Interview: Dave Reffett

Dan McAvinchey: Let's talk first about the Shredding The Envelope project. When did you write the songs, and what did you want to achieve when recording started?

Dave Reffett: I've been writing songs since I was about 13. The songs on this record were compiled and arranged from all my riffs and ideas over the course of the last five years. The riffs were in storage on old riff tapes, and the lyrics were in Word documents waiting in the wings to be recorded. Then one day I got really serious about it and stopped procrastinating and making excuses and decided that I really wanted to make an album that I would be the first in line to buy - an album that really excited my heart. So I went into the studio in September of 2008 and worked off and on through July of 2009 and that's how the "The Call Of The Flames" was born. I'm so proud of this album. I love it.

Dan McAvinchey: How did you practice in order to get to the advanced level of playing you are now at?

Dave Reffett: Well first off, let me say thank you, that's a great compliment. I appreciate it. When I was a kid I lived in a very small town in Kentucky and there was absolutely nothing to do. Luckily for me, I just so happened to love playing guitar, so it worked out great. Back then I would play from the time I woke up until the time I went to sleep. On most days I would play anywhere from 10-12 hours a day. So that really contributed to what I'm able to do now on the instrument.

Nowadays, living in a big city like Boston and being so busy running my own label "Standstill and Scream Music" I usually try to play at least an hour a day. But in preparation for going into the studio for this record I did a lot of hand exercises playing lots of scale patterns in different formations in various positions all across the neck and just tried to get the blood flowing and get everything really cooking.

Then I played a lot just for fun and jammed to Kiss, AC/DC, Megadeth and all my favorites just to get my chops up. I also dug through old magazines and did exercises ranging from gypsy jazz to bluegrass anything I could get my hands on really. I'm always a student of guitar; I love it so much and I always try to keep my mind flowing with new ideas. That's a great way to enhance your lick vocabulary and expand your style knowledge. I also like to throw in instructional DVDs and practice along. I figure if I do a little bit of everything then something has to work right? Some that I really recommend are Michael Angelo Batio's "Speed Kills", George Lynch's "Guitar Bible", and all the Paul Gilbert ones are really great as well.

Dan McAvinchey: What do you think is essential for a great guitar solo?

Dave Reffett: For me I love something like "Tornado of Souls" by Megadeth, it's got great feel and expression, some beautiful note choices and amazing technique all rolled into one. I also look for great phrasing, some vibe and swagger, hooks, melody, beauty and elegance. All of these things make for a great solo in my book. Somebody like Randy Rhoads was amazing at putting all of that into one solo effortlessly.

But it really comes down to the song as well, because sometimes just a down and dirty pentatonic approach is what the song needs. Not to sound like I have a huge ego or anything but the solo on "I Just Don't Want To Say Goodbye" from my new album "The Call Of The Flames" is one of my favorites. I love how Its very bluesy and from the heart. It tells a story, sort of like a song within a song, which is what "Tornado of Souls" also really accomplishes brilliantly.

Dan McAvinchey: What are your favorite tracks on your CD?

Dave Reffett: I love all of them so much, it's hard to choose just a few. Right now I'm really digging "Caravan of Cannibals" with George Lynch because people are really responding to that song and it's getting tons of radio airplay. Also I love "Shredding The Envelope" because it's a nonstop guitar fest. The great Joe Stump trades solos back and forth with me on that one and it slays. I also love "Standstill And Scream" featuring Michael Angelo Batio and "Ruby Avalanche Red Flood". I love the whole album because it really showcases my playing style and has so many cool leads and hooks in the songs. Its also one of those albums that you can listen to all the way through from front to back and when its over you just want to start it again. I love it.

Dan McAvinchey: How did you go about involving the guest guitarists featured on the album?

Dave Reffett: Well I've always liked it when artists collaborate with other people so I thought about who I would like to have if I had carte blanche and could get anybody I wanted - in a dream world-like scenario. So first I put together a list, and it's funny now because I got 90% of the people I contacted.

First came Michael Angelo Batio who I had been a of fan of since I was 13. I went to one of his guitar clinics in 2008 and met him and asked him if he wanted to be a part of it and after he heard the stuff he was sold on it. Then came George Lynch and Chris Poland who I had emailed and they both liked the tunes as well. And then Glen Drover who I had met a few years back agreed to do it so that's when I decided to put two Megadeth guitarists on the same tune and that's how the song "Devils Roadmap" was born. Which is sort of like my little tribute to Megadeth.

Joe Stump is a good friend of mine from my Berklee days so he also laid down some blazing solos on the songs "Shredding The Envelope" and on the title track "The Call Of The Flames". Then for the drums I got the legendary Mike Mangini who I had jammed with at Berklee to play on the album. I had really dug his work with Annihilator and Steve Vai so I knew he could knock this one out of the park for me.

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

Dave Reffett: I really like this dude named Mike Orlando; he's a monster player. Also there is this Swedish guy named Mattias IA Eklundh. He's really quirky and has a cool style. KISS is my favorite band ever so I loved his jazzy version of "Detroit Rock City".

Joe Stump is phenomenal and I also found out about this brother and sister named Ethan and Nili Brosh who are both great. I like the dudes from Avenged Sevenfold - they're mad talented. This country guy named Johnny Hiland is killer. And some really underrated players that I like are Nuno Bettencourt from Extreme, Gary Holt from Exodus, Metal Mike Chlasciak, Chris Broderick, Mick Mars, Jeff Waters, Rusty Cooley, Alex Skolnick, Michael Romeo and Billy Gibbons. Also one of my friends, Jason Glick, is an awesome player - he was in a band called Depth Charge.

Dan McAvinchey: Other than guitar-oriented music, what kind of music do you like to listen to?

Dave Reffett:I love The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Little Richard, Charlie Parker, Kid Rock, James Brown, Paul Anka, Tony Bennett, the Bee Gees, Etta James, Michael Jackson, Charlie Daniels, Eddie Money and I really like a lot of old country music like David Allan Coe, Hank Williams Jr, Willie Nelson, etc. All the old outlaw country stuff, that's classic.

And I really love classical stuff like Mozart, Bach, Paganini, Mahler, Vivaldi, Wagner, and my favorite, Shostakovich. His stuff rules; it's like old scary music. He was metal before there even was metal.
I really love all of Ronnie James Dio's work, including the old stuff. Like back in the 1950s when he did doo-wop music. And the albums he made with Elf in the '70s are fantastic. I know I'll get some flak for some of these artists but I don't care. I also saw No Doubt once in concert and they were unbelievable - as a lead singer she is pretty much untouchable as far as her energy. And talk about having the crowd eating out of the palm of your hand. She's a true rock star.

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

Dave Reffett: I'm working on a bitchin' instructional guitar DVD that I'm really excited about. It's my very first one and it's going to be really great. I always hated it when I was a kid and I'd spend forty of fifty bucks on one and I'd get a DVD from an amazing player that pretty much only had all these really simple exercises on it. So this one is going to be really over the top with lots of cool stuff to learn on it. It will be one that can really take your playing to a whole new level.

Also, I just landed some major articles in Gitar Plus magazine in Indonesia, as well as an upcoming "Betcha Can't Play This" column for Guitar World magazine that I'm doing. That's a dream come true for me because I've been reading guitar magazines since I was a child. And there's a cool article in Hard Rocker magazine coming out about me soon, which I'm stoked about. They're sold in Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic and we've also been included on their free compilation CD that comes with every issue.

Also hopefully a tour will be in the works soon. I look forward to doing some performances and kicking some ass all over the world.

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Dan McAvinchey: If you could do a one-off album project with any guitarist in the world, who would it be?

Dave Reffett: Wow, what a good question. I have a few different ones. I'd love to jam with Dave Mustaine - we could really do some damage together. Me playing over his riffs, we would make some brilliant music.

I'd also loved to play with Paul Stanley from KISS. His songwriting skills and my playing would be lethal, and we could have all kinds of pyrotechnics and blow up the sky, that would be rad.

Also I would have loved to do an album with Dimebag Darrell. What a colossal loss! He seemed like such a great dude, very smart, and what a guitar player he was. I feel like we would have really liked each other and would have pushed each other to be better and better. We would have raised each other's bars.

I wish I had a time machine. I could just zoom all over history and jam with Hendrix and Joplin, everybody. Hendrix would have been great, he had a really cool spirit and what a talent. A guy can only dream right? Also I can't forget about Randy Rhoads. With me and him playing and Ozzy singing over it, that would have been off the hook!

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The Shredding The Envelope project is the brainchild of American thrash/metal guitarist Dave Reffett and outsider artist Nancy Taylor. Reffett started out playing in his native Kentucky and quickly became recognized as an extremely gifted musician earning himself a scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College Of Music. He's put together an impressive roster of guest musicians for "The Call Of The Flames", his shred/metal 2009 CD.

Dan McAvinchey collared Mr. Reffett to discuss "The Call Of The Flames", as well as guitar playing and influences.