Wise Words From Jan Cyrka – Composer, Artist & JTC Degree Co-Founder.

Jan Cyrka is probably best known for three solo albums full of meaty guitar playing: ‘Beyond the Common Ground’, ‘Spirit’ and ‘Prickly Pear’. However, Jan’s career began in the 1980s when he was guitarist-in-chief with cartoon biker band Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction, supporting Guns n’ Roses on extensive tours of the US and Canada.

He now composes and records music for a variety of clients has had his music appear on TV shows and movies such as Friends, Hi Fidelity (with John Cusack), Saturday Night Live, America’s Most Wanted, Wife Swap, I’m Alan Partridge, The Jeremy Kyle Show, Absolutely Fabulous, Bargain Hunt, Flog It, Graham Norton Effect, The Bill, Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, Escape to the Country, Homes Under the Hammer, Oprah Winfrey Show, Malcolm in the Middle, The Jamie Foxx Show, Ten Years Younger, A Place in the Sun, American Idol, The One Show, James May 20th Century and many others. Jan has worked with many of the world’s finest players in his studio, including Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Paul Gilbert, Mick Taylor and Zakk Wylde. When Jan is not working he is sleeping.

Jan Cyrka is one of the co-founders of the JTC Degree. Here, he talks to us about the reasons for establishing this program, and a few tips for getting to the top.

What is your role with DIME ONLINE?
I’m involved in the JTC Degree Course through my connection as being one of the directors at Jam Track Central. I’ve known Kevin Nixon from DIME for a very long time and when he approached me about combining forces to create this amazing online BA(Hons) degree course, I knew we were going to make something truly remarkable. Doing what we do at JTC and doing what DIME do, it was a no brainer. Our customers expect (and receive) a super high quality teaching product from our online store and it seemed only natural that an online degree course would be the next step. DIME stepped in and we together made it happen.

Can you tell us the inspiration behind Jam Track Central? And how you have built the website to be one of the leading Guitar sites in the UK?
Jonny Carpenter, Adrian Clark and I wanted a guitar tuition website that was significantly different from the rest. We wanted, and now have, only the very best guitarists – famous or unknown. Our worldwide roster of magnificent guitar players share their secrets through our comprehensive catalogue of downloadable licks packages and Masterclasses. We also make sure that our contributors get a good deal by splitting the profits equally. The majority of our competitors pay a fee to the artist for their contributions. We now have over 80 artists/composers who are all paid excellent royalties twice a year. We all grow together.

Can you define a Jam Track Central guitarist? And what advice would you give to anyone who’s career goal it is to be included in JTC?
I’m always asked this question. The simple answer is that you just have to be good at what YOU do. Don’t concern yourself about how great the other players are. If you have got something unique, confident and ultimately…. listenable, then we want to hear from you. Ideally you have to learn a few extra skills like pointing a video camera at yourself and learning a few things about lighting a room etc. Or, if you have charm you could always get a friend to do all that.

Can you tell us a bit about your ‘day job’? What do you spend most of your time doing?
Half my time is spent writing, recording and mixing Production Music. This is music that is made easily available for film and TV editors (for example) to use on shows or films or commercials or Radio shows. I tend to write mainly in a Rock style although I’ve been known to venture into pop now and again. I’ve been composing mainly for one company EMI Production Music and recently West One Music / The Scoring House. They have great teams at both companies who know how to get my tracks placed all over the world. I hardly ever know where my tunes are going to used but it’s nice now and again to recognise one of my creations in a film whilst I’m munching popcorn in the cinema..ha ha! The rest of my time is spent working on JamTrackCentral and it’s associated interests such as the JTC Degree.

How did you get into the music industry? What was your first break?
I was invited to London by a friend who was a producer. He had a job putting together a band for project fronted by an american guy (Jeffrey Michelson) who had dreamt up this wacky alter ego Max Gelt. To cut a long story short, I got the job as one of the guitarists in the band. We recorded an album and played a couple of gigs but it kept me busy for about 2 years. I relocated form Halifax West Yorks to London and have been here ever since. Incidently although this was 30 years ago, Jeffrey and I are still great friends and speak on the phone at least twice a week. Also this is when I met Kevin Nixon from DIME. He signed Max and the Broadway Metal Choir to his record label.

We spent an awful lot of time at EZEE studios in North London rehearsing and recording. During that time I became good friends with the owner Graham Oakes who very kindly allowed me to spend time in the recording studio when there were no clients. I pretty much learned how to use everything in there after about 2 months or so and then Graham gave me a job ( now the Max Gelt gig was over) as a studio engineer. I worked solidly for 6 months and one day  Mark Manning aka Zodiac Mindwarp came in to record some demos. We hit it off and he asked me to join his band. I thought Ok why not? It sounds like fun. The next three years dressed up as a biker was a lot of fun and a great experience too.

Who were some of your influences as you progressed as a musician/ writer?
My greatest influences for my guitar playing were David Gilmour, Andy Latimer from Camel, Pat Travers, Steve Lukather and Steve Vai. Composition wise….gosh I can’t really say. I just find anything with a good tune or a hook that has some kind of emotion attached to it will some influence on me somewhere down the line.

What was the first record you ever bought?
I think it was called The Faust Tapes. 49p in Woolworths. Total crap. It had a Bridget Riley style album cover which made your eyes freak out of your stared at it too long. My brother in law Steve Bradley gave me Hold your Head up by Argent as my first 45rpm disc. I liked that a lot.

Best experience in music?
It was really nice when Steve Vai came to my house to record for Guitarist magazine. ( I was their cover mount CD producer for 12 years). He had me doing this, doing that, changing strings for him. I didn’t mind at all, I was just happy for him to be there. After about an hour or so he starts looking around the room and sees all my Jan Cyrka master tapes on the shelf. “You’re not Jan Cyrka are you?’ he asks looking a bit sheepish. I replied ‘Yes I am”.

“Ah shit sorry man I’ve had you jumping up and down all afternoon without realising who you are. I’ve heard all your stuff, you’re really good!”

To be honest, I was delighted to roadie for him but equally chuffed to receive a compliment for this guitar god.

What gear and equipment are you using (or any studio tips or favourite gear)?
Nowadays my work is very diverse so I have lots of different gear and instruments all of which have a roll and character. I don’t have favourites anymore. But what I will say is that the guys at Victory Amplification are making some truly wonderful gear. The very nice chaps at Ibanez have created a fabulous new guitar built on information from interviewing myself and more importantly, many of our JTC players. It’s a truly versatile instrument that sounds amazing, plays amazing, feels amazing and looks amazing. I think that they are launching this model at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. I have two prototypes in the JTC studio. A 22 fret version with two single coils and a humbucker in the bridge position and another 24 fret version with two humbuckers. This guitar is going to be a smash hit for them I just know it. And I must mention that absolutely love the guitars handmade by Dave at Eternal Guitars. I’ve bought three of them now! Recording wise – Neve 1073 and SM 57 / Royer 121/ Neumann U87. You just can’t go far wrong with these classics.

What’s your top tip for being a professional musician in the modern age?
Turn up on time and be prepared.
Be nice. Be positive. No one wants to work with a moaning grumble bumps.

Any last words?
Be helpful to anyone who needs or asks for help.

Also, I have a new tune coming out in October 2017 called ‘Hope Fear and Faith’ as part of the new JamTrackCentral Ballads 2 album. Please look out for that at Jamtrackcentral.com It’s my first new guitar release in 20 years! The video will be posted on Youtube Facebook etc in November 2017.