Interview: Rusty Cooley

Dan McAvinchey: Rusty, what were some of the things that influenced your musical tastes and originally led to your interest in the guitar?

Rusty Cooley: Well, it all started in 8th grade when me and a couple of buddies started strapping on tennis rackets and jamming to Ted Nugent records. Originally I was supposed to be the singer. Before that, I had no real interest in music at all. I had been racing Motocross since I was about six.

Dan McAvinchey: After a couple of minutes of listening to your new self-titled CD, you can immediately hear that your technical ability is highly advanced. How dedicated did you have to be to the instrument in order to acquire the chops you have today?

Rusty Cooley: I knew right away after I started playing guitar that this was going to be it. My parents really freaked out because I became reclusive. I locked myself in my room and started practicing. I lost most of the friends I had at the time because practicing consumed all of my time. So yeah, I practiced a lot, 4 to 8 hours a day sometimes.

Dan McAvinchey: What guitars, effects and amplification do you use to get your sound on your solo debut CD?

Rusty Cooley: For the CD I used my custom Jackson 7 string equipped with EMG 707 pickups. The preamp is an old Fender M-80. On the floor a Rocktron Austin Gold overdrive, and a Vox Wah-Wah. The power amp is the VHT Two/Ninety/Two. Also, one Marshall 4x12 cabinet and that's it.

Dan McAvinchey: Your CD was released by Lion Music in Finland. How did you hook up with the label and what are the advantages for you?

Rusty Cooley: I sent them a CD and they emailed me saying they were interested in signing me. I'm really happy to be with Lion. Some of the guitarists I grew up listening to are on that label, and that's cool for me because it kind of lets me know that I'm finally on their level. The other advantage is the promotion, the distribution and the ability to put out a professional product.

Dan McAvinchey: How to you usually write or compose your original music?

Rusty Cooley: When I'm writing, I approach it as if there are going to be vocals on it. The most important thing to me in the beginning is having a good song and interesting rhythm guitar work. I think that's why some times "shred" is a bad word. A lot players will write songs around solos and it shows. I want my songs to stand on their own if you take all of the leads off. The "Butcher", "Dominion", and "E.B.E." tracks off "Rusty Cooley" were vocal songs to begin with.

Dan McAvinchey: Your music has a heavy rock/metal feel. Who are your biggest influences in this style of music?

Rusty Cooley: At one point years ago I wanted my rhythm guitar playing to sound like you took Dimebag, Ty Tabor, Jake E Lee, Nuno, and Zakk and put them into a blender. I also like some newer bands like Symphony X, Nevermore, and Arch Enemy.

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Dan McAvinchey: Do you get a chance to perform the material from your album live?

Rusty Cooley: Yes I did, before I moved to Atlanta. I use to play this stuff with my band Outworld all the time. I'm putting a band together here in Atlanta to support the CD. I'm still with Outworld too. We're working on a vocal CD. I also perform the material during clinics.

Dan McAvinchey: How do you feel about the national guitar press in the United States and how they are currently covering guitar-oriented music?

Rusty Cooley: Well it doesn't look very good. Every now and then you see a little snippet of cool stuff. I'll tell you who is really cool -- the guitar mags from the UK. I think there are guys at the mags in the US that really want to cover good guitar music, but the powers at be won't let them because it's not trendy. I thought guitar mags were supposed to be about guitarists? Not guys that just strum power chords because they're too lazy, or not dedicated enough to do more.

Dan McAvinchey: What do you have planned for the next year or two?

Rusty Cooley: I'm planning on releasing more instructional CD-ROMs, performing, and
hopefully relesing a new CD from Outworld. I'm also working on pushing my playing to the next level. I just got an 8 string Conklin guitar that is going to be a big part of that.

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

Rusty Cooley: Wow that's a hard one, Yngwie would be impossible to work with, so I would
probably have to say Jason Becker or Shawn Lane.

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Texas-bred guitarist Rusty Cooley (who now lives in Atlanta), has an absolutely formidable command of the fretboard, which he uses to great effect on his new, self-titled CD, released by Lion Music. The heavy metal oriented material is a perfect showcase for the guitarist's sweeps, harmonized lines, unpredictable single-note guitar fills, and creative rhythm work.

Dan McAvinchey caught up with Cooley to get the skinny on what he uses to produce his ultra-heavy sound shock and his thoughts on the music press, among other topics.