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Posts Tagged ‘Ireland’

Allan Irvine: Guitarist, mentalist, madman. No, seriously. Who wears this outfit in Northern Ireland for fun?

Allan has been a good friend to me over the years, is another guitar.com find,  and was nice enough to include me on a project a year ago. Video after the interview. Ladies and gentlemen, Allan Irvine!


How did you first get into guitar? 

AI: I blame my Uncle. He was a total rocker/metal-head when I was still in primary school (7-8 years old) and I was the only kid in my class with a cut-off denim jacket that had a huge Led Zep painting on the back. It rocked! I sat every weekend listening to AC/DC, Saxon, Led Zep, KISS, WASP, Scorpions,Iron Maiden….. y’know…….late 70’s and early 80’s rock and metal. Getting into the guitar as an instrument and not just a bringer of wonderful noise was a logical conclusion almost. It was years after that when it happened though.

How old were you?

AI: I was 18. I’d just started college after getting 7 G.C.S.E’s at 16 and then a Higher National Diploma at 17. When I went on to A-level study at 18 I had my first proper job and the guitar was my first purchase with my 2nd wage packet. My girlfriend at the time wasn’t happy about it, but I didn’t give a shit. It was my ambition from school, my money, and my hard work that made that money. She soon became an ex, and my guitar was my mistress!

Was it your first instrument?

AI: No, I started off in primary school with a little recorder, then a Tenor Horn in secondary School. I hated them, I always wanted to play the guitar, and my music teacher wouldn’t let me near the Strat that the school music room had because he was a first class prick. I could have asked my folks, but I had too much pride and dignity and knew they couldn’t afford one. I had a great upbringing, but financially a tough one. My parents worked hard and what we had was minimal, but I seriously can’t fault it. I could never have asked them for anything as expensive as a guitar when I was a kid and I knew I’d buy my own some day. And I did…….now I have serious G.A.S!!! (editor’s note : Gear Acquisition Syndrome)

How did you first learn, who taught you?

AI: Guitar tablature was my teacher, addiction and entertainment for a few years when I first started out. I loved learning new songs and it never took much time to get to grips with them as I learn at an extraordinary rate. Within a year of first plugging in my very first guitar I was playing things like “Midnight” by the mighty Joe Satriani almost note perfect.

“I can be happy in knowing that I’m still enjoying the challenge.”


Kids now don’t realize how easy it is for them with the Internet and Youtube etc. I think some of these kids are amazing. But they have access to a world that we didn’t have when I was growing up. Jeez, even the tablature we got was awful sometimes, nowhere near the bloody song you were trying to learn! After a while though I was able to pick up most things by ear and transfer them to the neck as I learned and progressed. I can pick up styles and licks that others use and adapt them to my own way of playing. Anyone who says this is just copying is a dick. Sure, if I met a bunch of Beatles fans on Twitter and set up a cover band called “The Tweetles” or some equally as shitty pun, playing all their songs and dressing like them, then I’d agree! Fucking right I would. Those guys are assholes. But say if a classically trained pianist had studied some Chopin pieces then totally arranged, composed and played his OWN work including little Chopin-esque elements, does that make him any less of a musician? Does it fuck! In a world with 6 and a half billion people alive, and as many or more dead, it is hard not to be compared to anyone no matter what you do. It’s just how it works. And if you can learn from your heroes and infuse or include it it into your own style and playing then do it. Every guitar player you have ever heard has done it. I recently heard Guthrie Govan playing a piece made up in the style of his heroes, and he uses their sound and techniques but plays it the way Mr. Govan can play it, his own way. It was amazing. Not only is he better than nearly every one of the musicians he referenced, but you knew who they were instantly without seeing anything to tell you. Does this make Guthrie Govan a copycat/plagiarist? Seriously? Fuck no. If he is then Steve Vai was wrong in calling him “The best guitarist on the planet.” Personally, I happen to agree that he is too.

What was your first guitar?

AI: A cream Squire Strat. It was an average guitar, but it was MY average guitar and I worked damn hard to buy it. As I said, I wasn’t a spoiled little rich kid with too much gear and little or no talent. I had my crappy little Squire and a second hand Vox 15 watt amp and I played the shit out of them until I could move on to better things.

Tell me a little about your gear and your sound.

AI: At present I’ve got a Schecter Damien Elite 8-string tuned E,B,E,A,D,G,B,E I think!? I love that thing. You start off with a catchy little progression then “Berrrrrrrrrrr…….RAWK!!!” I totally skipped the whole 7-string phase and leapt from 6 to 8. It was a new challenge and I’m loving it so far. I also own an Ibanez JS, a few home-built Strats, an old Crafter Bass for recording (redundant now I have the Schecter, it has all the bass included!) and a battered old acoustic for practice. On the DAW front I have a Line 6 UX-1 running through Abelton. It will soon be replaced by a Line 6 HD500. I also run a Boss ME-25 now and again for different tones and effects. I don’t have a dedicated sound or tone and I change it constantly to fit whatever I have in my head when I’m recording. I’m still useless at Abelton though so although musically I can get by, as far as recording and production etc is concerned I suck. I’ll leave that to the pedantic knob twiddlers out there. Let’s face it, in the studio it’s just you and the instrument, the engineers do the magic on the other side so why get all arsey (anal) about it now? For now I’ll be happy with crappy quality recordings with some decent playing.

Listen to “**** You Rocksmith” http://www.icompositions.com/music/song.php?sid=184436

How do you approach song writing? What’s the process?

AI: I don’t write. Never have. I know nothing of theory, scales, modes…..nothing. I record or ‘obtain’ drums then I plug in and what comes out is what I feel when I hear the beat set down previously. It has worked for me so far! I think if I sat and constructed pieces and worked everything out methodically it would kill my enjoyment. People are too obsessed with theory dude! Look below any Youtube video of a guitarist and/or rock musician. It’s fucking pathetic the arguments they get into. I think if it rocks then it rocks, and I don’t care if he used a Phrygian, Mixolydian, Triceratops, or Condominium. That’s the downside of the Internet as a musician’s tool, it turns musicians into tools. A wise man, and a great blues guitarist once said to me “Just shut up and play your damned guitar! That is your voice and you can sure as hell use it, so do it!” He passed away a few months after giving me one hell of a great piece of advice. Man, I miss him.

I think if it rocks then it rocks, and I don’t care if he used a Phrygian, Mixolydian, Triceratops, or Condominium.

What is your opinion of “tone chasers”and do you consider yourself one?

AI: Like Eric Johnson? I’ve nothing against them to be honest. If that floats their boat then sure, go for it! I can’t settle for just one sound or tone, I have to be tweaking and finding new things. Lots of different and strange sounds that work into whatever I’m doing at the time.

Who are your idols?

AI: I have way too many to list but I’ll drop in a few names if it helps! Mattias ‘IA’ Eklundh, Shawn Lane, Guthrie Govan, Vai, Satriani, Ron Jarzombek, Rory Gallagher, Hendrix, Beck,

Page, Django Rheinhardt, Newton Faulkner, Eva Cassidy, Jason Becker, Jeff Loomis, Tosin Abasi, Eric Johnson, Danny Gatton……..the list goes on! I can’t play like 99% of these people, but they all in some way or another inspire me, and that inspiration pushes me to learn more, and I think that it is important to draw that inspiration from artists you admire.

What do you get out of playing guitar?

AI: Therapy. I have arthritis in my hands, hips and knees. Playing helps me with the hands part of it to some degree but there are days were they are too sore to even pick the instrument up.I still love it, even though I can’t play the way I used to many years ago. I just adapted my playing to suit what I can do now, as opposed to what I could do then. Not that I’m ever happy with everything I do. I hate some of my recordings with a passion, but I can always find little bits that I think really pop out and make them listenable again. I don’t think I’ll ever reach the level of playing I’d love to reach, or even the level I was at before things took a turn, but I can be happy in knowing that I’m still enjoying the challenge.

How do you keep yourself interested and learning?

AI: Listening to new bands mostly. I hear licks in things that I can relate to, or just enjoy the hell out of and it keeps me wanting to learn new ways of approaching my own playing. For instance, at the moment I’m picking up some really neat riffs with some wide spaced intervals and while it is a struggle to get to grips with considering my handicap, I’m still enthusiastic about it and it keeps me wanting more. I also get a kick out of online collaboration. Hearing how others approach their music and making my own style fit into their stuff really makes me happy. To me that’s what playing is all about, learning from others and on your own, adapting, trying new styles or genres and having fun! Yeah, mostly the fun bit.


And now the collab Allan and I did. I programmed the drums and bass and Allan let it rip on the gitfiddle.

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Twice now I have gone to see specific headlining bands and wound up being blown away by the opening acts. Before I get to the who and how let me make one point. You’ve spent the money, it’s for both bands, why not go? I understand if you know the opening act and think they suck. Sure, don’t go then. But if you’ve never heard of them, go check ’em out.

Now the who etc.

First, we went to see They Might Be Giants. They are all that and a book on math. So good. The opening band was Oppenheimer. They are from Ireland. It’s just two guys, Shaun Robinson and Rocky O’Reilly. They use a prerecorded, preprogrammed portions of songs when performing live. Shaun sings and plays drums while Rocky plays guitar, provides vocoder vocals, and plays the mighty Moog. Oppenheimer has a synth-pop sensibility and et completely rock. From the slow jam of Breakfast in NY to the upbeat and catchy Saturday Looks Bad To Me Oppenheimer has it all.

Second, we wet to see The Go! Team. Best show ever! If you have the means I highly recommend checking them out. The opening band for that concert was Bodies Of Water. Bodies Of Water hail from some part of L.A. They have a decidedly retro feel. Bodies Of Water have clearly done their homework and sound authentic and yet new. They have an infectious energy. Especially from Meredith Metcalf, and especially at the end of These are The Eyes. Bodies Of Water also having a brilliant vocal approach that is both four part harmony and call and response.

Check out the above bands and see if they appeal to you. They both have something different to offer. But most of all go see the opening act. You may be pleasantly surprised.

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