Interview: Andy James

Dan McAvinchey: Andy, let's talk first about the new CD. When you first started getting tracks together for "In The Wake Of Chaos", what were your objectives?

Andy James: I first started sending demos to Joe at the Grooveyard around the end of 2005 or the start of 2006 and started recording the album in the summer of 2006. At first, it took a while to get the sound that I wanted because at the time
I was learning about recording while actually recording. As I was the
only person working on the album, I had a lot of chances to experiment
without any outside criticism, which gave me freedom to do what I wanted.

My main aim with this album was to write songs that had really strong
melodies and structure and that would be appreciated by a wide range of
listeners other than just guitar players. Having said that, I think there
is a lot that will interest guitar players on this album from rhythm
ideas to harmony, and of course, any guitar album wouldn't be the same
without the fret burning element to it. All in all, this album has become
quite personally fulfilling musically.

Dan McAvinchey: Gearheads want to know - what equipment did you use to record your
guitar parts for the album?

Andy James: The answer to this question may surprise people. All I used for this was
a Line 6 Pod for rhythm, a Boss BR1600 digital recorder, BFD for the
drums and a Roland Cube 30 for all the lead tones. That's it!. The Roland
Cube was in a small cupboard surrounded by 2 pillows and a duvet mic'd
with an SM57 cranked to about half volume. I liked the sound so much it's
featured on the whole album. My guitars for this were a John Petrucci 7
string Musicman and a Musicman Axis for rhythm. The bass was just a 5
string bass that I have lying around and the keyboard was borrowed from a
friend. I like to keep things fairly simple, otherwise I can never
re-create what is in my head.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you have any personal favorites among the tracks on the CD?

Andy James: I think "Shine On Through" was the first proper go I had at recording harmonies for a chorus section. Harmony features quite a bit on this CD
and that song is where it started. From that point of view I have created
a monster, especially live. When you record, you haven't always it got in
your head how you might possibly re-create the song with all the parts.
Recording, you can layer as much as possible. I will need at least three guitar players in my band!. To answer the question though, this song would have to be one of my favorite songs, mainly for the memories it gives me whenever I hear it.

Dan McAvinchey: When did you first get interested in guitar, and how did you learn and progress as a player?

Andy James: I started playing guitar when I was 12. I had been pestering my dad into buying a guitar for me when a friend of mine at school also had a guitar
bought for him. It was a boarding school and he came back from a trip out
with his parents who had bought him a Gibson Les Paul and a Fender amp
with a stack of Guns 'n' Roses tab books. At the time, I was a huge Guns
fan and to me that was the coolest thing that could have happened to

A few years before any of this happened, I was actually
introduced to "Surfing With The Alien". There was a guy I knew, a lot older than
me, that was throwing away some old records, but instead he gave them to me.
There was all kinds of different things from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers
to Iron Maiden and in amongst all of them was this Satriani record. I
played it and had never heard anything like it, it blew my mind. I knew I
wanted to learn guitar after that. At the time I was taking piano lessons
and things were already moving in a musical direction for me. Satriani
technically was over my head and so I started to learn everything by Guns
'n' Roses and that would be all I would play. Along the way I started to
pick up Van Halen records and Extreme records and from that point on I
started to notice that I could actually come to grips with some of that

After that, REH instructional videos from the likes of Richie
Kotzen, Paul Gilbert, Greg Howe and Vinnie Moore really moved my playing
into much more technical territory and suddenly the Satriani tracks I was
once In total awe over (still am by the way) started making more sense to
me. I have always played for stupid amounts of time, but I have never
regarded any of it to be practice.It was just having fun. It was never a
chore to play and even now I play all the time.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you get the opportunity to perform your instrumental music in front
of an audience?

Andy James: At the moment I haven't performed this material that much. I did a gig
last year which was a guitar festival in front of about 200 people. Other
than that, mainly trade shows and clinics for Ernie Ball Musicman and I have a band at the moment called Kaos 7 and we will be
performing this stuff later on in the year along with some of our own
material we have written as band. I'm really looking forward to getting
out and playing again.

Dan McAvinchey: Have you heard any new guitarists that have really caught your ear in
the past couple of years?

Andy James: There are two guys. The first is Mattias IA Eklundh from Freak Kitchen. I love what he does with instrument and his music. I find a lot of what he
does very inspiring, especially from a tapping point of view. Also his
rhythm playing is very clever and inventive. The other guy is actually
someone I know. Guthrie Govan has to be one of the most scary players I
have ever met. There is not a lot I can reveal to you that most of the
guitar world don't know already but I would say he has to be one of the
best all around players in the world. And he's British! We Brits are
gunning for the guitar title!

Dan McAvinchey: Other than guitar-oriented music, what kind of music do you like to
listen to?

Andy James: I listen to a lot of bands. I find myself not as influenced by
instrumental guitar music as I used to be. Some of my favorite bands are
Racer X, Dream Theater, Symphony X, Bullet For My Valentine, Killswitch
Engage, Soilwork, Freak Kitchen, Planet X and the list is only slightly
longer than that. Planet X are really at the top of my playlist at the
moment with their recent effort "Quantum", truly brilliant stuff. I find
more vocal-orientated material helps me a lot with how I arrange the
songs I write. I guess that hasn't answered the question, as all that
stuff is guitar-orientated to some degree or another. I like rock and
metal! Anything with a guitar that's not jazz or country, although I
admire those guy's technique as well.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you feel guitar-oriented magazines currently pay attention to instrumental guitar music?

Andy James: I think guitar magazines focus on what makes a lot of money and is the biggest crowd puller at the time. There is more of a focus on guys with
technical ability now than a few years ago but its still mainly guitar
players in vocal bands that get a lot of the attention. Having
said that, Rusty Cooley hasn't done too bad for press lately and that guy
is a monster shredder. His band Outworld have certainly got what it takes
to make a mark on the progressive metal scene. We will probably be seeing
a lot more of them in the future.

Dan McAvinchey: If you could do a once-off album project with any guitarist in the world, who would it be?

Andy James: Tony Macalpine. He could give me some much needed sweeping lessons while we were at it.

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Dan McAvinchey: Why do you think certain music fans prefer instrumental music over traditional vocal oriented music?

Andy James: I think instrumental music, when done properly, can evoke a totally different emotional response. With vocals, more often than not, you are
focusing on whatever subject matter is being used within a song. With
instrumental, it's a lot more free. It can make you feel however you want
to feel with no underlying sub text or agenda. Also from a melody point
of view, you can, most of the time, re-create vocal melodies with guitar
although that can be quite tough. With guitar melodies some could be
considered impossible to sing. Especially if there are any fast melodic
phrases. I think comparing the two is hard, as they are both great styles
for different reasons.

Dan McAvinchey: What`s up next for you, what are some of your plans for the future?

Andy James: For now I will be working with Grooveyard to get the album "In The Wake Of Chaos" out there to the guitar community and do some live shows later onin the year. I have also got another project, Kaos 7, which I will be
working on material for, and I will also be performing some clinics
promoting my instructional DVD's for That should be
enough to keep me busy for the rest of the year.

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"In The Wake Of Chaos" is the provocative title of the phenomenal new studio disc from British axemaster Andy James, a talented musician who also has several Lick Library published instructional DVDs to his credit. His flawless muscular chops and high-powered riffage have already won him a growing legion of fans.

Dan McAvinchey crossed the pond (in a virtual sense) to hook up with James, in order to talk about his playing and his brand new recording.