Ibanez: How did you get started on guitar?
Dino: I started playing when I was about 14. My dad had an acoustic guitar lying around the house. So I picked that up and it was enough to get me used to a guitar. I was a big AC/DC fan at the time, and I was trying to learn their riffs on acoustic guitar. By the time I was 15, my mom bought me an electric guitar and a little amp. From there, I just started picking up a lot of stuff. I also got a distortion pedal. So I was able to do all the riffs, like AC/DC and Black Sabbath, and then later on Metallica, Iron Maiden, and stuff like that. Then I figured out all the different tunings.
Ibanez: Did you take any lessons?
Dino: No, I was just self-taught. I actually did take music class in high school, but they didn't really teach me anything that I wanted to know. Probably the only thing I got out of it was how to tune a guitar properly. That's about it.
Ibanez: You've mentioned a few bands already¡¦who else influenced you growing up?
Dino: Well, when I was that age, there were a lot of metal bands. I was into Motley Crue, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, of course Van Halen, AC/DC, Black Sabbath¡¦all the metal bands that were coming up at that time¡¦Judas Priest, Metallica, things like that. When I was 14-15 years old, I lived for that stuff. Anything that looked metal, I went and bought it. Anything that had a metal cover, or if it was on a certain record label, I went and bought it.
Ibanez: What did you work on to develop your incredible picking speed?
Dino: Well, a couple of things. One, practicing to Metallica¡¦a lot of the downstrokes. And then Iron Maiden was a lot of the galloping and things like that. So I learned all that stuff. Then when Slayer came along, it was all fast 16th notes, and so I started building it up that way. But I wanted to get faster, so I used to get these ankle weights and put them on my wrists while I was playing to those songs. I also had a little electrical tape that I would put around my fingers¡¦not on my finger tips, but around the joints where you bend your fingers. I would put electrical tape on there so it would be hard [to bend them], to work out my fingers more. Over time, it built up the muscles and now it just comes naturally.
Ibanez: Are there any new, up-and-coming bands or guitarists that have impressed you?
Dino: Well, obviously the guys in Dragonforce are insane¡¦they are just crazy. As far as new bands go, I like a lot of them, like As I Lay Dying and Unearth. As far as guitarists go, for me it's all the classics.
Ibanez: What has Asesino been up to recently?
Dino: We just did an 8-show tour in Mexico. We went all through Mexico, from Baja California to Mexico City, and it was just completely and utterly insane out there. It was dangerously exciting. We'd have like 1,000 kids rushing the stage and trying to get at whatever they can¡¦whether it's trying to steal your guitar or trying to steal a pick out of your hand while you're playing. It gets pretty scary at times. Sometimes kids rush the van and they don't want to let go, so they get dragged along as the van takes off.
Ibanez: Do you guys have any other shows coming up?
Dino: Yes, we're doing the Blackest of the Black tour, which starts November 17 and ends on November 30. It's Asesino, Danzig, Lacuna Coil, The Haunted, and Belphegor, a black metal band from Germany. So yeah, we're doing that tour coming up. And then Asesino will be taking a break for a little while. We will be releasing a record next year called Cristo Satanico.
Ibanez: Have you guys started recording that yet?
Dino: We're already done recording. At the moment, we're negotiating with record labels.
Ibanez: What other projects are you currently involved with?
Dino: I am currently working on another project. We have no name yet, we are still searching. We are also negotiating record contracts between different labels at the moment. And we're trying to get each one of them to come up more (laughs). You know, you try to get the best that you can from any contract. You've always got to try and protect yourself from all these record companies. Especially in America now, it's so hard to sell CD's because there's so much downloading. It's really hard, so you almost gotta take what you can get. So we're negotiating right now.
The members of my band include Tim Yeung, the drummer, who was in the bands Hate Eternal, Vital Remains, and Nile. He also played drums for Hank Williams III. So he's a very well-rounded drummer, super fast and technical, but he can do anything from jazz to country. I also have a kid who's singing in the band named Tommy, and he comes from a band called Vext from New York. And the kid is very talented¡¦he's 25 years old, and he can sing whatever, from death metal to Mariah Carey. His spectrum is so wide. It took me a long time to find the right singer, and that guy's insane. It's great. And we don't have a bass player at the moment. We were out there looking, but we have a guy in mind.
Ibanez: What is the direction of this project going to be?
Dino: Well, most people know me from being in a band called Fear Factory. And most people know my guitar work from Fear Factory. What I have done for this band is just taken that and made it bigger, better, and faster. This band's music is a little bit busier than what I did before, and I've definitely expanded on my playing a lot. I've also got my new Ibanez 8-string guitar. So a lot of that stuff has definitely helped me expand on my playing. And plus, you know, I've been out of the band for roughly four years, and within that time, I've gotten to do so many different projects and played with so many different people that I've learned new things.
I did a record called the Roadrunner All-Stars, which consisted of 60 different artists on Roadrunner Records. I was one of the team captains, so I had to put together an all-star team band and write songs. So I played with all these different musicians, like Andreas Kisser of Sepultura, Roy Mayorga from Stone Sour, and Adam Duce from Machine Head¡¦just a lot of different guys. And just learning different stuff from them helped me expand on my ideas and build up on that. Everybody that you jam with and everyone you learn something from, you're able to take that and make something else.
Ibanez: How long have you been playing Ibanez guitars?
Dino: Since 1995¡¦over 10 years now.
Ibanez: What initially drew you to the brand?
Dino: Well, I always knew certain guys played it. Like some of the guys in Testament¡¦Alex Skolnick at one point was playing Ibanez. Rocky George from Suicidal Tendencies was playing Ibanez. So I was very well aware of Ibanez guitars. And plus, one of my early guitars was an Ibanez¡¦the Adrian Smith model from Iron Maiden.
Ibanez: The Destroyer?
Dino: Yeah, the Destroyer. I had that for awhile. And when Ibanez approached me, I was aware of the 7-string because of Steve Vai and Korn, and was like, wow, that's pretty interesting. So I was like, yeah, let's give it a try. I got a 7-string to check out for a couple of weeks - the standard Universe 7-string with the green pickups and the green inlays. So I tried that one for awhile, and I really liked it a lot. But I was like, how can I make it to where it's for me? So I came back to them and said I would like to make a few changes on it, but I definitely wanted to sign with the company. At that time, I was with another company, and I wasn't happy with them. So it's kind of a blessing that Ibanez came and approached me.
I was really surprised that they actually approached me. I think they just knew the different tunings that I was experimenting with, because when I was in Fear Factory, we were doing low B and low A on 6-string. So I think they knew that and thought it would be best if I tried a 7-string for those kind of tunings. And it worked out perfect. Now I'm doing like F sharp (laughs).
Ibanez: Which guitars are you using these days?
Dino: Well, the RG 7's that are custom made. They're all customs to where I like it. And I also have the 8-string now.
Ibanez: Tell us about that guitar.
Dino: The Ibanez 8-string¡¦it's insane. It's the low 8-string, which is an F sharp. And it works out perfect, because I do a lot of the slower, chuggier stuff with that guitar. And just the tone of it is so massive. It's so massive that sometimes you question whether you need a bass player on that track. Plus I also had EMG make me custom 8-string pickups for it, so it's got a brighter tone and the low end on it is a little tighter. So it doesn't sound like a typical bass, because sometimes that low string could sound like a bass string. But with the guitar pickup I have, it makes it sound more like a guitar so it sounds really good. Plus, I'm able to expand on my playing because there are more notes to play with.
Ibanez: What do you like best about your RG 7-string?
Dino: It's what I've playing for the past 11 years. What do I like best about it? The way it feels. To me, Ibanez makes the best quality guitars, especially for the type of stuff that I do. I've never thought about going to another company. I've had other companies approach me, but I'm happy. Ibanez has definitely become a part of my career. And I'm very happy that the company stuck behind me through thick and thin.
Ibanez: You are now using the new Ibanez Tone Blaster amp. How do you like it so far?
Dino: It's really cool. A lot of the stuff I do is either completely killer distortion or clean. With this amp, I'm able to switch between the two, and it's really cool. The distortion really cuts through for what I want to do. I use a lot of mid-range, a lot of presence, and a lot of gain¡¦you know, I want to get that really cool, distorted tone.
Also, when you're in a band and you have a bass player who's playing distorted too, you have to find a balance between the two guitars so they won't start sounding like each other. And with the Tone Blaster, I'm able to really find that balance, and I'm able to find where to sit so the frequencies won't mess with the bass. Because you've got to realize, I'm playing low tunings. The Tone Blaster has helped me to find that balance within the band and the mid-range really helps me out a lot with that. I'm also able to switch to the clean channels and use some of the effects on that as well.
Ibanez: You also use the Ibanez Thermion. What do you think of that amp?
Dino: It's massive. It's killer. It's huge, it's fat. I mean, I'm not describing myself (laughs), I'm describing the amp. It's a tube amp, and if you're a tube guy, it's killer. The Tone Blaster is solid state, so obviously it has slightly different tones¡¦actually, very different tones. But I like them both, because they're both good in different ways.
Ibanez: How would you describe the tones of these amps?
Dino: Well, if I had to compare the two, I think with the Thermion you can get a really good, classic tone. And the Tone Blaster, being a solid state amp, has a little bit more of a digital tone. There's less tube noise, things like that. Plus on a solid state amp, I think sometimes you can experiment and add a lot of things to it.
Ibanez: Lastly, do you have any advice for aspiring guitar players on building a music career?
Dino: It's really hard. As far as aspiring guitarists who want to go out there and do it, one of the main things I say is, move to where you know a certain scene is hot. In other words, move to Los Angeles. Everything's in L.A. A lot of the record companies are in L.A., the scene is happening in L.A., there are a lot of clubs in L.A., and you're more likely to get seen in L.A. And try to create something original. It's difficult, but you gotta try. A lot of artists come out here, and lot of them can't handle it. L.A. and the music industry are not exactly for the weak. It's really hard to survive. I've gone through all different plateaus within this industry. You just gotta stick with it and not give up. I mean, people have to come out here and make sacrifices.
When I first came to L.A., I was 17 years old, straight out of high school. I lived in El Centro, CA, which is a small town right next to the Mexican border, about four hours from here. I jumped on a Greyhound bus and said screw it, I'm gonna go become a rock star. I get here and of course, I'm 17 years old, thinking I'm going to become a rock star overnight. Didn't happen. I was homeless on the streets for 8 months. I was surviving on the streets, my hair was down to my ass, and I couldn't get a job¡¦no one wanted to hire me. So I ended up cutting my hair after 8 months, getting a job, getting my shit together, and getting an apartment.
From there, I started meeting people, I had a part time job at a record store, I started meeting other musicians, and it just kind of grew from there. I tried a couple of bands out, got a little bit of experience playing in bands, learned how it works, how to write songs, and so on¡¦until I was able to create Fear Factory, and it became something great. But I hung in there and I didn't go home crying. That's pretty much the mentality you need to come out here and make it. That's the best advice I can give. If you're strong enough and think you can handle it, come out here. If you're not, stay at home and get a job (laughs).