By: Matt Warnock
When one thinks of Saudi Arabia, a strong and open music scene doesn’t normally come to mind, but as is the case with many cultural stereotypes, looks can be deceiving. One of the artists that is looking to shed light on the Saudi musical scene and heritage is guitarist, and current Vancouver resident, Faze, and his Faze Project is an exciting new instrumental record that features world-class playing and writing. Aside from his work as a performer and recording artist, Faze is also an experienced teacher who is spreading his wings into the realm of live workshops and internet guitar lessons. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for Faze, he’s definitely ready to make a splash on the international, instrumental-guitar scene.
Guitar International recently caught up with Faze to talk about Parker guitars, the Vancouver music scene and Dave Martone.
Matt Warnock: Who were your early influences on the guitar, the players that made you want to learn to play back in the day?
Faze: When I first started playing, at the age of nine, my biggest influence was John Denver. When I picked up an electric guitar though, I forgot about all my past influences and focused on just one person, Ali Maarrawi. He was my first electric guitar teacher, and I’d never seen a real person play the electric guitar before that.
He came over for my first electric guitar lesson and the first thing he said was “we’re not touching a guitar until you learn your theory,” which I though was bizarre. I mean, I was ready to strum a G chord and just show him that I could play “Country Road” like nobody else, or so I thought. Once he picked up my busted blue Fender and played it I was blown away. This guy ripped the guitar with his insane picking and he made it look so easy, which it wasn’t at all.
He was probably the person that inspired me to play every day and practice until my fingers were sore. Through him I got into guys like John Petrucci, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Metallica, Kamelot and a bunch of other guitarists and bands. But to answer your question in the simplest form, I would definitely say my early influences were Ali Maarrawi and John Petrucci.
Matt: Living in Vancouver you must be aware of Dave Martone. Do you know Dave’s music and if so how do you feel about it and how does it relate to what you’re doing right now?
Faze: Dave is just great. He’s mentoring me through my journey as a guitar player. He has taught me so many things on the guitar, expanding my horizons on the instrument and my perspective on so many other things.
I’ve listened to all his albums and I feel that my style relates to his strongly. I keep snatching a couple of licks and tricks here and there off his albums because they sound incredible. Even his other projects like Kadabra, along with guitar player Brian Poulsen, are inspiring to me. I mean we play the same guitars.
Prior to meeting Dave I wasn’t sold on the idea of instrumental music. I always wanted to be in a band and sing, but I think the most important thing Dave showed me was how to channel my emotions through the guitar, that’s what made me form The Faze Project.
Dave, if you’re reading this…it’s D.
Matt: Have your influences changed over the years and if so, why?
Faze: Of course, and they continually changes every day. I think as you get older, I’m 20 now, you start to appreciate varying styles of music rather than when you’re 15 and all you could think about is Metallica versus Megadeth. Now I appreciate anything that comes my way, except maybe for dubstep or techno.
I’m getting into a ton of blues and jazz, I’ve been listening to a lot of Dean Brown lately, phenomenal player! John Petrucci and Ali Maarrawi are always going to be at the top of my list along with Dave Martone, Guthrie Govan, Satriani, Vai and Alex Hutchings.
Matt: Talk about your upbringing in Saudi Arabia and your decision to move to Canada to pursue music?
Faze: It was definitely a hard choice to make. Living back there is great no doubt about it, contrary to popular belief it was actually rather fun. When I left I was at the pinnacle of my career with my band OCTUM. I mean, we would’ve made it somewhere I’ll tell you that, however at that time things started to go downhill on other aspects, shows were becoming harder to play until one day people we knew got thrown in prison for organizing a show. It was definitely a scary thought that you could get thrown in jail for playing music. However, as a community of musicians we were all one big family and there was rarely any bad blood because we were all new to this.
I was raised a Muslim and I don’t let religion get in my way of things negatively. Moving to Canada caused a slight culture shock but I got over it easily. What impressed me was the amount of musicians here compared to Saudi. Canada is just a giant rose garden of musicians spanning across so many genres ranging from African Rock to technical Zither players.
Matt: What is the music scene like in Vancouver right now? Are there enough places to play and teach, or do you have to travel a lot to make things work?
Faze: For an instrumental artist, I think Vancouver isn’t the right place to be. Speaking honestly, Vancouver is a venue for so many other genres, which is great. But for a career like mine, Vancouver doesn’t seem to be the right place for it. There are a ton of places to teach, but a very limited number of places to play. I guess that could be said elsewhere since instrumental music is, well, non-vocal, which kind of takes away half of the venues that want you.
The city’s 125 years old and it’s still new and growing, which I can appreciate. It does so well with many other aspects and there are a great number of musicians who live here, but a few jazz and blues clubs here and there would be nice. I think traveling would be great and I would actually enjoy traveling to make things work. There are some crazy festivals like Ziua Chitarelor, The Syrian Guitar Festival, Vancouver Guitar Show and The Montreal Jazz Festival which are places I would definitely enjoy playing and being a part of.
Matt: You teach clinics on different guitar-related subjects. How did you first become involved in these workshops and are they something that you want to continue in the future?
Faze: Dave once told me, “Walk into a music store, pick up a guitar and start playing.” That’s pretty much what started my clinic journey. I collaborated with a local music store here called Westcoast Music and we put on a great clinic. I have had a couple of offers to do clinics abroad which is something I look forward to doing, as well as a few online lessons since I’m good at video editing and tabbing.
Matt: What guitars do you play and why do you play these brands?
Faze: I play Parker Guitars, reason being that it feels like no other guitar. I also like the fact that the volume knob is easy to access so it allows me to do some crazy swells. The piezo bridge is also a plus too since I do a lot of clean tapping licks that involve that piezo pickup sound. Exceptionally light, weighing only 5lbs, which is a plus for traveling and it’s a fairly sturdy guitar. It’s reliable, which is what counts. All in all it’s a well-rounded guitar, the only thing I would like it to have is easier access to the pickup selectors.
I’ve been experimenting with Suhr guitars and so far so good, they’re fantastic. A local company called 11Guitars endorses me and they make some sweet super Strats. We’re working on a couple of more models, which is great.
Matt: Do you have plans for a record or tour in 2011?
Faze: I’m working on an EP right now. Definitely once it comes out I’m touring the living daylights out of it, through clinics or shows, either way it’s cool. There have been arrangements made with local venues for The Faze Project shows in the future once the album is out.
I keep posting videos on YouTube and some of the stuff there is definitely going to be on the album. I’ve found a producer who understands my need for perfection, as he too is a perfectionist so working with him in the near future is exciting. The EP is expected to be out in the fall of 2011.