Interview: Ivan Rivera

Dan McAvinchey: Ivan, when did you first discover music, and what led to your interest in the guitar?

Ivan Rivera: I started playing when I was twelve. A friend of mine showed me the AC/DC "Live At Donington" DVD and he also had a guitar. I didn't start taking it seriously until I was sixteen. Up until then it had been just me learning by myself from tabs. Then I started learning blues records solely by ear. That's when it all really started for me.

Dan McAvinchey: Was your latest album self-released, and was that your intention from the beginning?

Ivan Rivera: I'll be releasing three instrumental EPs and they're all being released independently. The first one ("Darker Shades Of Blue") is out. There wasn't much of a market for instrumental blues-rock in 2014 I guess so I just decided to release them myself. The songs weren't written so I could become a rock star and get rich so I didn't really want to go through the whole label thing. They were personal recordings, and I enjoy playing the hell out of them. I just hope that other people dig them.

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

Ivan Rivera: I play instrumental blues and rock. Freddie King's instrumental records really had an impact on me. I can't sing but those records showed me there's still a lot you could say without vocals. I guess a lot of what I do is the structure and feel of those songs with a heavier edge from other influences like AC/DC, Guns 'n' Roses and Pete Thorn.

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

Ivan Rivera: I wrote the songs by myself. They came organically. I would jam and explore different concepts and I would find a riff or lick, and I would expand it and find other sections. And the solos were mostly improvised.

Dan McAvinchey: Let's talk guitars, amps and pedals - what do you find you favor when playing and recording?

Ivan Rivera: My main guitar is a '61 reissue Gibson SG, and an Eric Johnson Strat for some of the more straight up bluesy parts. I use a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe as my amp. All of the dirty tones come from my pedals: Suhr Riot, Ibanez Tube Screamer and a Keeley Fuzz Head. The Suhr Riot makes any amp sound like a JCM 800 and I fuckin' love it. And the Keeley Fuzz Head can be switched between germanium or silicon transistors, which I like to use a lot.

Dan McAvinchey: Are you using any social media sites like Twitter or Facebook to promote your CDs and music career?

Ivan Rivera: I'm using a few sites. I have my Facebook and Twitter pages but mostly I enjoy using Soundcloud and Reddit. As far as Soundcloud goes, it's like status updates but with audio, which is way more awesome. On Reddit I try to contribute to the r/bluesrock subreddit. It's probably my favorite one. I'll also be starting a few guitar lessons on YouTube.

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

Ivan Rivera: I think for now just trying to be sociable on a few sites and reach out to one person at a time is really starting to get me some small but focused attention. Eventually I might want somebody to help me in that department but I really enjoying keeping it personal and getting to interact one-on-one.

Dan McAvinchey: What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent musician?

Ivan Rivera: I like just being able to write and record without anybody telling me it isn't commercial enough. Not in any control freak way; I just think that it keeps it a bit more honest. I guess the only disadvantage would be not having label resources and different people focusing on different aspects but I wouldn't give up full control of doing the music that I want or getting to interact one-on-one with fans for anything.

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

Ivan Rivera: I would do anything to have been able to do an instrumental album with Freddie King. But of course his voice is amazing. So maybe it would have to be a double album; one all instrumental and the other with vocals.

Dan McAvinchey: I'll mention now that fans can check out your latest EP on SoundCloud and buy/download the tunes from. Bandcamp. Let's close with your future plans, what do you have on your agenda for 2014 and beyond?

Ivan Rivera: I'll be releasing the rest of the EPs soon. The next one is more traditional blues and the last one is an all-acoustic, delta style album. I'll also be doing some tunes with a friend of mine who is a vocalist. The first one is a blues about zombies. But the main thing will be releasing a full length album after all of that is done. I'm extremely excited about it just because I enjoy the whole process from creation to recording to release.

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Ivan Rivera is guitarist from Puerto Rico who has just released his first EP, entitled "Darker Shades Of Blue", which is the first of several projects he has lined up for the future. His playing is firmly in the blues/rock vein, as he mentions the great Freddie King as one of his biggest influences.

Dan McAvinchey asked Rivera to talk about his style, composing, and getting noticed in the crowded field of independent music.