Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Gretchen Menn: after learning to fly

Gretchen Menn - Wings: Photo by Purebred Photo

Gretchen Menn: after learning to fly

 The real Gretchen Menn, after the show, loading the gear. Photo by Diana Cordero

I was fortunate enough to catch up with Gretchen Menn in San Francisco at the benefit gig for Jason Becker at Slims night club back in March 2011. I was in San Francisco for just a few days just for the show and I was really enjoying the American experience. We had just arrived at the venue in the early afternoon. The place was a hive of activity with people setting up the show. The venue is filled with top guitar players, all here to celebrate the genius that is Jason Becker. I’m super hyped, everywhere you turn there are number one guitar players, Greg Howe, Richie Kotzen, Steve Lukather to name but a few... I can see Mike Varney out of the corner of my eye... my heart is racing... here I am 5291 miles from home and feeling like a very happy fish out of water! In the darkness of the hall, I can see a diminutive, stunning, redhead. She is standing quietly whilst all around the noise and mayhem of preparations for the Jason Becker gig continues apace...

I’m saying to myself... hey that’s Gretchen Menn, yes that’s Gretchen Menn!! I walk forward and ask as politely as I can... “Hi, Gretchen? it’s Laurie Monk from Truth In Shredding”. Fortunately for me it seems that Gretchen has heard of the Truth In Shredding blog and I'm not met with a negative response. Gretchen thanks me for the support I have given to her and we have a short talk and I get some pictures, but the meeting is all too brief, but I vow to myself that when I get back I will organise an interview with this talented player.

"Valentino's Victory Lap" by Gretchen Menn itunes

[Laurie Monk] I’m  always a little nervous of breaking into conversation with people who I know from my blog but who may not know me at all... so I apologise in advance if you were a little surprised by my interjection... I have to say It was a really nice surprise to know that you had heard of the blog. I was really hoping to see you play at the show. What did you make of the event?

[Gretchen Menn] It was a profoundly beautiful evening—absolutely amazing to have been in a room with so many talented musicians, and all there to support Jason Becker, one of the most inspiring human beings on the planet. And it was lovely to meet you! I was, indeed, familiar with Truth in Shredding, and glad you said hello.

[Laurie Monk] As I mentioned really wanted to line up an interview with you but getting the time for these things is always tough, so I appreciate you taking the time out to answer a few questions.

[Gretchen Menn] My pleasure. Finishing up my album has made the last couple of months especially hectic, but I always love to talk music.

[Laurie Monk] Your father, Don Menn, is a well-known stalwart of the guitar industry, he was an editor of the number one guitar magazine, Guitar Player. Were you aware of this fact when you were just a little girl, was you childhood an environment steeped in guitar?
Gretchen Menn catches up on a little Guitar Player article. Photo by Bryan Perido
[Gretchen Menn] Not at all, actually. Music was never forced on me. It was available once I expressed interest, but for most of my childhood, I just thought of my dad as a writer. I think I had a vague sense that the magazine where he worked had something to do with guitars or music, but I didn't take much notice in what he did until after my interest developed on its own.

[Laurie Monk] I have a daughter of my own and I often wonder what she makes of my passion for guitar, particularly that I’m playing guitar music all the time. So I’m really interested to know if Don’s musical influences impacted you at all or did you think “I wish dad would turn that music off?!”

[Gretchen Menn] I remember my dad listening to Bob Dylan and Beethoven. Maybe he was getting his fill of guitar albums at work! Both my parents loved music, and played everything from reggae to opera. My mom often took my sister and me to the ballet, opera, and musicals, so she contributed to the love for music and early experiences of it. Your daughter is a lucky girl to be introduced to music by someone so passionate about it!

[Laurie Monk] Thanks... I'll remind her of that fact, when she asks me to turn it off... Are there any favourite albums that you can thank your dad for playing?

[Gretchen Menn] A lot of Bob Dylan records. Not exactly “guitar albums” but great songwriting, and lyrics in a class by themselves.

[Laurie Monk] That is a good place to be, after all songs underpin the popularity of all guitar players. I know you’ve been playing for a long while and you have a lot of live experience, but how did you start playing guitar?

[Gretchen Menn]
I had fallen in love with the guitar in high school, but didn’t really take it up until my first year of college, actually! Smith College had a very classically-focused music department, so electric guitar was not taught or academically acknowledged. I did have my first electric guitar with me in my dorm room, my blue "Music Man Silhouette" and started applying to it the theory I was learning in the classroom. A few months into my first year, I started hearing about Phillip de Fremery, the classical guitar teacher for all of the colleges in the area. He had been a student of Andres Segovia, and was reputed to be phenomenal, not just as a musician, but also as a teacher. I had heard that he was so methodical and detail-oriented that all of his students had perfect technique. I loved classical music and thought, "Yeah, sign me up for perfect technique!" I studied with Phil during the rest of my time in college, and even still make occasional pilgrimages back to the east coast to study with him. He is, indeed, absolutely phenomenal, and I owe a tremendous amount to him—he taught me the patience, focus, and attention to detail that I call upon every day.

[Laurie Monk] I feel It is important to have a someone who inspires you and it seems that Phillip de Fremery has played that role. As you say, you started out your professional journey by studying classical guitar at Smith College. My examination of the guitar world I perceive there to be significantly more female classical players than there are rock players, were you planning on becoming a classical concert guitarist?

Gretchen Menn, Featured Artist

[Gretchen Menn] No, I never intended to become a classical guitarist. I loved studying with Phil, and really appreciate the discipline, the technique, and compositions in the repertoire, but I could never commit to one genre. Becoming a classical concert guitarist would have meant complete commitment to the path.

[Laurie Monk] That's an interesting insight and might explain why you changed course. I notice that once you had graduated you went straight on to train as a commercial pilot, I guess like Steve Morse and Bruce Dickinson have also done. What made you decide become a pilot, it’s not an easy thing to do, lots of effort and difficult calculations?

[Gretchen Menn] As graduation approached, I started thinking about what was to be my next step. I graduated a year early with a degree in music, so I had been studying classical guitar for a little less than three years. I noticed so many musicians who seemed disenchanted, jaded, or bitter, and I never wanted to become that way. I was, and am, so grateful to have a passion--not everyone does--and the last thing I wanted was for my love of music to become tainted by the necessity of paying rent. I decided that I would do music on my own terms, follow my muses instead of the pay cheques, and find financial stability elsewhere.

I had taken a few flight lessons capriciously while I was in college, loved being in the air, but flying was much too expensive for a hobby. Yet, my reasoning was that if I had graduated early, thereby saving a year’s worth of tuition cost, pursuing flying as a career was more justifiable. Not only would it eventually pay me back for my initial investment in training, it would provide a great counterpart to music—something that was fun, challenging, allowed for a flexible schedule, and worked other parts of my brain, thereby leaving me eager to pick up my guitar at the end of my day, as opposed to draining me of my will to live, much less practice!

I found flight training fun and the material straight-forward, if dense at times. Memorizing an airplane’s electrical system or understanding how the shape of a wing contributes to the production of lift require memorization and an understanding of basic scientific concepts. And having just come out of college, I was used to processing new information. Keep in mind that in college, you are asked write papers on topics like, “Analyze how Nietzche’s concepts of the Apollonian and Dionysian are manifested in Death in Venice by Thomas Mann,” so flying a plane—and the associated study—felt like just another fun and interesting thing to do.

[Laurie Monk] [Laughs...] good point! Now that you are back into the band and guitar scene you’ll just need to make it big so you can fly yourself to gigs like Bruce Dickinson does for Iron Maiden. What made you think, I guess like Steve Morse did... you know flying is great but I want to play guitar again?

Gretchen Menn - Music Man Silhouette: Photo by Max Crace
[Gretchen Menn] Ha! Yes, indeed. I’d love to own a plane if I ever make the kind of money that will support having one.

I hadn’t intended to go to the airlines, but when I was offered a job flying a regional jet, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. The plane was gorgeous, but airline flying is, out of necessity, very routine. I felt unchallenged, and left after a year. I had what many would have considered a dream job, and I owed it to myself and to the person whose dream I was occupying to go where my heart was, and that was music.

[Laurie Monk] Great to see you have a real motivational drive... and make tough decision too, that can be so difficult for people.  I know you’re a guitar player first and foremost now, but do you sing as well? Could we be seeing you following the model of singer songwriter at some point, something rather like Orianthi has done successfully quite recently, or do you see yourself solely as a lead guitar player?

[Gretchen Menn] I see myself as a musician and composer and eternal student. Guitar is my beloved instrument, and that is where my focus is now. I wish I could sing, but I would rather work to really get this guitar thing down as best I can. And having a sister trained in opera may have contributed to my decision to shut up and play my guitar.

[Laurie Monk] You have really got a name for yourself as a lead guitar player particularly from your work with the all girl Led Zeppelin tribute band Zepparella. I always think it must be a lot of fun being in an all girl band a lot of camaraderie. The market has a lot of female cover bands too with bands like the Iron Maidens and Misstallica just as examples. In your opinion are these all girl bands a result of the difficulty of women being accepted in the rock community or are they a positive response to the demand for female musicians by females and males alike?

[Gretchen Menn] I think the prevalence of girl tribute bands may be as simple as marketability. What would make an Iron Maiden tribute even more enticing to the Iron Maiden demographic? Try having hot girls playing it.

I've played in co-ed bands, bands with all girls, and bands where I’m the only girl. The camaraderie, in my experience, is more of a function of personality types, not gender.

I've never felt difficulty being accepted in the rock community because of gender. I think vestiges of discrimination and bigotry can be found all over the place, but, for the most part, the serious musicians I know care more about musical commitment, discipline, preparedness, attitude, and professionalism.

Led Zeppelin When The Levee Breaks by Zepparella

[Laurie Monk] A part of  Truth In Shredding's role is helping unknown talent to get noticed, and I have been noticing a steady trend in the appearance of female guitar players on the rock scene. I’ve certainly seen some girls with great guitar chops over the past two years. Players like Desiree Basset, Courtney Cox, Juliette Valduriez and Nili Brosh who is working with Tony MacAlpine and of course yourself. Is this a trend you have noticed, too?

[Gretchen Menn] I think it is pretty easy for creative types to get steeped in what they are doing, so I am often out of the loop about other musicians. It is so awesome that you find and give visibility new talent, Laurie! My feeling is the more the guitar is being played and celebrated, the better. Women rock guitarists have been the minority, but if you consider that rock music hasn’t even been around that long, and that gender roles and divisions have shifted and blurred significantly in the last generation or two, it all makes sense. What was once discouraged is now acceptable, and I think there are enough girls killing it on guitar to thwart any ridiculous, residual notion that girls lack the “guitar gene” or have any inherent disadvantage. But it takes awhile for people to become accustomed to new paradigms, and the more girls pick up the instrument, the more it becomes the norm, and the less it will be regarded as a novelty. It will soon seem as arcane as gasping over a female doctor. I’ll be excited when gender doesn't come up any more.

Gretchen captured in Jimmy Page famous bowing guitar moment
 Photo: Matthew McSheehy
[Laurie Monk] All too true... Who are your favourite female players and are there any undiscovered female players I should know about? Plus who are your favourite male guitar players.

[Gretchen Menn] A guitar player is a guitar player, and I don’t categorize them by gender any more so than I would by race, height, age, or hair colour. Some of my favourite guitar players are: Jeff Beck, Steve Morse, Eric Johnson, Frank Zappa, Eddie Van Halen, Django Reinhardt, Jennifer Batten, Jude Gold, John McLaughlin, Adrian Belew, Paul Gilbert, Andrès Segovia, Jason Becker, and too many others to mention. I was recently introduced to the music of Lyle Workman, which blew me away. Andy Alt at GuitarTV turned me onto a great new talent: Yasi Hofer. She rips it up! I think you’ll be hearing about her before too long.

[Laurie Monk] Yes, Yasi is great, I have featured Yasi Hofer on Truth In Shredding, I really like her playing a lot, it has got lots of fusion qualities. Guitar playing is a tough world to get in to. Do you have any advice for young girls who would like to become recognised in the rock guitar scene?

[Gretchen Menn] I think an important thing for any artist is to determine goals, and then align the daily path with the aim point. A musician can get recognized for any variety of reasons, some of which are more musical than others: technical ability, artistic innovation, great songwriting and composition, or even simply sex appeal. The key is for artists to determine what drives them to do art and what they hope to achieve with and communicate through their expression. For someone wanting blistering speed, it will mean hours every day with a metronome; for someone focused on composition, it will mean honing writing chops, and finding fluency as a composer; for someone wanting visibility for sex appeal, it will mean taking great care of your body and paying close attention to image.

[Laurie Monk] I think you are right, it is often a mix of things, but for the most part, you still need to be a great recognisable guitar talent, like yourself, for example. Talking of talent,  I see from your resume that you also worked with the talented Jude Gold the Director of GIT in California in your acoustic duo Lapdance Armageddon. I recall seeing Jude at the Jason Becker show, a really talented player and working with some big names too. So how did your partnership in Lapdance Armageddon come about?

[Gretchen Menn] Jude and I met when we played a show together. We knew a lot of the same people, but had never met. We instantly started geeking out backstage, as guitarists often do, finding we had a lot of the same favorite guitar players. We became instant friends, and started jamming together. We had talked about forming a project, and it officially launched when I was offered a show to open for Adrian Belew. The catch was that they needed either a solo or duo acoustic act. My trio at the time, Sticks and Stones, was by no means an acoustic band, so I approached Jude and said, "Hey, do you think we can be ready in 2 ½ weeks to open for Adrian Belew on acoustic guitars?" He said, "Let's do it!" It was incredibly intimidating, but it went over so well, and we had such a good time that we decided to continue with the project. Jude is one of my favorite guitarists, and getting to work with him is such a fantastic challenge.

[Laurie Monk] I really liked the work on Lapdance Armageddon  and this is a great example of you two guys working together on the Spanish tinged "Tri-Tip"

"Tri-Tip" by Lapdance Armageddon

[Laurie Monk] I know this might seem sad, but I've been looking at your picking technique in your videos. It is not the classic closed fist grip of many rock guitar players, rather you hold the pick out a little and you hold your pinky straight.  How did that picking technique come about?

[Gretchen Menn] I have tried different picking techniques, and settled on the one I use for various reasons. The simplest answer is that it has always felt natural. The expended pinky helps with muting higher strings, especially in some of the string skips and types of lines I tend to play. It also allows for easy and quick volume and tone adjustments and pickup changes. Any Steve Morse fan can usually take one glance at my right hand and recognize one of my biggest influences. I had the opportunity to talk to Steve extensively about it, as I had a picking identity crisis a number of years ago. He was kind enough to discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of that style of picking. I thought a lot about his thoughts and advice, went back and forth for a number of months, and eventually settled on picking the way I do now.

Zepparella, Communication Breakdown, May 2010

[Laurie Monk] Yes Steve Morse has great technique and a noted classical approach to guitar, as you say.

Having seen many of your performances with Zepperalla and listened to your new album, you strike me as a player that likes to continually grow, rather than just being happy as a straight-forward rock player. In my observation of the scene I've noted that the better players who seem to grow from album to album are the one's who progress, adding the things they've learned  and jettisoning the things that don't work. Would that be a correct assumption?

[Gretchen Menn] Good point. I'd tend to agree. It seems the players I most enjoy are always learning and evolving. And, thank you—I sure hope to continually grow! I am a student and disciple of the instrument, and will work for the rest of my life to evolve and refine and develop. I love so many different styles of music, and could never be a straight-forward player in any genre without feeling artistically amputated. My goal is musical fluency, a lifelong endeavor, I realize. But that is the beauty of music—it’s endless!

[Laurie Monk] I 120% agree with that statement.  All around the world, I meet or hear players and there is one thing in common, this global language of music, musical communication without boarders.

 Gretchen Menn with classic Les Paul: Photo by Max Crace
Moving on to your gear can you tell us a bit about your Guitars, what you like about them, what you use for live and studio:

Music Man Silhouette and Silhouette Specials
Santa Cruz Guitar Company OM model
Gibson Les Paul Standard and Special Edition Standard
Kenny Hill Ruck model classical guitar

[Gretchen Menn] My first guitar was my "Music Man Silhouette", and Music Man continues to make my favorite electric guitars. They are so solid. They stay in tune amazingly well. Their fit-and-finish is immaculate. They have the best-feeling necks of any electric guitar I’ve ever played. I like that they are clean and classic-looking, as I’m not partial to ornate inlays and really flashy tops. Plus, their truss rod system is simply brilliant. My Silhouette and Silhouette Specials are pretty much the only electric guitars on my new album.

My custom OM model from SCGC is a work of art—from the beautiful, warm yet articulate sound, to the gorgeous red finish, to the neck they meticulously carved for my hands and playing style. I just had them install the new DiMarzio Angel pickup in it, and am loving it. My SCGC is the guitar I used on the tracks, “Fast Crowd,” and for one of the guitar parts of the guitar quartet, “Is It Not Strange,” on my album.

Les Pauls are classics, both in their look and sound. And there is no other guitar you could really use for a Zeppelin tribute. Yes, yes, I know Jimmy used a Telecaster at the beginning, but we all know what instrument is most associated with him.

My Kenny Hill Ruck model is my classical guitar, and it is all over the new album—on “Déjà Vu,” “Struck Sleepless,” “Fading,” and it is featured largely on “Is It Not Strange.” The engineer for my record, Robert Preston, and I often shook our heads when we recorded with it. It has such great tone.
Gretchen Menn with another DiMarzio powered Les Paul Credit: Larry DiMarzio 
[Laurie Monk] In terms of your pick ups, I know you are a DiMarzio endorser.

Pickups, cables, straps: DiMarzio
Blue Silhouette and Silhouette Special: Stock single coils in neck and middle position, Fast Track 2 in bridge position
White Silhouette Special: Stock single coils
Les Pauls: 36th anniversary PAF
SCGC with Angel Acoustic pickup

I know they make amazing pickups and they have a great team behind them, particularly when it comes to artist support. DiMarzio have such a great range of pickups, how did you go about picking the ones that best suit your sound, have you worked with Steve Blucher for example?

[Gretchen Menn]
I was using DiMarzio pickups for years before I started working with the company directly. They are fantastic, indeed—both for quality of products as well artist support. I love their pickups for flexibility and tonal quality. The combination of single coils and Fast Track 2 in two of my Silhouettes, for example, allows for a huge spectrum of tonal possibilities—from celestially clean and warm to huge and screaming. I have also been really enjoying the new Angel acoustic pickup, which I recently had installed in my Santa Cruz Guitar Company OM model. I have worked with both Steve Blucher and Larry DiMarzio, and both are brilliant, exceptionally cool guys.

Gretchen Menn Santa Cruz OM: Photo by Bryan Perido

[Laurie Monk] I can vouch for that, DiMarzio have been very supportive to the guitar players I work with and they have also backed Truth In Shredding's own "Shred This" competition.

In terms of Amps you use Engl Special Edition E 670 EL 34 and 1977 Marshall JMP. Do you have a different set up for studio and live, plus what pedals do you gravitate towards to shape your sound?

[Gretchen Menn] The Engl is the main sound for all but the clean tones on my album. The clean tones, such as on tracks like “Is It Not Strange” and “Fading” were my vintage Fender Deluxe Reverb. For pedals, I have been loving a few pedals I recently got from Godlyke: the Maxon FL9 Flanger and Pure Analogue Chorus as well as the Providence Chrono Delay. I’ve also really been enjoying the Source Audio Envelope Filter. Xotic Effects makes a fantastic AC Booster which I use all the time. In Zepparella, my 1977 Marshall JMP is my main amp, and my pedal board includes a vintage Crybaby Wah Wah, a vintage MXR Phase 90 (script logo, for the MXR pedal geeks), my Xotic Effects AC Booster, a Line 6 DL-4 Delay, and a Boss TU-2 tuner.

Gretchen Menn white Silhouette: Photo by Bryan Perido
[Laurie Monk] That's a lot of detail on the gear, and I know how it consumes people. Do you suffer from the common guitarists disease... GAS... Gear Acquisition Syndrome?

[Gretchen Menn] Thankfully, I seem to have immunity to that expensive disease! Associated cost and clutter aside, I’ve never been a collector. I try to acquire carefully, only exactly the instruments or gear I really want, and then try to use them to the best of my ability.

[Laurie Monk] It’s a prerequisite these days for musicians to have their YouTube, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter channels. I know that some players neglect this aspect of building a fan base, which overall can affect their ability to build a business, hoping that their guitar talent alone will carry them through. You have a good web footprint in terms of media exposure, you recently had an interview with the amazing Jas Obrecht (my idol) and a photo shoot by Larry DiMarzio for example. Do see social media, an area that interests you, do you see this as an area that you are keen to exploit?

[Gretchen Menn] Anything that takes me away from playing, creating, writing, recording, or practicing music can feel overwhelming at times. The one thing I love about social media, though, is its ability to connect people. It’s really wonderful to get to have contact with supporters and other musicians from all over the world.

[Laurie Monk] I can see that it is a two edged sword, but as you say, used in the right way can bring new fans without disrupting your musical creativity.  Apart from regular guitar practice, is there anything you can recommend struggling guitar players who get stuck in a rut? Have you ever felt stuck in a place with your playing that you thought... "Man I've had enough... I quit!!"?

[Gretchen Menn] I have never once had that thought, and have fortunately never felt stuck in a rut. There is so much to learn! Waning motivation or frustration probably means you are ready for a new challenge, so seek one out. Take a lesson. Buy an album of a guitar player you’ve heard is awesome, and get new inspiration. Go to a show and study someone else’s playing. Change your perspective. Open your ears to something new.

[Laurie Monk] That's a really good tip, I know a friend of mine just tunes to different music channels and jams over the tunes played, for example. As you might have guessed, I've got a pretty extensive collection of CD’s, but I could always do with a few more... I know you must have listened to many albums, I guess not all guitar, but what do you think are the key albums, albums you would recommend people to listen to, albums that made a difference to you and could probably make a difference to them... and maybe I’ll just add them to my shopping list.

[Gretchen Menn] I will limit myself, lest I bankrupt you! I’ll give you ten that have been formative for me. Many of these are no-brainers for any guitar player. In no order whatsoever, allowing myself only one album per artist, and with huge apologies to the gods of guitar, that they may not strike me with carpal tunnel for leaving off some of the greatest guitarists and albums off all time….

1. Ah Via Musicom, Eric Johnson
2. High Tension Wires, Steve Morse
3. Quintet of the Hot Club of France, Django Reinhardt (with Stephane Grappelli)
4. Symphony no. 3, Ludwig Van Beethoven
5. Joe’s Garage, Frank Zappa
6. Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop, Jeff Beck
7. Le Nozze di Figaro, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
8. Le Sacre du Printemps, Igor Stravinsky
9. Van Halen I, Van Halen
10. Friday Night in San Francisco, John McLaughlin, Al Di Melola, Paco De Lucia.

[Laurie Monk] LOL... thank god I have some of those!... so thanks for not bankrupting me too much with your selections! Some really great choices too, top notch players and great music in different musical genres!

Moving on to your current projects you have released a number of excellent videos from your new Hale Souls CD. The band you had for the CD was pretty immense, featuring Stu Hamm on bass and John Mader on drums.

"Oleo Strut" by Gretchen Menn itunes

[Laurie Monk] Great to see players like Stu Hamm playing your music and these videos are really top notch, you must have had a great video crew and I recognised some shots from around San Francisco too from my all too brief visit. It really made me want to hear the rest of the new material. So I'm glad I got your new CD and gave it an in depth spin. In terms of recording can we talk a little more about your writing and studio work. First up do you have a fixed process for writing new material?

[Gretchen Menn] Thank you so much! Glad you enjoyed the videos. I must credit the amazing director, Eric Shamlin. He was the main creative force behind both. Kirsten Laursen, the producer, put all the moving parts together, and made it all happen. Jason Mitchell and Stacey Ransom at Purebred Productions were the DP and set designer, respectively, for "Valentino’s Victory Lap." Bryan Perido was the DP for "Oleo Strut," which, as you noticed, was filmed in San Francisco. The shots with John and Stu were in the actual studio in which the record was recorded, Get Reel Productions.

In terms of writing, I don’t have a set process. I have given myself composition "assignments", had songs develop out of improvisations, and even melodies that seem to appear out of thin air, or in dreams. Whatever the origin of the inspiration, though, I just work with musical ideas until the piece feels completed. Some pieces come together very quickly, while others develop more slowly.

[Laurie Monk] That's interesting getting inspiration  from dreams, I've heard that before. How do you decide what you come up with the solos for your compositions, are they planned or improvised?

[Gretchen Menn] This album is more compositional, though there are moments of spontaneity as well.


[Laurie Monk] Can you talk a bit about the guest players on the new CD?

[Gretchen Menn] I am so excited to have such talented musicians featured on my album! John Mader played drums; Stu Hamm played bass on all but "Scrap Metal"; Angeline Saris  is the guest bassist on "Scrap Metal"; Emily Palen is the violinist on the piece in three parts—"Walking Shadow", "Struck Sleepless", and "Fading"; Jude Gold is the other acoustic guitar on "Fast Crowd"; my sister, Kirsten Menn, is the soprano on "Fading".

[Laurie Monk] I seem to recall Angeline Saris playing bass at the Jason Becker benefit too. I know Stu Hamm will be playing in Amsterdam for the Jason Becker fest as well. Jude Gold also is set to appear with Stu Hamm, Jeff Berlin, Billy Sheehan and John Mader for the BX3 show in Holland later this year... but I digress.

So let’s discuss your new album in more detail. I was really struck by the breadth of musical composition you have on this album, moving from straight ahead rock "Oleo Strut", to more progressive guitar work, to refined classical music, like the moving violin piece "Walking Shadow" featuring Emily Palen and the choral vocals of the track "Fading". Overall, I’m really very impressed indeed. You are to be congratulated!

How long did it take to write these pieces, are they tracks that you wrote specifically for the release or you have been working on for a number of years?

[Gretchen Menn]
Wow! Well, thank you so much! I really appreciate the kind words, and am so happy to hear you enjoyed the music. The amount of time I spent composing tunes varies greatly. "Struck Sleepless" is in its second incarnation, for example. It was a tune I wrote while in Sticks and Stones, an instrumental trio, a few years ago. I had always envisioned it more orchestrated, more layered, and longed for violin. When I met Emily Palen and started conceptualizing this solo record, I realized I really wanted to see this piece come to fruition in the way it was in my head. Other tunes, like "Fading" and "Walking Shadow", were composed more recently and quite quickly—in a matter of days. While I came up with some of the melodic ideas of  "Is It Not Strange" a couple of years ago, the piece was largely composed and arranged much more recently. I think I am just getting more accustomed to composing, and the writing process feels more fluid the more I write.

Gretchen Menn in composition Photo by Bryan Perido
[Laurie Monk] That is much more quickly than  I had imagined, particularly with the depth of  the more classical pieces. I know this will be a tough one to answer, but which track or tracks are you particularly proud of?

[Gretchen Menn]
That is, indeed, a tough question. They all mean different things to me, so I can’t really single any of them out. "Fading" was cool because it was almost effortless to write. I remember working through it in my head—visualizing it—and suddenly hearing a soprano, even though I never considered having vocal on my album. Then I recognized the voice as that of my sister, Kirsten Menn. She is a doctor at Yale, but is also trained in opera—yes, one of those annoyingly brilliant and multi-talented people. I asked her if she would be willing to do the track, and I was ecstatic that she was. "Is It Not Strange" was also fun—it is a quartet for two classical guitars, one electric, and one steel string. I played all four guitar parts, and it was a challenge to try to create the feel of a live quartet while clearly not being that. I was also really hoping the arrangement and orchestration was going to work out—I wrote it as if it were a string quartet, which it is, just not in the traditional sense. I thought of the electric guitar as first violin, one of the classical guitars as second violin, the other classical guitar as viola, and the steel string (in drop-D tuning) as cello. It was definitely the biggest experiment on the album, and the road-test was just recording it and hearing how it sounded. The end result is like nothing I’ve written before, and it’s great to surprise yourself when exploring new creative territory.

[Laurie Monk] Wow, that is interesting to hear about Kirsten, obviously you are a very  talented family! This is a really great album and I really liked the video supported rock tracks "Oleo Strut" and “Valentino’s Victory Lap” a lot, but for me the stand out cuts are the very sophisticated “Is It Not Strange” and the Excellent “Fading”, they really are a cut above the average... Album one just finished and I’m already thinking about the second album! What is next for Gretchen Menn, I guess there are tour plans, do you have any plans to tour Europe as well?

[Gretchen Menn] Ha! Well, you mention the two tracks I just talked about. I think those two tracks, along with the solo violin piece “Walking Shadow” will be the biggest surprises to anyone only familiar with “Valentino’s Victory Lap” or “Oleo Strut”—they are at opposite extremes of the spectrum of the album. I’m already thinking about the next album, too. In fact, the day I finished mixing, I came home and immediately started writing something new. Go figure. I’m the daughter of a writer, and three of my four grandparents were writers, so writing is in my blood—I just happen to write in a more abstract language. Shows with my solo project are scheduled to start in November, and I’m hoping to get anywhere that wants me. I’d love to tour in Europe and beyond!

[Laurie Monk] Hey... there you go... what did I say?... a talented family. Well I hope to catch you playing live some time soon. Thanks so much again for taking the time to be part of this interview.

[Gretchen Menn] My pleasure! Thank you, Laurie. It is just wonderful how much you do to promote the guitar community. Hope to cross paths with you again soon!

Main web site:


Other important Gretchen Menn interviews
Jas Obrechet
Guitar TV live

Watch live streaming video from guitartvlive at

Preston Reed: at the caspar inn 2011

"bye, bye, booboo" preston reed @ the caspar inn

"ladies night" preston reed @ the caspar inn

Adrian Belew, Tony Levin: special show announced - tickets available

Guitar Player is proud to work with Goldenvoice to present one of the guitar’s most fearless boundary breakers, or, as his Web site describes him, “The world's greatest experimental whammy twang bar czar rhino king crimson stunt guitarist!”

Adrian Belew is famous for making otherworldly sounds with Frank Zappa, Talking Heads, David Bowie, and King Crimson. In GP’s 25 Anniversary Issue, Belew was counted among “25 Players Who Shook the World.”
A chance to win tickets

Event Details:
Guitar Player Presents
2 of a Perfect Trio: Adrian Belew Power Trio
with Stick Men featuring Tony Levin and Pat Mastellotto
Tuesday, October 18 at the Regency Ballroom
1300 Van Ness Ave
SF, CA, 94109  (415) 673-5716
7pm doors; 8pm show; All Ages
Free Guitar Player magazines, D’Addario strings, and Planet Waves accessories
$25 - $45 tickets on sale now

Benjamin Lechuga: winner of Steve Vai Scholarship releases debut CD.

The album´s first track ¨Pehoe¨ was chosen by Steve Vai as the winner of the Steve Vai Scholarship. That's why the guitarist Benjamin left his natal Chile and moved to London. Diverse styles such as ProgMetal/Funk/Flamenco and more mix in this album....This album, after 6 years of composing, is the end of my first chapter as a composer. Although it is mainly instrumental guitar-oriented rock/metal , this album goes through different stages and mixes d ifferent styles such as flamenco, funk, latin folk with an aggressive progressive metal or even some nice calmed rock ballads.

1. Pehoe
2. O Vurdon
3. Suspiro
4. Animal
5. Entre 2 Mundos
6. La Subjetividad del Tiempo
7. EvilFunk
8. Chances
9. Cuek!

ored online:

Juliette Jade: Gibson overwhelmed by response to video clip

Juliette Jade the artist formerly known as Juliette Valduriez
Recently Gibson Guitar posted a fan-made video on its Facebook page, and the response was overwhelming. More than 16,000 fans have checked out the YouTube clip, in which a young woman, Juliette Valduriez, shreds all over Ozzy Osbourne’s “Bark at the Moon.”

Guitar fans worldwide aren’t just impressed with Juliette’s skills. Many seem to love the nonchalant manner in which she displays them.

The Great Gig In The Sky - Pink Floyd

Michael Harris,Mistheria: feature on new Lance King - A Moment in Chiros CD

ARTIST: Lance King
TITLE: A Moment in Chiros

Release date 11/11/11
"Etheric Progressive Power Metal from the former voice of PYRAMAZE, BALANCE OF POWER, for fans of REDEMPTION, DREAM THEATER and SYMPHONY X with a nod at greats LED ZEPPELIN"
Lance King is world renowned in the underground as a melodic metal vocalist, singing on over 25 worldwide releases over the last 21 years. This fact is impressive in itself, but what is truly special about Lance is his ability to morph his voice to fit any mood and intensity of a song, he’s proved this over the years by adding a very "special something" to every album he has been a part of. Said to have the golden touch, Lance’s voice just seems to connect the dot’s making head banging metal also into a good song.
On the last day of June, 2011 Lance decided to invite some of his musical friends to co-write songs with him as he ventured into his first solo album. An act of faith only knowing their work, never working with them before creating music. In just two months, those involved had created an epic masterpiece, quite a feat indeed based on the quality of this release.
In under three months, A MOMENT IN CHIROS was mixed and mastered and off to the presses, perhaps the fasted created music in history? This album was meant to be out by 11/11/11 and is destined to stand the test of time.
The album's concept is based on the 11:11 time prompt phenomena happening to over 75 million people around the world, Lance is one of these people, and has dived in deep to find more about what it’s all about. This album is one man's journey as a seeker of truth looking for answers to the world's greatest mysteries.
Lance has chosen "Human Trafficking" (sex slavery), one of the fastest growing criminal activities worldwide as the charitable cause he would like to champion, profits from this album will go to efforts to abolish this slave trade worldwide through an organization called "NOT FOR SALE"!
Boasting great creativity and performances by these fine musicians: Jacob Hansen (Beyond Twilight, Invocator & Anubis Gate), Kim Olesen (Anubis Gate), Michael Harris (Darkology, Thought Chamber), Tore St Moren (Jorn), Fred Colombo (Spheric Universe Experience), Markus Sigfridsson (Darkwater / Harmony), Kevin Codfert (Adagio), Michael Hansen & Shane Dhiman (Phonomik), Morten Gade Sørensen (Pyramaze, Wuthering Heights), Elyes Bouchoucha, Malek Ben Arbia, Anis Jouini (Myrath) & Mistheria (Bruce Dickinson and MANY others).

Produced by: Kim Olesen (Anubis Gate) & Jacob Hansen,(Volbeat, Heathen, TYR, Amaranthe, Communic, Mercenary, Onslaught, Rob Rock, Blotted Science, Raunchy, Pretty Maids, Cryoshell)
111. A Sense of Urgency
222. Awakening
333. Manifest Destiny
444. A Given Choice
555. A Moment in Chiros
666. Dance of Power
777. Kibou
888. Infinity Divine
999. Joy Everlasting
10:10 Sacred Systems
11:11 Transformation
Lance's Links! Facebook ARTIST Page at Twitter at Myspace at Nightmare Records Inc.

Yoshi,Toki: Aldious - Determination

"Determination" (CD + DVD) 【限定 盘】
2011.10.12 Release
Part Number: Bsrs-005 + all 10 songs only music videos Limited "Black Spirit", "Mermaid," "Confusion" was recorded with a DVD Bonus inclusion: each one trading cards (picture: Rami) Description: Masanori Ito Mr. Masao Fujiki (BURRN!) with lyrics \ 3,500 including tax \ 3,333 tax price order

Aldious - Spirit Black (Music Video Sample)

Joe Bonamassa: Mountain Time

Joe Bonamassa- Mountain Time, LIVE @Carre, Amsterdam, Oct. 6, 2011

Kiko Loureiro: Rock In Rio Festival 2011

Kiko Loureiro Rock In Rio Festival 2011 Angels Cry

Come and see the Brazilian guitar maestro in Amsterdam

VIP Tickets
We are going to put a couple of special VIP packages together for a selected number of fans that already acquired an entrance ticket.

When you buy a VIP ticket, you will get the following:
1. Entrance during the soundcheck
2. Meet & Greet the musicians performing
3. Special goodies
4. Pictures with the artists you like
5. Special pass

The extra VIP ticket costs € 75,-
100% of this ticket will go to Jason Becker’s care.

Show Ticket
Don't forget tickets are still available for the main show

Guthrie Govan
Stuart Hamm
Mattias IA Eklundh
Michael Lee Firkins
Kiko Loureiro
Atma Anur
Marco Sfogli
Daniele Gottardo
Stéphan Forté
Andy James
Joop Wolters
Marcel Coenen
Barend Courbois
Timo Somers
It's Show Time Band
Not Dead Yet site
Face Book Page
Buy Tickets

Jason Becker: special gig, gets special goodies

One special show... but many special surprises... we can thank those special people over at Jim Dunlop for these unique special beauties for the Amsterdam Jason Becker benefit gig.

Because this special Jason Becker’s NOT DEAD YET! festival is a benefit, we are giving you the opportunity to attend the full rehearsal of the guitar player you love! The rehearsal location is secret, nobody is allowed to attend beside the participating artists. So this is very unique!

But you get a chance to be part of this special event and attend one or more of the rehearsals of your favorite artists.

If you would love to attend one of the rehearsals (taking place 11th, 12th of November - so you need to be in the country),

Find out more
VIP Tickets
We are going to put a couple of special VIP packages together for a selected number of fans that already acquired an entrance ticket.

When you buy a VIP ticket, you will get the following:
1. Entrance during the soundcheck
2. Meet & Greet the musicians performing
3. Special goodies
4. Pictures with the artists you like
5. Special pass

The extra VIP ticket costs € 75,-
100% of this ticket will go to Jason Becker’s care.

Show Ticket
Don't forget tickets are still available for the main show

Guthrie Govan
Stuart Hamm
Mattias IA Eklundh
Michael Lee Firkins
Kiko Loureiro
Atma Anur
Marco Sfogli
Daniele Gottardo
Stéphan Forté
Andy James
Joop Wolters
Marcel Coenen
Barend Courbois
Timo Somers
It's Show Time Band
Not Dead Yet site
Face Book Page
Buy Tickets

Alex Skolnick,Chris Broderick: Discount tickets available for Winter Guitar Retreat

In response to fan demand and difficult economic times, discount registration packages starting at just $990 are available through October 31, 2011 for Skolnick & Broderick’s Winter Guitar Retreat, featuring renowned guitarists Alex Skolnick of Testament and Chris Broderick of Megadeth. Skolnick & Broderick’s Winter Guitar Retreat will provide a full vacation experience, with the registration price including lodging and gourmet meals in addition to the daily guitar workshops and jam sessions.

This unique experience offers a select group of guitarists of all talent levels the opportunity to expand their horizons while spending four days and five nights studying and jamming with Broderick and Skolnick in a relaxed setting at Full Moon Resort in New York’s Catskill Mountains from December 26-30, 2011. Full details

Rick Graham: Improvising with major triads

Rick Graham
Hi guys,'m working on iguitar lesson material at the moment and am working on this limitation exercise. The idea is to outline A - D and E triads over the A bass. A few extra notes managed to find their way in but trust me, It's a lot harder than it seems!

Improvising with major triads - Rick Graham

Allan Holdsworth: First gigs confirmed in 2012

Allan Holdsworth
First gigs confirmed in 2012:
Jan 22 - Studio City, CA (Baked Potato)
March 15 - New York City, NY (The Iridium)
March 16 - New York City, NY (The Iridium)
March 17 - New York City, NY (The Iridium)
March 21 - Northampton, MA (The Iron Horse)
March 22 - Norfolk, CT (The Infinity Hall)
April 1 - Chicago, IL (Martyr's)
Stay tuned for much more show to be announced very soon.

Alberto Rigoni, Michael Manring: A New Soul Bassists Alberto Rigoni & Michael Manring play the bass ballad called "A NEW SOUL" from Alberto's new album "Rebirth" (Nightmare Records 2011).
More info at http://www.albertorigoni.netSpecial thanks to Michael for his unique playing (and for the video as well)http://www.manthing.comNOTE: as you can see the footage has been taken in two different studios (and times)

Alberto Rigoni & Michael Manring - A NEW SOUL

Guthrie Govan: Rich Murray's Artistocrats photo Gallery

The Aristocrats - Live at Martyrs' Chicago IL 10/9/11 Rich Murray's photo Gallery

Neil Zaza: Baroque Sky

Baroque Sky (Neil Zaza) by neilzaza

Vinnie Moore, Theodore Ziras: Greece clinic date announced

Hi my friends!
Cool news here!
Great guitarist Vinnie Moore will be in Greece on 27/11/11!
We are very happy that Theodore K Group (TKG) will open this fantastic show along with Theodore Ziras!
The Event organized by Evolution TV Show and will take place at Kyttaro Live!
Tickets presale:
Praxis Conservatory: Veikou 33, Koukaki
Guitar Store and Drum Store : Soultani 16 Exarhia
Fakanas Art Music School: Poseidonos 3, Mosxato, N. Faliro <

Gretchen Menn: you can't beat that personal touch

I think I mentioned before the difference between digital and physical media in recent posts. For all the upside of digital media, immediacy, green, parallel, meta data, etc... you can't beat that personal touch, that  fan pleasing bond, that  touch that comes with an autographed CD. After a hard days work to be greeted with a package that comes half way around the world and upon opening gives one such a sense of inner satisfaction. Another CD to add to the collection.

Well you make your choice... I got both versions, but I know which one made the happiest :)

Hale Souls

1. Scrap Metal
2. Oleo Strut
3. Déjà Vu
4. Valentino's Victory Lap
5. Fast Crowd
6. Is It Not Strange
7. Captured Barricade
8. Walking Shadow
9. Struck Sleepless
10. Fading
The album, Hale Souls, is now available! It features the talents of Stu Hamm, John Mader, Emily Palen, Jude Gold, Angeline Saris, and Kirsten Menn

Gretchen Menn:
Hale Souls (Physical)
Hale Souls (Digital)

Ronnie James Dio: Stand Up And Shout Awards



Six Distinguished Supporters to Receive Awards

The Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund, founded last year in memory of the world-renowned voice of Dio, Black Sabbath and Heaven & Hell, will host its first Awards Gala on Tuesday, November 1 at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. Awards will be presented to six distinguished honorees for their contributions to spreading awareness of Fund's important work.

A privately funded 501C3 charity organization dedicated to cancer prevention, research and education, the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund has already raised more than $500,000 in its short history. Monies raised have been committed to the cancer research work of the T. J. Martell Foundation for Cancer, AIDS and Leukemia Research and the gastric cancer research unit of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where Ronnie was treated for gastric cancer during the last six months of his life, according to Wendy Dio, widow of the late singer and Fund President/Founder.

The event at the Playboy Mansion will include cocktails and gourmet food stations created by renowned chef William S. Bloxsom-Carter, a silent auction and a performance by the rock band Asia featuring John Payne. Guests will be treated to tours of the Mansion grounds and world-famous grotto.

Eddie Trunk of VH1 Classic's "That Metal Show" will serve as Special Guest emcee. Awards named after songs written by Ronnie James Dio will be presented to the following honorees:

* Man on the Silver Mountain Award: Tony Martell, founder of the T.J. Martell Foundation, which has funded innovative medical research to find cures and treatments for leukemia, cancer and AIDS for nearly 40 years;

* Rainbow in the Dark Award: Mike Carden, cancer survivor and President, North America, Eagle Rock Entertainment, leading independent record label;

* King of Rock 'n Roll Award: Terry "Geezer" Butler, bassist for Black Sabbath and Heaven & Hell, and longtime bandmate and friend of Ronnie James Dio;

* Sacred Heart Award: Sandeep Kapoor, M.D., Medical Director/Co-Founder of the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund;

* Killing the Dragon Award: Danny Zelisko, concert promoter and cancer survivor, President, Danny Zelisko Presents, Phoenix;

* Stand Up and Shout Award: Rita Haney, a tireless fund-raiser, Founder of Dimebash, in memory of her husband "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott.

"Ronnie would be proud to witness the legacy he's left behind," says Fund chairman Gloria Butler. "Sadly, we've all known people that have suffered this cruel disease, cancer. Most of us have lost loved ones far too early. If only...if only there was more money for research to be able to find cures for all of the cancers. Maybe someday people will be able to reflect on how their ancestors strived to make a difference in finding a cure. What now seems like a fantasy may prove to someday be a reality.

Information regarding the Fund as well as tickets and sponsorships for the November 1st Gala is available at the organization's newly-launched

Marco Sfogli: Sunset Lights live!

Holly cow, my favourite track... I just love the guitar keyboard interplay!

Marco Sfogli e Ibanez RG Premium - Sunset Lights

Come and see the master at work in Amsterdam at the Jason Becker benefit concert

Guthrie Govan
Stuart Hamm
Mattias IA Eklundh
Michael Lee Firkins
Kiko Loureiro
Atma Anur
Marco Sfogli
Daniele Gottardo
Stéphan Forté
Andy James
Joop Wolters
Marcel Coenen
Barend Courbois
Timo Somers
It's Show Time Band
Not Dead Yet site
Face Book Page
Buy Tickets

Richie Kotzen: Char interview - talking guitars

Richie Kotzen: Char interview - talking guitars

Tom Quayle: revisiting my roots - Under a Glass Moon

Go to for lessons, free resources, news, forum and much more...
Roots Revisited
I recently took a trip down to the Lick Library studios to record a review of the Music Man JPXI Petrucci Signature guitar and for me it was also a trip down memory lane. John Petrucci was highly influential in my early playing and I remember obsessively learning his solos.
Playing the JPXI inspired me to try this seminal solo out again for the first time in 15 years and was surprised to find that I could still play most of it. I love this solo and I used to play it to everyone who came to the house whether they wanted to hear it or not.
My playing style, technique and influences have changed a great deal over the years and now this solo represents a real challenge for me as my picking is not really where it should be for this piece. I've included a couple of deliberate mistakes for people to spot (no prizes) and the ending is somewhat improvised as I couldn't remember it and I went for the spirit of the part rather than exactly what he plays.
It's great to revisit early influences and rediscover what made you play guitar in the first place, whilst finding out how your technique has changed and developed as you find your own voice!
I hope you enjoy this take on his classic solo - it's not meant to be perfect or represent the exact take on the record - it's me revisiting my roots and having fun. If you hate it then troll away - I enjoyed playing it!!
Thanks for listening,

Under a Glass Moon Solo Cover - Tom Quayle -

Paul Gilbert: interview and acoustic jamming

Paul Gilbert - Interview & Down To Mexico & I Feel The Earth Move HD

Paul Gilbert: Wash My Car 2004

Paul Gilbert- Wash My Car Live at Japan HD

Chris Geden: jamming with the MyBeat Metronome

Download this app here:

Jammin' at Stefan Redtenbacher's place over the new MyBeat Metronome by KnowledgeRocks.

Follow these guys for a truly epic app, which is to be released, that will blow your mind!

Chris Geden jammin' over the new MyBeat Metronome App by KnowledgeRocks

Ruggero Robin: Great fusion soloing with the AMC live band

Solo Ruggero Robin Guitar Waiting for a wolf AMC TRIO.avi


Marco De Cave: Harmonic Minor Guitar Solo

Marco De Cave Harmonic Minor Guitar Solo

Michael Lee Firkins, Hedras Ramos,Atma Anur: Warsaw date announced

Atma Anur  Another great evening of music in Warsaw, Poland... Micheal Lee Firkins, Hedras Ramos, Tomasz Bura, Michal Baranaski...and Atma Anur. A Michal Kubicki presentation.
— with Michael Lee Firkins.