Interview: Michael A. Ruelas

Dan McAvinchey: Michael, congratulations on the new album, "Paranormal Shredtivity". When did you start working on the tracks for this album, and what was your goal this time around?

Michael A. Ruelas: Thank you! As usual, between albums I've been obsessed with learning to advance my skills and ideas in composition and technical aspects of play. This album showcases what I have learned and felt along the way, and I began the brainstorm on how to put it all together about a year and a half ago.

Dan McAvinchey: What did you do differently on "Paranormal Shredtivity" compared to your previous albums?

Michael A. Ruelas: I've morphed my sound drastically on this album to invoke a more paranormal/ghostly feel. It features many more melodic and symphonic elements, partially due to an abundance of keyboard lines. My advanced students will hopefully notice unique sets of sweeps and taps that could only be produced using my new 7-string guitar. I'm also very proud of the fact that I composed the entire album using all my own instruments, production equipment and software.

Dan McAvinchey: Has your approach to constructing a great solo changed over time?

Michael A. Ruelas: Approach? Not really. Technique? Definitely. Aside from creating the right tunes to match my feelings the approach has always been "Progress is Perfection". I have spent countless hours learning and applying new music theory and techniques to challenge my abilities; I will never slow my evolutionary stride. Among my latest adventures are deep dives in to exotic scales such as the Egyptian modes.

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Dan McAvinchey: How are you getting the word out there about your new album? Are you also using social media sites to attract attention to your music?

Michael A. Ruelas: For now it's the standard: there are interviews, and then I maintain a website and a YouTube channel that features some of the journey leading up to this album. Followers can stay up-to-date by finding me on ReverbNation or Facebook where I most often drop news. I also enjoy getting the word out by playing live, and I'm always open to traditional promotion possibilities if I have the time and sanity.

Dan McAvinchey: How is the live scene for you right now, will you get the opportunity to perform these new tracks in front of an audience?

Michael A. Ruelas: The scene is better than ever and it was recently my honor to perform at a show called the “Freedom in Music” project for the New Mexico School of Academics where they did indeed get a taste of the new tracks. If anybody else in the Albuquerque area wants to experience a live performance from "Paranormal Shredtivity" I'm positive they will have some chances.

Dan McAvinchey: Beyond what you've accomplished on your solo albums, do you find work in other musical areas or styles?

Michael A. Ruelas: Though electric shred is my passion I have learned many instruments, styles and aspects of music, and as an instructor I often get requests for different areas like jazz and acoustic theory. Perhaps my most requested sound outside of shred is the Spanish classical guitar that I've been known to perform at Quinceañeras. I also enjoy lending and bending my style(s) to work on collaborations with other artists around the world.

Dan McAvinchey: Does the fact that the majority of music now is consumed through downloading of mp3s rather than physical media change the way you prepare and record an "album"? Does the concept of an album have the meaning it once did, when an artist can release a couple of tracks at any time?

Michael A. Ruelas: Aside from distributing to the digital outlets I haven't chosen to change anything up yet. If I have only a track or two in my head I might just drop them on YouTube for fun and then they may or may not end up on the next album, depending on its concept. But I try to put as much meaning as possible in to whatever I do, even if it's just a fun short video. At around 23 minutes long "Paranormal Shredtivity" is really an EP, but I feel I've packed more in to it than anything I've done before.

Dan McAvinchey: If a fan of heavy guitar music has never heard of Michael A. Ruelas, what are the two or three tracks off of "Paranormal Shredtivity" that you'd prefer a busy, distracted listener would have to hear?

Michael A. Ruelas: ”Screaming for Mona” possesses with its intense emotion and melody, while the title track “Paranormal Shredtivity” manifests as a wild and haunting ride. I think either track could fit right in as a movie score. You may need to become un-busy/distracted and find a seat and some popcorn for those two.

Dan McAvinchey: What do you feel like has been your greatest musical achievement to date?

Michael A. Ruelas: Along this amazing journey I've had some great experiences working with some real legends, but I'd have to say my greatest musical achievement is that I've compiled enough knowledge and skill that I can help open up whole new worlds for my students, and I don't believe anything in my pro/solo career will ever compare to the pride and satisfaction of teaching.

Dan McAvinchey: Finally, what are you looking forward to in 2020, what's on your musical agenda?

Michael A. Ruelas: In 2020 I am doubling down on life! I will work harder to promote my work and I will inspire more students. I will continue to evolve by learning and dissecting every form of music theory I come across and then incorporate it with my own. I intend to make more music videos, attend more festivals and events like NAMM and do more live gigs. I am excited to begin working on my planned acoustic album and hopefully start a progressive band akin to Dream Theater.

Finally, I will always be thankful to be a part of such an amazing industry.

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Albuquerque guitarist and instructor Michael A. Ruelas has been shredding for over 30 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 notable solo albums: 1998's "Souly Within" and 2013's "Furious Play", and now has a brand new album out called "Paranormal Shredtivity", which features Garry King on drums.

Dan McAvinchey conducted this interview recently with Ruelas, and they discussed his latest work, as well as the live scene and his approach to soloing.