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There's no avoiding the influx of internet shredders, and it certainly has something to do with the growing popularity of the X-factor style competitions like Guitar Idol and the hundreds of other competitions starting every day; not to mention how easy it is to record a great sounding record at home on a budget. This certainly isn't a bad thing - we really encourage the scene, everyone has an equal opportunity to present themselves to the world. The downside is that it's easy to dismiss, or never even come across someone like Australia's Chris Brooks. I can tell you - that would be a real shame!

There's a clear Shrapnel era influence in his playing, but never at the expense of the melody. Chris has technique to boot but knows what makes a good album and there is no better example of this than his upcoming release "The Axis of all Things". I can't recommend this album enough, there's nothing better than hearing an instrumental guitar album that screams Tafola, Moore and Kotzen - never venturing down the road of tasteless or over indulgent. From the opening Prelude Chris takes us through searing up tempo rock tunes via emotive ballads and epic trade offs with some of the worlds greatest players. Whether you're just looking for a good album to listen to, or a great example of taste meets technique "The Axis of all Things" is definitely worth a spin.

I recently caught up with Chris to talk all things guitar, music and the future.   

Thanks for joining us on Live4Guitar Chris - its really great to have you here - lets start by talking a little bit about your fantastic new album "The Axis of All Things"

Thanks Levi.  I really appreciate you guys getting behind the new album.

Why dont we open with you telling the readers a little bit about the album and where they can get it from?

“The Axis of All Things” is my second solo instrumental album. A few years back I decided I was in the right place to make another album, and I really just wanted to write a bunch of cool guitar songs, regardless of the style that came out.  I realised that some of my best ideas came up while jamming or practicing rather than consciously writing, so it started there, and of course then I went into “structure mode” to put them together.  My first album was very big on guitar/keyboard interplay like a Liquid Tension Experiment sort of thing, but this is very guitar oriented and goes into different styles, like funk-fusion, acoustic, even the odd country lick, and lots of rock of course. www.chrisbrooks.com is the best portal for people to buy direct from or see where else it’s available.

You're certainly right that the tune "The Axis of All Things" has that "first song" vibe - and you mention the hat tip to Garsed in your thoughts on that track - Garsed is a clear influence on the album, could you tell us a little more about what impact Brett has had on your playing?

Brett, like all my biggest influences, has been one of those aural influences where I’ve subconsciously absorbed a certain sound or preference for delivery of a phrase, especially as I get older, without actually learning what’s going on with his lines – which coincidently how I think it is for him and Allan Holdsworth.  But there was this lick on his last DVD that was like a two octave power chord played as single notes, with a 9th thrown in on the way down.  I wondered what it would sound like to move that around a chord progression, and that’s how the title track “Axis…” started.

Brett is one of the most important guitarists to come out of Australia, and my first-ever hero on the guitar.  He influenced a multitude of guys over here, and when he first started making waves overseas, he brought a new technique set to fruition, as well as an innovative approach to bringing “playing over changes” to rock music, both of which have become the standard for rock/fusion players today, and I wish more people realised that.  I am by no means an evolved fusion player. I am (hopefully!) a rock player bringing a few cool sounds and approaches to the way I play rock, and the roots of that lie with Brett’s achievements on the guitar.

It's great to see him playing on one of the tunes too (Brett graces "In and Out of Dreams") - but you also have a couple of other guests on the album. Could you tell us a little more about Rick Graham and Tim Lord's input?

I’ve wanted to record something with Rick for ages.  I chose the tune “Feeding the Myth” to feature him on because the solo sections were screaming for some trade-offs, and Rick brings a unique sound and style to the track.  You know it’s him if you’ve heard his album or seen his videos.  It’s a pretty beefy song which was a contrast to the laid back solo beds that Brett and I traded over.

Tim is the singer and one of two great lead guitarists for the Aussie band LORD who are big on the local and international melodic metal scene.  I’ve done a few solos on their albums, and when I got to the end of “In and Out of Dreams”, I was not in a very rock frame of mind for that reprise of the “Axis..” chorus, so I asked him to do that section and it turned out cool and melodic.  Tim also mastered the album, did the booklet, and directed the “Velvet Claws” video, so I guess he’s lucky to know me (haha – Aussie sarcasm alert!).

The other big name I think of when listening to the album is Richie Kotzen - there's a real "Electric Joy" vibe to the record - has Richie influenced you much?

I don’t have much of Richie’s music in my collection, but his Rock Chops video was like my blueprint for legato for a long time.  It’s changed over time, but there’s still heaps of his influence in my technique and also my tones.  I developed tendonitis in my picking arm after too much practice with bad posture as a kid, so learning Richie’s approach to legato helped me work on something else, which ended up being a big part of my own toolbox.

Could you talk about the other Shrapnel era guys who have had a big effect on you?

As a teenage I was listening to Vinnie Moore, Yngwie, Paul Gilbert, Joey Tafolla… there was a time that if something didn’t have diminished arpeggios over dominant chord – forget about playing it to me, haha! As narrow a scope as that may seem now, I really got my chops together at that time, and even today, if I’m playing an altered scale over a 7#9 chord, I’m still using taking advantage of ground work I did back then, so it’s more my melodic choice and songwriting where I’ve changed over the years.

I cant avoid the fact that you're the 3rd great Australian guitar player i've interviewed this month - what can you say about your fellow countrymen? Anyone you're particularly fond of?

Tommy Emmanuel and Frank Gambale are the quintessential players in their respective genres on the world stage and I think it’s awesome to see home grown talent thrive worldwide.  I think Australia just has this spirit of achievement that defies the size of the population, whether it’s in music, science or the film industry.  On the jazz scene we also have James Muller who is just astounding.

I'd love to hear a little more from you on your musical journey - could you tell us when you started playing, what you were into and the bands that have had a big influence in taking you where you are now?

My parents gave me a ¾ Stella classical and a Mel Bay book when I was about 7 (I’m in my mid 30s now) but that didn’t last very long.  But a couple of years later Brett’s playing on John Farnham’s “Whispering Jack” album made me dust off the classical guitar and try again.  I got into heaps of melodic rock bands with great guitarists – Europe, TNT, Mr Big, Toto, before really becoming enamoured with the instrumental guitar artists.  I also loved “radio guitar solos” like on Starship’s “Nothing’s gonna stop us now”, Cutting Crew’s “I just died in your arms tonight”.. you know, songs that people think might be cheesy now, but it reinforced to me how important melody is.  I recently said to a friend of mine “There are guys that shred better than me and play over changes better than me, but I want to write songs that their girlfriends will hum in the shower”, lol.

Kee Marcello’s “Hammer’s Heart” was the first instrumental I paid attention to, which is why I covered it on the new album.  It was Vinnie Moore’s “Time Odyssey” that made me want to write instrumental music and also started my quest to find “all the cool notes”.  Since then I’ve delved into Frank Gambale, Allan Holdsworth, George Benson’s music… players that have something elusively cool about their note choice and phrasing.  I could point to several little things on the album where all of them have made their mark.

What was the most important lesson you ever learnt?

To believe that I am good enough, but that’s a lesson I need to keep coming back to.  We all need to work on things, but I realised that there was a feeling inside me that had me thinking that I’d never be good enough to do any of the things I want to do in life.  And at the risk of sounding like a life coach, it usually relates to incidents in our lives that we need to go back to and correct those damaging thoughts.

I personally like "Feeding the Myth" the most of all the tracks - its got some great Kotzen style grooves - sus chords galore and a melody to die for; which tune is your personal favorite?

Thanks!  “Hammer’s Heart” is my favourite performance, but from my own compositions I love “Transfiguration”, “Feeding the Myth”, the solo on the title track, and I also think “Open Doors” is a fun and catchy song, and very Joey Tafolla with the groove and all the open-string ideas.

An arrangement of the melody to "Feeding The Myth" (The rhythm guitar is in Drop D)

So lets talk a little about gear - what are you using on the record (guitars/amps/pedals etc)?

For guitars I used my main guitar the Suhr Custom Standard, and also a PRS that I used before the Suhr thing happened. I also changed amps ½ way through the album, so some of it is a Mesa 90s Dual Rectifier, and some is a Suhr Badger 30 head with a Port City cabinet.  For pedals I used a Suhr Koko Boost or a BB preamp in front, running the amps on fairly low gain themselves. The Badger is the amp you can hear on “Prelude”, “Transfiguration”, and “Hammer’s Heart”.  My Suhr has the quartersawn maple neck and vintage bent saddles so the “cut” is really nice and makes legato phrases snappy!

Let's talk about what else you're up to now. Whats the plan from here? Will you be out on the road?

Because this album is coming out fairly late in the year, I’m going to save band shows for next year, but I might do a couple of “album backing track” shows locally just to get things started on home soil.  In January I’ll be in the US doing a few clinics and will probably do the same kind of shows then.  A tour would be nice, but putting live shows on is expensive and very unlikely to recoup in any quick sort of way that doesn’t leave me out of pocket for a long time – as a struggling artist anyway. I just have to find a way to do it affordably – but I will!

I notice you're offering a master session clinic type event - could you tell us a little more about this and how they go down?

I’ve been teaching privately since I was 15 and I’ve done plenty of clinics, but earlier this year I decided to compile a book on ideas that I’ve developed for breaking out of the ruts I went through over the years; ways of breaking out of the consecutive scale note thing, incorporating arpeggios in a flowing way with linear melodic ideas and stuff like that.  There are players who do that intuitively, but since I needed to come up with ways of purposefully getting there myself, I figured others would get something out of it too.  So, I made myself available to Suhr dealers and a couple of independent music stores and schools under the banner of the “Master Session: becoming your own player”.  The feedback was really positive and it helped raise some funds for the album you’ve just heard.  If music schools, stores, or just a bunch of guys who get together want to host a master session, they just drop me a line through chrisbrooks.com and then we try and organise one.

Thanks for your time mate - is there anything you'd like to leave the community with?

Just my hope that they continue to love playing guitar, find their unique voice on the instrument, and support their fellow players!