Re: Sandberg Masvidalien Cosmo (video and review)
Paul Masvidal Q&A
Paul Masvidal is a renowned guitarist, songwriter, composer and international touring artist. He’s best known for his work with Cynic, but had his hand in Death’s landmark album Human. He furthered his music creativity by establishing Aeon Spoke and has written music for television and motion pictures (through Still Motion Music), including the main title for the Emmy nominated NBC series Operation Junkyard, scoring the series H2, and having worked as a session guitarist for That 70s Show and 3rd Rock from the Sun., As well, he produced and played guitar on actor Jim Carrey’s children’s book and accompanying soundtrack, How Roland Rolls. One of Paul’s latest projects include Onward with Love (OwL), a musical collaboration with singer-songwriter Amy Correia, which music integrates elements of American blues, jazz and prog rock.
The music you have been involved in range greatly, likely making you one of the most versatile working guitar players out there. You have fused elements of progressive rock and metal, and even jazz, and then delved into television and movie soundtrack development. I would be interested to know what musicians and albums over the years influenced your playing.
My earliest inspirations were Andres Segovia, John Williams, Julian Bream, Django Reinhardt. Jimmy Page with Zeppelin of course, Alex Lifeson and much of early Rush's catalog, Andy Summers with the Police and their early records, Steve Howe with Yes, Randy Rhoads with Ozzy, Brian May and Queen, Steve Lukather, and Eddie Van Halen.
Then came players Alan Holdsworth, John Mclaughlin, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and some of John's solo records like My Goals Beyond were huge for me, Robert Fripp and The League of Crafty Guitarists, Adrian Belew, King Crimson's Discipline record is one of my all time faves, Greg Howe's album Introspection, Shawn Lane, Jason Becker' s Perpetual Burn, TJ Helmerich, Steve Vai's Flex-Able and Passion and Warfare, Joe Satriani's Surfing With The Alien, Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage and Baby Snakes, Warren Cuccurullo, Eric Johnson, Yngwie Malmsteen, Ron Thal, Scott Henderson (especially early Tribal Tech), Guthrie Govan, Kevin Shields work with My Bloody Valentine (especially the record Loveless opened my ears up to completely new ways)… the list goes on and on!
What resonated with me most are guitar players who were willing to try something new, and push the envelope in their own peculiar way. I tend to gravitate towards more outside the box approaches probably because that's what came more naturally for me.
I should add I’ve always been greatly inspired by composers like Bach, Ravel and Jazz pianists, Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans, and Glen Gould who's Bach Goldberg Variations are some of my all time favorite things to listen to. There's also horn players like Charlie Parker, Coltrane, and Eric Dolphy, and Pablo Casals Cello Suites is one of my great joys, Brian Eno's ambient music speaks to me on multiple levels, and Ravi Shankar's records especially his more experimental electronic stuff like Tana Mana is a massive inspiration...the list could go on!
Who do you find inspirational because of unusual talent or abilities?
Alan Holdsworth would be up there due to his sheer originality alone. Holdsworth approached the guitar unlike anyone out there, from his phrasing to tone, everything about his sound is completely fresh and distinct and instantly recognizable. Robert Fripp, especially with the League of Crafty Guitarists and his experimental work with Eno is hugely inspiring, Steve Vai really pushed the envelope as a rock guitarist and I would include Warren Cuccurullo in there as well, both of whom came from Zappa lineage and raised the bar in terms of super creative modern guitar playing in a pop context. Kevin Shields with MBV is sheer madness and beauty in the way he approached layering and the portamento tuning stuff, and then there's Jason Becker who appeared as a neo classical shredder but separated himself due to the deep feeling and melodic sense in his playing that was just absolutely gorgeous. He played with deep heart which put him in a different category than many of the shredders who may have had equal technique but not the same level of soul. Ben Monder is someone who I think is way beyond in terms of harmonic language and approach; he's composing some super deep stuff.
There are so many ways in which a person can compose music and come up with catchy riffs. Do you noodle around until something comes out of it, or do you have a different approach to song writing and honing your guitar skills?
I record song ideas without much editing and then go back and listen to see which ones seem to hold up, or resonate with me most at the time. It’s a process of assembly and disassembly until there’s a realized sense of a tune. I try not to intellectualize the creative process much and let feeling and intuition dictate direction, if possible. In terms of honing guitar skills, good ole practice always seems to work, but I often find myself writing music that forces me to practice and learn something new since it takes me out of my comfort zone, which can make guitar development a lot more interesting than just running scales or technical exercises. I'd rather wrap it in a creative blanket, if possible, so it has more of an immediate practical application.
I noticed you offer private lessons. Is this offered through Skype, in person or by other means? Perhaps you can share some of the concepts you would be teaching for rank beginners up to the more advanced.
I do both in person and Skype lessons, but recently slowed it way down due to my schedule being too tight with other work deadlines. I’m open to exploring nearly anything with a student as long as I feel I have something useful to offer. My favorite components of teaching are songwriting and composition, and developing a tune… whether that be with melodic development, chordal harmony or even constructing a solo in the context of a song can be an interesting process as well.
Previously you played Steinberger guitars, but switched to Strandberg… both headless guitar companies. Why the switch and how did that come about?
I was introduced to Ola from Strandberg through my friend Tosin Abasi who owned one I got to play. I immediately connected with the instrument. I still own a bunch of Steinbergers and will always appreciate them. They made some truly cutting edge guitars in their day, but when Ned Steinberger left the company much of the original homegrown luthier passion went with it. I actually do like the ZT3 model they last had, as well, and still own one of those too. Strandberg's attention to detail, practical approach to design, and the sheer ease of playing the instruments is like a dream to me. Of course having my own model is hard to beat in that I get to play my dream guitar, so it's an ideal scenario. They are always open to and interested in feedback from their artists, and are constantly refining their instruments to make the best possible. I'm super grateful they exist!