By Jeb Wright
Classic Rock Revisited caught up with rock guitarist Adrian Galysh’s new album titled Tone Poet, which features vocalist Mark Boals and Styx drummer Todd Sucherman. The album is a rich, well crafted, brilliantly composed work of art. In the interview below, Adrian takes time to share how the album came to be, his creative process, how he approaches guitar solos and his future plans.Enjoy this interview with a guy that may be under the radar, for now, but with Tone Poet, will be growing in both reputation and popularity.
Jeb: First off, congratulations on a fine work of art. My gut feeling is that Tone Poet was a creative mission, a labor of hard work…
Adrian: Thanks Jeb. Yes, this album was a true labor of love, and hard work, and it took quite a long time to finish. I started writing for this album as far back as five years ago, but a bit of writer's block kept me from any real progress until about two years ago. The writer's block, it turned out, had more to do with this: I have a home studio, and the tracks I was initially recording just didn't sound good enough to my ears. I knew the songs were going to include orchestral sounds, and everything I tracked sounded of demo quality, which was really uninspiring. So a couple years ago, I took the time to improve my home studio, update my recording software, and I can now achieve very real sounding orchestral recordings. Once the sounds were right, the music started to write itself.
Jeb: This is a classy piece of music in a time of plastic, throw away pop drivel. How are you going to get this out and find people that still think music is important and that an artist is much more than a contestant standing in front of Simon Cowell?
Adrian: Thanks again. As far as getting this out there, it’s actually easier than ever... the album will be available on December 3rd - and anyone can buy it on iTunes, Amazon.com, at my website, or any number of online retailers. You can order it at any record store, and it will be distributed in Europe by Musea Records. As for finding people who will appreciate this music, I've been hard at work reaching fans online via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, online magazines, blogs, and real rock websites like ClassicRockRevisited.com... There are communities of music fans that LOVE guitar music, metal, and prog rock. At this point it’s all about niche and direct to fan marketing.
Jeb: When did you start this project and describe the creative effort of composition.
Adrian: When I write, it usually starts a couple of different ways. I might have a nugget of an idea for a guitar part that I will flesh out. Once that part is figured out, I might marry it with a previous idea, by matching the key and tempos... This works sometimes. Other times, I start at the keyboard, and come up with an interested chord progression, then let inspiration place a melody over it. I may have a riff or an idea on guitar that I'll try on piano, and vice versa, just to mix things up. Lastly, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who does this, I might find a chord progression I like from another artist's song, and see how it sounds in a different context, perhaps with different instrumentation, tempo, or key - and this will lead me to a completely different feel and melody. I forgot which tune I did this for, but I do remember borrowing the chords from Radio Head's "Karma Police"!
Jeb: The soloing…was it done last? How do you know when you’ve got it right…and we have to mention…your tone!
Adrian: When I write music, I write and record at the same time. And the demos eventually turn into the final tracks. After the rhythm parts are done, I usually record the guitar solos. Almost all of the solos you hear are the takes from the original demos, and in this case, most are first or second takes. I think my playing is finally at the point where I don't have to labor over recording solos. I can play a few takes, and maybe piece together two halves and that’s it.
Tone-wise - this will shock some folks out there - most of what you hear for electric guitar tone is the amplifier modeling plug-ins in Logic 9 recording software. Trust me, I've got Marshalls amps everywhere, but it was such a pain in the neck to set up the amp, run cables to another room, mess with mic placement, deal with noise, airport noise... and if I ever had to fix a guitar part, forget recreating the same tone. The proof is in the pudding, the album's guitar tones are pretty darn good. I'm as surprised as anyone.
Jeb: There is a lot of Gothic, orchestral passages on the album. Tell me about those pieces and how they came to be.
Adrian: I have been fortunate enough to grow up hearing a lot of classical music. One of my favorite composers is Arvo Part, a contemporary composer from Estonia, and he writes choral music that is ancient sounding... medieval period pieces, with modern sensibilities. I wanted to marry that style of composition with electric guitar. These orchestral/choral pieces were written quickly, each in about two days. I would turn on my studio gear, dial in a string patch or choir patch and simply play, and let the sound lead the way. Quite honestly, just exploring different flute, violin, cello, brass section sounds, was really inspiring. I had basic ideas in my head, and the rest was letting these great sounding libraries of samples inspire me. When I sat down to compose, I really didn't know what I was going to end up with!
Jeb: This FEELS like a concept album…but I don’t think it is. Do you know what I mean?
Adrian: One of my biggest concerns when the album was being mixed and mastered, was that it would sound disjointed. There are vocal rock songs, ballads, orchestral works, instrumental pieces with world music influences... a real mixed bag. I KNEW that at least MY guitar playing was going to bridge it all together. I also knew that most of the tracks did have a symphonic element when it came to instrumentation. I like albums that have a mix of styles on it, but I also like albums to be cohesive works - I grew up staring at album covers while listening to the whole record! So, I wanted Tone Poet to be an "album", and I labored over the track sequence, made sure the mixes and drum sounds were similar enough, and that mastering paced the album comfortably. I think if you sit back, close your eyes and listened to this album from beginning to end, it will take you on a journey.
Jeb: You are most known as an instrumental guitarist and you have vocals on this one. We will talk about the singer in a moment, but first, how do you balance the instrumentals and the vocal songs?
Adrian: I decided not to balance it. Haha! I gotta admit, I thought of various ways to intermix the vocal songs amongst the instrumental ones and nothing worked. So I figured, I've got three classical pieces, 4 vocal tunes, and 5 instrumentals. I put the vocal tunes up front, and the instrumentals towards the back half, and used the classical pieces as the "glue", because it breaks up the music nicely and the classical pieces have vocals in the form of a choir. If time and budget allowed, I would have liked to have included an additional vocal tune.
Jeb: Now we talk about the singer. Mark Boals. Wow, that is cool. How do you know him?
Adrian: I met Mark through my bass player, Philip Bynoe. Philip played in Mark's band, Ring of Fire. I was a fan of Mark's singing since I was a kid, first hearing him on Yngwie's "Trilogy" album. Back in 2007, Uli Jon Roth asked if I knew of any vocalists that could guest at his "Sky Academy" all-star concerts. I knew Mark sang on Yngwie's version of the Scorpions classic "Sails of Charon" and I called Mark. It took a little convincing, but he came down and impressed everyone, including Uli, who then hired him to sing on his next album and tour! Since then, I kept talking to Mark about singing on my next album, and he and I even did some Uli Jon Roth tour dates in California together back in 2011.
Jeb: How is Mark? I know he has had issues over the years but man, not vocally. He sounds amazing.
Adrian: Mark has been busy, I believe he recently got married and has been performing in Las Vegas in a show called "Raiding the Rock Vault". Mark is, in my book, one of the greatest rock singers around, and his voice has a richness to it that I think puts him up there with Rob Halford, Freddie Mercury, Dio, and Klaus Meine.
Jeb: Also, talk about the rest of the band, starting with your drummer!
Adrian: Todd Sucherman used to be a neighbor of mine in Los Angeles, and we always talked about recording together. But between our schedules, he's always on the road with Styx, and him moving to Austin, TX, we couldn't get it together till now. I sent Todd all the demos, and since he had limited time, he asked if he could just play on his favorite five tracks.
Todd is a monster player, who is very musical in his approach. He tracked 5 songs in 1 day! He flew home on a Sunday, tracked on a Monday, and flew back out to tour on a Tuesday - now that's work ethic!
I am really pleased with the way his tracks turned out. He is a perfectionist, and he really pushed me to make the album the best it could be. Every time I listen to his tracks I hear something new and mind blowing.
While I tracked all the guitars, keyboards, and even bass, there were a few tunes that I knew needed Philip Bynoe to play bass on. These songs were lacking a strong, cohesive feel and groove, and Philip has one of the biggest, er, "grooves" in town.
The album is rounded out by my buddy Charlie Waymire's drum playing on the four vocal songs. Charlie and I have played together since I moved to LA in 1999. He's a great rock drummer, in the school of Tommy Lee and that’s what those songs needed.
Jeb: You are kind of known as that really good guitar player that is not so huge outside of musician circles…are you cool with that? What are your future goals?
Adrian: I wouldn't mind if that were to change, Jeb. hahaha.. I would totally like to tour with some classic rock artist.
If anyone were to ask me what my dream gig would be, here's my honest answer: Alice Cooper. I love the songs, the theatrics, and the guitar parts. His tour schedule makes it possible to still do other projects. If Alice or his management is reading this... I'm available.
As much as I'm known for being a "muso", or "technical" guitarist, I like to rock out as much as the next guy. I grew up listening to a lot of Scorpions, Deep Purple, Ozzy, Sabbath, Judas Priest, Quiet Riot, Van Halen, and Alice Cooper.
Jeb: Tell me about your prized guitars and what you used on this album.
Adrian: For the electric guitar parts I mostly used my Brian Moore "Adrian Galysh Signature C90F" guitar, as well as my Brian Moore C55. I've used these guitars for the last 14 years. They feel right, and sound great. I don't think I used any other electric guitar on this album. For acoustic guitars, I used a Yamaha ATX 9, and an Ibanez nylon string guitar that I borrowed, for "Echoes of El Greco".
Jeb: One thing I think is difficult in the guitar god realm is balancing technical mastery, creative composition and human emotion. Too much of one and it is wanking, too much of the other it is too complicated and not enough feeling makes it sterile. Your thoughts?
Adrian: I'm a melody guy. If the melody is interesting and excites me, I'm good. I try to challenge myself when I write, but I don't write and play things just to be complicated or "progressive". I'm the kind of guy who prefers a take that has the right feel, rather than being technically perfect. I was also conscience of not necessarily making this a "guitar record". The song Brick By Brick has a middle section that was originally going to have a guitar solo, but after listening back to it over and over, I decided I'd rather the listener just enjoy this intense string section build up. The instrumental piece, Tone Poet, has the piano playing the main theme, not the guitar. I didn't want to feel that I was a slave to making the guitar be the main element in every song. The track "Epoch", doesn't have ANY guitar. I really debated whether or not to include that track, but felt like it fit in the context of the album, and showed another side of me.
Jeb: I hear a lot of early Scorpions in your playing. I saw you onstage with Uli Jon Roth. You a fan?
Adrian: Yes, he's one of my favorite guitarists. He has feel for days, and a never ending bag of great ideas when he improvises. I grew up listening to albums like "In Trance", "Fly To The Rainbow", and "Virgin Killer", and its mind blowing to share the stage with him.
Jeb: Is Jeff Beck an influence or are you more of a Yngwie, Vai guy?
Adrian: All three. Yngwie and Vai earlier on as a kid, and Jeff Beck more recently - I love his last 5 albums.
Jeb: Talk about other guitars players that influence the way you play.
Adrian: My playing and my sound is really the result of who I listened to. You can hear a number of guitarists in my playing, but of course as only I can, with my fingers... But, I would certainly consider guys like Michael Schenker, Eric Johnson, Richie Blackmoore, Eddie Van Halen, Steve Morse, Steve Howe and of course, Randy Rhoads as influences. It was Randy that inspired me to play guitar in the first place.
Jeb: Where do you go from here? What is next?
Adrian: Well, now that the creative fun is done, it’s on to the marketing and promotion of the album, and more performing.
Next year, I'll be releasing an album of play-along jam tracks. This project will take a few songs from each of my albums, with the lead guitar tracks removed, so guitarists will be able to practice and jam to them.
Jeb: Just so our readers understand the type of dudes you have worked with…give us a rundown of your famous friends who you’ve played with.
Adrian: Oh, geez... Let me first state that I try not to name drop, as you'll get a lot of that in LA... but, I do enjoy meeting, recording, and performing with musicians that I respect. So, some of the more important and special musicians, to me, have been: Reb Beach, Marco Mendoza, Warren De Martini, Mike Keneally, Francis Buchholz, Carl Verheyen, Seymour Duncan, Jeff Scott Soto, and Jerry Corbetta. Jerry wrote and sang "Green Eyed Lady" in Sugarloaf - I do a cover of that song on my album, King Friday, and Jerry played organ on my version - too cool, right?
Jeb: Do you see guitar music on the rise? How do you combat the forces of evil that want to keep music boring and pop oriented and stale? Not that I’m bitter…
Adrian: On the rise? It was a few years ago. I teach guitar, and I know that students are into really playing the guitar again. I don't listen to the radio much, so I'm not sure what's happening out there, or what's trending.
I don't mind some pop music. I like interesting music. Everyone gets to use the same elements of music: Melody, Harmony, and Rhythm. The question is, is it an interesting use of melody, harmony and rhythm? Is the performance sincere? Since that's my criteria, I can enjoy interesting, sincerely performed country , classical, metal, jazz, blues, and pop music.
Jeb: Last one: Have you ever considered a covers album? If you did do one, what artists and songs would be at the top of your list to cover?
Adrian: Yes. I have actually been thinking about a covers album recently. Not sure of the songs, but they would be by artists that really influenced my childhood. I would definitely include something from early Scorpions, maybe Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", ELO's "Fire On High", hmmm, I'd have to think about others. But yeah, totally something I've thought of.