Interview: 30 Years of 'Metal Method' — a Conversation With Guitarist Doug Marks
Most guitar players have, at the very least, heard the name: Metal Method.
For three decades, instructor Doug Marks has been teaching guitarists the foundation of hard rock/heavy metal guitar playing.
What started out as a supplement to help achieve his dream of taking on the metal world with his own band quickly became one of the most enduring and successful mail-order guitar lesson courses in history. From its origins in magazine advertisements and snail mail cassette tapes to today’s downloads, Marks' lessons continue to make thousands of aspiring guitarists better players.
We recently caught up with Marks, who looked back on 30 years of teaching the Metal Method.
GUITAR WORLD: Did you ever think that after 30 years, you’d still be teaching the Metal Method?
Not at all. I still remember when I was working with Jim Gillette on a vocal course many years ago. He told me, “Doug, you’ll never be able to do this for more than four or five more years. What are you going to do then?” And here we are, all these years later! [laughs] There did come a time when I realized that even though this may not have been what I had originally planned for; this is what I was put here to do.
How did the Metal Method start?
Back in the late '70s/early '80s, I was living in Denver and giving private guitar lessons. One day, I decided to follow my dream and move to LA to start a band. It was the perfect time, a little bit before all the metal stuff really began. I arrived in LA and started giving private guitar lessons but also thought that maybe I could continue to put together something to sell to my students back in Denver. So I began my mail order thing by preparing some material and sending it to them.
It wasn’t long before some people I knew began encouraging me to take out an ad in a guitar magazine. I noticed that a few other companies had been doing it successfully and figured I could do something more specific for the type of music I like -- hard rock and metal. The market for it was just beginning at the time and would only get bigger.
The only problem was, I didn’t have any money to buy advertising. So I sold two vintage Strats for $2,000 and used that money to buy advertising and started writing my course. That summer, I finally completed it and received a few orders. From there, the course really took off.
Was that when you decided to put together a band?
Yes. In those early days, I considered the lessons a means to an end. I really wanted to put together a group but knew I might have to finance it myself if I couldn’t get a record deal. So once the lessons became extremely popular, I decided to put together the band Hawk.
A lot of people might not know this, but the man who played drums on the Hawk album, Matt Sorum, eventually went on to drum with bands like The Cult and Velvet Revolver, among others.
Yes, that’s true. Although Matt was a studio player at the time and was never actually in the group, an engineer I was working with, Alex Woltman, knew Matt and had recommended him.
Was there a reason why you decided to stick with Metal Method instead of doing more recording and touring with Hawk?
When I started Hawk, Metal Method was already becoming a successful business. I was already married at the time and had a serious business developing. Some of the other guys in the group were younger than me and were more into living the “sex drugs and rock and roll” lifestyle. It got to a point where I was just spending too much time and money trying to manage the situation. It was then that I decided that it was better for me to focus on Metal Method.
Would I have liked to have been in a band, writing music and touring? Yes, no doubt; that was originally my motivation. But at the same time, I still continue to be involved in music and have been doing this a lot longer than anyone. Many other musicians that played during the mid-'80s are no longer in the music business. Metal Method allows me to continue to play, record, perform and teach. I do still write and aspire to one day do another project. We’ll see what happens.
Who are your musical influences?
I always go back to The Beatles; they just turned the entire music business around. Shortly after that, I became a huge Jimi Hendrix fan. Robin Trower is another favorite to this day. I’ve also been influenced by Van Halen, Yngwie and Rhoads.
What’s one thing you think every guitarist should do?
If I had to pick one thing it would be to get into a cover band. That’s really how I got my start. Just get out there and play. There’s nothing better than being in a band to give yourself motivation.
Do you have a good rock and roll story?
In 1986, when I was in the studio recording the Hawk album with Duane Baron, I remember there was another band recording there as well. They were a local band, and although I had heard the name, they had never recorded anything before. They were in touching up a live EP they had been working on. During a break, Duane and I heard some music playing out in the hall so we went out to listen.
I remember both of us just looked at each other and said, “Wow!” This is really something! It was one of those moments where you just knew something special was happening. It’s pretty cool now to look back and see what was just starting up then. The band we were listening to was Guns N’ Roses.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.