Fred Brum, Laurie Monk: interviews the likable enigmatic

Fred Brum - Laurie Monk interviews the likable enigmatic

From Drop Box

Frederico Brum, aka Fred Brum was born in Portugal. He follows in a long line of great Portuguese guitar players. I was lucky enough to catch up Fred at this summers Monkeyfest organised by Rob Chappers. It was clear to me that Fred has a lot to offer with his experience playing live and as a session player. He is just a well of information, with a million anecdotes to share... and boy does he know his guitar players!

Fred started out by studying to be a classical piano, but was moved to take up guitar at the age of 15. The main reason for this change of direction was the squealing solos of former Ozzy Osborne Zakk Wylde. His desire and progress lead naturally to playing in the live arena working as hired gun for many artists by the time he was 19.

Fred is also a very busy session musician and his abilities have lead to endorsements with Jaden Rose Guitars, DiMarzio pickups, Sik Pik picks and Spectraflex cables.

Fred is set to release his first solo album chock full of snarling guitars, metallic grunting riffs and shredding seven string guitar solos and a number of special guest stars.

Atonement buy  http://fredbrum.com/store   


I caught up with Fred just before the release.

[Laurie] Portugal has some really great players, players like Nuno Bettencourt, Gonçalo Pereira, Luis Moreno, Paulo Barros and yourself. What is the guitar scene like in Portugal at the moment, is there much appreciation for the instrumental guitar star?

[Fred Brum] Thank you, Laurie! The guitar scene in Portugal, oddly enough, is a pretty niche thing, with little to no exposure from local media other than the few very stubborn folks that thankfully help us promote our work and give us some space. A notable example are the people behind the few guitar-oriented festivals that still take place around these parts, who have amazing drive and passion.

[Laurie Monk] You are noted for your knowledge of the seven string, indeed you were featured in an article for live for guitar http://live4guitar.com/article/from-folk-to-metal-the-story-behind-7-string-guitars

From your perspective what does the seven string guitar give you over a standard six string guitar?

[Fred Brum]To me, the great purpose and advantage of seven and eight string guitars lies in the possibilities for each and every fingerboard position, coupled with the very wide intervals you can get, thus allowing you to go for huge sounding, less cluttered chord voicing, extend arpeggio shapes, easier scalar based transitions, and a wider palette of notes to choose from.

From Drop Box

[Laurie Monk] That is interesting that you are looking for wider intervals between the notes. Certainly when I am listening to people play live, those who play with wider intervals using techniques like String Skipping rather than Sweeping or extended arpeggio shapes, arrived at by two handed tapping, appear to reduce the likelihood that the notes run into each other, they remain distinct, and the interval between the notes makes it easier for the ear to pick up the change in pitch. Now this is often different to the studio version where Sweep Picking can appear quite distinct in the controlled studio environment.


With the seven and eight string Is there a danger that everything ends up sounding like a Djent record, not that that is a bad thing, but how do you avoid that?

[Fred Brum] I don’t see that as a “danger” per se, as I find it normal that you’ll initially attempt to emulate whomever inspired you to pick up the instrument to begin with. I sure as hell started playing Steve Vai and Dream Theater riffs and licks the moment I got my first (and now very battered) Universe green dot, for instance.

I believe that the turning point for every instrumentalist, regardless of the number of strings or type of guitar they favour, boils down to having his own voice emerge, and to apply that as opposed to emulating others - it’s a natural part of maturing musically, I believe, and you can hear that in people like Brian May or Mark Knopfler, that have such a unique voice that one note is enough to tell you that they are playing.

[Laurie Monk] So what you are saying is it’s not really the genre of music that is at issue for a guitar player, rather that the guitar players voice needs to be distinct from those already in the genre. So you don’t worry about the genre, concentrating on getting your guitar voice across.

[Fred Brum] I did nothing consciously to avoid playing “djenty stuff” in my record. Maybe some passages do sound “djentier”, if anything - I just have ideas, that usually stem from images of stories, and I choose to be a storyteller with my voice on the instrument. I used a more authoritative, epic musical language here, as it was where I wanted to take things with “Atonement”, and it’s a nod to my metal roots, which are blended with things coming from every conceivable genre you can imagine.

Fred Brum - Atonement playthrough


[Laurie Monk] Yes you’re right Atonement is kind of a heavy rock ballad, endowed with some beefy bass string riffing too.

How does this work with your session gigs, what sort of session work do you do? Is there much call for a seven string in this line of work or do you revert back to a standard six string?

[Fred Brum] I do all sorts of session work. I’ve done gigs from Fado to technical death metal types, with old-school R&B and funk along the way, and even hip hop. I take whichever guitars I believe will give me the best array of tones for a record or live gig, be they sevens, eights, or my old ‘60 Les Paul or ‘78 Telecaster - producers who know me know that I will play whatever is necessary to highlight the song and get what they believe will work in there, so I may end up not using the lower strings or abusing them in some parts - playing ERG’s will not exempt you of having a sense of context and when and what to play: there are no laws that state we must be playing all strings in every song, otherwise many funk and disco tunes would have had 3 or 4 string guitars in them, to name but one example! ;-)

[Laurie Monk] LOL... many disco tunes might not have guitars at all... unless they are sampled of course!

You also pick an eight string for the new album Atonement, what does the 8 string give you over the seven string?

[Fred Brum] I had fiddled with 8-strings before, and I did enjoy them a lot but hadn’t had the chance to really incorporate my explorations in any work before that. Since I decided to put the solo album out, I thought that some ideas could sound better if a given chord was spread across a wider spectrum, or if I could double a given melody spanning more octaves, or even have a lower grunt to contrast with more delicate melody passages, so I took a cheap 8-string and wrote what would become the skeleton of Atonement on that. I immediately started talking to Jaden and the Spider eight string was born after a lot of brainstorming and debuted at the Musikmesse. The eight string is, in essence, an extension of the advantages of the 7-string that won’t break your hands and remains relatively easy to balance tonally. My sig model is, in fact, an all-encompassing 8-string of which I just received the proto from Jaden Rose.

[Laurie Monk]Yes, I recall you jamming away at the Musikmesse at the Jaden Rose stand. Great guitars, great guy and a really great place to be, all that gear and someone wanting you to play with it! So what’s next for you... Next stop 12 string guitar?

[Fred Brum] LOL! I did fiddle with a 9 string, but the neck was far too wide for it to be comfortable to me, and the tunings I had in mind proved to be either a nightmare to EQ or required silly fan widths, so I stuck with the 8-string.

Also, just FYI, a lot of the bass parts in the album were recorded with either a 7-string bass and... a Chapman Stick, so I believe the whole 12 strings have indeed been covered already!



[Laurie Monk] LOL! I hadn’t figured you for a Chapman stick player!

You’ve played live a lot, what do you think players who get stuck in the bedroom studio environment would benefit from in terms of playing with a live band?

[Fred Brum] Everything, and I mean it - it is a fundamental thing to play with other musicians, as it teaches you how to listen, how to interact musically, and when to keep your mouth shut if what you’ll play won’t serve the song. It is also a fantastic thing to learn how different people have a different way to “breathe” musically, and the different rhythmic feel. Playing African music with real African musicians, for instance, taught me groove in ways no theory book or record could.

[Laurie Monk] I’ve been lucky enough to see Greg Howe at rehearsal in San Francisco and that taught me a lot. More recently at the Jason Becker festival rehearsals, my mind was opened watching Atma Anur planning the drum tracks for the show and seeing how the musicians would indicate where and how more improvised sections would end.

So how does the rehearsal transition into the live show for you?

[Fred Brum] It is also a fine way to get out there and play, realizing a lot of important aspects, namely interacting with the audience, talking to people who are kind enough to come to your shows, and entertaining people. Last, but definitely not least, on stage you and your band mates are gods: you are able to use the energy of the audience and that of the chemistry between you to create something that far exceeds the individual contribution from each musician, and that is not only extremely gratifying, it is also something that you take with you and does wonders to your creativity.


[Laurie Monk] The live show adds to the sense that you are doing things right... but I guess touring has it’s ups and downs, did anything crazy happen to you or your band on tour?
[Fred Brum] I lost count already, to be honest! Haha! One of the most bizarre ones was the tour manager screwing up regarding hotel bookings for the night, and the only thing he could get was a rather suspicious looking little motel type. When we got there there were many young ladies in the hall, and it was interesting to see that people were coming in and out of the bedroom areas at all times. We basically ended up in a motel that doubled as a brothel, so in spite of the lack of sleep, the quotes from the ladies and their customers were worth it, especially since rooms were far from soundproofed. I’ll stop here, as it’s far from family-friendly, and just say that we learned expressions we never knew existed until then.

Blackmachine B7 demo - F.A.B. Playthrough


[Laurie Monk] LOL a similar thing happened to me in Frankfurt, where we had booked into a hotel called “hotel comfort”... well I was with Shred Medium who was thirteen at the time... how was I to know it was in the red light district, with wall to wall strip bars and associated paraphenalia... uuumm well fortunately for me the hotel had rebooked us into a family friendly hotel a little further away.

Talking about screwing around with things... is this something you to to your guitar, I mean play around with the tunings, using different tunings for different effects?

[Fred Brum] I am pretty much a standard tuning user, to be honest. Sometimes I’ll drop the F# to E on the 8-string or the B to A, mostly to play jazzier or more chordal based stuff, or a 6-string to open B to have a certain droning quality to things, but that’s pretty much it.

[Laurie Monk] What gauge strings do you use?

[Fred Brum] It will depend on the guitar, to be honest. Most of them are fitted with 9-42 sets and then adding a .54 or .59 for the 7th string and a .80 for the 8th string. There are a few guitars in which I’ll use a 10-46 set, however, and add the usual .59 and .80 complement.

[Laurie Monk] Do you use the same gear for the studio as you do live?

[Fred Brum] That ends up depending on the gig, but normally that won’t be the case, as I won’t be dragging a horde of less than reliable vintage pedals or multi-amp setups around the place. Most of the time it’s either the Axe FX Ultra or one more versatile head with few pedals and a TC Electronics G System controlling the whole thing.

Fred Brum - Strandberg EGS #6 - Vortex Playthrough


[Laurie Monk] What sort of effects pedals do you use?

[Fred Brum]I’m a complete and unashamed analog delay junkie. Tape echo, analog echo with or without modulation, I love them all to bits. That and overdrive and distortion boxes, as I love all the textures I can get from them. I’m also into modulation effects for texture when needed, but in all fairness, things like my album are plain emulations of these units and not complex at all. Some of the “spacey” sounds are just me fiddling with a RAT model over a dimed Marshall Plexi with an analog delay, for instance, and the trick is to play the effect as if it was an instrument inside an instrument, as opposed to just an adornment.

[Laurie Monk] I recall seeing Michael Lee Firkins at the Jason Becker Fest and he seems to have got his sound requirements down to a minimum, kind of one amp one pedal... playing loud or louder... Are you the sort of guy who just sticks to one amp, one pedal?

[Fred Brum]Yes and no. I believe that there are staples you have as reference. As an example, I can do whatever I wish with a 3 or 4 channel amp, an OD pedal and a delay unit, but when it comes to adding really different flavours, complementing what you consider your main setup with other things is always something to consider, at least in the studio.

[Laurie Monk] In your opinion, what is the single most important thing that defines your guitar sound?

[Fred Brum] Honestly, it’s just me and my plethora of silly quirks coupled with my own ideas of sound. People place way too much emphasis on gear when the fact of the matter is that gear will help you complement what is coming from you as an artist and have a simultaneous enhancement effect on what you do - if you don’t have anything to say, speaking louder and with a booming voice will still not give your words a meaning.

Should we approach the gear side, to me it’s the balance of clarity, making notes sing when sustained and, the most important, conveying the dynamics that will make or break something that is to be used as a tool to express myself.

Fred Brum - NGD Jaden Deimos 7! Soulless Playthrough


[Laurie Monk] I’m always interested to know what players are listening to. Can you name some top albums that you would recommend musicians and guitar players to listen and that have made a difference to you.

[Fred Brum] I could recommend thousands of albums, in all fairness - there is so much beautiful music out there, with and without guitars, that can inspire you in so many ways!

I think I’ll recommend some maybe less obvious choices, as I’m pretty certain guitar gods like Vai, Gambale and the like are already mentioned countless times in Truth In Shredding.

First up is Nigel Kennedy’s interpretation of the Four Seasons, by Vivaldi. It’s full of life, passion and defies conventions while keeping the essence of the songs untainted, all of this while Nigel’s distinct style is heard throughout the record. Actually, listen to Nigel Kennedy in general as the man is brilliant, period.

Another album I can’t recommend enough is Living Colour’s Pride. It’s their best-of compilation with a few unreleased tracks. While Vernon is at his usual monstrous creative standard throughout the whole ordeal, it’s the whole composition and band interaction that makes it a thing of beauty, not to mention the seamless integrations of soul, R’n’B, funk and African music in a rock / metal context that never sounds forced or out of place. When you hear Vernon’s wicked phrasing, demented outside chops and stellar groove at the same time you notice its role in the song and where the band is going, it’s a fantastic thing.

Last but not least, and although a reference to many already, check out Animals as Leaders, especially their new album Weightless. Tosin Abasi is highly regarded for good reason, as he has a spectacular fusion of jazz, metal and ethnic music going on, but hear beyond “just” the man’s fabulous chops (and the grossly underrated Javier Reyes’ stellar job) and what is going on there is fresh, full of life, and beautiful - it’s a luff of fresh air to the whole instrumental progressive side of things, and one of the pinnacles of creative and technical command of 8-string guitars.


[Laurie Monk] Now that is a very interesting list of albums... I think you win the award for thinking out of the box for this list. I was lucky enough to catch Tosin Abasi, Javier Reyes live in Bristol, man those guys have a lot of interesting ideas. Plus as you say the new album is sounding great.

OK on to your album now. I understand that this album is a tribute or dedication to your mum, who passed away last November. An outstanding idea and to be fully congratulated. How long has it taken you to write this album, is this a life times work or have you crafted it over last six months or so?

[Fred Brum] The album was fully written from February onwards, as all I had originally was a couple loose riffs or melodies. It was made taking emotions, stories or just an image as a starting point for each song and trying to convey an instrumental tale of sorts, one that would go beyond the mere concept. Most of what you hear is actually the untouched recordings of when an idea settled, and the layers tell the songs’ story in many ways - I am a fan of leaving as much raw and unpolished things as possible, as to capture a fresh, honest feel to the tracks, which is why the majority of the lead work was improvised on the spot, for instance. This creates an interesting contrast between the more compositional and technical nature of many things and the organic and almost primal feel of the first few takes.

[Laurie Monk] Who are the guest players on this album and what did you ask them to do on their solo sections?

[Fred Brum]I had only one guitar solo done by a guest, namely my good friend Rob Chapman, as he is one heck of a blues-rock player with a nice nod to metal in his playing, and having jammed with the man I thought that our extremely different approaches to the instrument actually played really well together, so I asked him to play the second lead section in Nebula, which sounds awesome.

Fred Brum - Sherman 8-string demo - Nebula (ft Rob Chapman)



The other two guests were, in fact, bassists. Bassists really are the red headed bastard child in metal, as a very large number of people actually ignore their importance in keeping the groove going, having a solid base for the melody and taking care of the low end of the spectrum even when ERG’s are involved. I had Tiago Monteiro record the bass in Toolshed.

Jaden Rose JHM / Maple pack demo - Toolshed playthrough


So I could take advantage of his solid yet melody oriented grooves, and he has an absolutely delightful melodic lead in the clean part of that song, and my former Ethereal buddy Carlos Santos take care of bass duties in Flying Adventure Bus - that man has a wicked technique, awesome tapping chops, and knows how to play with more basic and in-your-face lines and more complex phrases in ways that really take a song’s dynamics to the next level.

[Laurie Monk] In terms of recording, did you record it in your own studio, or in a pro studio and what recording gear did you use?

[Fred Brum] Believe it or not, I recorded every single track through an Eleven Rack. There are a few songs in which I also used my Axe FX Ultra, or a given analog pedal, but the core was quite an affordable unit. Drums are sampled, as I couldn't really afford the luxury of a proper studio, or have the time to arrange all that in time to release the album in the projected time, which is a year after my mum’s passing. I just took Toontrack’s Drumkit From Hell to have proper drum sounds happening and “drummed” my way using a cheap Behringer keyboard, which Matt then mixed and resampled in some parts. Needless to say, there were quite a few hilarious mistakes.

[Laurie Monk] Sounds really big, so you did a good job on capturing the sound. How do you go about writing and recording these often times quite complex tunes, are they fully written out or do you leave room for improvisation or are the solo sequences predefined, written out or a mix of the two?


[Fred Brum] Most of them are indeed written on the spot, and most melody lines and solos were improvised on the spot. When multiple layers were involved, I’d just fiddle with whatever harmonic arrangement would accent the melody line. Even the aforementioned bits I had prior to starting recording the album were bent and manipulated as I was making the tracks - I am most spontaneous when working a song.


[Laurie Monk] Sometimes I hear that the best tracks can take just an hour or so to write, for example Joe Bonamassa’s “Dust Bowl”. What is your writing process, do you approach the task in artistic way or are you more methodical, are some tracks easier to write than others, how do you know when to stop?

[Fred Brum] I stop when I’m too tired to have an editing ear or when I sense I am entering a repetitive thought process, which will condition what the track and its arrangements will become by not letting me “listen” to the ideas in my head.

I had to stop from sheer emotional exhaustion every once in a while, and salt water is hardly good for an electric guitar, not to mention sobbing really screws your vibrato - this was a frequent occurrence when recording Salt In The Wound, so I had to take short breaks to pull myself together, and keep at it - I wanted the emotions to make it to hard drive as I recorded, and I ended up being able to complete the track the day I thought of it as intended, but it was the hardest and most exhausting recording session I had in my life.


Jaden Rose Inlay Detail


Custom Jaden Rose


[Laurie Monk] Has your session playing affected the way that you have approached your recording?

[Fred Brum]Yes, I believe in has - it taught me a lot regarding objectivity and vision of the process, and a number of basic practices regarding track layouts and the like. This allowed me to save quite a lot of time as far as the recording and pre-production tasks are concerned, and that was most useful to prevent things from dragging due to menial tasks.

Indirectly, the way sessions help you get a keen ear and quick response to demands also allowed me to demand more of myself, and to know where to go and how to do it in my somewhat chaotic interspersed composition / recording way to work.

[Laurie Monk] I was looking at your YouTube channel

http://www.youtube.com/user/FredtheShred

Some great videos on there. How do you plan to work with your YouTube channel?

[Fred Brum] Thank you! Most of them are just taken in my “studio”, which is my rather chaotic and small office at home, although I managed to get a fair bit of live action in there as well, which I can’t thank the people who took the trouble enough for.

Right now, the one plan I have set in stone is to take the channel’s direction in two directions I’ve just scratched the surface of, namely demonstrating high end / hard to find ERG’s (although the odd 6 is not out of the question), amps and pedals in a professional studio environment, and to add some lessons, which are meant to give you a bit of insight regarding my own way to approach extended range instruments and some particular techniques. All in all, if it’s entertaining or helpful to people who follow me, then I will consider it and try to put in in practice.

[Laurie Monk] A lot of older players see the use of YouTube and SoundCloud as a challenge to their ownership of material and it makes it difficult to keep the exclusivity of material to those who have paid for it. Is that the way you feel about this new medium?

[Fred Brum] Not at all, to be honest - there are quite literally millions of ways to illegally create files from streaming sources, not to mention how peer to peer clients have facilitated the entire process of distributing that material. I believe sharing the art with people in streamed format is a godsend, and being able to do this from anywhere in the world to people who would be impossible to reach without massive funding far outweighs those people that will just grab an illegal copy. I may not be rich, but at least I managed to touch some people with what I do, and what a blessing it is.

Fred Brum - Jaden Rose 8-string multiscale proto - Retribution playthrough


[Laurie Monk] That’s an interesting perspective... certainly if you decide to release it, I happy with that, but not so if people decide to release it for you... without asking first. Now on to my pet subject... illegal downloading. My view is you need to support the artist in order for music to be viable and that downloading, even from a try before you buy scenario is not on unless the artist decides to present you with a sample of the album. Indeed, Chris Brooks worked on a video to pre-promote his album giving a track by track overview to get over this particular argument. What is your view on this area?

[Fred Brum] My view has been the same throughout the whole process, and it’s quite simple: my music is what it the name implies: MY music. I composed it, played, worked my arse off and spent a good chunk of money turning my ideas into a finished product you can listen for free online or buy to have a copy of it. In this day and age, I have listened to music for free from the record companies themselves and ended buying quite a few albums from artists whose work I might not have been exposed to otherwise, and not once did I have to capture the audio or use a torrent client to listen to them, just to type a URL and let the browser do its thing.

The problem is that downloading music illegally may have had an impact on major publishers, but independent artists like me and so many great musicians out there can only do as much as they can afford to. If, by virtue of having sold almost nothing, you end up without money to afford the next album, let alone making a profit, then you can’t do it, simple as that. Considering the price at which you can buy the right to own the albums in either high quality digital format or CD direct from artists, it’s a bit mind-boggling to me how the concept of choice is never a part of the equation when it comes to getting one’s hands in the material, especially considering the album whose right to own you’ve bought for life costs 2 pints or less.

The whole “try before you buy” debate is always questionable. If there was a way to verify whether the copy had passed a reasonable evaluation period like, say, a month, and we were to be able to see whether the files were still there, I dare say virtually none of the proponents would have deleted them or actually bought the album. As such, I am a proponent of actual online streaming of the contents so that people can make an informed choice regarding the album in question.

My attempt at humour.


[Laurie Monk] I agree with that, as long as you decide what you want to do to promote the release. I don't think the downloaders have any idea of the time and effort put into the creation process... and they are foolishly thinking this is some kind of victimless crime.
From the demo tracks you’ve posted this album is sounding pretty sweet and this should be enough for those looking for something new to listen to, enugh to get their teeth into and wet their appetite. Well I wish you good luck on your new CD, I have order my copy and I’m looking forward to it, all the best mate!

[Fred Brum] Thank you again, mate! Let us see where this journey takes me next, but one thing is certain - whatever the destination, there are at least 7 strings there!

Endorsements
Jaden Rose Guitars - http://www.JadenRoseGuitars.com
DiMarzio Pickups - http://www.DiMarzio.com
Spectraflex Cables - http://www.Spectraflex.com
Sik Pik Picks - http://www.sikpik.com
V-Picks - http://V-Picks.com
You'll find previews of my tracks on my Soundcloud:http://www.soundcloud.com/fred-brum