Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Top 5 - Annihilator

  For this post I decided to do an Annihilator song, seeing as how we just played in Quebec at the Trois-Riviere Metalfest, but I had a hard time deciding which song to play. So it occurred to me to pick my favourite five sections to play live with the band. These all are all short, maybe one or two minutes long each, but they capture the parts that are the most fun for me to play. Check out the video and then I will talk a little about each section.

#5 - The Trend

  This song is a real challenge to play live for me, because its very fast and tiring, by the end of the song both of my hands are screaming for some rest. This part comes right after the guitar solo, and its an instrumental section where I just plant my feet down and rock out. Its difficult to headbang while playing this, but I always try. The drum part here is very cool, it starts in half time and builds in intensity all the way to the climactic fill that brings back the last verse.

#4 - Set The World On Fire

  From the album of the same name, this part took me a long time to learn and get clean when I joined the band. Its a trademark Jeff Waters type of crazy riffing, which happens right after a nice and mellow bridge. Another section where I have to concentrate hard to play it perfectly live. The original had Mike Mangini playing the drums, but this is a live version with Randy Black.

#3 - Like Father, Like Gun

  Schizo Deluxe is one of my favourite Annihilator albums ever, its so angry, so aggressive, and yet very melodic and technical. The album really showcases Dave Padden's versatility as a singer, and this song he does it all: sing clean or gritty. What I'm playing is from the bridge into the guitar solo and the last chorus. There's a little bass "break" in there, and that last chorus is the best one for me, the drums go into that half-time Pantera-like beat. I cannot help but rock out to this song. Live we play this song in "Drop D" as opposed to the original which is in "Drop C".

#2 - The Fun Palace

  I remember when I bought this album ten years ago listening to this song and loving the solo section. Its very different from the rest of the song, and even from the rest of the album: its funky! It really stands out from stuff like "Imperiled Eyes" or "Sixes and Sevens". And for its syncopated groove I love playing this part. I keep challenging myself to play the whole thing live without looking at my fretboard, I just look up and have a huge grin on.

#1 - Welcome To Your Death (W.T.Y.D.)

  This is THE song that got me into Annihilator, and into Thrash Metal really. I heard it the first time on a bus in London, England, and immediately something in my brain clicked into place and I "got" it. I understood what was the appeal my friends had for this type of music. What I'm playing here is the end of the live version found on the "Bag of Tricks" album. It has Coburn Pharr singing, instead of Randy Rampage who did the original. This version is faster and meaner; it has a new section that wasn't in the studio version (right after the solo guitar part with no drums); and Coburn is amazing here, very raw and full of energy, and he has this scream, kind of like David Lee Roth's, where it sounds as if he sings two notes at the same time!

  There you have it, my five favourite parts to perform with Annihilator live. Maybe I will play one of these in full for a later post. Any requests? 

  A very special "Thank You" goes to Fred Laroche from Capitale Du Metal for letting me use his pictures. He does amazing work, so check out the rest of the galleries from Quebec City, Montreal, and Trois-Riviere. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Van Halen's "Little Guitars" by Andrew Roudny

Andy and I in "Black Hour"
  This post will feature another great friend of mine, the second best guitar player I have ever played with, Andrew Roudny (and he is only second because I am incredibly lucky to play with Jeff Waters, who is one of the best in the world). Andy and I met way back when I was in college; I will never forget it, I answered my phone one day and I heard "hey, you don't know me, but I'm looking for a bass player, and I hear you're pretty good". That was the beginning of a friendship that has been one of the most gratifying of my life. With Andy I played in a band that had TWO bass players playing at the same time! we recorded an instrumental album that has some of the best bass parts I've come up with to date; we then performed as an acoustic instrumental duo for some time before finally splitting into separate musical paths. My admiration for Andrew continues, and here I am again blown away by his ability to make really hard things seem easy as pie. Watch him rip through Van Halen's "Little Guitars":

This is what Andy had to say about the song:

  "Alberto Campuzano, wizard of the bass guitar and the best musician I know has invited me to cover a song on his blog. I am well and truly grateful to perform for his one thousand plus readers. So let’s start with the excuses! I haven’t played any serious electric guitar (by which I mean I haven’t played on stage for grumpy music execs) in nearly 3 years (wow), so I hope I’m up to the task.

  The song I’ve chosen to play is Little Guitars from Van Halen’s 5th album, 1982’s Diver Down. It’s not my favorite VH song (that’s Girl Gone Bad). It’s not the one everybody else likes the most (that’s probably Jump or Panama) and it’s certainly not the one the radio plays the most (I guess when you’re playing Born to Be Wild every 14 minutes, you don’t really have time to diversify). So why have I chosen this tune? Well, it’s been a pet project of mine for a number of years. When I was in a classic VH tribute band, we played the song but it was never part of our regular set. I once spent 4 hours at a rehearsal studio playing only the verse riff, but I never really got into all the corners of the tune and finished it off. So here’s my chance.

  There are lots of reasons I like this song. Here are three.
  1. From a guitarist’s point of view, it’s a truly odd work of genius. Only a musician with strong classical training and thousands of hours spent practicing and performing hard rock guitar could ever conceive a song like this and make it work so that regular folks can actually listen to it. Don’t even get me started on how far ahead Eddie is compared to today’s crop of rock guitarists. Even bands than “can play” these days couldn’t hope to write something like this. The ultimate genius of Eddie Van Halen may be this very thing: He made music that’s so goddam brilliant that it was at the same time completely progressive but totally accessible to the masses. So accessible that he doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves for his blazing musical intellect. As far as I’m concerned, he’s in the same league as Mozart and Beethoven. Little Guitars shows all this, despite not even having a proper guitar solo section.
  1. Any other rock singer would hear this song and run screaming. Or at least say something weak like, “I can’t sing over that…. Ughhh….write something simpler”. But our hero, Diamond David Lee Roth, a wild west cowboy with his massive ego in tow behind him like two saddle-bags full of gunpowder, took it on and did a wonderful job. Painting a compelling picture of a shady L.A. dude seeking solace from the law in the arms of a Mexican waitress (stripper, dancer, biker slut, choose your own adventure). Despite not having any formidable instrumental training, Dave is indeed a musical and lyrical genius.
  1. Like almost all Van Halen songs, it’s better live than on the original recording. As I write this, I’m listening to a YouTube playlist of live versions of Little Guitars. I implore you to stop reading this right now and go listen to the US Festival version of this song. It is positively transcendent. This is probably the thing I like most about Van Halen: They are fantasy land. They are the place where the sun shines, the parties are epic, the strippers are sympathetic tan gals with hot legs and hearts of gold. Everything glistens in Van Halen land, and this song is one really good example of their skill in bringing you not just a set of notes but a time and a place and an experience. As good as they’ve been over the years in the studio, in their prime they were even better on stage, drunk or sober.
So, down to the technical particulars.

The Guitar For The Practicing Musician Magazine transcription that I used initially to learn this song is written for a miniature Les Paul tuned to one half step above standard tuning. I tried this on a full sized guitar and I found that either it was impossible or I didn’t have the skill to pull it off. What’s the difference? Other people?? Malarkey! It became clear that I had to modify things to my situation. First, I do not own a ¾ sized Les Paul (and I can probably make a list of 100 ways I’d rather spend that money). Second, I needed to be able to play this song on a guitar in standard tuning because I only have 2 decent guitars and by the third set I’m too drunk to switch competently from one guitar to another anyhow. So I re-jigged the riff a little and played it mostly around the 7th fret E barred chord area. You’ll see this in the video. This allowed me to get the basic idea of the riff but not have to switch guitars. The only tradeoff was that I had to play the tune a half step lower than recorded in order to accommodate the open high E string. I’ve remedied this in the video version you’re seeing here because I’ve tuned the guitar up a half step. That’s F Bb Eb G# C F for those of you keeping score at home.


  I’ve seen a lot of transcriptions on line calling for a drop D tuning with a capo on the 3rd fret. I even saw one guy try it that way on YouTube, and it sounds terrible. I hope my version does more justice to the song than his does. But in the end, playing a cover is all about capturing the original feeling and mood of the song. Even though I still haven’t learned every last note of Little Guitars (and I probably never will), I hope I’m in the ballpark enough that it makes you ponder how great the original really is.

  So, I hope you enjoyed my version of Van Halen’s excellent song, Little Guitars. Though it might be harder to do in 2011 than it was in 1982, I say to you all, ROCK ON!!!!"

  Andrew Roudny began playing classical guitar at age 9. Soon after discovering hard rock, Andrew started his first cover band, No Cash Value, at age 16. After scoring the independent film Held Secular, Andrew was a finalist in the North American Rock Guitar competition in 2003. He appeared in the nationally televised documentary Driven To Play, as well as in the May 2005 issue of Guitar Player Magazine. He has released several CDs and opened for such classic artists as Kim Mitchell, Honeymoon Suite and Loverboy. Andrew is currently working on a rock version of Vivaldi's Four Seasons and his own symphonic/rock instrumentals.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Brazilian Girls "Jique " by Tyler Emond

Tyler Emond
  This post is going to be a departure from my usual rock-oriented ones, but I'm quite happy about that. I love all kinds of music and therefore want to explore them here in my blog. For those of you that are rockers or metal-heads, have an open mind and check this one out before you judge it.

  When I studied at Humber College's Jazz Performance program I had the privilege to meet some amazing musicians, and I don't just mean the professors, but also the other students. Most people had their own style of music that they excelled at, but some others just seemed to have a natural talent and ability to play any kind of style, and do it very well. Tyler Emond was one of those guys, he has amazing skills, a wicked ear, he can rip on either the electric or the upright bass, but more importantly he is a genuinely nice guy, always available to help out or give advice. He became my favorite bass player out of the whole group at Humber and I tried to watch him perform, or practice, as much as I could. Tyler has done very well for himself since those college days and I'm quite thrilled that he agreed to be a guest on my blog. So here is my friend Tyler Emond, Playing "Jique" by Brazilian Girls, from their 2006 album Talk to La Bomb:

  This is what Tyler had to say about the song:

  "Brazilian Girls are a really great band out of New York combining electronica, dub-step, punk, soul, rock and lot's of other fun stuff. I first saw them play at a jazz festival for an older crowd where they did not tame down their set, and they closed with a song called "pussy". I've been a fan ever since.

  The bass player is Jesse Murphy (who's also played with John Scofield and Me'Shell Ndgeocello), and he's always got creative things to say on the bass. I'm not using any effects on this but I'm pretty sure Murphy is using an octaver or synth on the verses as well as the keyboard player doubling the line. He's playing a Fender Mustang.

  There are two main parts of the bass line. There's the synthy intro/verse part, and the funkier James Jamerson-ish chorus line. I found the verse part needed emphasis on the upbeats to make it pop and push forward. The chorus on the other hand, is a little more laid back in terms of tone and touch. This helps when playing all the fills at the end so they're not too "in your face".


  Highly sought after bassist, Tyler Emond, has quickly become a first call player in the Canadian music scene. Known for being adept on both acoustic and electric instruments, he has tackled a wide range of genres and situations.

  Born in Ottawa, Tyler came from a family of musicians and was taught electric bass by his father. Continuing his music education he attended Humber College in Toronto to focus on double bass. In 2007 he graduated at the top of his class, receiving the Oscar Peterson Prize for excellence.

  Since then he has recorded and/or toured throughout Europe, the United States, Canada, and Central America with artists such as Matt Dusk, Mr. Something Something, Nick 'brownman' Ali, KC Roberts and the Live Revolution, Mr.Marblesz, Ruth Cassie, Jessica Stuart, Del Dako, Adrean Farrugia, Sundar Vishwandi, Al Kay, Alex Dean, Dave Restivo, Jaron Freeman-Fox, and Larra Skye. Notable international artists he has played with include Randy Brecker, Dead Prez, Aaron Staebell, Dave Liebman, Steve Gadd, Dave Douglas, and Bryan Vargas.

  He currently divides his time between Toronto and Vancouver composing works for his own projects.

  Visit him at

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Chickenfoot's "Up Next" and on Steve Jobs' influence

Michael Anthony rocks!
  I have to admit that when Chickenfoot first got together I had no interest whatsoever in even hearing the band. I'm not a fan of either Joe Satriani or Sammy Hagar, and so I never checked them out. However, there has been so much hype surrounding their second album (strangely entitled "Chickenfoot III") that I caved in and listened to it. I was pleasantly surprised and found a couple of songs that I liked. In particular "Up Next". Check it out:

  This song jumped out at me and got stuck in my head from the very first time I heard it. It has so much more energy than the rest of the songs on the album, Satriani's playing is meaner and more aggressive, Michael Anthony's backup vocals are so amazing, and, most importantly for me, its so damn catchy! The whole song is covered with hooks that just make you want to bob your head and sing along.

"I'll show respect, the best I can"

  The main guitar riff at the beginning is awesome because all of those "off-beat" notes contrast so well with the basic quater-note pulse of the bass. Satriani uses a lot of little licks and fills (and a lot of them using harmonics) throughout the song. And the guitar solo is brilliant, very different than the rest of the song in that its moody and dark, and Joe uses his delay effect perfectly to make it sound very space-y. Although when I first heard the solo I was totally expecting it to break out into a ripping shred-fest before going back to the verse. I'm looking forward to seeing if they extend that section live. Also I really like how Satch changes the lick before the chorus and plays it in three different places on the guitar neck.

  Michael Anthony is fantastic in this song, there is so much attitude in his playing here, sliding all over the place, adding fills everywhere, and just generally laying it down with his mean round tone. I'm a big fan of how he takes the spotlight during the choruses, while the guitar lays back and just strums the chords Michael is showcasing himself and adding fills at the end of every 2-bar figure. Oh and did I mention his backing vocals are phenomenal? yeah he rocks!

At the Pearly Gates

  While doing a little research for this post I watched the short videos that Chickenfoot posted previewing the different tracks on the album. It was there that I realized what this song is really about, because even though its very upbeat and energetic, the subject of the lyrics is rather grim. The topic here is death, and how it will come to all of us at some point, and for a lot of people when they least expect it. Unfortunately the one that was "Up Next" was Steve Jobs and I personally owe a ton to him and his team at Apple because I use their products for everything.

  We have all been touched by his influence. In fact, Joe Satriani was commenting on the preview video that he had recorded the demo for this song on his iPhone while sitting in a hotel room. I recorded the audio and video for this on my iMac, using Garageband and iMovie, and I used Safari to put it all on the web. So thank you Steve and everyone that worked with him at Apple for making my life better and easier. And if there is a lesson to be learned here is that life is short, make the best of it and enjoy good music!

  Oh and by the way, is it just me or does Sammy say "I'll PEE myself"?? check out the video at 1:21.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Tribute to Cliff Burton - Metallica "No Remorse"

Rocking Out came easy to Cliff  
  A week ago today marked the 25th anniversary of Cliff Burton's tragic death on a tour bus accident. His name was mentioned everywhere on the internet, and places like Facebook were covered with profile pictures of Cliff on stage rocking out. As it turns out the friday prior I had played a show with a Metallica tribute here in Toronto (Sandman, check em out here!) and so there was a lot going on to remind me of the greatness of Cliff's playing. But what really made me want to do this next post about him was the video that surfaced on YouTube where his father was speaking about what a great person Cliff was, not just an amazing musician and entertainer. If you have not seen the video I invite you to please check it out here. It's very touching. So I pulled out my old '76 Rickenbacker and did one of my favourite songs that Cliff Burton played on with Metallica: "No Remorse"

Metallica - No Remorse - Bass Guitar Cover from Alberto Campuzano on Vimeo.

Click HERE if you can't see the video.

 This song was track number 8 on Metallica's 1983 debut album Kill 'Em All, and as such I find it may get lost for some people, as many late tracks do on a lot of albums. But to me it really showcases the band's and Cliff's abilities and creativity in writing and performing. The song has a lot of different sections, which is normal for Metallica, but what i find is not that typical of them is that this song does not repeat as much as some of their other songs on the album. What I mean is that the song changes a lot: by my count there are 9 different riffs or sections in the song, with the Verse, Pre-Chorus, and Chorus being the only ones that repeat.  All these different sections, with their changing tempos, keep the song interesting, and at 6 minutes and 26 seconds it never gets boring for me.

  As for Cliff's playing, it is not the most impressive demonstration of his skills, but to me it is a great example of why he is regarded so highly, he is creative with his part. He does not merely follow the guitar parts all the time, he plays different notes, adding harmonies that "thicken" the sound. Every Chorus is like that, he is mostly playing the fifths below the chords that the guitars are playing, so when the guitars are playing an "E" power chord, he plays a "B" note. Cliff also adds harmonies at the end of the big solo in the middle of the song. At around the 4 minute mark he plays an "F#" while the guitars play a "D" power chord, turning it into a D major chord. And then he plays a "G" note while the guitars play a "C" power chord, so he is playing the fifth of the chord. It may seem insignificant, but it adds a lot of colour to that section.

  I count myself as one of the many people out there that wished Cliff was still with us. I can only imagine what he would be doing to blow our minds. Rock on brother, we'll meet up some day \m/