By Lisa Occhino
Named by Guitar One magazine as one of the 10 fastest shredders of all time, by Guitar World magazine as one of the 50 fastest players of all time, and by Guitarist magazine as one of the top 20 shredders of all time, we are incredibly lucky to have Joe Stump as the metal/shred guitar specialist on Berklee’s guitar faculty for 19 years and counting. Joe’s new album, Revenge of the Shredlord, marks his ninth solo release and arguably his best work to date. In our interview below, Joe discusses his musical influences, how he keeps shred guitar melodic, and shares the number one piece of advice he gives to his guitar students.
Berklee Groove: Congratulations on releasing your new album! What was the writing and recording process for that like?
Joe Stump: I’m always playing, practicing, and composing, so the tracks on the new record were written over a period of many months. I recorded all the guitars at home this time around. I have a very modest home recording setup but manage to get killer guitar tones so it works out really well. If I’m feeling inspired I can go into my work room, track, and get a bunch done. If one day it’s not happening, I’ll just hang back and not work that day. The keys, bass, and drums were all done in various studios and of course the mixing and mastering as well.
BG: How does the overall sound of Revenge of the Shredlord compare to your previous releases, or your role in bands such as Raven Lord and HolyHell?
JS: My new record solo-wise is my best to date, but of course just about every artist says that about every new record they make. But every aspect of this record is a step up and then some. The playing, compositions, guitar tones and overall production are all notches above my previous solo efforts. I’ve been at this a long time, so I’m always trying to improve my craft in all areas. It’s very cool when it all comes together. Even though I write tunes for HolyHell and contribute in many other areas, it’s very much a band thing. The Ravenlord bit I’ve just recently got involved with.
BG: Who are your main musical influences?
JS: Guitar-wise, my main influences are the European masters that shaped the way metal guitar is played – Ritchie Blackmore, Yngwie Malmsteen , Uli Jon Roth, Gary Moore, and Michael Schenker (Yngwie and Blackmore being my biggest). I also love classical music by Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Paganini, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, and Beethoven. I like and listen to all schools of metal and hard rock, as well as retro players like Hendrix, Frank Marino, Robin Trower, and Tommy Bolin.
BG: What were you doing before you started teaching at Berklee?
JS: I was in a metal band called Trash Broadway. We had a record deal and released our first record in 1989 and were playing and doing some touring. I was giving many lessons, both privately and at several music stores. In 1993, I released my first solo record, Guitar Dominance, that same year I started at Berklee.
BG: Has being at Berklee influenced you or your playing in any way?
JS: Maybe in some ways, but I’ve been playing metal and hard rock for over 30 years now. I love to play whether it’s touring, playing shows, clinics, practicing, rehearsing, or teaching at Berklee. For me, all of it’s always fun. I certainly convey that to my students. Sometimes in a lesson I’ll discover new ways to practice certain things, or come upon new variations of riffs or solo ideas that I might find useful. But whether I’m at Berklee or not, I’m always living, eating, sleeping, and breathing guitar.
BG: What’s the number one piece of advice you give your guitar students?
JS: That if you want to become a monster metal player and musician it takes hard work, dedication, and a disciplined work ethic. But also it should always be fun and enjoyable, and you should really love to play. If you work hard and dedicate yourself, good things will happen. The music biz is tough enough, and if you don’t really love it I’d imagine it’s even tougher.
BG: A lot of shred guitarists at Berklee – and even instrumentalists in general – tend to get caught up in the technicalities of it, and often resort to playing as many notes as fast as they can. How do you manage to keep shred guitar melodic and musical?
JS: Well it all still has to be music. Fancy technical playing is great and impressive, but it’s meaningless if it’s not showcased inside tunes that are melodic and listenable. On all my records I always have killer metal riffs and strong melodies, as well as all the ridiculous high-tech shredding. My stuff also has a lot more attitude and a rock vibe to it that a lot of shred/technical stuff doesn’t have.