Ibanez: How long have you been playing guitar?
Doug: At the risk of making myself sound old, I've been playing for 37 years. I started playing the same day I learned to swim.
Ibanez: When did you begin studying with Joe Satriani, and how did that come about?
Doug: I started studying with Joe in my junior year of high school. I was going to Berkeley High at that time, and everybody was studying with him, so I figured I'd "check him out." I left a message saying I was interested in lessons and he called me back in a day or so. Our first conversation was really cool. We talked about our mutual likes and dislikes and he added me to his waiting list. About a month or so later, he gave me a call and I went in for my first lesson.
Ibanez: What did you gain from your studies with him?
Doug: First of all, as you might imagine, Joe was an extremely demanding teacher - just look at the students he's produced. When I first started studying with him, Joe was only 24, and for the most part was every bit as good as he is now. That's not to say that he hasn't developed or improved, but really, he's always been great. In taking weekly hour-long lessons with him, I benefited from his wealth of knowledge and musical expertise as he trained my hands, ears and mind. He was a truly brilliant teacher and it was a total inspiration to study with him. I still have all my lesson plans, including the ones from the lessons where I had not practiced enough beforehand¡¦and the lesson plans reflect his thoughts about that!
Ibanez: Tell us about your Nu Instrumetal album.
Doug: This disc is an outgrowth of a project I did with Stu Hamm and Atma Anur called DHA (Doppler Hamm Anur). The track "Five Hi" is actually from the DHA sessions, so it was great to be able to add that to the disc as a pseudo bonus track. All the DHA songs were heavy¡¦I used my S7420 7-string¡¦and they were all in odd meters, which was really cool. For Nu Instrumetal, I wanted to keep the heaviness from DHA and add more of the studio treatments that vocal bands were using, but with the guitar being the melody instrument, and of course lots of solos. The end result was a record that is modern in approach, but still reflects who I am as an instrumental artist. It was a lot of fun making this disc.
When I started writing for NI, it was a concept that I had not had a chance to rehearse before it was created, which means that I was able to go into the disc without an idea of how I was going to execute existing songs in the studio. In that sense, it was very different from Ground Zero, my first disc. In this case, with the exception of "Five Hi," all the songs started with me, a click track, and the rhythm guitar parts, and that was it. Atma and I worked together for so many years that I could trust he would play something awesome with just the click, and he would be able to lean and swing the drum parts in relation to how I leaned and swung the parts in relationship to the click. There is a real art to playing with the click and not just on top of it. Groove is a multi-dimensional thing that is determined by how much you are leaning in relation to the click and how much swing, if any, there is in the groove. Atma mastered all of that and in working with him I learned to be able to work with the click in that fashion. Together we could literally shift the lean from section to section of the song, back and forth through the arrangement. It is subtle, but his ability to do that is masterful and it is one of the things I've learned from him that I value the most.
Once I had the drums cut, I tracked all of the bass with the exception of the songs with Stu and Billy Sheehan. Then I double-tracked all the dirty guitars and added the clean guitars as well. Once that was done I took the tracks to L.A., where my co-producer Peter Karr and I picked the various loops and treatments for the songs¡¦a really fun and creative process. Then I would return to my home studio and cut the melodies and the solos. I don't think there were any songs that had melodies or solos before the treatments were added, which makes for a really unique way to do a record. At that point, I would take the tracks back to L.A. and we would mix them there.
It was a very creative way to approach the record on many fronts. Pete really made it clear that he wanted me to use lots of different sounds on the disc, and it really caused me to stretch in new directions. I used a different tone or effect for just about all the tracks and as an end result did things that were really reactive to each piece of music and created a unique palette. The backdrop of each song was pretty consistent¡¦heavy vibe, double-tracked guitars, with the occasional clean chorused rhythm. In turn, it allows the guitar to function more like a vocal with each track by using the choice of tones as a musical paintbrush. The cool part is that I can reproduce all of these live via the Boss GT-6 I used on the disc. My band (Matthias on drums, Steve Sarina on rhythm guitar, and Uriah Duffy on bass) plays with the various loops from the disc live, so you get all the cool treatments and occasional keyboard parts blended in with a very loud but quite musical cast of musical characters. I do my best to play the melodies with a personal inflection not always trying to play it "exactly" as I did on the record, as this really lets the songs breathe and become something new each night.
Ibanez: You recently did a European tour supporting Gilby Clarke. How was that?
Doug: First of all, Gilby is just the greatest guy. He's got talent, he's got fame, and he's got fortune, but he doesn't have attitude. What you see is what you get, 24/7. His band was great to be on the road with. I did my set with tracks, so we spent a lot of time together traveling in close quarters. It was an amazing opportunity to tour virtually all of Europe in a fashion that most instrumental artists never get to do - with an experienced act that actually treats you right. I realize how fortunate I was to be able to do it, and on top of all that, the audiences were great. When I was in Scandinavia, Joe Satriani and I exchanged e-mails, and to this day he reminds me how fortunate we are to be able to do what we do. Another amazing guy with the right attitude, all the time!
One of the other great things that happened was a clinic I did at the end of the tour in Milan for Mogar, the Italian distributor for Ibanez. The head of artist relations is a guy named Stefano Xotta (a great guitar player in his own right), and he treated me like royalty. The clinic was a huge success - lots of people and lots of fun, and some great press coverage. Over the course of my stay there, Stefano also arranged for a meeting between myself and Mogar's sister company Carisch, who now is distributing my first instructional DVD "Diatonic Theory and Harmony" all across Europe. This was very important as it will serve as a valuable link between me and the various music stores where I will be doing clinics this next spring. I also hooked up with this great speaker cabinet company called Dragoon. They make these incredible 2x12 cabinets that actually have the tight, defined low end that most 4x12 cabinets lack. And that is saying a lot as I've always sworn by 4x12 cabs.
Ibanez: How long have you been playing Ibanez guitars?
Doug: I've been playing Ibanez guitars since 1983.
Ibanez: What first interested you in the brand?
Doug: I was working and teaching at Orinda Music, a small music store in the town where I grew up. Ibanez was really starting to step into its own as a brand. As many people know, Ibanez actually had a great reputation in the copycat business, but the Roadstar series was the beginning of Ibanez really becoming their own brand. I used to have two of those, and although I don't own those instruments any more, I certainly played them a lot.
Ibanez: Which models are you currently using?
Doug: I have ten S 540s, four S7420 7-strings, two "13-String" double-necks, a newer S470, and an SZ520. I also have an ambitious collection of vintage "lawsuit era" guitars.
Ibanez: What do you like best about these guitars?
Doug: The S Series is, in my opinion, the best guitar out there. It has all the best features of a Strat and Les Paul wrapped into one. 22 fret neck on a mahogany body, hum sing hum pickup configuration, and a killer locking tremolo. For me, this means there is a single guitar I can use in virtually ANY musical setting. I play a lot of different styles and I almost always reach for one of my S Series guitars.
Ibanez: In addition to being an accomplished musician, you are also a respected educator. Are you still teaching lessons at Satriani's former Berkeley studio?
Doug: Yes, I still teach there after all these years. There is a huge amount of musical history that has taken place there, actually. Randall Smith actually invented the Mesa Boogie amp there, and Joe taught all the famous guys there, with the exception of Steve Vai. I actually referred Kirk Hammet to him years ago, back when Kirk was still playing in Exodus.
Ibanez: As you mentioned, you have an instructional DVD out called "Diatonic Theory and Harmony." Can you tell us some more about this video and what it covers?
Doug: There are two key areas of interest in this DVD. One is for people who really want to understand how and why music functions as it does on the guitar and in relation to other instruments and musicians. Part of my intention was to be able to give guitar players a vocabulary for discussing music intelligently with people who play instruments other than the guitar. The other key use for this DVD is for people who simply want to have all the important chords and scales in one place, spelled out in common keys. Most chord books have a bunch of chords, but never even hint at how you can put them together in a common key, which to me is silliness. Musicians want to know how to put chords and scales to work in common keys, and most of the time they really want to know how and why they sound good together!
Ibanez: This is just the first in a series of instructional videos called Guitar 411. What do you have planned for the next one?
Doug: The next title "Whammy Bar Mojo" is all about how to use the Whammy Bar. I've seen a lot of guitar players over the years, and I am often surprised at how few of them use the bar in a really musical way. Joe [Satriani], Steve [Vai], and Jeff Beck are masterful in how they use the bar as a tool for embellishment. The key here is that those guys are so developed as players that the bar is just one of many tools that they use, but a very important one in terms of their sound. The first thing the DVD covers is how to target and isolate individual strings so that when you add the bar to the equation, you get only the sound of the string you are intending to hit. I brought a couple of my students over to the house when I was starting on the DVD and it became clear that I really needed to show people how to target and isolate individual strings in order to be able to get a great sound when using the bar. Other unwanted string noise is a step in the opposite direction from embellishment, which is what the bar is intended to be used for - subtle or not.
I am just finishing up the edits on this disc and it will be out in December 2006. I'm really excited as I know people are going to have a lot of fun with this DVD. "Diatonic" has sold really well, and I now have students in over 20 countries around the world pretty exciting. Whereas "Diatonic" was about doing some homework to get better and know your game, "Whammy" is all about having fun, and I think many players will have a great time with this DVD, and it will end up adding a really valuable dimension to their playing. The response from my web site has been really great.
Ibanez: Are you currently involved with any other projects?
Doug: In addition to playing with my band and the DVD stuff, I play every Sunday at my Church. It keeps me focused on where my gifts come from, and keeps me in a place where I am constantly giving back. I am doing seminars at the Christian Musician Summit later this week in Seattle, and in January I will be speaking at Break Forth in Canada. Then in March I'll be going back up to Canada to do a seminar for Guitar Church (www.GuitarChurch.com) a Christian outreach program that is just totally amazing. I am super excited to be involved with this as it gives kids (and adults) something incredibly positive to focus their energy into - the love of music.
Sometime around January or so I will start a series of clinic tours here in the US, and then in May or June of 2007, I will be heading back to Milan for an Ibanez Day, which is really exciting. Mogar is putting this together, and Paul Gilbert, Marty Friedman, and Andy Timmons are supposed to appear as well pretty amazing company. Also cool is the fact that three of the four of us are on Favored Nations (Steve Vai's label) here in the States. I will stay on in Europe for a series of clinics after that, so I am really excited about all of this! It just keeps getting better and better.