Last year proved to be an exciting year for me after completing over 140 shows, releasing 2 DVDs, finishing the Mask of Judas album recording and of course meeting and jamming with tons of really cool people. It was a blast! Now 2017 is here, I hope to share some things I am currently working on:
Mask of Judas have a couple of shows coming up in the UK (2nd/4th February in Brighton/Southampton) supporting Galactic Empire and Sithu Aye. The album has been mixed and it sounds amazing! I can’t wait for people to hear it, it features 10 tracks of what I feel is my best 7/8 string metal writing, I think its pretty different and I hope that it goes down well. More official news on this soon.
I have recently finished a new column series for Guitar Interactive Magazine on ‘The Bluffers Guide to being in a Covers Band’ which will be out in the next issue of the online magazine. I have also just finished a really cool feature on Guthrie Govans Erotic Cakes album for Premier Guitar Magazine. Watch this space!
My main task this month aside from regular teaching, Mask of Judas rehearsals and of course trying to write music for my solo album whenever I find a moment is learning Queen songs. I was recently asked to play lead guitar role in a Freddie Mercury/Queen Tribute act that is going to be exclusively playing at Butlins over the next year, I have at least 30 gigs already booked with this, and I am looking forward to playing some of Brian Mays classic solos and guitar moments on stage! There are lots of notes to learn and memorise and I find the challenge of memorising complex material really fun and rewarding!
In other breaking news, I trimmed my hair significantly…not sure why, but I need some change in my life, change can inspire new things.
After filming some gear reviews for Guitar Interactive Magazine last week, the film crew candidly caught me improvising over one of my backing tracks that is featured on my LickLibrary DVD ‘Pentatonic Workout’. Check out the video here:
Its been a long time since I last updated this website news section, I have been so busy recently that its been hard to find time to do it myself! I am here now however and I shall give you a summary of what I have been up to and what I have planned.
First of all what I have been up to…
Mask of Judas are currently wrapping up the debut album, its taken some time however I really do believe that the wait has been well worth it. Some of these songs may be almost 4/5 years old and feel a lot like old friends to me however Jacob Hansen is currently in the process of mixing and mastering them to his incredibly high standard. I am so happy with how things are sounding and I can’t wait to unleash this album to you. The whole band has done an astounding job of bringing these songs into the fourth dimension! Jof’s drums are linking all the divides with crazy poly-rhythms and intense grooves. Jo’s vocal work is incredible from her signature pitched screams to low guttural growls she has as also contributed LOTS of amazing melodic and soulful vocal hooks that complete the songs. George is pummeling away on bass, I have no idea how he does what he does on that 6 string bass, but its amazing. And of course Reece Fullwood has contributed two songs to the album and some epic solo work! Once we have some extra stuff done (Artwork, PR and Tour Plans) I will be able to impart some more information. One thing I can say however is there may be an exclusive play through of one of the tracks coming soon to Focusrite Academy. I recently headed up to their HQ to film some educational clips on extended range songwriting. Watch this space!
In other news I have just finished a 6 month contract with an amazing show band at Butlins. We played 5/6 shows a week and performed from an absolutely huge stage every night to big audiences. I was able to play everything from Rock, Pop, RnB, Soul and Funk. This band was named ‘The Southcoast Showband’ for the Butlins contract, however we are continuing as a high quality professional function act in the UK. The band features some incredible musicians, featuring Mitch Glover on Drums, Ash Stork/Samer Shawawi sharing bass duties and Rachel Hawker and Alex Turney on dual vocal duties, keys and extra guitars. They have all inspired me to push my own musicianship to the next level and hopefully with more gigs, far beyond! I have never met such hardworking musicians before, I really enjoy playing with these people! Here is a photo of me making a strange face, credit to Danny Inwood Photography (he was on his holidays at Butlins and took this snap!)
You may notice I am playing a lovely surf green s-type guitar, this guitar is hand built by a local guitar builder under the name of ‘Eternal Guitars’. They have made guitars for many amazing session musicians and artists. Jess Lewis has had a signature model in the past and even Guthrie Govan has used some of these guitars on his JamTrackCentral releases. Dave at Eternal kindly spent time working and building a custom guitar for me, this is my signature guitar ‘Arista’…more information coming soon…all I can say is it plays amazingly and of course looks incredible. Eternal Guitars really make some magical instruments.
Talking of Guthrie Govan, I managed to meet him at a recent guitar masterclass he did in Horsham last month. I think this photo will put a lot of LickLibrary YouTube comments about me ‘looking like Guthrie’ to rest… He played amazing of course, one day I would love to jam with him…
I had the absolute pleasure of jamming with and interviewing British Blues Legend Robin Trower for Guitar Interactive Magazine a few months back. His tone was stunning and he was kind enough to impart some very wise words of wisdom. You can check it out in the back issues of the free online guitar magazine ‘Guitar Interactive’.
And on another note, I saw Paul Gilbert in Brighton recently, he played an amazing show for his 50th Birthday. I managed to find a spot right at the front, directly in front of his 4×12 speaker…it was only a few moments before he came on that I realised I had forgotten a very important accessory that all musicians should carry with them..my ear plugs…it was LOUD and my ears are still ringing (Look after your ears seriously) but I managed to fully experience all the notes and aggression that Paul plays with, it was amazing. A friend and follower of mine attended a Paul Gilbert VIP lesson. He kindly printed a photo of me when I met Paul last year at a meet and greet to have signed it for me by PG. Apparently when my friend asked Paul ‘ If he could sign it to his friend Sam’ Paul looked at the picture and replied saying ‘Ah Sam Bell right? Terrific guitarist’. It feels surreal. Thank you friend who did this, you know who you are! I’m not going to look too much into this but I am thankful it happened!
There are probably some other things I have forgotten to mention…I have lots of projects on the go at the moment, I have already mentioned Mask of Judas of course. The Session/Function work makes me very happy and of course I am working away for Guitar Interactive Magazine, Lick Library and Premier Guitar magazine regularly…I have a new column for Guitar Interactive coming soon on Modern Advanced Guitar Technique and there will be some new DVD’s coming out next year…I did manage whilst being busy with all the rest to release a new Jacketrock tune, you can watch a play through here:
On top of this I am actually taking Nick Johnstons advice from the last time I met him to ‘get out there and release an instrumental album’ very seriously…and I am working on something…not sure whats going to happen with it or what direction its going, but I am enjoying the process so far!
One last thing I should mention is that I have started teaching at a local music school in Chichester by the name of Chichester Music Academy. I currently have some slots available there so get in touch with them for more information (Click the picture below!) I already have some fantastic students who are thoroughly enjoying the learning experience.
Regarding my regular postings you can get all the updates on my Instagram (click picture below), so give me a follow for exclusive up to date clips and news 🙂
I sent UK fusion giant Tom Quayle my new E.P ‘The Earth Completes Another Rotation’. I woke up today to an awesome message from him. I enjoy playing and writing music. But sometimes its moments like these which are special as well, thanks Tom!
If you haven’t heard the EP yet you can download it from here:
I have been very busy lately on various projects. One of them was a project I nicknamed ‘Jacketrock’, it started as a bit of a joke but it spurred me on to finish a small melodic instrumental guitar EP.
I would love anyone who passes here to check it out, it features a different side to my guitar playing which doesn’t come out often in the commercial work I do. I will be releasing more E.Ps in the future. Enjoy!
Hello Internet! Its been a while, I get so busy that I often forget to keep this thing updated. Around a months time ago I was very fortunate to be able to interview Alice Coopers guitarist Nita Strauss for Guitar Interactive Magazine. She’s a true pro in every sense of the word, we had a jam and a chat about being session musicians. The interview isn’t out yet as it will be part of an upcoming issue of G.I magazine. I am looking forward to seeing the jam section of the interview, there were some great moments!
Last year I filmed a couple of new LickLibrary DVD’s for a series called ‘Pentatonic Workout’. Each DVD looks at some really cool pentatonic sequences you can insert instantly into your playing, the first DVD is aimed at the intermediate player whilst the second instalment is advanced. You can watch the trailer for part two here:
LickLibrary also released a video of a performance I did for their ‘Electric Guitar Show’
We caught up with Gi contributor and Licklibrary tutor Sam Bell to find out a little more about how he got started in music and what makes him tick as a player….
Hi Sam, can you share some of your earliest musical influences & inspirations?
My family aren’t musicians but we always had music playing in the house when I was growing up, Thin Lizzy, Marilion, Bob Dylan, Roxy Music etc. It wasn’t until I saw The Buddy Holly story Musical that I wanted to actually play the guitar. I was only 4 years old, I thought he was Elvis, turns out I was wrong! From there I became addicted, I was learning Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan and Chuck Berry songs when I was 5/6, jamming along to my parents old records. When I was 7/8 a family friend gave me a Jimi Hendrix record on tape…I was totally mesmerised by the opening riff to Purple Haze, I HAD to learn it. A neighbour friend of ours was a guitarist, I remember one summer evening him showing me it, it was like he had given me keys to the fountain of youth. From there I discovered many more players who still influence me to this day such as Mark Knopfler, Hank Marvin, and Van Halen.
In your early years, was making a living as a musician a conscious goal, or was it more a process of following your intuition and inspiration?
I never thought that I would be a musician. I loved music so much, I didn’t question if I could make a living, it was just something to do. I wanted to learn more songs and learn more riffs all the time. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by some kind Adults who would introduce me to new music or show me things on their old acoustic guitars. I was a shy kid in school, but I always performed on my guitar in the playground. This was around the time most girls were doing Spice Girls routines, I loved the Spice Girls, but I thought Buddy Holly was way cooler. I would often go to bed with music in my ears imagining being on stage playing the solos to the songs (often Thin Lizzy tunes!) it was a dream but I wasn’t smart enough to think about making it a career, its something I loved and still love!
Was there ever a time / moment when you doubted whether a career in music was an attainable goal?
I skateboarded through most of my teenage years, I didn’t pick up the guitar that often. It was like a party trick to me, I couldn’t talk at parties, I just picked up a guitar and sat away from people playing old songs that I learnt when I was young. I broke my right arm pretty badly when I was 15 and the doctor said I might lose proper function in my arm. I still get twinges these days but luckily it healed up well over time. I didn’t pick up the skateboard again. My skateboarding years weren’t wasted though, I discovered lots of cool music whilst skating. Joy Division, Ramones, Jurassic 5, NAS and I developed a taste for Dance Music. I decided to go to college because that’s what most kids do in my area, I was going to do media but I chose to do music because I knew a few riffs. It was there that I met some people who would introduce me to players like Paul Gilbert, Jason Becker and Yngwie Malmsteen.
Can you share any personal and / or career challenges that have helped shape you as an artist?
As a musician at any level there are going to be daily challenges. Often my biggest mistakes have been my biggest lessons. I have made lots of mistakes! It’s learning how to twist things around when things go wrong and keep your cool. I think its super important to play live and perform in front of people. That teaches you a lot about music and life! Far too much than I could list here! Being a professional musician has lots of challenges, it is difficult but I wouldn’t have it any other way, I love my job. People will try and stop you from doing things, people will say nasty things, you just have to keep going and be yourself 100%.
Who are some of your biggest influences as a Guitar player?
Music is my biggest influence…that’s a boring answer though! I will name some players who really helped shape me in my journey so far.
Buddy Holly, Mark Knopfler, Van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen, Paul Gilbert, Paul Jackson JR, Nile Rodgers, Tosin Abasi, Pin (Sikth), Wes Montgomery, Greg Howe, Guthrie Govan, Derek Trucks, John Scofield…the list could go on for years. But also its important to see beyond guitarists and look into musicians and music in general. I love Michael Jackson, Kate Bush, Lady Gaga, Daft Punk, Fleetwood Mac, The Human League, and so on!
When you approach a studio session for another artist what types of preparation do you do for the session? And, what type of direction do you welcome from the artist?
I make sure I know the material I will be recording, or at least know the brief of what is expected of me and I practice towards that. Not only technically but also preparing the right feel and tone for the session. Making sure my gears working and I am using the right gear for the job. I welcome all direction from whoever is producing the session, they are hiring me to do a job. It makes no sense for me to force my own direction into something when it’s not asked for, that can be how you get fired! Practicing being versatile and really knowing the guitar theoretically and stylistically is very important. Also playing to a click is a major skill everyone needs to know and master. If you can provide a quality part on a track and it doesn’t take much time and you are easy to work with then you will be called back! If not by that producer, by one of their friends at least!
Finally Sam, when you produce your own music, what are some of the most important elements that you focus on?
Melody, Flow and Groove. I like technical stuff, but it’s not make or break for me personally in my own writing. A melody that makes your hairs stand up on end, a pumping syncopated groove and sections that flow interestingly. I like adding surprise elements sometimes when it’s called for. Simplicity is key, I love the pop song structure, orchestration and arrangement that can be found in classic and modern pop. It works as a great foundation to build from, especially if you are writing instrumental music. I am obsessed with the small simple details that produces put into recordings. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I love Michael Jacksons music so much with Quincy Joan’s. Put the headphones on and suddenly you can hear a cool extra guitar part supporting a melody that is barely in the mix but it makes all the difference, I love that kinda thing!
On a side note, I think a song should show a mood, it should tell a story, it should take the listener on a journey and make them feel something. If I don’t feel anything whilst writing I work until I find that buzz. Its important not to get wrapped up in ego of ‘look what I can do’ for no reason what so ever, we have all been there! It works well, but think about your listeners! But at the same time do what you love and do what interests you, if you build you the rest will come.