Sean at Con Hall

Sean at Con Hall
Yamaha promo shot at Convocation Hall/Toronto

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Guitar Influences...the (not so) usual suspects!

Hey y'all

I'm heading up to the offices of Universal Music Canada today to discuss promotion of my new album Where The Wood Meets The we kick things in to high gear (promo was put on hold as I worked on Cover Me Canada with Warren Dean Flandez), I have been thinking about how in interviews I am often asked to cite my influences. Of course, as a complete rock n roll guitar junkie, my ears have taken in a LOT of great music by the finest players in the world. I often end up citing the most popular of these players, as they are the first ones that come to mind...Hendrix, Van Halen, Beck on the rock side and John Williams and David Russell on the Classical side.

However, after gorging my senses this morning on an absolutely killer live dvd of Toto rocking an arena in Amsterdam in 2003 (I can hear the scorn amongst some of my "hipper" peers now!), it dawned on me that I there have been other, lesser known players that have probably had a much bigger impact...time to give credit where credit is due.  I mean, these players are still HUGE stars and are very well known, but they don't often get their critical just here it is....the first 5 players in an ongoing list of (relatively) unsung guitar heroes!

1) Steve Lukather (Toto) - Luke is everything I want to be in a player...perfect note choices, incredible vibrato, unbelievable heart-on sleeve songwriting, chops for days.  He is my current favourite player by a mile, and I was blessed enough to play for him as a finalist in Guitar Player Magazines 2005 Guitar Hero competition at the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame...I am so not the shredder type, so I really had no place in that competition, but Luke was so encouraging and generous in his praise...he knew what my deal was, and I will never forget that great night of sharing pints and gleaning wisdom from this most humble of geniuses.

2) Neal Schon (Journey) - Neal has the blues deep in his fingerprints, and is another perfect combination of fire and melody. His guitar figures are as memorable as Perry's classic vocal lines. His tag solo in "I'll Be Alright Without You" from the Raised On Radio album ranks as my favourite solo. A close second is his melodic star turn on "Stone In Love" from the Escape album, where he snakes in and around the Cello-ish virtuosity of bassist Ross Valory to deliver a truly anthemic statement.

3) Andy McCoy/Nasty Suicide (Hanoi Rocks) - Where the aforementioned players represent my favorite AOR/Melodic Rock stylists, I also have a great affinity for the more rough and tumble aspects of true Rock N Roll, and there is a marked difference. This guitar tandem satisfies my thirst for bump and grind rhythms that spar with and compliment each other (Slash and Izzy took good note of this), and highly melodic leads that still left enough barbed wire around them to draw a bit of blood. Andy is a surprisingly sophisticated player, often coming across as a punk rock Django Reinhardt, all harmonic minor twists and Chuck Berry bruises. Nasty, while primarily the rhythm counterpart in this team, also managed to craft my favourite Hanoi solo, the heart-wrencing turn in Don't You Ever Leave Me from Two Steps To The Move. For the best example of their interplay, I suggest the Live at The Marquee album.

4) Gary Moore - My love of all things Thin Lizzy has been very well documented, and I am forever a fan of the classic Gorham/Robertson guitar line-up...but the player from the Lizzy camp who has most rubbed off on my style is the late, great Mr. Gary Moore. I loved how Gary played both melodically and FEROCIOUSLY at the same time...his were the type of chops I aspire too, not the squeaky clean (yawn) precision that the over-compressed, hyper distorted sweep picking bedroom Youtube virtuosi display on any given Sunday evening when the homework is done. When Gary unleashed a torrent of blazing licks, you could feel the intent behind them, and those lines were often punctuated with one of the wickedest vibratos this side of Belfast. I count his work on Lizzy's Black Rose album as his finest, but just under that masterwork in my estimation is his playing and writing on his solo album Wild Frontier...I love how Gary marries an icy cool 80's production aesthetic (more to come on that subject...I love 80's production!!) with his intrinsic sense of Celtic melody, and the bluesy snarl of a man who has lived through one too many bar fights. Throw in his later period blues mastery, and you have a portrait of one of rock n rolls brightest acolytes.

5) Warren Demartini/Robbin Crosby (Ratt) - Oh, one day fellow music geeks, I will unleash I truly detailed (scary? unnecessary?) list of the great hair metal guitarists, and there were many...but Warren has always stood above them all. Deeply syncopated and highly articulated post Van Halen lines merge with the scalar construction of Uli Jon Roth in his prime with the Scorpions (damn, I'll get to him next time!) in Warren's playing to create real art and a heightened sense of musicality that even rivals the height of some of the hair styles! My favourite example is the solo in Lay It Down, which starts off with sinewy unison bends, rolls into some snaky Mixolydian melodicisim, and ultimately builds into a bluesy climax that is driven home with a wide interval home run swing....whew, not bad for a song about, er...Laying It Down. Plenty more examples of Warren's magical playing on Round and Round, Wanted Man and a host of other Ratt and Roll classics. Of course, these wonderful lines were supported by the foundation that Robbin Crosby built, his sleazy signature riffs a cut above your typical Sunset Strip fare. Points also go to Robbin for his pentatonic based lead work that, while not quite reaching the heights of eloquence that Demartini hit, swung and swayed with more than the requisite rock attitude and swagger.

*Note - Blogs are fun, because they can often start out as one thing, and end up being totally different at the end...kinda like my favourite solos, this one started off slow and simple, and gradually got more complicated as time went on, haha!


  1. Lukather? Toto live? You continue to echo my musical soul Sean! Living in Germany from 1995-2005 they were still strangely popular. I loved their 1995 album "Tambu" but probably never made much earwaves here.

  2. Hipsters be damned! Lukather is a genius.