Interview: Randy Jacobs

Dan McAvinchey: Randy, how did you all get started playing music, and what led to your selecting guitar as your primary instrument?

Randy Jacobs: My family plays guitar and piano so I kind of picked it up from them. I thought it was the thing to do. I started playing when I was four, but did not take it seriously until I was sixteen years old.

Dan McAvinchey: Where and how was "Look" recorded?

Randy Jacobs: Pre-production was done at my private studio then charted out for bass, drums, and keys, and recorded in New Jersey, and the rest at Carriage House studios in Connecticut where it was mastered by Phil Magnotti (Mike Stern, Victor Bailey). Effects were put on during mixdown. I like recording clean with some EQ-ing - whatever
sound I plan on using gets monitored in. This helps me get the right feel out of my playing - then the over all effect can be adjusted later on independently. I do double, and occasionally triple, track certain guitar parts like rhythms or melody lines that I feel need to be more pronounced.

Dan McAvinchey: When did you first realize you had the ability to write original music?

Randy Jacobs: Somewhere between age ten and fifteen. I made up songs that took little effort. Just goofing around with friends. Once I started to practice more on my chops I knew I wanted to be an instrumental guitarist.

Dan McAvinchey: Your music has a heavy prog-rock feel. Who are your biggest influences in this style of music?

Randy Jacobs: Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Tony MacAlpine, John Petrucci, Greg Howe, George Lynch, and so many others. When I was younger I would always get the latest guitar magazines, and if any of these guys were in it I knew I was getting an education on guitar. I first saw a video for David Lee Roth for the song "Yankee Rose" which was my
first introduction to Steve Vai. He plays with such intensity and passion.

Joe Satriani plays with a lot of soul. Greg Howe is just awesome. I got better at alternate picking listening to Greg Howe. George Lynch was a big influence when it came to the way I try to make my guitar sound. I don't sound half as good as he does. "Mr. Scary" is still one of my favorite songs. Tony MacAlpine just keeps putting out great music. We played one show with him along time ago, it was cool to be playing a show with one of my all time favorite guitarists.

John Petrucci is such a great player, I like the fact that when he plays his solos his entire band still stands out. I also enjoy the long progressions he writes with Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment.

I actually got to meet all these guitarists at the NAMM convention a few years ago, except for Greg Howe. All of these guys were normal people - they never acted like superstars, or guitar gods. It was a special time for me. I hope to meet Greg Howe someday.

Dan McAvinchey: What gear did you use to record the Jacobs Ladder CD "Hostile Environment", and how important a role do you think the selection of recording equipment and instruments plays in the final quality of the album?

Randy Jacobs: Choosing gear for this CD was pretty frustrating. At first I wanted to use my custom T.V. Jones and Richard McKlusky guitars. Richard, and Tom Jones (T.V. Jones Guitars) built two beautiful guitars for me. I used them for years but they had mileage on them. One guitar went through three necks, and the Floyd Rose tremolo was replaced twice. Then that guitar died. So I retired the other guitar for sentimental reasons. After I conducted my quest for a guitar to record with, I bought an Ibanez RG 320 guitar to play some shows and record with. I liked the RG320 so much that I bought seven more of those guitars. The Ibanez guitars worked out great because they are durable, affordable, and easy to work with. I also used a couple of Ibanez seven string guitars. To me, the Ibanez RG320 and seven string guitars are the perfect guitars.

Amplifiers were another difficult situation. I wanted my sound to be so many different
things - I could not make up my mind. I wanted lots of gain, I wanted this,
and that. I ended up bringing in tons of amps, pre-amps, stomp boxes and
cabinets. We ended up using a Marshall JMP1 preamp, a Hughes & Kettner ATTAX
100 head, and a Hughes & Kettner Tube Factor through some Marshall 4x12
cabinets with celestion speakers. I used the ATTAX 100 head for some hard
rythym parts,and about a quarter of the solos. Hughes & Kettner is just awesome.

I think gear is important because you want to sound your best. I took it to such an extreme, but that's the cool thing about the studio - you can always learn and prepare for the time you get to record the next CD.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you get a chance to perform the material from "Hostile Environment" live?

Randy Jacobs: We are currently in the studio writing another CD. We did play a lot of shows to support "Hostile Environment", and we will continue to promote this
CD. I am really excited to get the new CD completed because this CD is going to be more of a collaboration. Henry (drums), Vince (bass) and I will be writing some of the songs together. Some of the new songs will have lots of changes in them. I will also be playing
keyboards on some tracks as well.

Dan McAvinchey: How have you been promoting "Hostile Environment"?

Randy Jacobs: We have been promoting "Hostile Environment" at shows, music stores and the Internet. Guitar Nine is doing such a great job promoting this CD. Jacobs Ladder has a lot of fans worldwide because of the way they promote our CD. Also Web Market West has been maintaining my web site, and is hands down the best web design ,web hosting and web marketing company in the world. Web Market West really cares about their clients. My music would be nowhere without them.

Dan McAvinchey: How do you feel about the national press and how they are currently covering guitar-oriented music? Do you think there is a bias against instrumental artists?

Randy Jacobs: That's a tough one. I think they have to go with whatever is popular with the public. They have to go with what makes money. I know it's sad. I think there are so many guitar players who are not getting recognized, like Toshi Iseda, Greg Howe and Tony MacAlpine. These guys have been playing so long and I have not seen a feature on them. I also have not seen John Petrucci on a cover. I am not putting any of these magazines down, because I still enjoy reading them. I can't blame the writers and editors because they have a job to do, and they do it well. Every guitarist they feature is a great guitarist. I just wish to see more of my favorites, and I know I'm not alone on this topic.

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Dan McAvinchey: What do you think the future holds for digitally distributed music such as mp3s or other forms of digital music?

Randy Jacobs: I think mp3s are going to help independent musicians take off. Musicians will get more exposure. I think it will hurt the big record companies down the road. I can download music like everyone else, but I will always go to the record store to buy a CD, because I want the J-Card and stuff like that.

Dan McAvinchey: What do you have planned for the next year or two?

Randy Jacobs: A new Jacobs Ladder CD, which is currently in the works. This is going to be different because both Henry and Vince are doing some of the writing. We
are going to be a lot more structured on this project. Vince is a great bass player. I know I will learn a lot from him this time around. Henry and I are focusing a lot on rhythm ideas as well. I am also writing songs for an acoustic CD. I'm not sure I will put it out, these are songs I always wanted to record with some friends of mine. If I feel confident about supporting an acoustic CD I will release it. If I feel I can't tour behind it , then I will have some cool music for myself. I'm not really sure how I am going to produce an acoustic CD. There are a lot of things to consider. We'll see!

Dan McAvinchey: If you could put together a 'dream session' of players outside your band for a once-off album, who would they be?

Randy Jacobs: I would like to be one of the guitarists for Steve Vai's band. I know that would be a blast. I saw Steve Vai on the first G3 tour at the Hollywood Bowl. Everyone in his band had a great time. I think being one of the guitarists for his band would be the ultimate musical experience.

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Randy Jacobs is the guitarist and producer with the hard rock band Jacobs Ladder, whose debut CD "Hostile Environment" displays sufficient examples of metallic mayhem. Jacobs and his band mates bring out the jackhammers for a number of tracks, but are also capable of delivering sensitive and heartfelt acoustic numbers between their shredded assaults. The band is currently in the studio working on a follow up album.

Dan McAvinchey tracked down Jacobs and asked the guitarist about his early days in music, his gear, and his feelings about the current musical scene.