Brett Garsed: Interview

The great Guitar Player Brett Garsed, Hybrid Picking Master, gave us a long and very interesting interview about his last Album “Dark Matter”, his Music, Guitars, Gears, Tecnhiques, Biography and personal History! Italian Version

Brett, Thank you and welcome to GuitarList

Q. Dark Matter is a great Work!! It’s a very collective and very sophisticated record. Tell us how did the project?

A. I began by writing and recording “Avoid The Void”  and enjoyed it so much that I decided it was time to write for another album. I was really pleased to find that the songs came fairly quickly once I got into writing mode and there also seemed to be a big variety in the mood and dynamic of the songs which is important for me. I don’t want everything on an album to sound the same..

Q. In your playing It’s seems that you are ever trying to find the “melody”, while your musical language remains very articulate. It seems also that you don’t like to follow the “speed” if it’s not necessary for the “music”. It’s true?

A. Well, compared to the incredible technique of most players out there these days I’m quite a slow player! I’ve always believed that my main strength as a musician is my melodic sense so I feel I’m just doing what is natural for me. For me personally, chasing more technique is a bit pointless as I’m not quite sure what to do with it other than play fast so I made a conscious decision quite a few years ago to slow down and be pay more attention to phrasing and melody. This approach works better for me and I think I can make better music this way. I’m still blown away by the amazing skill of almost everyone else but as I said, in my hands it’d probably be wasted so I’m better off focusing on melody and phrasing.

Q. What do you think are the main differences compared to Big Sky?

A. “Dark Matter” has much heavier moments than “Big Sky” and it’s probably due to me buying a 7 string guitar. I de-tuned my ESP Horizon Custom when I did all the guitars on the “Quantum” album for Planet X but after that Virgil Donati asked me to come to India with him and perform the album live so I needed to get a 7 string. Having the guitar sitting there ready to go in the studio made it easy to experiment with some heavier sounds and as it’s a different texture for me it was a lot of fun. I’ve always been a big fan of heavy music but I’ve mainly worked in pop and rock throughout my career so it was a blast to crank up the distortion and add some “metal” to my songs. The songs on “Dark Matter” are probably more intricate than those on “Big Sky” but I do feel people have missed the point when they call “Dark Matter” a “prog” album. I get the feeling they’ve just listened to the title track which has a section of it which leans towards prog but for the most part the rest of the song and the entire album is based around strong melodies and hooks, almost like a pop album. I guess that’s what I’ve been trying to do with my music, combine elements of fusion and progressive rock with catchy melodies and pop song structures.

Q. About Big Sky: i immediately loved “Brother”, in my opinion a very beautiful and heartfelt song. How did that song?

A.I wrote that song when I was doing a lot of trio gigs with Ric Fierabracci and Toss Panos in LA so it was written to be performed by a 3 piece band although I did overdub extra parts for the recording. It was the last song I wrote for the “Big Sky” album and I ended up dedicating it to my brother who we lost to cancer in 2002 so as you can imagine it has a lot of meaning for me.

Q. In Dark Matter you have a team of incredible musicians. Tell us about them.

A. Phil Turcio, Gerry Pantazis, Craig Newman e io abbiamo una band chiamata “Damage”  e abbiamo fatto molte gig a Melbourne, in Australia, negli ultimi 3 anni. Dopo avere suonato con loro sapevo che sarebbero stati con me per il nuovo album. Io e Ric Fierabracci negli anni abbiamo suonato tante, tante volte insieme quindi lui è diventato una parte importante della mia carriera, e spero che continuerà ad esserlo! Mentre scrivevo la Title track “Dark Matter” stavo anche facendo delle registrazioni con Virgil Donati e lui ha suggerito che sarebbe stato un affare reciproco se lui avesse suonato una traccia sul mio disco.  “Dark Matter” è la canzone perfetta per lui l’ha semplicemente presa! Ric stava facendo tutte le parti di basso del disco ma io davvero volevo Craig almeno su una traccia, così Craig ha suonato la parte principale di basso di Enigma mentre Ric ha eseguito il solo. Abbiamo fatto 2 show a Melbourne l’anno scorso, Ric era giunto da LA così su questasong c’erano due bassisti sul palco..very cool!Non ho dato a Phil e Gerry alcuna indicazione se non spedire loro la demo da registrare e loro hanno fatto cose perfette in ogni song. Sono davvero un uomo fortunato di avere come amici simili musicisti di livello mondiale.

Q. Dark matter sounds very convincing, warm. Tell us as you’ve recorded and what gears did you use?

A. The whole album was recorded and mixed using Logic Pro. I recorded all the guitar parts using my Bogner Ecstacy into a Hughes & Kettner 4×12 cab which I had isolated in a large box so I could record at home. Everyone else recorded at home as well and Ric Fierabracci mixed and mastered the album. He’s an amazingly talented fellow! I also used a THD Bivalve amp for some of the clean guitar parts and used a variety of guitars although my main instrument was the blue ESP Horizon Custom that I’ve been playing for the past 6 years. I also used my 1975 Fender Strat, my Steinberger GS which has the Fernandez Sustainer pickup in it, a beautiful Gibson ES 336 which was given to me by my dear friend Sandeep Chowta, and finally an LTD 7 string.

Q. You are one of the masters of the modern guitar. You have developed at the highest levels the Hybrid Picking Technique and uses the slidein an unconventional way. I loved your REH “Rock Fusion” and the incredible “Quid Pro Quo” with TJ Hemerich. Tell us about your technical evolution.

A. I wish I thought I was a master!! I started using the hybrid technique when I was about 14 years old. One day I looked down and my middle finger on my right hand was striking the strings as well as the pick so I just went with it. Eventually the other fingers joined in as I was trying to learn Leo Kottke songs but as I hadn’t ever seen him I didn’t know he played with his thumb. I thought everyone used a pick and didn’t know that things like thumb picks or that kind of technique existed. I grew up in a very isolated part of Australia and of course there was no YouTube or anything like that so it was all trial and error, mainly error in my case! It was the process of trying to play Leo’s acoustic tunes that I developed strength and facility in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers of my picking hand so I could play arpeggios using the pick and remaining 3 fingers. I realised that country guitarists used hybrid picking but to be honest, I’d never seen anyone apply it like I did. Up until I did the “Rock Fusion” video I hadn’t seen anyone approach it in that way whereas it’s very common now so perhaps my video has had some sort of effect on some people, I don’t know. It would make me feel good if it had been useful in an instructional sense, especially as the video wasn’t very popular at the time and Warner/Chappell stopped selling it quite quickly.

The legato approach also happened naturally and without any outside influence. It wasn’t until 5 or 6 years after I began that I heard Allan Holdsworth and realised he was playing with the same approach. I really loved his music and style of playing so I figured I was on the right track for myself and I guess I was.

The slide playing started when I was about 14 after seeing Joe Walsh on a tv show, which is why I wear the slide on my middle finger. After struggling in standard tuning for about a week, a friend of mine suggested I tune the guitar to open A or open E so I bought a very cheap Les Paul copy and tried that until I’d developed some technique. Then I went back to standard tuning and I’ve used it ever since.

The angling technique was my own invention as it was a way to get the same intervals as an open tuning but I recently saw a video of Jeff Beck from the early 70’s and he was doing it too so he really is a genius and such an innovator in so many ways. I also incorporate Sonny Landreth’s technique of using the other fingers around the slide and that’s a great approach. He’s an amazing player!

Meeting TJ Helmerich really changed things for me as I’d just discovered the real potential for the hybrid picking, thanks to Frank Gambale’s first instructional video. Frank really led the way for me to use the technique in a musical way as he does with sweep picking. It was like my whole style of playing really expanded overnight and I pretty much owe it all to Frank’s concept. I was becoming bored with two hand tapping but purely from my own perspective. I just didn’t think it meant much more to me than a bit of flash but when I saw TJ use it I realised that he’d made it a legitimate technique with a whole other level of technical facility and musicality so it was an easy decision to give it up. I don’t miss it at all but it seems to be popular again although I don’t see anyone doing anything remotely as cool as the stuff TJ was doing nearly 20 years ago. TJ was so far ahead of his time that it’ll still take people a few more years to really catch up to him.

Q. Three of your teachers (guitar players, root influences)

A. 3 is just too few! I can’t even begin to name anyone as it’d have to be a list of 100 or more!

Q. Three new guitarists who impressed you

A. I’ll give you 5 and they’re all Aussies. Chris Brooks, James Muller, Michael Dolce, Jeremy Barnes and Marcel Yammouni. To say “they impressed me” would be extremely arrogant on my part. It’s more like I’m totally in awe of what they do and have no idea how they do it!

Q. Future plans?

A. I’m not really sure. I’d hoped I might be able to tour a little with my solo material but that’s impossible as I’m an independent artist and simply can’t afford it so I guess I’ll just continue looking for work and hoping for the best. I’d really love to get a gig playing slide guitar for a major artist but I guess that’s a bit of a long shot. If I had my time over again I’d do a lot of things differently but I’ve been so lucky to have experienced the things I have. I’m extremely grateful for all of it.