Chuck Schuldiner Project

Friday, April 27, 2012

Interview With Chris Brooks

So recently I had the huge honor of having Chris Brooks answer a few questions for me on his new record The Axis of all Things. For those of you not familiar with his work, Chris is a killer rock/fusion guitarist who really shows a dominance of the guitar. Be sure to check out his facebook page which is located HERE.

Chris, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your work?
I'm a guitarist based in Sydney Australia, and I work as an instrumental artist, working guitarist, and teacher. My solo stuff is a hybrid of rock instrumental rock and outside influences like funk, rock/fusion, acoustic, metal... depending on the vibe of the song.
Who are your big influences?
I grew up on a diet of melodic rock like Europe, Toto, and John Farnham and guitar heroes like Vinnie Moore, Brett Garsed, Kee Marcello, Frank Gambale, Allan Holdsworth, Richie Kotzen, George Benson, Paul Gilbert. They've all made their little mark along the way, some more so than others as my style evolves.
Who is your favorite guitarist, and why?
At the moment it's George Benson, but I've always got time for Garsed and Gambale. I like their unique voices and melodic choices.
How did you become so good at guitar? What motivated you to keep pushing?
Thank you. Constant dissatisfaction is probably the main reason! I mean, I enjoy each new plateau, but there's always a niggling sense of wanting to be better or overcome a new obstacle.
How many hours a day did you practice in high school?
Not so much in high school. I actually left school a month after I turned 16 to focus more on playing and at that time, things started to take off in terms of development.
What is your greatest advice to young shredders?
Not to feel like you need to play like someone else before you play like you. You don't need to master all that has come before you to do something refreshing musically. There's certainly a benefit to studying other players, but I just think it's better to listen to your own musical voice along the way. And sometimes, you gotta let go of the rat-race mentality of keeping up with others, and often that release will provide a new freedom in your playing.
Can you tell us a bit about the new record, The Axis of All Things?
It's really a diary of what I've become as a musician since my first solo album came out a decade ago. I've really come a long way in my phrasing, finger tone, song writing and I think it shows. The songs are real songs with lots of structure, but a sense of freedom that suits improvised solos and a jam quality that will hopefully come across well on stage. There are some funky moments, some real soulful solos, even some acoustic. I hope it's an album that people consider a "shred for grown-ups" sort of album. I didn't play a single note without purpose and the reviews I've had seem to really take note of that, which I'm very glad about.
Can we go through the new record track by track so you can give us a bit of a “behind the scenes” information on the influences and songwriting process that went into each song?
The Prelude?
A reworking of Charpentier's Prelude from Te Deum, a favorite melody of mine for many years. It sounds like a cool bombastic rock thing here though! People tell me it makes them want to salute something!
The eponymous Axis of All Things?
F# Mixolydian rocker. It's up tempo and has some fiery licks but it basically a happy tune I think!
Open Doors?
The open string fest. This is totally Joey Tafolla's bag with open string riffs and licks in practically every section of the song.
Not the Day, Nor the Hour?
Probably the proggiest thing on the album. I took an arpeggio idea from Scott Henderson and moved it around. The middle section has quite a few alternating time sigs from bar to bar.
Wisdom Road?
An acoustic piece I wrote as a kid, and I embellished it with some ambient electric melodies just below the surface.
Hammers Heart?
Kee Marcello's "show piece" when he was with Europe. I played with the structure and added my own vibe to it, and the response to my version has been amazing!
Feeding the Myth?
That drop D riffing has been floating around my head for years. I called it my "sound check" riff, but I finally completed the song and was lucky enough to have my mate Rick Graham tastefully trade off in the solos.
In and Out of Dreams (Axis Pt II) why is it subtitled Axis Pt II anyway?
For years I kept looking at this file name I'd saved of a song idea and it was called "6-4 melodic". When I wrote this album I went through my old ideas and found this, so I completed it and it has a long solo section with the amazing Brett Garsed. It's called Axis Pt II because the outro solo (by Lord Tim) is over a 7/4 version of the Chorus from the album's title track. There were more similarities in the beginning but I widdled away a few ideas until what was left is what you hear.
Velvet Claws
The title refers to something that seems innocuous at first but has a dark side. I wrote it about a couple of musos I know actually. Musically the song is fun though, lots of happy stuff going on, and a few musical nods too.
What is your favorite song off this record?
It changes, but I think Transfiguration, Feeding The Myth, and Open Doors are usually in my top 5.
Favorite song you've ever done?
Playing wise, it would be my cover of the Kee Marcello track "Hammer's Heart". I squeezed my heart like a sponge into that one.
How do you feel you've advanced in your career as a guitarist?
Well, it's hard to be retrospective because I'm always working on some new plan and I'm rarely satisfied, but to recount the last decade, I've been fortunate enough to build a small but very keen fanbase, work with some killer musicians and friends like Mark Boals (Yngwie), LORD (Australian metal band), Rick Graham, Brett Garsed. I just feel blessed to have reached people in countries I'll probably never visit physically, with my music. It's a blessing to make music that people want to pay for basically!

How do you feel about the music scene today?
It's tough, really tough. Every few months I debate whether or not to dedicate myself to something a little more... sustainable is maybe the work I'm looking for. I love what I do, but for every moral boost I get from making music, there's the harsh reality that people spend less time and money on seeing live bands or buying music than I'd like, and it makes each new project harder to get off the ground. There are a lot of plans in my head that will likely not see the light of day just based on the economic restraints of a fairly low profile artist like myself. It’s just a part of the current climate I’m afraid, but with time I still hope there will be a turnaround.
How did the PetrucciForum impact your life and guitar playing?
I think music forums are a really important grass roots-level platform to find out what your potential audience thinks about this or that. I know that I've had a lot of support in the past from that one, as have had my peers in the instrumental rock game.
What is it that you love so much about music?
I love that it is such an amazing form of expression. I don't think there's anything that comes close to it for me. I pity the fool who doesn’t listen to at least a few albums every week!


  1. Nice Interview. His "Hammers Heart" version makes me so it.

    It's just a little pity for dropping the Absolutely Amazing shred god YNGWIE J MALMSTEEN as influence. How could you not acknowledge him? Haha.(lol)

  2. ^Yeah. Agreed, YNGWIE is the BEST. those others He mentioned are good but nowhere near the interest level that Yngwie provides for a lot of us shredders.

    An artist becomes more cool to my taste, my friends and shredders worldwide around the world once Yngwie is mentioned as influence so Chris take that as an unsolicited tip for the next interview.

    Chris Brooks and Yngwie rocks!.(wink!)

  3. Ha, just saw these comments. Truth be told, I stopped listening to Yngwie in 2001 and sort of skipped a whole decade after that. I'm back listening to his old stuff more these days and will happily mention him when asked, lol.


  4. I pity the fool that doesn't respect Chris Brooks as a quality musician and artist! Haha!