How did you start in the music industry?
It started when I was a kid, my father was a drummer, he played in different beat-groups that played for the American barracks, so I started playing drums initially but then I wanted to do something different from my Father so I switched to guitar and I think since I was 15 it was very clear to me that I want to study music and become a musician. I played in school bands and then I went to the conservatoire and studied jazz guitar, the only options at that time were classical or jazz, I chose jazz because I thought that it was a little bit closer to rock music than perhaps classical guitar. I studied for five years and then I went to New York and took some lessons with Mike Stern which really developed me as a player. Then I returned to Germany and a friend of mine asked me to do a tour with an artist that was quite popular around 2005/2006, at this time reggae was quite popular in Germany, so I played in the reggae group and we became the band for this studio where all these artists were from, we started touring and playing some big shows, at the same time I started playing guitar for musicals and teaching, everything you have to do to be a professional musician, which included some unpleasant stuff but generally I have always loved my experiences with music.
How do you feel your relationship with music has changed since you started?
Well since I am a guitarist and no the singer and the frontman I am not really concerned about the business side of it, I just do what I can do best and I try not to be too concerned about that sort of thing. I’m probably too old to really know what people want to hear these days or what can be sold but generally I think that musicians have a different focus from the music industry bosses. They probably will never understand me I will never understand them, and I don’t want to!
Do you feel there are certain elements of music that should be focussed on more than others?
Well I’m not too sure if you can educate people towards listening to more interesting music, but then on the other side you have artists like Prince or John Mayer or Muse who manage to combine making good music but also have a commercial approach to it that people connect with. That is the highest level for me that a musician can achieve, maintaining your integrity but still push the boundaries of both music and society.
How do fans differ around the world?
When I have toured around the globe I have a very special vantage point as a guitarist at the back of the stage. I get to see things from a completely different perspective, for example when touring with the reggae groups I found that in Cuba or Mexico, it seems that the poorer the country, the more grateful the people are for the music. Whether this is because of the location, so less bands tour to these places, especially bands from western Europe but it seems that they appreciate a musician more, these countries where music is so vivid they really seem to come alive when they hear live music. In Germany it is possibly a part of the German mentality that they seem to over criticize an act but the younger people accept all types of music much more frequently than an older person would but I think that is just a case of age teaches you to be less open to new experiences and listening opportunities.
What is your signal path?
I play Ibanez guitars, then I go into my pedalboard, I put a patch bay on my pedalboard so I have a switching system, I use both channels of the Laney IRT60H, but I have a patch bay so I can use the four cable method. Doing this I can put pedals before the pre-amp but also after it, and after the power-amp.
One piece of equipment you couldn’t live without?
GUITAR! Well it’s hard to say, of course I couldn’t play without the guitar, but also the head, cabinet or cable, so it’s hard to say as I need all these elements to get my sound! I could probably live without pedals, they’re nice to have but I don’t need all of them!
Although I love distortion pedals, I like to change them and mix them up, I never feel like I’m satisfied with the pedals I have. Even though they say ‘it’s in your fingers’ I agree but also disagree as I think it’s in your head. You need to have a clear imagination of how you want to sound and that’s the reason why different players will always sound like them no matter their equipment because they have such a clear minds eye of how they want to sound that no matter what you give them, they dial in the sound they have in their head.
I think this is the problem with possibly younger guitar players, they start without their imagination, if you don’t have imagination, you don’t have anything to strive for. Probably that’s something that needs to come first.
What advice would you give to a young aspiring musician?
I would say do not try and be these famous rock stars because there is already one in the world. Don’t try and be Tony Iommi or Slash because the world already has them. Try to dig really deep and find what you like and what you don’t like, try to find out how you really see or hear yourself. Sometimes you come to different sounds by coincidence but I think you need to really know first how you want to sound and what you want to be.
You don’t have to be one guitar player, if you want to play country or metal you can adjust your playing style to fit the needs of the song or genre you are playing. How you want to sound like has to come first.
Was there a particular moment in your youth that sparked your musical journey?
This sounds cliché but it really was The Beatles. My Father came from that era and he loved to listen to The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, he also listened to Dire Straights and Marc Knopfler, then I hit puberty and started to rebel, here is started to listen to AC/DC and I didn’t like The Beatles at all, but then I got older and wiser and I am now much more open to all styles of music and any genre.
When was the last time you read a user manual?
Well as I also do professional reviews for Thomman, I actually read them quite frequently, usually four manuals a week to write the reviews! But I don’t like it, I have to read them, say there’s a digital amp that is more computer than a guitar amp, I really have to sit and read the manual in order to understand the product I am reviewing. Plug and play doesn’t work in that situation unfortunately as the review has to be thorough.
What was the last piece of music you heard or bought that connected with you?
I think it is so hard in this day and age to do something new, but there are still so many great artists out there. I’ve always liked bands like John Mayer or Porcupine Tree, I love the last Ryan Adams record. I don’t actually listen to that many guitar players any more, that’s not to say I don’t listen to music but when I sit down and listen to music I want to forget that I am a musician, I want to turn the auto-analyse function off in my brain and just immerse myself into the sounds of the artist the same way that every other person does. Guitar music for me isn’t overly interesting music to me, it is very cool and it’s interesting from a guitar point of view but I find it only on very rare occasions that it is musically exploratory and interesting. I try not to over analyse music because if you put that same idea to a band like AC/DC it would be ‘boring’ music, but it isn’t, they’re amazing and I really love them so it’s a tricky line to walk down between over analysing an artist and just enjoying their music.
Do you think the internet is a positive or a negative for the music industry?
I think there are positives and negatives, the good thing is that anyone can promote their own music and more or less everything is in your hands. The other side is that when you used to have record labels, they would release say ten pieces of music a month, now ten new albums a month is something that everyone can digest and you can say, I like this, I don’t like that but now it is really really hard to find something you like. If you don’t have any friends and you don’t have any community it is almost impossible when you have ten thousand releases a month to get to the good stuff because it’s covered with loads of rubbish. Where is the best place to hide an apple? In a huge pile of apples! It’s the same with music, so I really see both sides. I see the same issue with these huge YouTube guitar players, the main rock guitarists of the world have always been the same, way before YouTube but now with this platform there are so many great guitarists are so visible. The great people have always been great but now with the internet you can see more than just the top layer of incredible players, you can now see the real depth to global talent when it comes to guitar playing.
There is still nobody to replace Hendrix or Scott Henderson, when I started listening to music, I had enough money to buy one record a month. When I bought that record I really dug into it and I knew every second of it, but now there is so much variety and so single driven you can never get to the true core of a record because there will always be a drive to push a popular single that could differ completely from the rest of the record.