If there is anything that Rocks Off loves about the modern music era it's that the ability of individual people to put out their own elaborate albums has never been easier. Meet Joel Gregoire, an instrumental metal maestro by trade and former member of Stride. He's releasing his new album Deranged Kids of the Electric Playground this weekend, and was kind enough to forward along a copy so we could bask in the harsh vibrations.
Metal is by nature symphonic. It's at least big bandish. It's a genre notorious for not doing anything half-way, and whether it's emulating opera or something like Holst's The Planets it usually strives for some manner of epicness.
That's the word that we would most use to describe Deranged Kids. It's an album that runs full tilt boogie towards a kind Satriani interstellar gusto. Most of the tracks move at a breakneck speed that fully shows off the considerable guitar chops of Gregoire without giving the listener any pause to rest.
By nature, Rocks Off is a lyrics guy, and throughout listening to Gregoire's ode to all that is over the top fretboard magic we can't help in the back of our brains waiting for the poetry to start. It's taken a few listening for us to come to grips that the squeelies and wheelies are the poetry. Written in the notes that fly from Gregoire's fingers are tales of giants, war, and the all-encompassing beauty of an ever louder American dream.
Gregoire is the quintessential guitar man. He's jammed with Steve Vai, he's opened for Bon Jovi, and he's spent decades honing the abilities he so effortlessly lets loose on his new disc. Rocks Off has been starved for some of that old-time metal religion lately. It's nice to return to a planet where the solo is the only God, and His love comes in ecstatic three- to five-minute bursts.
In a rare moment of not rocking tits to dust, Gregoire sat down with us for a few questions about his new album. Keep reading.
Rocks Off: Is the music recorded with a band, or are you using the magic of technology to support your shredding?
Joel Gregoire: It is the magic of technology; I used reason 3 to create the "band" so to speak. It was a very time consuming process to program all of the drums, bass and keyboards and I learned a lot from it. So I suppose that helped me make myself a better overall musician which is always nice.
RO: Could you walk us through the composition process of a typical song? Where does it begin, and how do you get to a finished track from there?
JG: There's not really any one way that a song is written. On this record, it was a combination of music that I was hearing in my head, which is most often the case, and a combination of riffs and exercises that I try to make have a melody that speaks to me.
Once I get the basic idea for the song, I start tracking and programming and try to put it down as I hear it in my head. Playing with Stride for so many years, we were very progressive and technical, and I learned a lot from the musicians that I was playing with. Especially from the drummer, Matt Kanzler.
Once I had an idea to their approach to a song, I tried to put their tendencies into the parts that I programmed on this record. The hardest part was that I did this entire recording on an old Fostex digital 8-track. I had to "premix" all of the parts in the stereo field in Reason3, and take it down to a stereo 2-track and import it into my Fostex 8-track recorder. Then I had six tracks available to me to fill the rest with all of the guitar parts on the record.
RO: Most songs are named after lyrical content. Since all your work is instrumental, how do you pick their titles?
JG: That's a good question. I think that some of them just hit me out of the blue when I hear the initial riff or idea for the song. Others have come from friends and family, like "Brain G'rnade" was given to me by my buddy Scott Gwyn, and my mom helped me with "Whatever Comes."
"Memorial Day Tune" I actually wrote, and programmed on one single day, which was Memorial Day of '08. So that's why that song got the title, it was only fitting. "Riley's Song" is named after my daughter. I never really new what I was going to name that one, but every time I played the song with her in the room, she would just start to wiggle back and forth and smile from ear to ear. She wasn't even 1 yet when I decided to name it after her.
My wife and I were watching X games and her and I are big motocross fans, and she said to me that I ought to name that "new rippin tune" (as she called it) "Speed and Style" and I absolutely loved the idea, very fitting for that tune.
RO: A lot of your work seems to have a very patriotic theme. Is that a big part of your music?
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JG: You know someone else actually said the same thing and I honestly never noticed. "Son's of Liberty" was from me catching an episode on The History Channel, and I thought that was a cool title for that tune. But I never intentionally set out to make it patriotic, it just happened that way. Which I think is great, because I love this country and I do consider myself a patriotic American.
Joel Gregoire plays with Ground Zero and Epic Saturday at The Mink.