Greece-based axeman Chris Mike has released not one, but two guitar instrumental albums – his first was 2013’s Not Just Lipstick on a Pig, and his new one is called Socialholic – out now on CandyRat Records. Now that he’s amassed a bona fide body of work, he’s formed some decided views on what constitutes a great guitar record.
“So many guitar albums sound alike because there’s a tendency among guitarists to sound identical to everybody else,” he says. “You hear the same guitar tones, the same way of playing; the records wind up being a poor copy of somebody else’s work.”
Conversely, Mike opines that a meaningful guitar instrumental album is one in which the music is authentic and shows off somebody’s genuine approach to playing. “I always strive to be someone whose playing is easily recognized,” he says.
“Going back and forth between styles and trends won't help you achieve a personal sound. You have to be committed to who you are as a guitarist and what you want to achieve.”
Mike excels on both counts throughout Socialholic. He laces the appropriately named Headbang with blitzing, wildly idiosyncratic solos and distinguishes himself as a maverick arranger on the epic orchestral piece, Limerence.
For the most part, he favors a monstrous high-gain sound for leads, but on Rue Flower he plays a languid and transporting solo using a clean, retro-ish tone that recalls the twangy guitar splendor from Sergio Leone’s 1960s spaghetti westerns.
“I always try to get different tones and nuances using only my picking hand,” Mike says. “In the early days of my guitar playing, my focus was only on technique and the ability to play fast. Right now, I’m trying to play melodies that feel closer to a singer, as opposed to a guitar player.”
Chris Mike's gear
Guitars: Ernie Ball Music Man JP15, JP BFR
Amps: Victory Amps, Kemper Profiler
Effects: Crazy Tube Circuits pedals