Diss Rants

This is the news/ranting forum for Diss (a.k.a. Tom Kercheval), an independent musician. Check here for new music, updates on new music and just random rantings on a variety of subjects. Feel free to leave a comment or four. For Diss' main web site, go to www.dissmusic.com.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

My Favorite Guitarists of All Time...As of Now

Okay, time for another break from the heavy religious discussions....I was just thinking the other day of all the guitarists who've really influenced me heavily over the years and thought I'd try to offer my top list (I don't know if it'll end up being 10 or not, but I'll try).

These are in no particular order, except one: Stuart Adamson. He's definitely numero uno. The others, well, if they're "older" players, then they probably rank up higher since they were influences before I started playing myself.

So, here we go...
  • Stuart Adamson: Guitarist/Singer/Songwriter from Big Country. This guy is by far my biggest influence, and sometimes maybe that comes through too much in my own style, although I like to think I've developed my own. Anyway, the thing that always struck me about Stuart's playing was not so much his lead playing (although it was great) but his rhythm guitar playing, particularly the odd chord structures he came up with. To this day, he's one of the few guitar players that gives me fits when trying to figure out what he's playing. His use of droning, open strings when playing chords was so appealling to me, and the Scottish/Celtic sound of the playing as well. He is so underrated. Beyond belief underrated. I still think the album Steeltown is a guitar masterpiece. Listen to that one with headphones and just hear the guitar symphony that is going on on most of those songs - tons of parts interweaving with each other, creating a huge, totally unique sound. Just brilliant. Like no one else.

  • Ace Frehley: Yes, Ace Frehley from KISS was a big influence for me, and I still love the guy. KISS was my first rock obsession. Superheroes and Rock Stars all in one, the perfect combination for a young boy. I always thought Ace was the coolest, and he's another guitar player who doesn't get as much credit as he deserves. Technicaly, he's not the most gifted player, but his guitar solos on those early KISS albums are incredible, in that, to this day, I can practically hum every one of them. To me, that's the mark of a great solo, not how many notes you can play in a second, which gets old fast, but how memorable the melody of the solo is, and Ace had some of the best melodic rock solos ever. They were simple, but they were effective.

  • The Edge: Another huge influence early on. Say what you want about his technical abilities, and I'll admit he's not that great a player when you judge him solely on those merits. But I never cared about that much anyway. What makes him great is that he forged his own creative sound, one that's been infinitely copied ever since. His use of the delay pedal was revolutionary (yeah, it had been done before, but not like he did it), and he was able to make one guitar sound like an army of guitars, completely filling U2's sound to the brim. His early stuff is what I especially like, and I still think his guitar playing on the song "11 o'Clock, Tick Tock" is pure genius throughout. That was in fact the first song I ever heard from U2, and it blew me away then and still does today.

  • Pete Townshend: The thing that always fired me up about Pete was just his raw aggression on the guitar: The windmills, the smashing of guitar and amplifiers, the whole vibe he had going really appealed to me at an early age. He just stalked the stage and he attacked his instrument with no respect for its safety. His playing is also fantastic. I don't love everything The Who has ever done, or Pete (sometimes he gets a bit too "artsy" even for me), but the image of him standing on a stage with a Les Paul, hand held high ready to do a signature windmill and hit a big power A chord...that's iconic right there, and I like to think that I took some of that aggression into my own playing. I'm definitely more interested in aggressive rhythmic playing more than mile-a-second lead playing, and Pete is a big reason why.

  • Bruce Springsteen: A lot of people don't even think of Bruce as a guitar player, which is a shame, because he's freakin' great. I first became aware of just how great when he did his solo acoustic tours in 1995 for The Ghost of Tom Joad album (one of my all-time favorites). His slide guitar playing, on a 12-string no less, on his solo acoustic version of "Born in the USA" is astounding. He's another one who just plays with wild abandon over technical precision, which I guess is sort of a theme in this list. His lead playing is actually great and underrated, too, and he gets an amazing sound from his beat up old Telecaster that I've often wished I could emulate but can't seem to. But his solo acoustic playing is what really gets him on this list for me - seeing him live by himself was just a revelation. He's a true folk hero to me, and there aren't many like him left.

  • Juliana Hatfield: Okay, I had to get a woman on this list, and Juliana is one of my favorite artists period. I'm listening to her almost exclusively at the moment, in fact. She broke out fairly big in the mid-90's with a song called "My Sister" and sort of disappeared after that in the eyes of the masses (why does this happen to all the bands and artists I love?), but she's been incredibly prolific, usually putting out an album a year, which is unheard of in this day and age. I love her voice, I love her songwriting, and I LOVE her guitar playing. She absolutely rocks. Again, it's her rhythm playing that really appeals to me the most. She's brilliant at coming up with cool, chunky style chord progressions that just ooze attitude, and when she wants to, she can sound like a punk god(dess) with amazing distorted sounds and heavy riffs. On top of all that, she can also play the "girl with a guitar" role to a tee, playing some really sweet, intricate, soft acoustic stuff. She has incredibly varied talents, and I just love her music and really admire her talent.

  • Bob Mould: When I started moving out of my "heavy metal" phase in my mid-teens, I started to discover a lot of punk music, and the band Husker Du was a part of that discovery. Bob was the guitar player for that band, and his playing was and is amazingly brutal, again, more from a rhythmic nature. He also plays with many open, droning strings to create a huge guitar sound, but he usually played with incredibly loud, distorted guitars that just shredded. He still does in fact, although I've sort of fallen out of favor with a lot of his solo work over the past 10 years. But his contributions to my own guitar playing style are definitley significant.

  • Jack White: This is a relatively new discovery to me, but he's definitely influenced me recently, and it's nice to still be influenced. This is the singer/guitarist with The White Stripes, a band my wife and I have come to absolutely love. They defy all logic as to what a band should be. They have a pretty poor drummer who can barely keep time (Meg White), there is no bass in the band (just Jack on guitar and Meg on drums), and yet they produce music that is this incredible combination of dark and joyful at the same time. Jack is very heavily influenced by old blues guys, but he puts a modern twist on his playing, often using effects pedals like the Whammy in his soloing. And with no bass and no other guitars in the band, he does an amazing job of filling up that sound. This is an amazing band to see live. When he plays guitar, it's just a beautiful thing, because he also plays with totally reckless abandon. It's so wild and passionate, and it just works for me. It inspires me, actually. What he's brought to me is just to not be so worried about perfection when recording, but to allow yourself to get lost in the moment and play more from the heart.

  • Tom Morello: This is the guitarist for Rage Against the Machine, sadly, a band that no longer exists. Just when I thought nothing new could be done on the guitar, this guy comes along and does things I'd never heard before on guitar. He took sort of a hip-hop approach to heavy metal guitar playing, if you can believe that. He does those little scratch type effects on the guitar that you'd normally hear hip-hop DJs do, and he just comes up with some amazingly original and creative sounds. Plus, his riffs are huge and pummelling. RATM always sounded to me, musically, like what American Indians might have sounded like if someone had given them guitars and amplifiers back in the 1800s. Just sounds like an Indian war party. I just love it. I'm not a huge fan of Audioslave, Morrello's current project, but his stuff with RATM was absolutely groundbreaking.

  • Buddy Miller: Here's a guy you may not have heard of, but he's one of my favorite current guitar players. So versatile. I became aware of him through his playing on Emmylou Harris' live album called "Spyboy." On that album, he sounds like a cross between The Edge and Stuart Adamson, a pretty amazing combination, yet he's still completely original sounding. He comes from a more country background, but his style is very varied, and he's played on a lot of "alt-country" stuff that I really love. He also backs up his wife, the amazing Julie Miller, on her stuff. Probably the biggest influence Buddy has had on me is my discovery of something called the "mandoguitar," sort of a cross between a mandolin and 12-string guitar. In fact, I just bought one recently and I'm patiently waiting for it to arrive at my door. Can't wait! But Buddy is just an amazing guitar player, and if you're not a country fan, don't be afraid. I'm not really a country fan either, but his work on the "Spyboy" album is far from traditional, twangy country (although he can do that with the best of them if he wants to). I'd highly recommend that album for all you U2, Big Country fans out there. I remember Stuart, in fact, speaking euphorically about it at the time it came out.

WOW, I made it to 10! I probably forgot a couple, but this is a good list as I look back over it. There are certainly tons of other artists who've influenced me that wouldn't fit into this list, since it's strictly related to guitar influences. Joe Strummer, for instance, is one of my favorite musicians of all time, but he didn't really influence me with his guitar playing, so, he doesn't make the list, much as I love him!

Anyway, feel free to comment or list some of your favorite guitar players. Would love to hear 'em...

Stay tuned for some more demos coming soon, promise!! :-)

19 Comments:

Anonymous JAS said...

Diss,

Great list. I'll have to listen to Buddy Miller.I too prefer the guitarists that do the unique and melodic. I would add Adrian Belew (for all his work), Ian Crichton and Eric Johnson.

Looking forward to more demos.

October 06, 2005  
Anonymous JAS said...

How could I forget Trevor Rabin!

October 06, 2005  
Blogger Diss said...

Yeah, Trevor Rabin was/is really great. Just never listened to that too much for some reason. Buddy Miller is definitely worth checking out. My suggestion for him, though, would be Emmylou Harris' live CD called "Spyboy." He's the main guitarist, and the playing is amazing, and it's NOT an old-school country album by any means. It's very unique-sounding music. Emmylou released an album called "wrecking ball" awhile back that blew me away, produced by Danile Lanois (U2's "Joshua Tree"), and it's really amazing, heartfelt music. She's released a couple solo albums since then that are equally as good. I never listened to her stuff prior to that, but she's one of my favorites now...

But this was about Buddy ... definitely check out "Spyboy," and if you like that, try the albums done by his wife, Julie Miller. All of 'em are great. Buddy also has some solo albums out, but his voice, while great, is a little too "country" for my tastes...

October 18, 2005  
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