Tony MacAlpine has a resume that most guitar players could only dream of. He’s released several solo albums over the course of his career, including his latest, the self-titled Tony MacAlpine, which was released June 21 via Favored Nations. It's his first solo album in 10 years.
In addition to his solo career, he’s worked with incredible musicians such as keyboardist Derek Sherinian in the band Planet X, and he played in Steve Vai’s touring band for a number of years, also appearing on Vai’s recent DVD, Live at the Astoria London.
MacAlpine started out on another instrument before picking up the guitar. He originally was a classically trained pianist. And although he’s known mainly for his guitar playing, he also plays keyboards and bass on his albums. Not content to stop there, he recently added the 8-string guitar to his arsenal.
Guitar World recently caught up with MacAlpine to talk about his new record, his gear and his plans for the future.
GUITAR WORLD: This is your first official solo record in 10 years, since 2001’s Chromaticity. What was it like going back and doing a full on solo record after all these years? Did it feel strange not be working in a band environment?
No, it was the motivation I needed. The reason I didn’t do a record was because I felt like I really didn’t have anything very interesting to say. I was very involved with a lot of different things; doing Planet X, Steve Vai, all these different bands I was in. It felt like it was the right time to get involved in it again and write some stuff from the ground up.
Do you prefer one format over the other as far as being in a band or working on a solo project?
Sometimes it’s a lot of fun to work with a singer and go out on the road and present that type of thing. Other times, it’s really great to write a record that’s focused more toward the guitar and go out and support that type of thing.
Did playing with Steve Vai for a few years influence your playing or writing style?
I wouldn’t say it influenced my writing. We’re such good friends, and really just the inspiration he gives you and what he’s contributed to guitar playing is immeasurable.
Do you have a strict practice routine that you follow every day?
Practicing is the same as saying, "Do people go back and learn their alphabets?" No, of course not. You learn all these things, and you don’t forget them, so there’s really no need to go back and do them all over again. My practice is really just writing songs and jamming with other musicians.
Do you have your 7- and 8-string guitars custom made?
The 8-string is a customized guitar with EMG pickups, and the 7-string has Dimarzio pickups. The 6-string also has Dimarzio pickups. They’re Ibanez Custom Shops from here in LA.
Your tone is great on the record and your technique is flawless. What was your gear setup on this record as far as amps, pickups, effects, etc.?
For the record, I used my favorite amps, which are Hughes & Kettner triamps. On the floor, just an Ernie Ball volume pedal. Pretty much straight in. I really don’t like to distort the front end.
Is your gear setup the same as on the road? I know some guys don’t like to bring certain gear on the road with them.
On the road it’s a lot simpler. I use Hughes & Kettner Coreblades. They have all the effects built in, everything’s built in. It’s all downloadable to the computer. No effects or anything, I just use the amp.
Is there any one piece of gear you couldn’t live without?
The Hughes & Kettner Coreblade.
Do you have any plans to tour on the new record this year, and if so, will it be the same band as on the record?
Yeah, all the dates will be available on tonymacalpine.com.
Where do you see yourself in the next few years? Are you planning on doing the solo thing for a while, or do you just take it one day a time?
Take it as it goes, you know? I have plans to do a few different things. There’s a still another Planet X record in the works, and there’s all kinds of things that I have going on. I’m definitely going to be involved playing music, that’s for sure.
Photo: Alex Solca