Frequently asked questions
The following are based on emails and message board questions posed to Chris.
Who are your favorite guitar players?
Brett Garsed, Vinnie Moore, Kee Marcello, Allan Holdsworth, Frank Gambale, Steve Vai, Neal Schon, Jon Finn have all been an inspiration to me. Many other players floor me with their talent, but I have to go with the ones that made the most impact on me.
What are some of your favorite bands and artists?
Brett Garsed, Vinnie Moore, Toto, Europe, Kee Marcello, Harem Scarem, Journey, Planet X, The Jon Finn Group, John Farnham, selected Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment, Yngwie Malmsteen.
How long have you played and when did you start writing songs?
I got my first guitar at age 10 and have been playing for just over 20 years, although for a few years in the 90s I wasn't playing much due to tendonitis. I wrote songs (if you could call them that!) as soon as I knew how to stick two chords together!
What gear do you use on "The Master Plan"?
Guitars: Ibanez (electric), Washburn (acoustic)
Pickups: DiMarzio (in the Ibanez)
Amplification: Mesa Dual Rectifier head (twin channel 1996 version), & quad box
Effects: Boss delay, other delays and reverbs added after recording
Recording gear: PC, Cubase VST, Wavelab, Yamaha mixer, Yamaha SW1000XG sound card, Roland JW50 keyboard (used as a controller).
I now use Suhr guitars and amps, and also have a PRS which I pull out for certain projects.
What are your favourite guitar-oriented albums?
In no particular order, these albums have some of my favourite guitar playing:
Vinnie Moore - Time Odyssey
This is still a favourite of mine. Great songs, great playing, very inspiring to me as a teenager.
Allan Holdsworth - IOU Live and Secrets
What can I say? Who does this kind of stuff better than Allan?
Jon Finn Group - Wicked
Jon's tone, phrasing and feel are awesome
Europe - Out Of This World
Kee Marcello did some of 80s rock's best solos on this album. Very melodic, plenty of tension and very compositional.
Garsed/Helmerich - Quid Pro Quo
Brett was my initial inspiration to pick up electric guitar so I tried for years to get this album, finally finding it second hand on a trip to Japan! Rock-Fusion is defined on this album!
Yngwie Malmsteen - Rising Force
I was really inspired to get my chops up after hearing this album. It has a lot of fire.
Harem Scarem - Mood Swings
Pete Lesperance is in the same boat as Kee - fantastic melodic rock guitarists that more people should know about!
What guitar solos did you study to get your skills on the guitar?
I didn't spend much time on people's licks themselves. When something intrigued me about a solo, I approached it mostly from a conceptual point of view, meaning I tried to understand why someone played that lick, and then figure out how I could use the lesson behind it in my style. For fun as a teenager I sometimes figured out stuff by Yngwie, Vinnie Moore and Paul Gilbert.
A lot of my ideas came about after spending time on books like "The Frank Gambale Technique", and videos by Paul Gilbert, Richie Kotzen, Vinnie Moore and Brett Garsed, rather than songs themselves. I was scared that other guy's licks might start creeping in if I spent too much time on them, but in hindsight I've seen many people develop well by doing other guitarist's solos too. If you want to have your own approach, I think you'll know when it's the right time to focus on the concepts rather than the licks.
What guage of strings do you use?
Can you explain the recording process for "The Master Plan"?
I wrote the songs mostly on keyboard, believe it or not, recording the parts as I came up with them, with the guitar parts developing while jamming to the basic structures of the songs while they were being written. Sometimes I wrote the guitar parts on keys and then learned them later. I recorded the backing parts (keys, drums, key solos etc) in real time using a Roland controller, tidying them up where necessary after each take and deciding whether or not to keep the take or do another. I dabble quite a bit on drums and keys, so I know my way around those instruments well enough to program what's realistic and suited to the song. Yes, yes, yes, it would have been nice to have Virgil Donati playing these parts but its all a matter of time and money when I had neither! :) For the most part the drum fills and keyboard solos were improvised. With drum tracks, I separated the kick drum, snare, toms and cymbals to different tracks after recording them, to allow for better mixing and panning later. All of the sounds were generated from the Yamaha SW1000XG sound card, which was expensive at the time but great.
I recorded real bass on my Ibanez SR405 by going direct or maybe through an eq pedal at most, then rhythm guitar tracks next. Acoustic guitars were added next. They were recorded just by going straight through the mixer and into the computer. Solos followed, and I found that lead tones sounded better with the mic another inch or two back from the cab for more of a room sound. On completion of all lead work, the audio tracks were edited (cutting out noise at the beginning or end of takes, stereo expanding, normalization etc).
Mixing was all done onto stereo .wav files, burned to CD and taken to dB Mastering for mastering by Kathy Naunton, who did a fabulous job. The mixes themselves took me about 1 day per song for the longer songs. It's important to have some ear breaks to make sure you're not getting reverb deafness or listening to what's in your head instead of the speakers.
The mastering process was done over a couple of days in Kathy's professional studio, which greatly improved the stereo spacing, eq and brightness. For references, Dream Theater's Awake was was used (for it's great mix and spacing) and the first LTE album (the mix is very drum oriented, but the tone and aggressive levels mix were something I wanted for my album).
Why did you waste your time playing in the band Feeding The Addiction?
Because I love vocal rock music too. Unfortunately, this band was not the right vehicle for me. I joined in 2003 after their were lots of promises made about things like management, publishing with Sony/BMG, record label showcases... all of which either happened for a few seconds and went sour or never happened at all. I got the band to the level required to play live around the Sydney scene and we played live for much of 2005 with a drummer who lived in his car - really! The whole thing was a comedy of errors really. Eventually things went bad and I bailed out in 2006 and took some time out to find my love for music again. I'm not burned out on the idea of playing in bands though. I played a gig with Steve Paoli's War Machine recently and the enthusiasm, professionalism and talent of those guys is a blast to work with.
Do you teach privately?
Yes. I'm at a stage where I am picky about who I teach because I wont enjoy it otherwise. I'm not really that vibed on teaching a Satriani song to someone from a tab, but I could easily chat with them about the devices (both technical and musical) that a player like that uses to create cool music. I'm more of a concept teacher because it's the way I taught myself. I'm also available for master classes for groups of 10 and can travel to do these, so contact me to organise one.
Why haven't you made another solo album? (or many variations of this question)
It's almost done as of July 2011!
Can you play on my demo/album?
I will consider anything that is of a professional-sounding nature. My rates are reasonable and vary depending on the project and investment of time required. Please write to me using the contact page to discuss your requirements.