Ibanez: What originally inspired you to start playing the guitar?
: When I was young, I was a really big fan of music. I was listening to a lot of 80s funk; like Kool & the Gang, George Duke, and Earth Wind & Fire. I was also listening to rock and heavy metal. I remember the first vinyl 45 that I bought was AC/DC's "Highway To Hell". I was like, "What is that sound?" [laughs] That's when I wanted to start playing guitar, because I thought that sound was so incredible. I was into heavy metal for 3 or 4 years; listening to a lot of Van Halen, Dio, and Iron Maiden.
Ibanez: Did you have formal training or did you teach yourself?
: There was a guitar at my parents' house, but my parents never played guitar. It was my grandfather's, but I never knew him. So I was very curious about it. My mother showed it to me several times, but she didn't know how to play it. So I asked if I could start taking lessons, and I began with one guy. He was mostly teaching classical stuff. It wasn't for me [laughs]. So we found someone else that could show me more rock stuff. I continued with that until I was 15 years old. At that time, I quit school and went to study at a jazz music school in Paris.
Ibanez: When did you start playing in bands for the first time and what kinds of music did you primarily play?
: At that time, I discovered a lot of things. I was about 16 years old, and I had courses in harmony and writing/arrangement. There were a few young guys like me at the school, but most of them were at least 10-15 years older. So I started a band with some of those guys, and we won a contest at the school the second year. It was a straight-ahead jazz school though, so there wasn't really any room for a lot of the stuff I was into like soul and funk. So I started to play a lot more fusion and funk music with grooves and distortion.
Ibanez: Was there anything in particular that drew you to Ibanez hollowbodies?
: When I was 12, I decided that classical guitar was not for me. I wanted an electric guitar, and the first guitar that my parents bought for me was an Ibanez guitar. I will always remember it. It was an RS315 with one humbucker, and I was crazy about it. When I was 17 or 18 years old and playing in a lot of Top 40 bands, I bought another Ibanez [laughs] in the Proline series. So I was always thinking Ibanez. When I got older, I was really into George Benson and all that soul and jazz. I was really dreaming about that guitar. A lot of my funk heroes were playing hollowbodies, but I'm a pretty average size guy. So the Artcore series was kind of the best of both worlds for me.
Ibanez: What was the recording process like for your new album?
: The new album is done, and it's going to be out April 28th. It's called "Unanimity". The first single, "Shine On", is going to be hitting radio the first week of March. I'm pretty excited about it, because it's the follow-up to my previous album and the top 3 single I had on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz charts. \r\nAs far as the recording process, I'm producing everything and writing everything. I play bass and a bit of keyboards on the album as well. I've recorded real strings and horns for this album, and last I recorded all my leads. I got some high-end tube mic preamps to record with this time around, so the recording has a great warm and precise sound. I recorded all the leads direct and through the amp, and then mixed the signals together. I do a lot of fast alternate picking, so everything has to be very precise in the recording process.
Ibanez: Was there anything that you were striving to do differently this time around?
: Yes, of course. I always want to move forward, and I'm still a pretty young artist. I like to always do new, creative, and different things. I'm kind of tired of that old stereotype of stuffy jazz music. I want to reach out to a younger audience. I'm not up there wearing a very formal jacket or anything like that. I almost look like a rock musician, at least that's what other people think. I think that's cool. Yeah sure there are some jazz elements in the improvisation and stuff, but the energy is more like a rock energy. So I've tried to do that more with the new album and mix more of a new soul vibe in there. I've done some programming and mixed some odd time shifts into the new stuff. I'm trying to mix a lot of different elements together.
Ibanez: What do you have planned for 2009?
: For now, I'm really focusing on supporting the album. I've got some shows coming up, but I know that the album is highly anticipated. So I want to give it my full attention. I'm also working on some other production stuff and various other groups that I'm playing with.
Ibanez: What have you been listening to lately?
: Not a whole lot lately. I would say that I've been listening to the last Musiq Soulchild album, because I'm a big fan. I'm always listening to George Benson albums. I've been listening to a lot of Frank Sinatra lately [laughs]. That's kind of unexpected I guess.