Vinnie Moore is synonymous with instrumental rock guitar. Since his debut album, Mind’s Eye, in 1987, he has carved a name for himself among the great axe masters of the past 30-plus years. Aside from his boatload of solo releases, he has also recorded 6 albums and toured the world with classic rock mainstay UFO since 2003.
Let’s Rock is a little late to the party, as his most recent album, Soul Shifter, was released on October 9, but Vinnie was kind enough to sit down and answer our 20 Questions. Hope you enjoy his answers.
1. Congratulations on the new album, Soul Shifter. It’s an amazing listen from start to finish. Tell us what we need to know about the making of the album. (players, producer, etc.)
Thanks for the positive words. My drummer Richie Monica and I met up at Sound Spa Studios in Edison, NJ to record drums with engineer Stephen DeAcutis. I took those drum tracks home and recorded my guitars in my studio, where I also played bass on a couple songs. John Cassidy came in to play his keyboard parts at my place too. Rudy Sarzo, Randy McStine, and Michael Bean played Bass on different songs and did their parts in their own studios. Jordan Rudess played some piano solos on GAINESVILLE STATION and also recorded in his studio. John Pessoni played drums on two of the tracks that he recorded at his studio. I produced the record.
2. The first thing that I noticed on my first listen was just how many different styles you play. Is this something you set out to do, or does every song come from what you’re feeling on the day?
I like listening to and playing many different styles of music. So it was more of a natural and organic thing that just happened. When I write a song, it comes from whatever I am feeling at the time. I never sit down with the guitar and a plan. I just play and let it happen.
3. What gear did you use on Soul Shifter?
I used a bunch of my Dean vinman2000 signature guitars. On the song SOUL RIDER I used my Les Paul on a lot of the melodies. A Dean Strat and Fender Strat were used also. For most of the record I used my Marshall JMP 100 Head into an Engl 4×12 cabinet with Celestion V30’s. While recording, I bought a 1966 Fender Super Reverb, and used that in some spots. For pedals, I used an Analogman King of Tone and a J Rockett Archer.
4. Kung Fu Grip is an absolute monster. I’ve read that Steve Vai fasted before he recorded For The Love Of God. Is there anything special you did to prepare before whipping off the solos for this tune?
Thanks man. Yes, same formula everyday…….lots of coffee.
5. Rumor has it that Phil Mogg has retired from UFO. Will the band continue to make music or does the band end with his departure?
We are in the middle of the “Last Orders” tour which started in the UK in March of 2019. We had a couple runs over in Europe in the summer, and recently did 19 shows in the US. We pick up again in February for some more US shows and finish that run on the Rock Legends Cruise. It looks like we will be hitting South America in May. There could be more shows after that too but I am not sure at the moment. We are winding it down but don’t know yet how long we will keep it going. We will not continue without Phil of course.
6. My Let’s Rock partner Paul listened to the new album with me and he mentioned that it’s the first time in recent memory that he heard a guitarist who didn’t sound at all like any other players. Where did your style come from and how do you get away from sounding like your influences?
Please thank him. This is a big compliment actually. Elements of your influences are always going to show up here and there in your playing. I have always believed that the more influences, the better. Not only guitar influences, but inspiration from other instruments, and many styles of music. I have always been very open minded with music. If you listen and learn from many sources, and just spend a lot of time playing and writing, I think your individuality develops naturally.
7. How do you go about naming instrumental songs?
With some songs I know exactly what I am writing about from the start. It’s easier to name those songs. But more often, things are more abstract and I don’t know what I am writing about. I am feeling something and it flows into what I am writing. In those cases it can be very difficult to come up with a title, and is often a huge pain in the ass.
8. What are the plans for touring to support Soul Shifter?
I have a solo tour in Europe that starts in Budapest in mid January. I’ll do more shows later in the year but there is nothing concrete yet.
9. Do you write for guitar players? By this I mean, do you throw any crazy riffs just to piss people like me off, knowing that we won’t be able to ever play it.
Haha. Never considered this.
10. I’ve asked this to a few other instrumental guitarists…(Paul Gilbert, Marty Friedman, Dave Reffett) Is shred a bad word? Personally, I love the style, but there are the purists who say Gilmour or BB King could say more with one note than someone like Yngwie could say with a million.
Back in the 80’s when I started making records, I was inadvertently on the forefront of this whole instrumental guitar movement. At some point soon after, I first heard the word shred. I didn’t like it to be honest because I thought it had a negative connotation. To me it represented all the bad things that seemed to be happening at the time. Fast playing for fast playings sake without feel and anything harmonically interesting. Over the years I have come to accept the term a little more, but I don’t consider myself a shred player. Sure I can shred a little, but I am not defined by just that. There are players that can say a lot with a couple notes, and there are players that can express a lot with many notes. Conversely, there are players that can’t say much with fewer notes or more notes. I feel I can say a lot and make someone feel something with just a few notes, or many notes. It’s important to mix it up.
11. What do you have to say about the state of the music industry these days?
It’s pretty sad when you think about it. I would not want to be a young new musician starting out in this climate. I am lucky enough to be able to do what I love doing and live off the grid so to speak.
12. How have you changed as a player since you released Mind’s Eye in 1987?
My playing has changed many times over the years. I have explored many different musical territories to keep from getting bored. Somewhere at the core, I am the same player that is following his own path. I think I have continued to grow over the years and this is important for any artist. Don’t stagnate, keep your ears and mind open and always explore and learn new things. Make attempts to do things you have never done before.
13. What music do you listen to these days? What do you listen to that might surprise people?
As always, I like many different things. Sometimes I’ll play Benny Goodman or Glenn Miller radio. I love the swing era. It may be a surprise that I can play Tears For Fears radio and really enjoy that.
14. Many people want to hear vocals when they listen to music. What’s the most important thing to think about when recording instrumental songs? How do you keep it exciting for the non-guitar playing listener?
I think it is important to come up with catchy melodies and structured parts. Something that people can latch onto quickly. Playing a gazzilion notes for 4 minutes is not going to keep someone interested. It’s catchy melodies, that people can pretty much sing. And of course, there has to be feel and soul in what you’re doing.
5 Questions from my daughter, who (sadly) doesn’t listen to rock music
15. How do you stay interested in the guitar after so many years playing?
I stay interested because I still love playing and expressing myself through music. There are always moments where I get frustrated with it and temporarily hate it. But that’s because it means so much to me.
16. What do you do if you make a mistake on stage?
Point to the bassist and blame him. Haha. You just try to recover as quickly as you can and hope no one notices. Sometimes it is obvious and you just have to laugh at yourself. People seem to find that amusing.
17. After travelling around the world many times, what is the craziest food you’ve eaten?
I’m pretty adventurous but I do draw the line at insects. I avoided eating Bee’s in Taiwan once. No can do. I was in Eastern India a few years back and a lot of their population are descendants from Mongolia. They have lots of fermented foods and some seed type of dishes that are part of their diet. That was probably the most different type of foods that I have tried.
18. (She was born in Korea) Have you been to Korea before? What did you think of the country, the food, the people?
I have been to S Korea a few times. The first time there I was really surprised by how high tech they are. It was very impressive. I was also surprised that they were into the style of music that I play. I didn’t anticipate this. The people are very nice and I really like the food. Especially the Barbeque.
19. How many guitars do you have? Why do you need so many?
I haven’t counted actually but I would guess around 40? I don’t actually need this many. I think maybe 6 or 8 would be just fine for variety.
20. How can we get you up to Ottawa for a gig?
I am not sure but when you find out please let me know. I would love to play there again. But not in the winter. Hahaha. Hope to see you soon. Thanks.
Vinnie Moore Solo Discography
Mind’s Eye 1986
Time Odyssey 1988
Out Of Nowhere1995
The Maze 1999
Defying Gravity 2001
To The Core 2009
Red Zone Rider Featuring Vinnie Moore, Kelly Keeling And Scot Coogan 2014
Aerial Visions 2015
Soul Shifter 2019