Interview with Joe Stump
After being in the game for two decades how do you continue to stay inspired and innovative?
I`m always playing, practicing, composing and crafting all types of things for various projects whether it`s one of my solo guitar driven releases or one of the metal bands I play with. I`ve been living, eating and breathing guitar for as long as I can remember and I`m just as excited about it (even more so ) than when I was younger. As far as composing things, some days it just flows out of me. and when that`s not happening I don`t force the issue. It`s never a case where I `m under the gun to put a record together.
Many cynics and critics would say people who play shred guitar have no ‘feel’. What do you say to such ridiculous accusations?
Many people make uneducated blanket statements about things they know nothing about. Of course it goes in both directions, on one hand you have many of highly accomplished technical players that also play with a tremendous amount of emotion. And the other side of the coin is the fact you have many players don`t seem to have that element in their playing and also their music. Their stuff tends to sound like some giant boring guitar exercise. All of the players that I love to listen to (still to this day ) Blackmore, Malmsteen, Gary Moore, Uli Jon Roth, Michael Schenker, Jimi Hendrix, Hank Sherman, Andy LaRoque, Wolf Hoffman, Walter Giardino. Those guys all have killer technical command (some more so than others) but they also have that emotional side to their playing. I mean killer shred guitar playing is impressive and all but it has to be showcased inside music. The tunes on my solo records have killer riffs, strong melodies, a mix of many different schools of hard rock and metal and of course that emotional element as well, that type of shit has to come from within also my stuff rocks and has balls and attitude, it`s not just a bunch of fast fancy licks strung together.
You have worked with two of the big three guitar based record label, Leviathan and Lion. Have you ever been approached (or approached) Shrapnel Records?
No I never really approached Shrapnel, I know from working with David Chastain for years at Leviathan as well as some other players I`m friends with that the deals they offered over there, to put it delicately were not exactly all that favorable for the artist. I`ve been very fortunate working with both David at Leviathan and Lars over at Lion, both are very honest and straight up and it`s been a pleasure doing biz with them over the years. Also David really helped me quite a bit early on in my career. It`s very cool to have someone you work with who`s been in the business for awhile to offer advice as well as guidance on all different types of matters. We`re still in touch and remain good friends to this day. Another cool thing is that I was (still am) a big fan of David`s work both his solo stuff as well as Chastain and CJSS. I had a bunch of those records well before I ended up on the label.
Working with Lion for several years now have you met or ever played with label founder and owner Lars Eric Mattsson?
No I`ve never met Lars in person, I`ve only played in Finland once, a big festival years ago with HolyHell But as I mentioned before it`s always a cool, positive experience when I bring one of my solo releases over to Lion, they`ve been very good to me over the years.
Despite a prolific career of 20 years and an admirable 10 solo albums, some still l regard you as an ‘underground’ player. Do you have any desire to maybe hook up with one of those big G3 tours and work with Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and that whole major label, mainstream guitar crew?
One journalist once referred to me as everybody`s favorite underground guitar hero, I thought that was very cool. I have no complaints, I consider myself quite fortunate that I make a nice living doing what I love. I`ve made some killer guitar records and have played shows and clinics all over the world both as a solo artist and with the various metal bands I`m in. A larger scale G3 thing would be awesome, that goes without saying, Any artist always wants to expose themselves and their music to a larger audience. But I`m a glass is half full guy for sure so I`m always counting my blessings and I`m very grateful for my somewhat modest level of success. Trust me being Joe Stump`s a pretty good deal.
Do you like touring? Is it a necessary evil? Have you ever though of putting together a Shred Tour with for example, Michael Angelo and maybe some young guns like Jacky Vincent or Maxxxwell Carlisle?
I love touring and love playing live, I`ve done it on all kinds of scales from huge festivals and big sport halls in Europe to divey clubs where the dressing room`s the bathroom and I`m trying not to step in something when changing my boots. For me it`s always great as I really love to play . I`ve played a few shows with Michael before and also played a guest solo on his last record Intermezzo, he`s a great guy and a shred guitar icon for sure, one of the founding fathers of the genre. A tour with him would be killer, but with everyone`s already busy schedules that type of thing is easier said than done .
It has been almost two years since REVENGE OF THE SHREDLORD. When is your next album coming out?
Since releasing Revenge Of the Shredlord in addition to doing a bunch of live dates, both solo and with RavenLord, I`ve been quite busy. I`ve got a shred/metal guitar instructional book coming out this year for Hal Leonard/Berklee Press entitled Joe Stump`s Metal Guitar Chop Shop. It`ll be an excellent instructional tool for metal/shred players of all levels and schools of metal, it comes with a cd that has all the material recorded and backing tracks are included as well. In addition to my own thing as well as RaveLord and HolyHell I`m in this doom metal band Exorcism.
Csaba Zvekan (RavenLord vocalist) asked me to join up when we were over in the UK last spring doing some dates with RaveLord. The music is a cross between Dio`s heavier solo stuff/Tony Martin era Sabbath/Zakk era Ozzy., Csaba already had all the material written and a nice deal in place for the thing, I played all the guitars on the record and it`ll be out next month. It`s already getting some nice reviews it`s pretty fierce slab of metal and there`s quite a bit of killer guitar shit on it. In addition to that I also recorded all the guitars for the 2nd HolyHell record. So lots of things in the pipes in the near future. I`ve also got a bunch of things written for my next solo offering and I`m involved in yet another project with along with Csaba, a Rainbow/Purple thing with former Rainbow/Gary Moore bassist Craig Gruber.
It has been many years since your last Live album. Do you have any plans to release a nice big Double Live album (or maybe a DVD) showcasing tunes from your last five studio albums?
I have quite a bit of live footage from the last several years so a live solo dvd is certainly a possibility. I just have to sift thru it all and get it put together, so maybe that`ll be something that surfaces later this year. I also have a bunch of audio as well and plan on recording a bunch of my upcoming solo shows so that`d be quite easy assemble. You never know maybe both a DVD and live CD before this year ends.
For all the gearheads out there, give us a run down of your rig.
I`m a strat and Marshall guy, all my heroes have used them and to me that`s the ultimate combo. I have quite a few Marshalls, some early 70`s 50 watt non master volume Mark 2`s, an early 70`s 100 watt superlead with a Blackmore inspired mod courtesy of Voodoo Amps. A few later 70`s master volume 50 watters with the big logo like Michael Schenker used back in the early MSG days. One of my main early 70`s 50`s used to belong to Yngwie Malmsteen, I`ve had it for years now and I love it, I used that amp exclusively on Revenge Of the Shredlord, plus it`s got the Malmsteen mojo so you can`t beat that. I`ve been an ESP endorsee since the late 90`s, I`ve have a bunch of ESP custom shop strats all built to my specs (locking tuners, graphtech nut, scalloped fretboard, vintage style tremelo system, alder body, Dimarzio pickups, Dunlop jumbo frets) as well as some off the rack ESP strats that I`ve had heavily modded. Effects wise I `m fairly old school as well, I have a bunch of Boss stuff on the floor and have so for years (Boss NS-2 noise gate, flanger, phase shifter, octave box, digital delay, super chorus) an old Roland DC 10 analog delay, a Dunlop Cry baby wah, sometimes a Dunlop roto-vibe for some of the Jimi/Trower inspired vibe and I boost the front of my Marshalls with either an old grey DOD 250 overdrive, a DOD 308 YJM overdrive or a BSM RPA Major, (great Blackmore inspired treble boosters that I use for more Ritchie inspired retro hard rock tones).
Do you teach or do clinics?
I`m an Associate Professor at the esteemed Berklee College of Music and have been the shred/metal specialist there since 1993. In addition to that I have 7 instructional dvds out and a book to be released in the upcoming months. And yeah I`ve done countless clinics all over the world and continue to do so.
Do you have any exercises or tips to maintain your legendary speed?
While I have had various types of really regimented practice things in the past, these days I just pick up the guitar and just start going at it, wherever it takes I go with it. Usually I have all kinds of things in the works from intricate sections of possible new solo tunes to riffs and melodic ideas for the various bands I work with. As far as advice goes you don`t have to be a genius to know that the more you play and the more you dedicate yourself to it the faster you improve. There`s no substitute or short cut for ballbreaking hardwork. No matter how long you`ve been at it if it`s your life`s work the commitment to the instrument and your craft is continuous.
A bit of ancient history, tell us a bit about your start and the early days with Trash Broadway. I actually bought that tape shortly after it came out!
Good band, all great guys and excellent musicians, it was a great time to play metal and I have very found memories of that time period. The very first record I ever made, who knew that I`d go on to make so many more huh. The 25th anniversary of the record is this year so you never know maybe a possible string of Trash Broadway reunion shows. But it was a cool mix as you had some of the other guys with the more commercial 80`s type of hair metal vibe to their influences and myself coming from the more guitar driven European approach so for whatever reason it all worked well together.
I know you have many solo albums but you have been in a few bands over the years. Do you prefer working in a collaborative environment of a band or doing your own thing?
I like doing both and as a dedicated musician it`s always cool to put yourself in different situations to bring out different parts of your musical personality. A new situation that taps into another side of your playing brings new challenges and all those types of things help you to improve and grow. For example the Exorcism record was a bit different than the faster shred/power metal/european types of things I`m known for and also I didn`t compose anything on the record as well. But looking back it was a great record to make and while I`m still doing my thing on it, the recording shows many sides to my playing that some metal fans would find surprising.
What’s going on with Shooting Hemlock right now?
That record is very old, I recorded it back in the 90s and no longer have anything to do with whatever is going on with it currently.
What is Ravenlord doing these days?
The 2nd RavenLord record is in the works as we speak, since the Exorcism thing is really gaining quite a bit of traction Csaba and myself are more focused on that these days. However the next record should be finished within the upcoming months and out later this year and then back out with the fellas for some live damage.
How do you manage to juggle three bands and a solo career? Do you make a living doing music?
Somehow I manage just fine, luckily it seems like there`s never too much of a conflict in touring schedules. It`s certainly a good thing that I don`t have any hobbies or interests outside of music and guitar. I`ve got quite a few solo shows coming up in the states, then a G3 type of event in Mexico City in late May as well as some additional shows/clinics there, then over to Europe for some festivals with Exorcism in June so as usual my dance card`s quite full. I do make my living playing guitar and it let me tell you it beats the fuck out of working that`s for sure, none of that starving musician shit for me.
Do you have any inspiring words for all the young gunslingers out there?
As I always say if you truely love it and really dedicate yourself to it good things will happen and if you don`t then please don`t bother. The biz is tough enough and filled with all kinds of highs and lows and over time the thing that makes it all worthwhile is your love and dedication to it. If you don`t have that ‘then get out of the game and sit on the bench because those of us in it are all business and there`s no place for you. Do something else and make it your hobby, leave the heavy lifting to us professionals.