Chris Green of Tyketto/Rubicon Cross Lets Six String Scorch on ‘Unveil’ EP (INTERVIEW)

For British-born guitar player Chris Green, he loves living in the South – especially at this time of the year. When he first moved to America he lived in Chicago. “For five years I dealt with four or five foot snowdrifts outside my door, digging out my car, digging out the garage and all of that kind of stuff. I miss it slightly but now I have a four year old boy and he can go outside for so much more of the year now that we’re down here.” It has also given Green a chance to get a real tan: “I’m slowly morphing into an American now. I got a mean tan this summer and so much so I don’t think people believe I’m English,” Green told me. “It took a lot of work, I’ll tell you that. You have to go from blue to white to pink to lobster red before you finally get to brown.” But the traffic situation was a whole different ballgame. “I went from Chicago traffic to Atlanta traffic and it’s like total punishment,” he said with a laugh.

Weather, tans and traffic aside, Green is having a really good spell. He has just released a solo EP, Unveil, featuring five knock-out instrumental tunes that focus on depth and emotion rather than speedy fingers and show-offy theatrics. For him, each song has a meaning and he hopes those feelings will translate to the listener. “I think a lot of people have forgotten what it is to be moved by a piece of music that uses no lyrics,” explained Green just prior to his EP’s release. “The listener gets to interpret the piece however they see fit. That was my goal. For me, to finally move freely within music with no boundaries was a complete luxury, and a challenge at the same time. What I’ve laid down on this album isn’t just notes, it’s laying every emotion I experienced during a turbulent time of my life without using a single word.”

A lot indeed has happened in Green’s circle the past several years. He lost his best friend, who happened to be his father, several Tyketto bandmates had family members become severely ill and Green himself picked up a nasty intestinal bug after performing on a cruise. It was enough to put Tyketto on the backburner this fall despite releasing their latest album Reach in October.

But for Green, who joined Tyketto in 2012 and has played in Rubicon Cross and Furyon, you take life as it comes and you cherish every moment. Posting on his Facebook this past Saturday, Green wrote, “Make the most of what you have and the loved ones that surround you. We all take things for granted and it’s worth remembering that even though we think things are tough (and they very well might be), there’s people out there going through worse. Hug your family, call a friend or loved one, make the most of what you’ve got.”

Green grew up in a musical household. His father, Dave Green, was a guitar player in several bands during the sixties and seventies, most notably Deep Feeling, who released Guillotine in 1971, and which Green covers their track “Welcome For A Soldier” on Unveil.

Talking with Green earlier this month, Glide got to know this unsung guitar god a little better.

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A lot has been happening in your world these past few months. Can you update us on everything and everybody?

In regards to the Tyketto stuff, yeah, it was a real tough few months. We regularly go out around November to tour in Europe and on the lead-up to this particular tour, the drummer Mike [Clayton], his wife Izzy found out that she had cancer again, which was devastating. I mean, obviously devastating to the family but to all of us because we’re all kind of family. Everyone knows each other’s wives and girlfriends and stuff and I can only imagine what they’re going through right now. But it was a big blow and at that point Mike begrudgingly said, “Look, I’m going to have to not do this tour. I’ve got to stay here, I’ve got to be here with her.” So he had to stay there to be with her.

We started training a new drummer up and then Chris [Childs], our bass player, found out that his mom had basically fallen really sick and only had like, at most, maybe a month left to live. So it was a huge dark shadow and at that point we all just put our hands up and just said, look, there are forces out of our control here and we just need to postpone this. Not cancel it but postpone it and see if we can do this again at some time when everyone is more on their game, you know.

Izzy is going through all of her treatment at the moment and she’s been an absolute trooper with that. So everyone is back on the mend. So we cancelled the tour and then I think maybe a week after we cancelled the tour, I went down with like an infection in my intestines and I was basically in bed for the better part of two or three weeks. And that carried on all the way over to when we would have left to go on tour. So it really was just not meant to be. It’s just been a real tough time. And Danny [Vaughn, singer], who lives in Spain, he’d be on tour with us right now as well and they just had these floods go all the way through their village and washed away practically everything there.

I can only imagine us all being an absolute wreck on this tour. So we’ve rescheduled it and we’re going back over in January. We’re flying to Frankfurt for rehearsals and then I think our first show is in Switzerland and then we will be snaking back through Germany, Holland, Belgium I believe and then in the UK. And everyone is excited and it looks like the right decision. Everyone is going to go back and we’ll be in full force with the original band that played on this album.

I’m ready for 2016 to be over with

Yeah, all of us, we’re all in agreement that 2016 really couldn’t end quick enough. It’s just been one of those years. It started off so great with the recording of the album and then it just took this massive bomb at the tail end of the year. But we’ve all helped each other along. Like I said, the great thing about Tyketto is that it’s a real family and everyone is always there for each other. So we’ll be back next year stronger than ever.

So what happened with you? Do you know what caused you to be so sick?

Well, we’ve played on the Monsters Of Rock Cruise that goes out of Miami every year for the last three years and this year we also got on the one out of LA, the Monsterwood Cruise that went to Catalina and Ensenada. And anyone out there that goes on cruises knows that these things are like petri dishes for germs. Everyone is touching the same handles to go into the same restaurants and bathrooms and doors to go outside and concert rooms and unless you are vigilant about sanitizing your hands and stuff, you’re going to get sick. And generally people do get sick. Out of four cruises, I’ve been sick three times. One of them I came off with a virus, one of them I had been bitten by a tick on one of the islands and was in the emergency room a couple of days after I got back. Then I got away with one! (laughs) And I was perfectly well and I couldn’t believe it.

The in-joke in the band is I’m like sick boy. If someone is going to get sick, Chris is going to get sick. Never travel with Chris because his planes are always delayed and he’s stuck at the airport all night. I just happen to have the worst luck when it comes to that kind of stuff. And on this occasion I thought I had got away with it but I got back and I had picked up something and I left it too long and eventually when I got the antibiotics, the antibiotics I took killed off all of the good bacteria in my system as well and it left this really gnarly bacteria that got into my intestine and just ran rampant. I was extremely sick. I lost about fourteen pounds in two weeks.

It seems like you can’t win with these things. You take one thing for another thing and that thing doesn’t do so good. I try hard not to take antibiotics unless it’s essential. In England when you get sick you pretty much have to crawl in, be on your death bed before a doctor would even consider giving you antibiotics. They’re really stingy with them. They kind of just turn you around, pat you on the head and say, “You’ll be fine. Just go back to work and rest in the evening.” (laughs) That British mentality is, “Stop moaning about it, you’ll be fine.”

Well you sound good now and probably some of that has to do with your new record that just came out. How long have these songs been kicking around wanting to come out?

Forever! I mean, I’ve said it before that I probably beat Def Leppard in terms of how long it can possibly take to get a record out. I suppose this thing was really the best part of five years in the making. I was very close to my father when he was alive and he passed away unfortunately in 2011. We’d stay up late at night talking about the music business and you know he’d been in the music industry for decades. I grew up with him being on TV and being in reasonably famous bands. So he was really like my mentor for the industry. I didn’t sign some really shady record deals because of his advice. His advice was really, really invaluable to me.

I remember one night I was talking about how difficult being in a band is and I never get my own way enough, I’ve always got to compromise (laughs). And I think he just kind of got fed up with me and said, “Why don’t you stop whinging about it and do your own band under your own name. Then you’re the boss and you can do everything you want and I don’t have to sit and listen to this.” (laughs) “Oh I’ve never thought of that.” And I left it. After he passed away I thought, you know what, I should do that. I was going through one of those life is too short frames of mind so I started writing some instrumental music and it came together relatively quickly. I’d been in progressive rock bands when I was younger so I was used to writing long musical passages and all of that kind of stuff. And I tried some very, very different writing techniques on this.

One of the tracks I just wrote an entire acoustic piece and then wrote a lead guitar line over the top of it; so kind of backwards. I wrote the rhythms first and then created the melodies. And that was a track called “Remember.” It’s just acoustic guitar and strings and electric guitar. Then there is “Once Forgotten” and the reason I named it that is because I was going through a stage of trying to write music without even having a guitar in my hands. So what I would do is I’d get on the plane with my MacBook, and I was doing a lot of transatlantic flights because I was playing in different American bands. I was playing in Firehouse and Nelson and I had like Logic Pro, like a music program, and if you hit caps lock it brings up like a picture of a keyboard and you can actually play notes in so I got like a sound, a guitar synth sound, and basically wrote the whole of that progressive track without even having a guitar in my hand. I wrote it I think in one plane ride. And I probably drank way too much red wine, you know, cause it’s free booze on those planes and the next day I evidently completely forgot about this song.

So when I was trying to collect from the pool of ideas I had for what I was going to lay down in the studio, I suddenly came across this song that I’d written like twelve months prior and couldn’t even remember it. So I don’t know how much of that wine I drank on the plane but it was evidently enough that I couldn’t remember writing this. So I actually then had to go about learning the entire song on a guitar, which proved to be quite difficult because when you write stuff on the guitar you generally write it to fit around what your hands are capable of doing. So that was a bit of a challenge. There were a lot of big stretches and I had to rearrange a few notes. But I called it “Once Forgotten” because that’s exactly what I did (laughs). And the reason I then called the next track “Remember” was because I didn’t want to make the same mistake again. So I thought if I call it “Remember,” I will definitely remember what it was called (laughs).

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You have a song on here about your father but it’s not the first time that he has inspired a piece of music by you.

That’s true. The first track on the album, “Undefeated,” I actually came up with that melody, I improvised it, when I was playing a show in Raleigh, North Carolina. I was doing a show with CJ [Snare] from Firehouse and he was like, “Just do a guitar solo.” So he played a couple of keyboard chords and I just let it out and ripped out this solo and the whole beginning section of it I kept and it’s actually the beginning of that “Undefeated” track. It was completely spur of the moment and then I took the idea and with him in mind I just wrote this in what I think is probably the most emotive piece I’ve ever written as far as instrumental stuff. I really like that song and I was unsure where to put it and in the end I thought, you know what, I’m going to put it right at the beginning. It’s just got that real anthemic vibe to it. If they do a remake of Top Gun, I think I might throw my hat in the ring for that to be the theme tune cause it’s got that whole anthemic vibe about it (laughs). Then the last track on the album, “Welcome For A Soldier” is actually a cover of a track by his seventies band Deep Feeling. It was a 1971 album called The Guillotine and that track, “Welcome For A Soldier” was the first track on there. I basically replaced all of the vocals four-part harmonies with guitar lines.

When you’re creating songs without words do you always have a story that propels it?

Well, I had very different approaches to each one of these songs. The first track that was more like a structured track was “Unveil.” When I wrote that I basically had in mind, I was a huge fan of all of those Shrapnel Records players in the kind of neoclassical movement – Vinny Moore, Paul Gilbert, Jason Becker, Marty Friedman, all of those guys. I just always wanted to write one of those neoclassical kind of based tunes but I loved really heavy music. So I dropped all the tuning to just try and create something that I thought would sound in keeping with what those guys were doing back then but with a much more heavy edge to it. “Once Forgotten” was basically my attempt at just, I’m going to write a song without repeating any section. So my inspiration for that was the much more progressive bands that I grew up listening to.

The difficult thing for me, especially when I’m writing, is I stop listening to all music that’s not music I’m writing. I know that sounds a little pompous but the reason being is that I get really scared that I’m going to steal ideas. So I have to stop because I think if I listen to, I don’t know, Mr Big the day before, I’m petrified I’m going to subconsciously pinch one of their lines (laughs). So I just basically stop listening to outside music and it’s worked so far. It’s very focused but it’s also like cabin fever. I get real cabin fever when I’m in that zone writing music.

Were you hearing all these intricate notes and chords and riffs from a very young age?

Yes, absolutely. You know what, my biggest struggle as a guitar player growing up until I went to guitar college, was I just couldn’t play what was in my head. I had all of these notes and riffs and ideas and my fingers just could not keep up with what I wanted to do. I ended up going to the Guitar Institute Of Technology in London and that was really the breakthrough. I basically spent eight hours a day at college playing guitar and then I’d go home and practice for hours. So I went in there really like a beginner to intermediate player but in my head thinking I’m an intermediate to pro player. But then when I came out I realized I was only really an intermediate player at the end of the college, and I had to absorb all the knowledge, refine the techniques I’d learned and then get out there and get in bands and stuff and start making it happen live.

So I locked myself away probably for about a good year after getting back from college. I kind of thought, oh yeah, here we go, I’m going to burst on the scene, I’m ready and my chops are good. But we were in what I class as the dark ages, the mid-nineties, where no bands were playing solos. Grunge was kind of, I suppose, on it’s last legs and numetal was on it’s way in and nobody was playing intricate guitar stuff. In fact, if you did you were kind of classed as just like a vapid musician or you’d have to get into like progressive rock, which is why I ended up getting into that. I’ve done all this work, I’m not going to bounce out and play three chord songs in cargo shorts. That’s just not me. That’s not what I do. So really, as soon as I came out of college and had those capabilities I was able to play all this stuff I had in my head, even all of my solos, and I used to love writing solos for songs. One of my favorite players growing up was a guy called Vito Bratta, who was in White Lion. He was such a master at creating songs within songs during his solo break. It was almost like he’d go off into a departure of a different key or something; it’d be like a movement within the song. So that was a big inspiration to me. Now, I’ll be in bed and I can write like half a song in my head and then I’ll go down to the studio and just play it out. It can happen that quickly.

You have a range of emotions on this record. For someone who speaks through the guitar, what is the hardest emotion to convey in just notes?

The one I think you have to get very right is inspiration. I use, or I try to use, a lot of like Classical music progressions, reminiscent of like, I don’t know, John Williams film scores. There’s always this immense feeling of inspiration in the movement, when they change keys from minor to major keys and it just really draws you in and that’s really hard to execute cause a lot of rock music and rock-based music is in minor keys. You don’t really listen to a lot of major stuff. They never do major keys properly and I think that’s quite difficult. I think that’s where inspiration is probably the hardest emotion to put across but when you achieve it I think it can be the most honest.

When you first picked up a guitar, what kind of guitar was it?

It was a black Encore. It probably cost fifty pounds. I was eleven years old. I had been begging my dad to let me have an electric guitar and he kind of forced me to play this acoustic. He didn’t even want me to play guitar. My mom didn’t want me to play the guitar cause she didn’t want me to be like him. He didn’t want me to play guitar cause he didn’t want me to be like him (laughs). Basically, I would go in his study and I would just pick up this guitar and I’d bang away on the strings not knowing what to do. The funny thing is, my four year old son does exactly the same thing. So eventually he said, “I’ll show you a couple of things on guitar,” and he realized just how into it I was. I practiced for hours just simple chords backwards and forwards. Eventually he got a friend of his to teach me because he wouldn’t teach me himself.


Why?

Well, I kind of get it now because now that I have a child I realize that teaching a child stuff like that, like music, if they go to a teacher there’s this element of authority that they know they have to listen. It’s really kind of easy to goof off and tell your parents, “I don’t want to do this.” Like the producer for this record for example, a phenomenal musician, he taught at the New York Conservatory and he knows everything about Jazz theory, his son is a prodigy but he won’t teach him piano. He drives him an hour away to have piano lessons for the same reason.

What was your first I can’t believe I’m here moment?

Funny enough, the first one, which isn’t that big of a deal to anybody else, but in my hometown there’s a town next door called Haywards Heath and growing up if you were any kind of local band you got a chance to play Clair Hall because this was the place that had the stage that was like a proper show stage. It was five feet off the ground. We were all playing pubs and dingy clubs and stuff like that. So to play a gig at Clair Hall was like, okay, you’ve elevated to like local hero status. So I think when I was like eighteen maybe, my progressive rock band, we got a show there. I think I’ve got a video of it somewhere but I remember thinking, that’s it, we’ve got it, Clair Hall, doesn’t get any better than this and now we can concentrate on taking over the country and the world and all that kind of stuff, which evidently didn’t happen with that band (laughs). But that was the first time. And most people probably think, Oh my God, Clair Hall? The last time I went back to England I wandered in there to have a look and it hadn’t changed a single bit but it brought back a lot of memories, cause I’d gone to see Battle Of The Bands there all the time, my favorite bands, so it was great seeing it.

But let’s take it up a little bit in scale now. The next time that that probably happened was when I played in Firehouse. The guitar player had fallen sick, and CJ, who I was working with on the Rubicon Cross album, called me and said, “Listen, do you want to go and do a tour of India?” I was like, India? They actually listen to rock music? “You wouldn’t even believe it. So you want to do it?” So I was like, I’ll do it for the experience. So no rehearsals, they just sent me links to how they do the songs live. We land in India, we stay at the Maharaja’s summer palace and we had machine gun mounted jeeps on either side of our car wherever we went from the moment we landed in India. Then there’s billboard posters everywhere of the band and I was like, but there’s shacks everywhere, poverty, who is going to turn up for this thing? I can’t see one person with the long hair or a band t-shirt.

So we get to the soundcheck and they’ve built this stage, same size as like Madison Square Garden, out of giant bamboo. And it’s a festival stage in a football stadium. And I’m like, okay, this is weird. No one is here and there’re women brushing leaves off of the football field with brooms. There must have been like fifty women just brushing leaves. So we do the soundcheck and we come back and there’s 43,000 people packed into this football stadium. We’re playing with White Lion, they were the other band on the bill, and we go out onstage and it was unbelievable. They sang every word to every song in perfect English. I doubt they could even speak English but they knew every word. There was a point in the concert where CJ turned around and said, “Just do a solo in E minor” and ran off behind the keyboard. And I’m thinking, okay, I’m being put on the spot here. So I just made up a solo, 43,000 people in front of me, and I held this big note and I let it down and everyone screamed and then CJ walked over to me and kind of waved his hands down to tell the crowd to quiet down and it just went silent. And he whispered in my ear, “That’s what it’s like to have 43,000 people in the palm of your hand.” And it was just me and him talking on the stage with these people waiting for us to start again. It was the most surreal, unbelievable feeling I’ve ever had in my life. I’m a bit younger than those guys and so this scene, the late eighties/early nineties rock scene, I was still too young to be in a professional band at that time so it kind of passed me by. So this was a chance to see and relive what those guys were doing back in the day. It was a wonderful experience and a great tour as well.

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We were talking about Tyketto earlier. When you came into that band, and that band had been around a while, how do you think it changed when you came into the lineup?

The band can probably answer that question probably better than me but I had some big shoes to fill. Brooke St James, the original guitar player, had a very specific sound so I worked very hard to make sure that I stayed very true to how he played all the songs. I played the solos note for note, made sure that it was as the fans wanted to hear it. But the guys now, Danny and Mike, who are the original members in the band, they say this is the most positive live entity that this band has ever had, the most positive incarnation of the band. A real compliment from the band and the fans, them saying that I look so natural up there it’s as if I was always in the band. And it feels like that up there as well. It’s not me saying I’m doing a better job than the original guitar player. I’m just doing the best job that I can and it seems to be working. So I don’t question that. We get out, we enjoy, we have smiles on our faces when we’re playing, we have a great time and it just so happens that the caliber of musicianship is really there with these guys. We can have a lot of fun onstage without worrying about whether we’re going to play our parts. Everyone knows that everybody else is going to do their job.

What is your predominant guitar?

I’m sitting in my studio right now and I have guitars all over the walls, all over the place. I own something like 140 or 150 guitars in total. It’s completely out of control (laughs). My go-to guitar is a Paul Reed Smith guitar. I have two PRS guitars, no, I’ve got three actually, PRS guitars. I forgot about that (laughs). But those are the ones that are my go-to guitars because they are very good at the acrobatics of lead guitar. I can kind of get up on the high notes and move around quickly on those. I guess my second ones I play are my Les Pauls and then I’ve got some really nice Gibson SGs that I don’t take out live cause they’re very old vintage ones. Most of my guitars are over fifty years old.

Is that because you like to collect the vintage guitars or because each one kind of has it’s own special personality that you like tinkering with?

A lot of these guitars my dad left me. He was a guitar hoarder and unfortunately it got passed down (laughs). I had all these guitars but was like, I don’t seem to have a Les Paul and then it was like, I got a black Les Paul but I don’t have the Goldtop and then it just started spiraling out of control. You want a twelve string and a six string and then a seven string? Why not (laughs).

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Do you like getting all techie and experimental in the studio or do you like to have all that mostly worked out when you’re creating the actual song?

Oh yeah, I am incredibly meticulous and when I go into the studio I hate surprises. So I will go in there and work everything out note for note and then go in and execute it and get out of there. The studio is actually my least favorite environment. It’s just very strange to me. When you go out and play live, how you play is always slightly different every single time you play, which is why sometimes you come away from a gig like, wow, that was a real cracker, that gig was really cool. So you have to immortalize one take and that’s going to be the take that everybody will listen to and that’s the one that everybody is always going to know. It’s a really bizarre concept to me because that’s it. For someone as meticulous as me, it means that I am so paranoid about getting it just right that I will bowl over take after take after take after take that are probably exactly the same, perfectly good, just for the sake of looking for this holy grail take that’s just going to jump out at me. So the producers have to kind of calm me down a little and say, “Look, we’re going to have to take over here or this album’s going to take a year to make.” (laughs) So I do one or two takes and they go, “That’s great, let’s move on to the next thing.” It was a big lesson in just chilling out and letting it go a little.

Did you inherit that from your dad?

OCD, absolutely (laughs)

What do you miss most about your dad?

You know what it is, I still get times now where something great will happen and I’ve got to call dad and then it kind of very quickly registers that he’s just not there anymore. Cause I would share everything with him. He was always so supportive of me and he had a really successful career but he would always tell me that I was doing so much better than he ever did. He was just so inspiring and now that all of this stuff is happening, it’s just like, man, I really wish I could just chat with him and stuff. It’s just little things that anybody who has lost a parent will know, which is you crave things like being able to hear their voice. I’ve rummaged around on videos just to kind of find a bit in the video where he’s talking just to hear his voice. That’s probably what I miss the most, just talking to him, whether it’s talking about nothing at all, whether it’s sitting down and watching an old comedy with him. We were best friends so it was really difficult.

If you wanted to turn your fans onto your dad’s music, what do you recommend?

I absolutely would say the band Deep Feeling. In 1971, they released an EP called The Guillotine and it was like six tracks and it is some of the best British seventies prog rock. It’s got some phenomenal harmonies and the musicianship is amazing. There are a couple of covers on there; there’s like a bass guitar version of “Classical Gas” and it’s a really, really amazing body of work. Even now, I still listen to it all the time. It’s one of my favorite albums. So I definitely would recommend people going to listen to that one.

And your band is going on tour starting in January.

We head out on January 8th but if you go to my website
it has all of my tour dates, information and there’s a limited edition signed copy of my CD at the moment which you can purchase on that website. But you’ll get all the information you need there about videos, photos, links to other stuff I’ve done.

A great Christmas gift

The perfect stocking filler (laughs)

 

 

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