#ASKPAUL Q & A
Here are the answers to the recent #ASKPAUL online Q & A.
SYNDRONE via Youtube
Q. What’s your favorite synthesizer (soft- or hardware) atm? 🙂
That’s hard to answer! I tend to lean towards certain synthesizer’s because they offer something unique that others don’t. Right now I really love my Roland SE-02 and System 8.
Q. Can’t resist asking more questions: Do you find yourself practicing a lot these days? Or asked in a different way: do you feel like you are losing some of your guitar skills by not practicing so much or at all anymore?
I haven’t practiced properly for about 10 years. There was a period of time before I made Assimilate Regenerate that I was probably at my peak playing wise. I had a lot of metal students and they were really into technique and practiced like crazy. So I had to to keep up with them! But practicing stopped being a priority after I was about 18 years old, which was when I developed most of the skills I have now. I’ve always been more interested in making music than practicing guitar.
Having said that, If I come up with an idea that I can’t play proficiently, I might run it with a metronome for about 15 minutes. If I still can’t play it I will usually scrap it and come up with something else, which is nearly always better musically than the original idea! When doing a play-through video of one of my tracks, I do have a little trick that I use, which I guess you could call practice. I play the song with a metronome at a slow speed, which is the learning part, then I gradually speed it up. When I reach the actual track tempo, I put the tempo 8 to 10 bpm faster and run it at that speed for a bit. That’s not always easy for certain licks, but when I go back to the actual tempo there’s a certain amount of “headroom” I would call it.
I never find a dramatic change in my technical skills, I guess because I am always playing/writing solos, but obviously I used to be a much more rounded player when I practiced. Age is also starting to have an affect on how long it takes for me to “warm up”. Bummer.
Q. How do you deal with “reinventing” yourself when creating another album in order not to do the same album just with different notes? 🙂
Quite simply, once I’ve done something I don’t see the point in doing exactly the same thing again. I find it boring and uncreative. So I change the process. Change my mindset and overall concept. I approach every album from a slightly different direction.
For The Human Affliction I wrote a story and created a soundtrack to it. I wanted it to be much darker and involve more electronic and movie soundtrack elements. For Spiritual Machines, I decided to go back to a more basic song orientated style and make the music all about the grooves and melody. I wrote every song from start to finish with just guitar and drums. No electronic stuff. I also wanted to involve the 8 string more in the riffs. With Electromancer, I wrote a story concept again, but I locked myself away for 3 months and made only electronic music. Didn’t pick up the guitar once! Started using more hardware synths. It completely changed the album making experience and therefor the end result. I’ve done the same thing for Electromancer: Corrupted. It’s not Electromancer part 2, it has its own sound because I’m coming at it from new direction.
Gene Richen via YouTube
Q. Do you have conflicts between “this is a concept album” and “this is a guitar shred album”?
Yes. Absolutely. Because for a long time now I’ve written music that i think sounds better with no guitar at all, and most often in my mind, suits my vision better. With The Human Affliction, even though I was making a concept album, I still wanted it to be an instrumental guitar album. In fact I was really trying to one up Assimilate Regenerate, and for me I did that, and I’m very proud of that album. With Electromancer I found the right balance and the only conflict was with the production. I ended up going for a more metal approach to the whole album rather than a more electronic approach in order to keep congruence with previous albums. I’m at a point now where I’m happy with what I’ve released in the shred guitar department, so there’s no conflict with that anymore.
Q. Do you have to choose between maintaining your vision and fulfilling your audience’s expectations?
I think if you release music and also want to make a living from it, there’s going to be certain period you’re going to think “is anybody actually going to like this?” That’s generally when I put on the producer hat, and go “ok. this sounds terrible, you need to redo this or you’re playing way to many notes in this solo!” and that’s a good thing for me, and helps to achieve the balance that I’m striving for, but don’t always have the perspective when in the middle of writing it. That said, my vision is always the priority and fulfilling my own expectations is hard enough without thinking about fulfilling anybody else’s.
Cristiano Antonutti via Instagram
Q. How do you eq your lead tone?
I generally eq it to fit the mix more than anything. My favourite players starting out tone wise were Allan Holdsworth, Brett Garsed, Greg Howe and Frank Gambale so I’ve always leant towards a kind of melting pot of those players. Then somewhere along the line I created a tone on a Line 6 Pod which I felt represented what i was looking for and I’ve been kind of tweaking that tone and creating something similar on other gear since then.
Me via Twitter
Q. Favourite Fear Factory song?
“Resurrection” from Obsolete. The video is awesome too!
xTOASTx via YouTube
Q. Can you play Tendinitis by Jason Richardson?
I seriously doubt it.
The builder via Twitter
Q. Have you ever considered doing any sort of Mick Gordon-style soundtrack work for video games or movies?
I would love to do that! That would be a dream job for me. Hoping to make it a reality one day.
Anders Stagaard via YouTube
Q. Will you ever do a collab with Angel Vivaldi? I think the two of you would be able to make the sweetest damn piece of music ever.
I’d love to do something with Angel if he was interested. I have a lot of respect for him as an artist. I think it would be really cool.
Brandon Burch via YouTube
Q. Tips on how to decorate an absolutely dope looking studio like yours? My home studio feels plain and lifeless.
Well, my tip would be to create an environment that inspires you to want to create the music that you want to make. Your studio space can play a huge part in your level of creativity. So, if it feels dull and lifeless, but you’re really creative, maybe thats what you need right now. If you’re not creative, think about what gets you excited to make music and try and represent it around you. Could be as simple as painting the walls or changing the layout so that you’re making the most of natural light. For me, I’m loving a cold dark basement feel right now, and being surrounded by guitars and synths.
Matthew Humphreys via Youtube
Q. Do you use the sounds on the esq1 or is it just a controller?
Yes I use the sounds on the ESQ1! In fact, there are sounds from it all over Electromancer, especially on Interstellar Desert Racer and Mars City One. It has this really cool “8 bit” character. What I would describe as “retro industrial”. I love it, you can create some really unique sounds and I’ve only just begun to learn what I can do with it.
Tony Kornheiser via YouTube
Q. Saw you rocking the FF shirt in the Biomech teaser; there any chance we might see you guest star on Dino Cazares’ solo album?
No he hasn’t asked me. But if he asked me I would be honoured of course! He’s a legend and FF are obviously a big inspiration. I actually asked him to guest on The Human Affliction on the track Destroy The Artilect. He said yes but sadly it didn’t end up happening.
Michael Frey via YouTube
Q. What are the details of your recording rig? (DAW/Modelers/Amps/Guitars/Pickups/Picks etc.
As of right now.
DAW – iMac running latest Logic X, Mackie HR824 monitors. Nectar Impact LX49 controller, Focusrite Scarlett 18i20, Motu micro lite.
Guitars – Kiesel Vader’s and Osiris models. I have a V7X, V8X and O7X. They all have the stock lithium pickups which are great.
Picks & Strings – Dunlop Flow 1.0. Jim Dunlop Super Bright Electric strings gauge 9 to 46 with 62 for the 7th string.
Amps & Modellers – Various including Line6, Fortin, JST
Pedals: Various MXR pedals – EVH 5150 Stereo Chorus, Reverb, Carbon Copy Deluxe, Horizon Devices Precision Overdrive.
SirHizzle via YouTube
Q. Hey Paul, big fan here! How does the Kiesel Osiris stack up to the Vader? I had my heart set on buying a Vader, but then I saw your Osiris – and now I have to rethink everything!
Hey man! Both are awesome. You couldn’t go wrong with either, but if I had to pick I’d choose the Vader. I like the upper fret access.
Q. Why don’t you play at namm??
Never been invited to play at NAMM. I was invited by EMG back in 2012 (but couldn’t make it) to do signings, but not to play.
Everything via Youtube
Q. 1) How do you manage to not get burned out writing extremely complex music, and if you do, how do you manage to recover so quickly? It’s obvious that you can get a jaw-dropping album done in less time than it takes an entire band to write anything on-par.
The truth is I do get burned out! Making an album like Electromancer by myself in less than 18 months was an insane effort. The thing is, I have to give myself deadlines, otherwise I will just keep writing and writing and writing and never finish, because that’s the most enjoyable part for me. That leads me at certain points to do weeks of 16 – 22 hour days and often I go days without sleep. But that seems to be my process to get things finished. After that I am totally burned out and I take a bit of time off.
Q. 2) How do you feel about people who pirate music, especially people who live in countries with poor finance and can’t afford to pay for music, movies, games etc? (If it’s controversial you don’t have to answer if this makes it into a video :L )
It’s not for me say how people should spend their money, but I think if you love listening to an artists music and you can afford to buy 3 or 4 cups of coffee then you should support them by at least buying an mp3 download of their music. I wouldn’t be able to release music with the frequency I have over the last 4 years without fan support and I feel very grateful for that. A lot of people do make an effort to buy my music, merch and guitar tabs which is so cool. As for people pirating music I have nothing to say about it.
Dualshock GT3 via YouTube
Q. I’m learning guitar and I want to know, how long did it take to get to your skill level, and can I achieve this level of awesomeness with a regular 6 string?
It’s a hard to answer the first part of the question. I know from teaching more than 1000 students, that everybody learns differently, and it’s almost irrelevant to compare your progress to someone else’s. My skills really took off when I was about 18 years old and I decided to practice 8 hours a day for 18 months. That’s when I developed most of the skills I have now. I didn’t get my first 7 string until I was in my 20s, so of course you can do it on a 6 string!
Q. What are some of the favorite songs you made? Which ones are the hardest to play/gave you the most grief when recording them?
I couldn’t pick favourites, but I do think that Beyond Human, in a lot ways, is the perfect example of what my music is all about in one song.
As for the hardest to record. People might think that the most difficult songs to record are the shreddy ones, but in fact for me it’s the opposite. They’re the easy ones! The difficult ones are the ballads, when recording the main melody. I’ve spent so much time on tracks like The End Is The Beginning and Ghosts Of A Concrete World trying to get the phrasing right, with the vibrato, whammy bar, bends, pick attack etc… but at the same time capture an emotional performance that reflects the way that I am feeling, rather than a technically sterile sounding version that evokes nothing. In fact, the first minute and 30 seconds of The End Is The Beginning, is the original first take from when I wrote it, because after a gazillion attempts I felt like I still couldn’t do it better. The intro of Ghosts Of A Concrete World is also a one take. I don’t know if a lot of people realise actually, that a lot of my solos are pretty much improvised. There might be an occasional fluff which I fix in editing. 😉