Interview: T.D. Clark

Dan McAvinchey: T.D., your CDs "Personalities" and "Perspective" are some of the favorites here on the Guitar Nine site. What did you plan to do differently when you started recording "Perspective"?

T.D. Clark: When I began recording "Personalities", I was just looking to do a cool guitar CD for my own enjoyment and it ended up landing me a big time lawyer, a national tour and gigs in England. So when it came time to record "Perspective" I was looking at a major undertaking to try and outdo the success of my first CD. While my first CD was a look at all the types of music that I write and play, I wanted the second one to just rock out, throw it on and head onto the highway type of thing.

Dan McAvinchey: Where did you record "Perspective"?

T.D. Clark: The CD was recorded on 24 track tape at Hot Ham and Cheese studios in Chicago and then dropped onto the digital realm for guitar recuts, re-EQ-ing and mastering at Monster Mix Studios in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Dan McAvinchey: Did you use any guest musicians or producers on this release?

T.D. Clark: Guitar virtuoso Michael Angelo co-produced the CD and really gave some much needed direction and inspiration. I had finished the CD but wasn't happy with the quality and some of my playing, and had run into Angelo when we were both judges at Guitar Centers' Guitarmageddon contest finals in Chicago. I asked him if he might take a listen and let me know what he thought. A few days later he called and said that while it had some problems he assured me that we could fix them. He thought there was some great songs and playing there to start with. We ended up keeping over half the original guitar tracks. He was so cool and worked extra time to make it happen.

Dan McAvinchey: How do you usually get the ideas for your compositions?

T.D. Clark: I usually will come up with ideas by throwing on my drum machine and just playing riffs, or by sitting in front of the TV and getting inspiration from whatever is on. I wrote the song "The Fugitive" while watching the movie of the same name. All the action was incredible, and the song turned out to be just as intense. Sometimes I will try to write using a certain mode or oddball chord to get a certain sound, but if the riff ends sounding forced because of this, I won't use it. I hate when songs are forced because a player wants to use his or her favorite lick and it doesn't fit the song.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you plan to continue to record and release instrumental guitar solo albums in the future?

T.D. Clark: I want to do an all-instrumental Latin fusion CD, a la Strunz and Farah, as well as another electric instrumental CD. I am working with some vocalists as well and want to do a full vocal CD in the near future. I am also writing songs for some extreme sports videos and movies.

Dan McAvinchey: How do you think touring as much as you have has affected your guitar playing?

T.D. Clark: I think touring teaches you how to entertain an audience. One thing that instrumental players forget is that an audience wants to be entertained and you need to oblige them. Don't just stand there and rip out, run around and get the people into the show! It tightens up your band and your own playing, but it also exposes your shortcomings, which is a good thing. Guitarists tend to avoid their weak points and concentrate on their strengths, when we need to do just the opposite.

Dan McAvinchey: Are there any other guitarists or musicians you'd love to record or collaborate with in the future?

T.D. Clark: I would love to work or play with Strunz and Farah, Al Dimeola, Paco De Lucia, John McLaughlin, Adrian Vandenberg, Yanni, Sting, John Petrucci, Mike Stern, The Brecker Brothers, Peter Frampton, Satch, Dennis Chambers. The list could go on and on. I think even more importantly than playing with them would be the educational part involved. You would learn so much.

Dan McAvinchey: What do you think sets the music of T.D. Clark apart from the other guitarists out there?

T.D. Clark: I have gotten the moniker the "Happy Shredder" because I write a lot of songs in major keys. I am really tired of instrumental music being predominantly minor sounding. I mean I have minor songs as well, but I really make an effort to mix it up. I also think that when structuring a song, it is not necessary to throw in every speed lick and sweep, string skip, etc. that I know. I have songs that are nuts but only if it calls for it. This leaves the listener wondering what may be waiting for them on the rest of the CD.

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Dan McAvinchey: Do you ever feel underexposed as an independent artist?

T.D. Clark: I do feel that as instrumental players we do get overlooked, but you make your own bed. The exposure is there, you just have to go and find it. If gigging out is not working, try clinics, movies, radio drop-ins or other avenues for your music. Let's face it, we will probably not get filthy rich doing this type of music, but we can carve out a nice living if we are smart about it.

Dan McAvinchey: How do you feel the music press, including the well known guitar magazines, are currently dealing with guitar-oriented music, especially from instrumental artists and bands?

T.D. Clark: Guitar magazines are interested in selling magazines first and foremost. They have to, in order to survive. They do try I think, for the most part, to fill the magazines with real players and educational articles. They unfortunately need to put popular bands that have very marginal players on the cover to generate interest.

Dan McAvinchey: What advice would you give to a young guitarist about to record and release his first instrumental guitar CD?

T.D. Clark: Play what you want to play and do it with all your heart! If you believe in it, others will as well. Be smart about how you are going to record, get your band as tight as they can get and be serious when you are in the studio so the partying doesn't interfere with the creative process. Make sure you do have fun though because that is what it's all about. Oh one last thing, for the love of God, use a click track! (Laughs)

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T.D. Clark is an exciting, Chicago area guitarist who has several CDs to his credit - his 1995 all-instrumental release, "Personalities", and his latest CD, "Perspective", which is mostly instrumental with a few vocal cuts. Interestingly, "Perspective" was co-produced by super shredder Michael Angelo Batio, of Nitro fame. Both CDs showcase Clark's superb guitar stylings, smoking solo work, and top notch songwriting.

Dan McAvinchey asked Clark to talk about his latest CD and about the benefits of all the touring he has done over the years.