Best known as lead guitarist and founding member of Grammy-nominated post-grunge foursome Hoobastank, Dan Estrin has been honing his six-string craft for the best part of three decades.
Over the years, he’s dreamt up the delay-doused riff of Crawling In The Dark, channeled heaps of manic grit into classics like Out of Control, and – of course – worked his magic on 2003’s anthemic power ballad, The Reason.
The California native grew up with access to what he describes as his father’s “humongous vinyl collection”, which consisted of everything from Led Zeppelin, to Neil Diamond, to the Commodores. “I took all that in,” he beams. “All this stuff that was melodic with huge hooks and huge payoffs.”
While plenty of other kids across America experienced musical awakenings when Eddie Van Halen shredded, tapped and dive bombed his way onto their radios, things were a little different to Estrin.
“That kind of guitar playing felt unattainable,” he tells us, before confessing that he actually “didn’t give a shit about guitar players” between the ages of 13 and 14 when he first started to learn the instrument himself.
“I loved music, but it wasn’t necessarily about guitar, guitar, guitar. I loved bands, songs, hooks and melodies.”
In fact, Estrin is a consummate multi-instrumentalist who, over the years, has taken equal inspiration from innovative drummers and bass players as he has done from fellow guitarists.
Now, this is Guitar World, so there’s no room at this particular inn for our stick-wielding compadres, but we have bent the rules just a little to allow for one bonus bass badass to join this list of Estrin’s essential influences. After all, as he insists, “The bass is a guitar!”
1. Izzy Stradlin
“The first album that I bought that I was able to choose on my own when I was in sixth grade was Appetite for Destruction by Guns N’ Roses. That album spoke to me so much that, before I even heard it on the radio, I heard a kid at school singing the verse to Welcome To The Jungle. From just that kid singing it, I was already so turned on to the lyrical content and the flow of it.
“That night, my dad took me over to Tower Records and I bought the vinyl. I remember listening to Guns N’ Roses and loving that it was melodic, then heavy, and then there was all the shredding.
“As I got a little older, I would always tell my friends: ‘I don’t wanna be Slash, I wanna be Izzy!’ Izzy’s fantastic. I could identify more with that, and it seemed more normal to me than what Slash or Eddie Van Halen were doing.”
2. Kurt Cobain
“I was into bands that were heavy, but that also had melody and ballads. I grew up listening to, and really falling for, the Seattle stuff. They had all that heavy shit, but even Nirvana had songs like Something In The Way.
“I could identify with Kurt Cobain’s playing because he was a good guitar player, but it wasn’t like he was up there shredding. There was a rawness to it and it didn’t have to be perfect.”
3. John Frusciante
“As much as you would never listen to my guitar playing and go, ‘Oh yeah, I see it,’ John Frusciante was a huge influence – as were all of the Chili Peppers.
“When John joined and I got to watch the Funky Monks documentary of them in the studio making Blood Sugar Sex Magik with Rick Rubin, that really changed my life! I was 14 or 15 years old when I saw that, and seeing behind the scenes was so fuckin’ inspiring to me. But, what was also inspiring to me wasn’t just John, it was all of them.
“I grew up loving bass and drums, so watching Flea and Chad and seeing how things went down, I was inspired by their camaraderie, by their brotherhood and by their music.”
4. Mike McCready
“I heard Pearl Jam when they first came out with Ten and their songs were so good, and their choruses were sung in a way where the hair on my arms would go up. It spoke to me so much. Then Mike McCready would go into a solo on Alive and I’d be like ‘What the fuck?’
“That spoke to me more than the shredding ever did. There’s this bluesy feel to it. He can shred, but there were moments in it where I thought, ‘I think I could do some of that!’
“It wasn’t because what Mike was doing was simple, because it wasn’t, but there was this tastefulness to it that I liked.”
5. Tom Morello
“When Rage Against The Machine came out, Tom Morello’s guitar playing was just so unique.
“I remember being in high school and my buddies were snowboarder/skater kids that prided themselves on art, skating and music, and I dug that because they’d find out about all these cool shows.
“They went to The Whisky in something like 1993 and came back with Rage Against The Machine’s demo tape. It had almost Zeppelin-ish riffs to a degree, but with this space, and the lyrical content and flow was equally as musical to me.”
6. Dave Navarro
“I was into Jane’s Addiction, and I was way into Dave Navarro. I’d hate for him to hear that because I think he hates us! I think I heard somebody once say that he talked some shit about us, but we didn’t do anything – there was no bad blood – and actually, it broke my heart because I’m a big Jane’s fan.
“Dave’s playing was extremely melodic, which I found extremely interesting when he joined Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was already a huge Chili Peppers and John Frusciante fan, then Dave came in with this different style and One Hot Minute had some really cool stuff on it.
“Dave uses more delay, and he has his own style and feel and I always dug it.”
7. Stevie Ray Vaughan
“When I was a kid, I remember watching a live Stevie Ray Vaughan video from some little bar he was playing at with his band, and damn, I really loved that! Yes, he could shred, but he also had this other way – his way – of doing things. To me, it was cleaner than Jimi Hendrix and I thought he was really cool.
“His guitars, too – the road-worn Strats were so rad to me. Strats were my guitar in the beginning, before the band. I loved Strats and I loved his tone.”
8. David Gilmour
“If I had to choose one guy that I just think is the shit, it’s David Gilmour. How he plays is amazing, but so also is how he speaks and how he words certain things.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m the opposite and maybe that’s why I like him so much. Maybe I feel like I wish I could be calm and collected like David!”
9. Larry LaLonde
“I grew up listening to Primus and Larry – who I recently got to meet, which was awesome. His guitar playing and his style was just so unique. But, I was equally into Les Claypool, and when I was learning how to play guitar, I also had a bass and I’d try to figure out whatever the hell he was doing, too. The same goes for drums. It was all of it, and I can’t stress that enough!
“When it comes to my sound, sometimes I feel like I play bass on guitar and our bass player is actually the lead dude.”
10. Junior Brown
“I can’t fingerpick in your traditional Dust In The Wind fingerpicking style. But, on the first record, we had some songs where I would just use my thumb and two fingers to do these weird little picking things. Part of that was inspired by Larry from Primus, and some of it was inspired by Junior Brown.
“I saw him on Austin City Limits on TV when I was a kid and it showed him playing his Tele and striking the low notes while also doing the chicken pickin’ stuff. It really made me want to try and do my own version and come up with something.
“On our first record, we had a song called Remember Me, and I’m using an Electro-Harmonix Bassballs pedal – which is for bass – and some delay, and I’m just pickin’ at it. That idea kind of came from Larry LaLonde-meets-Junior Brown.”
11. Victor Wooten
“I saw Victor Wooten from Béla Fleck and the Flecktones on this shitty cable channel late at night when I was a kid. I couldn’t get down with the song they were playing, but Victor Wooten on the bass was so inspiring to me – as was his brother playing all this out-of-the-box slap guitar stuff.
“For me, if it’s Victor Wooten playing bass versus Eddie Van Halen on guitar, I’m gonna watch Victor Wooten. Even as a guitar player, I just want to watch Victor Wooten. I got to stand 10 feet from him at the NAMM show back home in L.A. and just watch him fuckin’ going at it. It was dope.
“I tried – I forced myself like trying to eat vegetables – to buy and use all these guitar instructional videos, but I could never get down to it. I was never into it. I’d get the bass ones and I was way more into that!”