When Guitar World is offered an exclusive interview with virtual band The Shredderz – a group who say they exist in The Shredderverse as ‘a Web3 native, community-driven entity with dynamic NFTs’ – we’re presented with some, shall we say, rather interesting facts.
For starters, their founding guitarist and de-facto leader Weezel insists he’s the lovechild of Metallica frontman James Hetfield. According to his representatives, he’s a heavy metal delinquent who has spent the majority of his life couch-surfing, learning the riffs of every Bay Area thrash band while chain-smoking blunts and bumming beer money from anyone unlucky enough to cross his path.
As well as essentially being a cartoon character, we’re also reliably informed he stopped maturing mentally at the age of 15, so you could say today’s interviewee will be a little different to the others you’ll find on this site.
And while this all sounds a bit tongue-in-cheek, there’s nothing at all whimsical about the heavy metal tornado that blasts out of our speakers after firing up a digital link to the band’s self-titled debut album, its 11 tracks containing an onslaught of furious alternate picking and sweep arpeggios over razor-sharp riffing and pounding drums.
The list of guest collaborators is also quite remarkable, too – with Testament veteran Alex Skolnick, Dokken hero George Lynch, Revocation’s Dave Davidson, The Black Dahlia Murder’s Brandon Ellis and both Jéssica Di Falchi and Tainá Bergamaschi from Brazilian death metal band Crypta lending their formidable fret-burning talents. So who exactly are The Shredderz, and what are they here to achieve?
“Our goal is to put out the straightforward, hard-shredding ’80s style heavy metal that we all grew up with, and throw our modern influences into the mix,” Weezel tells GW. “We love great hooks, big dynamics and, of course, blazing solos. The first incarnation was a band called Leather Sword. It featured myself, Vincent Barlow on guitar and Donny Deckman on drums. We did that for a few years before the three of us left and started The Shredderz.
“Before that, I’d only messed around in a couple of garage bands that really never made it to the point where we had a name. But I’ve always been a huge fan of the great metal guitar duos like Tipton/Downing from Judas Priest or Shremann/Denner from Mercyful Fate, so that’s kinda where we’re coming from musically. As it turns out, many of the guests on the record are actually players I grew up listening to…
“Though after working with some of the younger players on this record, I have to say, I was really blown away. Jéssica Di Falchi and Tainá Bergamaschi from Crypta really killed it on their tracks, while Brandon Ellis and Dave Davidson are just incredible shredders.”
When did you realize this was going to be a new project and how were you going to make it different?
“For the last year or so of Leather Sword, most of us in the band felt it was time for a big change. We were very unhappy with the direction that our singer wanted to take the band and we felt that he was holding the songs back.
“So when we were able to find a new singer with more dynamics and attitude, it was obvious that we had to move on from the old name. And with the addition of a new bass player, we knew that The Shredderz was something that had to happen.”
How exactly do all the different characters within the band fit together?
“Well, the way we look at ourselves as a band is pretty simple. We’re just five guys that love playing heavy metal. But individually, we all bring our own flavor and style to what we are doing. Vincent, our other guitarist, is more of a classical guitar-influenced player.
“So he brings that to the table with his writing and solo work. Donny, our drummer, was raised on some of the greats – Mickey Dee, Nicko McBrain and John Bonham. So, although he loves to get technical, he’s still ‘metal and potatoes’ and hits his drums like they owe him money or something [laughs]. Our newest member, Nigel Barrymore on bass, actually grew up on ’70s/’80s punk. At first we weren’t sure if that was going to jive with our sound, but he brings an extra rock flair to what we are doing. Sometimes he seems like John Entwistle on speed!
“And, as for myself, I grew up with a steady diet of mostly Bay Area thrash and branched out from there. Visually, we all bring our own personalities to the mix. I’ve been wearing the same jean vest since I was 15. We leave most of the aesthetics to our singer, Raz… we don’t have a band stylist just yet.”
Some of the alternate picking runs on the album are ambitious, to say the least. What kind of exercises helped you get up to those speeds?
“There is no secret. I think the key is to learning songs that will better your speed. For me, I learned Paul Gilbert songs to help improve my skills, stuff like Technical Difficulties by Racer X. Playing scales up and down is dumb… this isn’t a fucking recital! It’s all about context.
“The more time you spend jamming, the better you will be. I always dug deep and learned as much as I could. I don’t play video games; I play fucking guitar in a band. That’s what I do.”
And how about those ultra-fluid sweep arpeggios… can you detail your journey from a technical standpoint?
“I’d say the best way to learn that stuff is start with two-string triads, then introduce a third string and so on. Your muting technique is super-important when it comes to sweep picking. You have to use both hands to help mute other strings while you sweep the strings that are intended to be played.
“Oh, and don’t use a stupid string dampener. This is rock and roll [laughs]! Play loud and learn how to control your sound with less gain, and then you will have no issues getting your notes to sound clean enough.”
The tones on the album are as uncompromising in their monstrosity. Let’s get specific – what are we hearing?
“We used an early 1992 Peavey 5150 and a Marshall Jubilee. For pedals I use a JHS distortion, Ibanez Tube Screamer, a TC Electronic Sentry noise gate and a Dunlop wah. It’s a simple setup.
“I was using a Line 6 HX Stomp pedal for a while to try out new technology. I used it for leads on the album, but the fucker died mid-set at a big festival. What a piece of shit [laughs]! It sounded good, though…
“But at least with a tube amp, I know how to fix it. All of this computer shit goes over my head. As for guitars, I use all kinds of Flying Vs with DiMarzio Super Distortion pickups.”
So what would you say is the ultimate thrash metal tone and who do you think set the benchmark?
“For me, it’s hands down Metallica on Kill 'Em All. That’s the ideal metal tone. They had the fuckin’ mids growling, it was all loud as fuck and huge-sounding. I know thrash tone eventually turned in to this solid-state scooped mids thing, which is cool too, but ideally I like a 100-watt Marshall blasting my fucking face off on 10.
“I want my shit loud as fuck and I want it to cut through. I’m in a band with another guitar player so I need to be heard. My Marshalls are EQ’d perfectly for tunings like E and Eb.”
You have some rather esteemed guests joining you on this album. Alex Skolnick and George Lynch, for example, are terrifically talented lead players. What did they bring to these songs?
“All of those dudes not only shred but they write great songs. And furthermore they know how to shred to the song. That’s why Alex Skolnick is the ultimate shredder! I definitely wanted him to do the main solo section in the middle of Shredderz because I felt he fit the best for that one.
“George Lynch also writes fucking killer songs. He took blues guitar in a shred direction – he’s so fucking raw, I love it. He doesn’t give a fuck about making sure notes are 100 percent on the grid but he’s always super-articulate, and his feel is off the charts. What a monster!
“He’s always had this true rock and roll attitude. Iron Storm is kind of a burner but I felt like his style took it into another dimension. Another player would have made it too power metal-sounding. George gives it mass feel.”
Then there’s Gary Holt, Brandon Ellis and Dave Davidson... you’re clearly in good company here!
“Anyone who jammed with [legendary Exodus singer] Paul Baloff knows everything thing they need to know about thrash. There can be no doubt over this – Gary Holt is one of the ultimate godfathers of thrash guitar.
“What I like about Brandon Ellis is that he’s fast as fuck but has the feel of every ’80s guitarist. He is like John Sykes on speed [laughs]! I’d like to hear more from him on future Shredderz albums. And I’ve had my eye on Dave Davidson for a while. I appreciate lead guitarists who are also lead singers.”
Finally, what would you say is the hardest riff or solo you played on the album and why?
“The playing is not the issue; it’s getting the songs right and getting the solos to work well with the songs. We took a lot of time recording versions of the songs and getting the demos right. Thunderpack started out sounding undesirable but once we reworked the lyrics and vocals, it became way better!
“This album wasn’t difficult to make because we are very well-versed in this sound. But I suppose the most technical solo for me would be at the beginning of Shredderz. But once I demoed it and learned it in pre-production, I knocked it out in one take in the studio… I didn’t fucking punch shit in [laughs]!”
- The Shredderz is out now.