Jan Rivera serves up spellbinding chromaticism and gravity-defying fusion licks in this hypnotic playthrough of Existential Paranoia

Jan Rivera
(Image credit: Jan Rivera/YouTube)

For most, the quest to master the fretboard is a lifetime pursuit, one that sees guitarists locked in an evergreen effort to “break out of the box." It’s a skill that only the elite truly master, and one that heavily informs the foundation of Jan Rivera’s hypnotic fusion style.

Said fusion style is front and center in the Guitar World-exclusive playthrough of Rivera's Existential Paranoia – a track lifted from the prog phenom’s upcoming debut studio album of the same name, which delivers a devastating masterclass in fretboard navigation.

Joined by bass guitar powerhouse Mohini Dey, Rivera leaves no fret unturned during his six-and-a-half-minute journey round the fingerboard, reeling off rapid fire legatos, spell-binding chromatics and off-kilter rhythmic motifs.

Dey’s energetic low-end work plays a key role in proceedings, as does the rest of Rivera’s Existential Paranoia lineup, which comprises keyboardist Jordan Rudess, drummer Marco Minnemann and Suhr-wielding guitarist Juan Antonio.

Accommodating Rivera’s playing is his own “Frankenstein of sorts” – a headless guitar that he pieced together himself from various components.

He explains, “This guitar was never planned. While buying an all graphite Steinberger neck, the seller offered to throw in a cheap body for free. He didn’t want it, and said it was just in some corner collecting dust. 

“I said, ‘Sure,’ but didn’t really think much of it at the time,” Rivera continues. “Once it got home, I decided to put it together just to see what would happen. Put in a Steinberger TransTrem bridge, two Suhr V60LP single coils and a Duncan Custom on the bridge. It’s been my main guitar ever since.”

As for what rig Rivera is running, the custom build is linked to an Apex Preamp, Horizon Devices Drive, Xotic RC SH Booster, Maxon SD-9 and the Neural DSP Archetype: Plini.

Not only is Existential Paranoia a demonstration of guitar excellence, it’s also a testament to the team's musical chemistry – an aspect that proved to be particularly important to Rivera.

“This style of video is very dear to me because it highlights all of the parts and interplay between the musicians,” Rivera reflects. “Speaking of which, I couldn’t have had a better time making this with Jordan, Juan Antonio, Mohini and Marco. 

“Writing it, they were the voices I was thinking of, and the way each of our styles come together to serve the music couldn’t make me happier.”

Of her own involvement in the project, Dey reflects, “My reaction was surprised, shocked, because I heard how challenging the material was, but also at the same time how beautiful the writing was. 

“The orchestration and how beautiful the parts were written, it felt like a story, it had meaning to it, every song had something to say,” she muses. “When I hear something that has never been done before, it automatically pushes me to do something better.”

Dey’s own rig is headed up by a Comodous 5 model, which she runs through a Markbass Little Marcus 1000 bass amp head.

Existential Paranoia is also set to feature appearances from Nili Brosh, Gary Husband and more.

  • Jan Rivera's Existential Paranoia is out now (opens in new tab)

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Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.