Joe Stump is often credited as taking the neo-classical fury of Malmsteen and Blackmore to even greater extremes. One listen to his solo works such as Supersonic Shred Machine or his latest magnum opus Speed Metal Messiah show an artist with a burning passion for the genre and great guitar playing. Joe has recently started a new project Holy Hell which looks likely to elevate his position higher in the public view. Joe was kind enough to grant baroque and roll its debut interview and gave us a superb read back in September 2005.
2005 has been a busy year for you so far, can you give baroque and roll a summary of what you've been up to?
Well lets see, I did release the Shredology disc, which was an anthology type of collection record and was packaged along with the live Midwest Shredfest bootleg live cd. That came out in March 2005. Then in late April I went back to Europe for a tour playing solo material, Reign of Terror stuff and some killer Rainbow and Purple stuff. I played a bunch of shows and clinics over there and was over for a few weeks. After that I was out on the road for a good portion of time from late May to late July playing some solo shows and also touring with the power metal band Holy Hell. We were out with Manowar and Rhapsody for most of June in the states and then a few large festivals in Europe in July. After I got back from Europe I went to LA and did some clinics and master classes for Berklee out there and then some more solo shows went I got back.
It's currently early Sept. and I've finally been home for a few weeks. The Berklee fall semester is about to start up so back to my day job a bit , but it's always nice to get back home for awhile after so much travelling, but as usual after I'm home too long I get the itch to go back out rather quickly. I'm quite fortunate that for more of an underground guitar hero I get to do fairly sizeable amount of touring. As you can see my dance card's been quite full these days.
Holy Hell is your latest project with Tom Hess; please tell us about this project.
It's working out nice, in the US and in Europe the band was really well received as the opener with Manowar and Rhapsody. We really crushed on a bunch of the shows. A killer female vocalist Maria Breon is fronting the thing and she's gonna be a fucking star. She sings like an angel (and a demon as well at times) looks killer and people really respond to her and the band. Many of my fans came out to see the thing and really dug it. And of course while it's no Joe Stump show guitar -wise I do get plenty of room to do my thing and cause plenty of damage. So we'll see there's a ton of potential there.
What's the current state of play with Reign Of Terror?
Well I'm going to start work on the Holy Hell disc very soon. I've been writing quite a bit and much of the stuff will be for either Holy Hell or my next Reign of Terror disc. I'm hoping to release the next Reign of Terror after the Holy Hell thing drops as with the bigger label support (Magic Circle Music/SPV) and a lot more promotion behind that release, my next ROT disc should cross over to a lot more newer fans. In the meantime I might look back into putting together the live Reign of Terror stuff for a possible live disc. That should tide a lot of my hardcore fans over.
Will you do another album with Mike Vescera as you two were turning into a very powerful song writing force.
I'm really hoping the next Reign of Terror disc is gonna cross over to a larger audience (as I said previously). So of course it'd be great to have Mike onboard with me as he's such a great singer and writes great vocal lines and lyrics. We definitely have a song writing chemistry together, so we'll see what happens when the time comes.
Your last solo album Speed Metal Messiah, how was the album received and what are your thoughts on it now?
My finest hour, I came fairly close to getting it right on that one after 6 solo instrumental records. All my fans were quite pleased and I'm fairly proud of that record. I wish I had gotten more coverage in the American guitar mags on that my best record to date, but Lion a European based label has a little less pull with the mags in the states as opposed to Leviathan. For instance on Shredology I appeared in back to back issues of Guitar World. But overall looking back the Messiah is certainly my pinnacle of that type of classically influenced guitar work and composing.
Do you still get a buzz from neo-classical music?
Yes I love it; I never seem to tire of listening to it or playing it. Even as I've gotten older, I'm still balls out, more so than ever. I'm not about to slow down, or become an old bluesman, or some whacky fusion player. I love metal, especially neo-classical European style stuff and it's what I've chosen to pursue for sometime now and I have no desire to abandon what I love to do. Of course my instrumental stuff covers a fairly large spectrum stylistically, but the classical influence always seems to be there outside of my bluesier Hendrix-y /Frank Marino-ish exploits.
The genre itself seems to be getting new life into it with bands like Ark Storm and Concerto Moon, are you aware of any of these new acts and if so what's your opinion on them?
I like both those bands very much and both Norifumi Shima and Katsu Ohta are outstanding players, killing. Many people that are a bit on the uneducated side tend to lump all of us in together, (meaning classically influenced players) but I can certainly hear the distinct difference between the various bands and players. Both Ark Storm and Concerto Moon have been around for a while , I'm pretty familiar with many of the artists in my same genre, one because I enjoy some of the stuff as a fan and of course because it's good to be aware of the other artists in your field because you're appealing to much of the same fan-base.
I know your very knowledgeable on the history of neo-classical guitar, in your eyes were did it start and do you feel it has yet to be perfected?
Well as I've said it before the holy trinity responsible for the whole genre is Blackmore, Uli Jon Roth and Yngwie. Michael Schenker contributed as well; Randy Rhoads was heavily influenced by both him and Gary Moore guitar-wise. But the big three really wrote the book with Yng obviously taking it further both technically and having a more extreme classical influence, Malmsteen`s compositions were also much more classically influenced also. Where as Uli and Ritchie would infuse the classical elements more into their lead work in the context of a hard rock tune. As far as someone perfecting it that's really more of an objective thing and of course it depends on what you like taste wise as well. Someone once described my playing as bridging the gap between the older school guys like Uli and Blackmore and the newer super shred players, I thought it wasn't that far off.
You favour an ESP Strat through various amps, do you have a particular tone you are chasing and how close to it are you?
Well my favorite records guitar tone wise are --- Deep Purple `s Made in Japan, Made in Europe and Rainbow's Live on Stage. Uli's early Scorpions records like Toyko Tapes, Taken By Force and Virgin Killers. Gary Moore's Corridor's of Power, Victim's of the Future and We Want Moore. And the first Rising Force disc along with Marching Out and Trilogy. My tone is basically a more aggressive blend of the tones of all my heroes and in my hands it always comes out sounding like me. My tone is a bit less gainy than in the past on my earlier records and I quite pleased with it these days. But one common thread between myself and all my heroes is Marshall, there is no substitute. As Jeff Beck says it's the big Daddy, there is no other fucking amp. I'll always have at least one Marshall in my rig whether it be live or on record.
What would you recommend as a starting point for guitar players wishing to play this sort of music?
To listen to the men, don't listen to the fucking boys. Players ask me all the time if I heard this new shred guy or that new guy that plays with insane technique a billion miles an hour. I tell them I don't listen to that type of stuff, when I wanna hear guitar I put on one of the men - meaning Blakemore, Malmsteen, Schenker, Gary Moore or Uli Of course there's a bunch of other guys I could mention as well. But a lot more of the newer more technical players are leaving way too much of the cool -ass element of rock guitar out. There's melody, vibrato, control and vibe, you need that shit along with all the technical command. Rock guitar isn't hot lick number 64 or this fancy ass sweep arpeggio shape.
You have a couple of instructional DVD available on your website, we have just given a glowing review to Neo Classical Guitar vol.1, I believe you are about to start filming vol.2, what will this second instalment cover?
The second neo-classical DVD will be much more advanced and longer as well. I'll cover transcriptions to a few of my solos and pieces of various tunes of mine. In those transcriptions a wide range of techniques will be covered (multi string arpeggios, economy and alternate picking, classical licks and sequences, etc.) I'll also do a section on pedal tones that will be fairly extensive. There will also be a bunch of performance footage as well with me playing full tunes from my various recordings. The reaction from the first neo-classical DVD was very positive so I'm sure everyone will be completely thrilled with the next one.
Do you feel that public interest in the neo-classical genre is better known than it was say 10 years ago?
Yes, It seems like in general more accomplished, technical playing is being embraced and celebrated by a whole new generation of players, which to me is a very healthy thing. 10-12 years ago you were considered uncool as a younger guitarist if you played solos, practiced and aspired to be a virtuoso type of player. The press looked down their nose at it as well. It was certainly a dark period for actual musicians. Plus you see that feature in Guitar World called "Betcha Can`t Play This", I've done one so have Michael Angelo, Rusty Cooley , John Petrucci and ton of other cool players. Plus Yngwie's got a Guitar World instructional column and he's also on the cover of the new Guitar Player issue, so things are certainly headed in the right direction.
Guitar Dominance to Speed Metal Messiah has been quite a journey, do you have any special fond memories of the recording of any of your albums?
Each one of my albums marks a particular period in not just my career, but my life, so I have a ton of memories from all those past experiences. I remember certain tours, shows; trips out of the country for live full on band touring and or clinic tours. Going to countries and cities for the first time. I remember my first sizeable royalty check, the first times I appeared in various guitar magazines and other well known metal fanzines. Guitar players I opened shows for and met that were and still are my heroes, and how many of my heroes became my peers and how I gained their respect, my first major endorsements all the great stuff all players aspire to. Let me tell you that a day doesn't go by that I don't feel completely blessed that I get to do what I love for a living; I never ever take that for granted. I spend every fucking day with a guitar in my hands for hours on end. The best part of it for me has always been the playing, I love to play, I'm more addicted to it now than I ever was and I've continued to grow and progress as a player, all round musician and composer throughout the spectrum of my career. The more I play, the more I tour the better I get. I've just got done playing a ton of shows over the last few months and I'm at the top of my game and then some.
Another thing I do recall is that many of my early records- Night of the Living Shred, Super Sonic Shred Machine, Rapid Fire Rondo were all made when I was doing some fairly reckless living, whether it be boozing, drugs and of course you've gotta have some womanizing in there as well, man does not live by the sweep arpeggio alone. I'm older, wiser and much more focused now and as a result my playing is constantly getting better. If you listen to the Messiah disc you know what I mean. So yeah it's been quite a fun ride.
What would you say the defining moment in your career has been to date?
My career has had many nice moments but as far as he pinnacle of my classically influenced playing and composing goes Speed Metal Messiah would have be it. Granted looking back you're always gonna have things on every record you wish came out differently, but on that one I came pretty fucking close to getting it right and I'm very proud of that record.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2005/2006?
I'll be recording the Holy Hell record, a new Reign of Terror; maybe the live Reign of Terror disc will finally be released. Another neo-classical instructional DVD, maybe a high quality concert solo DVD. A world tour in 2006 with Manowar, Rhapsody and Holy Hell, very long lots of countries and shows. Of course more clinics and solo shows. I've also got a fairly good idea of what my next solo disc will be like and have a bunch of tunes in the pipes for that as well. So tons of cool shit to do, looking forward to the work.
Joe anything else you would like to tell the readers of Baroque & Roll?
Just as always the most sincere, heartfelt thanks to all the fans that have continued to support my stuff over the years and if you haven't been saved by the Messiah as of yet I strongly urge you to pick up Speed Metal Messiah, if you like amazing guitar work and killer guitar driven metal tunes I think you'll be quite pleased. My best to everyone. Thanks Joe Stump