Alex Skolnick: Double Identity

Alex Skolnick is living a double life. On one end of the spectrum, he is an electrifying guitar player speeding up and down the heavy metal highway. At the other end, he is composing notes of sophistication and magnetism, sometimes calculating the next melody in a long drawn out verve of jazz patience. Which end of the musical hourglass he tips the most likely depends on which coast he is on. And this duality is just fine with him.

Veritas is currently occupying the percentage of his time at the moment. This wonderful new CD, which came out March 29 and hit a prestigious high note in the top ten on the Jazz music charts, is Alex’s current foray into jazz with his Alex Skolnick Trio. Featuring drummer Matt Zebroski and bassist Nathan Peck, Alex has carved another notch into his love-of-jazz guitar strap. And that love definitely runs deep.

Taking some time on a lazy Monday afternoon to talk with Glide, Alex indeed has a lot to say. His intelligence, his love of music, and his desire to keep learning, continues to pulsate through his veins. Having been the wingman for the metal band Testament in his early years, he found a surprising spark in a more complicated yet satisfying musical movement via Miles Davis. Leaving one realm to explore another was a brave decision for a young man already having success, but it was something Alex Skolnick found a need to pursue. Deciding to re-enter the academic halls, he relocated to New York to sit in a classroom and absorb the magic of jazz.

And although he has found his way back to his metal roots with Testament and is currently recording a CD with his old bandmates on the West Coast, he is enjoying the glories of his other life on the East Coast.

Hi Alex, it’s great to get a chance to talk with you. May I ask where you are at right now?

You’re finding me in Brooklyn, New York. I am at home.

I’m really enjoying your new CD. I like jazz but I don’t know a lot about jazz.

Well I think it’s good for people like you (laughs). You know, in a respectful way. I started out playing heavy metal and knowing nothing about jazz. So I know what it’s like to not understand it and I spent about a dozen years away from metal just doing jazz. But I never forgot what it’s like to not understand it. So I do try to make it so you don’t have to be a jazz aficionado to like it.

Do you find a lot of your metal fans coming to check out your jazz trio?

Oh yeah, for some of them it’s their first exposure to it. But it’s great, really great, because a lot of them check out us and then check out some of the people I mention as influences, whether it’s Miles Davis or Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Pat Matheny, Chick Corea. And then they check out those people, who I consider the real deal. Just being like a go-between to help get people started on what I consider a really important form of music is very satisfying in itself. I would say it’s even more about that than my own playing or my own music; although hopefully people will enjoy that as well.

I do that with blues. I hear a song and find out it’s like an old Sleepy John Estes song and I will go check out the original.

Yeah, that’s great. I actually do the same thing. When I heard Cream doing “Crossroads”, when I found out it was originally done by Robert Johnson that got me interested in Robert Johnson, which is incredible music.

I heard you were in rehearsals earlier on the West coast.

That’s right. It’s very interesting having this dual life right now. My jazz trio is here on the East Coast and I reunited with my heavy metal band Testament a few years ago and they’re all still on the West Coast. So it’s time for Testament to write a new record so every few weeks I’ll fly out to the West Coast and rehearse with them just for new material. The Trio on the other hand is in a different phase because our album came out on March 29 and we’re pretty well rehearsed … In May we just got invited to play the Iridium, which is a big honor, as part of a series they’ve been doing called Les Paul Mondays, which is a tribute to Les Paul who used to play there every Monday night. And it’s with his band so basically every week they have a different guitar player that shows up and sits in with the Les Paul Trio and maybe brings their own group. So we’re playing there May 30 at the Iridium with my own trio and playing with the Les Paul Trio which is like a huge honor.

That must be really exciting.

It is really exciting. And then since I live on the East Coast I meet with my trio, my instrumental guys, about once a week, no matter what. So we’re always rehearsed. It’s just part of our routine. We’ll meet once a week and we’ll play.

Do you get in a different frame of mind with each of your bands?

Very different and I’m very happy I have them both (laughs) because I wouldn’t want to try and do one within the other; especially when I’m playing metal. I don’t want to try to squeeze jazz in there. People keep telling me they can hear the influence, sometimes in the solos, but for the most part I’m just focused on that project. I want that project to sound as good as it can. Especially with the metal stuff, I tend to listen more like a producer because it’s really part of a machine. It’s a paradox, it’s a much bigger sound than jazz, everything is bigger about it (laughs). The audience is bigger, the amplifiers are bigger, the volume is louder (laughs) yet your role in that is smaller. When I’m playing in my jazz guitar trio, it’s quieter, it’s less people, it’s less volume but my role is much bigger. Because there I’m like the captain and the whole thing revolves around my guitar.

Do you feel more pressure this way?

You know, I have to be more on my toes and alert. It’s definitely a bigger challenge, I think, to play instrumentally and lead this band because the responsibility is mine; whereas playing heavy metal it’s actually two guitars and this very loud drum kit and bass rig supporting a vocalist most of the time. So even if I’m not totally up on my game I can hide behind the wall of sound (laughs). As long as I wake myself up for my minute long solo or whatever (laughs). When I’m playing instrumentally I’ve got to play all the melodies. I’m sort of setting the dynamic and the guys in my band are such good listeners. They follow everything I do, which has to be a much more heightened sense of awareness and listening and sensitivity. I like them both.

A few years ago I thought I only wanted to do the jazz stuff. I thought about experimenting with metal again, which was in the back of my mind, but I didn’t know my own band from back in the day would be in the place where they were ready to make some changes and really give it a go again and try to do it professionally in a way that felt comfortable for everybody. It’s been much better. I left that band, Testament, when I was in my early twenties. The band basically imploded and it’s easy to say that “Alex left” and everything. Well, the band was going to fall apart no matter what (laughs). And anybody that was there can tell you and that’s why, even though they kept it going, they couldn’t keep the same guys in the band for more than a year over time. And then a few years ago when we started playing together again, it was possibly the last hurrah. It was kind of like, let’s just see what happens and we’ll do some shows; and the demand was great and the record was successful and we started getting big tours. And you know I’m back doing metal again (laughs). And it felt good and you know what, the fans have spoken to me. They want me to do that. They’re cool with me doing my jazz stuff but they want me to do metal and I heard them.

And how does that make you feel?

I took it as a challenge because that’s both parts of me and I’m able to play in a metal band and really feel it and really give a hundred percent and the audience seems to respond to that. And I’m able to do the same in a jazz band even though it’s a very different situation. I’m not trying to give the same show. I don’t even move the same when I’m playing jazz (laughs). Everything is different, the way I hold the guitar, the way I hold the pick, the guitar itself, it’s just a completely different thing. It’s a little hard to believe that I could pull this off for a lot of people. It’s a juggling act because it’s so unusual and I don’t think I am breaking ground with jazz guitar, I won’t claim to be the most forward-thinking cutting-edge jazz player, but on a professional level? Absolutely.

I think you are a wonderful guitar player, in my little humble opinion.

Thank you. It’s so unusual that people don’t get it and it’s been a challenge promoting it, it’s been a challenge booking it. Most see my name if I’m doing instrumental music and they automatically say it must be instrumental rock, like I’m probably doing a metal Joe Satriani thing and they try to book us with these bands that have nothing to do with what we’re doing (laughs). I’ve done shows where my trio shows up with an upright bass and this little jazz/blues combo amp and a five piece drum kit and before us have like walls of stacks like they’re about to play the arena for AC/DC or something. And these promoters admit they don’t listen either. Now I’m checking, making sure before we play (laughs). They need to understand what this is. We’re much better off playing with like a Dixieland band from New Orleans or a brass band than an instrumental rock band.

I guess you just have to do it yourself to make sure you’re where you need to be.

It’s a huge challenge but I took it upon myself. I should never have been able to be fit into a box and I write about that in the liner notes on this new album. The new album is called Veritas, which means truth, and I like to think of it as arriving at a place where this is who I am, this is the music I want to do. It’s not the ONLY music I want to do but to be honest we do explore different genres with the trio. At our core we’re a jazz guitar trio. The very first album I did, which was nearly ten years ago, I was really trying to prove that I could play jazz guitar. And the sound was much more jazz and we didn’t deviate from it very much. Now we have all these other influences. We have like funk, groove, we have rock grooves. We have one song that’s inspired by like Bollywood soundtracks.

Yes, I like that one, especially the remix version. I’ve really enjoyed listening to the whole CD.

Great. You’ve done your homework (laughs) which is more than some of these promoters can say.

I really like “Alone In Brooklyn”.

This is great. This is some of the first feedback I’m hearing now. You know, “Alone In Brooklyn” has been getting a great response. I’ve been surprised in a way. It was just sort of thrown in there at the last minute. It was an acoustic track, very different. That was the one track that wasn’t recorded live with the trio. I did all the guitar parts and then added the drum parts later, those electronic drum sounds. The guitar stuff was all done live but then the rest of it was kind of done in the studio. It was one of those things, like I think we found out that we needed an extra track because of itunes. If you have less than ten tracks then it counts as an EP and not an LP. So that’s really what it was (laughs). And the “Bollywood Remix” we didn’t really count that as a track, we thought of that as a bonus track. So we needed another track and I had that piece laying around more as an acoustic piece for a future project. So it was really like a last minute kind of experiment but it’s been a pleasant surprise getting a good response.

So when you write for your jazz, cause there are no vocals, is it all just internal feelings coming out?

Yeah, I think a lot of it pretty much is. I mean, I try to express how I’m feeling. I write a lot of stuff that doesn’t always work (laughs) but I keep track of the stuff. A lot of it is like sifting through ideas that you record or that you remember and decided to develop them to see which ones take off. So, yeah, it’s all about the different feelings. That song in particular [“Alone In Brooklyn”], yeah, it’s not really a happy song (laughs). It marked the end of a relationship. At least I got a great song out of it. You got to put it somewhere. I do writing as well. I have a blog on my website [www.alexskolnick.com] that I’ve done for a couple of years. I sometimes blog for Guitar Player magazine. I enjoy writing as much as I do composing music.

When you write your compositions, is it mostly on guitar or do you use the piano or something else to create?

I do have a piano but I would never hire myself out as a piano player (laughs). I’m not on that level but I’m at the level where I know my way around. You can hear me at certain moments and think I was a piano player but then you could hear me try something that didn’t work and … (laughs). I need some work still. I’ve actually come up with several ideas on the piano. That is a great way to do it. It’s less familiar. I think it’s almost better that I’m not on a professional level as a piano player, at least as far as writing music, because you’re really free to explore and I think it comes more from your right brain, your artistic side.

Did you ever think that one day you would have a jazz ensemble? That this would become your priority?

I can’t say that I knew but I had feelings, I had instincts. I think that instinct is underrated because I remember going to jazz concerts in the Bay Area in my late teens and early twenties that really affected me and I remember thinking there are elements of this that I feel this connection to that I really want to be able to do. I think there are ways of doing it that would enlighten some of the fans that know me through heavy metal. But I didn’t know exactly how. I just knew that I needed a lot of work, which is true. There is no question. I had to get away from it, had to get away from heavy metal, I had to get away from my band, I had to get away from the West Coast. I had to really start over, which is really humbling in a way.

So you went to school to learn more about jazz.

I did. I went to school. I went to The New School University. I always felt that something was missing. I always felt like an educated person and I felt like I had the mentality of an educated person even though I was in this world where I was kind of isolated. I was like an outcast in a way. When you’re in a metal band, education is not like a priority; there is nothing wrong with it, it’s just very different, the mentality is more blue collar, if you want to call it that. Very nice people but …

Jazz seems more intellectually complicated. Like writing a thesis or getting your masters.

You have to know more about history in a way, both in terms of world history and musical history. Like you have to know, for example, how important New Orleans is to jazz music, like with the birth of jazz. You have to know that Chicago is important to the blues. You have to know how all this music affected rock and just by being knowledgeable about music it opens up knowledge and the process of learning and being aware. I just found that musicians in the jazz and classical world, and I’ve met classical musicians along the way, they just seem more aware of things, more literate, and it’s nothing disrespectable to people in the metal world. It was just a different mentality and it was a mentality I didn’t relate to as much. So it was a bit strange but then again there were always exceptions. Once in awhile I would meet people in the metal world who seemed very enlightened, literate, knowledgeable and educated. Occasionally I would meet somebody in jazz or classical that was totally ignorant (laughs). Stereotypes can always be proven wrong but I think in my case, well, I was somebody that went against the stereotype. It’s one of the things I had such a hard time when I was just playing metal because I couldn’t be that stereotype. So to me the only thing that made sense was to put that into an artistic statement. Get people to sort of recognize that they’re being miscategorized and stereotyped.

Did you enjoy going to school?

I really did. Am I still happy? (laughs) I think I am. I loved just learning. I loved that that’s your responsibility. I never felt that way in high school or before that. The public school system didn’t do it for me. I never felt that joy of learning, I never got the individual attention that I needed, but I went back to school in Manhattan at New School University and it was a completely different experience. And the best part was this great jazz program where you studied from the masters for jazz. Any question you could get answered. If you were questioning how you were doing on a certain task or a certain element of the music, like are you swinging hard enough, how is your accompanying, how is your soul development , whatever it is, you could get good honest feedback all the time. And that was invaluable.

I had a few years that that was my life. It was really fulfilling and it was pretty intense. I had to separate myself sometimes because there was this weirdness. Like talking to other music students and former music students and teachers, it exists in music schools and art schools in general all over the world, there tends to be this competition and this insecurity a lot of students feel and a lot of students sort of fall into this system where it’s almost like this cookie cutter system, where everybody is the same. But I made some great friendships. The drummer that I still play with to this day I met while I was at school. But I saw a lot of others that were just miserable and I remember thinking it was so strange that these are people that all they have to do is play music. They’re going to school to study music at this higher level and that should be such a gift. Some people dream of doing that but then they were so caught up in the career stuff and ego stuff and trying to be like the most modern player and competition and bragging about having the most gigs, including some that just ended up really doing nothing in their careers. It was a really interesting experience being back in school because I was able to appreciate the gift of being able to study music at the higher level. It mattered, music and art mattered. There were some students that appreciated it but there were many that didn’t, many that were too caught up in the whole cookie cutter mentality. Very interesting.

What was the age group you were in class with?

They were younger which was strange for me because I’d always been the youngest. I was the youngest in my family growing up, I was the youngest in my band, and then here I was, about twenty-nine, and there were a lot of guys there that were just out of high school.

Were you recognized?

I was (laughs) and that was really interesting. That was a funny thing. I had never expected it. By this time there were a lot of music students that had at least at one time liked heavy metal who recognized me. And there were some that didn’t talk to me and I thought it was just cause they thought, what was this rock & roll guy doing here. But then they would tell me midway through the semester they were nervous as they were fans of mine (laughs). It was really cool. And like the teachers were really appreciative. They thought it was an honor that I would come from this whole other kind of music and try and it wasn’t out of ego or anything. It was just to get a better understanding for this music, this improvisational music that I loved.

Do you now feel like you’re an “official” part of the jazz community and not an outsider experimenting away from your “normal” music? That you are now a bona fide jazz musician? Do you feel that confidence now?

I don’t know. I don’t know how welcome I feel (laughs). I guess I don’t feel like a black sheep as much because I’ve been doing it for awhile now. People seem to be familiar with it. We’ve gotten some respect from people and places that I wouldn’t have expected. But you know it’s always a challenge. I still feel like there’s always something to prove but I also try not to get caught up in it. I just want to play, I just want to play music, and I think the biggest challenge of doing great music is just separating yourself from any of those thoughts. Am I legitimate enough? Is this group of people going to like me? All you can do is do what you do. Like I said before, I’m not going to be the cutting-edge jazz guy but I do have something to say and I enjoy it and I think it reflects the music that I like. I do like some of the post-modern jazz guitar players. There’s a lot of guys like that I like. But I also like guys that never got mentioned when I was at music school, like Joe Pass, for example. He was a legendary jazz guitar player most known for doing the solo jazz guitar. He’s kind of considered dated in a way, like not modern, but it’s so elegant. It’s so nice to listen to. I really like to listen to him. And a more recent version of him would be like Tuck Andress from the duo of Tuck & Patti. Just really elegant playing that has some modern moments but he’s not the guy everybody in school is clamoring to transcribe. There are others too, a lot of lesser known guys that I’ll hear that I’ll think, man, this is really nice, how come nobody talks about them? Oh yeah, it doesn’t fit the trend of who to like (laughs).

And that’s a shame because there are so many great musicians out there.

Absolutely. Maybe they don’t have those licks that are considered on the cutting edge but they have something, something to offer that is really nice, that should be paid attention to.

What was it about jazz that made you fall in love with it for the first time?

That’s a good question. There were a lot of things and I think when I first got into it, it was electric jazz that caught my attention. I really got into more traditional modern jazz so I could learn electric jazz … But I was told in order to understand that music you really have to listen to Miles Davis’s earlier music. So I really started getting into his blue music and the earlier jazz guitar players like Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall. And that just grew on me and I’m trying to think what exactly it was. By the time I discovered it I was so immersed in metal and I think I was a little disillusioned because there were great things about [metal], but at the concerts I often felt like it was so loud it was indecipherable. Sometimes crowds were so drunk and these mosh pits and it’s different today. I think today it’s much better partly because sound systems are better, you can hear the music better (laughs) but I remember during the metal shows I felt like there was this wall of noise, and that with jazz it was so pure, so honest and I liked that it required listening. It wasn’t just background music, it was music to pay attention to and it also felt classy. At that point in my life I kind of gravitated to it. I was in this crazy world of like headbangers and bikers and I was so young and here was this music that was sophisticated and classy. You didn’t have to drink too much vodka to get into it (laughs).

I say that all with a grain of salt and as somebody that actually went back to that music as well, which I think has grown up a lot. I think the metal scene that I was in at that time needed to grow up. And I think it has, even though there are a lot of younger listeners now but there is just sense of a more mature environment than it was. But then jazz was just the height of sophistication and maturity. Also, I think once I started experiencing it live, going to local concerts, like a lot of the myths were shattered. You know, like it’s all snobs, that people weren’t nice. The people were so nice, had a sense of humor and it was fun. I liked the process of going to a jazz show, relaxing, listening, applauding for the solos, just getting caught up in the energy. I liked collecting the records, building a collection and sharing the enthusiasm with other fans.

Do you have a favorite jazz album?

Kind of Blue is probably it even though it’s a very unoriginal choice. I think it’s like everyone’s favorite jazz album. If I had to pick another one I’d probably say Inner Urge by Joe Henderson. That’s a really great one. Some of the energy reminds me of heavy metal actually. It’s got this certain intensity. It’s from the mid-sixties.

When you first started playing guitar who were your earliest inspirations?

It was KISS that made me want to play. KISS all the way. They had a profound influence. You can’t underestimate them. It was KISS, and a lot of fifties rock too. There was a movie that came out in the early eighties called American Hot Wax and that had a lot of the original fifties rock artists so that became an influence too. I learned a lot from that soundtrack. And of course the Beatles. That was the early stuff. As far as rock guitar, lead guitar, Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads.

Randy loved the classical guitar.

Absolutely. He was a big inspiration because he was so devoted to classical and he would study with classical teachers and he planned to go back to school for classical music. He was a big inspiration to me to sort of follow his path.

So how do you see yourself as a guitar player? Do you think you’re all that?

God, I am so insecure still (laughs). I just don’t ever want to rest on my laurels. I’m only as good as the next gig and nowadays the next gig is going to end up on YouTube (laughs). It’s wonderful [to get compliments] but I also know everybody has a differing opinion. You can go on YouTube and look at the comments and there’s debates of people that can’t stand me. I’ve seen that on clips of some of my favorite guitar players, Van Halen and Pat Matheny. There is always going to be someone that doesn’t like you and I guess for me it’s never occurred to me to just say, you know something, I’m really great (laughs). Maybe I should, maybe I’d feel better (laughs).

You seem like a very laid back normal guy.

Oh yeah, I’ll be honest about stuff, talking or playing or being interviewed. I don’t do formalities.

What was it like having Joe Satriani as a guitar teacher when you were young? Was he tough on you?

Yeah, but I knew what to expect. I think he had very high standards and I have some theories about it because you know he came from the East Coast and he settled in Berkeley and that’s where I studied with him. But Berkeley has its own mentality, its own pace, and I think sometimes it’s counterproductive because the work ethic suffers. I grew up surrounded by people that were never able to achieve their goals just because of their work ethic. Joe wouldn’t stand for that, especially when it came to guitar. So it’s kind of funny just having lived in New York going on a dozen years now, his discipline and teaching style doesn’t seem that unusual. I’ve met some harder teachers. When I went back to school I had this one jazz piano player that taught a class that was ruthless. Made us feel like kindergarteners. But I think compared to most of the guitar teachers in Berkeley at the time, Joe was considered really intense. I think he was great, it was really great, but it was very refreshing because he was so different. I had teachers in the Bay Area who had studied with Joe and told me I shouldn’t study with him. But that’s cause they were like the best on the block and they’d go study with him and he would put them in their place. Go “ok, yeah, you may be the best in the North Berkeley Hills but you have a lot to learn”. He was kind of notorious for that but I think knowing what I know now, a lot of these guys needed to be put in their place.

Do you think it would be hard to be in a band with him?

Good question. I never thought of him as a peer. It probably would be really hard for me to be in a band with him just cause I think I’ll always look at him as the student. I’ll always feel fifteen years old around him.

I want to go back to your jazz band if I could. The two gentlemen that are playing with you, can you tell us a little about them?

Sure, I’ll start with Matt, who is the drummer. I met him when I went back to school and he’s been there from day one. We started playing together just to work on homework assignments (laughs). You know, one thing you had to do was learn a lot of like jazz classics and standards and also do your own compositions. So we would meet and work with a bass player and we thought, this was fun, why don’t we do some gigs and we started playing together and one day I brought in a Scorpions tune and thought it would be hilarious, nobody’s done this. And it actually felt great. It was so cool and so different. That led to this whole new repertoire of tunes by like Scorpions, KISS and Ozzy and stuff on our first album. Gradually we started doing more and more originals. The new album is all originals except for the one song [Metallica’s “Fade To Black”]. Nathan came a little bit later. Our original bass player decided he wanted to be like an indie rock fixture (laughs). A great musician but he just had different priorities. So Nathan came in and Nathan grew up with Matt, they’re both from the Pittsburgh area, and Nathan’s a quintessential working jazz musician in New York. He plays with everybody, plays with singers, piano players, he’s toured with the Jazz Ambassadors program sponsored by the government.

Does it feel like it’s been ten years that you’ve been doing this with this band?

Not really, no. It’s kind of gone by really fast.

What do you think about the state of music today? What’s being produced, the lackluster ticket sales? How do you feel about all this? And do you see it affecting the jazz community like it is the rock community?

Absolutely. I think there are a lot of jazz groups that just aren’t touring, it’s so hard to tour. I think a lot of musicians that were planning on careers as musicians aren’t having careers. The whole system is being restructured right now. It’s like the deck of cards is being shuffled. Nobody knows how it’s going to end up.

Do you think that’s good or more harmful?

I think there’s good things about it. Like it used to be much harder to break in and get heard and now it’s not that hard to get heard, with the internet and YouTube.

Are we over-saturated?

We are definitely over-saturated. That’s a problem. There’s a big problem at the top because there’s just been this mentality about playing it safe, all for sales rather than artistry, and that’s why there have been so many cookie cutter music acts. It’s just like there’s this formula that’s going on and you’ll have the occasional superstars that come out and that’s about it. And some of them are really talented but a lot of them don’t sound that original.

How different is it touring now as compared to the old wilder days with Testament?

I definitely like these days better, absolutely. It’s never easy physically cause you have to get up every day and pack every day and get going places. It’s hard but as long as you really love what you’re doing, and I do love what I’m doing. It’s harder touring definitely with my trio because we have smaller venues, smaller vehicle, but the guys are so great and we get along so great we love touring together so that’s not an issue. Then with Testament, they’ve mellowed out a lot. It used to be insanity, you used to be trapped on this bus where there would just be smoke and loud music and crowds coming and going all night. It was just insane. And now, it’s very different as the bus is off-limits, a couple of the guys like to go to bed early. I don’t know, sometimes I do like to hang out and have a good time, especially if it’s a day off, but I never liked being forced to be around this crazy rock & roll atmosphere every night. I just wore it thin. Now it’s much better, I would definitely pick these days over those days.

Do you have a family? Children?

I don’t. I can’t even have a plant (laughs). You know, I’m gone so much, when I’m home I’ve always got an album to work on. Would be nice one day when the time is right.

Are you slowing down?

I’m trying to. I’m definitely slowing down as far as the road. I don’t think I’m slowing down as much in terms of productivity, cause this album’s coming out, there’s other albums in my head, there’s other blogs in my head, I have a manuscript, my life story, how I got from there to here.

So what do you like to do when you’re NOT playing guitar?

I’m a big fan of books, mainly novels and memoirs. Of course, that’s connected to my own writing. I’m also a bit of a foodie, I like to read up on and try different restaurants. I’ve even gotten to know a few chefs; occasionally they turn out to be fans of mine. I’ve become good friends with a Japanese sushi chef in New York who’s fanatical about music. Also, Chris Santos, celebrity chef who’s on Food Network, is a metal-head and fan of mine. I went to a recent restaurant opening of his which was fun.

Well, what’s going on there in New York tonight?

I’ve got some friends that are in a band that are in town and we’re looking to meet and hang out, go to some bars, drink (laughs). A good Friday night in New York.

Last question: What is this year looking like for you?

It’s pretty exciting. Later in the year we’re going to do a Testament album. The Trio album is out, which I’m excited about, and I’ve got these shows with the Trio which I’m looking forward to, the Iridium on Les Paul Mondays, which is really cool, and hopefully some tour dates with the Trio. We’re kind of playing it by ear, whatever comes up.

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