You guys are totally inspiring players. What influenced you to first pick up the guitar?
JON For me it was a lot of pop metal bands of the Eighties, like Ratt, Guns N’ Roses, Skid Row… Even before I played guitar, I remember being six years old and seeing a video of Steve Vai from David Lee Roth’s Eat ’Em and Smile. They made it look so over the top. That’s really what made me want to play.
MATT I originally wanted to be a drummer, but I couldn’t because I lived in an apartment with neighbors on both sides. That forced me to get something with a volume knob.
Who do you think are the craziest players in today’s metal scene?
MATT Alexi Laiho is up there.
JON Yeah, and Jeff Loomis. Both those guys can shred their asses off, but they can also write great solos, too. It’s not just showing off.
Do you guys have much musical knowledge in genres outside of metal?
MATT I listen to a lot of different music. I have a side project thing that I do that’s kind of like Coldplay without the pianos. I’m also working on a whole record of instrumental guitar pieces, like the acoustic stuff and interludes on the Shadows Fall records. I’m all over the place, but I guess I just love good music. And if you’re doing metal 24 hours a day, you’re gonna get sick of it. You’ve just gotta keep it interesting for yourself.
What’s a guilty pleasure that you like to listen to?
MATT Hall & Oates, because they had the hits! [laughs] Yanni’s also a guilty pleasure for me.
JON Hall & Oates, definitely. There’s many a drunken night on the bus when they get played. And also old Michael Jackson. Madonna got cranked last night…But maybe I shouldn’t have said that! [laughs]
What are your favorite guitar solos of all time?
JON That’s a tough one. I guess I’d say Randy Rhoads’ solo on “Mr. Crowley,” because to me it’s like the national anthem of guitar solos. Alex Skolnick’s stuff with Testament is awesome, too. He knew when to step on the gas and when to pull off.
MATT I’ve always loved the intro solo to Metallica’s “Fade to Black.” That’s a really memorable piece. It’s so much like a vocal melody that you can even hum it.
Please explain how you get such awesome pinch harmonics?
JON You’ve got to catch the string with your pick-hand thumb and pick at the same time. You also need to pick in the sweet spots between the pickups. Just find the spots you like, catch the string right and then shake it, because the vibrato is really what makes the best pinch harmonics. You’ve really got to shake the hell out of it.
Have either of you guys been whipped or injured by Brian’s dreads?
JON Actually, yeah. He used to keep beads in those things.
MATT Yeah, they were glass beads in metal cuffs. We made him take them out because they would smack us in the face.
I’m working on my speed techniques. What are some things I can work on to achieve awesome speed like you two?
JON The thing that worked for me was a metronome. Start off slow and steadily increase the speed. Eventually, you’ll get to the speeds you want.
What is your favorite song to perform live, and why?
JON Right now, it’s probably “Redemption.” It’s new, fresh and fun. But really, it depends on the crowd. We might have been playing some song that we’ve done for five years, but on any given night the crowd may be really into that song. And that’ll be the song for that night.
What’s the craziest audience you’ve ever played before?
MATT Seoul, Korea, was really crazy. It was a small room and they crammed five or six hundred people in there. They were going nuts.
JON I couldn’t believe it. We were all packed in there, and you could actually see the steam rising off the crowd.