Back in the 1980’s guitar shred masters like Paul Gilbert, Jason Becker and Blues Saraceno started to forge a genre all their own. They took elements of classical, latin and heavy metal music and created a style of instrumental music that was thought provoking, awe inspiring and opened up doors to a whole new world. Nineteen year old Jake Dreyer is some new blood to this forgotten genre and in my opinion has the potential to revitalize it in a huge way. I recently spoke to Jake on the phone and we talked about everything from his love of the old Shrapnel guitar shredders to air drumming and singing along with classic metal songs. He’s a great guy and probably the nicest person I’ve ever interviewed. Enjoy this interview and be sure to give Jake a listen!
Jake, thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview.
Hey Don. No problem man. I just got up about 30 minutes ago [laughs]. I really love The Great Southern Brainfart man. That’s an awesome website you got going on!
[laughs] Wow. I wasn’t expecting that but thanks a lot! You can kill all kinds of valuable time on my site.
[laughs] That’s what the Internet is for man and you do it really well. I love it.
“In the Shadows of Madness” is a stellar release and I love that it showcases your versatility from metal to new age. Your influences must be all over the map. Who are some of your biggest influences?
There are so many. I’m really a big fan of Jason Becker, Paul Gilbert, Marty Friedman and all those Shrapnel Records guys. I’m also really into Al DiMeola. He’s another huge influence of mine. He was really into that Latin jazz type of playing that could totally cross over into the fast heavy metal stuff only played on acoustic guitar. I’m inspired by great guitar players in general.
Whatever formula you do have you’ve done it really well. The current album “In the Shadows of Madness” is the 3rd 3-song EP you’ve released. Why release 3 song EPs as opposed to full length albums?
I really wanted to do an EP because I had these songs written and I just wanted to test the waters to see what it would be like before releasing a full length album. Also, with instrumental guitar music you have to have a taste for it and it can get boring after a while. I love instrumental guitar music but I probably would get turned off by maybe the fourth or fifth song and be like, “Ok, time for something new.” [laughs] My whole philosophy is that you don’t want to overstay your welcome. You want them to get in there and to want more. It was also just a nice way to give people a sampling of what I’m all about as a player.
I hear that you’re attending the Musician’s Institute in California. I honestly have to ask. What does going to a Musicians Institute do to make you a better artist?
It’s just like having guitar lessons five days a week. It’s like a trade school of sorts where you just go in there and learn what you want to do. I really feel that there’s two schools of thought in playing. There’s guys that have taken lessons their whole life and learned to play that way and then there’s those who picked it up by ear with no lessons and are still great players. There’s two roads you can take but eventually they will meet up. I think the Musician’s Institute or any college in general teaches you a lot of theory which is something I really enjoy. I’m just one of those musicians who enjoys seeing how the science of music works. All the teachers are really great players who can do justice to just about every genre of music which is a really hard trait to have. I would really recommend it to anybody who wanted to take their playing to the next level. You really have to love it because all of the homework you do here is like playing stuff for 10 hours that you’re not really into. You’ll be learning all these jazz chords and thinking, “Man, I want to play this Judas Priest song.” [laughs]
Jake, do you remember the moment you knew you wanted to be a guitar player?
There was so much music in my house. My dad used to play guitar but he never played in a band or anything. At this point in my life, MTV was still playing music and it was all the dying hair metal bands that were still getting airplay. I would see all the big productions in those videos and was just so drawn to the guitars. It wasn’t until I was 8 years old that I took a guitar lesson and wanted to do it seriously. The teacher I had would show me a lot of the theory stuff but at that point I just wanted to play songs so I took off a year and then went back when I was 10 and had a better attitude towards learning what my teacher wanted to teach me. From there it was just full on that I wanted to do it. When I was 14 and I heard Yngwie Malmsteen I knew I wanted to do this. I figured out that those guys got good by not having girlfriends and just locking yourself in your room and practicing for hours so that’s what I did [laughs].
How would you describe the type of music you play? It seems to really cover a few different genres all at once.
I guess I would just say that it’s progressive metal with some neo-classical influence. When it came time to do this album, I knew that I wanted to have three distinct tracks. If you listen to a record that has the same songs over and over again and it’s all the same genre for 10 tracks, no matter how awesome it may be it can get stale after a while. This album just taps into a lot of different metal genres out there but doesn’t go so deep into one genre that you could pin it as say a power metal genre or a thrash metal genre. If you play the same style over and over again there’s only one emotion that it taps into. My favorite albums are the ones that have different genres in there where the music just takes you on a journey.
I grew up in a time where guitar players such as Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Blues Saraceno and Paul Gilbert were forging a genre all their own. Do you think this generation is missing out on this kind of guitar shredding?
Yeah, in a way. I think there are guys still coming out. When I first started playing and got into the Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen stuff I was about 14 and that’s about right when YouTube came about. I would just out of curiosity type in those guy’s names and a video of another 14 year old kid playing their stuff would come up. There are a lot of others tapping into it but I don’t think we’ve had any guitarists in this generation that have the same effect as guitarists like Becker did in his time. In the 80’s it was such a fresh new thing and right now it’s already been done so it might not be as much of a thrill factor. These days Jeff Loomis is one of the best in the metal genre. When his solo album came out in 2008, that was the same thing to me as if it would’ve been hearing the first Cacaphony release or the first Racer X release back when they came out. I think there are more “guitar gods” coming out but there’s definitely a lot more older guys doing it. Back in the day I’m sure it was just killer hearing some of these guys who were like you’re own age, 16 years old, making those records.
That’s so true. I remember hearing Jason Becker and I just couldn’t believe that someone my own age was able to play the way he played. I was just struggling trying to learn Ramones songs and he was up there playing a million notes a second.
[laughs] Exactly. I just loved all of those Shrapnel artists. That was a huge influence on me making this record. I just wanted to take the spirit that those records had and do it now and see what it would do. It’s what I like to hear so I thought that maybe other people would dig it as well.
I really did enjoy the EP and you’re a fantastic guitar player but one of the things I had to ask is how the hell are bands not banging down your door to join them? Are you interested in becoming a guitar player in a band?
That’s my main goal with doing this. It’s definitely not to sell CDs. I’d be an idiot to go out there thinking I was going to make any money selling an instrumental EP in this day and age [laughs]. Actually, I did join a band but it fell apart. I was pretty bummed about it. I was offered the gig, got it but there were a lot of internal problems in the band and the timing was just wrong. Unfortunately it won’t happen but shit happens. [At the time of this interview, he couldn’t disclose it but Jake had been asked to join American power metal band Jag Panzer but they ended up disbanding after the decision to draft him in.]
Do you have any other prospects as far as joining a band?
I’m going to play with former Anthrax singer Neil Turbin’s band Deathriders here in LA on August 23rd at the House of Blues. I’m really excited about that because I’m definitely a live guy. I love playing with a band but I just haven’t found the right guys here in L.A. to do it with. I would love to join an established band.
So are you sitting in with Deathriders or will you be a full on member.
I’ll just be sitting in with them but at this point in time that’s all I can really say. There’s really no word about me joining but we’ll see.
You know that Ozzy Osbourne has made a career out of discovering amazing guitar players and putting them on the map. Is there any artist (Ozzy or otherwise) that you would love to play with?
No kidding. Gus G has such a great gig playing with Ozzy right now. Joining a band that is known for having really good guitarists would be such a dream come true. Ozzy’s had such a slew of awesome guitar players so that would be awesome. There are bands out there that I would love to join. Nevermore would be an awesome band join. Any of “The Big 4” bands would be killer [laughs]. There are even smaller bands who I think would be killer to join. Hell, if Paul Gilbert wants to reunite Racer X I would totally jump on that one [laughs].
Have you had a chance to meet any of your heroes and if so what was the most star struck you’ve been?
Actually, I take lessons from guys like Chris Broderick from Megadeth, Dave Shankle from Manowar. Those guys are just awesome guys in general and that really helps out with the star struck stuff. When you meet someone you look up to and they’re cool guys it really makes you feel good. There’s nothing worse than meeting someone you really look up and he turns out to be a complete dick [laughs]. The most star stuck I’ve ever been though was when I met Paul Gilbert. I met him at the NAMM convention and Dave (Shankle) took me backstage to meet him. Paul is so anti-rockstar and is just such a down to earth, cool guy. Meeting him was really cool. It’s cool to meet these people you spend so much time listening to and someone you respect.
As a guitarist and obviously a huge fan of guitarists in general, who do you feel is the most underrated guitarist and why?
That’s a great question. I think Jake E. Lee doesn’t get the credit he deserves. I think “Bark At The Moon” is one of the greatest Ozzy records out there. I also think that John Sykes is really underrated. Blue Murder is one of the most underrated bands in my opinion.
Who do you think is the most overrated guitarist?
Man, I think there are a lot of guitar players out there who are overrated [laughs]. I think Slash is pretty overrated. I think he’s a good guitar player and I think Guns N’ Roses was a one of a kind band. People make him out to be a great guitar player and while he’s good at what he does, he’s not amazing. I also think Kirk Hammet is also really overrated.
Dude, Kirk Hammet hasn’t done anything good since “…and justice for all”
[laughs] Yeah. Man, there are so many overrated guitar players out there but those are like two of the biggest ones out there that stand out for me.
Ok, time for another hard one! In your opinion, what is the pinnacle guitar album?
Oh man, that’s a really easy one. “Perpetual Burn” by Jason Becker. I think that album is so phenomenal but not just on a playing level. That guy was so ahead of his time with his writing as well. I also have to give a nod to Yngwie Malmsteen’s “Rising Force” album. That album has so many great songs and it really inspired Jason Becker’s “Perpetual Burn” album. . If I was to have to hand someone one album to start out with it would be “Rising Force” for sure.
What is one song that you just MUST air guitar to whenever you hear it?
[laughs] Oh man. Honestly, I’m more of an air drummer to be honest [laughs]. There’s a Tool song that I love drumming to and I’m so out of sync with it [laughs]. I love air drumming to Rush songs. How can you not air drum to Rush? [laughs] I also love doing air raid siren singing to Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden vocalist) and “Queen of the Ryche” by Queensryche [laughs]. I also love doing air vocals to King Diamond.
That’s hilarious. My buddy James and I do that all the time.
It’s so awesome to do. When you sing along with those high notes you always have pretend you’re holding a microphone in one hand and you have to pretend that you’re holding a giant apple in the other over your head. For some reason, it just always automatically does that [laughs]. It just happens! Man, that was the best question I’ve ever been asked [laughs].
What does 2011 have in store for Jake Dreyer?
I’m not really planning on doing anything else behind “In The Shadows of Madness” as far as touring but in the future there will definitely be a band based off of that. I’ve been working on some new songs and writing for the new album. The new album is going to be a full length album and it will have vocals this time. I’ll probably end up touring behind that one.
Jake, thanks so much for taking the time out to do this interview man. Please keep me posted on everything that goes on and I wish you nothing but the best!
Thank you for giving me the chance to do this interview. I really do appreciate it.
For more on Jake Dreyer, check out his website at http://jakedreyer.com/