Interview: Dejan Toracki

Dan McAvinchey: Dejan, let's start with the early days. When did you first get interested in guitar, and how did you learn and progress as a player?

Dejan Toracki: I've always loved music and took piano lessons from a really young age. I remember my brother buying "KISS Alive"! As soon as it went on, it blew my mind and I jumped around pretending to be Ace Frehley!". We always had 70's rock playing like Thin Lizzy's "Live And Dangerous", Zepplin, Rainbow, AC/DC, Bad Company and Van Halen's first album on vinyl, was just earth shattering! In high school, I was introduced to heavier Bay Area bands such as Metallica, Testament, Exodus and German teutonic thrash such as Kreator, Destruction and Holy Moses - I loved its violence and precision. I had read about Joe Satriani and Steve Vai as I was obsessed with Guitar World mag in the late '80s (and still have them all!) but when I was given a copy of "Surfing With The Alien" and then saw Steve Vai live with David Lee Roth in Melbourne during his "Skyscraper" tour, I became totally obsessed with shred! I wanted to learn every riff, lick, tap, squeal, scrape and dive-bomb I could.

Around that time our local pub in Springvale featured incredible acts every Friday such as "Roar", who's members included Virgil Donati on drums (later, On The Verge, Planet X, Steve Vai) and Joe "Cool" Laferlita (Roxus, Tina Arena, Peter Andre). I was blown away at how monstrous they sounded, their power playing through big PAs, the technique and precision. I could really see how cool it was to be a musician. I approached Joe backstage one night and virtually begged and demanded he give me lessons! He was considered one of Australia's best rock guitarists in the late '80s and '90s and he really opened the door for me with modal theory, harmonization, arpeggios, and tapping, and even playing diatonic scales using natural harmonics!

Dan McAvinchey: Was the "Deep Blue Cathedral" album self-released?

Dejan Toracki: My latest album is self-released, available through iTunes, Amazon and all of the larger online distributors. I am currently shopping it around to try and build a partnership and gain access to bigger markets. The album is also distributed locally through "Into the Pit Records", who have been great to deal with. They focus on local metal bands and really go to great lengths to support and promote their artists. I met Chris from Into The Pit as I used to play in a technical thrash band called Spectral Birth, and they recently remastered and released the back catalogue of demos. He was aware of my history, playing and style from Spectrals.

Dan McAvinchey: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard you before?

Dejan Toracki: Driving instrumental rock music, inspired by the ocean and surfing lifestyle!

Imagine the ‘Surfaris' song Wipeout being played with a nuclear warhead attached to it! A lot of screaming guitar gymnastics like fast legato, tapping, string skipping, whammy bar abuse and alternate picking over driving rhythms played by a live, cranking metal band!

Dan McAvinchey: Which of the tracks from "Deep Blue Cathedral" do you enjoy playing the most?

Dejan Toracki: My favorite song to play live is "Lost" because it has numerous challenging techniques that make it one of the best tracks I've written. I'm really proud of the job we did as a group. It is played on the Ibanez 7 string and has a very clean, atmospheric intro with a dark, brooding feel, then kicks in with a brutally heavy, slow grinding rhythm in B Phrygian Dominant. I love the rhythm Alan Mahood laid down. To me it sounds like something Gene Hoglan would have played on Dark Angel's classic thrash album "Time Does Not Heal". A heavy half-time feel with flailing kick drums. The song goes through twists and turns like an interesting 6/8 chorus in Eb with big overlaid harmonies, long flowing syncopated arpeggios, a Carcass-inspired rhythm and quirky whole tone inspired solo!

Dan McAvinchey: Do you get the chance to showcase your music before a live audience?

Dejan Toracki: I have performed extensively and regularly receive positive feedback and support. I think generally people feel they are seeing something very unique and different, especially given most bands playing live are doing Top 40 covers. I was fortunate to open for Joe Satriani when he toured Australia during his "Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock" tour. That was a life changing experience and I'll never forget the moment he introduced me to the Brisbane crowd. They reacted so positively which just blew me away. I also watched his entire set from side stage and then hung out with Satch and his band after the show. It's pretty hard not to be star struck, even though he was so generous and humble.

I am also locally endorsed by Ibanez guitars and regularly demo Ibanez, Line 6 and Laney gear in QLD music shops. I absolutely love the process of preparing, performing and touching lots of shiny new guitar gear! In addition, my band and I rehearse a lot and we love performing at surfing contest and sporting events - the crowds are always so amped! I have played numerous guitar festivals in both Victoria and Queensland, as well as with other World Music artists during their tours.

I am very lucky as my band that includes Sonic Edwards on bass who is highly regarded on the QLD rock, country, session and clinic circuits, My drummer Alan's (Mahood) playing is just fast, technical, clean and very precise - everything you want to see in a cutting edge player. Matthew Stuart plays lead/rhythm with me and is a well renowned guitarist and front man within the QLD metal scene. Even though there aren't many opportunities to play live, we are forever rehearsing, writing and searching for opportunities to gig and support touring artists.

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

Dejan Toracki: Yes, absolutely. My new URL is It is linked to iTunes and also offers a full experience of photos with rock-stars I've met, 23 guitar lessons (every single one in the key of E min), performance videos, album audio and biographies. There are over 20 videos on Youtube of clinic performances from solo and thrash live gigs.

I have a Facebook site, and I invite everyone to "like" my page! There is also a Twitter account @DejanToracki

My song "Waxer" is the main theme music to "Your 4x4" 4WD and camping TV show. I am told there are over 100 episodes and it appears on both public and pay TV and syndicated in over 30 countries!

interview pic

Dan McAvinchey: From a publicity and promotion standpoint, what do you find is working best, or not working, for you?

Dejan Toracki: The best thing I've done is post free, downloadable content like free lesson and charts on When I used to teach, the most common questions were around soloing. When given a rhythm, most of the guys would immediately resort to the favored Em pentatonic box at the 12th fret. So, to make life much easier, I have created a series of 23 charts which outline modes, arpeggios and exotic scale patterns on neck diagrams, so you can print it off, lay it in front of you and just run the scales to familiarize yourself with the shapes and how they link up. The idea is that you can play any scale from one end of the neck to the other, effortlessly. Every single pattern is in the key of E, and there are about 150 patterns in total. They become progressively more difficult.

I'm also posting regular performance videos on Youtube is generating solid interest, especially if there is an upcoming guitar clinic, but I'm starting from a relatively low base that needs some support.

I recently posted a couple of tracks on Soundcloud and my track "Atomic Shadow" went bananas with over 50,000 listens within a couple of weeks. That was the largest single networking event I've experienced. I have found this to be the most rapid way of reaching new people and keeping everyone up-to-date regarding new events, performances or releases. Twitter has actually put me in contact with some very cool people, so I am becoming a little addicted to it!

Dan McAvinchey: Why do you think certain music fans prefer instrumental music over traditional vocal oriented music?

Dejan Toracki: Unlike a vocal idea which can be verbalized and directly communicated to a listener, I think instrumental can be more expressive and mentally engaging. In all its forms, whether orchestral, chamber, jazz, drums, guitar, piano or even kazoo, musicians can express so many different ideas through fingers on strings or keys, sticks on skins, or lips on a wind instrument. Expressing an emotion, feeling, story or idea musically takes a level of skill and time to develop. I think this provides more interest to listeners.

For example, if you take 20 guitar players and each person plays an Em pentatonic solo, you'll be guaranteed every one of them will be wildly different. Then add changes in amps, effects, guitars, techniques, phrasing and it's limited only by imagination. How cool is that?

With instrumental rock/metal guitar music, combining the power, riffs, rhythms and polyrhythms in technical metal of for example Slayer, Coroner or Kreator with expressive guitar melodies of Joe Satriani, Steve Vai or Paul Gilbert, is just the coolest form of expression. But it's all relative and everyone has different tastes.

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

Dejan Toracki: Given how much of an enormous influence his music has been, I would love to collaborate with Eddie Van Halen. In my mind, no one has been as inventive. His techniques from perfecting tapping, volume swells, natural and artificial harmonics used creatively, ear for melody - I mean, everything Van Halen just screams fun, enjoyment, energy and passion for life. He has inspired an army of followers with good reason.

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

Dejan Toracki: I'm currently approaching several TV networks to see if my music would be used for sports segments that require driving, interesting rock. I often hear Satriani, Van Halen or Vai on sports shows, so figure, why not me!

There is a series of Ibanez guitar clinics coming up throughout May in Brisbane, QLD, so I am preparing a few new tracks such as Paul Gilbert's "Scarified" and "Curse of Castle Dragon", to mix things up.

Also, building my profile with online guitar communities, record companies, festival promoters and guitar fans is where I'm focusing now.

interview picture
Australian Dejan Toracki recorded his first solo album, "Deep Blue Cathedral" in 2000, and by 2008, was asked to open for guitar legend Joe Satriani during his "Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock" Australian Tour. He has appeared in many guitar and metal festivals, and regularly contributes to guitar product demonstrations and music store events.

Dan McAvinchey caught up with Toracki to talk guitars, his Ibanez endorsement, promotion, and playing live.