Ben Chasny scorched the aural plains with his latest Six Organs of Admittance offering, The Veiled Sea. While, of course, every Six Organs record is a guitar record, he’s never made a guitar record like this one. The Veiled Sea is absolutely dripping with snarling guitar solos. They’re everywhere on the album, the blood that pumps through its circulatory system keeping it pushing ahead. Building an album around these sonic missives is no easy feat, but it’s yet another reason why he continues to be one of my favorite guitarists on the planet.
I spoke with Ben in mid-July. Most of our conversation was actually about August Born (for an upcoming Patreon podcast), but we also got in the weeds about our favorite guitar solos, glam metal, and how Satriani’s first album isn’t that bad.
I used to joke with my wife all the time that I was going to make a record someday that was entirely based around guitar solos. Except I was never good enough of a guitar player to do that. But then, with The Veiled Sea, you kind of went and did that.
The crazy thing is, to be in whatever this scene is, you don’t actually have to be that good of a guitar player to do some of these songs. At least, compared to when you watch shredders on YouTube or something, doing tapping shit and riding unicycles and juggling at the same time while they’re playing guitar solos behind their back. I mean, that’s some technical prowess.
That’s true! That’s so true. I was saying the other day how in the late 80s, I was really into glam metal and CC Deville was the person that made me want to play guitar. I wanted to be him. And frankly, I still think that dude can shred.
He has a funny quote where he says, “I listened to Hendrix and I listened to all the right guys. I don’t know how I turned out like this!! He does have a certain humility… probably after he gave up the drugs and all that stuff and found Christ.
So, what are some of your favorite guitar solos?
I think my top five, let’s see. I would say Jimi Hendrix “Machine Gun” on Band of Gypsys. There’s that note he hits, which everyone knows, where he kind of bends that note, and it just sustains so perfectly. He could probably just keep it sustaining, but he bends it up again. If you couldn’t keep it sustaining, you would need to bend it up again. But he doesn’t need to bend that note up again, and yet he does it in such a way that’s just so beautiful. I mean that moment… That’s a tear-in-my-eye kind of moment. You know?
Oh yeah, I know that exact moment. It’s amazing.
Yeah… That’s probably my favorite guitar solo of all time. And it’s pretty traditional, as far as guitar solos go.
That’s a good one. So what’s next?
“I Heard Her Call My Name” by Lou Reed. The controlled/uncontrolled feedback. It’s pretty incredible.
That’s another good one. I’ve always loved that because it seems just on the verge of going haywire, but he clearly has it completely under control.
It really works with that song, too. It’s really, really cool.
Okay, any others?
Haino’s guitar solo on the last song Fushitsusha Live – PSF 15/16. It’s very extended. He plays that riff on a lot of different stuff, but that’s the song where it really started. I don’t know how many fuzz pedals he has hooked up, but it’s just these layers where it just gets fuzzier. And you think there’s no way there can be more fuzz, but then there’s more fuzz! Then he kind of brings it back. I always felt like that was almost his version of the last song on White Light/White Heat because it has that same rhythm. That ‘duuuuun dun dun duuuuun dun dun duuuuun’ but just slowed down a bit. Maybe we’ll just do the top three. Those are kind of my top three.
Those are pretty unimpeachable picks.
Maybe some of Adrian Belew’s solos. I really like what he did when he played live with Talking Heads. I mean, I don’t know if those are my favorite of all time, but it was pretty great. During soundcheck, he would find a perfect place and he would mark off his feedback points. Speaking of controlled feedback, he would mark on the stage so he knew where to go to get certain aspects of feedback and he was kind of working with that.
That’s pretty incredible. I mean, if you have that kind of space and the time to do it.
Or the time to soundcheck! That’s not a five-band-on-a-Wednesday show. So what are you what are some of your favorite guitar solos?
I really love “Maggot Brain.” That one melted my mind the first time I heard it. The story bout George Clinton telling Eddie Hazel to think about his mom dying and then use those emotions to play… Man, it’s so heavy, but it obviously worked.
Going back to when I was a kid, “Eruption” has to be up there.
Oh, yeah, for sure. Groundbreaking.
And then… I don’t know which one I’d pick, but probably something from CC Deville. I’ll still go in on “Nothing But a Good Time” being a song about worker solidarity, and that solo rips, but maybe “Life Goes On.”
Yeah, you know glam solos really put the solo back in pop music. I mean, my favorite glam soloist is the one that I’ve been referencing all over for the new record, which is Steve Stevens. To me, I really like Steve Stevens, because you know, you can construct a guitar solo, and especially glam solos, out of just interlocking riffs together. You practice a riff over and over and over again, and then you can interlock them like Legos. Then you kind of have your solo, and it seems like there’s a lot of glam solos that did that. Look, I learned how to do this.
But to me, Steve Stevens was always a very creative player. I think he listened to a lot of stuff. And he’s blown my mind before when I’ve been watching Steve Stevens’ videos about influences. For instance, I was watching this video about how to play “Rebel Yell” – not for me personally, I never learned – but I wanted to see what he said about it. And that intro, apparently, was inspired by Leo Kottke!
Yeah! That first intro isn’t effects. It’s him fingerpicking an electric guitar. And he says, “Oh yeah, there’s this guitar player named Leo Kottke I was really into.” And then this isn’t that obscure, but the melody for “White Wedding” was inspired by Morricone. Then he says that whole Raygun effect that he had was inspired by Tommy Bolan guitar playing which was going through an Echoplex on the Billy Cobham Spectrum record. So he draws from these really interesting places.
That’s incredible. You know, I was the perfect age for when glam metal was kind of at its height and so it was really one of the things that made me interested in playing music. It’s weird, I never got into the guys who were just making solo guitar records like Satriani. I wanted that killer, minute-long solo in the middle of this sort of pop song. It always seemed like a weird juxtaposition, but it worked.
I can just imagine people one-by-one shutting down this conversation as we talk about glam metal, so I apologize [laughs]. But I have a couple thoughts. First of all, I’ve always thought that there needs to be a book written about glam that really shows the throughline. Everyone knows the Dolls through like Motley Crue and stuff, but there’s this weird kind of turn that it takes with Nikki Sudden and the Jacobites. They were very influenced by glam. In the Nikki Sudden autobiography, he talks about Dave Kusworth having a Cinderella poster on his wall. So there’s this side detour that I think is really interesting and cool.
Then, I don’t mean to be that guy, but I am going to be that guy and say that first Satriani record is pretty weird. The very first one is called Not of This Earth. He programs a drum machine on it and there’s all this weird synth. I mean, I can’t listen to this stuff over and over again, but I can go into it and listen to half a record or something and get my fill. I wouldn’t say I listen to that record a lot, but I did revisit it recently and thought, “This is really fucking weird. It’s really bizarre.” So I will put that out there. It’s like a one-man against the universe kind of record.
Joe Satriani vs. the world… why the hell not?
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