Sevenstring.org Interview: Eric Clemenzi

Discussion in 'Artist Reviews & Interviews' started by Chris, Jan 13, 2008.

  1. Chris

    Chris metalguitarist.org Forum MVP

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    <div align="right"><img src="http://www.sevenstring.org/newsimages/clemenzi/ec_xlogo2.gif" alt="Eric Clemenzi" />
    <b>Interview: Eric Clemenzi</b>
    <i><font size="1">By Chris Quigley</font></i></div><div align="center">

    Guitarist Eric Clemenzi is the guitar/bass/guitar enemble instructor at the Pingree School in Hamilton, Mass. He also teaches over 80 students in his private studio, plays in two bands (the prog rock driven Storms Approach, and acoustic duo Kangaralien) and still found the time to write, record and produce his jaw-dropping new album Basement Tapes - An 11-track absolute masterpiece that runs the gambit from flat out shred metal to jazz, fusion and everything in between.

    Basement Tapes has something for everyone, not only is it full of guitar acrobatics, it's also, from start to finish, so well written that it's incredibly accessible to musicians and music fans alike. It's rare, and refreshing, to listen to an instrumental album with such an impressive mix of solid songwriting and technical guitar playing, and the end result is easily one of the best albums to hit your CD player this year. - <i><font color="orange">CQ / Sevenstring.org</font></i></div>

    <img style="padding:10px;" align="left" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/newsimages/clemenzi/1.jpg" alt="Eric Clemenzi" /><span class="ivorange">SS</span>: You've been involved with a wide range of projects ranging from prog metal to classical instrumental. Give us some background on what you've done so far.

    <span class="ivred">Eric Clemenzi</span>: My main focus with my music right now is in three projects: Kangaralien, Storms Approach, and my solo album. Kangaralien is Steve Belleville and myself on acoustic guitar. Steve and I had played together in a Dream Theater cover band, then some original prog groups, and we needed something to fill the gap between band practices. We started writing music and last year released our debut album. Storms Approach is my current prog metal band, with Steve on bass, Chris Munroe on Drums, Anne Collins on vocals, and Scott Randall on guitar. We have been playing for a couple of years and released our 8 song EP this summer. I just finished wrapping up my solo album, which will be released on January 12th. It is all of my original material that I composed on my own, plus my now defunct band Quandary. Quandary is basically Storms without Scott and Anne, plus the addition of guitarist Brian Packer. We had a blast writing our 4 really long instrumentals and I didn’t want them to disappear, so we put the tracks on the album too.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: What's your musical background in general?

    <span class="ivred">EC</span>: I have been playing for around 20 years. I started at 8 with the basics, learning to read, basic chords, that kind of thing. It wasn't until I was around twelve that I found Eric Johnson and my life changed. That was a huge turning point for me. Through high school I worked on writing music, chops, and theory on electric and studied with classical guitarist Wayne Peabody.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: What first got you into sevens, and who were the first guitarists you heard or influenced you?

    <span class="ivred">EC</span>: Dream Theater's Awake album really got me into wanting a seven. When I found out Ibanez was releasing an affordable(compared to the Universe) seven, I knew I had to try it. My first big influence was Eric Johnson. Hearing his music changed my life. From there I started to get into Steve Morse, Satriani, Vai, and Macalpine. <img style="padding:10px;" align="right" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/newsimages/clemenzi/2.jpg" alt="Eric Clemenzi" />

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Give us a rundown on your gear, guitars and strings, including your custom eight string.

    <span class="ivred">EC</span>: For the acoustic duo I use the Ibanez seven string acoustic AJ 307. I usually string it with 11's and put a .59 on the bottom. My main guitar with Storms Approach is the Music Man Petrucci seven string. I use that guitar mainly for the piezos in the bridge. I string that with 10's. I use a Mesa DC-5 for live and in the studio I use the POD 2.0 on the rectifier setting. Chris Stambaugh built my 8. He is out of New Hampshire and I recommend checking out his work. The guitar has a walnut top, mahogany back, 5 piece neck, and a birdseye maple fretboard. The pickups are the Lundgren M8's and it has Sperzel Locking Tuners. The scale is around 23.75-26".

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: As a whole how have you incorporated the eight into your playing, and what do you like the most about it?

    <span class="ivred">EC</span>: As of right now, the 8 hasn't been making as many appearances as I would like. I have been so focused on my two groups that it has taken a backseat to those for a while. The main things that I have going for the 8 right now is a Chopin piano etude that I have always loved and thought would be really cool to try on guitar. The 8 really helps to make some of the piano runs a little more playable on the guitar. I also love the possibilities the 8 offers in the tapping department.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: How does the eight compare to the seven, and the six?

    <span class="ivred">EC</span>: The eight still totally confuses me! That is a great reason to use it though. One of the big reasons I wanted to explore 8 strings is for the new creative possibilities. It is a lot more difficult to fall into the patterns when your fingers have no idea where they are going.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Do you use any altered tunings?

    <span class="ivred">EC</span>: I don't really alternate tune a whole lot. The Kangaralien album has one song in drop D, and we have tribute to Django Reinhardt that is in drop A. Other than that, everything is standard.

    <img style="padding:10px;" align="left" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/newsimages/clemenzi/3.jpg" alt="Eric Clemenzi" /><span class="ivorange">SS</span>: What do you use live as opposed to in the studio?

    <span class="ivred">EC</span>: In the studio I record with the POD 2.0. It makes my life a lot easier, is consistent, and I can record at any time of day or night. Live I use a Mesa DC-5. I use a couple of volume pedals to adjust volume between the piezo and magnetic pickups. I have a tuner and a Bad Horsie wah I use occasionally. I also use a Roland Guitar Synth live for extra textures.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Kangaralien is a very eclectic mix of classical, folk and bluegrass elements, without really sounding like any of one in particular. How did the songwriting for the album come about?

    <span class="ivred">EC</span>: Steve Belleville and I just sit down in my basement and throw around ideas. Sometimes he has a riff or I have a riff and we build off of it. "First Impression" off of our album started as a joke. He capoed at the 5th fret and just for the heck of it I capoed at the first. We made some horrible noises, laughed a lot, and eventually the song came out.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Can you give us some detail as to the recording process?

    <span class="ivred">EC</span>: For Kangaralien we used one mic (an Audio Technica 4050 - we tracked separately). We ran it from my mackie board into a Delta 1010 soundcard and into Cubase. All effects were added after. For Storms Approach and my solo album, we used the PODs for all guitars and a Bass POD for the bass tracks. We used triggers on all the acoustic drums and used the original Drumkit from Hell samples. We used a couple of Octava mics for overheads. The vocal mic for Storms Approach was the 4050 again.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: How does recording an all-acoustic album differ (in general) than with a full band? Do you approach the recording/mastering process differently? <img style="padding:10px;" align="right" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/newsimages/clemenzi/4.jpg" alt="Storms Approach" />


    <span class="ivred">EC</span>: Recording the acoustic album was all about keeping things quiet. We had a cricket problem during the recording! They are on there occasionally if you listen REALLY close. The mixing was so much easier since we only used two tracks for every song. We used some of those Vic Firth Headphones to keep the click track from bleeding as well. For Storms, everything started with scratch tracks, then we got a solid drum performance, and built the tracks from there. My solo album was built off of music I wrote myself with sequenced drums, and then I had Chris from Storms redo the drums after most of the guitars were done. Mixing was much more of a nightmare for the electric stuff than the acoustic. We had two tracks to worry about with Kangaralien, and sometimes 30 or 40 with Storms and my solo album.

    I had Tom Eaton at Thomas Eaton Recording in Newburyport master all 3 albums. I felt it was important to have a very experienced engineer put the finishing touches on the album. He did a great job making the albums fatter and more even throughout.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: How about the songwriting process?

    <span class="ivred">EC</span>: The songwriting in Kangaralien is really collaborative. If you asked me to play Steve's parts, I couldn't do it. We write all our own stuff. For Storms, Steve is the main writer. He comes in with full tunes, and then we arrange them together. We all bring in our ideas in the parts we come up with for each tune.

    <img style="padding:10px;" align="left" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/newsimages/clemenzi/5.jpg" alt="Eric Clemenzi" /><span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Is it easier for you to compose instrumentals or write songs? With an instrumental, how do you know when you are finished?

    <span class="ivred">EC</span>: I prefer instrumentals. I don't like writing lyrics. I have no interest in coming up with words. Even songs I bring to Storms, I always ask if anyone has any lyrics they want to lend me. Regarding instrumentals, for me it is all trial and error. Sometimes I have parts hanging around that didn't make it into a tune and realize there might be a good fit in another song. I usually try to feel it out and just see what happens.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Walk us through your compositional process; where do you get the idea for a song, and how does it proceed from there.

    <span class="ivred">EC</span>: A lot of ideas for me come from working on new scales or concepts. I was taking lessons with my friend and teacher extraordinaire Nate Comp a few years ago, and each time we would get together he would throw a weird scale concept at me. At the end of our lessons he would always say,"see what you can write with it." That's where songs like Landvetter came from. I was working on Mattias Eklundh-style tapping and whammy harmonics and I had just started working on the Lydian Dominant scale, so I tried to write a song based on the two ideas. I also try to think of different combinations of bands and come up with what I think they might sound like it they got together. I have one tune that I said,"what if Dream Theater and Meshuggah got together?". That kind of thing.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: You teach over 70 students a week, what range of skill levels areyou working with, and how would you describe as a whole being able to teach music for a living?

    <span class="ivred">EC</span>: Teaching is one of my favorite things to do. I like playing live and doing recordings, but I like also like being able to get instant feedback from a student. I like being able to help them get over different hurdles they may encounter with their playing. One of the most important things to me is being a motivator. More than scales or techniques or songs, it is about feeling good about learning and playing the guitar, and when you feel good about it, you want to practice and improve. I work with all ages and levels, but that is the common thing that ties them all together- enjoying the instrument. Playing can be a struggle sometimes, but breaking down walls and moving to the next level is a great way to build self-confidence, not only in guitar playing, but in our every-day life.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Do you find that being a fulltime instructor has sharpened your chops as well?

    <span class="ivred">EC</span>: Being able to teach has sharpened my chops in different areas. There is a very limited amount of time during a lesson, and it is important for me to be efficient in how I do things. It has definitely sharpened my chops in being able to create backing tracks for students on the fly, improved my ear, and helped my transcribing skills. I still have to practice outside of lessons to keep up with the technical stuff though. I don't play a ton during lessons. It is always about the student, and a lot of the time that involves listening to them do their thing and then critiquing it.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: What do you like the most about it?

    <span class="ivred">EC</span>: Helping other people reach their goals. There is nothing like seeing a student complete their first AC/DC song or hear their original composition on CD. <img style="padding:10px;" align="right" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/newsimages/clemenzi/6.jpg" alt="Kangaralien" />


    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: What's your basic practice regimen, and just how much do you practice a week?

    <span class="ivred">EC</span>: Unfortunately, I don't have a steady practice regimen right now. I just finished recording and mixing my solo album, so that took up most of the time when I would be practicing. I definitely practiced for certain sections of the album though. I am actually re-learning most of the songs on the album right now so I can play them correctly at the CD release show.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: What advice do you have for guitarists working hard to get their chops up?

    <span class="ivred">EC</span>: Be patient, work accurately, and listen to your body. I had some hand problems from around the age of 18 to about 21, when I would not take breaks and not listen to my hands saying,"please stop!" I am lucky that my hand problems have subsided, but just be really careful! Don't hurt yourself!

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: How important is theory to you in songwriting vs improv?

    <span class="ivred">EC</span>: Theory is important and not important in both areas. I think it always depends on the situation. Sometimes shear spontaneity will give you a great riff for a song, yet sometimes the next riff just doesn't want to happen. That is when I start using theory to help me out of a dead end. What scales can I superimpose over the chords? What scales does the riff imply? What scale can my melody imply? I ask myself this in both the songwriting process and the soloing process(especially when recording a solo). When I am playing live I try to mix up my solo and not do what I recorded when I was in the studio. Usually I preset a few scalar ideas in my head(key, mode) and then maybe some alternates that go outside a little. One thing that is a constant when I improv though is note awareness. I want to know at any given moment what note I am on on the fretboard.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: If you could teach other seven string players one thing, what would it be?

    Always be true to yourself. Explore who you are on the instrument regardless of what people think. There are a lot of stereotypes that come with playing a seven, but just do your thing and make music you love.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: How important is ear training to you?

    <img style="padding:10px;" align="left" src="http://www.sevenstring.org/newsimages/clemenzi/7.jpg" alt="Storms Approach" /><span class="ivred">EC</span>: Ear training is huge. One of the biggest things for me outside of being able to recognize chord progressions, riffs, and solos by ear is also being able to adapt scales and modes that aren't part of our everyday music vocabulary. When I first heard the Lydian Dominant scale, I didn't get it at all, but the more I used it and applied it, the more I liked the sound. I know that might be different than the typical interval ear training we think of, but I think training the ear to hear the possibilities of using different modes and flavors in our playing applies.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Mattias IA Eklundh is a friend of yours - how'd that come about?

    <span class="ivred">EC</span>: I saw that Mattias was coming over for the NAMM show in January 2005. My friend and collegue Dave Newsam teaches over at Berklee, so I asked him if he could help me out in getting a visiting artist clinic for him. Once I confirmed that it was doable, I dropped him a line and he told me he would love to do a clinic. I have been a fan of Freak Kitchen since Spanking Hour, so it was a thrill to have him come over, hang out, talk music, and do some jamming.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: What's in your CD player currently, and what newer artists are you listening to? Any bands that would suprise people to know you're into?

    <span class="ivred">EC</span>: Freak Kitchen's Organic has been in my CD player since its release. I really love Scar Symmetry. I love Rush in Rio. Some Meshuggah as well. Bela Fleck and Chris Thile rule too! My current favorite album right now is Coheed and Cambria's Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV. I have had a lot of students wanting to learn their stuff, then Steve Belleville gave the album a great review, so I eventually picked up the album. I love that it is prog, has some catchy stuff, and there is tons of guitar. The vocal stuff is killer too.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Anything you'd like to say in closing?

    <span class="ivred">EC</span>: Thanks so much for having me do this interview! I think you have a great forum here, and it is great to read so much about the extended range family!

    <div align="center">
    <a href="http://www.ericclemenzi.com" target="_TOP"><span class="ivred">Eric Clemenzi - Official Website</span></a> - <a href="http://www.myspace.com/ericclemenzi" target="_TOP"><span class="ivred">Eric Clemenzi on MySpace</span></a>

    <a href="http://www.myspace.com/kangaralien" target="_TOP"><span class="ivred">Kangaralien on MySpace</span></a> - <a href="http://www.myspace.com/stormsapproach" target="_TOP"><span class="ivred">Storms Approach on MySpace</span></a>
    </div>
     
  2. 7 Strings of Hate

    7 Strings of Hate Mid-Level Asshole Contributor

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    good interview dude
     
  3. The Dark Wolf

    The Dark Wolf Contributor

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    Dude, your song 'Thank You' is one of the coolest instrumental guitar pieces I've ever heard.

    I remember when I first heard it (can't remember where, off hand), I thought, "Who the heck is Eric... Clemenzi? Oh well! This song is great, and I'm fucking keeping this mp3!" :lol:


    Thanks for the interview! Hope you read this.
     
  4. El Caco

    El Caco Djavli te ponesli Contributor

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    Thanks Chris, I had a quick listen to some of the tracks on his site earlier and I liked what I heard.
     
  5. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    I had the good fortune to be able to catch the CD release party for this. I'll just say that with any luck, Eric is someone we're going to be hearing a LOT more from in the future - watching him rip it up on stage was absolutely humbling. He's one of those guys that's an absolute world class talent - sick chops, but used tastefully and melodically. "The Basement Tapes" is one of the best independant instrumental releases I've ever picked up. :yesway:
     
  6. ricez

    ricez Contributor

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    Hi!

    I just wanted to say thanks for the complements on the tunes! I appreciate it! Also, thanks Chris for doing the interview!!:hbang:
     
  7. Ken

    Ken Forum MVP

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    Fuck.

    I knew this wasn't going to be a good day after reading the interview.

    The only thing I could really hope for was that the production sucked so I'd have something to frown about.

    Nope. The chops are amazing, and the production is just fabulous.

    Dude, I stopped listening to Dream Theater after Awake, and I'm not much into odd-meter stuff anymore, but this is some of the tastiest stuff I've heard in a while.

    DT should listen to this stuff, and maybe they'd remember what made them killer to begin with.

    :2c:
     
  8. Kevan

    Kevan Forum MVP

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    Nice work, Eric!
    Keep playin' and putting out awesome songs!

    (cool interview, CQ)
     
  9. Ryan

    Ryan SS.org Regular

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    Sweet interview! Dude, I have that same Meshuggah hoodie :yesway: I hope you didn't get raped for $60 for it like I did :lol:
    And, sweet JP7.
     
  10. Michael

    Michael Forum MVP

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    Killer interview Chris! I've actually never heard of Eric before, but after reading through this I'll have to pick up a copy of the album! \m/
     
  11. zimbloth

    zimbloth Nick // Axe Palace Vendor Forum MVP

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    Stunning stuff Eric. Your stuff is really tasteful, I will definitely be following your career closely. I also deem your t-shirt true :metal:
     
  12. keithb

    keithb Forum MVP

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    Sweet interview!

    I saw a Kangaralien/Storms Approach show a year or so ago, and Eric is an AMAZING player. If I lived a bit closer to him, I know who I'd be taking guitar lessons from :yesway: Definitely check out his stuff - I'm a big fan of the the new Storms Approach album (prog metal with female vocals).
     
  13. Michael

    Michael Forum MVP

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    BTW, where can I buy a copy of Eric's album?
     
  14. Popsyche

    Popsyche Contributor

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    :yesway: Very nice!
    Eric, your music is a joy to listen to!
     
  15. Chris

    Chris metalguitarist.org Forum MVP

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  16. Steve

    Steve I'm a Happy Camper.

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    Great interview, Chris and Eric. Thanks for taking the time to do the interview, Eric. Your music is great, and hope to see you on the road sometime soon. :dio:
     
  17. ricez

    ricez Contributor

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    Hi Everyone!

    Thanks again for all of the kind comments. Thanks to Chris for posting the player as well. If you want to hear more tunes, I just posted another full length on my myspace page(myspace.com/ericclemenzi). It is called "This is Song One" and is in two parts(the files were too big to load it as the complete 9 minute song). Thanks for listening!!:hbang:
     
  18. Luan

    Luan SS.org Regular

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    great interview
     
  19. technomancer

    technomancer Gearus Pimptasticus Super Moderator

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    I ordered the album earlier today after reading the interview and checking out the track. I was actually the first order :yesway:

    Go forth and order the CD :squint:
     
  20. ohio_eric

    ohio_eric Contributor

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    Just bought Basement Tapes, I'm totally looking forward to it. :metal:
     

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