“I was close to being kicked out of school. A therapist suggested guitar playing would help me with my behavior and grades…”: Peruvian shredder Charlie Parra had an unlikely path to success – but Eddie Van Halen was always his guiding light

Charlie Parra performs live with an EVH-inspired Kramer
(Image credit: Courtesy of Charlie Parra)

Given his confidence and prowess, you'd never imagine that Lima, Peru native Charlie Parra only stumbled upon the guitar to tame his unruly behavior.

"A school therapist suggested to my family that playing would help me with my behavior and grades as I was close to being kicked out of school," Parra tells Guitar World. "I was 14 then and already played the cajon [a Peruvian percussion instrument). But soon, I started to focus on playing guitar, and it went from there."

Parra's portfolio – which generally leans toward metal – has grown in the years since. Over the past 20 years, Parra has become a staple of the South American scene, sharing the stage with bands like Silverstein, and Alensana, who lean toward hardcore and even punk.

In retrospect, that amalgam checks out, as Parra's early influences straddle those lines.

"Pop punk and nu metal inspired me when I was young," Parra recalls. "I love those genres as those were what I grew up listening to on the radio. That music was everywhere, but most songs lacked guitar solos."

He continues, "Discovering the likes of Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Vinnie Vincent, Michael Angelo Batio and Slash in the early 2000s was mind-blowing. At the time, '80s music was something new to me. But even though metal was always my thing, I liked the 'do it yourself' attitude punk bands had. Metal bands were more focused on getting signed by foreign labels, which was almost impossible as social media was not a thing back then."

Since those early musings, Parra has often found himself in the limelight. And it's well-earned, as his frenetic-meets-melodic chops handily match his grassroots mindset, leading to hard-earned success with veteran band Saratoga and Kuarantine (featuring Chris Jericho), giving him long-awaited international exposure.

"Saratoga is a power metal band from Spain formed 30 years ago," Parra says. "I'm honored to have been chosen as their current overseas guitar player in the Americas. I was contacted by main songwriter and founding member Niko del Hierro, a legendary bass player, via Instagram, and it came together quickly from there.

"Our first tour together was in Mexico, doing 12 dates and then a tour around six countries – Guatemala, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Chile, and Colombia – in less than two weeks. Not long after, I ended up with Kuarantine, which features Chris Jericho. That was crazy!"

Of course, Parra's love for all things '80s – especially Edward Van Halen – remains. This led to an awe-inspiring Van Halen tribute medley not too long ago.

"What was special was the custom guitar," Parra says proudly. "The Kramer Nite V Charlie Parra with an EVH graphic. It's a 22-fret guitar painted layer by layer, loaded with EMG 57/66 pickups, and has no Floyd Rose system. I still have the guitar, and I've only used it live twice to perform a Van Halen medley. My love for Eddie goes beyond musicianship: it's about charisma and innovation. There will never be another Eddie. He was a one-of-a-kind, but the legacy goes on!"

Given his love for King Edward and dutiful use of Kramer guitars– which Van Halen repped back in his heyday – Parra was starstruck to get hold of one of EVH's guitars, if only for an afternoon.

Eddie Van Halen's rhythm guitar is super-strong, often overlooked because of his pyrotechnical soloing

"Fun fact: I was able to play one of Eddie's guitars in NYC," he reveals. "I cannot give any more details, but it was a special moment. I couldn't play a single riff, but I was just grateful for having some sort of contact with the instrument one of my heroes held back in the day."

But as far as favorite riffs and solos go, Parra shares, "On Fire, from Van Halen's debut album, is one of my favorite solos and riffs ever! Eddie's rhythm guitar is super-strong, often overlooked because of his pyrotechnical soloing. And I gotta mention Humans Being as a solo that greatly impacted me. It's such a melodic and intriguing guitar arrangement. I am still inspired by Eddie's pentatonic figures and tapping arpeggios, trying to get those beefy yet raw and natural overdrive and reverb tones."

Outside of his exploits as a devotee of Eddie Van Halen, Parra's dream-chasing, star-catching ways rage on. And he's done well, seeing as he's touring on an international level and finds himself part of a revitalized Kramer Guitar stable of signature artists.

"I have two signature models with Kramer Guitars USA via Gibson," Parra beams. "There's the Nite V Charlie Parra and the Vanguard Charlie Parra. Gibson approached me in 2010 after an executive saw me playing in Colombia. I had nothing to offer to the brand back then, as I had no pending international tour dates or record deals. But a couple of years later, my YouTube channel [Charlie Parra del Riego] exploded with my track Punk vs Metal, suddenly getting 10 million views!"

"I used the Nite V for years, and now I'm using the Charlie Parra Vanguard with Saratoga and Kuarantine. Both are easy-to-play V-shaped guitars loaded with EMG 57/66 pickups. The playability and sound are on point, and they're tough guitars that handle the perils of the road."

Parra's love for Kramer is evident. And the brand has served him – like the players he idolized as a youngster – well. But he went through a few different classic guitars to get there.

"I'm not a big fan of Strats even though my first guitar ever was a Strat, and I'm a big [Jimi] Hendrix fan," Parra recalls. "It's not that I don't like the shape, sound, or look; it's the playability. Sometimes you can like something, but deep inside, you know it will not go well. But I'm not opposed to Superstrat guitars. I'd like to try [Steve] Vai's JEM."

Charlie Parra

(Image credit: Gibson)

After climbing the rungs of punk and metal for nearly two decades, Charlie Parra is only 38. He's still so young and, in many ways, just getting started, yet it feels like he's been around forever. But none of that bothers Parra. Time and patience are part of the process for the bombastic shredder.

Still, as someone who keeps his eyes and ears intently focused on what's going on in our minute-to-minute world, Parra has his concerns.

"I do believe the 15-second clip thing is taking its toll on guitar culture," he admits. "And that's coming from me, a former YouTube and current Instagram and TikTok guy."

"I don't know how anyone can appreciate a 15-second shred clip, let alone one that's followed by hundreds of others like it. It's hard to find a sense of musicality and storytelling that way.

"I still do these occasionally, but I wonder how they will affect the guitar community in the long run. Some talented people burn out because of their hunger for attention – the next generation will become innovative or lazy. It's one or the other, I think. Discipline is key."

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Andrew Daly

Andrew Daly is an iced-coffee-addicted, oddball Telecaster-playing, alfredo pasta-loving journalist from Long Island, NY, who, in addition to being a contributing writer for Guitar World, scribes for Rock Candy, Bass Player, Total Guitar, and Classic Rock History. Andrew has interviewed favorites like Ace Frehley, Johnny Marr, Vito Bratta, Bruce Kulick, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Rich Robinson, and Paul Stanley, while his all-time favorite (rhythm player), Keith Richards, continues to elude him.