Animals As Leaders: 'Grunge Music Killed Guitar Playing'

"The only bands that were still doing solos were Pantera and Dream Theater," guitarist Javier Reyes says.

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Animals As Leaders' guitar duo, Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes, has recently tackled a few interesting topics in the latest installment of the Rolling Stone's "Young Guns" series, one of them being the impact of grunge music.

The good-natured Reyes held back from bashing the genre, but couldn't avoid noting that during the grunge explosion, he hated everything about it.

"When Nirvana and Soundgarden came out, I was probably the only kid I knew that was bummed out," he said with a laugh. "That music killed guitar playing. I remember watching music videos with Rudolf Schenker from the Scorpions or Angus Young from AC/DC just going nuts, and thinking that was the coolest stuff in the world.

"But then Kurt Cobain came out, and all that stuff was over. The only bands that were still doing solos were Pantera and Dream Theater, so that's what I gravitated to," the guitar master added.

On the other hand, Abasi had no problem with the grunge movement, and even cites its representatives as early-day role models. "I was really into Nirvana when I first started playing," he said, "but I had an older brother who played drums, and he got really into those Modern Drummer instructional videos - and most of those drummers played in bands with really awesome guitar players, like John Petrucci of Dream Theater. And that's kind of how I started to change my playing style."

Discussing musical beyond the guitar-driven domain, Reyes shared an interesting notion that metal isn't the kind of music one would listen when going out. "We're fans of all sorts of music, particularly pop and dance music. When you're going out to the clubs, you don't really go out to listen to metal!" he said.

The band's latest studio effort, "The Joy of Motion" saw its release in March via Sumerian Records.

184 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Pretelethal
    Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains still had their fair share of soloing, particularly the latter bands. Either he's exaggerating slightly or he's never heard the solo on Rotten Apple.
    yaronbeery
    What about 'cready in reach down going nuts? How could he have said that? If anything the 90s guys reminded everybody that it,s about the songs and not the superficial stuff and saved us from the hair farmer bands who had great guitarists and solos but were very shallow
    finallife6
    Its funny, because the first five songs of Bleach all have solos; and many of my favorite Nirvana songs don't feature solos (Lounge Act, Very Ape, Radio Friendly Unit Shifter and more....) If anything, Grunge music made a focus on making a song as barebones as possible after an era were everyone just played as fast as they could and in some instances make it inaudible
    crazysam23_Atax
    Nirvana and Soundgarden didn't solo as much as the '80s bands. Soundgarden's first record, in particular, didn't have a lot of solos.
    DaniArrow
    It did have an awesome raw guitar sound though. Nirvana did too. I like the rawness and feedback and all, it's just as much the soul of the guitar than any solo would be.
    Eifler121
    Like Suicide, Tighter and Tighter, and Superunknown have some of my favorite solos.
    TheExterminator
    "The only bands that were still doing solos were Pantera and Dream Theater" Going by such a limited scope, the only bands playing Metal in the 80s were Poison and Motley Crue. The only things Grunge killed were Glam and mainstream Metal, two things most of the Metal world had been trying to get rid of since things like MTV started sucking it dry in the 80s.
    crazysam23_Atax
    Yeah, but to a young kid in the late '80s and early '90s, it seemed like grunge killed guitar playing. Fortunately, the rise of grunge allowed bands in the Death Metal, Grindcore, and Black Metal scenes to solidify their musical visions, while remaining unpolluted by some idiot record company looking to make a quick buck.
    Eissari
    Jerry Cantrell?
    TreyR
    Alice in Chains is IMHO far from being typical grunge band, I mean, I saw them 2 weeks ago, and they were heavier than Metallica or Children of Bodom.
    crazysam23_Atax
    AiC are basically alternative metal, not grunge. They just happened to be around at the same time as grunge.
    michaelaurand
    "Grunge" is an era, not really a "genre." The "big four" of grunge all had very distinctive styles and influences of their own. Nirvana was a D.I.Y punk band, Pearl Jam was a college rock band with working class aesthetics, Alice in Chains were bluesy and probably the closest to "metal" of the four, and Soundgarden was very technical and just a tad bit psychedelic. Yet all of them fall under the blanket label of "grunge," just as the bands who were directly influenced by them afterward are often labeled under the (sometimes derogatory) term "post-grunge."
    entropicxdisson
    they are like a doom/sludge band with the newer stuff, probably would have been classified that way in the 90s if they weren't from Seattle.
    siamesedream777
    Billy Corgan? Smashing Pumpkins wer'e not a grunge band, but i guess he is still refering to 90's alternative bands in general.
    GeriatricNinja
    I've never quite agreed with these kind of comments - I know so many fellow guitarists who initially picked up a guitar because of bands like Nirvana and then dug deeper into different styles of music as they progressed. For me personally they definitely sparked that interest in guitar more than a band like Dream Theater did, even though I worship John Petrucci to a borderline obsessive degree now. Anywone who can write a song that gets a kid to pick up a guitar is good in my books
    coVal
    Same with me. I was raised on grunge music, but now I play and listen to various genres with progressive metal on top.
    Krieger91
    Yeah I forgot solos were the one most important that playing guitar is about, and that a song without a super fast solo is pointless. In all honesty, I was in to the whole heavy metal, fast solo scene until I heard Nirvana, unbeievably, then started looking for different things in the music I listened to. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy a good solo, but I just don't have the idea that music sucks without it..
    Pick 'n' Finger
    I understand it from the point of a guitar player. You are looking behind the curtain of a Nirvana song and think. "Well that was weird, I learned that song in three hours. How the heck are they more successful than [insert non-dream-theater prog band]" On the other hand from the POV of a listener there is this: "Yeah, that song really grooves. I like it." You don't necessarily look behind the curtain of the product so you won't notice that song xyz is done with the cheapest composing methods you can find. Still it is okay because a song is no comparison of skilldicks but a matter of "How does it feel? Does it catch my attention?" If it involves skill, go for it. If it doesn't, well good for you. This is why I am quite unimpressed by the kiddos who can play scales on 300 BPM and who are faster with their hands than my electric toothbrush. Ask them to play some neat funk or mellow jazz. They have used all their practice time to grow their dexterity so they forgot to relax and build up the "feels". There is a reason why I admire Tosin Abasi, because he is able to pull off these incredibly fast licks, but then he can also just groove with some chords or play this super creamy melodic solo. Just listen to Ka$cade and you know what I'm talking about.
    third(-)eye
    For me, that's part of what made Nirvana great; they proved you didn't have to be a show-off to make awesome music. On the same point, I find most AAL pretty predictable and unengaging. Much like I find AC/DC and the Scorpions predictable and unengaging.
    MattChristTuck
    Agreed. This guy sounds like such an idiot.
    twiggy3634
    Tosin didn't say anything about solos.
    finallife6
    Right.... ""But then Kurt Cobain came out, and all that stuff was over. The only bands that were still doing solos were Pantera and Dream Theater, so that's what I gravitated to," the guitar master added."
    Niiko
    If you're going to correct someone's reading comprehension, make sure yours is correct too.
    Linkerman
    Neither Krieger91 nor MattChristTuck even mentioned Tosin. As far as you can tell, MattChristTuck was referring to Javier.
    The_Moth
    "But then Kurt Cobain came out, and all that stuff was over. The only bands that were still doing solos were Pantera and Dream Theater"
    lucas.p.pereira
    Agreed
    HUNDuffman
    welcome to ultimate guitar, where agreeing with an upvoted comment gets you downvoted
    UncleBluck
    Welcome to ultimate guitar where the younger generation continues to relish in the continued regression of the art of guitar playing. Soon it will all be about only Dave Grohl playing single note melody....Jesus even the guy from Bill Haley and the Comets (1950's) could blow away most of todays younger generations guitarists.....
    TJHague
    Welcome to ultimate guitar where the 'elite' cannot see the beauty in simplicity. Complexity and simplicity both have their place. To say that simplicity in the name of having a good song is 'regression' is one of the more stupid things said here. It's all about what the music calls for.
    l0ld4v3
    Aren't these guys in Animals as Leaders the new generation of guitar players?
    phds
    Ah yes, we can always count on you to leave self absorbed comments trashing the "new generation."
    Shavyi
    It's not only about the solos. He takes the solos as example because it is an essential part of heavy metal, but it goes in a whole dynamic. When he says grunge killed guitar playing, he is kind of correct : grunge is less challenging on the guitar that the thrash metal that was going on just before the 90', that's just a fact.Thus said, he doesn't do any value judgement, he even says that he pretty much was into grunge music.
    metalmaniac90
    They are wrong. What's really killing rock are people claiming to be "non-conforming" rockers, then when somebody doesn't conform to their sub-genre specifications they do everything they can to tear that band out. Unfortunately this seems to be the ruling majority of the rock community today, people going at each others integrity over these sub-genre specs. Keeping bands that sale, and break into mainstream off of rock radio, henceforth keeping the younger crowd from listening to it. Keeping bands on rock radio, from breaking into mainstream because you have all these musicians who feel superior technique, equals superior music poisoning the minds of impressionable people with this misguided logic. All sorts of *******s with such low self-esteem they have to make it their life goal to prove their taste in music is superior to validate themselves. That is whats killing rock. Now I'm a bigger fan of guitar solo music myself, not big into grunge, but I do respect them. They brought a ton of younger people into rock in the 90's.
    Igamikun
    When I was like 15 all that mattered was solos and super heavy riffs. Then I grew up and my tastes have expanded over the past 11 years. Honestly right now, I'm currently hooked on The Misfits and solos are pretty much non existent there.
    entropicxdisson
    Masturbatory shred band is mad that stuff that is simple with emotion to it sells more than masturbatory shred.
    fallen881
    who said it had to be a super fast spam note solo? rock and solos have some feel to them and structure too. It sounds close minded at first but hey he is kinda right if you think about it.
    third(-)eye
    Well the first guy implied that the solo needed to be at least somewhat technically impressive. Nirvana has solos with the structure you just described.
    cwm1990
    if you thought nirvana was impressive you should listen to animals as leaders, they play exactly how you just described your likes
    Chickendirt
    Cantrell was rated as UGs most underrated guitarist...here is why
    pariskoloveas
    Actually Mike Mccready was on top of their list but it's proving the same point-that grunge had solos and awesome guitarists
    AlexGreat123
    Basically '*insert genre here* killed guitar music because I don't like it'. Never mind the people who were inspired by that type of music
    Kornholic
    Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes are both spectacular guitar players, no doubt. But as musicians and composers, they are nothing compared to, let's say, Jerry Cantrell.
    crazysam23_Atax
    lolwut? No offense, I love Cantrell. But his songwriting is hardly revolutionary.
    a drummer
    Cantrell was like a mix of Hetfield and Slash in terms of playing, but i gotta admit, We Die Young was ****ing heavy for '90. Not many people were playing like that then, let alone getting airplay.
    Sixxstarr
    When was the word "revolutionary" used? He said Tosin and Javier aren't as talented as Jerry in the composing department.
    crazysam23_Atax
    @Sixxstarr: And I am disagreeing. In terms of composition, Tosin (who is the main songwriter for AaL) is on a different level. Cantrell writes mostly basic rock song structures. Tosin writes songs with Jazz and Classical inspired song structures. It's more complex, as a result. Now, don't misunderstand. I'm not knocking Cantrell. I love AiC, and it's not a bad thing that their songs are basically rock song structures. But to say Cantrell is better just shows an ignorance of knowledge of composition.
    third(-)eye
    Ok so the more complex the song structure, the better the composition. I'll add that to my list of things I've learned today.
    mokeefe1319
    Jerry Cantrell Mike McCready and Stone Gossard, Kim T.. these gentleman have done some fantastic guitar work. This guy however seems like a total douchebag, I'm Not an animals as leaders fan maybe thats why..
    Ottmeister
    The way I see it, grunge music gave guitar playing a new life. Those guys showed that even if you didn't play guitar well, you could write beautiful music with your passion and creativity.
    smittyanthrax
    Load of shi te.I take it this guy has never heard Billy Corgan,Mike McCready,Jerry Cantrell or Kim Thayil rip a blistering solo during the Grunge era.
    ProgFripp74
    Did anyone actually read the article? I really think people just read the title then comment in anger.
    VinnyChinny
    Nope. Just UG doing their thing by misleading people. You all realize this was when he was a kid right? I'm also pretty sure some of AAL songs don't have solos (just really weird rhythm parts).
    crazysam23_Atax
    A lot of their songs do though, or at least they have a lead guitar part that acts in the "stead" of a vocal line.
    SRsyndrome
    Punk and Grunge showed that you didn't have to be John Petrucci to be a good artist. And most of the really great bands had fantastic guitar players. AIC, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and even Kurt ripped some cool solos every once in a while. Not to mention that if you think Grunge and Pantera were the only thing going on in the early 90's, you really know nothing about music.
    HUNDuffman
    not having to lay down batshit crazy leads to be a good artist was already known since the 1890s, so grunge is 100 years late if that was the purpose
    KroniX
    Grunge and Punk were/are a totally different approach to music that any other styles. Why do people keep saying punk derived music is for people who cant play. Its about how you play and what you are communicating... There are MANY bad Punk bands around. And its Not cos they play too well. Its because they dont get it.
    STABxYOU
    Grunge killed guitar wanking, not guitar playing. Grunge made guitar more accessible to an entire generation.
    manicmuso
    This is exactly the same as Bruce Dickinson saying punk is rubbish. It says a lot about him as a musician that he can't recognise that grunge opened up a whole new world of creativity for bands and guitarists. As for Pantera and Dream Theater being the only bands playing guitar solos? Is this man for real? "Playing scales really fast is like 'hey, check out my Ferrari, but my genitals are tiny'" - Josh Homme
    K-Paul
    Lets take a look at the most successful guitar based band of all time, outselling there nearest rivals by approx 4-1, The Beatles, hardly a stand alone guitar part in sight. Guitar solos are the icing on the cake, too much icing ruins the cake.
    Klondyke_OGT
    Even though measuring a band based on sales isn't too sound in the music community (EVEN IF it is The Beatles), I still like this example. The Beatles were loved after their heavy-pop days for their experimental approach, meanwhile Jimi Hendrix's prevalence exploded during that era for his drawn-out piercing solos (and humping guitars and lighting them on fire, but that's besides the point). Main point: they promoted each other. McCartney was a big reason Jimi achieved such high status so quickly. Jimi covered Beatles songs. They lived harmoniously.
    Artturi
    Nirvana was all about songwriting. They didn't need virtuoso skills to succeed. Besides, all the really tricky and technical guitar music I've heard is mainly from the period after Nirvana, so I really don't know where this is coming from.
    primus182
    RADIOHEAD'S songs are enough complex without guitar solo and seriously, I cant stand the repetitive patern : verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge(solo)/chorus/chorus
    third(-)eye
    I just hate knowing where a song that I've never heard before is going to go before it's halfway over.
    Zaqq
    RH actually has great guitarists, just check their solos on Paranoid Android or Just.
    Abacus11
    If you want to be a professional musician you're going to have to make music that people enjoy listening to . The average music fan doesn't care about how fast you can play a guitar solo or how many sweeps you can do per second... they want to hear good music that is fun and/or interesting to listen to. If you want to show off, hang out with other like-minded guitar players and show off. You can't expect people to stop liking what they like so that they can become your own captive audience. AAL are an incredibly talented band, amazing musicians but I think that they're missing something here...
    jamie.hancox
    grunge bands have their share of huge guitar solos and acting completely nuts too... peral jam had it all back in the day!! they dominated the stages, vedder climbed on absolutley everything, mike mcgready owned the guitar solos (listen to alive for gods sake!)... Nirvana had great stage presence, Cantrell wrote some beautiful solos. I don't how/why, as a guitarist, you cant respect the grunge genre and what was created from that era... without AIC, Faith No More etc you wouldnt get bands like Meshuggah for example... who themselves directly influence Animals As Leaders.
    BwareDWare94
    Wanky bullshit like Animals as Leaders is much worse for guitar playing than Grunge ever was. Look, I respect what they can do, but it loses my attention almost immediately because complexity for the sake of complexity is absolutely pointless.
    GenerationKILL
    /eyeroll. This crap is just more retardation for hipster wankers to circle-jerk over. Grunge didn't "kill" musician ship. Jerry Cantrell and Alice in Chains were brilliant musicians. So were the guys from Soundgarden. I prefer their great music over the musical wankery that "Animals as Leaders" produces. All that shit does is perpetuate snobby musical elitism. Don't bother countering my argument about this either, because if you do, you're just proving me right. Douche-metal is douche-metal. People's opinions about it are also why I hate talking about guitar playing in the first place.
    mcbride.grant
    I'm fairly sure even Kurt Cobain was a brilliant musician. Just because you don't play outrageous solos and 200bpm rhythms doesn't make you a bad musician ... just as actually doing those things doesn't make you a good one. Of course, I'm sure plenty of people disagree.
    symmetryerased
    "I was probably the only kid I knew that was bummed out" "That music killed guitar playing" Man that was so juvenile. Well maybe you didn't grow up.
    Hungry_Hameds
    One of the stupidest things ever to be said about music. I was thinking McCready, Cantrell, Thayill etc and then saw in the comments everyone was thinking the same. The lack of solos in other songs by these bands makes the solos you do hear all the better, who wants the same shredding repeated 10 times on an album? Mix it up, less is more.
    ycj5420
    Exactly. If you play fast all the time it loses its meaning and impact. When you mix fast in occasionally and in the right spots, thats when its way more powerful and badass.
    Sixxstarr
    Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden were all doing solos, great riffs, etc...if you're gonna say any genre dumbed down guitar playing it's pop punk
    The Judist
    Smells Like Teen Spirit has a nice guitar solo. What more does he want?
    third(-)eye
    Actually, Serve the Servants has a really good guitar solo that doesn't just echo the melody line.
    Everlong729
    Its an iconic solo, but it just copies the verse. Its not difficult or innovative in any way, Kurt just wanted a simple solo for once. Not bashing Nirvana btw
    travislausch
    Abasi's more right about this. Also I believe from an interview he did with Vai, he used to play in a grunge band when he was younger. Grunge is like any kind of music. You take it for what it is, not what you want it to be. And some of it (Soundgarden, Nirvana, Alice In Chains, especially) is good, and some of it is bad (never liked Pearl Jam).
    third(-)eye
    Not sure why you're downvoted. Maybe because you spoke against Pearl Jam? But let's be honest, the other three you mentioned are much more interesting.
    Sleaze Disease
    You got Nirvana and Pearl Jam in the wrong categories. Pearl Jam were way better than Nirvana.
    third(-)eye
    From a musicianship standpoint or a writing standpoint? One of those arguments I'd agree with, the other I'd disagree with.
    Sleaze Disease
    Both. Obviously, Pearl Jam are the better musicians, and, IMO, Nirvana never wrote any songs that were anything special.
    KroniX
    Define Better? And by what terms are you defining what is BETTER. They are two totally different bands with totally different approaches, simply existing in the same area and era.
    Sleaze Disease
    Seriously, dude? You know damn well what I mean by "better"; Pearl Jam could play circles around Nirvana. You're arguing for the sake of arguing. Stop trying to sound deep by asking me to define a word that you obviously know the meaning of. I think it's absolute ridiculous that people can't say a band is better than another without other people starting an argument. There are bands that simply are better than others; not every band is equal because "it's all art".
    Jazz1992
    [rant] Why are people hating on this guy so much? He's only stating the obvious; grunge simplified the guitar playing in rock. Whether or not you like it is an individual thing; he obviously doesn't (and for that matter, I don't either), but a lot of people do (on UG in particular), and that's fine. And yes, of course there are good solos in grunge as well, just as there are crappy ones in metal, but to be honest, I prefer Dimebag's solo in "Cemetary Gates" to any grunge solo I've heard, by far. It's just my thing. But hey, opinions are like a**holes... [/rant]
    cjschaef
    [rant] my beef is that hes wrong. Soundgarden killed guitar playing? I feel like most of soundgarden's most popular songs have solos in them. "Black hole sun", "spoonman", "pretty noose", bleed together". Hell, Pearl Jam "Ten" has a solo in almost every song, and they are basically the same as AC/DC solos, pentatonic/blues scale stuff. [/rant]
    third(-)eye
    I just don't get why some people consider any band that solos infrequently or not at all as "killing guitar". What's so important about solos? I think having a strong riff is much more important.
    l0ld4v3
    With Soundgarden, not only solos, but also different tunings in their songs.
    siamesedream777
    I have a lot of respect for these guys, because of their musicianship, althoug Abasi seems like a more cool and down to earth guy, Reyes declaration seems so immature... like " Oh it doesnt have a comple 5 minutes solo it's garbage" c'mon... and for his information bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead did pretty complex things back in the day WITH and WITHOUT solos... so he should get his information better.
    third(-)eye
    Radiohead still does that. Except now they take it even further by writing complex songs with little or no guitar.
    SkepsisMetal
    Aye, maybe so. But at least the music was interesting. I don't think I've managed to sit through an entire AAL song in my life.
    marianoarnaiz
    We all know this to be truth... but there are few that admit it. Mark Tremonti pointed the same thing a few years back!
    ETID666
    Seems to me that most of the "news" on ug is shit talking headlines
    grinreaper
    These 2 are great to work with...down to earth. A lot of people forget that instruments are just tools that help make and perform songs. Musicians are the operators. You play for the song, not for yourself. If it calls for simple 3-chord progressions, multi-layered FX or guitar solos, so be it. Just don't suck at it and then criticize other musicians/bands. Music would be so boring if it all sounded the same.
    kieran.hudson.1
    I understand what he was trying to say but he had said the completely wrong thing in the wrong way. I think what he was trying to say is that Grunge was such a game changer, it strip down to the basics (basic don't always mean bad BTW) of music writing that he found music was no longer being made as complex, thus in his mind not as complex equals not as interesting and since the 90's gunge era it hasn't picked up the way it (supposedly) once was. In my opinion, I am grateful for the grudge, not a big fan of it but it brings diversity to music, if every thing was to be complex it would be to paint a picture of the world with one colour. I am a great fan of Tosin but surprised he hadn't chosen his word better.