Let's face it; throughout the often storied and tumultuous histories of the Hard Rock and Heavy Metal genres, there have been countless individuals that have been genuinely deserving of the titles 'Guitar God' or 'Guitar Goddess'. The examples, far too numerous to list within the confines of such a limited forum, invariably surround us all. With the most obvious of choices (most notably Malmsteen, Satriani, Vai and, to a lesser extent, pre-Sammy Hagar/5150 era Eddie Van Halen) having already been discussed ad nauseum, many--myself most definitely included--have found themselves in search of less-than-obvious choices for a solution to the madness at hand. Fortunately for all parties involved, Boston, Massachusetts-born axeman Ethan Brosh (Angels Of Babylon) has returned with the highly-anticipated release of his thunderous sophomore effort Live The Dream...
Todd: How does Live The Dream (2014) differ from Out Of Oblivion (2009)? Did you utilize a drastically different compositional approach or was it simply a matter of experience, maturity and time that caused change?
Ethan: “The first album is always different because it's tunes that you've basically had your entire life to write them. Some of the tunes on Out of Oblivion date back to when I was really young. On some of them you can hear the passion in them, but at the same time they lack a little bit of maturity. With Live the Dream, it was different because there are a lot of tunes that I actually wrote after Out of Oblivion when I was older. I'm not saying one is better than the other; it's just different. ...As far as the Production goes, when I went into making Out of Oblivion, I really had no idea of what it's like to make a record and I made a lot of mistakes. The whole process took a really long time and was very, very painful. Extremely painful. When I made Live the Dream, I didn't really repeat the same mistakes. I had actually learned from my mistakes. I just did the record. I feel like I did it the right way and with the right processes. You can definitely tell with the Production that I put a lot of time and money into the record. I did it the right way with some of the best people. That's really the difference.”
Todd: There's definitely a difference in the quality of the Production. Had you intended to 'improve' everything?
Ethan: “The Production differs because it's different people and me sometimes using different equipment. It is different players and a few years later and just that the process was done right. Not that I didn't have great people working with me on Out of Oblivion. I didn't really know what I was getting into. At the end, I think that I got it right based on the resources that I had. ...Live The Dream definitely takes it a few steps higher than that.”
Todd: How did you become involved with Rocker Records? (Legendary drummer) Carmine Appice is so great.
Ethan: “It's a brand new record label, and I think we got to them through (acclaimed Publicist) Chip (Ruggieri) that knew Carmine's partner. Things just work out that way. You just do things in the music industry and one thing leads to another. If you stay very active, things like that just happen. Carmine is a legendary drummer and legendary musician. ...I really like the attitude of the label. I think it's definitely a good home for me right now.”
Todd: How big of an impact did (ex-Dokken and Lynch Mob guitarist) George Lynch have on the recording of Out Of Oblivion? How did he become involved with the recordings for Out Of Oblivion and the resulting video?
Ethan: “Absolutely. George Lynch is one of my all-time biggest influences. For me, that was one of the first things that happened on my first record. No one really knew me at that time and I was really just starting out. For him to actually believe in my music enough... He really helped me out a lot. I love George. He's a really, great guy. I learned a lot from him and just musically, but about the business and everything. ...I feel like he's like cool older brother. I really love the guy. I think that some of his best playing is (the Lynch Mob record) Wicked Sensation (1990). ...He came up with some really interesting ideas. Sometimes when I listen to it, I still get the chills. A couple of years ago, we actually shot a music video for that tune. ...That was years later after the tune was recorded. That was another really great day. It was a very stressful day because it was in the middle of a Lynch Mob tour and I opened for Lynch Mob around here in Rhode Island. It happened right after that show. ...It basically happened on the spot. The whole video. I really had to come up with everything in a day. luckily everyone came together and we managed to do it. I thought the video came out great. I'm very pleased about that. ...George is, like a said, a really great guy and he helped me out a lot with my first record and video.”
Todd: It must have been so amazing to work with Max Norman on Live The Dream. I can really only imagine...
Ethan: “Oh, yeah. I saw Max last night, actually. He came to the Randy Rhoads (Remembered Tribute) show. I invited him because he lives in that area. Max is a really good friend of mine now. I actually convinced him to come out of retirement after twenty years of not being in the business. We were just talking about it last night. He was telling his girlfriend that he wasn't sure he was going to do it. ...He decided to do it because he liked my music. It was great. He did it and he was really into it. It wasn't something that he does all the time and he didn't take it seriously. He really put a lot of effort and a lot of time into it. We did it in a very good studio in Stamford, Connecticut called Carriage House Studios. They have a huge SSL board with all of the outboard gear you'd ever want. We did the record the right way and that studio was great to us, too. To top it all off, we went to the greatest engineering master of all time, Bob Ludwig, to have him Master it. It was just over the top.”
Todd: Musically, what are your influences? I would imagine that some of the most obvious choices, most notably Yngwie Malmsteen, apply. Were there any 'less-than-obvious' players that had impacts on your playing?
Ethan: “There are a lot of people. I steal from everyone. I'll put it that way. But you don't want to be the guitar player where it is very obvious that you're copying Yngwie Malmsteen or it's very obvious that you're trying to be like (Dream Theater guitarist) John Petrucci or (Black Label Society frontman) Zakk Wylde or whatever. ...It's too transparent whom they are trying to copy. I try to really legitimately come up with my own stuff, but I also have a lot of different influences. I'll say that my top few influences are definitely people like Greg Howe (Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, 'N Sync) who is another guy who played on my first record, which is equally as impressive. I was just so ecstatic that it actually ended up working out. ...As far as other influences, I love Jake E. Lee and the way that he performed with Ozzy was just incredible. (Extreme guitarist) Nuno Bettencourt, of course and Yngwie Malmsteen. Yngwie, of course, is a huge influence on me, but I'm really trying hard not to sound like him because there are so many people that already do that. I toured with him last year and I was really happy to see that he didn't think that I was another rip-off clone guitar players. That's it as far as other influences. There are so many of them like (ALS-stricken ex-David Lee Roth guitarist) Jason Becker, (ex-Megadeth guitarist) Marty Friedman, (Mr. Big, ex-Racer X guitarist) Paul Gilbert and (Billy Idol guitarist) Steve Stevens. Right now, my favorite guitarist is Tommy Emmanuel. ...He's absolutely phenomenal.”
Todd: He really is amazing, isn't he? It's a shame he doesn't get the critical recognition he so rightfully deserves.
Ethan: “I think he's starting to. I think that the internet has really helped getting the word out of what a phenomenal talent he is. He doesn't get the respect that he deserves. When you go see his shows, because he plays pretty much every night, most of his crowd is much older. He tries to go to a very wide audience and not just an audience of musicians. I feel like that the part of the audience of musicians is not really present there very much. I feel like it's a very small percentage. He's really the best guitar player out there, so it's kind of strange that more musicians aren't there in the audiences. At least that's my impression of what it all looks like.”
Todd: When performing within a live setting, do you find yourself improvising? If so, what are your primary motivations for it? Is it primarily boredom or are you simply wanting to further showcase your overall abilities?
Ethan: “It depends. It depends on what tunes I'm playing. Improvisation is something that I really like and I do a lot of it. I do a lot of it on my own time. Something that doesn't necessarily end up being on stage. With my tunes, I like what I played on the records and I got too used to what I played on the record. Personally, it's hard for me to change it. Not that I can't play something else, it's just that I'm so used to hearing it that way. It's almost like a part of the melody. It has to be there. Whenever I do get a chance to improvise, I always go for it. It's always a challenge. It's always something that keeps you on your toes and it's something that I love doing. Especially after being on tour with Yngwie Malmsteen and seeing how much he improvises and how well he does it. Someone like George Lynch... He'll tell you himself that he can't repeat himself. He works completely on instinct. He improvises all the time. ...That's the style that he's doing so he does improvise all of the time, so it's something that I do want to incorporate more into my playing. ...My problem is that I feel like the stuff I recorded on the albums is something that I'm so used to hearing. Now with my first record, if I don't work on that stuff very often, I start to forget. There's a song called “Blade Runner” on my first record that I'm starting to really forget what I played in those solos because they are so long and I haven't played them in a while. When I go over that tune, I improvise a lot. I think that it will happen more as time goes by and the older the tunes get.”
Todd: At this point, which do you prefer? Writing and recording as a solo artist or as a member of a 'full group'?
Ethan: “I like both, but if we're talking about a group setting, I talk about my band Burning Heat, which is really my band where I write the material. With Angels of Babylon, I didn't write anything. ...All I did was play lead guitar and (ex-Manowar drummer) Rhino would play almost all of the instruments on the record. For me, Angels of Babylon was pretty easy because I would just get the material and play some leads. ...It was cool because it brought out different ideas out of me just because it was someone else's music. It was definitely something interesting to do. My other group, Burning Heat, has a singer. I write the material with the singer. That's something that I feel like it means to me just as much as my instrumental music because they are both my music. It doesn't matter if it's a song or an instrumental because I approach them pretty much the same anyway.”
Todd: Do you find it easier to write alone or is it beneficial to have the extra lyrical and musical input available?
Ethan: “It really depends who you write with. Sometimes you get a better result just because when you talk to someone and you brainstorm, and all of a sudden you become inspired just from the conversation itself. Just by hanging out with someone it's like you're forced to sit there and write something. If you have the right partner to write with, it flows better. When you're by yourself, you're by yourself. Sometimes it works great, and sometimes it doesn't. ...It depends what band it is, but I feel like Burning Heat has its lineup. With my instrumental band, I feel like I finally have the right line-up of people that are very, very much into the music. Not only are they word-class musicians, but they really want to do the project. ...I really do have the right guys.”
Todd: When you've found it necessary to make a line-up change, have you ever found it difficult to find the 'right' person for the job? I would imagine there are literally thousands of musicians in search of such a position.
Ethan: “It's extremely difficult. Nowadays, most people don't even have the look anymore. They don't have the rock and roll look anymore. Some of them are not even into Rock and Roll anymore because that's almost like a lost style that used to be more on the mainstream side. Now it's not so much like that anymore. There are a lot of people who are great musicians and when you ask them 'Well, what are you into?' and they're like 'I like everything. I listen to everything', which is cool, but when it comes down to it, you want someone who is a real Rocker and has a real passion and has that style in their blood. That's something different. Those are really the people that you want in your band. Sometimes you find these people and then you see that they don't really care about the band that you have or they just flake out on you for rehearsal or whatever. Finding the right person who has the right look and can really, really play the style very well and is passionate is so hard. ...You want someone who tries to push the project forward and be active and not be someone who never picks up the phone, is difficult to deal with, always has something else and plays in seventeen other bands. They'll just never have time for you. It's always a great challenge. The fact that the music industry is so broken and there's no budgets makes it a lot harder. ...Everyone has a day job and everyone is playing with a million different bands now, too.”
Todd: Your name is frequently associated with the terms 'shred' and 'shredder'. At this point in your career, do you feel such terms accurately summarize your playing styles or do you find them to be far less than endearing?
Ethan: “To be honest, I really hate the words 'shred' and 'shredder.' So many players just play fast without getting it. There are too many of those players that are associated with that word. I used to take that word as a compliment when I was younger. The only one that can really carry that shredder title should be Yngwie Malmsteen because he's really the ultimate shredder. I think he's pretty much the only shredder. ...For me, I feel like when I write music, I never actually write an instrumental tune based on a technique. I never approach a tune like 'All right. I have that lick. I have that shred lick. That's how I play it and the tune is based on that.' It's never like that. It's always a song form. It's always about a melody. It's always about different sections. How do you go about getting one section, and then having a different section that has contrast, but still sounds like it's the same song and it makes sense? That's the real challenge. That's what I like doing. For me, instrumental music is something where you can bore people very quickly. I try to make a record by writing songs that are very different from one another and have different moods from one song to another. You have to keep it interesting somehow. When you play live it's the same thing. Just the other day, I had my CD release party and I had some ladies tell me 'We didn't feel like you needed a singer up there. You kept it interesting.' For me, that's the greatest compliment. It's all about keeping someone interested in your music and enjoying listening to your music. If you are just playing shred licks or tunes based on shred licks, they'll be disinterested after one minute.”
Live The Dream (2014) *
Thundergod (2013) **
Kingdom Of Evil (2010) **
Prog Around The World (2009) *
Out Of Oblivion (2009) *
* as a solo artist
** as a member of Angels Of Babylon
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