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Guitar Gods: Interview With Joel Wanasek
Guitarist for Dark Shift
By David M. McLean, Skinny Devil Music Lab
(more articles from this author)
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Joel Wanasek was first interviewed for the series back in May 2002. He was completing a solo album and had released the debut album from his band Dark Shift, and pumping up his instructional site, Insane Guitar.

Here we are, over three years later, and Joel is still with Dark Shift (who last year completed a successful South American tour), getting ready to release a new solo disc, and has added mountains of free resources to Insane Guitar. In addition, he now runs a state-of-the-art recording facility and will be releasing a book in 2006.

I had a chance to chat with Joel recently - check it out!

[David McLean] Joel, welcome back to the "Guitar Gods" interview series!

Joel Wanasek Thank you for having me again! It is great to be back. Has it already been 3 years? Wow, how time flies!

[David McLean] So ... what are your current projects?

Joel Wanasek There are so many that I don't even know where to start. Over the last few years I've built a totally kick ass high end recording facility. I've been doing a lot of producing and engineering lately for many regional acts in Milwaukee as well as some big time label work. This is something I enjoy a lot. It is kind of like a second passion. Running my studio has consumed most of my time over the last 2 years. It has been insane. I've been pulling 80-90 hour work weeks with out stop. I'm extremely close to going full time and making a living off this stuff though. So the effort is worth it.

Right now my band,, is in the studio working on our 2nd album. We are expecting to be done with it near the end of the year. It is a lot of work to record an album on the level of precision that we are. The new material is a lot more commercial than our old stuff. Don't let that comment fool you though! The music is pretty over the top and technical. It is just that everything is really catchy. Some of the guitar solos and riffs are just plain ridiculous. This is really going to be a cool album. I can't wait to get it out. There are a lot of different influences being kicked around. We are covering a lot of ground on the disc. We try to use the best elements of different genres of metal/rock.

I'm also in the studio working on my solo disc ( ), the same one we were talking about last time. The funny thing is that I've been working on this for about two years in the studio. The sad part is that I've been so busy that I just haven't had the time to finish the album. I've very close! All of the songs are like four to five years old! My plans are to finish it up by the end of the year. I think I've had like five major studio upgrades since I've started. It is really sad! I know!

The album itself is written to rock. In terms of song form, it is a lot simpler than most instrumental shred CDs. Don't get me wrong, the guitar playing is freaking crazy, but I tried to focus on writing heavy riffs that rocked, instead of modulating key signatures and exotic scales every two bars. Too many people try to out do each other in the genre. You can only complicate things so much before it just looses all musical value and turns in to crap. I used to be really into that kind of thing, but now I just try to rock and be heavy. Music is supposed to be fun, not a competition to see who can play the fastest, longest, and in the weirdest meters. Again, I have much respect for people who do that; it just isn't my thing anymore. I prefer to turn up the music and bang my head!

Lastly, I am working on a book. This has been another on going project that has lasted since January. I've been almost done with the damn thing for six months and just haven't had the necessary time to finish it off. It is NOT just another technique book. I cover a whole bunch of secrets and important things that you aren't going to get in any other currently published book. The goal is to get it published nation wide and freely available. There is a lot of information in the book that I would have killed to know when I started playing guitar.

[David McLean] How does this (do these) differ from your work of three years ago (since your first guitar gods interview)?

Joel Wanasek I still have the solo album in works and this time I am doing the 2nd Dark Shift CD. Now I have a professional studio career and a book that I am also dealing with. I need clones. There is just too much damn work to be done. You can only burn the wick at both ends for so long if you know what I mean. As soon as I can kick the freaking day job - and damn am I close - then I can really get some things done!

Three years ago I also had more time to develop I still have huge plans for it and it is always a work in process. However, given the choice to spend more time making money so I can make a living, it often gets put on the back burner. I donít update as much as I used to, but I still keep her going! That site is still my baby and I love it. We've got a very cool group of people over there that hang out daily. It is very rewarding and inspiring for me to work with people form all over the globe and help people learn to play guitar! I also work very hard to keep the cleanest shred guitar message board in guitar playing. I don't tolerate any egos, flaming, or bs in general.

[David McLean] Do you have one project that you are most proud of as a guitarist?

Joel Wanasek It is going to be the new Dark Shift album. I love my solos on it. They are very challenging and fun to play. I am trying to be extremely technical, but really catchy. I am always pushing my self to try and do things that are technically ridiculous, but sound cool.

I also love and am very proud of the riffs. The riffs are so damn fun to rock to. Nothing beats a lot of volume and a good riff.

Honestly though, the best and most rewarding thing is the fans. Nothing makes me feel more proud than interacting with the people that enjoy these songs live. It really makes me tick. It is something special to be able to share a musical experience with people on stage and experience their reaction. I love hanging out with fans and always try to go out of my way to be generous to them.

[David McLean] Can you give our readers a run-down of your basic gear?

Joel Wanasek Right now I'm playing a custom Warmoth guitar with Emg 81 & 85 pick ups. My rack is a Mesa Boogie Triaxis into a Mesa Boogie 20:20. I run that into a Mesa Boogie 4x12 recto cab. I've also got a sennheiser wireless in my rack.

I am thinking about picking up a triple/dual rectifier, or a Road King head for studio work. I love the Triaxis to death, but I would like a bit more of the bad ass recto buzz on the rhythm guitar sounds.

I run my amp EQ at near flat with a slight boost in treble and a small dip in mids. I also tend to use a little less gain than normal and just turn up the amp to saturate the tubes.

I endorse Lava Cable and Eurotubes. Both have incredible products and run top-notch shops. I highly recommend everyone check them out.

[David McLean] Who would you cite as early influences, and who are you favorite new players?

Joel Wanasek Mainly Randy Rhoads, Joe Satriani, Yngwie, and Steve Vai. Then I progressed into like Michael Romeo, Rusty Cooley, and Impelletterri.

Recently I've been listening to a lot of Children of Bodom. I like Alexiís playing a lot. Recently I've also been listening to some Trivium and Shadow's Fall, some great playing going on there too. Unfortunately I've been so busy working on my own music that I haven't had much time to check out a lot of new stuff coming out. There just aren't enough hours in the day sometimes. Most of the new stuff I check out is what people send me in the mail or give me at shows.

[David McLean] Can you give a few tips to aspiring players?

Joel Wanasek Work your ass off. Seriously! Have a positive can do attitude. Never accept mediocrity and don't half ass anything! Never quit, get frustrated, or give up. Only the relentless, driven, talented, and passionate succeed in life. Don't be average! Anyone can be average. Be exceptional. Success is a choice. If wake up in the morning and can't taste it, you don't want it enough.

Other than that, check out In particular, check out my columns on motivation in the archives and guitar player etiquette. Being a completely shameless, self-promoting person, I highly recommend getting my book when it comes out.

Lastly, become an autodidact. If you don't know what that means, look it up!

[David McLean] What are your future plans?

Joel Wanasek Iíd like to make a living off of my band and be a huge producer/engineer. Any way, shape, or form of doing that is fine with me. I love music and the more things I can get my hands into, the better.

I play guitar so I can share my passion of music with people. The more people I can inspire and instill a passion in, the better. All I want to do with my life is that, to inspire people to play guitar. Nothing is more rewarding and enjoyable for me.

[David McLean] Thanx for talking to us, Joel!

Joel Wanasek Thank you so much for having me again, David!

For more information and to contact the author, click on the authorís name at the top of the page.

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