We are largely the sum of our influences, and while it’s not just guitarists that have formed the way I approach playing the guitar, I thought it might be fun to list out the top 5 axe-slingers who’ve helped me formulate my own style, and also admit where I’ve nicked techniques and ideas. See if you can spot the following next time you see me play!
1. Jimi Hendrix
I taught myself to play guitar as a young man largely by playing along to records, and Hendrix was one of the people subjected to my accompaniment. I also credit watching a Hendrix live video with my dad as being the catalyst for picking up the guitar in the first place, so it’s only fair Jimi gets the top slot.
Hendrix was a born artist, and a technical visionary in a lot of ways in his work with engineer Eddie Kramer, and pioneered a lot of guitar and production effects we take for granted today. He also looked very cool.
What I stole: Hooking my thumb over the top of the fretboard, loads of legato, creative use of feedback
What I didn’t: Drug use, afro, dying young
2. Peter Frampton
Probably most famous for his 1975 live album “Frampton Comes Alive!”, Peter Frampton is a British guitarist who spent quite some time in the band Humble Pie before striking out on his own. Also highly regarded as a songwriter, he epitomises the 1970s ‘guitar hero’, but without the overblown excess of someone like Jimmy Page.
“Frampton Comes Alive!” is characterised by restrained, tasteful lead guitar work that’s so beautifully arranged, you barely notice that the song you’re listening to has 3 guitar solos in it.
What I stole: Melodic, slow-paced soloing, echoing vocal lines in solo parts
What I didn’t: Fashions, having 3 humbuckers in a Les Paul
3. Eddie Van Halen
I suspect people think EVH has influenced me a lot more than he probably has, but there’s no doubt he’s my ‘go-to’ guitarist when I need inspiration. Another innovator in the world of rock guitar (being instrumental in the development of the Floyd Rose locking tremolo, his own D-Tuner device, and lots of other whacky bits and bobs) and the first to really punish his amplification and get a sweet guitar tone in the process that people have been trying to replicate ever since – the “Brown Sound”.
I’ve owned quite a few EVH designed guitars over the years and they’re always superbly playable and free of clutter. He also inspired me to start building and modifying my own guitars, which is very rewarding. As a player, he’s fast, fun, extravagant and a great showman.
What I stole: Whammy bar abuse, tapping, showing off
What I didn’t: Alcoholism, employing my teenaged son as bass player in my band
4. Mick Mars
Yes, Mick Mars the guitarist from Motley Crue. I won’t lie – I spent some teenaged years as a bit of a glam rocker, but in my defence it was a pretty terrible time for music generally. However, the rock scene did have it’s fair share of guitar virtuosos – George Lynch, Paul Gilbert etc. None of them seemed to riff as hard or be as cool as Mick Mars though. He looked about 80 years old, had a deathly pallor and never moved on stage (later I found out about his crippling spinal condition which was the cause of this) – but he has a mastery of playing just enough and no more.
I imagine he’s probably under the radar for a lot of guitar hero worshippers, but he’ll always be in my Top 5 as long as he’s cranking out heavy, melodic riffage.
What I stole: Power chords, hammer-ons, pinch harmonics
What I didn’t: Alcoholism, ankylosing spondylitis
5. Barry Galvin
You probably haven’t heard of Barry Galvin (or Bari Bari has he was known back in the day). He was the guitarist, co-songwriter and arranger of arguably Christian Death’s best album “Atrocities”, and along with bassist Johann Schumann gave that album a haunting, otherworldy feel that’s quite unique. He went on – with Schumann – to form Mephisto Walz, where his distinctive delay and chorus-drenched guitar lines are also very evident.
The intelligent use of guitar effects is as much a skill as playing notes on the fretboard, in my opinion, and if you hear Galvin’s guitar playing next to some of mine (especially my work in Berlin Black) you’ll definitely see similarities.
What I stole: Use of delay, washes of chorus and single-note lead lines
What I didn’t: Silly pseudonym, lack of Wikipedia entry
So there you have it – there are loads more, and probably as many guitarists that I actively seek not to emulate (that’s probably another blog post). Any guitarists reading this – who are your influences, and why?