Confessions of a Shredder

PART 1: Ok, dudes. It’s been 10 months since the original ‘Bang Camaro’ was released to MySpace. Ample time to reflect on what the hell is going on. Recording those solos was a bizarre acid flashback to the 8th grade. I spent the better part of those formative years trying to rewire my brain to focus less on the art of playing guitar in favor of a what I though was a better stylized approach to music and art – yes, the 90’s were hard on shredders. I was one of those dudes who grabbed my crotch at my junior high metal days and called it a “faggot.” There was something appealing about not giving a frick about the technicality of a performance in favor of a more primal experience — something more ravenous and instinctual than practicing modes and scales.

Obviously, I was a fricking moron. See, I became a serious pussycat.

In the later 90’s I moved to Boston to play in a rock’n roll band. Problem was my rock’n roll band lived in north Jersey. Now, I’m not here to denigrate the fine state that is New Jersey, but let’s just say that I’d rather have to commute 4 hours to rehearse in Jersey (from Boston) back and forth every weekend for 2 years than to have to live there. Obviously, it (the band) didn’t work out.

Once that situation fizzled I took the opportunity to further destroy whatever desire I had to hone my guitar chops. I thought, “hey you know what would be awesome? Me playing piano.” — cat whispering myself into mediocrity. Years later I only have a rudimentary understanding of the piano much less how to play the stupid thing.

Fast forward to me meeting Bryn and further-forward to us recording “Bang Camaro,” the song. We tracked all of those leads one-by-one standing around in Bryn’s attic. While writing and recording those licks I became painfully aware that had I not spent the 10 years being a sorry gigantic stupid cat I wouldn’t be so embarrassed that I couldn’t play this shit. But that was on the inside. On the outside we laughed. We laughed pretty hard; probably because we thought we were mocking those licks we learned as kids playing along to metal records. At least that’s what I thought we were doing. Looking back on it now…. 9 months later… I think I found the process enjoyable because it was the first time in a while making music felt worthwhile. I had my first genuine “I’m going back to my roots” moment. True stuff.

So there’s a lesson in this somewhere. Bryn and I didn’t work very hard writing these licks; me and Bryn diddling back and forth every 8 bars. A lot of them wrote themselves. Just us giggling and playing things off the cuff. The first basic guitar motif, played and authored by Bryn, sets the tone – the song is an instrumental (or is it?). The figure here demonstrates a straight ahead single note melody (what I like to think of as vaguely Rocky’esque) in E-minor that caps off with one of Bryn’s now-signature George Lynch’esque flourishes. Make sure you crank the gain and choke up on that pick to smack those artificial harmonics just right. Like so:

Bryn rocking first chorus

The general structure of the song is a typical verse->pre-chorus->chorus->repeat->bridge->repeat configuration. Bryn will play the first 8 bars of every verse and I’ll come in and finish out the last 8 bars. As demonstrated here, this is me playing the 2nd half of the first verse. I started with an ascending single note figure to recall the basic feel of Bryn’s first half, but you’ll notice I change things up a little with a simple blues lick (something ala Eric Clapton or Steve Marriott) featuring the dreaded BLUE note – just a quick B-flat over A, like that dude Dickey Betts. I even go so far as to quote and re-introduce that blue note an octave lower (in the 10th position: left-hand index finger positioned over the 10th fret) in the next pass. I didn’t do any of this on purpose. It came out that way because I panicked – I didn’t want to admit that seriously awesome guitar solos were way outside my radar. So I went slowhand on that shit, thinking ‘well, it’s just the 1st verse… don’t want to blow my wad.’ So we went with it. Spot that B-flat over A:

Al blazing first chorus

The first verse gives way to the pre-chorus. The chord progression starts on the 4-minor (A-minor -> C-major -> G-major – > D-major) and introduces a harmonized figure. I think “blaze like Rudy Schenker” every time I hear it. Harmony implies there is more than one guitar going on here – that’s RIGHT, dudes, that melody gets joined by a second guitar IN UNISON.

Bryn playing the melody
Alex playing the harmony

It’s rather standard stuff moving between 4th and 3rd intervals, but it gets interesting at the end as the melody and harmony resolve to the 3rd and 5th of the root (E-minor) as the pre-chorus gives way to the chorus.

Next time, I might try driving home some licks heard later – the plaintive get-the-girl melancholy of the bridge, the canon blast of me and Bryn’s guitarmony solo, and even reveal Bryn’s mechanical-spiders-crashland-in-space aka ‘the helicopter’ lick. Soon as he shows me how it goes. Remember folks, the idea here is: never turn your back on your roots. One day you’ll find the things you loved about music as a kid are the only reasons that keep you coming back. See you here for part 2!

Until then I’m watching Badlands videos on YouTube.