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Guitarist Dee J Nelson Discusses New Dope Album, 'Blood Money,' and the Phrygian Mode

It’s been a busy year for south-paw guitarist Dee J Nelson.

In addition to creating his popular guitar lessons for Metal Method and offering private instruction, Nelson has contributed music to the upcoming Dope album, Blood Money, that’s set for release in 2014.

I spoke with Nelson and got an update on his collaboration with Edsel Dope as well as his new guitar program based on the Phrygian mode. He also explains why developing an understanding of modal theory can be an important tool for guitarists at any level.

GUITAR WORLD: How did you hook up with Edsel Dope?

I met him through my good friends at Wornstar Clothing, Stephen and Sylvia Jensen.

What can you tell us about the new Dope album? Release date? Sound?

The new album is called Blood Money and will likely be out in the summer of 2014. I’m excited that it will have at least four tracks that I co-wrote with Edsel. One of which is the first track, which already has a video in the can. It looks badass! Dope fans will be very pleased with the visuals and sound!

What was the songwriting process like for the new album?

I contributed around 40 demos of music directly to Edsel. He then weeded through them and began creating lyrics and hooks over the ones that provided some inspiration. We then began recording/collaborating together at his studio, taking the raw demos I sent him and tweaking them together. I also play some lead guitar on some of the tracks I didn't contribute, like the title track, which is featured in the teaser. Things have gone very well, and I’m certain there will be much more to come beyond Blood Money.

Will you be touring with Dope to support the new album?

Unfortunately, no. I am just a studio “slob” [laughs]! My role with Dope is as a writing partner/studio guitarist.

Tell me a little about your new “Phractured Phrygian” program.

The Phrygian mode is used a ton in hard rock and metal music, so if you are going to play in these genres, it’s critical to have a thorough understanding of it. I wanted to create a program that would go beyond the typical guitarist’s understanding of the Phrygian mode. The program goes into detail on how to create a Phrygian sound in your guitar playing, as opposed to just spewing out a Phrygian scale.

What are the benefits of having an understanding of modal theory?

Understanding modes is great for learning the fretboard, but to me the biggest benefit is that the modes give a guitarist a new world of sounds that break away from the everyday major and minor. That’s what I focus on in this program: the “sound” associated with the mode.

Another important thing to remember is that while I do spend some time discussing the theory of the Phrygian mode, you certainly don’t need to be a theory professor to learn the riffs and have fun with the program. Understanding the theory of this stuff is a gradual process and something that you don’t need to overwhelm yourself with. Learn the riffs, enjoy the sound and then put 2 + 2 together later.

What advice would you give to guitarists who are stuck in a rut of playing boxed leads?

I think the most important thing you need to study are chords and arpeggios. This will force you to take a new look at the fretboard. This is the approach I take in my "Lead Guitar DNA" course.

What other projects are you working on?

I have a project with Andee Blacksugar out of New York City and Chicago drummer Mike McCarron called iGod. We recently self-released a single called “Dead Cursor.” I was introduced to Andee through Enuff Z’ Nuff guitarist Johnny Monaco.

Andee is a phenomenal talent. He’s the touring guitarist with Peter Murphy/Bauhaus. He wrote lyrics and sings on the iGod project but also splashes in some occasional solos. He’s a killer player and one of my new biggest influences. I’ve known Mike McCarron for years, and we’ve collaborated on several projects. He’s “second to none” as a drummer and brought a ton to this project from a creative standpoint. He’s also a great studio producer.

I’ve also released an instrumental single called “Pants On Fire!”

For more about Dee J Nelson, check out his Facebook page.

Photo: Donn Nelson

James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.