Friday, December 14, 2012

''GUITAR GODS: Randy Ellefson''

-- David Skinny Devil" McLean
originally published at Tinfoil Music
Date: Tuesday, March 22 2005 @ 02:25:56 GMT

Instrumental rock guitarist Randy Ellesfon has a flowing, almost lyrical style of playing that places song above chops. That said, Rand has plenty of chops for the die-hard shred fan! With a Bachelors of Music in classical guitar (Magna Cum Laude), a couple of tasty endorsement deals (Peavy & Alvarez), and a new CD, "The Firebard", Randy is on a mission to spread the Gospel of Guitar.

"The Firebard", which was released in late 2004 in Guitarosity Records, is a nod to Randy's bout with tendonitis, which took away his playing for 5 years. Ultimately, Randy conquored it and is currently in rehearsals with his new band for a series of performances.

He is also a prolific teacher, with monthly columns at Guitar-Guitar and guest columns at IBreatheMusic, Guitar-9, and other top guitar-centric sites.

Check out the review of "The Firebard" and be sure to visit his web-site for up-to-date information, mp3s, tabs, articles, videos, and other cool stuff!

I had a chance to speak with Randy recently. Check it out!


1) What are your current projects?

Playing live is the main thing. I just formed the band, since I did The Firebard by myself, and am getting the guys up to speed. Heavy rehearsals are scheduled in April/May and hopefully the first shows in June. In the last 6 weeks, I've gotten more new gear than in a decade, too, from a half-stack, effect pedals, a new acoustic guitar, and best of all, I'm building a new custom guitar similar to my others. I can't wait! It'll have my logo painted on it, too, and will be my main live guitar. I have a couple endorsement I'm pursuing partly to catch a break on gear expenses. I'm also recording tunes for the next album, writing more articles for websites, and designing another website all about tendonitis. And of course, doing promotion when I can.

2) How does this (do these) differ from your past work?

It's been 15 years since I was on a stage, so this is all new territory for me, from playing standing up to playing with other musicians, and all the new gear to create my sound. Being the front man will be interesting, I'm sure! I also need to play lead guitar most of the show, which doesn't leave much room for having a bad night! This has been way too long in coming, partly from tendonitis interfering with it, so I'm excited to finally play for people. As for the next album, the songs and approach are similar, and these are actually earlier songs, but I wanted to do more current stuff when I recorded The Firebard. The songs are a little more direct, I think, and some acoustic guitars will appear on this record, too. The plan is to have the drummer, at least, appear on the next record. He comes up with great textures.

3) Do you have one project that you are most proud of as a guitarist?

That's a tough one. I'll have to cite the more technical lead passages on The Firebard, mostly because it was a long time before I was good at writing such things, believe it or not. I find it much easier to write a melody, and since I don't jam with people much, I don't improvise fast stuff particularly well and don't have guitar licks, really. I have to write it out, and it ends up being a genuine passage instead of high-speed B.S. I'm not proud of it in the sense of "look how fast I can do arpeggios" but that the technical parts are smooth, melodic musical statements that fit the dramatic arc of the song.

4) Can you give our readers a run-down of your basic gear (live and/or studio)?

All three electric guitars are homemade, with ash bodies, maple necks and fingerboards, Floyd Rose tremolos, and Seymour Duncan Custom pickups, with 5150 strings and Dunlop purple picks. Live I'm using Peavey XXX Head and 412, Morley Bad Horsie 2 Wah, Boss TU-2, GE-7, CH-1, and NS-2. I haven't chosen a delay yet. For the album and when tracking, I used Bomb Factory's SansAmp PSA-1 and Waves effects for EQ, gating, reverb, and delay. My acoustics are both by Alvarez. I have a gear page with some pictures at my site. I'm videotaping the building of the new guitar, too, and will post that online once done.

5) Who would you cite as early influences, and who are your favorite new players?

I'm funny with influences because I learned very few songs by others before adopting my own style, so very few players affected the way I play. Very often it's the sense of style that influenced me, not the notes they chose. Randy Rhoads, old Metallica, Iron Maiden, Accept, and Coroner were the main bands whose songs I learned. I have always been a rhythm player first and have few direct influences to my lead playing. I always assumed I couldn't play a Randy Rhoads solo, for example, and so never learned them. By the time I could play like that, I had my own approach, though his phrasing is a big influence. This is one reason I don't have many guitar licks – I should've taken some from other people! Acoustically, Rik Emmett of Triumph and those little acoustic bits you find on 80s metal albums were my main influence. As for new players, Evergrey is pretty cool.

6) Can you give a few tips to aspiring players?

Learn to play musically. All the theory and chops in the world won't make you a great player if you don't have musical sense, an appreciation for the vibe or feel, or a sense of what's appropriate. Don't just play the notes, even for simple stuff. In fact, that's the best music to practice giving a shape and character to. Even the start of "More Than a Feeling", which many beginners learn, can be imbued with strong flow, an ebb and tide to the arpeggios. It's all about varying the strength of how the notes are struck. A great player can make this roll, and this musicality, once coming from you, will appear in everything you play.

7) What are your future plans?

Playing live, a new album, endorsements, another website, and more articles are all in the works. I'm off to a good start but am looking to push things to another level and am hoping for bigger things to happen. It takes time, though, and patience isn't really my strong suit!

8) Thanx for talking to us, Rand!

Thanks for the interview and support David!

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