Dave Reffett is a metal and thrash guitarist, whose debut CD The Call Of The Flames with his band Shredding The Envelope garnered great reviews and a Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance and Best Heavy Metal Performance. He is a Berklee College of Music graduate and has appeared in Guitar World magazine as well as on the cover of Mexico’s Heavy Riff Magazine, as well as Asia’s Gitar Plus. He has a new Guitar World instructional DVD out now called Metal and Thrash Rhythm Guitar. Aside from shredding and rocking around the world, he is a stand up dude, and he was kind enough to answer Korea Guitar’s 20 Quesions.
1.Why do you play the guitar?
I started playing various instruments in the middle school band after hearing Mahler. My older sister got me into him. Before that I wanted to be a pro baseball player and thought music was a waste of time and allowance money. I got pretty good at the Tuba, but one day in the band teachers office, I saw a weird shaped electric guitar and fell in love. Then not long after that I stayed up really late to see Beavis & Butthead on MTV, because it was in all the papers at the time. After the show MTV aired the Metallica video for “The Unforgiven”. When I saw that, that was it! I went out the next day and got a guitar and I haven’t looked back since.
- A) What was your first guitar?
My first guitar was a Yamaha acoustic. Great guitar! Wish I still had it. I traded it years later towards an Ovation acoustic which I still have. It is Smurf Blue.
B) What do you play now?
Nowadays, I have many guitars, but I keep coming back to my Dean V’s. My favorite is my Dean #11 Custom. Only 100 produced worldwide. Plays like a dream. I also have a Gibson V that I love!
- Who was your biggest musical influence?
Tough question! Early on, I would say the Big 4 (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax). Then I discovered Kiss, who I love! But there are many artists that mean a lot to me. Everything from Ted Nugent to Etta James, Motown, Stax records songs, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Paul Anka, Tony Bennett, Sinatra, The Bee Gees, David Allan Coe, Hank Williams Jr. I could go on for days!
The very first show was a country show that my mom and dad took me to where I grew up in Kentucky. I loved it. I loved the energy, the spectacle and the sound. It was several small acts opening for T. Graham Brown and Confederate Railroad who were very big at the time. The first rock show I attended was The Foo Fighters at a little place called Caddy’s Complex in Cincinnati, OH. It was awesome! Grohl and Pat Smear were very impressive in every way. I am almost positive that it was before Taylor Hawkins. “The Colour and The Shape” had just came out, so they kicked ass through a ton of the songs off of the first 2 CD’s. Then that night, me and my friend Joe heard “Trust” by Megadeth on the radio and decided that we had to start a Metal band! We were in a fun but not totally fulfilling Grunge cover band. We played in that band because the leader had good gear and a big garage to rehearse in. Fun times. I was only 13. Feels like a lifetime ago now.
- If you could form a band with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Oh wow! Without over thinking it, I will say me, Dimebag and Randy Rhoads on guitar (a 3 guitar player band), Cliff Burton on Bass, Vinnie Paul on drums and the mighty Ronnie James Dio on vocals!
What song would you jam on first?
Maybe we’d jam some “Man on the Silver Mountain” and then work on some original stuff.
- What’s your dream guitar?
Hmmm, you know, there are so many cool guitars! I love old Gibson’s and Fender’s. I have always salivated over old Gibson Byrdlands. The ones that were made in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I also might say a really high end, custom shop Dean V or Cadillac, decked to the 9’s with gold hardware, in Ferrari Red with Gotoh tuners and really hot Seymour Duncan pickups.
7. List 5 albums that you think every guitar player should own?
1. Rust In Peace- Megadeth
2. The Call Of The Flames- Shredding The Envelope/Me
3. No Boundaries- Michael Angelo Batio
4. Tooth & Nail- Dokken
5. Blizzard Of Ozz- Ozzy.
That is just quickly off the top of my head. I could easily name 500!!
- Tell us about the best gig you ever played?
Shred Guitar Masters 2014 in Mexico City. The bill was me, Michael Angelo Batio, Metal Mike, Joe Stump and a great Mexican guitarist named Daniel Garduno. I killed that night as did everyone and the crowd reaction was spectacular. It was beautiful, almost like an out of body religious experience. I could have bottled that night and lived it over and over again. Truly amazing.
Haha! Probably one of the NAMM Metal Jams that I put on. Those NAMM jams were amazing, but due to unforeseen problems a few people didn’t get to play and so I felt very bad about it. I hate to let anyone down, so it weighed heavily on my heart and conscience, so I have since stepped away from organizing them. Too stressful. If I had been getting big money to do them I could have dealt with the stress, but it was a labor of love. I was lucky if the venue gave us a free Coca Cola at the end of the night..haha. And they didn’t! Haha.
- Is shred a bad word? (Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but there are always the purists who say “Gilmour said more with one note than Malmsteen did in 500.”)
You know it gets a bad rap. The word doesn’t bother me, unless someone is trying to pigeon hole me as a player. I love all kinds of music. To me there are 2 kinds of music: good and bad! Michael Batio was speaking once about the word “shred” and he said something to the effect of “Back in the day, we never called it “shred”, it was just taking pride in your craft and trying to be the best player that you could be”. That is the attitude that I like in regards to the word. People who are judgmental, will find something to complain about with almost anything, so to me, I just enjoy life with all of its give and take and value what is important to my heart. The fans and critics decide what to call things. We just play. For instance Van Halen used to say “we aren’t Metal, we are Big Rock!”
- I usually ask The Beatles or the Stones? Why? But for you I’ll change it to Vai or Van Halen?
Well I will say both! I love the Beatles and The Stones. Both incredible bands! I especially love the trippy era of the Beatles as well as there early stuff and The Stones have a vast catalog that I love. “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin” is a favorite of mine as well as “Beast Of Burden”. With Vai, I think he is a very talented player. I have enjoyed some of his live DVD’s that I have seen while hanging out at friends houses. I thought the one where he played with the Holland Orchestra was cool. I really like the song “Freakshow Excess” too. And Van Halen!! Oh man, don’t get me started! I LOVE Van Halen! I love Roth and Hagar and Van Halen 3 with Gary Cherone. Gary is a nice dude. Met him coming out of a Kiss concert in Boston and we had a nice talk. Can’t go wrong with VH dude! One of my all time favorite bands! I really loved the newest CD they did with Roth. Jason Becker and me had a nice chat recently about all things VH. Eddie is his all time favorite player and Eddie is in my top 3 without a doubt!
- What’s your secret weapon on stage, aside from your guitar?
Hmmm. Might sound cheesy, but I’ll say my brain. When I was younger I would get very high or drunk and go onstage and because of that I cannot remember some of those great moments. But now, I am clean, stay in the moment and will use my mind to make the show as great as it can be. I will read the crowd and give them what I feel that they want. The Shred Guitar Masters show in Mexico City is a prime example. I would look out and look in their eyes and try to read how to best entertain them. The Mexican fans love when I go crazy and perform with all my heart and soul. I play fast, I play slow, soulful, I give it to ‘em the best I’ve got! I also really love my pure titanium picks from Timber Tone picks. They are doing a Dave Reffett signature series pick soon and I love my Stone Tone Rock Blocks that are on my Floyd Rose Tremolo systems, and of course my Dean Guitars!
- If I handed you a guitar and asked you to play the first thing that came to your mind, what would you play?
Right now I would probably just improvise. I am always in practice mode, so I would probably just bust out a new lick that I am trying to perfect…or maybe we’d jam some Kiss and Megadeth tunes. Depends a lot on what the mood of the day is too I suppose. Today it is raining here, so maybe I’d play a little more emotional or soulful.
13. Name the three most important things a guitar player should know?
1. Try hard to be yourself, everyone else is already taken. We all picked up the axe because of our heroes and that is cool. But inject your own personality and spirit into it. No one has your exact DNA, so you don’t even have to do anything to be unique, different and special. You already are!
2. Work your craft! Never stop learning and improving. Learn songs to build a foundation, master licks, solos, chords, scales, learn it all! Then try hard to build your own thing that sets you apart. Trust the force, never give up, never give in!
3. Learn your gear. A carpenter must know his tools. Learn how to stay in tune well, how to get a great tone from your amp, and learn how to get great tone from your hands!! Very important! And know that as much as you learn, there is still so much more! Don’t make the mistake of being young, arrogant and cocky. Stay humble and be nice and it will get you far in this business. It’s a small world and music community, and if you want to succeed, don’t be the guy whose presence makes people cringe.
14.What’s the greatest guitar song ever recorded?
Well, there are so many, and if you ask different people you will get very different answers. So it’s a preference thing really. One that comes to mind is “Tornado Of Souls” by Megadeth. I also really love “Hot For Teacher” by Van Halen. But I love all styles. Al Di Meola is a master too. Hard question.
- Can you give us your thoughts on these players?
Steve Vai: Very good. I must be honest and say that I am not all that familiar with his solo work. I do really love “Freakshow Excess” and some of the DVD clips that I’ve seen. I’m a huge David Lee Roth fan so of course I know those songs, and that stuff is brilliant! Vai, Sheehan, Roth and Bissonette were a dangerous force.
Eddie Van Halen: To me Eddie is the Michael Jordan of the guitar. At his peak, in his prime, he was unstoppable. Like watching an alien from another planet play. And as a composer the man has written some of the greatest songs of all time, and I love it all! I’m a big Van Hagar era fan too. Great records. He is healthy again and sounding better than ever! Very inspiring to witness. I have seen some magical Van Halen performances.
Michael Angelo Batio: Similar to Eddie, Michael is up there with the best of the best in my eyes. Amazing tone, incendiary technique, he laid the ground work for what was to come. Guitar players out there owe him a lot! When you look at who studied his instructional programs it’s incredible. Dimebag, John Petrucci, Michael Romeo, me, Nugent, Trivium, Dragonforce on and on and on. Batio’s a legend. Great guy too. One of my best friends.
Yngwie Malmsteen: I like some of his songs. I especially enjoy the stuff with Ripper Owens and Joe Lynn Turner. Cool stuff.
Paul Gilbert: I studied a bit of his tapes back in the day, and I went through a phase where I was really into Racer X. I used to rock them all of the time at this fancy little wine shop that I co-managed in Boston back in the day. People would come in and look at me like “what the hell are you listening to?” Haha. It’s cool now, because I am friends with Jeff Martin the singer and the other guitarist Bruce. Great band!! And yeah, Paul is a monster. I have a lot of respect for what he has brought to the guitar community.
Jimmy Page: I was a late bloomer to Zeppelin. The band was done before I was even born. I must admit that I was always more of a Kiss and Sabbath guy in my youth. But now that I’m older, I of course Love Zeppelin. Like everyone else, I wish that FM radio would play more than the big 4 songs they play over and over again by them. I really love some of the deep cuts like “Achilles Last Stand”. Classic stuff! Legendary band with a ridiculous lineup of players.
Tony Iommi: The Godfather, the architect of all that was to come. The riffmaster, pure and simple! My favorite solo by him is “Turn Up The Night” and I love all Sabbath. Can’t go wrong! Ozzy era, Dio era, it all rocks!
- Anything new out that you’d like to plug?
Well I am very excited about and proud of my new DVD “Metal and Thrash Rhythm Guitar” from Guitar World Magazine. It is really good and I think players of all levels would really enjoy it. The sequel is being shot sometime this year and is all on Lead Guitar. You can pick this one up now at: http://guitarworld.myshopify.com/products/metal-and-thrash-rhythm-guitar Also check out the new Michael Angelo Batio CD “Shred Force 1”, I am on the song “8 Pillars Of Steel” with Jeff Loomis, Rusty Cooley, George Lynch, Batio, Andrea Martongelli, Craig Goldy and Elliott Rubinson. And on “Juggernaut” with Annie Grunwald, Chris Poland, Batio, Guthrie Govan, Michael Romeo and Mike Lepond. I had the distinct honor of being asked to write and produce that one for Batio. Also check out my new lesson series from China’s “Lecture Land”. Over 200 minutes worth of lessons with me for about 20 or 30 bucks. Cool stuff. https://www.lectureland.com/course/dave-reffett-lead-guitar-essentials/
17. Any new players out that we should check out?
Annie Grunwald is a dear friend of mine and a fantastic player! She’s an amazing musician all the way around. She sings and plays piano just as well as she plays guitar and she’s a brilliant composer. Joe Gettler from Razormaze and Ryan from the Deadstation are great too. And check out this new kid Tyler Morris. He’s only 16 and plays great. He has a new CD out called “And so it begins”. Also, my friend Dave Thibodeau is a great player. He is in the classic rock vein (Jimmy Page, Joe Perry, Brian May etc..) and is like a walking musical encyclopedia.
I could go on, so many good ones out there.
- Who’s the best guitarist you’ve ever shared a stage with?
I’d say Batio. He is so committed to his craft and always plays at his top level. He is a very impressive human being. Very inspiring player.
- What’s in the future for you?
I am writing new stuff for a few projects. I teach a lot. I’m excited for my new Guitar World DVD, and there are 2 big international shows that I will be doing in 2015. Can’t wait. I enjoy traveling to new places.
- What advice would you give to kids who dream of being a musician?
Well, I would say, have fun and always be yourself. Play the best that you possibly can. If you half ass your practice you will sound and perform that way too…so practice! Then in the big picture, if they wish to do music as a career, I would ask them to think long and hard about it and make sure that it is what they want. It is not an easy life sometimes, even at a pro level. It is a very physically and mentally demanding profession. Some people simply are not cut out for it. I would tell them to aim for the sky, but don’t be hard on themselves if everything doesn’t work out exactly how they’d like it to. There are so many variables in this business, you just do your best, rock as hard as you can and have fun.