Ibanez: How did you get started on guitar?
: Basically, it was like the KISS thing. But at that point, I didn't know if I was playing drums or guitar. I played drums in the school band, and then Ozzy came out with Randy Rhoads and that was pretty much it. I heard "Crazy Train" and was like, "I gotta play that tune, man, it's too cool."
Ibanez: How old were you at that time?
: Ah, like 14.
Ibanez: Did you have any lessons or formal training?
: Well, for the first year and a half I pretty much taught myself. Someone showed me how to tune, so once I figured that out, chords started coming together and stuff like that. So the first year and a half was like that, and then I started taking lessons. I had a really good teacher, a classical guy. He knew theory inside and out, and I was pretty much with him for the next couple of years.
Ibanez: Which guitar players influenced you the most?
: Well, Randy Rhoads and Eddie van Halen. Yngwie Malmsteen. Marty Friedman and Jason Becker. Uli Roth. Matthais Jabs. Just a lot of guys like that... a lot of the late 70's, early 80's guys. Dimebag Darrell... that dude just seemed to convey everything that everybody else wanted to do. Oh, and Brian May.
Ibanez: When did you join up with Mushroomhead?
: I got in it back in 2000, and I first got in as a hired guy. I wasn't even supposed to be a member. It was just as a hired dude to play live shows cause they had fired their one guy. And as time went on and record labels and all that stuff, it was like, "well, we need you to be a member, because we can't afford to pay you for all these shows. So why don't you just be a member, and we'll just cut you in on everything." So I was like, sure, why not? (laughs)
Ibanez: The band just released a new album called Savior Sorrow. How would you say this record compares to your previous work with the band?
: It was just a different process. A lot of it was kind of assembled and arranged in Pro Tools, and we never really played the songs together. Whereas on the album before, XIII, on that one we jammed a lot. So when we actually went in to record it, everybody had their parts down. It was just a totally different mindset. This one, because we toured that XIII album so much and the Universal deal fell through, we didn't have a label and we were just kinda lax about the writing process. So there'd be a few ideas here, a few ideas there, but we were still touring, so it wasn't like we had a deadline or anything, and we just kinda lackadaisically wrote the album. Then we got the Megaforce deal and we had to bust ass, so it was mostly just putting parts together and assembling it with Pro Tools.
Ibanez: So this album was written mostly in the studio?
: Yeah, it wasn't like a full band participation thing where you're in a room jamming together... which is more like what XIII was, and all their other records before me were kinda like that too. Two weeks before this tour started, we finally started rehearsing all these songs, because we had never played any of them together as a band.
Ibanez: Really? That must have been interesting...
: Sure. Yeah, it was crazy. We've been shooting a bunch of videos and trying to get all kinds of stuff together at the last minute. That's kinda the whole problem. Everything with this record... as soon as the label stepped in, it was just cram, cram, cram. There's a lot of pressure there... and then if it's not coming out the way you like it, there's more pressure.
Ibanez: Was it challenging when you guys started rehearsing the material for the first time?
: Yeah, it was kinda strange. Actually, you know, we're a couple of weeks into this tour and playing them every night is kinda strange. It's getting more comfortable, but it's still not second-nature yet. A lot of the other tunes, it's like play them with your eyes closed and one hand tied behind your back. All this stuff, you've still got to think a little bit. It's getting there (laughs), and at least we try to make it look easy. And it is for the most part, it's just a lot. We're playing a lot of tunes from the new record, so it's just a lot to handle at once.
Ibanez: What are some of your favorite tracks on the album and why?
: Kinda hard decision. The first track "12 Hundred"... that was a total last minute thing. Skinny played a bunch of drum patches, and I just jammed along. He put a bunch of things together, and I came in later and just came up with all those riffs and stuff right on the spot. So I like that one just because it's got that kind of tight, driving thing happening. And "Save Us" I dig, because I got to do my little fake Brian May thing in the middle of it. That was something I always liked. And probably the other one is the twelfth track, the acoustic thing ["Embrace the Ending"]... cause that's never been done on a Mushroomhead record, and almost all the guitars on that are scratch tracks. \r\n\r\nA lot of the album was intended to be redone. There's like a sitar solo thing I did in the song "Damage Done" that was totally adlibbed... I had every intention to redo that. All those acoustic guitars on track 12... I had every intention of re-tracking that. That was just like an experiment. So we ended up just going with a lot of scratch tracks. There's some keyboard things that I did as well that were just off the cuff, just to throw something in cause the other guys weren't around. So as far as favorite tracks, it's probably those three just because they're kinda loose and off the cuff. And "The Fallen," track 11, that's more like my style. If I was gonna do a solo record, there'd probably be more stuff like that, with a lot of ripping leads on it. I'm more into that Sabbath-y rock style with the soloing and stuff.
Ibanez: The band recently parted ways with guitarist Bronson. Are you now covering all the guitar parts?
Ibanez: Has it been a challenge to play the old material without another guitar player?
: Not at all. If anything, there's just a rhythm going under a melodic line or something, and it's just prioritizing... you know, playing each part separately and letting everybody in the band decide which they would rather hear.
Ibanez: What first interested you in Ibanez guitars?
: Well, Iron Maiden... I was kinda into them when I first started getting into metal and stuff. And Adrian Smith had an Ibanez Destroyer, and I thought it was one of the coolest guitars I'd ever seen. So aside from a copy Les Paul, my second guitar was an Ibanez Destroyer.
Ibanez: So this album was written mostly in the studio?
: Yeah. I've kind of swapped out parts with other guitars, but it's intact. Actually, I did a photo shoot - we do our own photos - and I took all the Ibanez guitars that I own, which is about 13 or 14, and I laid them all out on the couch, and we did this photo shoot for Guitar World. \r\n\r\nBut yeah, my first one was the Destroyer. Then I ended up getting a Roadster a year later, and that was my main guitar for years and years. And somebody had modified it. They tried to make like a Strat out of it. Cause after I took it apart, I noticed that there was a cutaway for two humbucking pickups instead of three single-coils. So someone routed another hole in there, and put a Strat-style pickguard on it and tried to make a Strat out of it. And then when I got it, I put a humbucker and a bridge in and that was pretty much it, and I rolled with that thing for quite a few years. And I own everything... I've had Jacksons and Gibsons and all that shit. But Ibanez has given me the least amount of problems and the most dependability as far as playing shows and stuff. I play in a cover band and several original bands, and it's been like that since I was 15.
Ibanez: So you're able to get all the sounds you're looking for out of your Ibanez guitars?
: Yeah. Yeah, totally. And they stay in tune... I beat the shit out of them, and everything works great. My Gibson or Jackson or any of that other shit I would use, I'd always have some kind of problem. With Ibanez, it's kind of like worry-free guitars. I'll play the same guitar for a whole set and never touch the tuning once.
Ibanez: Which model or models are you currently playing?
: Well, I have two modified RG 7-strings, and then my one custom. My first custom that you guys built for me, which is basically an RG as well... two humbuckers, 5-way switch, and volume and tone.
Ibanez: What do you like best about these guitars?
: They just feel right. They've always just been really comfortable, the sound is good, and I can beat on them and they keep working. I mean, there have been little problems here and there, but for the most part, everything's pretty kick-ass.
Ibanez: Are you playing in any other projects?
: Well, at one point, I had like four things going at once, but right now it's just Mushroomhead, obviously, a band called 216... which is me, my brother, who's the Mushroomhead drummer, Pig Benis, the Mushroomhead bass player, and J-man, the previous singer of Mushroomhead. It's like a hardcore Pantera-type band. We've been doing that since like '99. And it's pretty big in Cleveland, but we haven't tried to get a deal with it or do anything outside of that. But we do that, and I still play in that same cover band I've been in since like '89.
Ibanez: What's that called?
Ibanez: What kind of stuff do you guys cover?
: It's all metal. When it started, we would play classic rock. But we started playing more metal and stuff from like the mid- to late-80's, and the crowds got bigger and we're still doing it today. We do a medley of old Sabbath, a medley of old Metallica, a couple of Iron Maiden tunes, Dio... you name it... Pantera, Slayer, Rob Zombie, White Zombie, Tool... all that stuff. And we used to play every weekend for years and years, but a couple of these guys as they got older got married and settled into their careers, and now I'm touring all the time. So with that band, we only play out about 3 or 4 times a year when I'm home, and every show is a blast. Same thing with 216, it's like so low maintenance after the Mushroomhead thing. We don't even really rehearse. We're not really serious about it, we're more excited that we're gonna do a low maintenance show and there's gonna be a lot of people and we're gonna have a good time and kick some ass (laughs).