Interview: Adrian Weiss

Dan McAvinchey: Welcome Adrian, let's talk about your formative years, when did you first get interested in guitar, and how did you learn and progress as a player?

Adrian Weiss: The key expierience that actually inspired me to play guitar was listening and posing to the German rock band "Die Toten Hosen" back in 1988 or 1989 with some friends in my room at home - using a tennis racket to 'play along'. At that moment it became quite clear to me that there can be nothing better in the world than standing on a stage and playing the electric guitar! At the time I was taking violin lessons, but wasn't practicing much. It took several years until I - at age 15 - actually starting playing the guitar.

At first I only played acoustic guitar, learning the basics and covering Guns 'n Roses and Metallica ballads. After about three months I bought my first electric guitar and started practicing for many hours a day. I got into my first band about a year later, and of course this was a big step, even though it took quite a while until I was actually performing on stage regularly. What really helped me develop as a player on the one hand was learning licks from other players (mainly through guitar books and listening to music), and on the other hand jamming along with recordings of bands I liked. For hours I'd sit and improvise along with Guns'n Roses or whoever, always hearing myself with the band and able to focus on improving my phrasing and tone to get where I wanted to go.

In the late nineties and early 2000s I released my first albums with my bands and gained quite a bit of live experience, and at the same time I started writing some instrumentals - many of which would later end up on my first solo album over a decade later. This also really helped me form as a player. Writing my own stuff and producing it at home on an eight-track. Listening. Practicing. Re-recording. Improving. Just keeping at it, until I really liked what I heard.

Dan McAvinchey: Great approach! Was your new album "Criminal Record" self-released? What is the story there?

Adrian Weiss: "Criminal Record", like both of my previous solo albums, was self released. This time I tried the crowdfunding approach and was able to finance a significant part of the production costs through pre-orders placed through the respective campaign. The pre-orderers had the priviledge of being the first to get a hold of the album, several weeks before official release.

Although my fan base is not as big as that of many other independent artists I know of, the campaign was quite successful, and I hope to be able to repeat this for my next album.

I think this is the best way to be in the business nowadays. Have a direct and close connection to your fans that order directly from you. That way you don't need to have a label in between.

Dan McAvinchey: What are you striving to achieve musically, particularly on "Criminal Record"?

Adrian Weiss: On the new album I reduced the amount of heavy metal considerably and went for a little more fusion and laid back type of composition. Also the new album is more atmospheric and dynamic than anything I released before.

Of course it still does get very heavy on various tracks, but there is much more room for relaxation on "Criminal Record". Basically I'm just trying to write and play music that brings enjoyment to myself and hopefully other people as well.

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Dan McAvinchey: How did you write the songs for your most recent album? Was it a collaborative approach, or did you work alone?

Adrian Weiss: As on my previous albums most of the tracks I wrote by myself, always giving my bassist and drummer some room to develop their own parts. Two of the tracks are based on ideas of my bass player Marcel Willnat, and I am very happy about his contributions. These tracks sound a lot different compared to what I usually would write. Of course, the leads I came up with myself, but the bass parts, progressions and structures in his songs just take a different approach, bringing some useful diversification to the album.

Dan McAvinchey: Will you get the opportunity to perform these new tracks in front of an audience?

Adrian Weiss: Yes, I do play live regularily with my instrumental trio consisting of myself, my bass player and drummer who also are active in the studio. We don't perform as often as I do with my main band Gloryful, but we do try to work concerts in here and there.

Among others we have shared stages with Victor Smolski, Christian Munzner, Yasi Hofer and Waltari. I really enjoy performing my instrumental solo stuff live and would love to do it more, maybe even play a tour one day.

Dan McAvinchey: Are you using any new or existing social media sites to promote your music?

Adrian Weiss: I am quite active on Facebook which is very useful for sharing news, videos and music with extisting and potential fans and friends.

Before release of the new album I launched a crowdfunding campaign via Indiegogo through which my album could be pre-ordered and acquired several weeks before official release. The campaign was quite successful, generating a good number of pre-orders also including my solo and band back catalog.

Dan McAvinchey: From a publicity and promotion standpoint, what do you find is working best for you at the moment?

Adrian Weiss: Well, the aforementioned crowdfunding campaign I launched prior to the release was by far the most successful promotional action I ever took in terms of generating album/merch sales. I will probably repeat this for the release of my next album.

Also - just before the album came out I released a video clip for the album track "Completely Cut Loose" that I co-wrote with Jen Majura, who is the guitarist of Evanescence. The clip inclued footage of us guitarists (Jen and myself) playing guitar 14 feet under water. This brought a lot of attention, but it did not generate a boost in album sales. Here's the video.

Dan McAvinchey: That's great, I am a huge Evanescence fan! Moving on - why do you think certain music fans prefer instrumental music over traditional vocal oriented music?

Adrian Weiss: Good question. I believe it's a matter of what you are used to. A lot of people simply believe that a piece of music can only be presented/conveyed with vocals and lyrics, otherwise it's just background music to them. I mean most big popular artists are singers and not instrumentalists, so it reflects onto the expectation of music consumers. People who already are into different types of instrumental music - like film music for instance - often have a different approach to music appreciation. The first instrumental music I ever listened to (outside of a movie score or classical music) was Joe Satriani. I remember I found it fascinating how this guy was practically able to create a singing voice with his guitar. It probably also - at least to a certain extent - explains why he is so successful.

Dan McAvinchey: Have you heard any new guitarists that have really caught your ear in
the past couple of years?

Adrian Weiss: Yes, I am always keeping my eyes and ears open for new guitar player stuff. Recently I bought the four solo albums of Nick Johnston all of which I can recommend, especially his latest two. Really beautiful compositions and feel.

Getting more intro the shred area I want to recommend Christian Muenzner who has also released two solo albums and a great neoclassical metal album entitled "Eternity's End - The Fire Within". Other "new" players I am into are Paul Wardingham, Raimund Burke, Dennis Hormes, Demian Heuke and Thom Mathews, just to mention a few.

Dan McAvinchey: What's up next for you, what are some of your plans for the future?

Adrian Weiss: I am currently producing and releasing a series of video clips of songs from my new album. So far three clips have been produced and the last one ("The Dorian Way") is being released as we speak (listen here). Several more clips are scheduled for production in the course of this year.

My power metal band Gloryful, with which I had the pleasure to do a two-week European tour this February with Victor Smolski's new band Almanac, is scheduled for a number of club shows and festivals this spring and summer and I am also working on setting up some more solo shows with my instrumental trio for this fall. A new Gloryful album is also on the agenda for this year. I probably will first get to work on my fourth solo album next year.

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Born in Germany, Adrian Weiss has been playing guitar since the age of 15, and has been active in the music business for nearly twenty years. Gripping melodies, heavy riffs, catchy themes and playful musical excursions mark his solo work, including his first two instrumental albums "Big Time" and "Easy Game", as well as his new release "Criminal Record".

Dan McAvinchey contacted Weiss remotely for this interview to discuss his new album, his crowdfunding experience, and playing in front of an audience.Photo © Moshpit Pictures