As a Gen X 'child' of the '70's, '80's and '90's, I found myself inexplicably gravitating towards the most note-worthy offerings of the Glam and Hair Metal sub-genre. Unleashing it's self-titled debut in 1988 and it's equally well-heeled follow-up In the Heart Of The Young in 1990, Winger blended an array of Prog-tinged influences amid MTV-ready hits such as “Headed For A Heartbreak”, “Miles Away” and “Seventeen” and , to name only a few. Among the group's more-than-considerable assets, and as a result, one of the keys to their Gold and multi-Platinum successes is lead guitarist and primary co-writer Reb Beach. Now, with the release of the oft-mighty A View From The Inside (2020), his latest--and without a doubt greatest--instrumental solo offerings to date, the charismatic, fleet-fingered axemaster now appears destined for the commercial accolades he rightfully deserves.
Todd: For the uninitiated, how did your solo debut The Fusion Demos (1993) 'come together'? It's been a while.
Reb: “It was sitting on my hard drive (laughs). It was just sitting there. I had been working on it as a hobby, but I still took the demos and shopped them around in '93 when Winger broke up. I couldn't get it signed, so all The Fusion Demos continued to sit there on cassette. Eventually, I put it all on a CD, put a for sale on my website and it sold like hotcakes. All the comments were like 'You need to keep doing this' and 'This is what you need to do. This is my favorite thing you've ever done', So I started to write a whole album of it and then I got the Alice Cooper and then the Dokken gigs. And because of this, I was always writing for someone with a deadline that took precedence, so it just kept getting put on the backburner. Eventually, it just became a hobby, a thing that I would do on my own late at night. I would write a section here or play another solo there or add some keyboards. Bit by bit, I put it together just for fun. I never really thought it would be released actually (laughs).”
Todd: What prompted the decision to record an instrumental album after the success of Masquerade (2001)? I remember being very pleased with your vocal performances. The Blues-based delivery was a very nice surprise.
Reb: “Every fan of mine has been asking for this record. Like I said, they loved The Fusion Demos. I sold more of The Fusion Demos on my website than I did even with Masquerade. ...All of my fans have been asking for this forever and making Masquerade was the hardest thing I ever did. I wrote all of the songs and Produced it. It was a huge undertaking, but it also had a thirty thousand dollar budget from Universal Records. ...This one had no budget. It was made with money from my own pocket. Masquerade part two is coming and is the next one I'll be doing. That's what's coming next. But I had to get this one out though. And I also want to do a G3 or a Generation X tour. Those are great. It's totally cool to go do something like that where you don't have to worry about singing and you can just go out there and play guitar. I wanted to do one, but (G3 tour founder/guitarist) Joe (Satriani) said 'You don't have an instrumental record, so you can't (laughs)'. I saw Joe last year and I said 'I'm making an instrumental record' and he said 'Give it to me as soon as it's done. And I'm sure we can get you out' so I sent it to him last week. I think he'll like it because it's very melodic and it's definitely inspired by him.”
Todd: what musicians did you work with for the recording of A View From The Inside? Prior to the start of the recording, did you have an established list you knew you'd be working with? Was anyone recommended to you?
Reb: “I needed a Funk bass player and my buddy Robert Langley said 'Have you checked out Philip Bynoe?' and I said 'Never heard of him', so I went on YouTube and thought he was perfect and was just what I was looking for. So I called him up and he did it. Dave Throckmorton (Beam, Flexure, Thoth Trio) will be the drummer that I work with for the rest of my life. He played on Masquerade and is my favorite drummer of all time. I have a band here in Pittsburgh called The Reb Beach Project and the only reason why I do it is so I get the chance to play with David Throckmorton. We call him 'Throck' and there's nobody like him. He has his own style and when he plays the drums, it sounds like an entire band. When (Winger vocalist/bassist) Kip (Winger) came here to help me record the drums, he was blown away by Throck. His timing is impeccable and he's the man. And then Kip knew a Funk keyboard player who had all the authentic sounds I was looking for. I wanted to get the '70's sounds on this album to feel right. I wanted to go back to that raw sound even though it turned out being a little more Produced than I thought it would be because I put so much time into it and kept adding shit. I would have rather that it was a little bit more raw, but the rawness of it comes from (keyboardist) Paul Brown (Brothers Brown, Jimi Jamison, Mother Station) and all his amazingly authentic sounds. He's got a real (Hammond) B3 organ, a Fender Rhodes (piano) and a real Clavinet. He's the whole real deal, so he was a great addition. And John Hall is my bass player here in Pittsburgh for the Reb Beach project. He played a few songs.”
Todd: How do you coordinate recording with such a diverse and geographically isolated grouping of musicians?
Reb: “You call them and say 'Do you want to play in my record?'. If they say 'Okay', then you send them the tracks. Then they send it back to me and I say 'Can you re-do this part?' and they say 'Okay' and re-send it to me. It's pretty easy. People have been making records by doing their parts separately for a very long time. We did the drums last for Winger in 1989. ...And so did everybody else. It's very rare that you would have a band all cut their parts together. Think of all the separation. And then once you play the song, you're going to make mistakes, so you're going to want to go back in and re-do it and fix your mistakes. Everyone did that even back then, so it's just kind of the way it is with everyone. Nobody cuts live parts anymore. Even if you do a live album, you're always going to fix stuff. I didn't on (the live recording) Live From The Sun from Dokken, but Everyone else fixed their parts, but I didn't fix any of my parts. I wanted to do it, but it wasn't allowed. (laughs)”
Todd: Do you have any plans to tour in support of View From The Inside once it becomes a physical possibility?
Reb: “At this point, there's nothing out there, but when the vaccine gets distributed and things start getting back to some kind of normalcy, I'd love to tour this album. I'd love to, even if it's just a little thing here like going to Europe for a few weeks. Getting onto some kind of tour would be great. It might be a little rough with the Wingers thing because Winger is doing a new record and it's really going to be a good one. I like it better than the last one already and it's only halfway done. We've written eleven songs so far and Kip threw away six of them and said 'They're not good enough. This has to be like the first Boston record where every song is just undeniably good'. That's what we're shooting for. There's a really high bar for this record. And he wants to tour the shit out of it, too and that's cool by me. (Whitesnake frontman) David (Coverdale) has said he's not going out until 2022, so we are going to jump on it. ...We want to go to Europe and go places we haven't been before.”
Todd: In hindsight, did you and your Winger bandmates realize you were onto something great with your debut?
Reb: “It was a very exciting time. We knew it was really good and we knew we had Beau (Hill of Kix, Ratt and Warrant fame) Producing. There was a time when we thought it was over and that it was not going to happen. Atlantic (Records) was putting it up on a shelf with a ton of other releases they had that year that no one ever heard. But (Dixie Dregs, Fiona and Winger drummer) Rod Morgenstein knew somebody at MTV who played our video on Headbangers Ball at 2:55 AM on a Saturday night. I stayed up to watch it and the day after that, radio stations got barraged with calls for the song “Madaleine” (from Winger, 1989) from this new band that had a shredder guitarist and a guy playing bass who did pirouettes and sang his ass off. It was kind of a new kind of thing, ya know? Unfortunately, it came out in 1989. I'd be a millionaire if it had come out in 1986, but the '80's were over soon after it came out. We were on the edge of the movement, but it was not to be. It was a very, very exciting time. It took a long time to go Gold, though. It took six months to go Gold. It was a slow seller at first.”
Todd: Personally, I was amazed by how heavy the group sounded during the Glam Slam Metal Jam tour (2001).
Reb: “I've never heard of anyone watching a Winger show and coming away from it going, "They suck." I've actually never heard a bad review from any one of a Winger show, and I've never seen people leaving a Winger show early. Everyone stays until the very end. I'm always surprised at how many songs people know. They're all singing the words. And I know that we're a good band live because we work very hard at it. Kip wants it perfect. He's a perfectionist. He's got us doing vocal rehearsals, just the vocals, and everyone's got to nail their parts or else he'll get pissed off. It's got to be really, really good. There's such a high bar of the live performance with Kip at the helm. He's a leader, man. He's a teacher and he's a hell of a guy. ...I don't know anyone else like him.”
Todd: At what point can everyone expect the new Winger recordings to be released? It's been six years since the release of Better Days Comin' (2016)? I'd imagine quite a few of the group's fans have been waiting impatiently.
Reb: “We're shooting for May release, but Kip has been really brutal on this one, man. and the thing is all the pressure's on me at first when we start these things because we'll sit down in the room together and he'll be like 'All right, go' and I have to start coming up with guitar riffs. So I'll start playing guitar riffs, but he knows not to sit there in front of me. He knows to walk around the room, leave the room if possible, or go sit in the bathroom and text or whatever. After about fifteen minutes, he'll say 'What's that?' and I'll say 'Is that good?' and he'll say 'That's good. Let's work on that'. That's how it all starts and then we write the other sections, but it all starts with the guitar riff on a Winger song. We don't have any of those jangly, strum chord songs. I brought in fifteen riffs to Kip that he said were good, but he also said 'The reason I don't want to use them is because after hearing the first four chords, I know what the next four chords are going to be. And I don't want that for this', which is great for (the band) Black Swan. That's how Black Swan came to be. I had a ton of stuff that Winger or Whitesnake didn't use. I came in and we wrote the whole album in ten days because (bassist) Jeff Pilson (Dokken, Foreigner, MSG) is an amazing arranger, Producer and composer. He took my ideas and made them into these songs like a puzzle. He said 'Take this, put it here, I want this over here and take this and put it here'. That's his thing, so that went really well. Everyone loves that record (Shake The World, 2020), but you know I'm a good riff writer. I don't like to toot my own horn, but if we're talking about the writing of riffs, that's one thing I'm really good at. And (vocalist) Robin McAuley (MSG, Skid Row, Survivor) can sing over anything and it would be amazing. If you write a good riff for Robin McAuley to sing over... That is why people dig the record. His voice is wicked.”
Todd: When I was researching your career for this piece, I was reminded you'd been a member of Night Ranger.
Reb: “Yes, for a year. And it's funny because I saw one of the interviews that I did and the guy said 'I really would have liked it if and I'd done some recording with Night Ranger', but I actually did. I did a live album in Japan with them (Rockin' Shibuya, 2007). And I loved being a Night Ranger because I was a big fan. I saw them when I was a kid. ...When (guitarist) Brad Gillis came out on the video for (the single) “Don't Tell Me You Love Me” (from Dawn Patrol, 1982), I actually rushed out the next day and bought a guitar with a whammy bar. I'd just jump. stomp and pull on that whammy bar for a year until I learned how to use it right (laughs). Luckily, I had my own place when I was a kid, believe it or not, out on eleven acres so I'd just play loud every single day.”
Todd: When recording with Whitesnake, how is the internal songwriting hierarchy structured? Do you actively co-write with (guitarist) Joel (Hoekstra)? Are each of your bringing in completed or nearly completed material?
Reb: “How do you we put that stuff together? How do we decide who's going to step up and be in the spotlight for any particular section? That's a really good question. We all you come in with riffs. Joel will then do some sessions alone with David and I then do some sessions alone with David and then we did a few with the three of us together. (The song) “Hey You (You Make Me Rock)” (from Flesh & Blood, 2019) was one of them. I came in with “Hey You (You Make Me Rock)” and we worked on it together. Most of the time, though, Joel did his thing with David and I did my thing with David. Joel would play me riffs and I'd tell him which ones I liked and which ones I didn't like when I was there. He would usually agree with me once he heard another opinion. He'd say 'Yeah you're right. That sucks'. It's better to not have too many Chiefs and not enough Indians, ya know? You know? The writing goes well when it's two guys, so when we write with David, most of the time we do it one on one. Joel and David and me and David. ...We did one together (“Good To See You Again” from Flesh & Blood) where he wrote the bridge and I wrote one part and that worked out real well.” ...And there are definitely times when we're doing harmonies that we've worked out together. There's a ton of harmonies (when we play) “Guilty Of Love” (from Slide It In, 1984). ...There's a million of them, really. And then we also sometimes we play the same thing like the riff from “Still Of The Night” (from Whitesnake, 1987). There's two guitars on the album, so it's pretty easy to work out. Plus, I am the music director, so I get to tell Joel what part I don't feel like playing. And it's a great job to have (laughs). I'm like 'You play all of the parts I don't want to 'cause I hate 'em.'”
Todd: As an up and coming guitarist, was the goal to play as fast as humanly possible? Having listened to many of your performances, your specific grasp of speed is astounding. Was it something you specifically focused on?
Reb: “No. It was cool to be fast, so when I was a kid, I wanted to be fast for sure. I wanted to be a gunslinger. And the law was, show all your tricks. Whatever tricks you can do, show them and do them, especially if you're doing a solo by yourself on stage. But on the record, I wanted to come out swinging for sure, so I tried to do all the little tricks that I know in one solo. It's funny, because there's the one part where I just wail on one note and it sounds like I know how to wail on all the notes, but I don't. I only know how to wail on that one note because it's on the E string and there's no other strings around it (laughs). My thing is kind of like cheating. It's tapping. It's way, way easier to sound fast when you use another finger of your right hand as opposed to using the fourth finger of your left hand. I have a whole other finger that I can use my just wack on there and it sounds super fast, but it's a little bit of a cheat. But thank God for Eddie Van Halen because I wouldn't have known to do that if I hadn't seen that picture on the back of the record. We didn't have videos back then, so I never got to see him actually do it when I was learning it. And it's probably a good thing because I probably would have ripped him off and sounded exactly like him. ...All I had was that picture, so I went from that and developed my own style.”
A View From The Inside (2020)
Shake The World (2020)
Flesh And Blood (2019)
The Purple Album (2015)
Better Days Comin' (2014)
Good To Be Bad (2008)
Winger Live (2007) (CD/DVD)
Live...In The Still Of The Night (2006)
The Mob (2005)
Live From The Sun (2000)
Erase The Slate (1999)
The Fusion Demos (1993)
In The Heart Of The Young (1990)
Beyond The Pale (1986)
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