TESTAMENT's ALEX SKOLNICK Is Not Interested In 'Super-Perfect Technical' Guitar Playing 'That Sounds Like Videogame Music'
May 2, 2021
During an appearance on the latest episode of the "2020'd" podcast, TESTAMENT's Alex Skonick was asked for his opinion of younger "shred" guitarists who sound like they've done nothing but sit in front of the computer learning Eddie Van Halen's tricks since they were six. He responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I can respect it. It's very different from where I'm coming from. I don't need that. There is music where the technicality is a part of that, and I love it. There's people who hear me and they think I'm like this super-technical player. But I think when you listen to the guys like you're talking about, that's a whole other thing; there's this whole other scientific level of shredding and two-handed stuff that I'm not that interested in. I'm sure I could devote a bunch of time — if I said, 'Okay, I'm gonna take a year and I'm gonna learn these new tricks and these new techniques,' that's fine. I just don't have it in me. There's music I like that is really not that technical, but it's emotional. When it is technical and emotional, that's great too.
"To me, Van Halen, who inspired me to play lead guitar in the first place — the early VAN HALEN stuff — that's sort of old school now compared to some stuff that's happening," he continued. "And I would still rather listen to somebody like him, because there's just so much soul, and I like soul. To me, Van Halen, and maybe a few others who came after, are about as fast as they get with still having soul that interest me. And I'm not knocking the super-perfect technical stuff; it's not really for me. There is some guitar out there that sounds like videogame music to me."
Skolnick went on to say that he was into some of the other early "fast" players like Randy Rhoads and Yngwie Malmsteen. "I did like the first couple of albums that Yngwie did; I was a fan, and I was learning his stuff," Alex said. "When [Yngwie] came out, nobody sounded like that. So I give props to Yngwie. But there's a whole following that started after Yngwie. And some players did really interesting things with it. There's guitar players who I can't imagine them doing their thing without [the influence of] Yngwie, which would be Paul Gilbert, for example, or Buckethead. And these are super-fast [players]. But those guys brought this quirky personality into it, and I think they made it more interesting… But I do think for every person like that, there's so many other players that sounded so similar — the whole post-Yngwie neoclassical thing. And now you've got a similar thing happening with more modern players.
"I think with any movement, there's the original, and then it starts to get watered down," Skolnick explained. "After VAN HALEN, in L.A., every commercial hard rock band had a soloist now. And a few were definitely great soloists and should have been featured — Warren DeMartini of RATT, those solos still sound great; George Lynch, for example. There's others — I won't name them — they were trying to do the same thing, but it wasn't quite working. It became this cliché — you had to have that; you had to have the big solo. And I think that's happened in various shred movements, whether it was people that followed Yngwie or people who tried to play like Guthrie Govan, who I think is an incredible player doing some very different stuff; I don't even touch the stuff that he does. But there are the imitators that follow along. And I think it's just better not to try to be an imitator. I take what I can from different players. Eddie was certainly a big influence, but I try not to make it too obvious, and I try to base it on what I like. And there's a lot of music I like that's not technical at all that might come out while I'm playing technical music, because I want a melody that's memorable and something that fits the song. That's another thing that was so great about Eddie and the early technical players — no matter what, it fit the song. And some players seem to forget about that."
A televised performance of the MILES DAVIS ELECTRIC BAND in the late '90s led Skolnick to New York City, where he immersed himself in the jazz world. For the past decade and a half, Skolnick has led a double life as a member of TESTAMENT and as leader of his own jazz-oriented group, the ALEX SKOLNICK TRIO. Three years ago, the ALEX SKOLNICK TRIO — comprised of Skolnick, bassist Nathan Peck and drummer Matt Zebroski — released "Conundrum", its first album since 2011.