Interview: Al Estrada

Dan McAvinchey: Al, let's talk first about the new CD. When you first started writing and recording "Riffage", what were your objectives?

Al Estrada: Since "Riffage" is a compilation of sorts featuring songs from my
previous independent releases "Radiation Man" and "Freedom To Burn" and new songs, I went for more of a heavy rock/blues feel on some of the new tunes. I felt
it would help round out the CD and make it a versatile compilation having
different styles of rock, fusion and blues.

Dan McAvinchey: For someone unfamiliar with your work, are there influential songs or albums that foreshadowed or inspired, in some way, the musical approach you took on "Riffage"?

Al Estrada: I recorded a version of the Scorpions/Uli Jon Roth song "Sun In My Hand" and I would have to say that it influenced the other heavy rock/blues songs or sections of the new songs that were recorded for the CD. I always loved "Sun
In My Hand" and I'm glad I finally got around to recording a instrumental version of it, it was a lot of fun, Uli is a true master on the guitar.

Dan McAvinchey: What would you consider the 'non-guitar' highlights of the album?

Al Estrada: I can't really say there's to many 'non-guitar' highlights since I played bass and did the drum programming myself. "Riffage" is primarily a guitar CD. I'm hoping the next CD will have a real bass player and live drums.

Dan McAvinchey: How did you first get started in music and guitar playing?

Al Estrada: I started playing guitar around the age of 10; luckily I had parents that were supportive and I started lessons at a early age. Growing up with older brothers that were into music really helped so I was exposed to good music while I was learning to play guitar.

Dan McAvinchey: Are you able to showcase any of the tunes in a live setting?

Al Estrada: Yes! After some years of not playing my original instrumentals live I have finally started showcasing the songs live again. I've found a killer rhythm
section and we've done a few gigs since the release of "Riffage". It's an absolute blast to play these songs live and play with the arrangements and do some improvising. For upcoming shows please check out my website at

Dan McAvinchey: How are you approaching marketing, publicity and promotion for your new CD?

Al Estrada: As far as myself, mostly online, my web site and a few of the online retailers. I'm hoping to do more shows and maybe create a little buzz.
Sites like this (Guitar 9) and other online stores are a great way for exposure
of guitar oriented music.

Dan McAvinchey: Given the current state of affairs in the music industry, how do you feel you can set yourself apart as an instrumental guitarist from other artists?

Al Estrada: Well it's tough set yourself apart from other instrumental guitarists; it's really easy to get categorized or pigeonholed into a certain style. I
think I'm at a point where my style is distinctive enough to where someone
listening can hear that it's me. So to answer your question I would say
I'm just trying to play and sound like myself and be satisfied with the
overall outcome.

Dan McAvinchey: Elaborate on your experiences with the Grooveyard Records label - what do you find to be the advantages of that relationship?

Al Estrada: Joe at Grooveyard really pushed for the heavy blues vibe for the new tunes and I'm glad he did, I think it helped round out the CD for a more
versatile group of songs. The advantages to working with a label is the feedback
you get while writing. On my previous CDs I was pretty much on my own so it
was nice to get some feedback for a change. Grooveyard also picked out the
tunes from the previous CDs to include on the "Riffage" CD.

Dan McAvinchey: At this point in your career, where do you feel you draw your greatest creative inspiration from?

Al Estrada: Inspiration comes in cycles for me, I find myself feeling refreshed and inspired when I put the guitar down for a few days and then pick it up again. A lot of the ideas or riffs I come up with are usually accidental then those ideas I then try to create something and eventually a song will come together out of it.

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

Al Estrada: I can't really say anyone has caught my ear lately. I usually find myself listening to the music and players that I grew up on or discovering some older music of players I haven't listened to in a while. I've recently re-discovered Al Di Meola with the band Return To Forever - some cool fusion stuff - and Di Meola just kills on it; also some Allan Holdsworth with the Tony Williams Lifetime band.

Dan McAvinchey: What do you have planned for the future?

Al Estrada: Definitely more live playing! I also would like to get into recording
some different types of music maybe some new age/easy listening type of stuff, some heavy blues/rock, acoustic, and maybe a rock project with the "right" singer.

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Supreme axeripper Al Estrada has recently released "Riffage", a CD which combines tunes from his two independent releases along with new tracks - released through the enthusiastic heavy guitar label Grooveyard Records. World-class lightning fast leads and hi-octane killer aggressive chops mark this album, sure to be a must-have for fans of instrumental hard rock and metal.

Dan McAvinchey asked Estrada to answer a few questions about his new CD, as well as share his thoughts on playing and the guitar world in general.