Berklee Virtuoso Al Joseph on His Heavy New Project and Album, 'Hyvmine'

(Image credit: Hristo Shindov)

Al Joseph recalls first getting into heavy metal after being exposed to Living Colour as a five-year-old growing up in Massachusetts. But it wasn’t until later on that he had a true musical awakening. “My dad had a Joe Satriani CD, and it was just the right mood, man,” he recalls. “We were in the Camaro flying down the highway, he popped in Surfing with the Alien, and the rest is history. I just wanted to play like Joe.”

One listen to Hyvmine, the self-titled debut release from Joseph’s new project, and it’s clear that he can, indeed, “play like Joe”—and then some. The record combines thick, churning grooves, massive hooks and anthemic choruses (Joseph cites acts like Korn, Creed, P.O.D., Sevendust and Disturbed as influences—“pretty much everything that was on MTV2 or Fuse,” he says) with insanely technical guitar acrobatics and mindboggling, complex lead licks. And while Joseph is an avowed shred fanatic—he calls Satriani, Steve Vai and John Petrucci his three big influences—he also knows there’s more to music than just guitar solos.

“All that stuff is cool, but it’s about the melody first,” Joseph says. “And it’s hard to do that when you’re just writing backing tracks to do backflips over. There has to be emotion. There has to be a story.”

Though Hyvmine is a new project for Joseph, he’s certainly not an unknown name in the world of shred. A Berklee graduate, Joseph has released two albums of guitar music under his own name, as well as filmed instructional videos for Guitar World, including one that demonstrates how to play the solo to “Shogun,” the crushing first single from Hyvmine. While he handled almost all the instrumentation on the new album himself, including vocals, he has since put together a four-piece lineup that includes his brother Chris on bass. As for why he decided to form a band after years of playing on his own?

“I wanted to hit that bigger demographic with my music,” he says. “Doing the guitar thing is great, and I’m going to continue doing it. But I also want people to know my full range as an artist. And playing this music as a band is the best way I can think of to do that.”

When it comes down to it, Joseph continues, “I just wanna rock, man. I just wanna play. I wanna be onstage and I wanna stay there. And I think Hyvmine can have an impact on the music community in a big way.”


GUITARS Two Ibanez custom models—“One is based off an RG seven-string with a Floyd Rose on it, and the other has an RGA-style body.”
AMP Laney GH100R
EFFECTS Ibanez Analog Delay Mini; Ibanez Chorus Mini; Rockbox Boiling Point overdrive; Rockbox Super 763 pre-amp/boost; MXR Dyna Comp Mini; Dunlop JP95 John Petrucci Cry Baby Wah; Dunlop DVP1 Volume Pedal; MusiCom Lab EFX MKIV audio controller

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.