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Sevenstring.org Interview: Steve Smyth
Sevenstring.org's interview of guitarist Steve Smyth of Nevermore. Interview by Jerich.
Published by Chris
07-20-2005
Arrow Sevenstring.org Interview: Steve Smyth

<div align="right"><img src="http://www.sevenstring.org/newsimages/ss/ss_xlogo2.gif" alt="Steve Smyth of Nevermore" />
<b>Interview: Steve Smyth of Nevermore</b>
<font size="1"><i>By: Jerich</i></font>
</div>
<img style="padding:20px;" align="left" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/newsimages/ss/4.jpg" alt="Steve Smyth" />
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">Jerich</span>: For everyone who is not familiar with your accomplishments, could you fill us on everything you're involved with?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">Steve Smyth</span>: In 1995, I joined Vicious Rumors. I spent nearly 5 years with the band, and released two albums during that time, "Something Burning", and "Cyberchrist". I left the band in 1999. Around that same time, I was offered the touring lead guitarist position for an ailing James Murphy, which I took, and spent from 1999-2004 with the band. These were all great times for me! The Testament situation was evolving into an album, which I did spend 3 1/2 of those years working with Eric and Chuck on, but it never materialized. In 2000, Eric decided to form Dragonlord, a black metal band, and asked if I was interested. I hooked up up with that, and we recorded the debut album, "Rapture," in 2001. Most recently, we've recorded a new album, "Black Wings of Destiny," due out in September.

From about 2002 on, I began working with Nevermore, filling in as a second guitarist with the band starting at the BYH festival. Having been friends with the band for a few years before that and having a great respect for their music, this was a dream come true! It evolved into a touring situation; we did the EoR European and North American legs of the tour with NM, and from there I was asked to join. We recently recorded This Godless Endeavour, in which I was also able to contribute 3 songs, and we're getting ready to tour like mad really soon. I'm also working on an instrumental CD, The EssenEss Project, with an old bandmate of mine, Steve Hoffman. It's moody, progressive, shredding instrumental music. We should be done recording by summer, hopefully.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: What are your current endorsements?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: Currently, I am working with Mesa Boogie, EMG, Digitech, Dunlop, SIT, and am not with anyone guitar wise although I do still prefer my B.C.'s. I'm still buying the guitars, and talking with them regarding an endorsement as well.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: Most People know you from Nevermore or Vicious Rumors, but you seem to be a well rounded and versatile guitar player.
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: I consider myself to be a "work in progress" all the time. I do teach when I am at home, and constantly am looking for new things to develop, be it a style I'm interested in studying or new techniques to get down. Lately, I tend to just write songs, and whatever I put into those becomes my practicing scenario.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: Who are some of your primary influences?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: Oh God, going way back to what influenced me to pick up a guitar, two bands, two dudes. AC/DC and Aerosmith, Angus Young, and Joe Perry. I had a friend who was playing guitar and he got me hooked, not only on those two bands, but the guitar was it after I heard Back in Black, and Rocks!

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: At what age and with what instrument did you start? As well, what was your musical education like?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: I started at the age of 10, and my first real instrument was the guitar. I have an AA in music, that's as far as I have gone in the educational end of things. I may go back at some point in life, and get my bachelor's degree, but I'm not sure. I'm a little too busy with this aspect of my career to think about that for now.

<img style="padding:20px;" align="right" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/newsimages/ss/1.jpg" alt="Steve Smyth" />
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: What time in your career did you start to feel comfortable with your playing ability?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: Hmmm. Never! *laughs* No, I really don't know how to answer that - I guess early on in my playing, I felt like I was getting things together. I'd written and recorded an entire album by the time I was 15, and found my band members for my very first band by playing it for them, so i guess that's where it started.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: What do you do on your own time when you are not playing music?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: God, I am constantly working on music so much, there's really not much else that I do. Surf the web, occasionally. I did recently get an XBox, so I can work on ESPN 2005 and try to kick Jim Sheppard's ass at SOME point this year.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: What might people be surprised to learn that you listen to?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: Dunno. I'm all over the map. Music to me is about moods; I might be in a mood to listen to some metal, jazz, classical, reggae, radiorock, just whatever suits what I want to relax and listen to, I will. I'm pretty broad with my taste in music.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: What other bands out there today are you into?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: I gotta say Arch Enemy is probably highest on that list. I ....ing love that band, and can't wait to hear what they're putting out next! Hatesphere, too. They're a great band also, and I'm looking forward to hearing their next album as well! There's a band that recently opened for Nevermore in Greece, called Biomechanical, and I gotta say, these dudes are growing on me! Really intense, thrashy, progressive, and a great vocalist as well.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: Who are you into in terms of other seven string players right now?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>:Number ....ing one is Jeff Loomis! The guy is awesome to watch, and a ....ing treasure for me to get to jam with. I have to pay attention to what I'm doing when he solos, because I catch myself looking over to watch him go off! John Petrucci has been high on the list for a while too, and I look forward to the opportunity to hopefully meet him on Gigantour a few months down the road.

<img style="padding:20px;" align="left" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/newsimages/ss/3.jpg" alt="Steve Smyth" />
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: What's the best gig you've played up to this point?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: One of the most exciting ones ever, and always will be for me, was Dynamo 2000, with Testament. My first time playing Dynamo, with 40,000+ people out there, it was a complete rush. Right up there with it was with Nevermore last year at the Wacken Festival, in front of 45,000, that was killer!

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: Do you prefer playing live or recording? What are the pros and cons of each?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: I love both equall.! I love getting out there on tour, jamming, meeting fans, everything about playing live, I love. I love recording also, and am always trying to better myself in the studio, learning the aspects of it, learning new things as I go along, trying to improve and get those things in my head out on the machine!

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: I know this seems strange but everyone I seem to talk with about seven string guitar seems to be influenced by Jeff Loomis. How has Jeff influenced you in one way or another?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: Jeff actually got me into the 7 string. I didn't play 7 string until working with Nevermore for the first time in 2002. I got into playing it from there, and am trying to integrate it more into everyday playing, and just see what else I can do with it. On "This Godless Endeavour," Jeff and I both make use of altered tunings on a 7 string, a little more than just the standard, down a half step we'd done in the past. Musically speaking, Jeff has really kicked my ass in a while new direction! I am seeing that I have to "get my chops up" into fine form to be able to keep up with the dude - he's phenomenal.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: What makes you crazy in the music industry these days?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: I dunno. We're kind of back to that cyclical "cookie cutter" type of thing in the hard core metal scene out there. There's not much originality left in that, so I think the time's about right for a change.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: What is it like working with your engineer, Andy Sneap?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: It was awesome! Andy is par none, absolutely ....ing awesome to work with. He's a true talent as a producer and an engineer, and I learned so much from working with him. I really "got schooled", so to speak. Andy, without even saying it, caused me to do some serious introspection in my playing since recording TGE. I've taken this insight into my instrumental album now as well.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: Could you talk about this solo instrumental CD?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: The EssenEss Project is the instrumental duo, and album I am working on at the moment. It's not gonna be the typical "shred fest" only kind of thing, though. We wrote some "song-oriented" instrumentals for this album, things that take you somewhere (hopefully), making you feel the emotion behind it, trying to do something more with the structures than just providing a vehicle to shred over. Of course, there's some of that in there too! We have Atma Anur, the original Cacophony drummer, as special guest on drums, and I gotta tell you, I've been going over the drum edits, listening back to what he's done, and it's just ....ing amazing! We were very lucky to be able to get Atma to do this with us again.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: Do you have a recording computer setup?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: Yes. Right now,I am using the 001 system from Protools, which is right now, a little "oldschool" for most recordists, but it's working for me from a project perspective! I run this on a PC, and have a lot of old rack gear for outboard effects, a Line 6 Pod for direct capability, and a pair of old Yamaha NS10's for monitors. A little new and a little old stuff in there. I'm gonna switch over to a Mac by the end of the year, though, and upgrade to a different Protools rig.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: Do you use a practice amp or an amp modeler for practice?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: Actually, I use both, it depends on where I am, and what I have with me. Usually, I have my Boss 532 digital 4 track with me. I'm usually writing with that, using the amp modeler on there for tone.


<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: What would be your dream gig, although I'd assume Nevermore would be it?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: You hit the nail right on the head, dude! I couldn't be happier than being in Nevermore - this is my dream gig.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: How and why did you start playing a seven string guitar?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: Well, like I said, Jeff Loomis is the reason! He was using them in Nevermore when I came to jam with them, and I got into playing them that way! I still play a lot of 6 string in addition to 7, but have grown a lot on the 7 in the last few years.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: If you could teach any other seven string guitar player something what would it be?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: I would have to say when I am teaching a 7 string player, as I do, I let them know to take advantage of the lower range of it, especially with respect to riff writing. It's only a 4th below E, but there's another world there to capture In addition to that, soloing with respect to a 7 string is great too - you get great arpeggios that cover 7 strings, string skipping ideas that are insane, and taking advantage of that extra string, you can connect some seriously long runs on one as well. Those are things I generally try to show people.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: Would you consider yourself a feel or technique player?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: I try to infuse both equally in my playing. I have done my share of shredding, and also tried in the same respect to retain a great sense of a "bluesy" type of feeling in there as well, because that's what my early influence was: Joe Perry and Angus Young were the first real "rock" guitar players I heard, in addition to Brian May, and others, and they always had that "feel" thing happening. I think it's important not to focus too much on technique for techniques' sake. I have heard a few people who remind me of a soundtrack to video game, because their technique is so highly developed, so clean, they are so focused on that, but they lose the feeling of what they were trying to put across in the first place. I think it's got to have a little "dirt" on it, if you will, at least in my book it does.

<img style="padding:20px;" align="left" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/newsimages/ss/2.jpg" alt="Steve Smyth" />
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: Do you work all your solos out or are they on the fly?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: I would say it's a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. I try to get a "theme" from my head, on to the guitar, then work it out, refine it a little, and pretty much try and go for what I have worked out "theme" wise, but there's always that "off the cuff" kind of improv that I always leave myself room to jam on as well. It's about 50/50, or in some cases 30/70 "worked out" vs. improv.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: Every guitar player at one time or another contemplates quitting. Have you ever felt that way?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: There's always those peaks and valleys that we all go through, times of frustration. If anything, it's knowing when to lay it down, take a break, be it 5 minutes, a day, maybe even a week, maybe even a month. You kind of have to go through those things sometimes to grow, and I think that's what everyone who goes through this phase finds out eventually.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: What guitars do you own?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: Currently, I have my B.C Rich Ignitor 7, and 2 ESP Ltd Models, the H-207(strat style), and also an H-307. Those are the current seven strings. Other guitars include a B.C. Rich custom shop Bitch, with a widow headstock, one I had built by Bernies Rico Jr. and signed by Bernie Rico Sr. One thing really unique about this guitar is it was the first B.C. to have a Bitch body with a Widow headstock on it, and it's one solid piece of mahogany in the middle, body to neck, and the sides are book-matched tiger's eye maple. My other B.C.'s include a custom Mockingbird, an Ignitor, a Warlock, two NJ series, a Mockingbird, and an Ironbird.

I also have an old Ibanez Saber, and an old pre Roadstar Strat, an old Teisco
Del Ray Surfcaster guitar, complete with a Bigsby trem on it, and a 1957 Danelectro Les Paul Copy. All of these guitars are always around, and can
inspire different things, and most of them will be used on The EssenEss project debut. As for acoustics, I have an Alvarez D-77 6 string, and a Yamaha 12 string, as well as an old "beater" Seville nylon string acoustic. I also have a few bass guitars lying around, including an old Jackson bass I got from my partner in The EssenEss Project, Steve Hoffman. He turned this bass into a fretless 4 string, and it's a hell of a lot of fun to jam on.

<img style="padding:20px;" align="right" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/newsimages/ss/6.jpg" alt="Steve Smyth with Jerich at NAMM 2006" />
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: What are your dream guitars?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: I would love to own a vintage Gibson Les Paul, an old '54 Strat, maybe a Telecaster, old studio guitars, to get some tones that sometimes you just can't get any other way. Those immediately come to mind. Other stringed instruments, that's another story - a mandolin, a sitar, there's a huge list of "wants" that I have.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: What type of strings and picks do you use?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: This depends on the situation I'm in. With Nevermore, I am using SIT strings, .10-52, with a .64 B string for the 7 strings. With Dragonlord, and The EssenEss, I am using .10-.52 on all of the 6 string stuff, .12-.54 for the acoustic stuff. As for picks, I vary a little bit. Dunlop Tortex .88 gauge are my preference, have been for a while now. With Dragonlord, I am using Dunlop, medium thickness, about a .66, or somewhere around there. For acoustic stuff, I tend to jump around with different picks quite a bit, all Dunlops, different plastic types, and different gauges.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: What does your touring rig consist of?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: For touring, I have my Ignitor running through a Mesa Boogie 3 channel Triple Rectifier, using Monster Cables, pedals include a Digitech Digital Delay, a Digitech Chorus, and also a Digitech Whammy, all fed into the effects loop, and accessed through the FX footswitch function. It's a bit of a tap dance, still working that one out before we go out again. As for speakers, I am using Celestion ion Vintage 30's, the old 'Greenbacks".

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: When you think of a perfect guitar tone who comes to your mind?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: Well, I'm a bit more old school when it comes to this. Akira Takasaki's tone on the Disillusion album,and also on Thunder in the East is awesome!!! I love James Hetfield's rhythm tone on Master of Puppets. And of course, Randy Rhoads tone on Diary of a Madman is still one of the all time best, in my opinion n. I loved Eric Peterson's tone on The Gathering as well. Great rhythm tone on that one. Also Michael and Chris Amott's tones are killer as well.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: How Important is ear training to you?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: Very. I try to instill that in my students every day. A few things I do in my lessons are to show them how to memorize the notes on the fretboard by sound and location, and once we go through the phase of learning every note, we start testing their ear on recognizing individual notes, progressing on to intervals, then scales, arpeggios and chords, and eventually chord progressions. I try to get my students to pay attention to all things that make a sound, even if it doesn't seem musical at all. There's a note in everything we hear, and you can use the world as your "ear test" if you put your mind to it every day.

<img style="padding:20px;" align="left" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/newsimages/ss/5.jpg" alt="Steve Smyth" />
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: What is your practice routine like?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: I am not really doing a strict practice routine like "back in the day", as I am more involved in writing songs, and using what I come up with in a song. There's always something in my head that I am hearing, and can have that to achieve, and that becomes my practice!

When I did go through a routine, I basically would set up a few clicks on my drum machine, one for 16th notes, one for 16th note triplets, one for 32nd notes, and burn through those from a relatively ely slow tempo, say anywhere from 60 BPM, to whatever my "ceiling" was for that day. I realized early on in doing this, that some days are better in particular for achieving speed goals, and would not try to push myself too hard, but get to a reasonable tempo, for example 16th notes at 172BPM. What I would do is improvise anything, scales, string skipping, tapping, sweeping, any technique, trying to fuse those together, and the whole time, playing right off the top of my head, whatever came out, came out. I would also record hese "sessions", play them back, pick out particular licks that stood out, and work them into my vocabulary, whatever it was. I still pull this idea out from time to time, if I am feeling a little "rusty" on some things. It's pretty effective.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: How do you warm up for a show?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: I find the best thing is just playing through the neck, linearly, slowly, doing sequences, stretching out my hands, stretching my body y, and jamming out parts in the songs we are playing, to work pretty effectively. More than half of playing live to me is your mindset, and if your mind is free of everything but music, then you're good to go.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: Is there thing that we can listen for to separate you from Jeff on this recording?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: I think everyone will hear the immediate difference between Jeff and myself. We're two different people, and that right there is a lot. Individuality is a big thing, and something I hope will be noticed on This Godless Endeavour. One song, Psalm of Lydia, has a pretty cool trade off shred thing between Jeff and I, so listen for that one.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: What does the future hold for Steve Smyth,and is there anything about the new Nevermore CD that you can let us in on?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: We're all really proud of This Godless Endeavour! We are gearing up for tour, getting ready to shoot a video here next week , for the first single from the album, called "Final Product". I would say the only thing I can add about the record, is the depth of it. It's one of those albums you have to listen to a few times, maybe even trip on with headphones, there will be stuff on there that you won't hear the first time possibly, I know it happened to me when I got the master copy of it - I hope you all will enjoy it as much as we do.

As for the future, I would say touring, waiting for the Dragonlord album to be
finished and mixed, and getting The EssenEss album done here in the short term, and I have an idea I am about to launch. As I am a guitar teacher in the "offtime", and have been for nearly 20 years, I am launching a version of "online lessons" in the short future. This will not be a "one on one" live kind of thing, but rather a "prepackaged to your desire" type of thing, meaning it's a lesson customized to what you would like to learn, and pres presented with visuals and audio as well. Interested students can contact me for more details.

<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">J</span>: Steve Thank you for taking the time to do this interview, anything else you would like to say to us seven stringers?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">SS</span>: Just keep on jamming, and keep it as heavy as you can!

<div align="center">
<span style="color:white;font-weight:bold;">For more Information about Steve and Nevermore:</span>

<a href="http://www.nevermore.tv/" target="_BLANK"><span class="ivred">Nevermore - Official Website</span></a> -
<a href="http://www.stevesmyth.com/esseness/" target="_BLANK"><span class="ivred">The Esseness Project</span></a> - <a href="http://www.stevesmyth.com/" target="_BLANK"><span class="ivred">SteveSmyth.com</span></a>
</div>
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  #1  
By Shawn on 07-20-2005, 06:31 PM
Cool interview.
  #2  
By Shannon on 07-20-2005, 06:40 PM
Good god! Behold the BC Rich Ignitor 7! That's one of my dream guitars!
  #3  
By Jerich on 07-22-2005, 08:24 AM
Chris Thanks again for a Job well done.....And Steve see you on tour brother....and when you are ready to sell that Purple BC Rich "Ignitor" you will call me right?

Hope you all enjoy this Interview:
  #4  
By Chris on 01-24-2006, 11:37 AM


  #5  
By Tombinator on 03-30-2006, 06:12 AM
Hell yes! Awesome interview, thank you!
  #6  
By Michael on 04-22-2006, 05:26 AM
His warlock 7's are stunning!
  #7  
By Mark. A on 04-22-2006, 07:15 AM
Hell yes, Mawdy you got that one right.
  #8  
By Joel2 on 05-18-2006, 01:27 AM
All the best to Steve! I wish him a speedy recovery.
  #9  
By InTheRavensName on 09-25-2006, 09:38 AM
Steve Smyth wins at life...

...and his ignitor makes me wet...

haha, seriously, the best argument around for the BCR custom shop!
  #10  
By irg7620 on 12-29-2006, 07:20 PM
hey, the link to nevermore's website takes me to a yahoo search page for http stuff. just wanted to let you know.
  #11  
By JETZH on 01-29-2007, 06:51 PM
Very STOKED to hear Steve surgery was a success. He's a great fit in Nevermore and look forward to seeing him back on stage.

METAL!!

Jasun/ZH
  #12  
By jem_legacy on 04-27-2007, 01:16 PM
This guy has to be good if he plays with Jeff Loomis. One of my inspirations for a seven string guitarist. Awsome playing and awsome interview.
  #13  
By maxdt on 11-02-2009, 04:51 PM
Good Man!!!
  #14  
By Malacoda on 01-25-2010, 07:40 PM
Great teacher (I take from him on Thursdays).
  #15  
By thorsr on 02-09-2010, 05:02 AM
Steve Smyth rocks!
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