Jim Davies
Model(s) Used: SZ
Band: Hyper , Victory Pill
Ibanez: What inspired you to put out an instrumental guitar album?
Jim: I've always written instrumental guitar music, from the first moment I could string together a few chords I started attempting to write tunes. I still have the tapes and they are hilarious, but it's a great way to start developing as a guitarist and writer and I'm glad I started as soon as did. When I was learning to play it was the heyday of 80's shred metal, so I listened to a lot of Satch and Vai. I actually got through to a final of a 'Guitarist of the Year' competition with an instrumental I'd written and entered, but it was pretty different. I used drum machines and loads of weird sounds and was quite industrial. I didn't win. It was too weird! But I did think maybe I was on to something with the sounds I was using and the style I was heading in.\r\n \r\nIt's always been an ambition to do an instrumental album but I had to find the right angle for it, I wasn't going to do a shred like instrumental album as that would have been pointless. There are people out there doing that that are far better at that than me, plus I didn't want to do something run of the mill. \r\n \r\nI think the eureka moment was when I wrote a b-side for my band VICTORY PILL, a tune called 'Vital Signs' it ended up being an instrumental and when it was mixed we realized it was made up of all guitar sounds, drums and bass aside obviously. So it really got me thinking, maybe I could do a whole album of instrumental tracks like that using nothing but the guitar for the sounds, and that was the angle I'd been looking for. I ended up putting 'Vital Signs' on this album as I felt it deserved to be as it kicked off the whole idea!\r\n\r\nAlso I couldn't think of a guitar instrumental album that had an electronic edge to it, they all were rock based so again that made me think I might have something unique on the go. Jeff Beck's 'Jeff' album was very electronic but the sounds guitar wise were on the whole quite traditional, so I felt my album was quite a unique take on the genre.\r\nI had to ignore what all the other guitar instrumentalists were doing and just do my own thing, which is creating textures and atmospheres using the guitar, and with a strong sense of melody and catchy tunes to carry the album with no vocals. \r\nI can honestly say there wasn't a sound I had in my mind that I couldn't create on the guitar for this album, so using a synth never came into it, the only time I needed to use one was for the bass side of things but that was it.\r\nDeciding to do an instrumental album isn't a case of me rejecting the whole band thing but I do work well on my own. I think I reached a point where I've done everything I wanted to do band-wise. I've been touring in bands at a high level since I was 21! so I achieved a lot at quite a young age, I really like this new phase I'm in now which is reinventing myself as more of a solo instrumentalist, it feels like a new chapter, I'm still fairly young..ish. That's not to say I'll never to band stuff again but it will have to be something pretty damn good!\r\n I worked with the same producer who mixed and produced the Victory Pill album, Pete Crossman, on this album; he knows my style inside out so wasn't fazed at all when I'd present him with a track to mix with 60 channels of audio!! There were SO many guitar sounds; any other mixer would have said' thanks but no thanks'!!

Ibanez: Was it difficult to make the transition and compose songs where the guitar had to carry everything?
Jim: Well my writing process wasn't massively different to how I normally approach writing songs with vocals. I normally write songs as instrumentals first and then add vocals. When I wrote the 'VICTORY PILL' album last year all the tunes were instrumental first and then vocals added later, but I'd always have the vocal melodies in mind when writing the structures of the instrumental. With Pitchshifter though, I was writing with a vocalist who would have ideas for melodies or would even start with an idea for a chorus and then work backwards. But again with Pitchshifter many tunes were written as instrumentals first, in fact on the 'Deviant' album there was a track called 'PSI-cological' which was actually mostly a guitar instrumental track, all the sounds on that were guitar generated so I have always been heading this way I guess! With Prodigy I was merely adding guitars to pretty much finished tracks, adding icing to the cake rather than starting from scratch. But with that band I guess I created a trademark sound for myself with 'Firestarter' which obviously opened a lot of doors.\r\n \r\nObviously when I set myself the challenge to use nothing but guitar generated sounds, I did have moments when I thought am I holding myself back by this? And could I write a better album if I just used whatever equipment I needed ( ie-synths and samples)? But that would have defeated the whole object of this album which was to try and do something fresh. I spent ages hunting around guitar shops while writing this album, sniffing out weird effects and sounds! \r\n \r\nThe hardest thing about writing guitar instrumental music is to keep it interesting to the listener. It was really important to me that this album could be enjoyed by a non guitarist as much as a fellow axe man. I researched a few guitar instrumental albums and found them pretty uninspiring, the backing tracks just seems so dull and unimaginative, you could tell they were a low priority for the guitarist and that the main thing was that he just shredded for 3 mins 30 regardless! What I wanted to do was write catchy, hooky tunes that kept the listeners attention, bringing in fresh sounds and melodies as much as possible to make the music interesting. I did shred a little bit but on the whole I held back. There are some tracks on this album that are beautifully dark tracks and it would have been a crime to just shred all over them! I just tried to compliment the music lead wise and be as tasteful as possible, but a little bit of shred did creep in I admit! I do have quite a solid technical foundation to my playing but it's not something that really makes me the player I am these days, it's nice to have that foundation though when you hear a tricky part in your head and then have to work it out.\r\nI love Steve Vai's 'Passion and Warfare' album. I don't think there's been a better guitar instrumental album since. He has an amazing sense of melody and I think we forget how many crazy sounds and textures he uses. Paul Gilbert's 'Get Out Of My Yard' was one album I found when I was researching instrumental albums that I loved as well, but I've always had a soft spot for PG, he's been a massive influence on me, we're label mates now! If he says he likes my album I'll cry my eyes out and die happy.\r\n \r\nOne very cool thing about writing this album was I could go in any direction I wanted and not have to worry about whether that was the 'right direction for the band' !!\r\nSo I did delve into a few different genres that I couldn't have before. I love rare groove and funk and there's a track on the album called 'Hotshot' that has that flavor. That track is actually my favorite on the album. I got a great jazz bass player called Mike Edmunds to play on that track, as well as a few others. I'm a fan of jazz, and it's something I'm slowing learning as a guitarist!. There's some hip hop grooves in there and even a dub step influenced track called 'Rubicon' which is very slow but pretty heavy as well.\r\n\r\nWhen I felt I'd hit a writer's block I'd just challenge myself to write something in a completely different genre, for instance a '4 to the floor hard techno' style track, which was a mission with no synth but I ended up with the 'Rockers VS. Ravers' track that's on the album which I really like.

Ibanez: What are some of the challenges of incorporating guitar into electronic music?
Jim: You do have to adapt your style of playing to fit over dance music. I think that's how I developed my own sound really. The challenge is to find room in the mix where the guitars can do their thing. With most electronic music there's a lot of deep sub bass so that can really cause problems if you try and add low heavy riffs over, it just makes the mix muddy as the sub takes up a lot of the guitars frequency. That's why from quite early on I started using more synth like sounds that sat nicely in the mix, or more high end sounds that would cut through. For instance when I was jamming on the Prodigy track 'Firestarter' I tried a lot of different riffs and angles and nothing seemed to fit, the sound I eventually ended up using worked perfectly because it was so harsh and heaped in chorus and wah wah that it really cut through the mix.\r\nYou have to approach playing guitar over dance music very differently, I started recording my guitars using direct lines in (DI'ing) very early on as that helped get that harsh sound I needed. Just playing rock riffs doesn't tend to work, for me the guitar has to play the role of holding the melody whilst everything else in the mix is kicking off!

Ibanez: Who were some of your inspirations when it comes to guitar playing? Music in general?
Jim: When I first started playing my inspirations were people like Vai, Hendrix, Paul Gilbert and Dimebag Darrell (I was a metalhead for a long time!) But Tom Morello obviously was a great inspiration when he came out, I remember hearing the first Rage album for the first time and just thinking 'How the hell does he get that sound from a guitar!' I was lucky enough to tour with Rage for a while in Australia with the Prodigy so I got to watch him most nights. I was expecting racks of alien technology that no one else could get but his gear was really low tech. All his stuff you could go to your local guitar store and buy, the difference was he was just thinking differently to most guitarists. The way he approached guitar playing was more like a DJ with the sounds he used; he was obviously very influenced by the sounds in hip hop in a similar way that I was influenced by sounds in dance music. It really made me re-think how I approach playing guitar, it's all a case of what's in your head as much as what's in your fingers!\r\n These days I'm more influenced by bands than actual single guitarists, I'm a massive fan of NIN, there's not much Trent has done that I don't like to be honest, 'Year Zero' for me was ground breaking at a time when I thought all music I heard was totally stale and uninspiring, that album kept my faith in music going! Depeche mode are probably my biggest influence these days, again I love everything they have done, in particular the 'Ultra' album, any dark and electronic gets my vote and Depeche mode for me own that genre!

Ibanez: When did you first start playing Ibanez guitars?
Jim: From nearly day one of my playing! I got a really crap starter guitar package with the promise from my folks that if I stuck with it for 6 months I'd get a proper guitar! So I got my head down and 6 months later I got a blue Ibanez Rg550, that decision was totally influenced by Paul Gilbert! That was a great moment! I just kinda stuck with Ibanez ever since, as I was such a fan of Vai and Gilbert it was the natural way to go, but when I started touring with Pitchshifter I found they were total work horses and took so much punishment that I never needed anything else really. I only took 2 on the road as they were so reliable.

Ibanez: What models have you primarily gravitated to over the years and why?
Jim: I have 3 or 4 RG550s, they are tough! I used an s series Ibanez for a long time on tour as they were so light weight and stealth looking!! (The satch type thin bodies) I have an iceman for when I feel heavy metal but my main guitar these days is my prestige 550, I never took it on tour so it's in good condition and I use it for most if not all my studio playing. All my Ibanez’s are straight as they come from the factory, no mods nothing.

Ibanez: When you write an instrumental song, do you start with the underlying\r\nrhythm track? The guitar riff? A melody?\r\n
Jim: I tend to get a drum loop up and then jam over that and find a riff or chord progression and then start thinking melody, that's always the most important thing. When I have a riff I like and a strong melody I just loop around it and spend quite a while auditioning sounds and layers that work well together and then start thinking for a chorus change, normally something quite anthemic that will lift the track. Very occasionally on this album I started with a mad sound, the sound at the intro of 'How We Roll' is a good example, when I found that I just hit record straight away and thought 'I need to write a tune around that sound! It's pure evil!'

Ibanez: Was it tough dealing with all the layered guitar parts and choosing which ones to put into a final mix?
Jim: Yes, but as the album progressed I got quite good at knowing what sound/layer would fit, or what was mixing or what didn't need to be there. After the month or so of writing the album I had a solid batch of sounds that normally ended up in every track, whether it be a nice combination of rhythm guitar sounds or knowing the right sound for a particular melody. Pete Crossman who mixed the album did an amazing job; I gave him tracks with so many guitar players in! He had the job of balancing them, but as the album progressed we both got quite good at hearing quickly what would work and what was just clutter

Ibanez: What is the one piece of gear, other than your Ibanez guitar, that you think is most integral to your sounds?
Jim: Properly my Rocktron Chameleon, I've had it for 15 years now and used it for everything I’'ve ever done. Stupidly I've never backed up all the sounds I have on it! It's toured the world with me a million times over and thank god it's never died! It's my 'old faithful' if I ever get stuck for a sound of a texture I always go back to it and normally come up with something cool!

Ibanez: What have you been listening to lately?
Jim: The new Depeche mode album is awesome, I also just got Vinnie Moore's new album 'To The Core' which is great, I did a guitar fest with Vinnie a few years back and we keep in touch, we're on the same label now as well which is great. I tend to go back to my old favs these days as nothing that's out at the moment really does it for me, my car has the same cds in it for the last 8 years-The Cure, Depeche Mode, Passion and Warfare, NIN and Killing joke...what more do you need!\r\n\r\nFor more info, visit Jim's MySpace page @ www.myspace.com/jimdaviesmusic

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