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Live4guitar launched in early August 2010 by a handful of guitar enthusiasts who decided to come out and tell the world about their passion for guitar. They were hoping that others would join them, so their voice would become stronger, louder and further reaching. To their surprise, a shout became a roar not least thanks to the utterly unexpected attention of the greatest champion of guitar mastery – Laurie Monk from truthinshredding.com.

Laurie kept an eye on our activities from day one and finally at our first live event we got to meet him in person. He kindly agreed to tell us a little about himself.




Guitar is a magical instrument, but we would say that wouldn’t we? Where does your interest... well, that’s a wrong word... where does your passion for the guitar come from? It is a passion, isn’t it?

I guess it starts with the roots, In the early 1970’s rock in the UK was really big. Everyone I knew at the time was into bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple or Pink Floyd. There was a genuine feel that musicianship was a key element to the bands of that era, something to be regarded highly, something not to be afraid of. So I was lucky, I didn’t have to go through the punk doldrums, my mind was pretty much set that musicianship was the key and not the style of the clothes you wear. Certainly in that era players and bands had far more experimentation in writing and freedom to operate, even to some avant-garde extremes . It wasn’t a one album deal as it is now for most new artists, you know the feeling we’ll take the first 10 years of your creative material and if we make a ton of money on it, we’ll think about a second release.

As well as the songs and musicianship, I’ve have always been drawn towards the guitar solo as part of the song, something that added to the whole piece.  I must admit I didn’t think, “you know I want to play like that one day” although the tennis racket got a good thrashing. For me these guys were icons, what they did was some form of magic, a higher form.  Now I realise that it is a job and it is just hard work that these guys do, but the pay off is no doubt when your fans come and see you play live.

So in the early days, very much thanks to my brothers, I was drawn to the players from that classic era , players like Richie Blackmore in Deep Purple, Jimmy Page in Led Zeppelin, David Gilmour in Pink Floyd or  Allen Collins, Gary Rossington and Ed King from Lynyrd Skynyrd and their album  “Pronounced 'Leh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd” and Steve Howe from Yes.  The list of records is too big to real off.

Seeing bands live was not a regular occurrence for me as I was too young. So we used to watch the BBC when they used to cover this sort of music either the Old Grey Whistle Test or Sight and Sound in Concert. That’s when you could see players like Allan Holdsworth with UK, Gary Moore in Colosseum II, or Ronnie Montrose with Gamma. 

When I finally did get to see live bands it was a great experience,  for example watching Gary Moore with Thin Lizzy or Alex Lifeson with Rush. Rush being probably my all time favourite band. Rush’s musicianship, song writing were of the highest order and Alex Lifeson was just brilliant on guitar, adding so much to the overall sound... it was just magical to see them live and still is.  So I guess I am more a live guitar fan first and foremost.


You run a successful website, www.truthinshredding.com. How did that come about?

I was originally investigating the options available for the deployment of cheap web sites that would not require web developers.  From a guitar players point of view, the web sites I visited  were often times created by developers who weren’t interested in leaving a solution that the guitar player could use for themselves.  Indeed looking around it was a wonder that guitar players web sites were being found at all, just being created out of photoshop or flash, with nothing for the search engines to index and leaving the guitarists pocket a good deal lighter of cash and nothing really tangible to show for it. Although the so called “web site designers” thought they had done a great job.

So I tried out a number of web site platforms, including Wordpress, but I much preferred the simple functionality of blogger which focused more on content and less on frills.  I also knew that Google were behind it and would at least give it an appropriate amount of development resource and security. Indeed, I believe if you are a guitar player now there are a lot of great options open for you. For me the simplicity is the key, if you are looking to build a new web site easily, you’d be hard pressed to beat the simple to use, integrated functionality available in blogger.  I think I could knock up a new site in about ten or fifteen minutes.

www.truthinshredding.com

 

So back to the question, when I set up the blog, I basically focused on two things - technology and guitar. From the guitar point of view, I knew there were lots of guitar players that weren’t represented on the web and so I set about creating a resource to name those players and find information about them. Do the main aim was to create a web site that showed the latest and greatest guitar players, including a “where are they now” option for the players I’d been following in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Scary players like Todd Duane, Scott Stine and Derek Taylor.  These were the second wave of Shrapnel players, or the guys who were featured on the incredible Legato records "Guitar On The Edge" CD series.

I was also interested in working with other guitar bloggers or people who are keen to give back to guitar. The more there are the better the promotion, the bigger the cake is for all. So rather than see other blogs as competition, I have seen them as allies for the cause and there are some top notch bloggers out there now, so people like JP from StratOBlogster or Jon over at guitarnoize or Rich over at guitarchannel add to the whole scene and I like what they do.

When I started the blog, I thought to myself that there might be as many as forty or fifty players who I would cover.  I set out to do at least one post per day to cover the news from these players, not realising that in the end there would be thousands of great players from all over the globe.  Which means I now do more posts per day... I think I’ve done over 17,250 posts at the last count. Finding even more incredible players was a real eye opener and happily so. The Internet shows us the world is really small and it has opened it all up for any guitar player to make name for themselves if they have got something great to say on guitar.
 

It must cost a bit to trot around the globe covering guitar events?

I’ve taken it upon myself to capture as much of the real guitar world that I can and I fund that myself. So I didn’t set the web site up to make money, only to share knowledge about guitar players. Indeed, I did think about moving some of my content to Wikipedia at one point or setting up a self editing wiki. Now I think that the wiki model does not work for what I’m trying to do in terms of guitar promotion.

In terms of web site technology, I looked at google advertising as an experiment to see how the underlying software required to manage and maintain it works, and the information that it provides to the user.  It is the same with all the software that I used for the web site, I find out what it does, how it does it and how it can be used. The same applies to google analytics, YouTube, open social software for example.  So the blog has also been a technical experiment, with features added and removed at a fast pace.

So I guess if I had any sense I could make money out of it, but that kind of defeats the object of what I’m trying to do. As it is a passion,  my guitar journeys are paid for by myself, but I do get help in organising the trips by those who are running the shows.  I think I get my fulfilment more from people making positive comments about the blog, the blog name appearing on a CD cover, or people coming up and saying “hi” when I see them or  being able to talk via the power of google translate to guitar players all over the world. I really like to hear of other players buying CD’s from guitar players as a result of finding a player on my blog or watching a video on YouTube.

I think for me though, meeting the players is the most exciting. Players that I have posted on my blog has been the greatest revelation.  Meeting people like the incredible Fernando Miyata, I was blown away by that first video on youtube and then to meet him in London, just incredible.  Meeting the fantastic Daniele Gottardo and not being able to speak a word of Italian except “Ciao” and yet we had communicated many times before using Instant messaging and google translate!  Meeting the father and son team of Hedras Ramos, who came all the way from Guatemala, man those guys work their butts off to get promotion and so genuinely nice... in the end you realise and  appreciate  what it takes and how difficult it is to become a top guitar player... and If I can help along the way then that’s great.  I really should say a big thanks to all the players I have met along the way... (you know who you are) but there are too many to name.

I do get a lot of CD’s sent to me as gifts, for which I am eternally grateful, but I also buy MP3’s CD’s and DVD’s too. The items I post for the most part are items I would be interested in buying myself.  People like my good Italian friend, “my brother from another mother” Guglielmo Malusardi will understand this. Indeed, I can say I have met people like Guglielmo Malusardi or Corrado Sgandurra from  Ziua Chitarelor who are even more driven about the instrument than myself. Just proving to me that there are a lot of dedicated guitar fans out there.

 

You seem to be particularly interested in newcomers, regardless of their background.  What is it that you look for when you come across a player for the first time?

Like most people, I think you want to know what the future holds, so I look to the newcomers because they represent just that, the future of guitar. So the straight forward answer is I’m looking primarily at videos rather than listening to mp3, you get to see if the guitar player can play. The invention of YouTube has been a great way for guitar players to raise their profile. There will always be people with “God Like” playing abilities, people like Marshall Harrison and those stand out when you see them playing in real time.  So for me video is a great medium for the guitar player. Although, no doubt, some players will see the composition is the sum of all their art.

In terms of video content, for the better than average player, I’m looking for original music, improvisational skills. I’m not looking for an unaccompanied guitar solo, or cover version, unless of course these are exceptional. In terms of the detail of the playing, I’m looking for the execution of techniques, the execution of picking styles, the vibrato, the bending, the tone. Many of the competitions I have been involved with or organised are primarily a vehicle to get players to look at their own playing out of context of what they normally do.

The evolution of guitar also means the quality of videos is getting better. I’m not really into seeing a headless torso showing me techniques, I’m more into the human quality of people, they say “this is who I am and this is what I can do!”.  I’m not sure how many videos I must of watched, but it must be hundreds of thousands, in some ways you almost get a feel if the person can play just by looking at a still from the video, I mean you see the way the guitar is held, the type of guitar, the way the hands are on the neck, seriously!

 

At which point in time do you decide that a particular guitarist is worth following?

When I started, I used to do a lot of research on players, by trying to find out more about them, their influences etc. However, now I think it’s more important to get the news out, to get eyeballs looking at great playing. So now I can say usually when I see the first video that impresses me I will post something... If I didn’t post your perfect track, it might be that I didn’t see it yet.  Although I’m not a big fan of group posting of “come and see my video and comment” approach. Nowadays people send me players too... players I missed.

 

Of all the young guns that you followed who has been you biggest appointment, who has been the greatest achiever and whom do you have the most hope for?

Seriously, I follow so many players that I have no idea who has been the greatest achiever, I think you need to talk to the players directly to get a sense as to what assistance the blog, the video channel and the competitions have had for them. So I know when I’m posting, I’m hoping that it’s going to be of assistance to the player, even if it’s to get them some people wanting guitar lessons.  I decided early on to avoid the negative approach, it achieves nothing for anyone. I’m often saddened by some of the negative comments people make.  Overall though,  I think you will find that it is the talent of the player that makes the achievement, all I’ve done is shine a light on it so that others can see it too.

 

Where do you find the time to blog and what technology do you use to gather information?

I’m always focused on my work in Enterprise Architecture, which is often highly complicated and so I see the blog as a steam valve, something else to focus on, something that isn’t Enterprise Architecture... ironically though the skills I’ve picked up from blogging deliver the same information to me around those technical and business subject areas.  So I do use the same skills for my day job.

I’m interested in the blogging part of the concept, a daily record of the guitar things I did, so a daily post is what I try to achieve. I’ve got a lot of stuff in place that speeds the process of blogging, so although I post a lot of posts, it’s not as hard as it might appear.  For example changing the blog design last time took about an hour of my time from start to finish.  The key for me is to focus on the content and not the frills, it’s not for the most part about me, it’s about guitar playing.

In terms of the information feeds, I’m pretty much using RSS to keep up with all that is happening in the published world. I’m a firm believer in that you need to be where your viewers are, so from a push perspective, I’m not wanting to force people to come to my blog, so I push the same information about by RSS and this goes in to the common social channels too, like Facebook or Twitter.  RSS is also about spreading the information, it’s no use me keeping it to myself, it is to broadcast and disseminate to as many people as possible, to attract as many people as possible as well.  So a lot of my content will be duplicated on feed aggregation web sites... It used to annoy me, but in the end as long as the information gets out, that is what counts for me.

 

Do you play guitar? If so, how good are you? If not, why not?

I’d love to say I’m a 10th Dan black belt giutarist with legato chops from hell... but the simple answer is no, I’ve twiddled around over time, but I think I quit before I started, it saved me a lot of time and money... I can quite happily say I saw Yngwie Malmsteen back in 1985 and decided I would never be as good as that, so I never tried! I think I’m much happier being a fan, it's much easier... I leave the guitar playing to you.  I just observe it and hope that, by  the observer effect, the very act of observation will make an impact on the phenomenon being observed.

 

You will be clocking in one millionth visitor at truthinshredding soon. That is quite an achievement. Will there be any surprises on the website in the future?

I know when I got to 500,000 we did something and yes, I was looking at that the other day and thinking I really should organise something, at the current rate I think I’ll make a million visits by early December 2010.  I’ve not really planned anything for that mark. However,  I continue to work on competitions with other guitar partners and they are coming out over the next two quarters.  Funny to think I was over the moon when I had 100 visits!  I guess I should really pay tribute to all those players who made it all possible... so I’ll do that now... thanks and take your bow!

 

Thank you for taking time to talk to us and may I also thank you on behalf of guitarist from all corners of the world for the attention and support that you are giving us. Hope to see you soon at the next event.

It was great to meet the guys at the Live4Guitar market place launch. So many great players to see playing live like Emir Hot and Muris Varajic. It was great to see and say high to some of the other guys too. So it was a pleasure to provide you with an interview, you know it’s always nice to give people some insight into the process that go to make up the blog what it is.



Laurie Monk

 

To find out more about Laurie Monk, visit:

http://truthinshredding.com/

http://www.youtube.com/lauriemonk

http://www.myspace.com/lauriemonk

http://www.facebook.com/laurie.monk