Guitarist Jeff George Talks Gear and Harlot, His New Band with Members of Asking Alexandria and Silvertide
When Guitar World catches up with Harlot guitarist Jeff George, it’s early in the morning in Los Angeles. Or, perhaps in George’s mind, still late at night.
“I haven’t been to bed yet,” he says with a laugh. “I got in from the studio around 7 in the morning and I was like, ‘I could go to sleep for a few hours, but then when I wake up will I just be super weird?’ So I decided to just power through. I’m on cup of coffee No. 90.”
As George explains, he and Harlot drummer Bruno Agra pulled the all-nighter posting mixes for the band’s forthcoming Roadrunner debut.
And while most people haven’t yet heard of Harlot, chances are that within the next few months, they will. The band, which, in addition to George and Agra features Asking Alexandria singer Danny Worsnop and Silvertide bassist Brian Weaver, is one of the most hotly anticipated acts in the heavy music scene.
And judging from the demos George provided to Guitar World, it’s easy to see why. Songs like “Denial,” “Dancing on Nails” and “Dirty Little Thing” are swaggering and straightforward ragers, jam-packed with buoyant, buzzsaw riffs and melodic hooks galore and topped with plenty of tasty shredding from George.
The result is a sound that comes off like a gloriously hedonistic hard-rock throwback, but encased in a modern aggo-metal sheen. Or, as George puts it, “as if Aerosmith, Van Halen, Bob Seger, Kiss and Def Leppard had a baby born in 2014.”
Harlot’s full-length debut is due out later this year, and the band will perform their first live show ever this May, at the Rock on the Range festival in Columbus, Ohio. And while Worsnop will continue to stay busy with Asking Alexandria, George assures GW that Harlot is no side-project, but rather a full-time gig for everyone involved.
“We think we have a hell of a good record on our hands, and we’re definitely in it to win it,” he says. “So we’re coming out big-time this year. And once we do, it’s on.”
GUITAR WORLD: How did Harlot come together?
It was really a chance meeting between me and Danny. We both have the same lawyer, Eric German, and one night a few years back we were all out together at this restaurant in LA called La Velvet Margarita. We had sort of crossed paths before, but this was the first time we hung out. On the short, Danny and I stayed up all night that first night, drinking, partying and talking music. Three days later we moved in together and that led to the past three years! Then Danny knew Bruno [Agra] and so the three of us started working together.
How did Brian come into the picture?
After we made some demos with me playing guitar and bass, we put out feelers for a full-time bass player. We got a lot of responses, maybe 500 or so. And I saw Brian’s name come through. And me having grown up in Detroit, that was an area Silvertide had toured through a lot. And I had met those guys. So I thought, Hmmm…this might be our guy.
Only I know that Brian lives in Philly. But I figured, Let me call him up and see what he’s doing. So I did, and he said, “Dude, I just moved to LA two weeks ago. I’m sleeping on a couch. I have no money. Wanna meet up?” I was like, “Yeah, dude, come on over! And he came over and we made him drink like 75 wines. We cooked his shirt in the microwave. And he was in!
You and Danny are not only band mates, but also roommates. What’s that like?
Probably what you would expect [laughs]. Danny’s pretty fucking full tilt, man. No doubt about it. What I used to do to my friends five years ago is exactly what he’s doing to me now. Like, “Please let me have an hour of sleep!” But it’s a great environment. We write tons of music, and then we go out and we have a good time.
The band in general seems pretty committed to having a good time.
We get pretty wild, that’s for sure. Danny’s definitely shaved some years off me! But we have a blast. And I think you hear that on the record. The first year of being together we partied nonstop and wrote over a hundred songs. So the catalog for this band goes really deep. And I think you hear the fun and honesty in the tunes. That’s something I always loved with bands like Van Halen and Kiss. You can hear the fun inside of the songs.
Where did you record your debut?
We did it at a place called the Fortress in downtown LA, and we basically produced it ourselves. Scott Stevens was our co-producer. But we did all the recordings in-house. We met with so many different guys—Joe Barresi, Nick Raskulincz, even Eddie Kramer. These are guys who have done a lot of my favorite records, ever. But we’re so tied to these damn songs because they’ve been two-and-a-half years in the making, and nobody knows them as well as we do. So much to the label’s dismay, they let us go at it ourselves [laughs].
What gear did you use in the studio?
Mostly my ESP Vintage Plus guitars. They’re Strat-style guitars and they’re great. I route them out and drop in a DiMarzio humbucker at the bridge. I also used an ESP Xtone 12-string, which is on almost every song, and my ‘70 Tele on a couple little twangy things.
For the acoustic parts I used a Taylor 614 that was given to me by Doyle Dykes. For amps, I have two old Marshalls—a ‘70 Super Lead that was modified by Jose Arredondo, and a ‘78 JMP that was modified by Bob Bradshaw. I also used a ‘65 [Fender] Deluxe Reverb, which is an amazing amp, and an EVH 5150 III on a couple things, too. Otherwise I had my Fractal Axe-FX II, a Morley wah, that’s about it.
You also have a signature guitar coming out.
Yes. It’s the Jeff George Signature from ESP. It’s based on my Vintage Plus. And then I’m also doing a Tele version. I wanted to bring back some vintage models to the line. So they’re kind of like hot-rodded Strats and Teles. The Tele also has a direct-mount humbucker in the bridge. They should be out in the fall.
You have a real classic approach to your solos. You play fast but also very melodic and blues-based, without relying on flash techniques like tapping and sweeping. Who are your influences as a guitarist?
My top five for sure always stay the same: Ace Frehley, Randy Rhoads, Angus and Malcolm Young, Eddie Van Halen and Dimebag. Then you have your Slash’s and those guys. But those five are still in daily rotation, and that’s what I’m cut on. When I was a kid I would sit and learn their solos note-for-note. I just loved it so much. But I also listen to all kinds of music. I’m pretty eclectic. There was a time when I had to learn classical. There was a time I had to learn jazz. There was a time I got into Phish [laughs].
You also went to Berklee for a period.
Yeah. For a very short period. I grew up in Detroit and my family was very middle class. There wasn’t a whole ton of money to go around. So I did the scholarship tour thing and the summer program there. But I just wanted to play. So after the eight-week summer program at Berklee I got accepted full time, but I was like, “You know what? I don’t think I want to do this.” So I went back home [to Detroit] and just immersed myself in teaching and playing in bands. And then that led into other things. I played on some tracks for Eminem, all kinds of stuff.
Yeah. I would play over backing tracks. They would give me drum loops and I would play over them—an AC/DC-type riff, or an Aerosmith riff. Then they would chop them up and use them in different songs. It was me and a couple other guys around the Detroit area who would do this. Then I had my original bands going too. That was kind of how it started.
A lot of people first heard of you when you got the gig as Sebastian Bach’s guitarist a few years back. How did that come about?
I originally came out to LA to audition for Ozzy. This was in 2005, when he was looking for a guitar player. But then Zakk [Wylde] ended up coming back, so that was that. But I stayed in LA, joined another band that never got off the ground and started doing studio work. I also played with a guy named Jeremy Buck and toured the world. And I had met Sebastian a few times, and we had always talked about working together.
And then once Danny [Worsnop] and I started hanging out, the two of them were friends because Asking Alexandria had covered a few Skid Row song and Sebastian had played live with them. So I started to run into Sebastian a lot more. He was kind of having some problems with his guitarist at that time, Nick [Sterling], and he was like, “Dude, we gotta play together!” And I told him, “Man I’m trying to put this Harlot thing together. I don’t know.”
But Sebastian has a way of getting you to do things! [laughs] And we ended up having a blast. I played with him for a year and a half, toured the world, got to play some great festivals. It was awesome. But then the Harlot thing started getting really real, so we parted ways.
Some people have categorized Harlot as a side project due to the fact that Danny is so closely tied to Asking Alexandria. But that’s not the case, correct?
Absolutely not. Danny will be splitting his time 50/50 between the bands. And obviously right now it’s still more Asking, because we don’t have all our stuff together yet. But this is his passion. And you know, doing really heavy music isn’t necessarily his love. His love is classic rock and roll. I live with him, and if you hang out with him you’ll hear him listening to Aerosmith, listening to Journey. But us and the Asking guys, we’re all friends. We all hang out and drink together and laugh. It was a little weird at first but it’s all kinda worked itself out.
So there’s no tension?
I don’t think so. Maybe a year and a half ago there was, but now it’s had time to cool. And I think both things will help each other out. It’ll probably be hard on Danny because he’s going to be one busy dude! But that’s how he is. And anyway, he gets in trouble when he’s not busy, so he’ll be a lot better off. And he’s a hell of a singer—the guy can sing his balls off. If I were him I’d want to be able to show what I can do in different avenues as well.
Your debut live show will take place this May at the Rock on the Range festival. Are you excited to finally bring Harlot to the people?
Oh, yeah! That’s gonna be our first show ever. Our label was like, “You guys should do some warmup gigs.” And we just said, “Fuck no, man!” We’re going out and that’s gonna be it. There’s a lot of pent-up energy here. Two and a half years of it. So once we hit that stage, we’re gonna light it up.