doing your very best on each and every job whether it’s recording an album, preparing for a gig or teaching a student.