By: Matt Warnock
When I first got a copy of Dave Reffett’s album Call of the Flames I have to admit that I was unfamiliar with the guitarists playing up until that point in time. I turned the disc over to see who was in the band and immediately noticed the incredible list of guest guitarists on the record, including Michael-Angelo Batio, George Lynch, Chris Poland and Joe Stump. After seeing all of these legendary performers on one record I immediately thought, “Well, Dave must be one helluva player to get this lineup on board for an album,” and after listening to the record I was right.
Reffett digs deep into his metal vocabulary on the record, and while he can solo with the best of them, what really stands out is his incredible right hand chord work. I have seen and heard a lot of guys speed pick solos over the years at blistering tempos, but few, if any, can match the speed and rhythmic variation that Reffett possesses with his chords. There is often a huge focus put on lead playing in the metal world, but after hearing Reffett’s performance on this record, it goes to show that a strong rhythm part can be just as powerful as the most intense lead line.
I was able to meet up with Dave at this year’s NAMM show, where he introduced by to Ryan Cook of Esoterik guitars, gave me a rundown on his signature model, and even let me take it for a test drive. A lot of guys talk up their signature models, and Dave is no exception, but when I picked up the guitar, plugged it in and started playing it, I immediately knew what he was talking about. The guitar has incredible intonation, it’s very easy to play, and most importantly, it sounds and feels great. On top of all of this, it’s an incredibly good looking guitar, not too fancy or over the top, but a nice focus on the natural colors of the wood and a sleek design that really catches your attention.
Guitar International recently caught up with Dave Reffett to talk about his new Esoterik signature model guitar, the current state of Metal and his latest album, Call of the Flames.
Matt Warnock: You recently made an appearance at NAMM where you were playing your signature model Esoterik model. Tell us about that guitar.
Dave Reffett: This guitar is so cool. It’s handmade and it’s just beautiful. It has Seymour-Duncan Blackout pickups, which are my favorite. What’s cool is that you can customize the pickups if you want, so you can choose whatever setup you prefer and they’ll put it together for you. The body is figured maple and walnut, it’s just gorgeous.
What I like about it, as a guitar player, is that it stays in tune freakishly well. I have a big vibrato, and even when I just crank on the strings there’s never an issue, this thing just holds up under any circumstances. It’s a fantastic instrument.
Matt: What drew you to Esoterik guitars in the first place, instead of going to a bigger maker such as Jackson or Ibanez?
Dave Reffett:I also endorse Gibson guitars. I’ll always love Gibson guitars and I’ll always play them, but this guitar is different for me. It’s like the first time I saw KISS in concert, and I was like “Whoa, this is awesome.” I could immediately tell that the band was different, that they had talent, and it’s the same with this guitar.
There are so many mediocre things in the world right now, horrible music, that kind of thing. So when I see something that’s really done well, I take notice. I appreciate beauty and this guitar is absolutely beautiful. Ryan Cook, who runs Esoterik, is a real up and comer and the way that some people are virtuoso players, this guy’s a virtuoso maker, and I knew I wanted to be a part of what he was doing right from the beginning.
Matt: The Call of the Flames features some great guest artists alongside your amazing guitar work. What was it about guys like Chris Poland, George Lynch, Michael-Anglo Batio and Joe Stump that inspired you to include them on the record?
Dave Reffett: When I was a little kid, hanging out with the metal crowd at school, we’d pass around tapes of new bands that we were checking out. One day this kid came up to me and said, “Man, you gotta see this,” and he put in this horror movie. It was Michael-Angelo playing in the movie and he was just ripping it up. I’ve dug his playing ever since, he’s just a beast.
Joe Stump is a friend of mine from my Berklee days, so I knew I wanted to have him on the album. George Lynch has such a signature style, that crazy phrasing that he does and a real cool touch. I was always into Dokken, so he was an easy choice to bring on board. I also love Chris Poland’s playing with Megadeth and his more recent stuff. I love how he also has that Charlie Parker thing that he throws into his lines, a really great player. It was kind of a no-brainer having guys like this on the record, and I’m glad it all worked out and they could all play on the album.
Matt: Your music comes across as being more thrash than most metal these days. Would you say that your playing is more influenced by thrash-metal than heavy-metal?
Dave Reffett: I think so. I think that a lot of my influences back in the day were Metallica, Megadeth, Testament and Overkill, so that’s where I got that crazy, right-hand rhythm technique that I use. But, I was also into bands like Dio and Skid Row, so it’s kind of a mix between hard-rock and thrash, in that area. I think there’s something in there for everybody, so it makes everybody happy. Which I think is really cool.
Matt: It seems like metal is making a comeback, after Grunge killed it in the ‘90s. Are you seeing a resurgence in the metal scene in the last few years in your music, and with your friends who have metal bands?
Dave Reffett: Definitely. I actually liked Nirvana, great songwriter. It wasn’t their fault that all that happened. I think it was the record companies who were mostly responsible. I’ve worked for record companies, and it’s like if one band becomes popular they pool all their resources to that genre, ignoring anything else.
Some people in these companies think that it’s the clothes their wearing or their attitudes, but they never think that maybe it’s because bands like Nirvana write good songs. It’s sad that the record companies have looked the other way with metal for so many years now, but they can’t ignore it anymore because it’s back and doing great.
Matt: Talk about your relationship with Nancy Taylor and what she brought to this project from a songwriting perspective.
Dave Reffett: We’ve worked together for a long time and she’s a great lyricist. When we met we’d email back and forth different song ideas and lyrical concepts. We basically put together a huge notebook of lyrics. When we got around to recording this album I ended up choosing the ones that were the closest to being done, there’s so much stuff in there that I couldn’t get through it all in a lifetime. She’s a great songwriter and I’m really glad I can work with her, and I can’t wait to work with her again on the next record. It’s going to be even better than this one.
Matt: You also co-produced the album. Do you see yourself juggling these different aspects in future projects, or do you think you’d rather just play and write and let others do the behind the scenes work?
Dave Reffett: I have like hundreds of hours of riffs to dig through for the next record, so I’m at the stage where I’m weeding through things to see what I like and what to toss. Right now I’m focusing on the musical side of things, but I think I would like to be involved in the production side as well on the next album.
I like to wear a lot of hats. I’m kind of a control freak you could say. Not in a bad way, but at the end of the day I have to love the music. I have to be able to feel like I kicked my own ass to make this record if I’m going to ask people to spend their hard-earned money on the album.
Matt: Are you planning a tour in support of the new record in 2011?
Dave Reffett: Well, when I released the album I got really sick, which was totally fucked up. So I did some guitar clinics but that was all I could do. I’m planning on getting out for this next record that we’ve started working on, touring in the U.S., getting over to Europe and hopefully Japan.