Guitar licks that are as artful as they are technical, more than a few acclaimed albums, fans worldwide, a considerable amount of Rock God status, and it all began with a Pepsi commercial? Well, not exactly, but that is how guitar guru Vinnie Moore first came to the scene, and he's been creating, inventing and astounding us ever since. Recently he loaned out his flying fingers to pay tribute to another legend in the rock world, Rush. Magna Carta Records took on this endeavor in an album titled 'Subdivisions,' and Metal Update got a chance to chat with Moore about this album, the music scene and his upcoming projects. Check it out.
Interview with Vinnie Moore on 3/15/05.
Metal Update: Wow, it's great to talk to you. I want to thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.
Vinnie Moore: No problem.
MU: I know that you've answered this before, however for a different forum, so I'll ask you how you came to be involved in this project? Their style is quite different from yours, so one wouldn't immediately have thought of them as an influence upon you.
VM: I am friends with Pete Morticelli, the owner of Magna Carta Records and I talk to him pretty regularly. And when he was doing that record, he called to see if I'd be into doing it, and it pretty much came about like that. And actually, Rush was an influence on me early on when I was first learning guitar, you know, some of their earlier stuff. So, yeah, it seemed like a fun thing to do at the time and I had some time available that I could actually work on it, and it kind of happened like that.
MU: Yeah, I was a huge fan of early Rush as well. Tell me, did you pick your song, the "2112 Overture/Temples of Syrinx?" I was curious if that was your doing or if you were handed it and asked to do it specifically?
VM: Yeah, I played actually the rhythm guitars on the whole record and they wanted to have a bunch of solo guitarists so they basically just said pick the song that you want to do your solo in. So, I have no idea why I chose that particular song to solo in. Something must have inspired me about it at the time. I don't really know why I chose it. I guess it just seemed like a good place to solo.
MU: You toured with Rush, didn't you, on the 'Roll the Bones' tour?
VM: Yeah, I opened up for them on the Northeast leg of their tour.
MU: What kind of experience was that?
VM: It was really cool, definitely really cool. It was kind of nerve wracking, being an instrumental act opening for Rush in big places, you know arenas. But, you know it went really well. I had a blast. It was good to meet and hang out with those guys a little, and it was great.
MU: That's cool. I've never gotten to see Rush live, but I imagine that it's quite an ordeal!
VM: Yeah, they make a lot of sound for three guys, and the stage show was pretty elaborate.
MU: What about you? Yourself as a solo artist? Are you going to be returning to the studio anytime soon?
VM: I am actually recording in my studio downstairs, as we speak, down there recording and mixing a new song. I've been pretty busy with the UFO gig, out of town a lot, so I haven't had a whole lot of time to dedicate to my own solo stuff. But, I'm planning some windows of opportunity now, some open time, and I'm writing songs for my new record. I have about three finished, lots of ideas, so I'm hoping to finish the writing in the summer in maybe June or July and hopefully get a record out in the fall.
MU: That would be great! Do you do most of your recording in your own studio?
VM: Yeah, for the last couple of records, and the UFO record, I've actually done the guitars here, which is way better for me. I can just chill out and work at my own pace and not be worried about paying the studio everyday. It's just a lot more relaxed for me to work that way, and I like to work alone too. It's kind of better when there isn't anybody around to distract me. So, with the recording technology nowadays, it's so easy to do that, it's great.
MU: Yeah, I'm curious about what kind of set up you have? Like the traditional studio or with a PC and some of the newer software that's out there?
VM: Software, which is pretty much what everybody is doing now. Everybody is using ProTools, Innuendo, Q-Base, and I have an Innuendo base set up with a PC. And you know, for the UFO record I took the basic tracks, a rough mix of the drums, bass guitar, keyboards and brought them home on a disk and loaded it into my set up. And then I record my part, then I save to disk. Then I send the disk back to the studio and they just load the data into their set up, and there it is! I even emailed a couple of things. They wanted to work on this one song and I hadn't finished it yet, so the engineer called up and said you better get this one to us quick. Phil wants to sing on it. So I worked on it and then emailed the file, and he was like singing on it in Germany the next day.
MU: Wow, technology has really changed things. It's great, isn't it?
MU: Tell me, do you use a drum machine for yourself, when you're in the initial phases of writing?
VM: When I do a record, I'm using a real drummer. When I'm actually writing a song, I use a drum machine or some loops.
MU: I'm just curious, what kind of drum machine do you use?
VM: I used to use an Akai MPC60 for years. It was great, but I just updated to a software based drum machine which is really cool because you can just lay it all out on the computer and everything is right on bar.
MU: That sounds a bit easier than the old drum machines with the pads that you hit and program.
VM: Yeah, that's what I had, the MPC60 was a pad kind, which was cool. But now it's all software and you use a controller instead of the pad. You can actually buy pads that will work the software on the computer, or you can buy a keyboard to do it, to be the controller, whatever you want. But then once it's in the computer you can edit it, it lines up perfectly with the bars and beats and everything. It's cool.
MU: And, you use that to write and record at home, and when you go to the studio you take your data to them, they drop out the drums and a live drummer takes over? Is that how it works?
VM: What I did on the last two records, yeah, I brought it in totally finished. Well on the last record actually, 'Defying Gravity,' I brought the tracks into the studio minus the drum machine which had a click there instead, and Steve Smith played drums to like totally finished tracks, just the click track and all the guitars and stuff. Actually, he loved it, because he had a full, complete mix, you know. Normally when drummers record, they really don't have anything but like a scratch guitar or something. He had like the whole finished guitar version, played with it, and got to hear the whole thing while he was tracking.
MU: This is great info. I know there are a lot of people out there who will read this that play guitar or are trying to put together music, that will be very interested in the process. The fact that you can do it at home, and you don't have to spend thousands at a studio to make some music is good news to a lot of people!
VM: Not good news for the studios, though! (laughing)
MU: Well, you can blame technology then! I wanted to ask you what is it that drives you to do the guitar clinics. I know you do these around the world. Are you teaching, and is that what you're driven to do at this point?
VM: Well, I don't know if it's so much teaching. I mean, I hate teaching on a personal level, and I often have people ask me if I would give a lesson or something, and I'm just not into that at all. The clinics really, when I go out, I have songs for my records remixed without the main guitar, so I am performing. I'll do like seven tracks, playing along, and in between songs I'll answer questions. So sometimes it can be instructional, depending on what type of questions they ask, but sometimes they just ask things like "Who are your influences?" and " How much do you practice?" and "How can I go further in the music business?" and questions like that. So, I don't know, I don't know if it's quite a teaching... I guess it is because people are learning, but to me, I'm just performing again, it's almost like being on stage, other than I talk a little bit.
MU: Do people ever just bring their guitars and try to show you their stuff and get discovered? You know, trying to impress you?
VM: Usually they bring them just for me to sign, there's not a whole lot of playing. Now, I've done a couple of schools, and they always bring their guitars. But normally, when I do a clinic at a music store, which is where most of them are, people just show up to hear me play and ask questions.
MU: So when you're at the schools, are you seeing a lot of new talent out there?
VM: Yeah, definitely. There was a time period in the 90's where nobody wanted to play anymore, and it was really uncool. And it seems to be reverting back to where kids are thinking that it's cool to play again. You know, I don't know if that's wishful thinking to a certain extent, but it seems to be that way, and other people are saying the same thing. So I don't know, we'll see.
MU: I know that there was a time when guitar music was just not "in" and people were proclaiming that the guitar solo was dead, and that nobody plays lead anymore. There are a lot of people out there that enjoy your style of music, so I hope that the pendulum swings back in this direction. Now I wanted to ask you about your touring. When you do tour, it seems to be mostly on the coasts or overseas. When are you going to do a large US tour where you hit a lot of cities?
VM: Solo? I would like to. I would have to see what was happening at that particular time. But, yeah it would be great to get out and do a bunch of shows, it's been a while since I've done solo shows.
MU: Wasn't your Maze 1999 tour the last time you really hit the states?
VM: (Quiet for a moment while thinking) Yeah, yeah that was, wow, really that long ago? That's amazing! I've been out on the road so much with UFO that I forgot that it's been that long for my solo stuff!
MU: You've been overseas so much it seems! You have tons of fans domestically, but tell me, what differs between the scene overseas and here in the States?
VM: Man....I don't know. It's almost like if you're on stage and you didn't know where you were, you would just think you were in the US. The faces all look the same out there. Sometimes...we started off in Greece, we did 2 shows there, and they were pretty nuts. You can always tell the countries that don't get a lot of acts touring in their country, because they seem more excited because it's not something that they get to see all of the time. But for the most part, the rock fans all over the world are pretty similar. Sometimes though, it's more like the late 80's over there, so there's a different vibe in that sense, but you know, when you're on stage, they seem to respond the same all over the world.
MU: I'm also curious, who are you currently listening to?
VM: What have I been listening to? I'm trying to remember what is in my CD player right now. I know there's a bunch of stuff, oh, what's the guy's name? Oh, the Robert Randolph band, it's really cool. I think the record is called 'Unclassified,' that's really cool soulful stuff. Um...I listen to stuff that's all over the place. I might put on a James Brown CD, something funky, or I might put on Robert Randolph or U2. I'm stylistically pretty open-minded.
MU: Okay, then is there anything that you listen to that might surprise your fans?
VM: Let's see, probably the Crystal Method.
MU: Yeah, I guess that would surprise people! Okay, then tell me if there is anybody out there that you'd love to work with, or a dream project that you've yet to do?
VM: Man, let's see. There are lots of players that I would love to play with, but there's not just one that I'm head over heels that I'd love to work with that person over another. Man, I don't really know. I'd love to work with Britney Spears (mutual laughing).
MU: Yeah, I'm guessing that's not particularly a music project!
VM: I'm just joking! Really, it'd be great to do a project with Flea on bass.
MU: Okay, are you serious now?
VM: Absolutely! Flea's a funky badass bassist. I mean, it would kind of be boring to work with someone who is in a similar style musically to what I do. It would just be too much of the same. It would be great to have like four guys that come from different places, actually.
MU: Wow, this has been great! I have had a great time, but I don't want to take up too much of your time. I know you have other things lined up for the day. I wanted to thank you for taking time out to chat with me! Best of luck in all you do, and we will all be waiting for that new album in the fall!
VM: All right, great! That sounds good! Thank you! I appreciate it.
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