Interview: Stus Rollins

Dan McAvinchey: Stus, you have a new album coming out ("Nature's Whisper") since we last interviewed you about 4-5 years ago, has anything changed for you as you approached recording these new compositions in the studio?

Stus Rollins: I would like to think that each new recording is an advancement in some way. I have released two albums since we last spoke. "Magnificent Skin" and the soon to be released "Nature's Whisper". With this album I totally changed the way I worked. Each song started with a bass line on the keyboard. Taking my influence from the fat chunky bass lines we once heard from Zapp or D Train. Then I executed the song writing through my guitar. I wanted a different back drop this time getting away from the hard rock ethos and somewhere into the funk. A more commercial approach.

Dan McAvinchey: Some reviewers said about your music, "for lovers of great guitar sounds."  What do you think when you hear statements such as that?

Stus Rollins: A good review is always something special. A statement from someone who has really listened to the track instead of the haters who feel free to ridicule or belittle anything that they don’t like. These comments below for instance make all the hard work worthwhile.

(In relation to the single “Make it Happen from "Nature's Whisper"):

"This song was an all-around great song and there is nothing I can say wrong about it as everything was perfect."

"This song is solid. I like the way that it sustains a high energy level from the begging to the end."

"He really pushes the envelope (Greg Howe)"

These people understand where the song is coming from and appreciate what has gone into it. It makes me feel great, happening, worthwhile.

Dan McAvinchey: Let's talk about the process you used on "Nature's Whisper". How did you write the songs, did you collaborate or work alone on the tracks?

Stus Rollins: This album came totally from the heart this time. There were no collaborations at all.

I worked with a basic drum beat then did the bass lines on the keyboard, spent time writing and structuring the parts. Then I wrote, rehearsed and recorded the vocal parts. After I let the tracks sink in for a while, I added parts or subtracted them as things took shape and grew. A lot came through the mixing this time. Using vocals on most tracks was a challenge when it came to mixing. Learning to leave space for the guitar parts to sink in and take their place. A lot of listening, editing and tweaking.

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Dan McAvinchey: Which of the tracks from "Nature's Whisper" did you enjoy recording the most?

Stus Rollins: I really enjoyed the two singles off the album, ”Make It Happen” and “Tip Toeing Out Of The Blue.” They contain very melodic lead lines with big sounds and a dynamic delivery. I enjoyed creating and playing them. When it is fun this shows in the music.

Dan McAvinchey: Have you gotten a new piece of gear, or a new guitar, that you found particularly useful while writing or recording?

Stus Rollins: I am always searching for new and exciting sounds. I rely on the sound coming from the amp though mainly.

On this album I used a Messa Boogie Mini Rectifier 25 going through a TC Electronic G System. A Big Bad Wah - Vox - Joe Satriani pedal and a BB Pre-Amp from Xotic Effects. I also used some Messa Boogie amps and cab software from Universal Audio.

Pedals were: Haunting Mids from JHS, Topanga Spring Reverb, TC Electronic MOJO Fuzz, and a TC Electronic Vintage Delay. I used what I call the Franken Jem. A guitar that I put together from various different Ibanez Jem Guitars, with a Fernandes Sustainer on there for those never ending notes. The main guitar was my SR1. Made for me by Owen Jackson in England.

Dan McAvinchey: We recently did a survey where site visitors told us about their favorite guitar effect (delay/echo, distortion/overdrive, chorus, flange, etc.). What is your favorite?

Stus Rollins: Oh! The brilliant Digitech pedal, the Freqout, Natural Feedback Creator. No guitarist should be without one. It creates several feedback tones that come at any volume.

You can blend a sustained feedback note into solo lines at any point from any position. I really enjoy the freedom and creativity that you get from that.

The ”JHS. Haunting Mids” is a brilliant tone shaper that scoops out the mid frequencies. This is great for that scooped sound so essential for modern lead players, it cuts through the rest of the band like a knife.

Dan McAvinchey: What are your plans for this album in the areas of social media and promotion? Any breakthroughs or creative ideas in the works you can report on?

Stus Rollins: I will be doing the usual through my Facebook page and Twitter. Driving most of the traffic through my website - STUS.ROCKS. It is essential to keep your website up to date and current. Social media is so transitory - there one minute and gone the next.

It is almost impossible to make any money from album sales any more. It has all been stolen from us musicians by the likes of Spotify and You Tube. A good website is key to successful promotions. Also Reverb Nation is a pretty important portal to be signed up to. It is a good place to network.

Dan McAvinchey: Where is your home base these days, and how is the live scene there?

Stus Rollins: I am still in Lisbon, Portugal. I toured the country last year for about a dozen dates or so. It is not as clubbed up as other countries in Europe but it is getting there. There is a scene in and around Lisbon, so if you can get people motivated it is OK. But nothing like London. Which was what I was used to.

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

Stus Rollins: Every new album is an achievement, like a milestone. It is a good time to stop and breathe some fresh air for a while. My most proud moment was supporting Larry Carlton at the London Blues Festival. He is a living legend and I was chuffed to bits to meet him and share the same stage as him. A really good buzz. Also, jamming with Steve Vai at the Vai Academy.

Dan McAvinchey: Finally, what are you looking forward to in 2019, what's on your musical agenda?

Stus Rollins: I guess it is the road. Another album to promote. It comes out in February or March this year. I look forward to getting it heard!

I am applying to festivals and venues for gigs. Looking for an agent is high on my list and taking a step back from things to find some time to think about the future and things as a whole. (, Reverb Nation)

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With the imminent release of his new album "Nature's Whisper", British guitarist Stus Rollins continues to make his mark as a solo artist. He was originally part of the London rock scene in the '80s and '90s, and played in bands such as Generation X and Driving South. Rollins has also performed with Seal and Larry Carlton, and he owns Starmaker Studios.

Dan McAvinchey reunited with Rollins for his second Guitar Nine e-interview to discuss his new album, his songwriting and recording methods, and much more.