Guitar fans might remember seven-string guitarist the Commander-In-Chief from her Zigeunerweisen Op. 20 guitar-duel video, which she made with classically trained guitarist Thomas Valeur.
That video, which was premiered on GuitarWorld.com, was one of the site's 10 most-watched videos of 2013.
Late last year, the Commander teamed up with another classical guitarist, Craig Ogden, for a new album of guitar-driven goodness—2 Guitars: The Classical Crossover Album—that takes metal virtuosity back to its classical roots.
Ogden, the principal lecturer on guitar at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England, was recently featured as one of the top classical guitarists of all time by ClassicFM.
In addition to inspired versions of Caprice No. 24 by Niccolo Paganini (the Italian composer whose music has influenced scores of guitarists, including Yngwie Malmsteen) and an instrumental version of Carlos Gardel and Alfredo LePera’s tango, "Por una Cabeza," 2 Guitars also showcases the Commander’s vocal skills on an original song, "Let It Go."
We also should add that the Commander's Caprice No. 24 video was one of GuitarWorld.com's 10 most-watched videos of 2014.
I recently caught up with the Commander and asked her about her new album with Ogden, her gear and more.
GUITAR WORLD: What made you decide to do a project like this?
After the guitar duel, I noticed a lot of comments from people asking about the next one. I had only planned on doing one, but everyone kept saying how they couldn't wait for more. So I thought it'd be cool to do another one.
The piece I found was the massive “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso" [by Camille Saint-Saëns]. Once I checked it out, I knew it was going to take me a while to learn. So rather than just doing one piece and video at a time, we decided to instead make an entire album.
How did you decide on which pieces to cover?
Originally, I asked my manager to come up with a list of songs I might like to attempt. I thought “Introduction” was crazy because it was 15 pages long and had all of these cool runs. It sounds amazing on violin, and I was wondering if it would even be possible to play on guitar. But the idea was if I listened to the piece and became obsessed with it musically then it was a go.
How did you connect with Craig Ogden?
When we were looking for classical guitar players, we noticed Craig was always in demand on ClassicFM. He's a really cool guy who teaches and is running from gig to gig all the time. So we sent him an email asking if he had any students he could recommend. That's when he said he'd be interested in doing it himself. We met shortly afterwards and it wasn't long before we both said, "Let's do this!"
What’s one thing you’ve learned from attempting this kind of material?
People like to say classical and metal are similar, but one of the main differences are the dynamics you have to have in your fingers. It’s more than just the ensemble or the tone of the guitar and amp. Your fingers really have to be flexible enough to change from loud to soft and everything in between. It can be tricky at first, but learning this material is all about trying to find a balance.
You also have an original song on the album, a vocal number called “Let It Go." What can you tell me about it?
I wrote that song a few years ago to my brother when he was going through a difficult time. At first, I didn't know why he wasn't happy and I was trying to figure it out. I tried to say to him in the song what I wish I could have said to his face. A “metal” version of the song actually appears on my EP that was released in 2012. For this record, I didn't want to put out an album without any original material on it. So we decided to do an acoustic version.
Tell me about your gear and your involvement with Xvive pedals.
I’m using the new Ibanez S5570 seven-string. It has EMGs in it and a deeper sound that I think is cool. I use the neck pickup a lot because I really like that nice, rounded sound. I'm a minimalist when it comes to pedals, but when Xvive approached me I decided to try them. They’re such a great company to work with and I really love the sound of their delay.
What excites you the most about the new album?
It was cool to go into singing mode and communicate with my voice as well as my instrument. I know I’ll never stop playing guitar, but it was nice to have the opportunity to explore this other side of me.
But the thing I'm most excited about is playing this material live. Craig and I recently did a show in London that was just amazing. The expectation was high going in, but it was cool to see the reaction people had and knowing we were able to pull it off live!
For more about the Commander-In-Chief, visit thecommanderinchief.net.
Photo: Jeff XanderJames Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.