Gregg’s 13 Guitarists, A.K.A. giving my oldest friend 10 solid opportunities to knock the piss out of me.

A few posts ago I did my 13 bass players bit (partially from Gregg’s challenge )  as a bookend to it I asked him to amass a similar line up of guitarists who had a direct impact on his actual playing he agreed and came back to me about 2 weeks later with his result…  all 3 of them.  Gregg wasn’t being lazy mind you and I truely believe he was up for nights trying to come up with his 13 guitarists who made the biggest impact on his playing, but with his usual talent for understatement he provided me with a confident 3.  Now Gregg’s musical tastes are as broad as mine, and perhaps to a degree it is his modesty that kept him from expanding his list, which I announced that I would certainly be able to fill to the aforementioned lucky 13.  That foolish display of hubris notwithstanding;  I figure that since I have known the man since kindergarten and since I’ve been playing music with the guy since we were 13, I’d be uniquely qualified for the job.  Knowing this I fully expect to catch several flavors of hell for any miss step here but that makes for good entertainment. 

If nothing else these 3 are “correct” since they came straight from the horse’s mouth.

1.  Eddie Van Halen, if you played guitar at all in the 80’s he influenced you no  question.  Regardless your feelings on the band he is one of those player’s that reinvented the instrument, 2 handed tapping, yadda yadda.  The video I attached is special to me because when I saw Eddie Van Halen walking down that library table playing the solo for “Hot for Teacher” it was my first clear realization that “rock & roll is really fucking cool”, even though we both are bigger Sammy Hagar era (OU812) being our favorite Van Halen album.

2.  Adrian Smith, Gregg to this day wants to be Adrian Smith when he grows up ; hell, I still want to be Steve Harris when I grow up so I can;t blame him.  But as far as technique, modesty, philosophy & just sheer careful calculation of wonderful arrangements no other guitar player has left so many of their fingerprints on Gregg’s actual playing than Adrian Smith of  Iron Maiden.  I chose to link the song “Stranger in a Strange Land” from the “Somewhere in Time” album (the cover from which I’ve nicked the image in my blog header) as it’s a great example of what makes Adrian great.

3.  Eric Clapton, Gregg actually owns an early 90’s Clapton signature strat (though his birthday is coming up & he desperately wants the Adrian Smith signature Jackson) and of course what other guitarist has had the nickname of  “God” at any point in their career?  He also has stayed current and is as good a player now as at any other time in his lengthy career.  He also is surprisingly adventurous, in fact in the mid 90’s he anonymously released an album of ambient music under the moniker “TDF”,   “Retail Therapy” a rare find where he used the moniker the “X-sample”  I’m posting “Layla” because it is frankly my favorite & the Phil Collin’s song “Rain Down on Me” because that song features a guest solo by Clapton that is my favorite of his solos.  Update, that Phil Collins song isn’t on Youtube because fo copyright bullshit, sorry, good solo though.

Now that the sure things are past I go down the slippery slope of speculation, so in no particular order….

4.  John Frusciante.  We are actually more influenced by his solo work than his stuff with RHCP; if for no other reason he is the guy who gave us the courage to get up & sing after years of being essentially mute sidemen, Gregg (& I) has learned literally several albums worth of his material and he is a constant inspiration.  In conversation Gregg has even quoted Frusciante in saying (paraphrased, hell I’m remembering a sentance from a conversation I had 7 months ago let alone the specifics, I’m lucky I can find my ass with both hands) “I’m not just thinking about notes I’m really to start thinking about ‘sounds’ “.  John is the whole package, from complexity to minimalism, all with fearlessness & honesty.   My personal favorite.  I’ll stop now as I can easily spend 10 hours watching & posting Frusciante vids.

5. Eric Johnson.  O.k. I’m reaching a bit here but Eric was one of the first non rock/metal guys Gregg got into & his album “Ah Via Musicom” is really a gem.  His clarity, note choice and precision is something I definately hear in Gregg’s approach, he might not but I see something there.  If nothing else the guy is a very “musical” and underrated musician so check him out.

6.  Frank Black.  We are both huge fans of “The Pixies”, my first introduction to them was their cover of the “Jesus & Mary Chain’s” “Head On” and explored from there.   Being in band situations with Gregg 2 common issues he would focus on were, dynamics & simplicity, therefore pixies.  Besides “Here Comes Your Man” is so damn fun to play.

7.  George Harrison.  I actually argued with Gregg on this one and he admitted he couldn’t find himself able to really separate Harrison as a guitarist from Harrison “The Beatle”.   Frankly I think that most people have the same problem, what Harrison the guitarist brought was very delicate, well thought, well arranged guitar parts and really as a player that is what Gregg is about, the song & only the song.   Also George Harrison had both the balls and the discipline to not only be influenced by Indian classical music but master (he actually apprenticed under Ravi Shankir) but pretty much singlehandedly champion it in the 60’s, its the sort of thing I could imagine Gregg doing if he got into something and had essentially unlimited resources.

8. David Gilmour.  Let me preface this statement with the fact that Gregg has never been a pot smoker, I am saying this without any humor; simply as a factual statement since he his a big “Pink Floyd” fan and that is a statistical anomaly,  his favorite of their albums being “The Delicate Sound of Thunder”.  Again I actually hear the similarity in Gregg’s use of vibrato specificly as well as his note choice.  Gilmour’s solo album “This Island” is also very worth getting.  “One Slip” Gregg’s favorite of their songs and a very underrated one at that.

9.  Slash.  Slash was another of those utterly ubiquitious players when we were growing up, we are both big fans; of course Gregg being a “dyed in the wool strat guy” is always a bit at odds around a Les Paul-private joke.  I hear Slash in Gregg’s non-rock playing; I’ve played a lot of funk, reggae & even Hatian music with Gregg and that’s where I hear Slash’s influence in approach.

10.  Brian May, I freely admit that I might be shoehorning one of my favorites into “his ” list but Brian May is an actual scientist turned musician, like Gregg, and I can easily imagine Gregg spending an entire day adjusting a microphone angle in front of a Vox AC30.

11.  J. Mascis.  “Dinosaur Jr.” is one of the great underrated bands of that fertile period when “alternitive” wasn’t just a pidgeonhole.  Gregg doesn’t sound like him per-se, but he has often tried to be evocative of J. Mascis’s about to careen off the rails sort of soloing.  I do definately hear an influence in his approach to counterpoint.

12.  Dave Murray.   O.k.  I know you’re a fan but you said he wasn’t a direct influence but I say: “Piss off you bloody wanker! I know how much effort you put into learning his solo from “Number of the Beast”.  Maybe it’s because I am 1254 words into something only you, me & Scott will read and I’m getting tired.

13.  Yngve Malmsteen.  Hang in here I have a point.  Piss off I really do!!!  I know while you personally respect his talent and technique; he comes off as everything you find personally distateful as a guitarist, the Goofus to your Gallant so to speak.


3 Responses to “Gregg’s 13 Guitarists, A.K.A. giving my oldest friend 10 solid opportunities to knock the piss out of me.”

  1. Well Dom, it seems you’ve been either paying very close attention to my playing, or zoned out and thinking of blog ideas.

    On the money…
    EVH, Smith, Clapton, Gilmour, Frusciante, and May. Eddie was without a doubt the first player I ever paid any attention to. I probably first noticed him on the solo to Michael Jackson’s Beat It (did he or didn’t he? I don’t know, he was never convicted. RIP MJ, it’s always sad when white woman dies). Most people prefer his Roth era work, but I’m an unashamed Van Hagar guy all the way. Clapton and Gilmour are like the girl in sweatpants and a ponytail who, without trying, look like a supermodel. Clapton has the name slowhand, but it could be equally applied to Gilmour as well. I always try to get as much out of a single note as these guys can, but rarely do I (or anyone else for that matter) succeed. Adrian Smith is all about phrasing. He’s a strat-guy no matter what he plays. Even on a Les Paul, he’s a Strat-guy. I can play more of his solos than anyone else’s. That doesn’t mean they’re easier, just that I’ve stuck with his longer. There is a sense of urgency to his playing that just makes your ears perk up and think “something important is going to happen.” I love Jan Gers and will never knock his playing, but Maiden was missing something without Adrian. We’ve had endless discussions on John Frusciante. I think you nailed it when you talked about sounds vs. notes. John convinced me that the guitar is simply a sound-deliver device. And music is nothing more than sound. John also made me embrace the clean tone more than anyone. Brian May–well what can I say about him? Anytime I construct a harmony; that’s Brian May coming out.

    Flattering, but…
    Eric Johnson. This guy is a tone machine. If I had the resources, I would like to think I could conjure up a sound that would only make him nauseous, and not actually ill. That being said, I do put a lot into crafting sounds and tones and it’s fair to say he had an influence on that. J Mascis. I put him, Vernon Reid and Jimi in the same category. These are guys who sound “sloppy.” That is until you try to play their licks. Then you realize these guys are acrobats who are maintaining an incredible balance while teetering on the edge of disaster. I don’t know if I have the balls to play with that much risk. Dave Murray. Rhythmically I suppose Dave is right up there with the biggest influences. He and Steve Harris define the Maiden sound. Dave has a legato that is second to none. Unfortunately due to a medical condition in which my fingers are burdened by actual bones, I can’t do what he does. I suppose any legato at all comes from him though. The other thing I have in common is that like Dave, I am much better at coming up with ideas than putting those ideas together in a cohesive song. Dave is fortunate enough to have Steve Harris bail him out. Now I love you Dom, but I am actively planning on trading you in for Steve should the opportunity ever present itself. George Harrison. Now you are right about him. I’m not sure his style has a direct influence, but certainly the Beatles do. And yes, as great as the musicianship was with the Beatles, the songs are what stand-out. Take a band like Dream Theater and as much as I love them, the songs often take a backseat to the virtuosity.

    Who shot who in the what now?
    Slash. I never really considered Slash but it is interesting that you bring him up. Rhythmically he’s a very busy player. I think I tend to be a little more direct. As for his lead playing, Slash has a flair for the dramatic–long, slow bends that just emotionally grab you. Think November Rain or Rocket Queen. Maybe that kind of thing does show up in my playing. Frank Black? I got nothin. I’m not a bass player but I do play bass. (Did I just blow your mind? Really? It’s not that profound dumbass) I think Kim Deal is one of my biggest influences on bass and one of my favorite bass players. Her simplicity is remarkably effective–she doesn’t waste a note and each note is a critical support for the song. Combine that with my lack of skill on the bass and there you have it. I guess part of that seeps into my guitar playing. Yngwie “unleash the fury” Malmsteen. Neoclassical shredding. The guy isn’t that new and has no class. He also loves strats and thinks most people are assholes ( a feeling that most people indicate is mutual). Well, this is a shocking revelation. Based on the logic I just used, Yngwie is my number one influence!

    When my ennui dissipates, perhaps after an invigorating tonic, I will leave another comment regarding guitarists that I find influential.

  2. kingbiscuitpants Says:

    thanks a lot for the response the kim deal thing blew my mind actually for while you are actually good as a bass player the gregg & bass legos are never connect in my mind. thanks for bothering to read this rambling ramble to rambletown on the rambletrain…. ramble….

  3. kingbiscuitpants Says:

    so is this an 8 out of 10? or did I do better.

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