Justin Hawkins brands Plini “a bit boring”

Justin Hawkins and Plini
(Image credit: Fernando Leon / Johnny Louis/Getty Images)

Through his virtuosic blend of melody, technique and feel, Australian electric guitar titan Plini has cemented his status as one of today’s standout progressive guitar players. Indeed, with his Strandberg in tow, Plini is often seen to be the pace-setter when it comes to instrumental prog music.

However, despite his awes-inspiring abilities and the many accolades attached to his name, it’s easy to forget that Plini's music might not appeal to everyone.

One such individual who is especially nonplussed about the Plini hype is The Darkness’s Justin Hawkins, who even goes as far as to label the virtuoso’s music as “a bit boring”.

In a new video, which is not-so-subtly titled “I’m Sorry, But What’s The Point?!”, Hawkins put Plini under the microscope for an in-depth musical appraisal, during which he listened to and critiqued the guitarist’s recent live performance of Cascade.

The 12-minute video is filled with hot takes, with Hawkins seemingly suggesting Plini should swap his Strandberg for a low-slung Gibson Les Paul to make his overall act less “static”.

“The one thing that turns me off about this particular type of prog is how static the playing is,” Hawkins commented. “I’m talking about choreography, really. You have to have your guitar pretty high to get the spread you need to play these riffs.

“You don’t get those low-slung Slash types, you always get this [high-strapped guitars],” he added. “I don’t think it’s as exciting to watch, and I don’t think I’m going to be the only person who feels that.”

Hawkins went on to discuss how he believed a rock ‘n’ roll concert is a “multi-sensory experience”, referencing how both the sounds and smells of a concert – including the scent of second-hand tobacco smoke, “sour” booze and people’s body odor – contributed to the overall success of a gig.

“When you have a guitar that’s static in that position and players are [playing up high], the one advantage is, if you’re in the front row, you can do the fret watching,” Hawkins said. “This stuff sounds amazing, but it doesn’t look that exciting to me.

“For old rockers like me, there’s an absence of attitudinal edginess. The stuff that excites me is things like mistakes… I like people to operate at the very edge of their ability. Give [Plini] a Les Paul, low-slung, and it will be much more exciting.”

Of course, Hawkins is entitled to his opinion, and despite having his own musical and performative preferences, concedes that Plini’s act goes beyond such concerns.

Likewise, he does take the opportunity to hail Plini’s obvious playing abilities: “His technique is unbelievable. It sounds so, so good.”

He observed, “Sometimes you hear people who like doing that fast stuff and they disguise it with wah because it smudges the bits they haven’t quite fretted in a nice way, and there’s nothing like that going on here. It’s pretty straight-up saturated guitar sounds played really well.”

The praise didn’t end there, though: “There’s a really nice taste in his vibrato technique. He’s a great guitar player.”

At the end of the day, it all comes down to how we react to the music as individuals, and it’s simply the case that Plini’s playing doesn’t do much to move Hawkins. To emphasize this notion, Hawkins concluded: “It’s amazing playing, it really is. I think that kind of prog metal and all that stuff is a little bit of an acquired taste, but what you can’t deny is the musicianship – it’s really staggering right across the board.

“But you know what,” he added, “there’s no reason why they can’t wear a flashier shirt… anything, just something to spice up the visuals. But it's great stuff.”

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Matt Owen

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.