20 Questions with Chris Bickley
It’s been a while since we did our “20 Question” series of interviews. For today we have a very talented guitar player, Chris Bickley from Shredguyrecords. Join us while we find out more about his music, favourite websites and his early influences.
Here’s a song you can enjoy while going through the interview:
1. Hey Chris! First off all thanks for being a sport and agreeing for the interview. Now lets start off with the questions. To begin tell us a bit about your new album “Tapestry of souls”?
Well it’s my first attempt at a solo CD on my own. It is a collaboration between myself and a few different singers, including: Mike Vescera (Yngwie Malmsteen, Loudness), Kelly Keeling (Baton Rouge, MSG, TSO and John Norum), Chandler Mogel (Outloud and Talon), and Jimmy Kunes (Cactus and Savoy Brown). I also had contributions from a bunch of guest musicians that I have known or picked up along the way from various bands like House of Lords, Obsession, Dokken, Johnny Winter’s band, Black Oak Arkansas and a few others. We cover a lot of different styles and I geared it to the types of music I love and yet still keeping it connected to me as a guitarist. Over all the goal was to keep it melodic; I think we did a good job with that. The record was co-produced by Vic Steffens and mastered by Grammy nominated and Emmy winner Jim Chapdelaine. It’s now available on Shredguy Records.
2. There are different reasons why each one of us picked up the guitar in the first place, What was yours? and what, or rather who were your early influences who inspired you to reach where you are today?
Some friends of mine were playing guitar at an early age and my father always had one stored under my bed (I never so much as looked at it). I eventually started tinkering with my friend’s guitar, that turned into me just naturally starting to play, so I started playing the guitar my father had (mind you this was a 1968 Gretsch) and realized that my father was in a Country band back in the early 70′s. For me it was natural to just start playing. I never understood how; I just played what I heard.
Some of my early influences were Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica, and Van Halen.
3. I absolutely love “Race car guy” from your CD, tell us how did the album happen and any special story behind this song?
Well the CD is all Gaetano Nicolosi’s fault hahahaha.
I sent him some tracks to play drums on that were just demos (early versions of Chemical Love and the title track Tapestry of Souls), but once I got them back it was so great I ended up making a record; he blew me away. I met Gaetano back in 99′ or so when my old band opened for Ron Keel’s Iron Horse. Gaetano was the drummer on the gig. Actually the truth is, Ron discovered me. The really great part is that I met Terri Lane through Ron Keel and Iron Horse, because she did all the background vocal work on the record and a duet with Ron called “Take Another Shot”, which is featured on his Anthology CD.
After Gaetano started those songs, I continued to write and was asking friends as they were available to play on some tracks; which then extended further to singers like Kelly Keeling and Jimmy Kunes.
“Race car guy” was written with the inspiration of Grand Am racer Tonis Kasements in mind; he’s a fantastic driver with a lot of fire in him. He was brought to my attention by a mutual friend; so I watched a few races, saw he was a fan favorite and how people just loved him and really that’s how the track got started.
4. Tell us a bit about your first band?
My first band was called J.o.t.s.b (Jimmy on the Short Bus). It was a a dark alternative mixed/slightly progressive type band with no real direction. I learned a lot from those guys during the time we had that band which was 98′ or so. The music scene was in a strange place at that time; no lead guitars and odd song writing. There were bands like 311, Kid Rock and Creed that were big and new on the scene so the kind of music we were doing wasn’t doing what we all had hoped. We were fighting the world of change and our sound just didn’t fit in. I also learned a lot about myself as a player during that time and as a writer; it was definitely a learning experience. The drummer and I are close and we still talk to this day.
5. How is it like working with Mike and Shredguy Records?
Mike’s a great guy! We have had some good chats on the phone. His heart is in the music and it’s truly about that for him. He’s a fan as much as a label and that’s what makes him great, because he’s passionate about it all. I think he’s sort of picked up where the old Indie Labels left off back in the early 90′s, when Road Runner was a REAL Indie and even Metal Blade and Shrapnel. He is very supportive to lots of players, even if they aren’t on his label and he does whatever he can for the Indie scene to make it better for everyone. He’s also trying to reach and bring fans GOOD solid music. I think he’s done just that over the last 4 years, and if I can help contribute you bet I will..! He’s definitely brought some good stuff out.
6. Tell us a bit about your experience with “Terri Lane”?
I can write a book on Terri Lane, but to sum it up she’s one of the most talented vocalists/artists I know and have had the pleasure of sharing a stage with; and she’s also my best friend. She’s done countless sessions and sings her ass off!
7.Who else is involved in the making of “Tapestry of souls”?
John Francis, Jim Chapdelaine, Vic Steffens, Vic Lecar, Dino Fiorenza, Mike Vescera (Yngwie Malmsteen, Loudness), Kelly Keeling (Baton Rouge, MSG, TSO and John Norum), Chandler Mogel (Outloud, Talon), Jimmy Kunes (Cactus, Savoy Brown),Michael K. Smith (Mind Storm), Bill Holloman (Danny Gatton band, Le Chic) Mark Focarile (Mile Marker Zero), Michael Giammattei, Tom Forst, Dominick Mauro (Forgotten by Friday), Bobby T. Torello (Johnny Winter, Black Oak Arkansas, Grace Slick, Michael Bolton), Scott Spray (Johnny and Edgar Winter), Bj Zampa (House of Lords, McAlpine, Dokken, Obsession), Chris Mccarvill (House of Lords, Jeff Scott Soto, Obsession), John Bruno (XFactorX, Obsession), Paul Pedroncelli (Down Monday), Rick Gauthier (Vital Might), and Eric Klaastad (Trouble Tribe).
8. What were you up to before this album?
I was gigging/recording with various projects. I did albums like: Isaac Allen – Don’t smoke and Arika Kane’s debut album.
9. I heard you are working on Terri lane’s recent album “The Truth” featuring AC/DC, how was it like working with them?
Well really it’s more like just Chris Slade of AC/DC and the Firm. We are still working on this record; we had Slade come in and do a few songs. He’s a legendary drummer and we were lucky to have him. He really liked the songs too and that’s what we were so happy about. The guy is a pocket player and has great timing and feel. Eric Klaastad, Scott Spray and Bobby T. Torello also appear on the record as well. Terri always sings her heart out and the tracks are raw and powerful and real. I really love playing in the studio with Bobby T.; I can’t describe the feeling when he’s pounding the drums. The material is a lot like a female version of Bad Company or Aerosmith. Please check her out on Reverbnation – http://www.reverbnation.com/terrilane
10. What’s your favourite music related website?
11. Tell us a bit about your last show. How do you find playing live?
My most recent show was with Christine Ohlman and Rebel Montez (she’s also known as the Beehive Queen from her hair style). It was an intimate show of about 70 people; it’s really more of a sit down “concert”. She’s the singer for the Saturday Night Live band and her catalog of material is different than most are used to hearing me play; it’s more soul and real bluesy rock stuff. She does some songs from artists like Otis Redding, Buddy Holly, and even the Everly Brothers. She also has a large catalog of her own material we perform. The shows usually run about 90 minutes. It’s very loose and raw and all about the groove or the “Hip shake” as she would call it. Sometimes the most difficult stuff to play is the pocket and stuff that requires space and attention to chord inversions. This is that kind of gig, so you get a different side of me live.
12. What is your favorite genre of music while driving?
80′s hard rock usually, big records like The Cult’s – Sonic Temple or Giant – Time to Burn or even Joe Satriani – The Extremist.
13. Enchant us a little more about your gear! Guitars, effects, picks, amps , what would we find if we were to walk in to your studio?
I love gear; there are lots of guitars in my arsenal. I use different stuff for different gigs and recordings. I use a few vintage Fender Strats and Teles, and an old 1962 Silvertone Stratotone for slide guitar, as well as a B.C. Rich Gunslinger for certain sounds. I have a couple of great hand made Zion Radicasters that I use for live stuff and a Dean Deciever. I also have a guitar I designed; built by Tj Monster. It’s a hybrid Telecaster with a big sound and I dig it a lot. So far it’s just a prototype. I also have a Buddy Blaze Shredder which is good for some serious lead guitar work.
For Amps I’m using the Randall Rt50 Combo and I have a Fender Blues Deluxe and a Vintage Elk twin 50 made in japan (it’s a 50 watt head that pretty much covers any style I need). You’ll also find a line 6 pod kicking around.
I use Modtone’s Delay and Tremolo, (2) Boss Od-1 Overdrive’s, Boss TU- 2 Tuner and Chorus pedal. I also use a hand made RMC Wah pedal that is the best Wah I have ever heard; it’s the Joe Walsh signature model.
I’m using In Tune guitar picks (the Grippx) – 1.5 Gauge
9 – 42 gauge strings. I love Dimarzio pickups.
14. Do you also play in studio sessions? If so how has it treated you?
Yes I do. I love working on new stuff with other artists. I’m currently the session rock guitarist at Horizon Music Group, so I get all sorts of opportunities to play with or do lots of different things musically. There’s definitely a variety of music that comes in. I also do work at home for myself and of course other artists.
15. Without thinking for a second if you had to name your favorite guitar player, who would it be?
Hands down – Jake E. Lee
16. How does a normal day in your life go?
Get up, eat, work, eat, work, play guitar, eat, sleep repeat.
17. Your 5 most favorite movies?
So many great ones; hard to say just 5, but here goes:
Smokey and the Bandit
The Good The Bad and the Ugly
18. Which is the one place where you’ve always wanted to perform?
Tokyo Dome – Japan
19. You are pretty active on facebook and myspace! how do you find surfing these social networking sites and meeting fellow guitar players?
These sites are cool. I promote when I can, but it’s hard because it can eat up a lot of your time. Plus it’s social networking so you’re trying to talk to everyone, but you’re also trying to keep it real because it can get very superficial at times too. The guitarists and musicians are usually very good about it and are also busy working in music. The support is good, you get connected with a lot of talented people and new alliances are formed; which you couldn’t do if you didn’t have Facebook. Also if you play your cards right you can definitely learn to be a better player and learn more about the business.
20. Any plans for the future?
Perhaps another record. I’m working on some more songs now and I have about 5-6 songs so; I do hope to do another. I also have several albums that I have participated on coming out this year so I’ll be busy with that too
Tastes like rock Magazine
Chris Bickley – Acclaimed Session Musician to Acclaimed Solo Musician
Interviewed by Michael Meade on 5/11/12
Posted 5/14/12 5:35PM EST
Courtesy Chris Bickley and Shredguy Records
TLR!: Hello Chris, thanks for taking the time for Tastes Like Rock and our readers today, for readers outside the know, would you mind kicking off with a bit of history on yourself and what drew you to music and playing guitar?
Chris Bickley: Well some friends of mine were playing guitar at an early age and my father always had one stored under my bed (I never so much as looked at it). I eventually started tinkering with my friend’s guitar, that turned into me just naturally starting to play. So basically I started playing the guitar my father had (mind you this was a 1968 Gretsch) and learned he was in a Country band back in the early 70′s. For me it was natural to just start playing. I never understood how; I just played what I heard.
TLR!: Your career has largely been made, and gained notoriety, through working as a professional session guitarist; how you got started, and have since become a highly sought after, session musician?
Chris: Well at first I was more a hired-gun, live guy. But by hanging around the studio and building a relationship with Vic Steffens (owner of Horizon Music Group), that slowly but surely turned into getting session work. I still do both, and it’s really like a chain reaction; you do a few, then the phone rings and people get wind of what you’re doing and what you’re about. Same thing for live. I also pick and choose the stuff that comes along because I’m not always a good fit. Just because you do sessions doesn’t mean you’re the right guy for the job. I think I get more respect for knowing where I stand as opposed to just pretending I can do more than what might be in my catalog of playing ability. At the end of the day though I’m really a live guy; I love to just get out there and rock.
TLR!: That asked and answered, you’ve got your debut solo album, Tapestry of Souls, coming soon so what brought on the break from session performing to create your own solo material? Why now?
Chris: Well its been about two years in the making; I always wanted to do a record for myself you know and have my friends involved. Plus the timing was right with the tracks I already had, which sort of started with a previous band. Also Gaetano Nicolosi was available and helped me make it fly, so things just started coming together faster and faster; it just felt right. The record is out now on Shredguy Records.
TLR!: Tapestry of Souls is being released on my buddy Michael McDowell’s Shredguy Records label, what timeframe can we look forward to the album dropping on?
Chris: It came out May 1st and it is already available on I-Tunes, Amazon.com, CD baby, Shredguyrecords.bigcartel.com, Impulse Music, Diskunion Japan, and Chrisbickley.net.
TLR!: What type of sound and feeling will be on Tapestry of Souls?
Chris: You’re gonna get a full-on hard rock album with shades of blues rock, classic rock and metal. We have some well-known, great players from bands like House of Lords and Obsession as well as some recognizable vocalists including Mike Vescera and Kelly Keeling.
TLR!: Will there be any shows or touring to celebrate its release?
Chris: No plans right now.
TLR!: Chris what goes into the creation of your songs? Do you need to be in a specific place mentally or emotionally? Or do the melodies and chords come into your mind and the rest of the songs identity evolves as you play?
Chris: No, I don’t need any special places, sometimes just not thinking about it too much is the best way to get my parts out there. I try to just get in the zone to bring out the best in myself. The melodies come first usually, then the parts line up. Sometimes it’s the opposite, which is even more strange for me [laughs].
TLR!: [laughs] Getting away from performance and creative processes for a moment, what are your gear preferences? And why?
Chris: Right now I have a pile of guitars I’m using for recording; from Vintage Fenders to a B.C.Rich Gunslinger, to a Buddy Blaze Shredder, then some Deans and a custom TJ monster guitar that I designed with TJ. Live (depending on the gig) I have been using my Dean and Zion guitars, Randall Amps Randall Rt50, and a Fender Blues Deluxe. Depending on the situation the gear changes. Some gigs I’m not shredding, but more playing chord inversions and accompanying the songs with the vocalist. That’s when the Fender amps and the more traditional guitars kick in. Other times I’m playing hard rock or metal and doing what I need to do to rip it up, that’s when I can bring out the big guns like the randall and more metallic guitars. I love Modtones delay and clean effects (they are strong and sturdy and sound great). The Rmc Joe Walsh Wah pedal is my Favorite Wah; true bypass and just sounds great. I use 2 Boss Od1 Overdrives as well.
TLR!: Sweetness all around! You’ve also got a ton of other projects going on with other bands as well as session work, how’s your 2012 looking for your non-solo gigs?
Chris: Pretty busy actually. I have studio work with Thunderhead and Terri lane, trying to finish up those albums; and I have shows with Christine Ohlman and Rebel Montez. I have a few releases coming out this year too: Intuition with Gaetano and Luccio Nicolosi, and Dino Fiorenza (it’s a progessive rock Christmas Album) and I’m also on an Iron Maiden Tribute cd coming out on Versailles Records.
TLR!: Back to your solo career, where are you taking it with Tapestry of Souls being released?
Chris: I’m going back to the studio since I have more material I’m working on, more songs to be written and sung! I have a lot of material I’m going to finish up and try to get out after the first of next year, so get ready this is just the beginning.
TLR!: Thanks again for the interview Chris, it was great talking to you!
Chris: Always a pleasure!!
For more from Chris check out www.chrisbickley.net.