Vinnie Moore, UFO guitarist

Interview with Vinnie Moore, UFO guitarist (10-01-09)Vinnie Moore (left)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Metal Mayhem: You have been a member of UFO since 2003. How did you secure an audition?
Vinnie Moore: We had a mutual friend who knew UFO was looking for a guitarist. He thought I would stylistically fit in the band. The mutual friend called my manager and told this to my manager. I was asked to send a CD to Phil Mogg (“PM”) of some of my stuff. I put together about 11 of my songs from different records and sent it to PM. I did not think much more about it. About 12 days later I got a call from my manager who said he heard from UFO’s manager who said the band liked my CD and PM wants you to join the band.

MM: What type of memories do you have of seeing UFO live as a teenager growing up in Delaware [South of Philadelphia].
VM: Unfortunately, I never saw UFO live. However, I had a few records, Force It, Lights Out, Obsession. I used to listen to those records as a fan of the band.

MM: How did not feel to one day be listening to UFO records and many years later to be playing the same songs live on stage with the band?
VM: It is a little surreal to be playing some of the songs I grew up learning to play. It is a cool experience.

Vinnie Moore MM: Do you have any input on songs incorporated in the set list?
VM: We all do. We all kick around ideas. It is difficult with UFO because they have so many classic songs you have to do and some new songs. It is so easy to leave something out. Inevitably you have to leave some songs out because there are just too many.

MM: Any chance of doing “Chimi Chimi Changa”?
VM: How do you know about that!? That is awesome! I do not know I even publicly talked about that! That was our sound check song [written by J.D. DiServio [JDD], bassist on Meltdown record]. We took out JDD out for Mexican food in Texas because he had never eaten Mexican food. JDD was close minded in the sense that he did not think he would like Mexican food. As it turned out, he loved it. When we went to sound check after our Mexican dinner during which he had a Chimi Chimi Changa, we started improvising a song about Chimi Chimi Changa. We did the song during sound check for a while.

MM: You wrote 6 of the 11 songs on The Visitor (UFO record 2009). How did you contribute to the songs?
VM: We all start with individual musical ideas at home. I come up with some ideas. Paul Raymond (“PR”) comes up with some stuff. Andy Parker (“AP”) had one song on this record. We basically send our musical ideas to PM. PM goes through our ideas and chooses those ideas that inspire him, something he thinks he can sing because it stylistically suits his voice. We just feed him a lot of musical ideas. I may have sent him 12 or 14 ideas. PM picks the ideas he likes the best.

MM: You had substantial contributions to The Monkey Puzzle (UFO record 2006) record. You wrote 9 of the 11 songs. What aspects of the songs do you normally contribute?
VM: I usually send demos that make up the song structure, all the guitar parts, scratch bass, and a drum machine. It is basically a song skeleton.

MM: Your first solo record, Mind’s Eye (solo record 1986) sold in excess of 100,000 copies and received several awards from guitar magazines. How did it feel to have such accolades at such a young age?
VM: It was unreal. In a way it was overwhelming. It was everything I always wanted. It was unbelievable.

MM: You recorded Mind’s Eye in 11 days, including mixing. You spent two days recording the rhythm parts and three days to record melodies, harmonies, and solos.
VM: That sounds right.

MM: You also produced Mind’s Eye, correct?
VM: No. It was actually produced by Mike Varney.

Vinnie Moore MM: How did you manage to record Mind’s Eye in 11 days?
VM: I have no idea. I could never do that now. It was way too quick to record a record. What has always bugged me about that record is that a lot of the demos I did at home for the songs were better than the record because I had more time to spend on them. I know that a lot of people love that record, and I am very thankful I was able to do that record. But I always wish I had more time to mix. But you can’t argue with something people like.

MM: You recorded Mind’s Eye in Cotati [San Francisco suburb approximately 47 miles north of SF] of all places.
VM: Yes. There is a studio in Cotati called Prarie Sun that Schrapnel Records used a lot for their records. So Schrapnel Records brought me out there to do the record.

MM: Do you prefer to record in a studio in a rural setting like Cotati or in an urban setting?
VM: I prefer to record in a studio in my house so I do not have to go anywhere. That is how I have recorded for the last three solo records and my guitar demos for all the UFO records. I really like to do it that way because I can spend as much time as I want experimenting with performances and sounds without worrying about the clock.

MM: Time Odyssey (solo record 1988) featured Joe Franco (Twisted Sister drummer). What was it like recording with him.
VM: It was awesome. He was a real pro who came in totally prepared. We played through the songs as a three?piece that includes Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater keyboardist), and he just knocked them out. I re?did a lot of the rhythm guitars, but a lot of the bass and drums were kept from the live recording.

MM: You recorded Time Odyssey in 18 or 20 days, which his amazing.
VM: Yes. Time Odyssey is quite an intense record. I recorded Time Odyssey in a longer amount of time than Mind’s Eye. But in a way it was a more intense records. So it was quite an accomplishment to record Time Odyssey that quickly.

MM: I have read that you rarely listen to the music you record. Why?
VM: I find that I critique and second?guess myself. I get nothing out of listening to my own stuff. I am too close to it. It is hard for me to listen to my own stuff.

MM: You explored new musical territory with Meltdown (solo record 1991) in part because you get bored by recording the same type of music over and over?
VM: Yes.

MM: How do you decide what musical direction to venture into?
VM: I really do not decide. I just play the guitar and go with the flow. It has to be a natural thing. I have to be inspired. Whatever I am inspired by that is what I do. By the time I did Meltdown I was burned out on classical rock, and I HAD to go into another direction or I would get bored. I get bored quite easily, and I have to explore new territory or I will not want to do it [previous type of music] anymore. It is kind of strange.

Vinnie Moore (right)

MM: So I gather you do not consciously think about composing songs. You just play and the ideas come to you.
VM: Right. If you sit around, think, and intentionally try to write a song, it is not as inspirational as if you are just playing guitar and an idea comes to you out of nowhere. That is more inspirational.

MM: For those that are not musically inclined, please explain how an idea just comes to you.
VM: Well you are just sitting around playing guitar and you kind of start playing something. It just pops out. You might hear a melody. It might be a certain rhythm. You get that initial inspiration, the spark, whatever it is. Related ideas then come and the song starts to build. You then have to organize it into a song.

MM: In terms of touring, you toured with Alice Cooper for several months on the “Operation Rock & Roll” tour shortly after Mind’s Eye was released in 1986. You also opened up for Rush on the Roll the Bones tour. Do you have any particular memories of opening up for Rush?
VM: That was a really cool experience. I think we did 10?12 gigs with those guys. The most interesting thing is that we were doing a club tour when we found out we got the opening slot for Rush. So we had to head home and cancel the rest of my club tour. We were basically hanging out at my house. The first gig was at The Spectrum in Philadelphia [Pennsylvania], which was the place I always dreamed of playing as a kid. I had played there with Alice Cooper. It was the place I always wanted to play. We left my house and we drove to The Spectrum, which is where I would have driven to see any concert when I was a kid. Here I was playing there. I was pretty calm. But on the way to the venue I heard a radio ad that said, “Rush! [deep ominous tone] Tonight at The Spectrum with local guitar hero Vinnie Moore! [deep ominous tone].” That is when I panicked a little bit because it set in. “Holy shit. I am playing at The Spectrum tonight with Rush. Wow!” So I got a little nervous.

MM: How about playing at Madison Square Garden in New York City? Was that also opening up for Rush?
VM: Yes. We played two nights there. That wasn’t as meaningful for me as The Spectrum. In a way it was because it is Madison Square Garden, which is legendary. But to me The Spectrum was the place I went to as a kid and always dreamed that some day I could be on stage.

MM: Did Brian Tichy (Foreigner drummer) play drums during the tour with Rush?
VM: Yes.

Vinnie Moore MM: I saw Tichy perform last month with Foreigner. He is an unbelievable drummer.
VM: He is amazing. He is one of the best.

MM: He did part of his drum solo by hitting the floor toms, snare drum, and cymbals with the back of his hands. I told him post?show he would be a wiz at pounding dough in a pizza shop.
VM: Ha ha! He is amazing. He has the technique, feel, swings, and the chops. Just everything.

MM: With respect to Out of Nowhere (solo record 1996), you recorded two songs in your own studio, “Winter Sun” and “She’s Only Sleeping.”
VM: Yes. I recorded those two songs at home in my own studio because they were acoustic songs. At that point I did not have the capability to record the other songs [non?acoustic songs] at home.

MM: You ran into a problem with the record label for release of Out of Nowhere, correct?
VM: Yes. A big problem. I was with Sony/Epic. Suddenly, the label did not want to release the record and did not want to give it to me. The record was completely finished, mixed and mastered. The label sat on it for months and months. The label then said they did not want to release it. The label said if you find another record label, that label can buy it from us. Finally, 25 months later, the label agreed to sell the record to a new label. I finally got it to happen. The label [initially] did not want to give it to me. It was actually pretty dire. It was a very bad time period.

MM: It was a low point in your life, correct?
VM: Yes.

MM: How did you deal with the frustrations associated with the situation?
VM: I just kept writing songs. I wrote a lot of songs during that time period. A lot of the songs have not yet been on a record. A lot of the songs are “ballady,” soulful songs. One of the songs that did end up on a record is Rain, which ended up on The Maze (solo record 1999). Another one that is not a ballad ended up on my new solo record [To the Core (solo record 2009)]. It is called Jigsaw. It is also from that same time period where there was nothing going on. But I have at least 10 to 15 songs from that time period that I have not yet released.

MM: Do you think any of those songs would fit into the UFO style?
VM: Probably not. But some day I should release them for what they are.

MM: The Maze included many diverse and exotic musical influences, Latin, jazz, and blues. Do you think that part of the reason why you ventured into these genres is because of the frustrations you had encountered a few years earlier relating to the release of Out of Nowhere?
VM: Not really. I just think that is where my head was at that point. Actually, there was no reason for it. I think the ballady material I wrote that I previously talked about and that I have not yet released was more of a release for me of my frustrations.

Vinnie Moore (left) MM: Your live solo record called Live! (solo record 2000) was recorded at a club called The Edge in Palo Alto [approximately 32 miles south of San Francisco] on the fourth and fifth nights of the tour with MSG. You previously commented that the “freshness and spontaneity was ‘still kickin’’” when you recorded the record. Do you think any advantages exist to recording a live record later on tour when you have honed the songs down in a live setting or is it better to record earlier on tour?
VM: I don’t know. It depends on how much you rehearse. There is a certain amount of fire early on. There is a certain point later in a tour that you get tired and have to try a little harder to do the show because you are tired. It is a matter of finding the right spot in tour not too early or late in the tour, maybe the sixth or seventh show.

MM: How was it like touring with MSG?
VM: It was a lot of fun. We shared a band, a really good band. I enjoyed the tour.

MM: What is the inspiration for the title of your new solo record To the Core (solo record 2009) released in May 2009?
VM: It is just that my music comes from deep within, from the core. It is

MM: You made a guest appearance on Alice Cooper’s record Hey Stoopid (1991) on which you played guitar on the songs Dirty Dreams and Hurricane Years. What was the recording experience like?
VM: I got a chance to hear the advance track tapes and learn them before going into the studio. I then drove up to Bearsville Studios in [Bearsville,] New York, which is only a couple of hours from my house. I went up one day, recorded the stuff, went out to dinner with Alice, the band members, and the producer, and then drove home. It was a one?day thing.

MM: How is it that you initially got the offer to contribute to Hey Stoopid?
VM: Alice’s idea was to have a bunch of different guitar players to sit in, [Steve] Vai, [Joe] Satriani, and Slash. At that point I was signed to Epic Records, which was the same label Alice was signed to. Someone at Epic suggested me.

MM: How did your first meeting with Alice go?
VM: It was that day. It was cool. I remember going into the studio where Alice was playing ping pong with Stef Burns [Alice Cooper’s guitarist].

MM: Did Alice Cooper ever ask you to kiss his ring and call him The Godfather (laughter)?
VM: No. But he asked me to kiss his snake. I was so afraid of the snake that I ran because I am petrified of snakes.

Vinnie Moore (left)

MM: Did Alice ask you to feed his snake (laughter)?
VM: No (laughter). He tried to get it close to me to scare me.

MM: You do not like thin and bright sounds to your recordings. The Alice Cooper recordings being an example.
VM: Yeah. They thinned it out a little too much. I do not know why.

MM: Do you prefer your guitar tone to have a deeper bass sound to it?
VM: I would prefer the guitar not to be too thin and trebly. I prefer my guitar sound to be creamy, smooth, and have a lot of meat.

MM: How was Alice Cooper’s “Operation Rock & Roll” tour you did shortly after Mind’s Eye was released in 1986?
VM: It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed doing it. Unfortunately, I had to leave because I was doing my own tour in support of Meltdown (solo record 1991) that was just coming out. So I did not go to Europe with Alice. But it was a blast playing with Alice.

MM: Did Alice talk to you about his stage show?
VM: Alice has a production guy who worked on his stage show. I was not very much in the loop about that. I just realized what was going on in rehearsals. The stage show was all planned in advance.

MM: With respect to Deep Purple Tribute: Smoke on the Water (tribute record, various artists 1994) you were involved with the song Woman from Tokyo. You were not too happy with how the song turned out, the guitar EQ was too trebly correct?
VM: Yeah. I notice a pattern here.

MM: Also, the echo effect was not properly mixed, correct?
VM: Exactly.

MM: Did you ever find the unedited version of Woman from Tokyo that you plan to release?
VM: No. I do not think I have the master to that song.

MM: You did two instructional videos, Hot Licks 1 (advanced lead guitar techniques 1987) and Hot Licks 2 (speed, accuracy, and articulation 1989). You did Hot Licks 1 in 60 minutes, which is amazing.
VM: The drummer who was in the studio doing his own video the day before had to finish up on my day. He was only supposed to take 30-60 minutes, but he kept taking longer and longer until he took almost the whole day. So I had almost no time for my video.

MM: You waited around for seven hours, correct?
VM: Yeah. I was really well rehearsed. I had practiced talking into a fake camera at home. So I knew exactly what I was going to do. So Hot Licks 1 is basically two takes. The first take is the first 55 minutes. Then I made a mistake and said, “I have to do that again.” Then I finished the rest of it and that was it. I left the studio immediately and jumped on the last train home.

MM: So you did a 60?minute video in 65 minutes?
VM: Yes. I could never to that nowadays. Now it seems just so difficult to do that.

MM: Your first professional gig was an appearance in a Pepsi commercial (1985) that only featured your hand, correct?
VM: Yeah.

MM: Did your friends ever tease you by denying it is your hand in the video?
VM: No. Everybody was just amazed that I was in a commercial. I always joked about how my hands were famous because you could see them on television in a Pepsi commercial.

Arash Moussavian, Entertainment Law Attorney
arashmoussavian@cal.berkeley.edu
www.linkedin.com/in/arashmoussavian
All photos taken by Arash Moussavian. This article and all photos are protected by copyright. Please contact me prior to use, or I will make shish kabab of your loins.

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