My biggest guitar influences: Adam Jones

When I heard Tool for the first time, I knew it was a band that was special. Despite only having released five albums in 30 years, the band have a loyal following that is ridiculously passionate about their music…and with good reason.

The intricacy to which Tool write their pieces is quite remarkable, and they spend a long time agonising over guitar, bass and drum parts that interweave in a way that is not only technically sophisticated, but musically and aesthetically spot on for what they set out to achieve. I love the tribal quality of their music and Adam Jones plays a part that is reserved but subtly challenging. His riffs, tone and rhythms are always captivating. I’ve yet to see them live and really hope I get the opportunity to do so.

My top Adam Jones tracks.

Sober

Prison Sex

Stinkfist

Forty Six and Two

The Grudge

Schism

Lateralus

Jambi

The Pot

Pneuma

Invincible

My biggest guitar influences: John Petrucci

I kept on finding all the technical guitar wizards. And what I really liked about Petrucci was he was an incredible part of a band with three other astoundingly good musicians.

The interplay with all members is crazy but the intricacy to which Petrucci and Rudess do things is unlike anything I’ve heard. The riffs and technical prowess draw me in but once again it’s Petrucci’s ear for melodies that keep me coming back.

His soloing is epic and the playing throughout the entire Dream Theater discography is extraordinary.

My top John Petrucci Tracks

Under a Glass Moon

Erotomania

Scarred

A change of Seasons

The Spirit Carries On

Endless Sacrifice

Octavarium

The Dark Eternal Night

A Nightmare to Remember

Breaking All Illusions

My biggest guitar influences: Eric Johnson

You’ll now notice if you’ve read my last two articles that G3 introduced me to the beautiful world of guitar virtuosos. And amongst all of them Eric Johnson is the most tasteful that’s for sure!

The guy is on another level when it comes to playing, and he’s got a wonderful blend of rock, folk, jazz, blues and new age amongst his catalogue.

His catalogue is considerably more sparse, due to his desire for perfection but it’s been great to see him be more prolific in this last decade.

Johnson has inspired my playing really directly and there’s times where I willingly wear that on my sleeve. His chord voicings, economy picking, licks, string skipping are all things I’ve spent practising religiously and I’ve studied his songs relentlessly. Manhattan took me a good four years to master.

And his tone is absolutely gorgeous! Cleans are shimmering and otherworldly and his lead just sings and is full of clarity. I love interacting with EJ’s music, listening to it, playing it and referring to it for my own compositional work.

He’s also a delightful gentleman. Check out his recent lessons on social media where he’s also encouraging donations to local food banks in Texas.

My top Eric Johnson tracks:

Zap

Trademark

High Landrons

Forty Mile Town

Manhattan

SRV

Battle we have won

Your Sweet Eyes

Gem

Fatherly Downs

My biggest guitar influences: Steve Vai

Discovering the music of Satriani would eventually lead me onto the discovery of his student Steve Vai.

The first track I heard was ‘Liberty’ and once again I find my head being blown off by the sheer audacity of the playing. But I knew Vai had something different about him. A lot of which is probably to do with his time spent playing with Frank Zappa.

Humour plays a huge role in his tracks and live performances and seeing him in the Hammersmith in London was so much fun. The guy is a hell of a confident and audacious performer.

Vai takes the technicalities of the guitar to the extreme but he knows how to do harmony and melody really well as well. The guy can construct absolutely monstrous solos and make the guitar squeal. It’s his ballads that really stand out for me.

Vai is also open, articulate and has a wonderful outlook on his music and how to enjoy life. An inspiration through and through.

My top Steve Vai tracks:

The Riddle

For the love of God

Tender Surrender

Rescue me or Bury Me

The Blood and Tears

Windows to the Soul

Boston Rain Melody

Whispering a Prayer

Fire Garden Suite

Building the Church

My biggest guitar influences: Joe Satriani

I first heard Joe on a compilation album by Brian May.

As someone already struck by the magic of the electric guitar, I heard ‘Surfing with the Alien’ for the first time and thinking ‘How is that even possible!?’

The playing was so ridiculous on a virtuosity level that it completely threw me and then I went down the portal of wanting to discover more and figure out how Joe did high speed, high gain techniques and replicate it myself so I could also be the best guitar player in the world!

Satriani inspired me to spend hours and hours and hours practising. Figuring out legato, tapping, fast alternate picking and bending notes so they soar into space…followed by the DIVE BOMB!

What I came to equally love about Satriani was the sheer joy in his playing, it was upbeat and so melodically rich! Speaking of rich, his tone is just that as well. Gorgeous.

He’s a top dude as well. Always lovely in interviews, the teacher of Vai and Kirk Hammet as well and someone who loves going hell for leather on his instrument and makes sure those willing to go along for the ride have a good time too!

My top Joe Satriani tracks

Crushing Day

Surfing with the Alien

Flying in a Blue Dream

Time Machine

Cool #9

Raspberry Jam Delta V

Made of Tears

Starry Night

Revelation

Dream Song

My biggest guitar influences: Jeff Beck

I think of all the guitarists in the 60s Jeff Beck was the only one who kept on improving and innovating! Even to this day!

Refusing to play with a puck, his use of claw technique, using the volume pot, harmonics, whammy bar is all completely outstanding. He’s a complete outlier when compared to other players.

Besides that, Beck is also a genius at picking 2 or 3 notes that sing like magic!

Trying to learn to Jeff Beck has at times felt like learning another instrument. His playing is extraordinarily unique, lyrical and expressive.

My top Jeff Beck tracks.

Cause we’ve ended as lovers

Led boots

Star Cycle

Angel (Footsteps)

Where were you

Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

Nadia

Scared for the children

Never Alone

I ain’t superstitious

My biggest guitar influences: Brian May

Brian May was the second guitarist along with Alex Lifeson that were my first discoveries.

And there is no one who sounds quite like Brian May. Is it the fact that his signature red special guitar was originally built from scratch by his Father, or the six pince he used as a pick, or the AC30 stack? Undeniably these all contributed to his sound, but I think it’s in his fingers more than anything else.

And besides the soaring quality of May’s soloing, it’s his ear for melody which really blows me away. His partnership with the one and only Freddie Mercury is definitive, and May’s guitar passages were a perfect answer to Mercury’s theatrical and anthemic writing and vocal performance.

There is an extraordinary amount of sophisticated and melodic writing in Queen’s music and you just don’t see that level of writing anymore, at least in the mainstream.

My top Brian May tracks

Brighton Rock

Now I’m here

Bohemian Rhapsody

Don’t stop me now

Hammer to Fall

A kind of Magic

The Miracle

I want it all

Innuendo

These are the days of our lives

My biggest guitar influences: Alex Lifeson

When I started playing guitar, I started really getting into listening to music heavily as well. This was at the turn of the millennium when MP3 players and IPods didn’t quite exist yet, so I had one of those cheap portable CD players.

My mum is a huge Rush fan, she grew up during the 70s and 80s listening to the early fantasy orientated albums, such as A Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres.

She used the CD player as an opportunity to revisit the band and the first we played was Presto.

Now this album is considered one of their weakest in songwriting and production but the impact it had on me back then makes me love the record. The Pass is undeniably one of their best works.

Neil Peart and Geddy Lee get a lot of plaudits in the bass guitar world and understandably so, and some see Alex Lifeson has perhaps overshadowed by that and the 80s synths but I definitely don’t see it that way. His playing, writing and tone makes him an indispensable part of the trio and an enormously influential player in the guitar world in general.

He pioneered open chord voicings, super ambitious in his writing and versatile in his stylistic choices. There is technically astounding work in the catalogue but there’s also wonderfully tasteful music. His live tone from the noughties onwards was utterly sensational and I’ll never forget the first time seeing the band live, when he opened with ‘Limelight’. It shook me to my core.

As far as writing a series goes, I had to start with Lifeson, his playing is very much in my DNA and I’ve no problem with that. I also greatly admire him as a person, his outlandish humour, and the graceful, thoughtful way he handles himself in interviews.

I look forward to sharing more of my top guitarists with you over the coming days.

My top Alex Lifeson guitar tracks:

Xanadu

La Villa Strangiato

Freewill

YYZ

Limelight

Analog Kid

Between the Wheels

Middletown Dreams

The Pass

Caravan

Lifting up or putting down

Every single thing you say, every interaction you have with everyone around you has the potential to have this impact.

And we all want to feel the former.

Nothing drags like an interaction with someone who conducts their interaction with you in a way that is condescending or aloof, it’s a lot of the time, completely unnecessary.

How many people work with a boss or manager, and just because they’ve got that title, think they can use that status as a means to put themselves on a pedestal by looking down on those who work for them?

What we say has huge ripples in the atmosphere of our environments and those who have a atmosphere that handles mistakes, failure and accountability in a way that is considered and empathetic, balanced with celebrating success, acknowledging good work and displaying gratitude are much more likely to want to stick around.

Otherwise, you have people leave or showing up miserable because they can’t leave.

We can nurture the environments we are part of. What do you want to bring to everyone each day?

Speaking truth to power

The 60s era fascinated me. I never lived through it but I live and breathe the music and adore the history.

And amongst all the chaos, evolution and cultural shifts of that decade, one of the things that fascinates me through to the 70s is how musicians drove the culture, and you need look no further than their response to the Vietnam War.

What’s going on?

Artists such as Marvin Gaye were willing to speak truth to power and that’s what made their music great.

I wonder where that kind of voice is in music these days, it’s practically non existent in the mainstream.

One area of society where it seems to have started happening is football and the English players converting a penalty was the least important thing for them to have achieved as far as dignity and victories in the wider world are concerned.

Rashford fought the government to feed children in poverty and succeeded.

Henderson raised funds for the NHS.

Sterling was a scapegoat for a toxic and amoral media and rose above.

And they all took the knee in opposition of racism despite the criticism. A gesture that is necessary so long as it provokes uproar from the racists or otherwise, ignorant. Spare me the empty arguments about Marxism. The economics of football say otherwise.

And the politicians predictably lapped upon England’s success in reaching a final and considered themselves entitled to that praise.

So I can’t express how satisfying it was to see Tyrone Mings burst Patel’s bubble and call her out as a hypocrite.

The abuse hurled at Rashord, Saka and Sancho was completely unacceptable but they’ve risen above.

But our leaders have a lot to answer for. Racism needs to be tackled on headlong. In education, on social media platforms who remain woefully complicit and in a collective effort to hold people accountable.

Racism is an unfathomable, special kind of stupid and those who use it to look down on others ultimately loses out in failing to know that our diversity in cultures and skin colours makes our world all the more enriching.

There’s good in this world, it’s worth fighting for.