Interview: Randy McStine

Dan McAvinchey: Randy, your new CD "Guitarizm" is quite an accomplishment for someone your
age. What was the inspiration for this CD?

Randy McStine: I get inspiration from a lot of things, but mainly music. An endless list of bands and musicians inspire me every day, and every time I pop
something on, it makes me forget about whatever stress or thoughts are
bothering me at the time, and I can just enjoy the music. On the other
hand, it's people and a bunch of other things that give me inspiration.
At the end of the day, I write or play what I like to, and I'm grateful
if anyone wants to listen to it. Enjoying it would also be a plus!

Dan McAvinchey: How did you start playing the guitar, and who was your first teacher?

Randy McStine: In the beginning, it was my dad's music collection that got me into music and guitar. I grew up listening to everything from metal,
to progressive rock, to blues, and so on. I was really into bands like Yes,
King's X, and Savatage when I was little, and as far as guitar players
it was guys like Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani, SRV, Gary Moore, and a lot
of other players.

I used to have this little plastic toy guitar when I was 3, and I'd jam out and sing along to "Walkin' By Myself". My dad also had a ton of concert videos, and I'd try and imitate Stevie Ray Vaughan and Kim Mitchell (who definitely has a spot reserved on the
"criminally underrated guitarists" list!), so it's always been something I've wanted to do.

My parents bought me a Fender Lead II and a little amp for my 5th birthday, and things have been going strong since. My first teacher was a really good guy named Tony Zampi. He taught me for about a year or two, but I owe a ton to my second teacher Jim Wilding. He started teaching me when I was 7, and I took lessons with Jim up until a couple years ago. We've had a lot of fun throughout the years, and he's taught me a lot.

Dan McAvinchey: Tell us a little bit about the guitars, effects and amplification you like to use to get your sound.

Randy McStine: My main guitar was custom built for me, and was used on pretty much all of "Guitarizm". It was built by a local friend of mine, Harris Thor, and
the thing just screams. It's a carved top maple body with a wide graphite neck, and I've got a Duncan Distortion and a couple DiMarzios in it. It also has a Wilkinson tremolo and Sperzel tuners, which are both very reliable.

As far as effects, I have quite a few kicking around, but I'm slimming my setup a lot these days, down to a wah (Crybaby/Bad Horsie), chorus (TC Electronic), and delay (Boss). On the track "Blister", I used some more vintage stuff (Univibe, Octavia, Fuzz
Face), but I keep it pretty simple.

I have a Marshall 30th Anniversary head that I use for pretty much everything. It's a great head, but I'm one of those people that is searching for "the tone", and the search continues. I really hope I reach the point where amazing amp companies
say, "please have this amp, it's on us", because I'm broke!

Dan McAvinchey: How did you record the tracks for the CD?

Randy McStine: I record tracks pretty simply. I layer a few rhythm tracks, maybe add some acoustic here and there, some little overdubs to spice up some
things, and some leads. Everything is recorded guitar/amp for the most part with no effects. Other than the wah and other effects, a lot of it is just done in the mix. "The Loner" was done all live in the studio, so everything on that track was whatever came out of the amp.

Dan McAvinchey: What about solos? Do you improvise, or you write your solos beforehand?

Randy McStine: Depending on the track, I'll decide whether I want to compose or improvise the solo. For the most part it's improvisation. It will usually
take me a couple takes to see where I want to go with the solo, and when
I find a certain mood, or listen back to some licks I like, I'll try to
incorporate those things to get the right take. I also love composing
solos too, because I can tweak to get it right, and sometimes I feel I
can say more with a composed solo as opposed to off-the-cuff jamming.

Dan McAvinchey: How will you be promoting your new record?

Randy McStine: Being that instrumental guitar stuff isn't really marketable to appeal to the masses, almost all of the promotion will be done on the Internet.
That will involve hitting up sites that are dedicated to this type of
music, and it will also involve me going to numerous message boards to
pimp the stuff as well. I've never been great at self-promotion, but its
something that has to be done. I will probably join a ton of message
boards under a ton of aliases to post about "Guitarizm", and that will
be that.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you get a chance to perform any of the tracks from "Guitarizm" in front of an audience?

Randy McStine: Yes, I get lots of chances to play the "Guitarizm" stuff live with my 3-piece band, RMB.

Dan McAvinchey: Are there other guitar styles you'd like to explore on future recordings?

Randy McStine: Yes. I feel I'm very limited as a player, and over time and with more dedication on my part, I will hopefully be able to play a lot of styles
fluently. I don't really know what kind of styles I will try to
incorporate, but I basically want to build a toolbox of knowledge and
techniques to keep around and pull out whenever I want to. I don't want
to specialize in anything particularly, but I want to be able to do a
bit of everything.

Dan McAvinchey: How often do you find time to practice these days?

Randy McStine: As far as practicing goes, I will tell you right off the bat that I
don't practice as much as I should. I wish I did, but I don't. On the other hand, I do have a life that I'm happy with, and I'm glad I don't sit in a room for eight hours a day just playing. That aside, when I do practice, I'm either focusing on technique, or on songwriting. Sometimes I'll just try to write songs for a period of time, and abandon working on any new techniques. Then, I'll get away from songwriting and get the
desire to build my chops more. Its usually one or the other.

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Dan McAvinchey: If you could jam, or do an album, with just one other guitarist, who would it be?

Randy McStine: That's a tough question! I have so many idols and all of them could put me to shame (Jeff Beck being at the top of my list), but I'd love to jam with Ty Tabor from King's X. First off, to me Ty is hands down, one of the best and most underrated guitarists around, and he has been for years. I'm a diehard King's X fan, and everything the guy plays is gold. His tone and feel can be second to none, and when he wants to rip, look out! He is probably my favorite rhythm player of all time, along with being one of my favorite lead players as well. I've gotten to know Ty a
little bit over the last few years, and he is a really down-to-earth guy who actually digs some of my stuff, so that could help the jam situation! As far as recording an album with someone, I have no clue. I'd love to lay down some solos on some Beatle-esque pop stuff, or do some slammin prog rock, but who knows. Maybe I'll get to do it all

Dan McAvinchey: What do you see yourself doing in five years time?

Randy McStine: I wish I knew! I have many goals and options, but I'll take it day by day. It's kinda scary to think what could happen in five years (damn,
I'll be 23!). I hope to accomplish something really special by that time, because these days there is a kind of "here today, gone tomorrow" attitude in the air, and lives can go great or terribly wrong in the blink of an eye. I hope to avoid the latter, and be successful in music like I've always wanted to. I don't know where I'll be in five years,
but I hope to enjoy the ride and hopefully others will too. Thanks!

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Randy McStine (named after Randy Rhoads) has been playing guitar since age five (5) and half of his instrumental CD, "Guitarizm", was recorded when he was only twelve (12) years old, including a spellbinding encore version of Gary Moore's "The Loner". McStine is without a doubt one of the best young guitar players out there today, and there is more than enough insane, over-the-top, "shred factor" displayed on his CD to satisfy even the most hard-core guitar freaks.

Dan McAvinchey caught up with McStine to find out exactly how he was able to accomplish what he has at such a young age, and find out where he might be headed in the future.