Arun Bali is the lead guitarist for rock band Saves The Day, and also a session guitarist and commercial writer. Dan Bogosian got him in between his move from Michigan to Nashville and discussed his surprising influences like King Crimson, some old Stevie Ray Vaughan tricks, and him joining the Two Tongues.
UG: When, why, and how did you first learn to play guitar?
Arun Bali: When I was five, the first records that my older brother and I got were 1984 by Van Halen and Shout at the Devil by Mötley Crüe. This was in 1985 or so, and I'm thirty three so I was like five years old. I ended up seeing the Hot for Teacher music video, and I was just starting kindergarten and I was already having a hard time with school; my teacher and I just had some issue where we didn't get along. I was off to a rough start with school. And I saw the Hot for Teacher video and he's playing the guitar solo on the table in the library of school and I was like Oh man, this is awesome!
So I begged for a guitar for basically three years straight, and on my eighth birthday I finally got one. Up until then I was basically playing cardboard guitars and tennis rackets to records, but I finally got a real guitar when I was eight.
Did you ever take guitar lessons?
Sort of off-and-on; my brother also started playing around the same time, so I learned a lot of things early on from him. He was buying all the guitar magazines and all that kind of stuff, so I was also exposed to a ton of cool guitar stuff. This was the 80s, when chops were in. I was just able to pick up on a lot of stuff really, really early on.
I took lessons here and there, but I'm mostly self taught. I went to Berklee when I was eighteen, but I was only there for a semester.
I find a lot of people have a similar story to that. Did you feel out of place at Berklee or what was the issue?
My issue with it was that it was too much like regular college. You're spending a lot of money to be there, first of all; at most, I would've been able to afford two years there. I think a lot of the musicians Berklee will promote like Yeah! This guy went to Berklee! A lot of them didn't graduate and left after a year or two. Most of the dudes that went there kind of already had it' before they went there.
But I learned how to continue to learn. The things I wanted to seek out as a guitar player, the concepts and how to go about learning it. I'm actually enrolled in Berklee's online program right now, for film and TV like an orchestration program. And that's kind of cool doing it on my own terms in my house, basically.
The school itself was a good experience. I was in Boston for the better part of three years, and I met a lot of great people. The people that I learned the most from like I had a private instructor at Berklee who I learned a ton from, a guy named Jon Finn. My classes, I learned some cool things. But other students, you had to really seek them out, but there was one guy (which I can't even remember his name, it was like twelve years ago) who lived a couple doors down from me in the dorm, and I would just go pick his brain. He was a full on jazz guitar player, and I learned so many cool chords and concepts from him.
It was a good experience, but I don't know that I could've seen it through. At least back then, I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be a rock guitar player, but do I need to pay twenty grand a year for that? In hindsight, if I had interest in film scoring or music production or that sort of thing back then, it would have made perfect sense, because I'm now learning these things that are completely foreign to me. But when it came to just learning the guitar, I was better off on my own.
I understand. Who are your biggest influences on guitar? Was it always Van Halen?
[laughs] Early on, for sure. Those first four or five records were pretty influential, but I'd say Jimmy Page was a big one. Jimi Hendrix, for sure. You know, I got really into Graham Coxon like ten years ago; I got really into Blur. That's what prompted me to buy a Telecaster. I was really into Prince growing up, too; I thought he did some amazing things. You know him as a great songwriter, but he's actually a phenomenal guitar player. Guys like Curtis Mayfield; in recent years, I've been loving the Impressions and stuff like that.
Robert Fripp. I was big into King Crimson for a long time. I still am, but, yeah. I learned a lot of the weird theory stuff that I tend to do sometimes are sort of ideas that I've got from listening to him, with way less gear. [laughs]
Yeah, and you probably stick to normal-tuning Robert Fripp rather than late-80s Robert Fripp?
Yeah, he did that tuning where he tuned the low E down to C and tuned up in fifths?
Yeah. I think he calls it the New Standard Tuning.
I don't know if he still does this, I heard it was ending but there was this school he had called Guitar Craft. And it was this retreat basically, and I read this book written on him and I knew people who actually went to this retreat. It's pretty intense and disciplined and you all play in that tuning and sleep only six hours a day. He's a pretty intense guy.
Are you ever going to go to the retreat?
If he was definitely going to be there, I probably would go just for the experience. Am I gonna play in that tuning? Probably not. Going to drop D is work for me. [laughs]
What guitar rig or setup do you use to play with now, and is that different than the bands you were in before Saves the Day?
Well, in high school, I did heavier sounds. I had the original Peavey 5150, which was like the less expensive version of a Dual Rectifier, but I always thought it sounded better and more unique. So I had one of those.
But after that, in like 1999 or 2000, I bought a 1965 Fender Twin, and that's still an amp that I use consistently. In the last five years or so, though, my main amp is a Fender Super Reverb, which I think is probably one of the greatest amps ever built. I just how love the 4x10 sounds.
I did a bunch of mods to it, too, because this one was a reissue that I bought off a friend. I put better tubes in there, some new old stock tubes; I changed out the output transformer and put in a Mercury Magnetics one so it has a little more dimension. And I did this old Stevie Ray Vaughan trick of disconnecting the first, normal channel which I never use on a Fender style amp and then also the vibrato, the leads that go to the vibrato, disconnecting that. So when you plug into the vibrato channel in the first input, the amp just kind of unloads. Even if you don't use those other channels, there's still current running to it, but now it's just running to this one input. It just breaks up quicker; it's just got tons of body to it. I run it to just the edge of break up and then use it as a platform for pedals. The Super Reverb is just such a complete amp to me.
I never realized Stevie Ray Vaughan did that, and I've never heard of other people doing it. That's totally new to me.
His old amp tech, this guy Cesar Diaz, that's the trick he did. I know there's more to it than that, but that's as far as I got with it. And that alone was a huge difference. I can get my amp to break up pretty well at three or four; it's still loud as fuck and drives the house guy insane. But the other cool thing about Fenders is the tilt back, so I tilt it my amps so they're just hitting me. So if I'm going to turn it up, I'll have to endure it. I kind of like it, I'm old school like that.
How did you meet Chris Conley and what lead you to be a member of Saves the Day?
In early 2009, I was about to move from Detroit to Los Angeles and I was going to be pursuing session work and some other musical opportunities, and around that time, Saves the Day was going to Australia for Soundwave and they had a guy filling in and they ended up playing a bunch of shows with Alkaline Trio. Derek from Alkaline Trio is one of my closest friends, I used to be in a band with him before the trio, and I also knew Durijah, the old drummer from Saves The Day. Basically, Durijah's old band used to play with my old band that had Derek in it, so they somehow struck up a conversation and my name came up and Durijah knowing that they needed a guitar player was inquiring what I was up to; Derek mentioned that I was just not doing anything, just leaving for Los Angeles and that's all he really knew. So Durijah gave me a call when they got back to the states.
Next thing I know, he's like would you want to do this tour we're doing with Alkaline Trio in the states? and I'm like Yeah, totally, I'd love to. So at first it was a sort of let's-see-how-it-goes type of thing.
I had met Chris a couple times just through mutual friends and on other tours, but nothing significant to where either of us really remembered the encounter. We got in touch on the phone after Durijah talked to him about it, and we just hit it off about music and the Beatles and Big Star and stuff like that. Both of us were just feeling pretty good about this new relationship, and when I went out to rehearse in Chico for that tour, I had two weeks to learn like twenty songs. I was pretty pressed for time, but within a couple of days of being there, he was like You know, if you want to be in the band, it's your job. And I was like Yeah, totally, let's do it. And here we are.
I didn't realize you were already part of the family, because it's one of those things where if you're not in a big time band, you don't ever get to know about the band before Alkaline Trio or Saves the Day, you know?
I know I just knew a lot of dudes in bands just from earlier bands or my old band would play with them and then those bands got really big. I just flew under the radar for a while there. I guess I still do, which is fine. But yeah, it just worked out this time. Less than a month from moving to Los Angeles, I get this phone call I'm at Trader Joe's buying dollar mac and cheese and next thing I know I'm in Saves the Day. [laughs] Never know what happens at Trader Joe's.
How did you learn all the old songs from Saves the Day? Did you look up the tabs, did Chris show you them, did you learn them by ear? How did you go about it?
Most of it I did by ear. There was a lot of stuff that I was unfamiliar with that they were playing. I just didn't have Sound the Alarm or Under the Boards at the time, and I was kind of bummed it just flew under my radar because when I really listened to it, I was like Shit, this is really good.
I revisited In Reverie after so many years, because I remember hearing it when it came out after so many ears, and I was like Wow, this is such a departure for the band. Nobody is gonna fucking get it. I think people have sort of caught on later. But at the time, that was sort of what my interests were with music. Just cool pop songs and weird chords, and the band I did with Derek was a sort-of Cardigans sort-of thing, and actually Rodrigo was in that band as well, and I ended up bringing him into Saves the Day once Manny was gone.
So I had already had an interest in that sort of cool, well thought out pop music, so when Chris and I started working together, it felt very serendipitous. It just felt right.
What's your favorite Saves the Day song that you had no hand in writing at all, and why?
I think Driving in the Dark was the song that I heard like I made a CD that I was just basically driving around in my car listening to, internalizing everything; that's how I learned everything, I'd just listen to it over and over again and chart it out in my head before even I picked up a guitar to go back to the last question and answer it more in full. But I remember hearing Driving in the Dark, and thinking it was great, it was a great song and being really excited.
I don't think I ever really listened to In Reverie a lot when it came out, it was sort of on somewhere else and I was like This is great, but. When I was dissecting it, learning the songs, I was like Man! How did I miss all this stuff? This is really good. That song in particular is a real good one, and Head for the hills, too. I really like that one.
What's your favorite song from Daybreak that you had a hand in writing?
I think Let It All Go, because that's sort of a special one for Chris and I, because it's the first one we worked on together. That was one he started coming up with the melodies on the first tour we did together, and it was fun putting that together with each other. But I think E is probably the coolest song on the record in terms of, just I don't know, I think they're all cool in different ways, but there's something special in the terms of the way E sounds. It makes me want to dance.
It's a really bizarre record, and E especially is a bizarre song. Daybreak was fun to tackle, too; that song is kind of a beast, just trying to work out the production aspects of each movement and tie it all together was definitely a challenge. Each song presented its own challenge, and we worked hard on every last sound, and it was fun. We spent a long time on it, and we were at the point where it was like Well, fuck it, we've already spent this long on it; we may as well get it exactly how we want it.
What's your favorite song to play live and your least favorite to play live?
Kaleidoscope is fun. We usually get pretty weird during that. It's got that cool extended solo at the end, with a bit of go-wild moment. I definitely get to have fun with it.
My least favorite? That's a tough one. I remember on the last tour we did with Bayside not having a particularly fun time playing My Sweet Fracture. It just seemed like We're going to throw this old song into the set that people will get psyched on and I don't think anybody really cared. They went more for the new stuff.
I don't think there's any one in particularly where I'm like oh man, I really don't want to play that song. The ones we play, we all like for one reason or another. But that was one that just like I don't know. Maybe we need to rethink it or do something different, we've talked about that. Revisiting the earlier stuff and trying to make it more us-now. But I guess that will come in time.
I know Incubus did that where if they play the songs off the first two or three albums; they play them totally differently other than just the basic vocal melody. I know Chris has done that acoustically with the songs off the first two or three records acoustically where they're not even punk songs themselves. I'm always surprised In Reverie marks a very definitive changing of the band's sounds, while the first two or three records are very punk/emo sounds but then from In Reverie on, its anything goes.
I think people think that we don't like playing the early stuff, and that couldn't be further from the truth. I really love playing Third Engine live; it's just a fun song. Holly Hox, we still have a fun time playing that, too. Chris and I have been doing an acoustic version of Rocks Tonic, and it's been pretty cool doing that with big open chords and the song takes on a different shape, but it's really cool. It sort of revitalized it for me, stripping it down like that.
So that's been interesting, and that sort of brought up How can we revisit some things? Like maybe for a Bug Sessions? So we have a ton of ideas like that floating around.
Do you guys plan to do another Bug Sessions ever?
Yeah, absolutely. Chris and I had a conversation the other day and had a bunch of ideas for other content, but we can't really reveal what yet. But yeah, definitely Bug Sessions are something we will always do. We were starting a new one concurrently with Daybreak, but the Daybreak, the bearer that it was, everything else got put on the backburner. It just required our full attention.
I think I read on one of the Q&As on your official site that you used fifteen snare drums or something on the record. I can't imagine how long it would take it get it all right knowing everyone obsessed over everything that much.
Yeah, I mean, we did it at our friend Marc Hudson's studio and he was actually building it around us as we were making that record. The studio's now more realized, so we'd be excited to go back now that he's not worrying about dry wall or something while we're tracking parts.
He just has a crazy collection of snare drums and we wanted to be thorough and see what sounds were at our disposal. I don't know that we actually used fifteen; that might have been exaggerated. But definitely enough that someone would go Wow, that's a lot of snares. A lot of the snares we would tune differently, or put a towel or a t-shirt over to deaden it; we'd layer different snares and we had a stereo drum set going on.
The title track alone, you can hear at least three or four different snare sounds going on, even if they're the same snare drum. One sequence has at least two snare sounds in the same beat.
You mean on 8 AM?
That's one of the ones with the t-shirt over the snare. That might have been a layered snare drum as well, I can't recall. I do know we put a shirt over the snare, and everything's a real sound, but just trying to give it that later-Cardigans snare feel where it almost doesn't sound real.
I never would've expected you to pursue the later-Cardigans sound.
We love their last three records. I mean, I'm a big fan of their whole catalogue. But they were definitely one of the bands we referenced production wise.
What is the writing process like for Saves The Day? Does everybody get an equal voice?
It's basically how it's always been. I wasn't really around for the past stuff and I don't feel right speaking about it, but Chris will bring in ideas and it might be a progression or a melody or both or whatever, and we try to flush it out in terms of putting the meat on the skeletons.
With Daybreak, it was mostly, with pre-production at least, Chris and I spent the better part of a summer just hanging out and having fun writing MIDI demos and trying different feels for things and seeing what worked. Then Rodrigo was on board, and he brought in his skills, and he's really good at tightening the screws, the little intricate things we will overlook.
I'm excited about this next record, hopefully by the end of the year, just because the band feels more cohesive than it's been and it's just nice to have everybody on the same page and wanting the same. Everybody has that goal of wanting the songs to come first over their part.
"I took lessons here and there, but I'm mostly self taught. I went to Berklee when I was eighteen, but I was only there for a semester."
There are a lot of bands where the drummer cares about just the drums and the guitarist about the guitars and so forth. You can usually tell and it ends up killing the songs.
Totally! But the thing I enjoy about Saves the Day is, there are both. There's some very musical things happening but it's never at the expense of Is this going to hurt the song? The song is always the thing we're first and foremost concerned about. We take pride in some of the chords and inversions we use, some of the weird guitar sounds. I'm proud of all the lead stuff on the record. I'm really happy with all the sounds and the parts.
I tried to do my best to make things lyrical when I do leads, you know? Sometimes, just as a call and response to what the vocal melody is. I like it to be sing-able in its own right.
I was just going to ask, how do you write your lead guitar parts? Is it a composed thing, or do you improvise?
It's a little bit of both. Sometimes, I'll just go in; with the solo to Z, we were doing pre-production and I recorded five or six takes with it and they were all improvised and I was going for something that was super in your face and visceral and out of those five takes, I was able to construct something that felt like a part to me.
With some of the others, like Let It All Go, it just came to me. I started with the vocal melody and started to stray a little bit. I know Deranged and Desperate was a little more thought out. Even Living Without Love, that one I spent a little more time on. I was listening to Chuck Berry for a week straight trying to channel all those double stops, and hopefully I ended up sounding more like Chuck Berry than C.C. DeVille.
That's another influence that I wouldn't have seen coming. It's 1950s Rock and roll and it's great, but I wouldn't have expected it to be a big influence on Saves the Day.
Yeah, I mean, I tend to draw from all sorts of weird classic rock. Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top is another one. David Gilmour is another one. Those guys just have incredible phrasing; they're so lyrical in how they play. The solo for Time by Pink Floyd is probably one of my favorites, and it's not like he's playing a flurry of notes, but you feel everything from the sound to the bends and his vibrato and everything is just awesome.
My go to example of a vocal solo is always Comfortably Numb because both solos are just, a part of the song, you know?
Absolutely. All the stuff off Wish You Were Here, like Have a Cigar. I think Shine On You Crazy Diamond is pretty lyrical, the little bends, those little [imitates guitar sounds]. Those one and a half step bends that he does. I don't know, there's something lyrical there; you can sing them. You'd sound weird singing them, but you can sing bends. [laughs]
Those are the real influences. I love guitar players that definitely had technique and I learned a lot from that kind of stuff, but all that did was make my hands stronger and make it more possible for me to play certain things I hear in my head, but I go back to the ones that I thought were saying something with their guitar. Hendrix is a great example. He was a big one for me.
Do you feel any pressure to match Dave Solloway's style? He was in the band longer than anyone else besides Chris, and you're the first person to play lead besides Dave.
I get asked that often, and from the get go Chris encouraged me to just do what I do. There's a lot of older stuff where I'll do chord inversions or I'll alter some of the lead parts a little, but I always try to keep the real distinct melodies; I try to stay true to those.
So there's a little bit of both. I think things just evolve sometimes, even with prior bands I was in. After a while, you just feel like changing a part. I think for the most part, I stay true to what he did. But there's moments where I just kind of go on autopilot and things just change naturally.
And Chris and I talk about that stuff, and I'm like Hey I just kind of started doing this randomly and it's never anything I really thought out or planned, but you play a song so many times and you go on autopilot and I do a chord inversion or something. I'm like What do you think? and more often than not, he's like That's awesome. Totally continue to do that.
I think the only time it's ever an issue, I figure out pretty quickly if it ruins the integrity of the song, it gets in the way of the vocal melodically, and then we nix it and then move on.
It's cool that he supports you on that because there are plenty of bands where someone isn't as supportive of changing what's already been done.
Yeah, and there are times with guitar solos where he's like hey, I'm kind of attached to what that was, if you could kind of stick to it and that's cool, and then there's time's where he's like Hey. Have fun. [laughs]
But again, I think Kaleidoscope evolved into something different over the last couple of years. It starts off how it starts off on the record, but I think the way mine builds is a little different. I don't know.
That's probably even the way it should be, where it's not even a conscious change, it just evolves naturally.
There's really not much in that regard that was thought out. It always just sort of happened.
A lot of fans and critics have referred to Saves the Day as the Chris Conley show. Do you no longer feel like it's that? I think you used the phrase it's more at peace now. Does joining a band that typically goes through lineup and doesn't usually feature the same lineup change your approach to being in a band?
I think we all feel like this is a band is now. I understand why people would say it's the Chris Conley show; he writes the songs and he's the only original member. And sort of what he's feeling inspired by is what the band is. But in terms of the members and other contributions and stuff, and what we talked about for the future, yeah, we really like how things are now and I think it feels more like a band now than it ever has.
And if you even asked Chris, you know, I think one of the other reasons we get along so great is the reason we both got into music is we both like playing in bands, we both like playing with our friends. I know so many bands where they can't stand being in the same room together, and with us, it's totally opposite. We love travelling together. We were on tour for Daybreak for a long time and it never got weird or uncomfortable, so I think for us, that's big.
I think people are always going to say what they want in that regard, and with us, all that matters is how we feel between us, behind our closed doors with the band. You really can't change how people perceive certain things, you know? We hope over time, after a record or two, people will just be like Oh, that's Saves The Day. Not forget about the past, but start to recognize that this is what the band is now.
But I think you have that revolving door over the course of many years, it's easy to understand why people feel that way. I think it was Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age who said something like There will never be another band like U2 where it's the same four guys from the beginning. And you enjoy the time you had with certain people, and you enjoy the time you have with the present people and whatever the future brings.
I think people just evolve differently. With Saves the Day, musically, things evolved so much that unless everybody's evolving together I mean, how young were those guys when they started? I think Chris was seventeen. Me as a seventeen year old? I don't know. Who knows? I think we're all a little older now and we've all figured out what we want and there's less guess work at that point. We've all had our own struggles and path to lead to where we are now.
I know for us, we don't spend very much time at all thinking about the past, we're just excited about what we're doing now and what we're going to do.
"It's a really bizarre record, and E especially is a bizarre song. Daybreak was fun to tackle, too; that song is kind of a beast, just trying to work out the production aspects of each movement and tie it all together was definitely a challenge."
Based on that, what do you expect out of the next album? And I don't mean in terms of record sales, but in terms of sound. Where do you see Saves the Day going next?
I know we're going to start cracking into some stuff; before we go to Europe, we're going to start pre-production. I don't know that we can really reveal too much at this point because the songs are still trying to figure out what they're going to become. I know Chris has been working really hard on stuff. We've been talking pretty actively recently about all that stuff.
So until it's become more realized I don't want to say one thing and then have it be something else. I feel like it's going to be a pretty upbeat record. We've been referencing a lot of pop stuff. I think that's all I can really say about it. I just don't want to be caught with my foot in my mouth, you know?
[laughs] You don't want to be caught in the act of journalism, basically.
Exactly! With Daybreak, because of how long the process was, we were always so careful with how much we revealed. It was easier to figure out because of what it was in terms of the trilogy. I think I started telling people it's like in Reverie meets Under the Boards, and I don't know if that's even true or not.
I'm so bad at that question. What does it sound like? I don't know rock music.
Are you an official member of the Two Tongues? Because you played with them live and Max Bemis said there would be another album, but there's a big gap there on whether you're an actual member.
Yeah, I am going to be involved with the next Two Tongues record. I know Say Anything is super busy right now with their record cycle, and I think the goal for us is to get our new record done and then we're going to start working on the second Two Tongues record and figuring out a way to tour on it since there will be enough material. That's what we've been talking about; there's no time table on it, unfortunately, but it's definitely something we're all eager to do. I love Max and Coby, so it'll be a fun experience.
Do you have any musical projects beyond Saves the Day at all?
I collaborate with a lot of my friends, like I was saying before. That's kind of what I enjoy about playing in bands, I like playing with my friends. I have a friend, Asa (Taccone) who is in a band called Electric Guest. I do a lot of work with him. Mostly stuff for like commercials or TV.
There was an episode of American Dad that he was scoring, the season seven premier that Cee Lo Green was a part of. Cee-lo sang all these tracks and I played all the guitars for it, and that was a blast. It was so much fun doing that.
I just recently moved to Nashville, Tennessee because I just want to be surrounded by killer musicians and see what other projects I could get into. Outside of the band, I want to work more towards a career in advertising music and eventually, I'd like to score a film but I'm just inching towards that. So it'll be cool to just have something I can be creative with outside of the band. It's in a completely different realm of music.
I was always fascinated by film growing up and the important of music in film and what an impact it has is always something I've been attracted, so in the last five years I've been really trying to figure out ways to do that. I'm excited to be in Nashville and do some session stuff down here. We'll see. I have a lot of good friends down here.
Who is your favorite musician you've ever played with?
I don't know if I could say just one that I've played with, so I'll name several because I've been really lucky. I've been played with four bands or so with Rodrigo. We've been playing with bands together since we were fifteen. There's a reason for that; we both really enjoy playing with each other when we're not driving the other crazy. We've been best friends since Driver's Ed.
Chris, of course. Meeting him and working on music with him, it's just so easy. It's like we've just arrived at the same point, but on different paths.
I used to be in a band called Eons, and the singer in the band was this guy Justin Bailey. That was one of the first bands where I could play with another guitar player prior to Saves The Day, and that's because he's always been a guy I had a ton of respect for and he's one of my best friends. That was a good, creative period in my life. We were doing a Brit Pop, Blur, Stone Roses kind of thing which was fun to do. And that was the first band where I got really crazy with pedals. Right out of that, getting into Saves The Day, I just sort of brought that with me, that whole sound set.
Who is someone you'd like to work with that you haven't yet gotten the chance to? If you were going to start a super group and you were the guitarist, what would the other instruments be?
Björk. I'd like to play with Björk. I think that'd be weird as fuck. I love Björk, I love what she does a producer for her own stuff and how she's evolved so much, you know? I've always been a huge, huge fan of hers. But that's about as farfetched as it gets. But we'll see where my life takes me. [laughs]
What's an average day in the life for you when you're not busy writing music or scoring things or being with the band? When music is not a part of your life, what's an average day like?
Well, I just started P90X so that makes that hour and a half of my life pretty miserable. Wow, and I've opened a can of worms with that. I'm also pretty obsessed with watching hockey and I'm starting to play drop-in in Nashville.
When I was in Detroit, before I moved to Nashville, I was working at a School of Rock I don't know if you're familiar with those. It's sort of why I'm really familiar with ultimate-guitar.com. I have friends that run the place and they're like Come teach here, and I was off for a whole summer and they wanted me to direct a show so I directed this Michael Jackson, Prince show. So I'm teaching these eight to fifteen year olds how to play these Michael Jackson and Prince songs, which is quite an undertaking because you don't want to get all Quincy Jones on them, and they're little kids. They don't remember Thriller, they're just kids. But it was one of the most gratifying times of my life, getting to do that, and the students there are phenomenal.
I was teaching private lessons there as well, so I had to learn songs for the other shows going on at the time, and I had the ultimate-guitar app and for the songs I was not familiar with, I'd just do a quick search and see what I could find. That app is really handy.
Interview by Daniel Bogosian
"Those first four or five Van Halen records were pretty influential, but I'd say Jimmy Page was a big one. Jimi Hendrix, for sure. You know, I got really into Graham Coxon like ten years ago; I got really into Blur."