Interview: Metal Method’s Dee J Nelson Discusses 'It’s Alive' and 'Lead Guitar DNA'
Guitarist Dee J Nelson is making a name for himself.
The Chicago-based southpaw shredder, whose DVDs, Monster Power Chords and Lead Guitar DNA, have become hugely popular on Metal Method, has recently released It’s Alive, an album of guitar wizardry that will have players everywhere asking, “How’d he do that?”
Dee J credits some of his early influences to the Sex Pistols and Naked Ray Gun. But it wasn’t until he saw Steve Vai perform that everything changed.
“When I saw Vai play for the first time, that was it for me," Nelson said. “That’s when I knew I wanted to be a guitar player.”
From there, Dee J hunkered down and began to seriously improve his chops. He studied with Shrapnel alum George Bellas and majored in music composition at DePaul University. While studying guitar and writing orchestral music in college, he supplemented his time by regularly giving as many as 50 students guitar lessons each week.
I had the chance to speak with Dee J and get the inside scoop on his new album, how he became a Metal Method instructor and also what he’s up to now.
GUITAR WORLD: Where did you find the inspiration to record songs for It’s Alive?
I usually start out with an inspiring riff idea or concept and build the song from there. Other times, I’ll have a concept in mind for song. “Scream Bloody Dream” is a good example of that. I decided one day to write a song about a chick screaming with a neo-classical feel. Another track with a plan was “The Living and The Dying." That song was something I had a vision in mind for. I pictured it being a zombie-esque story and started out using ominous chords that eventually become something more when the “zombie” actually comes out (high bends). Those ideas were planned well before even writing a note.
Who were some of your early guitar teachers?
My first “real” guitar teacher was Lenny Samczyk. He was a big reason I thrived at guitar. I was on his waiting list for a long time and finally got a call. He’s the one who showed me how to rock!
I later studied with George Bellas, who was one of the Shrapnel recording artists. He’s a phenomenally intense player and someone who really inspired me as well. During college, I studied classical guitar with Mark Maxwell and jazz with Bob Palmieri, who’s worked with Ray Charles, Nancy Wilson and The Pat Metheny Group, among others.
How were you introduced to Doug Marks and Metal Method?
I was introduced to Doug by Stephen Jensen. Stephen designed the logo for Metal Method and does artwork for other major bands. He also, coincidentally, designed the cover for my book, Monster Power Chords. The book was a basic program I developed based on power chords that players could use to practice their rhythm technique. Stephen introduced me to Doug who then made the book available to his students. There was such a great reaction to it that we eventually decided to change the format of it to DVD.
What was it like working with Doug?
Amazing. Doug really is a great guy and a metal legend. I still remember when I flew out to his studio in LA to film Lead Guitar DNA and actually met him in person for the first time. At one point during the shoot, we decided to take a break and go out to dinner, and I remember just sitting there thinking how cool it was to be there with “Doug Marks." I always remembered him from the magazines and had been inspired by him, but to be there with him in person was pretty cool.
What other projects are you working on right now?
Edsel Dope invited me over to his studio to do some recording, and we’ve just recently completed a guitar track for the WWE. It’s going to be used as the new entrance music theme for Ryback, so watch for it!
Check out DJ’s fingering exercise called "Diminished Damage":
Keep up with Dee J Nelson on his official website.
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.