By: Robert Cavuoto
Dark, brooding, and oozing with major attitude, Joe showcases his amazing playing while delivering very listenable musical songs that use influences from various schools of metal. It’s will sure to appeal to both guitar enthusiasts as well as fans of guitar driven metal.
I was able to catch up with Joe to talk about his new CD and what drives his passion for neoclassical shredding!
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me about your latest release, Revenge of the Shredlord and how it compares to your previous CD, Virtuosic Vendetta?
Joe Stump: I stepped things up on this record. It’s darker and heavier. All of the melodies are very dark sounding and the whole overtone of the record is in that kind of vibe.
Virtuosic Vendetta was much more varied. You had the neoclassical stuff like Yngwie-induced, baroque fret-frying shit, but I also had a couple of Jimi Hendrix and Robin Trower things. I had a couple of retro kind of Richie Blackmore things on it too. Revenge of the Shredlord its more concentrated and focused.
Robert: I’m sure I can guess who your influences are, but tell me who they are and how they helped you develop?
Joe Stump: My main guys are, of course, Ritchie Blackmore and Yngwie. I also love Gary Moore, Uli John Roth and Michael Schenker. Al Di Meola, and of course, Jimi. On some of my fast records, I’ve done some kind of retro stuff, kind of like Hendrix and Trower and Frank Marino type things. On this record, it’s all just balls out neoclassical shred/metal and blending various schools of European power metal together. I’ve always been drawn to that kind of playing.
Robert: Were you classically trained on guitar?
Joe Stump: Not at all. I can’t play traditional classical guitar with my fingers. I have played classical pieces, whether it’s parts of Paganini caprices or Bach violin sonatas and partitas. I’ve always played things like that and still to this day occasionally play it, but it’s tough for me to devote the kind of discipline to playing a Bach piece if I’m not gonna do anything with it.
Robert: When you’re writing for a CD, do you improvise on the spot, or do you have everything laid out?
Joe Stump: Many times, I’ll just be in my work room playing and things will come to me. Sometimes I might have a cool arpeggio section, like on “Strat Out of Hell”. Sometimes, I’ll have a section lying around and I’m not sure what I’m gonna do with it. On “Pistoleros” I had a melody lying around then married the little arpeggio part with the open-string thing that happened in the middle of the song. A lot of it comes together right there on the spot fairly quickly. For the most part everything I write is very organic. Any time I write a melody, it just comes to me. Then I kind of get a vibe for the time, feel and groove of the track and then it just kind of stems and spirals from there.
Robert: How do you avoid repeating yourself?
Joe Stump: There’s a fine line I get between, say, “Oh, that sounds like this off of this record,” where with anybody you could say, “That kind of reminds me of that track.” That’s part of what I’m doing with my style.
There’s the argument you can say, “Yeah, it sounds like the same shit to me.” You could do that with anybody and you can say that’s just part of what the guy does. I don’t get overly concerned or overly analytical. I just try to write cool tunes, like when it comes to my solo records, I just think of very organically strong melodies, cool riffs and then, of course, all the additional technical stuff. There’s got to be music. It can’t just be all technical stuff.
There are a few tunes on this record – like to me, “Pistoleros” is a very complete track because it’s very strong in every area, where the melody’s killer, the riffs are cool. The other thing I try to bring is balls and attitude. I try to bring that where a lot of guys are very technical. They might play well, but they just don’t rock. It’s just all fancy guitar exercises. There’s got to be some rock, attitude and balls to it.
Robert: Being a professor at Berklee and seeing all the media outlets like YouTube and websites dedicated to tablature, do you feel that people are better guitar players nowadays? Are these advancements helping guitar players in your professional opinion?
Joe Stump:They’re helping. One of the things that is unfortunate for younger players, that I see, is that there is so much material available to them, they just kind of put blinders on and say, “Let’s play it fast. Let’s play it clean. Let’s play it technically correct,”.
Where the idea of learning to play something and stretching one idea into ten ideas or dissecting it and figuring out ways you could turn it into things that will help you learn the instrument better and improve your technique is lost.
Instead of playing the shit out of one thing, they’re learning five things half-assed, and it’s not impacting their playing the way it should. Certain players are very dedicated to self-improvement and have a lot of discipline. The way you get good is to work hard and break your balls. The guys that do that get better faster then the guys who don’t. The media and all the technology is cool when you can use it to your advantage.
Robert: How much of your playing is a “gift” and how much of it is sweat equity?
Joe Stump: I was never particularly gifted or talented. I’ve developed things just through consistent hard work. I play just about all the time, especially at Berklee. I’m a well-known underground player. I get to tour a decent amount with somebody with my modest level of success. I’m lucky that I play live a lot. Nothing really brings up your skill level like that, in combination with everything. I’ve got a guitar in my hand maybe 8 or 10 hours a day at work. Between that and practicing on off days and touring, it’s a nice combination.
What I tell everybody when they say, “You play so amazing,” is, “I should be good by now.” I’ve been playing fucking forever and I still practice all the time. If I’m not good by now, maybe I should quit.
The analogy I always use is – A show is like the game, rehearsal is like the scrimmage and practicing by yourself is like working out. You can’t match the intensity you have in the game during the scrimmage. When the game starts, practice time has ended. You’re out there in the heat of battle and it’s time to do damage or go home.
Robert: At some point do you ever say, “I’ve got take a break from playing after a long day at work or do you just love doing 24/7?
Joe Stump: After I’m through at Berklee, that’s usually when guitar is over for the day. I was just out of town for a couple of days banging around New York, but I left on Saturday, and I’m back today. One of the few times I didn’t bring a guitar with me, so I took like a day and a half off. I’ll do stuff like that occasionally just to get away from it, or take like one day a week on the weekend maybe and not play. Or like a light practice day. A light practice day is like sitting around playing while I’m watching the Yanks or something, as opposed to in my work room at it.
Robert: What is your practice regimen like?
Joe Stump: A lot of times I’m practicing if I’ve got something in the pipes, if I have a show. I played a show last week when I played some stuff off my new record, so I’m working stuff on the new record, making sure everything is as I’ll do warm ups or loosen up my hands if it’s a travel day.
Another thing I’ll do, instead of sitting there with the metronome, say I’m gonna play 1/16th notes at 1/92. Instead of playing a picking exercise where I’m playing 1/16th notes at 1/92, I may get on a groove and all of a sudden mix the different note values. I may put on a groove and play 1/16th notes and link it together. That way I’m kind of half working my hands, half solo vibing it.
Robert: How have you seen Neoclassical guitar playing change from the ‘80s, when it was at its height to now?
Joe Stump: I don’t know if it’s changed all that much. Generally speaking, lead guitar content hasn’t changed drastically. I can take a solo from an early Scorpions record that Uli played and show it to my advanced Metal Master class, or I could take a Blackmore or Yngwie thing that he played back in the ‘80s and bring it in and it’s still timeless from a lead guitar perspective.
Robert: Are you going to be out touring for this CD?
Joe Stump: Yes, I’ve got a bunch of shows lined up in the states and I’m doing a tour in Mexico coming up in November. Originally, I was supposed to go to Europe with Holy Hell, but we’re ending up not doing that tour. The record was supposed to be out, but now it won’t be out until like early next year. I’ve got some shows in the states and in Mexico. I’m lucky that I get to play fairly frequently. It’s a lot of fun.