Henry Rollins: 'It's Hard to Think of a Single Contemporary Musician Who's Considered a 'Guitar Hero''

Are guitar heroes thing of the past? Mr. Rollins says yes.

Ultimate Guitar

Henry Rollins recently weighed in on the idea of rock music passing its prime, saying that the days of guitar heroes are long gone by now.

"Is the day of the guitar band over, or at least on hiatus? It's a good question. It is hard to think of a single contemporary musician who is considered a 'guitar hero,'" Henry kicked off in his latest Village Voice blog post.

Pointing out that music is always moving and evolving, Rollins noted that as an "avid listener," guitar music is just not doing the trick for him anymore. "I don't listen to nearly as much guitar-driven music as I did years ago," he said. "While the sound is still part of my life, I do find well over half of my listening to be on the instrumental and avant side of things, where often a guitar is not the predominant instrument, if it's present at all."

Explaining that great guitar players are still very much out there, Henry dubbed the independent scene the place to be for fresh ideas. "I think there is just more eclecticism in independent music," he explained. "Curious, innovative young artists are searching for other sounds and textures to work with. I am so thankful that they are doing so. It has made modern independent music completely exciting and compelling."

Summing it up on an optimistic note, Rollins wasn't reluctant to add that "the appeal of guitar music will never die. There, I have predicted the future, and it's full of guitars. It is the most mass produced and sold instrument in the world and works just fine electric or acoustic. The guitar allows someone, with little effort, to bang out some rudimentary chords and express themselves.

"The portability and affordability of the guitar will always keep it in play. It is an instrument that is easily enjoyed alone to preserve one's sanity. It's one of humankind's best inventions," Rollins concluded.

Can you think of any modern guitarists that can hold up to the ultimate greats? Let us know in the comments.

192 comments sorted by best / new / date

    As a guitar player, it takes more to impress me than playing an 8-string, or sweeping for the sake of being technical. Being a guitar god from my point of view means riffs and licks that stand the test of time, great songs and fret board wizardry. you need them all. just because you're a monster on the guitar doesn't mean that you're a guitar god.
    exactly, as a guitar player myself I enjoy and spend the most time on my riffs and such far more than my solos, I feel as though they emulate what I'm expressing far better.
    Definitely not in mainstream/commercial music, but once you look beneath the surface you'll find a plethora of great guitar players.
    You're right. There's lots of good guitar players but none of the contemporary players are guitar heroes in the sense that EVH or Slash were in the 80's.
    also i think hes also trying to say that those good players youre probably thinking of nowadays just arent viewed in the same light as the heroes of the past, which i have to say i probably agree
    I think we are running into the difference between being a really good guitar player and changing the public perception of how guitar should be played as Hendrix, Page, EVH did.
    Guthrie Govan
    Yes, Guthrie is freaking awesome (I think one of the best if not the best guitarist), but I wouldn't consider him a guitar hero. I mean, Slash, EVH and Jimi Hendrix are real guitar heroes. Everybody knows them. Being an awesome guitarist doesn't make you a guitar hero. Guitar hero is somebody that everybody knows. It has nothing to do with freaking amazing technique. It has to do with popularity. Guitar heroes were a 70s/80s thing. Today I wouldn't say there are that many guitar heroes. In the 80s everybody wanted to be a guitar hero. But today how many contemporary guitarists does a basic music listener know by name? In the past it was different. Everybody knows Slash, Hendrix and EVH. They are icons and I would say they were the most famous members of their bands.
    He says there isn't a guitar hero in contemporary music, then he says he doesn't listen to much guitar music anymore. There's your problem
    Read the rest of the article. "This trend in my listening is not due to a lack of great guitar bands or players. It is simply because I try to spread myself as thinly over the vast array of choices available as I can. It's not as if there hasn't always been a ton of music to be enjoyed, but since the 1980s I have made a concerted effort to expand the perimeter of my musical appreciation."
    So he says there's a lack of great players and then, he says its not due to a lack of great guitar bands or players..
    He says that there is great guitar based music, but there aren't really as many guitar players that people obsess over and idolize in the vein of Hendrix, Page, Van Halen, or Slash anymore. The era of guitarists being in the spotlight is over. He isn't saying that guitarists suck now, just that the focus isn't nearly as on them as it was on the past
    SniperWolf80mm · Jan 17, 2014 07:24 PM
    I would say Morello, Greenwood, Bellamy and Jack White should be considered Guitar gods. Honourable mention to Auerbach.
    But that doesn't make them guitar heroes. Hero status is more about popularity than ability.
    Knowing Henry Rollin's musical career, I don't think he listens to mainstream/commercial music that much anyway. The dude was in Black Flag after all.
    Guns N' Chains
    Agreed. For whatever reason people don't want to believe this or just are to lazy to dig/search for them.
    I think, in this context, a real guitar hero would make their presence known rather than have to be sought out in obscurity.
    He's basically saying that ONLY mainstream music exists these days. Sorry Rollins, but just because you can't play guitar oriented music doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Anyone that listens to modern heavy metal or hard rock knows that this is pure BS. Guitar Hero's don't "exist" because there are TOO MANY of them. Why single out one single guitarist when there are hundreds of equivalent players. With the advancement of the internet and youtube we are able to realize that there are a lot MORE AMAZING guitarists than the ones that are commercially handed to us.
    I think by contemporary he means newly emerged. Mayer, White, Frusciante are not new by a longshot, even though amazing players. And I agree with him, in the last few years no contemporary guitar gods have emerged. In the rock domain, indie is the shit now with the kids and I haven't heard any of those new bands showing some level of innovation guitar-wise. Maybe that changes soon, I surely hope so.
    A lot of people probably won't agree, but I would say John Mayer and Jack White should be considered at the very least - they're easily known outside of guitarists' circles and they're helping keep the blues alive, if not pushing it forward.
    I very much agree. Both guys are great and have recognition (well more John Mayer than Jack White) among people who listen to pop music. Guthrie Govan was mentioned above and he's definitely risen up for a lot of us. I would also bring up Tosin Abasi for a great modern metal guitarist. Brent Hinds is great too. I could also see Misha Mansoor of Periphery continuing to get more attention.
    John Mayer has the hybrid skill of SRV, Hendrix, and Clapton but has chosen a different path in the past few years/albums to a midwest rock n roll sound, which I love. But he can shred, yeah.
    John Mayer has the hybrid skill of SRV, Hendrix, and Clapton but has chosen a different path in the past few years/albums to a midwest rock n roll sound, which I love. But he can shred, yeah.
    you say he shreds, yet present no evidence!! no shredding in this video!
    shredding doesnt just refer to metal guitar solos noob
    I didn't say it was only metal solos. I said there was no shredding in this video, and there isn't. Ass.
    Its amazing what passes for great guitar playing and shredding these days....John Mayer will never be able to shred and you other know nothings who try to create relevancy with what Hendrix did nearly 50 years ago and being able to replicate it today is just further proof of your naiveté.....
    Really, Jack White? There's experimental, and then there's shit guitar playing. There are 6 year olds in China who can play guitar better with their feet..
    Are we talking about John Mayer playing in barber shops on the Chapelle Show? Then I agree, that was hysterical
    I think that was one of the funniest skits on that show... especially when the Latin music started and Chapelle was yapping through that blow horn.
    A guitar hero doesn't necessarily have to be that good at guitar. Jimi Hendrix for example.
    Jimi Hendrix wasn't that good at guitar?
    Hendrix was not technically good, innovative yes, but anyone who has been playing for a while can play most Hendrix songs. It's what he created sonically, high gain (at the time), effects experimentation and use of feedback that is why he is remembered.
    It is simply inaccurate to claim that Hendrix is remembered solely for "what he created sonically." Sure that's part part of it, but listen to a song like "Little Wing" which is basically a clean guitar. His unique rhythm skill was in a league by itself and he played some of the most emotional solos. Also, listen to "Red House" and tell me he wasn't technically good.
    "anyone who has been playing for a while can play most Hendrix songs." That doesn't really mean a whole lot. Being a good guitarist doesn't mean you have songs that noone else can play. People can play his songs, sure. But could they have written and created them themselves? I don't think so.
    Maybe I suck, but I've been playing for a little while and I definitely can't play Jimi Hendrix songs. I can play riffs and small sections, but definitely not whole songs.
    Being able to play Hendrix's songs doesn't make you as good as or better than Hendrix. Music isn't all about notes. It's how you play the notes. Very few can play Hendrix's songs as well as Hendrix did. It's not about playing the right notes (because that's easy). It's about playing the right notes the right way. Yes, Hendrix was not technically the best guitarist. But guitar isn't about technique, it's about style. And his technique was good enough for the music he played. You don't need to have the best technique to be a great guitarist. You just need to have good enough technique to make your music sound the way you want it to sound like. Oh, and technique isn't all about speed. Good technique is about being able to make good sounds with your instrument and being able to make exactly the sounds you want to make. That's perfect technique - being able to 100% reproduce the sound you are after. It doesn't require any speed if you don't want to play fast. Slow parts can be technically challenging because they need the right kind of vibrato, bends, dynamics and stuff like that. They are different kind of challenging than fast parts. Also, Hendrix created a new kind of playing style that everybody wanted to mimic (melodic rhythm playing).
    Anyone can play someone else's songs with enough practice. There's a difference between covering a song and creating a song. Also I would love for you to recreate live solos that hendrix did. He is the best guitar player we have ever had and no one has done the same since.
    No no sorry its not just feedback, he brought a lot of the modern day rock guitar technique together and exposed it to the masses from his days on the chitlin circuit...
    He's a terrific songwriter but he's far from one of the most technically skilled. I'll take writing and creativity over pure technicality though.
    Please go listen to live at winterland and then rethink what you just said. No one can play like jimi. No one at all.
    What???? jimi wasn't good on the guitar? you clearly do not understand what you are hearing. Nobody before or since has came close to Jimi.
    hendrix was one of the most innovative. not that great by todays standards. srv & eric johnson did/do hendrix better.
    I hear ya, but key words being "by today's standards". SRV and EJ wouldn't have done what they have without Hendrix somewhat paving the way.
    Battery Chicken
    Standing on the shoulders of genius. Everybody adds their bit to the greater conversation, some just add more than others, and Hendrix added a buttload.
    What kind of strange world do you people live in where Jimi Hendrix and Jack White are not talented guitarists? Has anyone ever listened to multiple recordings of a single Hendrix song? A lot of them vary greatly because the man didn't just play the guitar, he lived and breathed it. I call bull that 95% of us could really play his songs like he did because he treated them like living beings rather than templates. His talent comes from the soul that he poured into the instrument.
    Problem with Jimi is, his music's been around for a while, he's been adored by the masses, universally agreed as one of the best ever and such...so of course you're gonna get these original people who think they're the first person to say "well actually I'm not all that into Jimi"....
    My Last Words
    Tosin Abasi.
    Tremonti, definitely. Petrucci, Abasi, Buckethead, and hell, Slash is still going strong. While he's definitely not the best guitar player, he is more or less THE stereotypical guitar hero.
    The only problem is guys like Petrucci and Slash have been going at it for over 20 years and have been considered "Guitar Heroes" for many of those years. Abasi might be the closest though.
    Im sol glad someone else said tremonti. But also, as a guitar hero, you encourage others to pick up the guitar and learn your songs, I dont think anyone else has done this better than synyster gates of avenged sevenfold has done the last ten years.
    I actually have to agree with this statement. Personally, I think Syn's playing has become quite dull since S/T, but City of Evil down, he was arguably my favorite and most influential guitarist. I can only imagine what kids just hearing that now are thinking and the urge they get to pick up a guitar.
    I agree with Tremonti. Although he's been around since the mid-nineties (how far back can we consider contemporary) his work with creed, alter bridge and his own solo album just show what an all-round great musician he is, and he can shred too, which yes isn't the point, but its a bonus!
    John Frusciante
    I'm not sure he can be considered contemporary, he joined RHCP as far back as 1988 and they had their breakthrough in 1991, which is over two decades ago. But he's definitely a great guitarist.
    I think Misha Mansoor of Periphery might qualify as a current "guitar hero". Not that he's the best out there, but he has built a reputation that's the closest I can think of. Inspiring lots of budding 7 string guitar players, and really helping push the 7 string guitar market.
    And, as for the people claiming he was talking about well-known guys in the public eye, guitarists like Avenged Sevenfold's Synyster Gates are all over the place, inspiring more mainstream-minded listeners to pick up the axe.
    Remain Wise
    Matthew Bellamy. Look at songs like 'plug in baby' for example if you want an innovative riff. Watch him live, he is so inventive and always adding to his songs (while singing at the same time) and he's really created a unique vibe on stage. He has the excitement, ability to blow your mind and made me view the guitar in a completely different and futuristic way that no other guitarist has. But that's me.
    Brent Hinds, his hybrid-picking banjo inspired playing is truly innovative in a metal context.
    Josh Homne? Matt Bellamy? Jack White?
    Don't get me wrong, those guys are great, but they aren't really "Contemporary" just because they are still alive. They are from a different era. I would say that even all of the math rock wizards aren't really contemporary either, considering it's 2014.
    Apparently, Matt Bellamy seems to be ditching guitar for Muse's more poppy-songs at live shows. He's been singing "Starlight" without his guitar recently.
    The issue is that guitar driven rock music is not popular like it once was. Back in the day when rock was at its prime, it threw the spotlight on the guitarist, thus making him a "guitar hero" take van halen (my fav band of all time) they were huge back in the day and everyone listened to them. since eddie was such a monster on guitar in a popular band, he himself became a guitar hero. Many of todays great guitarist are simply not heard or known to the mainstream because of rock musics failure to stay relevant. the one guy who comes to mind for me currently, who is still young, is tosin abasi.
    A guitar hero changes things. He changes how people play and what people play. Hendrix made people turn up and play Marshall amps. He made them play much differently too. Eddie Van Halen got people tapping, modding their guitars and looking for Plexi's. Yngwie got people doing sweeps and searching for old DOD overdrives. Kurt Cobain killed guitar solos and turned people away from the guitars and processors of the 80s back to basics like Fender and stomp boxes. Jack White brought back bluses based garage rock, got people playing department store guitars and drove people to seek out old Silvertone amps as well as Big Muff pedals.
    Lost Dog
    The only musicians who seem to complain about the state of rock music seem to be old artists much past their prime.
    When he said that guitar music doesn't do much for him anymore I would want to retort that new music (made for younger people) doesn't do anything for older people.
    Everyone has their own guitar heros; for me they're Angus Young and John Petrucci. Kids learning guitar nowadays are going to look to contemporary guitarists and become inspired. It could be anybody. This guy saying that "there are no contemporary guitar heroes" makes him sound like a bit of a knob.
    Brent Hinds and Dave Davidson come to mind. Both I think are prime examples of modern guitar heroes
    Mark Tremonti
    Yes he is amazing but not a guitar hero in my opinion. Guitar heros need to have that larger than life look and attitude which I think he lacks. For instance Slash, Van Halen, Hendrix, Clapton, SRV (especially) They all have that wow factor. While people like Mark Tremonti, and a lot of todays shredders just don't have that holy shit appeal.
    Looks don't have anything to do with it. The guy inspired me and many others to pick up or improve their playing. People look up to him and that's what makes someone a guitar hero.
    I think Mark Tremonti is a good guitar player, but I really don't see his appeal. I don't think he's nearly as good as Hendrix or Guthrie Govan.
    And why, Mr. Rollins, do we NEED guitar heroes? It should be about the music, not some guy wanking over the top of it.
    Jon Gomm is the only one I can think of off the top of my head. Most bands I listen to are from the 80s/ 90s anyway.
    Tom Morello I think will be there when his career is said and done.
    Yea, but morello was out when dimebag was out, and dime was no doubt a guitar hero, but not a contemporary guitar hero.
    Uh. The first thing I thought was "Misha Mansoor." There's tons though. Tosin Abasi is my own personal Guitar Jesus.
    This is ridiculous. I get the point that its about the guitarist transcending the genre and instrument but there are plenty of guitar icons that are at the top of their game or on the rise. Brent Hinds/Bill Kelliher? Tosin Abasi as mentioned so much above? Jake Cinninger/Brendan Bayliss? Tim Collis (video below)? Omar Rodriguez Lopez? Even Trey Anastasio, who might be old but is a legit guitar hero.
    I saw these guys live with And So I Watch You From Afar last year. They're freakin' sweet.
    Of course there aren't. But that's because it was way easier to leave a huge impression and be innovative back in the early days of rock and guitar music. Everything was still there to be discovered, and now that most of it has, the variations we see on them simply aren't as impressive. Not that I'm saying there's nothing left to be done in guitar music, just that it's pretty ****ing hard for anyone to be a Jimi Hendrix or a Jimmy Page or a Keith Richards again.
    Henry Rollins has always been masterful at sounding much more intelligent than he really is.
    Of all the statements in this thread....this is the one I can say I agree entirely with.
    Charlie Parra is awesome But I agree, nobody listening to mainstream music is going to find a "Guitar Hero" that'll inspire them to learn the instrument.
    Matt Bellamy if anyone. His band fills stadiums, awesome riffs and is a great frontman.
    Tosin Abasi has made more Guitar World covers than his years in music would suggest. I'd say he's the closest thing we got.
    I know a lot of people would disagree, but quite a few articles/newspapers have stated that Mark Tremonti is a new modern day guitar hero. It's pretty hard to deny the dude's talent.
    People keep saying mark Tremonti... guys, no one has ever listened to Creed and said "Man, I really need to learn guitar!".
    Learn guitar? No, that was Metallica for me, but influenced me even more to play guitar? I can actually say Creed did that. I remember listening to Are You Ready? when it first came out and the heavier sound blew me away. But meh, I know what you're saying.
    Zakk Wylde, Synester Gates, Mark Tremonti, Jack White. They all possess a lot of talent, and are well known both in and out of music circles. Altough real Wylde has been established at that level for a very long time already.
    Dunno about you people, but John Frusciante is, in my opinion, one of the best guitar players & creative minds ever. And I'm not even talking about RHCP stuff here.
    Totally agree, but he's purposely neglected guitar in recent years. The Empyrean has been my favourite album since I discovered his solo work 3 years ago. I think John's one of the "tastiest" guitar players, especially when he just jams.