Shred Master Smooth Two
A Conversation with Guitarist Great Jimmy Adcock By Boris Lee
Welcome back to Symptom of the Metalverse on Metal Babe Mayhem, and part two of my conversation with Texas guitar great, Jimmy Adcock. Shred Master Smooth Two.
Boris Lee: When I was a kid I missed the point about specific guitarists, their style of playing, how they developed their influences into their own music. I understand it now, but as for when I should have been absorbing what it means to breathe life into music, I was too short on patience.
You are the shredding machine behind the “Riffology” of Nytrate. How did you become involved with Nytrate? Do you recall your first time playing with founding members Alli Clay and Eddie Mendiola? Was it a meet and jam session type of first time playing? Why join Nytrate when you were already moving and grooving with the Texas Surfers?
Jimmy Adcock: I have always been all over the map musically with my influences and styles and it’s difficult to incorporate all of those into one project or band. Although I am and have always been thrilled with the continued growth of the Texas Surfers, there was still an element I was missing in my playing and that’s the over the top, shred guitar style of players I first loved when I started playing, such as Paul Gilbert, Yngwie Malmsteen, George Lynch, Chris Poland, John 5 and many underground “Texas Shred” legends, like Hajis Kitchen, Scott and Brett Stine, and Derek Taylor.
Around twenty-fourteen, I started looking for an outlet for that style of metal band. I was friends with Eddie on FaceBook and was familiar with the band he was in Gun Hill. I saw him post about looking for a lead guitarist for a new project so I sent him a message inquiring about it and that was pretty much it! He told me to hold tight as he was putting together the other pieces of the band. A month went by, and he set up our first jam with Alli (vocals) and Taco (drums) and our first bassist. It was a little rough at first as we had a hard time solidifying the bassist position, but things started rolling quickly with shows and writing. Eddie is a riff-writing machine, and Alli is a great lyricist. They allowed me the perfect foundation to come in and do my shred thing on the songs and it was exactly what I was seeking in that realm! The debut album is basically my tribute to all of those players mentioned above.
BL: Eddie knows how to write a riff, and being a fellow native to New York City, it comes natural to be amazing (insert big humorous Italian grin here). Alli is arguable my favorite lyricist and vocalist. The Siren’s songwriting is deep in feeling. Her vocals are strong, passionate, and heart driven. She has an insane range.
Your work in Nytrate has influenced my current musical creativity. Just like when I started listening to Sabbath and felt the need to learn to play those songs, to learn the guitar. I have that feeling about your work with Nytrate. Now and again, I pick up my Strat and start playing the opening riff of “Back to the Grind,” and have since started teaching myself the song. It’s a great song from an all killer, no filler album.
Putting aside that Nytrate is a different genre than the Texas Surfers, what differs in your creative approach to the music? What’s your favorite Nytrate song to play live?
JA: I think the creative approach is similar. They are both outlets for the different styles of music and playing that I love equally. “Insane” and “Regret” have always been my favorites to play live, but I’m really excited about the two newer songs we have added and those are becoming my favorites to perform live. “The Siren” and “Insidious.”
BL: For me, there’s a difference between a ‘Cover Band’ and a ‘Tribute Band.’ A cover band plays material written by other various artists, while a tribute band presents a more accurate depiction of the musical experience the original artist created.
What are your thoughts on the evolution of the tribute bands we see today versus the cover bands that existed twenty years ago?
JA: Tributes have definitely become the “Flavor dejour” of the past decade and many of the top-level venues have gotten to where that’s all they want to book now. It’s more of a guaranteed built in crowd and moneymaker for them. It’s much more difficult to find venues to play original music now, and the three set ‘Cover Band’ gigs are not as easy to get as they used to be.
Until a decade ago, it was common to find venues and gigs almost every night of the week but nowadays, most clubs only book bands on weekends as far as local music so there is much more competition and a much longer list of bands wanting in a rotation of those venues. Whereas before you could easily play a club at least once a month or more. Now it may be every three to four months between shows at that venue. As you stated, in decades past, the cover band was the normal mix of previously created music with mixing in your originals to fill out an entire night’s set. You often put your own spin on the songs.
I joined the tribute scene in two-thousand-six, playing with a local Judas Priest Tribute, Judas Rising, and a Pat Benatar tribute called Fire and Ice. I did them both mainly to push myself musically and to try something different and fun. It was a cool way to play with friends in the scene without the pressure of writing and recording music, and the promotion kind of took care of itself. At that time, I was sure the fad would wear off in a year or so. I had no idea that ten-years later, the Dallas-Fort Worth area would be the Tribute Capitol of the world with a tribute to every band you could think of and sometimes three or four to the same band!
BL: I think ‘Tribute Bands’ are growing in popularity, to the point where I am seeing ticket prices beginning to look like the ticket price you would expect to pay to see the authentic artist perform. ‘Tribute Band Festivals’ are popping up now too. Having your own tribute band, The Snakeskin Cowboys, do you feel tribute bands are growing in popularity as well? What prompted you to put the Snakeskin Cowboys together since you already established yourself as a successful musician?
JA: There definitely seems to be no end in sight to the ‘Tribute bands.’ It’s gotten to where it’s “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” I have never had a problem with tribute bands. Many of the local players in them also have original bands too. But you can’t play the same market as frequently doing original music as you can doing the tribute material. It’s harder to branch out and tour regionally doing originals than it used to be because so many good venues have turned to tribute bands. I have always approached the tribute bands and my involvement in them as fun, and just another way to make money as a working musician. I will always have and need an original outlet for my music, but I have always enjoyed the challenge of doing the tributes and trying my best to do the guitar parts as accurately as possible. I have also been a part of a local RATT tribute called Infestation since twenty-fourteen. Warren DeMartini was a big influence, so it’s a blast playing his parts and I love those songs.
The Snakeskin Cowboys originated in early twenty-eighteen. A friend of mine, Michael Insuaste, editor of the local music publication, JAM Magazine was putting together a 40th anniversary of the Texas Jam Tribute show and he wanted to find tribute bands of groups that played over the ten-year span of the event.
I was talking with him about this and he said that he wanted a Ted Nugent tribute for the event and asked if I knew of one. I assumed there was one since DFW has so many tribute bands, but upon both of us searching, we could not find one. He commented to me at the end of our text messages that night, “Jimmy, you should be Ted Nugent!” I just kinda laughed it off but after sleeping on it, the next morning I thought… “Why the hell not!”
I love Ted Nugent and went through a phase in the early nineties where I was obsessed with Ted’s music, especially learning the Stranglehold solo. I thought it would just be for the one show, so I asked my fellow band mates in the Texas Surfers about doing it with me. My bassist Bruce and singer Vince were both down for it and we brought in a drummer acquaintance of mine, Christian Meyer and started rehearsing. After that first show, we kept getting more gig offers, and it was honestly so fun playing those songs we kept it going.
BL: Do you feel tribute bands are finding success because of the icons they emulate getting past the point where they can perform to the level they did in their prime, or is it over the cost of a ticket to see the original artist being so high? Do you feel the concept of tribute bands is taking away from new musicians sticking to having their original music find success?
JA: I think nostalgia plays a huge factor. People my age aren’t as open to seeking new original music as they were when they were in their teens and early twenties. Some still do, but most do not. Many don’t go out as much and when they do, they want to relive music from bands they loved from those times. Tributes fulfill that for them.
There are many instances where the original artist is not touring as much anymore or their live performance ability is a far cry from what it was in their prime, and the tributes can and often deliver a better show for the money than the original artist may be able to do currently. Not in every case, but in many.
I think there is still a lot of room for younger original bands whose audience seeks new music. Many of them probably have no idea about or are oblivious to the tribute scene and the bands in them.
BL: Looking back to my earliest exposures to music, I remember hearing Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Doobie Brothers, Kansas, and other seventies music staples on the morning radio shows while my mother got ready for work. That music, though not all my favorite by any means, pointed me toward what I would like as I developed my taste in the years to come. My first music buying experience was at a local record and tape shop on Myrtle Avenue in Ridgewood Queens. The album I bought with some birthday money was Deep Purple’s House of Blue Light. I played that cassette just as much as I would play the aforementioned Sabbath tape I acquired several years later. Though the Deep Purple cassette was not my life altering musical experience that prompted me to pick up and instrument, it was the point in my life I can say I figured out how to get lost in music, and how music helped me to focus on deflecting negative surroundings.
Do you recall the first album you ever purchased and how did it change your life pertaining to becoming a guitarist?
JA: My first album that I purchased was Men At Work—Business as Usual, hahaha! “Do You Come From the Land Down Under!?” But the album that really changed things and set me on the path was definitely Mötley Crüe’s —Shout at the Devil. That album and band made me want to find and join a band and experience that brotherhood they always portrayed in those early days.
BL: I know I am of the minority on the subject, but I have never been a big fan of Crüe. I remember watching the video for “Girls, Girls, Girls,” and wondered what the big deal was. I dig them now on a nostalgic concept, but they never grabbed my attention. However, Crüe has influenced many acts and their antics helped them to achieve legendary status.
We live in a technological age where the potential for knowledge and growth is at our fingertips. Do you feel the options for independent musicians and artists flourishes in part due to technology, or are we being flooded with the “Anyone can do that” mindset for creativity, thus flooding the independent creative market with trash over treasure? That said, as a musician, is there much purpose to have the goal of obtaining a record label deal when we live in an opportunistic world of DIY options?
JA: This seems to be a constant debate. I think you have to be very creative nowadays in getting your music or product noticed. It is very difficult for older artists that have been used to the “Old system” of how it was done for decades and adapting to the new norm. Myself included! It’s no longer; write an album, record it, release it and tour, then repeat. People’s attention spans are so much shorter nowadays and there are so many avenues to find new music as well. You now can get famous on YouTube just by covering other people’s songs or get endorsements based on your “Subscribers” while never playing real gigs.
It forces established bands to tour more because they aren’t making money from album sales and streams anymore. It’s constantly evolving and you have to adapt and keep up. There is definitely more that you have to sift through to find the one good gem, so you really have to make sure the product you are putting out there is as best as it can be. You have to be honest with yourself when it comes to that. The old style “Record Deal” mentality is long gone. You can still be successful as a musician, but versatility and self-sufficiency is a must to be competitive and profitable.
BL: From the first time you played guitar to an audience to the last gig you hit the stage, what has been your greatest fear to overcome as a performer?
JA: For sure, Stage Fright! I still get nervous before gigs. It has always been something I struggle with. I am not a natural performer and shy. I still have trouble speaking in front of large crowds. Back in high school, I purposely joined the debate class just to force myself to overcome this. I still do things to work on this and get better. I am naturally quiet and reserved until I get to know someone, or I am talking about something I am passionate about.
BL: There have not been many times where I performed in front of an audience. When I have, I was drunk enough to allow my intoxication to silence my shyness and logical reason, and I could sing, do comedy, or pick up a guitar and not care what others may have thought.
KISS or Black Sabbath. Which band was more influential on today’s metal musicians and why?
JA: Wow! That’s a cool question! This is my opinion only as neither were instrumental for me in my decision to want to play music or big players in inspiration early on.
I think for a brief window between nineteen-seventy-five and nineteen-seventy-nine, KISS influenced and inspired millions of kids to want to pick up an instrument and start a band. The visual of their show along with the catchy hook of their anthems really defined the ‘Rock-and-roll Attitude of Rebellion and Youth.’ However, I don’t think their influence carried over as much into the eighties. Lots of their fans abandoned them after the Dynasty album.
Black Sabbath, however, I think they have had a longer and slower burn of influence. They essentially started or at least helped pioneer the ‘Heavy Metal’ style, a sound we all know and love today. I don’t think their music has ever diminished in popularity like KISS did for a good while. From a teaching perspective, I still have kids between ten and eighteen that ask to learn Sabbath songs (and not just Iron Man) and it’s rare for a student to ask about a KISS song.
So overall, I think Sabbath has been the more influential band over the long term.
BL: What’s your most memorable experience playing a gig?
JA: There’s been many, but the two at the top of the list would be first; opening for Ronnie James Dio in nineteen-ninety-six. My band at the time, Seventh Veil had just put out our first EP and was looking to do some road shows. We had been in contact with several venues outside the DFW area and surrounding states about hitting their markets. One evening just before I was leaving for band practice, I got a call from a promoter in Lubbock, TX whom we had contacted about shows and he asked if we were available to open for DIO that coming Friday (two days later). Once I caught my breath, I said “YES” and couldn’t get to rehearsal fast enough to tell everyone.
The second was opening for Steve Vai in twenty-thirteen. I was a winner in a Steve Vai Guitar contest sponsored by Sam Ash Music, where he was having a local guitarist open each show of his tour. The premise was that you go to your local Sam Ash store and film yourself playing an eighteen-second clip on InstaGram and upload it. At the time, I didn’t even know what InstaGram was, but had a friend who did and met me there to record the clip for me and submitted it.
I was as surprised as anyone a few weeks later when I got an email that they had chosen me as a finalist and was asked to come back for the final round which comprised of nine other guitarists. Each finalist would then perform a full instrumental song in front of a panel of judges, with the top two chosen to play the two closet Vai tour stops. I was lucky enough to be one of those two and opened his show in Tyler, TX (near my hometown of Longview), so to say I was stoked is an understatement! To say I was nervous is even more of one!
Going back to my first viewing of the movie Crossroads, Steve was a huge idol and inspiration. Knowing I would perform before him and in front of a room of all guitarists was pretty intimidating! I had been told prior to this by several people that Steve was a quirky guy and didn’t enjoy shaking hands with people. Upon entering the venue that afternoon I saw Steve sitting onstage playing his guitar before I was greeted by his stage manager who led me to the backstage area. As I walked into the backstage room, Steve was walking down the stairs, off the stage. It was like seeing The Pope or something. I made eye contact with him and he extended his hand to shake mine and asked if I was the contest winner. I’m sure I froze for a moment looking at his hand before extending mine and introducing myself. He was super nice and wished me luck and told me his guys would take good care of me.
His techs did just that. I received a full soundcheck and could run thru a full song twice as they tweaked the PA and monitor mixes. His main guitar tech, Thomas Nordegg, asked me if I wanted to hold and play Steve’s main White EVO Jem after I was done. That was beyond surreal. At first, I just plunked on a few strings with the volume almost off, almost afraid of doing something to it before Thomas reached over the turned it up full volume saying, “Play the thing!” So I got to stand there and play his main guitar thru his full rig for several minutes before the doors opened. The performance went great, and I even got to hang out with Steve after the show talking about Astrology of all things. I knew Steve was a fan being that he was a Gemini and basing his guitar and pedal names off of that fact. I figured there wasn’t a guitar question that he either hadn’t already heard a million times or that I didn’t already know the answer to from all the interviews I’d read over the years so I went a different direction and it was a cool conversation!
BL: Those are epic tales. To share the stage with DIO and Vai, it’s like raising horns with Satan himself. It’s just a metal experience and a hell of memorable time.
I’ve observed some Steampunk themed looks from you. When and why did you get involved with that genre and what made you incorporate the look into your stage image?
JA: I Love Steampunk! I have unknowingly been a fan since I was a kid, yet had no idea. I don’t even think I had heard that term until maybe four or five years ago. I am actually just a big fan of westerns and the old west look and enjoy dressing like that occasionally.
My favorite TV show as a kid was Wild Wild West. I loved how they dressed and the atmosphere of the show was like Sci-Fi meets Western with lots of Victorian/Industrial revolution settings and cool James Bond style spy gadgets. Which is essentially what Steampunk is. I have read that show has been cited as being one of, if not the first example of “Steampunk.” Since discovering it’s an actual “Thing” that large groups of people love and are involved in, I definitely embraced it. There is actually a local festival called Steampunk November that my wife and I have taken part in the past three years. It’s kind of like Scarborough Faire but with a Steampunk setting. It’s the largest one in the country and only about thirty miles from us. It’s a lot of fun dressing up and going back in time with so many fellow fans. My wife always says I look like a time traveler when I wear that stuff out to concerts or on a date night, but there, I fit right in and she loves it too.
As far as incorporating it into Nytrate, it just seemed to fit with the music and gave me another reason to wear that stuff. We also talked about each of us creating our own persona and look for the stage.
BL: I’m a fan of Steampunk and Gothic Victorian aesthetics. There was a point when I thought of taking my horror fiction persona down that route, but who he has become is what he truly is.
Over the years I have been after defining my guitar sound, and I always come back to what turned me on to playing. Sabbath. I go for an early seventies heavy overdriven sound, with occasional chorus and always some reverb. I have toyed with how to get that sound and have created exactly what I was looking for by playing my customized Strat through a Fender Frontman 212R.
What’s your rig rundown when playing with Nytrate? What was the trial-and-error process to get the sound you have?
JA: My rig for Nytrate is simple. My amp is an early nineties, Carvin X-100B. Hands down my favorite amp I have ever owned. It gives me everything I want as far as tone. It has EL-34 tubes (the earlier versions had the 6L6s) so definitely the British sound. I had a slight modification done to it about eight-years ago that added a little more gain, putting it more into a Bogner area as far as that goes.
In front of it, I just run an old Ibanez Tube Screamer to get that extra “Sizzle” and crispness. I don’t use many effects. A little delay on a few solos and that’s it. I am a huge John 5 fan and love how dry and in your face his tone is. I used to always use delay on my solos and it took me about three months into Nytrate shows to ween myself off that.
My main guitar is a Dean Nash-Vegas Tele. It’s actually a Tracii Guns model, but I rarely have seen him play them. I don’t think they make them anymore. I have always loved Telecasters. The same reason John 5 does. I grew up watching Hee-Haw too and just always thought they looked so cool. They are much more versatile than most people think and it’s still unusual to see them used in metal, although John 5, and Jim Root of Slipknot have changed that a bit. The Dean has a Floyd Rose tremolo and a DiMarzio “Tone Zone” pickup in it. I used it exclusively on the Nytrate album.
BL: I dig your sound on the Nytrate album. It’s a tone identifiable with my ears to old-school metal that still holds its own in the modern metal sounds. I noticed that some new modern metal bands mimic the classic tones. It’s refreshing to see the kids today keep the music we grew up on and idolized in our youth, alive and moshing! Jimmy, thank you for joining me here for Symptom of the Metalverse on Metal Babe Mayhem.
To learn more about Shred Master Smooth, Jimmy Adcock, his musical projects and The Arlington School of Music, check the links below:
Thank you for reading Shred Master Smooth Two. For more on Boris Lee, please visit Symptom of the Metalverse.