Interview: Joe Stump

Dan McAvinchey: Joe, your latest CD, "Virtuostic Vendetta", like your last few albums,was released by Lion Music. How did you hook up with the Finnish label and what are the advantages for you?

Joe Stump: Lion released the last Joe Stump's Reign of Terror record, "Conquer And Divide" in Europe while Leviathan took it in the states. Up until "Speed Metal Messiah", Leviathan had released all of my solo records but after making "Speed Metal Messiah", I started talking to David (Chastain at Leviathan) and he encouraged me to check into some other labels, as he was kind of looking to go into semi-retirement from running the label and wasn't looking to release as much new product. So I contacted Lasse at Lion and we worked out a very nice deal quite easily. Lion has distribution throughout all of Europe and imports their product in Asia as well. While their distribution in the states is somewhat limited, with all of the changes in the retail end of the record biz in the last few years it really doesn't make a difference as most fans of instrumental music tend to purchase product thru online sites these days. The relationship between myself and Lion has been excellent ,they do a nice job promoting my solo efforts and the money/business end of it has worked out nicely.

Dan McAvinchey: "Virtuostic Vendetta" succeeds blending neo-classical speed metal, European influenced shred and old school hard rock. Was the combination a conscious decision you made in order to keep things interesting?

Joe Stump: "Speed Metal Messiah" was more of a completely balls out neo-classical/speed metal affair, so with "Virtuostic Vendetta" I decided to get back to what I had done on a few of my earlier releases and make a fairly diverse record. That's the way I naturally play and compose, blending all different schools of metal and hard rock. I mean, I love classical music, Bach, Vivaldi, Paganini, Mozart, Beethoven. I'm also heavily influenced by all of the European hard rock/metal guitar masters like Ritchie Blackmore, Yngwie Malmsteen, Uli-Jon Roth, Michael Schenker and Gary Moore. I also like speed/thrash and power metal - Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, Megadeth, Accept, etc., as well as old school guys like Hendrix, Robin Trower and Frank Marino. So when you combine all those things guitar-wise and compositionally and you can see how I'd make this type of record.

Dan McAvinchey: How has your approach to writing rhythm and lead guitar parts evolved since "Guitar Dominance", through "2001: A Shred Odyssey" and now for "Virtuostic Vendetta"?

Joe Stump: I'm extremely dedicated to my craft so I'm always playing, touring and practicing and always trying to improve on what I've done previously. My playing, the compositions, the guitar tones, and the production are always better and more developed with each release. While there's a somewhat common thread between all of my solo records you can hear that "Virtuostic Vendetta" is my best work to date in every facet of my playing and writing. I manage to balance and combine the super technical shred stuff and neo-classsical fret frying with all of the old school rock attitude and balls. And it's showcased in tunes with cool riffs and strong melodies, after all it's supposed to be music, not some stupid fancy guitar exercise nonsense.

Dan McAvinchey: What are your favorite tracks on "Virtuostic Vendetta"?

Joe Stump: I like quite a bit of the record in that some tunes I'm pleased with how they turned out recording-wise, while others I really love to play live. But if I had to pick a few it'd be "Blackmore's Boogie", for obvious reasons, as anyone that knows me knows I'm a huge Blackmore fanatic, and on that track I really managed to capture something special by channeling his vibe and combining it with my thing. Same goes for "The Dance of Kashani", it's another heavily influenced Blackmore track with touches of Uli Jon Roth in spots . Both of those have become staples of my live show. I also like "Chasing The Dragon", "Fire And Brimstone" and "The Witching Hour"; with those, my heavy Malmsteen influence is quite evident. I'm still a huge guitar fan. and I've got no problem whatsoever tipping the hat to my influences. I also like "Pistol Whipped" quite a bit. as that's the heavier side of my playing riff-wise . I like combining heavy riffage with cool snakey single note stuff. All and all. it's a strong record and I'm playing quite a bit of it these days at both shows and clincs.

Dan McAvinchey: How often do you get the chance to showcase your instrumental music in a live setting?

Joe Stump: All the time, I'm very fortunate in that I get to tour and play live quite a bit. I've been all over the world playing. I tour with my solo stuff in Europe regularly, as well as do shows and clincs in the states as well. And in a couple weeks, I'm off doing a small solo tour in Mexico - I've been there several times. I'm also happy to say that my fan base continues to grow, so considering the state of the music biz these days I've got no complaints.

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

Joe Stump: There's an official "dot com" site and a Joe Stump Myspace page as well. The labels that release my records both Lion Music and Magic Circle Music promote my releases on their sites as well.

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

Joe Stump:It's a special niche, many people enjoy listening to someone play the shit out of the guitar and showcasing it inside good music. Trends will come and go, and while the audience for instrumental/shred guitar music might fluctuate, there always going to be a strong core audience of people that enjoy that thing. Many of them are players themselves, and many are just huge guitar fans.

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

Joe Stump: Most of the time when I'm going to listen to guitar, it'll be one of my heroes (Blackmore, Malmsteen, Uli Roth, Michael Schenker, Gary Moore, Hendrix). But some great players I also really like that are killer are Andy LaRocque from King Diamond, Hank Sherman, Mike Wead and Michael Denner from Mercyful Fate, and Wolf Hoffman from Accept. Walter Giardino from Rata Blanca - he's a great Blackmore/Malmsteen inspired player from Argentina. Norifumi Shima and Katsu Ohta, are two monster neo-classical guys from Japan. I ve also been listening to Toby Knapp's latest release "The Campaign". Toby's a great player that combines heavy riffs with killer single note playing.

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

Joe Stump: Classical music mainly, all types of hard rock and metal (but of course that's primarily guitar driven). I like old stuff like Dean Martin and Sinatra. I'm also a huge Abba fan.

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

Joe Stump: I've got a bunch of touring with my solo thing both in Mexico and the States over the next couple months. Then I'm over in Europe with HolyHell (a power metal band I play with) playing some summer festivals. Then more touring in the fall both solo-wise and with HolyHell. I've also got two records coming out in the states in May.

The HolyHell debut and "The Ultimate Shred Guitar Collection" will be released in the states thru Magic Circle / Sony RED. The "The Ultimate Shred Guitar Collection" is a collection of tracks from my various solo records, all remastered and there's a few previously unreleased tracks on there along with some video footage, a very cool package. So it's full speed ahead . But this year's going to be filled with a ton of live playing/touring which is always fun as I love to play live.

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

Joe Stump: When I think of doing something with other guitar players, it's really more in a live G3 type of touring package then as opposed to recording a record. As far as the live thing goes there's far too many to name (any of my heroes of course) . But if I had to pick I'd say the real guitar legends like Jeff Beck, Blackmore or Al Di Meola. It'd really be a learning experience going out there with one of those guys.

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Joe Stump should literally need no introduction. The Shred Lord has baen raining down full-throttle neo-classical shred ever since the 1993 "Guitar Dominance" release on Leviathan Records - that's a full seventeen years of solo releases, band projects (Reign of Terror, HolyHell), clinics, live shows, ridiculously precise sweeps, jaw-dropping legatos, and intense alternate picking.

Dan McAvinchey caught up with Stump in this late-night, eleventh hour, virtual interview session, in which they discussed his latest CD ("Virtuostic Vendetta"), his music tastes, and ongoing career.