Interview: Michael A. Ruelas

Dan McAvinchey: Michael, you've had your CD "Furious Play" out for a while now, what kind of feedback have you been getting for it from fans? What do they like the most?

Michael A. Ruelas: "Furious Play" gained me quite a bit of attention in the New Mexico "Instrumental, "Other" and overall charts, placing the album at #1 for over a year and currently within in the top ten. The majority of my fans especially seem to enjoy my melodic passages and acoustic work. Wayne Calford, a respected UK shredder, was thoroughly impressed with my shredding skills and offered me a guest appearance on his recent project, "Shred Alliance." "Shred Alliance" features some of the best rising guitarists from around the world, and also guests, like the one and only Michael Angelo Batio. Deservingly so, the album was voted as one of the Favorite Guitar Instrumental Albums of 2014 by users, a site with bountiful reviews on greats such as Paul Gilbert and Marty Friedman.

Dan McAvinchey: Tell us a little about the gear you used when you recorded "Furious Play".

Michael A. Ruelas: Aside from my drummers equipment, the live gear I used in the recording of "Furious Play" was a handful of my own guitars which consisted of an Ibanez RG electric guitar and Ibanez 5-string bass, Steinberger Spirit and a sweet sounding acoustic guitar made by Johnson. For capturing the sound I used the 1st Gen. Rocktron Chameleon and cabinet simulation, running a direct line into the board.

Dan McAvinchey: What are you striving to achieve musically, particularly on your last album, and did it differ from your first album, "Souly Within"?

Michael A. Ruelas: I strive to be the best I can, and I do that by incorporating everything I know into my music and I never stop learning. My last solo album ("Furious Play") differs from my first in that over the years I have learned so much more theory and technique that it's like a tornado in my head trying to lay waste to my guitar strings. The name says it all: "Furious Play" definitely incorporates more complex compositions than "Souly Within", though the untrained ear may not be totally aware of it. I am very proud of both of my solo releases.

interview pic

Dan McAvinchey: From a publicity and promotion standpoint, what do you find is working best for you at the moment?

Michael A. Ruelas: Without a doubt, social media is king of my publicity and promotion at the moment. There's not as big of a mainstream market for shredders now as there used to be. That's a mixed bag really. On one hand you want big numbers from big dollar promotions and whatnot, but on the other hand you know that every single Like, Comment, Follower, etc is all genuine from real fans who like and sought out your music as opposed to some promotional flood of your product that may reach many who do not enjoy it as much as others. It's a different scene now than when I started, that's for sure.

Dan McAvinchey: What do you now find to be the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent musician?

Michael A. Ruelas: "Independent" is basically a bad nomenclature these days because you're never alone in your quest; you're part of a vast community. It's really a lot easier than it used to be because everything you ever wanted to do is literally at your fingertips. With the focus of mainstream on only a few genres it has become the accepted norm for artists in many other genres to be independent, and as such they are supported more than ever by third parties. The only real disadvantage is putting in so much blood, sweat and tears to simply lay your music out there like bait then wait and see if there's any takers. Obviously the faster road to success is to shove that bait down their throats whether they like it or not, but I enjoy the challenges and rewards of being independent mostly for reasons of purity.

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

Michael A. Ruelas: I began playing the guitar at a very young age. My father played, so I would watch him all the time and that influenced me to play. He bought me a Beatles song book that I would learn every chance I got. I would also learn songs I liked on the radio by ear. Soon after, I started taking music theory lessons on a classical guitar in orchestra class at my elementary school. I seemed to naturally grasp everything music, and I fell in love with the guitar as my instrument of choice. The rest is history.

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

Michael A. Ruelas: There are quite a few new and/or rising guitarists that have caught my attention, but I have to say, Rick Graham has been the most impressive of all. I wouldn't do him proper justice by simply talking about him - go check him out for yourself. You can thank me later!

Dan McAvinchey: Does it make sense to consider releasing physical CDs in the future in the age of digital media?

Michael A. Ruelas: In this business it makes sense to consider everything you can. Right now only local New Mexico music stores and Amazon currently carry my physical CDs. Of course I'd love to see them on shelves everywhere, but that's a monstrous undertaking that's not nearly as necessary as it used to be in a practical sense. I really appreciate the perks of the digital age and am fairly content with most of my work being enjoyed digitally, but seeing your work everywhere would be a welcome sign of success for anybody.

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

Michael A. Ruelas: That's a tough one to narrow down. Ultimately though, I would be absolutely honored (and beyond) to have the opportunity to record some of Jason Becker's new compositions, or to play a duo with King Yngwie of Malmsteen... or both. What an album that would be!

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

Michael A. Ruelas: Currently I am evolving my musical ideas, theories and techniques for my future album titled "Paranormal Shredtivity!" that I plan to release around mid-2016. Aside from that, my main goal has always been the same: to keep learning as much as possible in order to be the best guitarist and instructor that I can. The guitar is and will always be the love of my life. Success is merely a reward that the lucky few get to taste, but knowing I am the best I can possibly be? Above all else that is what will continue to drive me.

interview picture
Albuquerque guitarist and teacher Michael A. Ruelas has been perfecting his version of musical shred for over 25 years, making his recording debut in 1989 on Guitar For The Practicing Musician magazine's compilation album "Resume Volume 1: Burnin'". He has since recorded two remarkable solo albums: 1998's "Souly Within" and 2013's "Furious Play".

Dan McAvinchey caught up with Ruelas recently, and they discussed the current environment for guitar-oriented music, as well as his past, current and future album releases.