Interview: Chris Poland

Dan McAvinchey: Chris, a lot of fans haven't heard any instrumental tracks from you since 1990's "Return To Metalopolis". What were you going for when you started recording the tracks for "Chasing The Sun"?

Chris Poland: I actually had a bunch of ideas after my band, Mumbo's Brain, broke up in 1994, that I wanted to go in and lay down to tape. It just all seemed to come together and Francis DiCosmo (bass) would come down and Mark (Poland, brother) played drums with us. Before we knew it we had a bunch of complete tunes that we recorded.

My playing on "Chasing The Sun" really showcases the style of music I am into, jazz, blues, fusion, whereas "Return To Metalopolis" represented where my head was at back then, post-Megadeth. It is not like I set out to make a record sound a certain way, but any record I do always has influences in some way from those I grew up listening to, guys like Hendrix, McLaughlin, Beck, Page, Clapton, Trower, Weather Report, and Jaco Pastorius.

Dan McAvinchey: Where did you do the bulk of the writing and recording for "Chasing The Sun"?

Chris Poland: Most of the writing was done in Venice, CA, where I lived at the time, and the recording was done at Downtown Rehearsal in Los Angeles. The material heard on "Chasing The Sun", minus "Alexandria '99," was recorded on a TEAC 3340 4-track Reel-to-Reel Recorder that I had around.

Dan McAvinchey: Tell us a little about the gear you used to get the sound on the new CD.

Chris Poland: On "Chasing The Sun" I used a Bogner FISH pre-amp, VHT power amp, Bradshaw petals, an octafuzz, a Rotovibe, a Quadraloop, Marshall Cabinets (vintage 30s), and a bunch of stuff I can't remember. I used a PRS guitar on "Salvador." I really dug the sounds I got from the Rotovibe, like on "Song For Paul (33 summers)".

With my new band OHM, I still use the Bogner FISH, but have switched to a Mesa Boogie Strategy 400 power amp and play Yamaha SBG1300TS solid body guitars with Ernie Ball strings (10s). These Yamaha guitars are some of the best sounding guitars I have ever played. I have had Tom Anderson drop-top Teles, 4 John Carouthers guitars, a couple of Paul Reed Smiths, and all those Jackson and Hamer guitars. All these guitars and then a friend gave me this SBG Yamaha guitar, basically a student-model Santana guitar. I had to put it down after I played it. I couldn't believe this $200 guitar sounded better than all my guitars! Eventually all my other guitars sold and I have been playing my Yamaha SBGs ever since.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you feel your playing has changed at all in the 10 years since "Return To Metalopolis"?

Chris Poland: I think I have more ideas and have felt more comfortable to try new things in terms of fresh ideas, sounds, and tones. During those years after "Return To Metalopolis" I did a number of projects, including a fusion jazz band fronted by a female vocalist, Carol McArthur. The band was called Nothing If Not, and was a new thing for me. My solo work on the Nothing If Not material is some of my favorite guitar playing that I have done in my career. I have always played because I love the guitar and now since 1994, when I again started being in charge of the projects I was involved in I have felt the freedom to make the music I want to make and that I personally enjoy.

Dan McAvinchey: How did you hook up with Grooveyard Records?

Chris Poland: Well, Steve Bauer and Joe Romagnola of Grooveyard Records had heard a second hand copy of my 1994 demo from someone, where some of the "Chasing The Sun" material came from and approached me about making this 1994 demo recording the foundation of material for the first record release on their newly founded record company. I was really happy to finally give people the opportunity to hear all this music. Grooveyard also released some of the Mumbo's Brain and Nothing If Not material on another CD called "Rare Trax".

Dan McAvinchey: Tell us about some of the other current and upcoming projects you have going on.

Chris Poland: Well I am currently playing with an awesome bassist and drummer, Robertino Pagliari and David Eagle respectively, in an instrumental rock/fusion power trio called OHM. The music has a jazzy element. It is not really prog-like, but it's new, and it's heavy. However, we have a few ballads thrown into the mix as well. We have been playing regularly at The Baked Potato here in Los Angeles and recently did a show at Musician's Institute in Hollywood. I am also completing work on a recording studio, which I am really excited about getting into and laying down some tracks with OHM. Right now we are just recording completely live on DAT, but when we lay it down in the studio I will be able to accentuate the music more and see what happens with it. I hope to start laying down some tracks for an OHM record in January and hopefully will find a record company to release the material.

Dan McAvinchey: You worked with your brother, drummer Mark Poland, on "Chasing The Sun". Is it an advantage having a drummer in the family?

Chris Poland: Yes, definitely. Actually, when I did "Return To Metalopolis" Mark and I were living together out here in L.A. and it was convenient that he was right there to do the album with me. The relationship stuck and he played with me in Damn the Machine (1993), Mumbo's Brain (1994) and on the "Return To Metalopolis" material. He has always been there when I needed someone to play and he has always been a very solid performer on the kit.

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Dan McAvinchey: Do you get many opportunities to play the new material in a live setting?

Chris Poland: Well, as I mentioned the "Chasing The Sun" material is a series of recordings that I did thoughout the years 1994-1996. We aren't playing any of that material live, except for the last track on the disc, which is actually OHM recorded live at The Baked Potato. My new band, OHM, gigs regularly around Los Angeles. OHM is my sole musical focus at this point and that entity is a completely separate instrumental project from the recordings on the "Chasing The Sun" release.

Dan McAvinchey: How do you feel the music press, including the well-known guitar magazines, are currently dealing with guitar-oriented music, especially from instrumental artists and bands?

Chris Poland: Actually, I never have read those magazines, but a friend of mine recently brought me a subscription and I have been reading it, but the type of corporate music that these magazines cover nowadays really doesn't interest me.

Dan McAvinchey: A lot of time has passed since you recorded "Killing is My Business...And Business Is Good!" and "Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?" with Megadeth, who've recently parted ways with guitarist Marty Friedman. Do you still keep in touch with any of the members of the band, and what do you think of the music they've produced in the '90s?

Chris Poland: I am not still in contact with any members of the band. Gar (Samuelson, original Megadeth drummer) and I were always close friends and grew up together in Upstate New York. We also played in an LA fusion band called The New Yorkers (late 1970s) before we joined Megadeth, which also featured Robertino Pagliari, who I now play with in OHM. Unfortunately, Gar passed away earlier this year. He was a true friend for a life and his spirit will always be with me and in my music. As for Megadeth's output in 90's, I thought "Rust In Peace" was a pretty good record.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you think you'll ever record another CD as heavy from top to bottom as Return To Metalopolis?

Chris Poland: It was where my head was at back then, after leaving Megadeth. I felt like "Return To Metalopolis" had to be a heavy record and I also enjoyed it that way. I really liked that heavy guitar sound and basically I have always played distorted even back when I was in The New Yorkers (LA fusion band of the late 70s). I have always been more into the fusion/ jazz spectrum of music and the vast array of improvisational opportunities that genre of music provides. I had a JC120 and a Lab Series 212 amp, and let me tell you, the first time I switched that switch from dirty to that clean guitar was like I was in a totally new world!

Dan McAvinchey: Are there any guitarists or musicians out there you'd love to record or collaborate with in the future?

Chris Poland: Right now I am just completely focused on the OHM project and getting my studio finished so we can get down to making a record. However, after that, whatever happens will happen, you know? If someone comes down to jam and it is sounding good then let's try to evolve on it and see if it can been taken further. When the studio is done I am looking forward to having people come over and just jam. It's what I love to do.

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Chris Poland, a guitarist first known for his work with the metal band Megadeth in the 1980s, is currently exploring his own version of heavy fusion, both on his current CD, "Chasing The Sun" and through his new band OHM. On a quest for fresh ideas, sounds, and tones, Poland is attracted by the open, improvisational nature of fusion and jazz, and plans to continue down his current musical path, playing live gigs and recording OHM's first CD.

Dan McAvinchey recently interviewed the busy Poland, discussing the nature of the tracks that make up the instrumental album "Chasing The Sun", and Poland's past, present and future in music.