The latest “15 questions” feature is with guitarist Tony MacAlpine. Tony is a highly successful and gifted guitarist, whose career spans more than 20 years having had the opportunities to play alongside leading musicians such as Steve Vai and Vinnie Moore. On the eve of the release of a debut album with new band, Seven the Hardway, Guitar Jar caught up with Tony to quiz him on his guitar equipment, technique and the projects he’s currently involved with…
…the joy of music making has nothing to do with blowing people away. I have had the greatest times mixing it up with the likes of George Lynch, Steve Vai, Jeff Watson, Joe Satriani…
- Hi Tony, before we get into the details of your equipment and technique, can you give Guitar Jar readers an insight to why you first picked up the guitar and how long you’ve been playing?
I got into Guitar from hearing my brother play constantly and hearing how he could slur and bend the notes was something of great interest to me. After some time he gave me my first Guitar and a played it and played it for hours.
- In the first few years in learning the instrument, which guitarist(s) were you influenced by the most and why?
Johnny Winter and Rick Derringer were really among my very favourites. And years later I was much into the playing of George Benson and Allan Holdsworth.
- You’ve worked with a huge variety of musicians over the years. Do any memories of collaborating with these artists stand out in particular?
Yes the very essence of having had the time to share with all of these great players is one huge special moment. Even as I associate with some of the young players coming into the scene I always cherish the moments. They are after all very important.
- Are you competitive as a guitarist? For example, if you’re playing alongside another guitarist, and they are ripping into a Lydian lead break, is your response to blow him away with some blistering shred solos?
No, the joy of music making has nothing to do with blowing people away. I have had the greatest times mixing it up with the likes of George Lynch, Steve Vai, Jeff Watson, Joe Satriani… you know the list is endless… so many players and its always a big thrill.
- How long have you been playing 7 string guitars, what model of seven string guitar is your preferred choice and what amplifier(s) do you use when you play live?
I play Ibanez 8, 7 and 6 string guitars exclusively and I think I got into the extended range aspect of guitars about 7 years ago. I use exclusively Hughes and Kettner Amps. Mostly the tri-amps when I can get a hold of them!!
- Can you tell our readers about your new band Seven the Hardway? How did you all meet and how are things progressing with the release of the new album and upcoming European tour?
Well I first met Stefania Daniel about 6 years ago, when I played in Buenos Aires, and we hit it off right away. She is really quite a talented player who is really willing to learn so much more… and of course I have known Virgil Donati and Mark Boals from previous bands such as Planet X and Ring of Fire. Doug Shreeve is a super talented player out of the Los Angeles area. The band is currently rehearsing very hard for the upcoming tour of Europe and we are all thrilled about the public awareness of us.
- At times, Mark Boals vocals remind me of the late Layne Staley from Alice in Chains. In fact, Mark’s vocals are one of the highlights of the Seven the Hardway album for me. Do you all work together to create the vocal melodies or is this something that Mark likes to keep control of?
Yes we all work very hard with Roy Z and together with the rest of the band to come up with all the aspects of audio that you hear. Mark is a very unique singer with many wonderful gifts.
- Are you a fan of amp/guitar modelling? In the studio, are you averse to using this technology?
Yes very much so. On the Seven the Hardway release there are combinations of real amps mixed with some great plug-ins. It’s very essential today to utilize what is available out there.
- Do you have to work hard at creating the guitar parts or is it something that comes easy to you?
Yes I work very hard at all the contents of recordings that we undertake. It’s really what makes the process so rewarding.
- How often do you practice and what do you focus on to improve your technique?
My time is really spent writing songs in the studio and collaborating with others. I do not spend many hours alone on drills, rather I spend much time playing live.
- Have you had any nightmare experiences whilst gigging?
Not really… I have been lucky in that respect…haha. Well once I fell off of the side of the stage at a Steve Vai show, but that’s another story… haha.
- Your house is burning down. What’s the one guitar item you would save?
I think I would save ‘em all!
- If you could form a super group using famous musicians past or present, who would you have on drums and why?
Well this is the super group… Seven the Hardway!! Virgil Donati!
- Lager or Cider?
Lager of course!!
- What’s the plan for Seven the Hardway for the next 12 months? Do you plan to still play with other artists or are you strictly focussed on working with Seven the Hardway?
Well if everyone keeps a close watch at www.facebook.com/seventhehardway and www.seventhehardway.net all the latest exciting news is constantly updated there. My personal sites are www.tonymacalpine.com and www.facebook.com/tonymacalpine will be listing all my other activities like my upcoming participation in New Zealand at the G-Taranakiinternational music week festival.I will be playing with Vinnie Moore, Tim Ripper Owens, Tony Franklin, and Scott Travis in the band Hail. Later that evening there will be a very cool super Jam with Jennifer Batten, Slash and Desiree Basset.