After a year that saw some of the highest and lowest points of a career spent redefining what a guitar hero can be, what he doesn’t have is a rat’s ass to give about what anybody has to say.
“I got to a point where I just said ‘screw it,’” Dines tells Guitar World. “I was so worried if I don’t post this week, I’m going to be irrelevant. If you don’t tweet every day people are going to forget about you. Now, I just don’t care. I don’t give a fuck. I just found I need to do the things that I feel inspired to do and motivated to do on any given day.”
With the haters forgotten in his search history, Dines’ future is calling. The question, in this age of rapidly shifting tastes, evolving platforms and increasing competition among content creators, is what that future will look like.
For the people who don’t yet know him, here’s dines’ bio in brief: He started playing guitar 17 years ago. He worked as a recording engineer, and about five years ago he started posting on YouTube in earnest.
Whereas many creators in the online guitar community were looking at YouTube as a way to promote their bands or to shill for instruction courses, Dines stood out because of his willingness to indulge in sheer silliness for its own sake.
Many of his most popular early videos poked fun at musical tropes and the stereotypes of being in a metal band: Things Beginner Guitarists Say ("I just don’t see the point in learning sheet music!"), Every Guitar Store Guitarist, Things You Should NEVER Say to a Guitarist (above).
Soon, he was collaborating with other up-and-coming musicians/content creators with a similar penchant for hijinks, like battling Rob Scallon on absurd guitars (Dines’ featured a single ludicrously heavy-gauge string; Scallon’s was built out of a shovel).
He promoted fellow YouTubers like Stevie T, Ola Englund, Rabea Massaad and Sarah Longfield in his Riff Wars and Shred Wars series. For three years straight, he’s dropped a massive shred-off around Christmas, with dozens of guitarists contributing insane solos.
The videos became so popular that mainstream metal stars like Trivium’s Matt Heafy and All That Remains’ Jason Richardson began chipping in.
Somewhere along the way, Dines became the center of the online guitar universe. And as with everything that is good and pure online, eventually the dark side would show up. Over the past year he saw himself at the center of a controversy that shook up the online guitar community.
It started with a noble goal: trying to auction off his massive, one-of-a-kind 18-string Ormsby guitar. That guitar had been the star of several videos, including a feud with Stevie T. over who would emerge as the Djent God.
With the war of the strings at an end, Dines tried to do some good: selling off the guitar, with all proceeds going toward buying instruments for disadvantaged kids. Once all the bids were in, it looked like Dines had raised more than $16,000. Then the headaches started. Both of the top two eBay bidders backed out, telling Dines they had been drunk when they put in their bids.
Dines, like most prominent influencers, has put up with countless hate-filled comments on his channel, but having two wasted bros mess with a charity seemed to cut him more than any of those.
“I was thinking this was going to change 40 or 50 kids’… well, not change their lives, I guess, but… I was going to do something cool for them. I was going to get them instruments and use the money and have them go to a guitar store and film them shopping and film them buying these guitars and picking them out and being excited and having a great Christmas,” a visibly distraught Dines said in one video shortly after the bids fell through. “The highest bidder just messaged me and said ‘Don’t drink and bid on eBay.’ Cool.”
The story does have a happy ending, as DistroKid founder Philip Kaplan stepped in, paying $20,000 for the instrument. Some of Dines’ fans donated and he even threw in $4,000 of his own money, ultimately taking around 100 kids for a shopping spree.
“It was such a blessing for me, honestly, and it was so cool to see everyone come together,” Dines says. “I’m actually kind of glad it happened the way it did. Seeing how the online guitar community came together was so cool. I was able to go there and see it in person, and I felt like a vessel in a way. It was so much about the kids, it was about everyone who donated. I wanted to capture that the best way I can.”
While some of the lessons learned were valuable, it was a lot for one content creator to take, especially given the struggles he had been very open about. In an intensely personal vlog uploaded last April, he confessed he was suffering from burnout and his mental health was suffering.
On social media he let his fans know he had been diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. Much of the past year has been spent trying to find a way to cope with life in the virtual spotlight and all the stress that entails.
“I’m stepping away from that mentality of ‘I need to post, I need to post, I need to post,’ and just chilling out a little more and calming down and just being, ‘You can relax, you can be a normal person, you can go to dinner with your girlfriend, you don’t have to constantly be on your phone,’” he says.
“I actually turned all the notifications off on my phone - and it’s nice. I still go on and check these apps maybe once a night, once every couple of days or something like that, but now I’m not constantly bombarded by people all commenting.”
As part of that effort to mellow out a bit, Dines recently diversified platforms, starting a Twitch channel where he streams video games and hangs out with his fans in a much more low-key setting.
“Twitch is a different outlet for me because I found YouTube could get so intense sometimes with the burnout and the constant everything. So Twitch is kind of everything I’ve been missing. Real connections, real people that are not just trolls talking shit. It’s a very chill environment.
I think my followers on Twitch like that realness because on YouTube and everywhere else you’re playing a character, but on Twitch it’s just how I am, how I feel, how I think. If you ask me a question I’m going to answer it honestly.”
With all this going on, it’s easy to forget that at his core, Dines is a damn good guitarist who, despite his busy schedule, is still finding time to play for at least an hour a day. Some of his earlier content was based on his former band, Rest, Repose, which also featured fellow YouTuber Ryan “Fluff” Bruce.
Dines quit that band last year, citing a desire to focus on his channel. He still has his band Daddy Rock going, though that’s mostly a studio project. While he’s been a guest star on a Trivium tour and made a one-off appearance with Breaking Benjamin, he says there is no full-time gig on the horizon. Still, he hasn’t ruled out a return to the stage and the touring life.
“Who knows how I’m going to feel in a year, two years, six months,” he says. “I have no idea. But I love playing live.”
Should Dines ever return to the stage, he’s going to do so in style. At January’s Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim, California, Dines stood in front of a crowd at the Ernie Ball booth to reveal his new Sterling by Music Man signature model. Once a status symbol reserved only for top recording artists, Dines is among the first predominantly online creators to receive the signature treatment. (Scallon unveiled his own signature Chapman model in 2015).
Dines was as surprised as anyone by the announcement - NAMM has become a major event in the YouTube guitar world, and he had gone hoping to bump into friends and colleagues. It was only at the last minute that Ernie Ball told him the conference would also serve as the launching point for the model.
The moment was a personal victory as well as confirmation that the guitar universe would have to reckon with content creators as a force equal to any signed artist.
For his part, Dines said it was a moment that was a long time coming. The design had been in the works for up to two years, involving three prototypes before it was perfected.
“It felt great because it was so long in the process, it felt like it was never going to happen,” Dines says. “People think, ‘Oh, he has a signature guitar, you just sign a contract and it magically just appears.’ It takes a long time, but I’m really happy with how it turned out, for sure.”
Based on the company’s StingRay line, the Sterling by Music Man Jared Dines Artist Series signature model is the only StingRay-style guitar with 24 frets, gold hardware on an all-black body (Dines hopes the company will introduce an all-white version down the line) and standard StingRay pickups that have been hot-rodded for extra output.
The guitar has a few small tweaks - the string saddles on the bridge have been sanded down for extra palm-muting comfort while the volume and tone knobs have been stacked to provide extra strumming room.
For a guy who made the question “Does it djent?” a ubiquitous meme, there’s a killswitch on the body to help create some of that genre’s rhythmic sound effects.
“There’s stutter effects you can achieve with it, staccato-type glitchy tremolo,” Dines says. “A lot of modern guitarists are recording a lot of glitch-sounds, stutter effects they use in their recording programs, and it would be cool to allow the chance to be able to perform that live without relying on backing tracks.”
Dines’ videos have featured a wide assortment of guitars over the years - he estimates his collection has grown to almost 50, with many of those being demo models sent by companies hoping for a shoutout.
Some of those have gotten more of a workout than others: he’s shown off quite a few Chapmans and has featured that company’s founder, Rob Chapman, more than once. But he said when it came time to make a signature model, Ernie Ball was the logical choice.
“I had to go with Ernie Ball because they started back when I was 12 and getting Guitar World magazine and going on mxtabs.net, trying to read tabs of bands I enjoyed. I would get Ernie Ball strings; I’d go on the back of the pack and look at the artists they had, so I’d look up the artists and find new music that way. It’s the company I’ve always used. I mean, Ernie Ball! I had to stay true to that.”
While the signature model will likely become a prominent feature on Dines’ channel, fans also can expect an unplugged turn. By his own admission, Dines hasn’t been much of an acoustic player in the past, but he was among the first people to get a chance to check out Martin’s newest offering, the SC-13E, one of the biggest gear releases at NAMM.
Dines was given a chance to try his hand with the guitar during a recent trip to the company’s headquarters in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, a visit he said was educational and awe-inspiring.
“All the guitars they have - at the museum they let me hold a couple of them. That was amazing. We saw Kurt Cobain’s acoustic, Hank Williams’ acoustic. It was so cool to see the actual factory and how much goes into making the guitars. It was definitely an experience.”
With a signature guitar, a rabid following and some acoustic exploration ahead, Dines is poised to maintain his position as a new kind of guitar hero for years to come.
But with great success comes great temptations. Others have parlayed YouTube success into careers in mainstream media. With his charm and easygoing persona, Dines could cross over if the right opportunity came knocking. But for now, while gaming and streaming have their charms, he seems content to focus on the instrument that was his first love.
“As a musician and as a channel, I will always have a strong guitar focus. That’s never going to change. That’s what I’ve been for the longest, I’ve been playing guitar for 17 years. Yeah, I’ve played drums for six or seven years and vocals here and there, so I’m going to do that kind of stuff as well. But I always go back to the guitar. That will always feel like my main focus.
“I just love music, I love all aspects of it, whether it’s watching people play, playing, recording, hanging out with musicians. I just love it all.”