SPAIN AND EARLY MUSICAL INFLUENCES
I was born on the island of Manhattan, New York City, in 1962. Among my earliest musical influences were THE BEATLES. I remember when I was about 4 years old, my sister Kim used to play RUBBER SOUL. That album had quite an impact on me (‘til this day, I play my own version of NORWEGIAN WOOD).
When I was 8, my family and I relocated to the Southern part of Spain. We lived there until I was 17. I became fluent with the Spanish language and absorbed much of the Spanish culture.
LEARNING HOW TO PLAY
By the age of 10, I began tinkering around with my sister's toy guitar. Soon, I expressed an interest in owning my own. So my stepfather bought me a Spanish guitar.Unfortunately, the instrument's neck ended up warping to the point that it was no longer playable. I'm not sure if it was because it was a cheap instrument, or if I tuned it too high from lack of know how.
So, I ended up borrowing a guitar from a neighbor. Some friends showed me a few chords and how to play a couple of tunes. I also purchased a book. With it, I was able to teach myself some scales and songs, like SPANISH ROMANCE. That song helped me learn some valuable finger-picking technique that I still use to this day.
I also had an uncanny ear for picking out the chords of songs, straight off my cassettes. At age 13, I was finally able to purchase my very own guitar. It was a used 12 string acoustic guitar (brand name FRAMUS, made in Germany). I still own it.
NEW MUSICAL INFLUENCES
When I was about 11, a friend of mine named Jose (Pepito) Triviño taught me how to listen to music. Thanks to him, I am a musician. He got me into PINK FLOYD, LED ZEPPELIN and DEEP PURPLE. Other friends turned me on to JIMI HENDRIX, JETHRO TULL, EMERSON LAKE & PALMER and SANTANA.
I hit the jackpot when I met Manuel Molina. Manuel was a music major and a guitarist. We became friends. He gave me occasional free lessons. That's probably the closest I've ever gotten to having formal guitar lessons. I'm indebted to him forever! He also got me into progressive rock bands like KING CRIMSON, GENESIS (with Peter Gabriel), YES, and FRANK ZAPPA.
Constant exposure to Spanish Flamenco & Classical guitarists also influence me in ways that can still be heard in my playing today. Additionally, a live television performance by JOHN McLAUGHLIN, PACO de LUCIA, and LARRY CORYELL (later replaced by AL DiMEOLA) playing as an acoustic trio, made a huge impact on me. I couldn't believe how fast John played on the acoustic guitar. Soon, I was trying to copy that style.
MY FIRST BANDS
Around the age of 15, I joined my first band, an all original prog-rock project called SHIRA. But, we had no equipment. We rehearsed on acoustic guitars. When we gigged, we borrowed almost everything, even the electric guitar I played on. We were a cool band!
Other bands followed, such as CAMELOT. CAMELOT was an all original, instrumental power trio where I was able to indulge in extended jam sessions. This allowed me to refine my improvisational skills.
I missed having a fourth band member to play chords behind my solos. A band project that allowed me to do that surfaced when I joined EXODO. EXODO blended some of my new compositions with theirs, plus a few cover tunes by GENESIS (Peter Gabriel era and early Phil Collins era). We had a full sound (2 guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, flute and singer)
I played with SHIRA, EXODO and CAMELOT in clubs and bars throughout Southern Spain, in the towns of Torremolinos, Malaga, and Fuengirola. By this time, my stepfather helped pay for my first electric guitar, a used Gibson SG copy. I was 16.
Towards the end of my stay in Spain, my musical interests had gravitated toward electric Jazz-Rock-Fusion groups, like THE MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, JEFF BECK, COLISEUM II, RETURN TO FOREVER, GENTLE GIANT and a smoking Spanish group called ICEBERG.
A YOUNG MUSICIAN IN NEW YORK CITY
At the age of 17, after a decade in Spain , I moved back to New York in 1979. During this time, my mother bought me my first real electric guitar, a used 1975 Gibson Les Paul and a small Roland cube (a practice amp). I also met my best friend, Arn Ashwood, an advertising creative director/copywriter, with a classical music background, who wrote commercial jingles. We formed an acoustic vocal duo. Arn taught me how to structure musical pieces and how to keep them uncluttered.
I eventually found work as an assistant type director for a number of large advertising agencies. I played guitar mainly as a hobby. However, I got hooked on Jazz-Rock-Fusion again. During that time, MILES DAVIS had a hot new guitarist named MIKE STERN, who really blew my socks off playing all those smoking Jazz riffs. Another "fusion" band that had a huge impact on my playing was THE DIXIE DREGS with guitarist Steve Morse, who blended Prog-Rock with Jazz-Fusion and Chicken Pickin'.
Music had decidedly taken a back seat to my new Type Directing career and to my marriage to a gal named Elizabeth. Eventually, I sold the Les Paul and acquired a Fender Stratocaster, around 1989, which I have stuck with up until recently (2011). During this time I returned to my musical roots and started listening to Hard Rock bands like, VAN HALEN, AC/DC, and THE CULT. EDDIE VAN HALEN's guitar playing really impressed me.
CALIFORNIA, THE FINAL FRONTIER
By the end of the 1980s I had been married and divorced. Eventually, I met my second wife, Laura. So, I quit my job in New York and relocated to California to be with her. Eventually, I began teaching guitar lessons in a local music store in Santa Rosa.
I joined a Motown cover band called THE PART-TIME PLAYERS. We played at weddings and parties. Later on, I formed another group called SPHERE. We played my original compositions, consisting mainly of progressive Jazz-Rock music. That was a fun project. Drummer Cres Alvarado (who was like my brother) and I eventually branched off to form an exciting project of our own, but it lost momentum due to family responsibilities pressing on both of us.
I got into the "Grunge Scene" around this time. I thought SOUNDGARDEN's SUPERUNKNOWN album was excellent. I also joined a Latin-Jazz band, TROPICAL CALIENTE. This was my first experience playing jazz of any kind, and I delighted in mastering the elaborate chord structures and changes. With this same band, I also had my first experience in the recording studio.
During this time, I joined ANALYSIS, a Smooth-Jazz band. While teaching in the music stores, I played with ANALYSIS for about a year. They were based in Sacramento. The band appeared (with myself) on a local Sacramento television show called ‘Backstage’ (Channel 17)
ANALYSIS started going in a very commercial direction, which didn't interest me at the time. I was still in the 'fusion mode' wanting to do Art-Jazz-Rock, so I left.
I then joined HAPPY COW, a Classic Rock cover band, in which I got to solo a lot. This experience allowed me to refine my playing. By this time I had taken on several students, one of whom turned out to be the young virtuoso Julian Lage, who has become an incredible jazz guitarist.
FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT
At this point, I had once again become frustrated with the music industry, trying to make ends meet for my family. Because of that, I quit teaching music and gigging and started working in the security industry, as a security officer. This led to a debilitating accident where I slipped in 2001, hit my head, and suffered a brain injury. I stopped playing music altogether. I was on disability for 6 years.
Fortunately, my talent couldn’t be suppressed for very long. I had seen a performance by the late MICHAEL HEDGES. This inspired me so much that by the 4th year after my accident, I began practicing again on my acoustic guitars, experimenting with alternate tunings and finger picking. Music regained its hold on me with a vengeance.
The biggest thing for me is bringing my compositions to life, playing them live and recording them. I’ve got at least 30 original songs (mostly finger style). Since I also play lead on electric guitar, I’ve incorporated that technique as well. I also purchased a loop machine. I can either pre-program loops, or record them on the fly while the audience watches the creative process. It sounds like 2 guitar players, or more. People love it!
A very very good friend of mine, William Church (he designed this web site) got me to listen to the music of finger stylists like KAKI KING, PRESTON REED, LAGQ and LEO KOTTKE among others.