-- David "Skinny Devil" McLean
originally published at Tinfoil Music
Date: Monday, May 09 2005 @ 14:21:55 BST
The guitar solo is making a comeback in the rock music world. During the dark days, however, a few brave souls carried the torch of high-level rock guitar performance...most notably Zach Wylde (Ozzy) and a handful of others not in the mainstream of radio rock. But others carried the torch, also. Players who thrived in local markets playing kick-ass rock-n-roll with plenty of attitude and plenty of screaming guitar solos; players like Don "Boone" Hicks of the band Devil Stomp.
Devil Stomp have been performing throughout the southern US for a couple of years, with gigs from Cincinnati to Atlanta. The bands current line-up is a simple power trio with Sam Rhodus on drums, Joey Cain on bass and Don handling vocals & guitar. Their music is a a driving brand of blues-based rock bound to draw comparisons to AIC, Black Label Society, and others, but their approach is fresh and powerful.
Don's playing is clean and strong and gutsy. His rhythmic approach is aggressive and his solos will, to quote Mr. Nugent, "...blow the balls off a charging rhino at 60 paces...".
You can get loads of information about Devil Stomp at their web-site, so go there now!
I had a chance to speak to Don recently - check it out!
1) What are your current projects?
Devil Stomp- a heavy blues rock power trio. We're currently writing and recording our 2nd CD and trying to build a regional touring and fanbase. Personally, I'm working on a classical repertoire for weddings and stuff. I'm trying to teach myself Mandolin (figure it will help with finger dexterity). And I'm still trying to tackle the "Head Cuttin' Duel" from the movie Crossroads - it's what got me started playing seriously, along with some other "shredder" stuff that I've been working on forever.
Also, I'm developing a guitar class that I'll be teaching at Southern Middle School here in Lexington next year. I'm a Band teacher there as my "day job" but I've always wanted to teach guitar in school, so now I'm going to get the chance.
2) How does this (do these) differ from your past work?
I've done everything from playing classical, to Big Band, played in several bands that I just never really "fit". Devil Stomp is really exactly what I want to be doing. I love the interaction of a power trio, although it can be limiting when you have to play and sing. It's a challenge to write what we feel satisfied with as being good music and then be able to sing over it, then be able to PERFORM it in a way that an audience will dig. With this 2nd CD, we've got a new drummer, Sam Rhodus and that's really brought a heavier, more technical, and more GROOVE oriented style to the writing. Both he and Joey (Cain, bassist) have really challenged me to push myself on what I can play and write and perform.
3) Do you have one project that you are most proud of as a guitarist?
The next one...... I'm never satisfied with my playing or recording, so I eventually just have to let it go. I think it was Sting that said, "you never really finish an album, you just abandon it". That's me. There's some stuff on this new CD that I think has made me stretch out as a player, and really challenged me to get it down right in the studio, but by the time it's ready to release, I'll be looking ahead at how much better the next one will be.
4) Can you give our readers a run-down of your basic gear (live and/or studio)?
I'm a gear-junkie, so this shouldn't be a problem if you've got the space....Live, it's pretty simple: Marshall Artist 30 head, Marshall JCM 800 4x12 cab w/celestion GT75's, Monster cables, Boss Tuner pedal, Dunlop Rotovibe (chorus & leslie sounds), Snarling Dogs Fire Bawl wah (the best sounding wahs on the planet), Dunlop power brick to power it all, and a channel switching pedal for the Marshall head. The guitar I'm playing was built by a local Luthier Michael Curd- he's amazing- he said "if you can draw it, I can build it". It's basically a modified Les Paul shape, with an ultra carved top quilted maple top, mahogany back that is also carved to be completely comfortable, 24 fret ebony fretboard,set maple neck, Hipshot vintage tremolo, Gotoh locking tuners, two "Fat Ass PAF" humbucking pickups from Custom Shop Parts, 3-way switch, volume & tone, and a 3rd pot that acts as a single coil "roll-off" for the neck pickup. I picked out the planks of wood that eventually became this amazing instrument. I played Les Pauls for YEARS and swore by them. Mike said that he hoped when I got this guitar I'd never want to play anything else. I've had it since October and have yet to play another guitar on stage. For Studio work, I'll bring out EVERYTHING, including my 62 Fender Bassman, 78 Marshall JMP, my Les Pauls, USA Telecaster, an old 60's Supro Belmont set up for slide, a 50's Kalamazoo lap steel, Takamine Acoustic, Washburn Classical, Super Strat, a 335 copy, a Steinberger, bunches of pedals- delays, choruses, an old Ibanez Metal Screamer. But I usually just end up liking the sound of my live rig all miked up. The other stuff is just for color.
5) Who would you cite as early influences, and who are you favorite new players?
Well, I got started because my grandfather was a "honky-tonk" player and singer. When I got interested in guitar we got to spend some time together and he taught me a LOT. He's gone now, but I still feel like performing is my connection to him. George Lynch was the first big influence, as well as all the 80's shredders. When I started, THAT was the standard you had to live up to (I still haven't gotten there though!) I'm still amazed by Eric Clapton. John Sykes was the first guy whose tone really grabbed me and the first live show I saw was with his band Blue Murder- and that also set the wheels in motion for wanting to be in a trio....Zakk Wylde- the Pride & Glory album was a huge influence. The band Badlands with Jake E Lee and Ray Gillen....Steve Vai, Steve Stevens, Paul Gilbert, Joe Satriani, the guy from Brother Cane whose name escapes me. New stuff- Well, it's nice to see guitar coming back. It's nice to actually hear bands play a solo and play with some technical proficiency instead of "look how sloppy I can be, isn't it cool?" attitude of the 90's. Right now I'm digging Corrosion of Conformity and Zakk Wylde's new stuff. I hate to admit it, but I didn't know much about Darrell's music until after his death, but I've been digging into that stuff and really have some respect for him. What a loss.
6) Can you give a few tips to aspiring players?
1- Take Lessons! Soak up as much as you can at the beginning.
2- TONE- not just having a cool amp or guitar, but really knowing your tone inside and out, being able to control the guitar and sound like you want to sound at any volume level, and listening to what it really sounds like. I probably work as much at getting what I think is a good sound as I do at technique. Listen to lots of players just for their tone. John Sykes is one that always sounds amazing, Eric Johnson too.
3-Learn how to play WELL before you start recording and gigging. I see so many young guitarists playing out and recording before they are ready. When I got serious about being in a band (years after I started playing), I made a mix-tape of all the cover songs I wanted to play live, and I played along with it every night along with practicing my own original tunes. It became a "second nature" thing to play those songs, so that when performing live I could just "let go" and try to tap into that mojo-performance-mode. I still practice my set regularly, along with learning new tunes that I'll probably never play with my band.
4-When you get your band together, learn how to REHEARSE instead of just playing through things. There's a difference.
7) What are your future plans?
Finish the 2nd Devil Stomp CD, play live as much as I can. I want to put our music in front of as many people as possible. Keep working on tone and technique. I've got a backlog of tunes that don't fit the "heavy rock" mode, so I'd eventually like to get those recorded. Basically to keep busy and never be satisfied.
8) Thanx for talking to us, Don!
Glad to do it. I hope your readers dig it. One more thing.....Go to see local live music! You can learn so much from EVERY band or performer and it just makes sense for musicians to support other musicians!