Guitarist Mark Claytor Interview

Short Bio:

Started playing back in 1988 when guitar playing was king. Loved all the "Shred" players of that era, my Dad introduced me to the "Blues" and I gained a appreciation for the greats of that genre too. I have many influences and they have all shaped me as a player. love recording and studio work and creating my original music. Feb. 29th 2012 Sumthinfierce records and I released my debut cd and the response has been great! My follow up cd "Uprising" is available now! I am a Fuchs audio technology, George L's, Vengeance guitars, Rick Hanes Guitars, Spawn guitars, ModTone Effects and Sinister guitar picks endorser. Also use Zion guitars, BBE and Digitech effects .

Guitarist Mark Claytor Interview:
Scott > Hi Mark, How are you doing these days?
Mark  > I am doing well. Busy these days but thats always better then the alternative right?
Scott > What’s the genesis for the NEW "Uprising" Album?

Mark  > That is a tough one.....I went through all kinds of trials and tribulations before, during and after the recording of that album. Death of loved ones, Heartbreak, people I thought were my friends turned out not to be. But you know what? I got a pretty decent album of music out of it and I'm very proud of it.

Scott > Why an Instrumental Guitar Album?
Mark  > I know right!? But really, I've always been drawn to that genre. I love vocal music too obviously. But hearing someone "Speak" musically without saying a word vocally then having another person "hear" what they're trying to convey. I've always been amazed by that.
Scott > How do you come up with your songs?

Mark  > No real process really. Most times I'll sit down and just play/practice and I'll hear a melody or even a note or chord that catches my ear and I develop it from there. Sometimes it starts with a drumbeat. I'll start playing riffs around a drumbeat. Sometimes I hear the music in my head. I'll sit down and play what I hear in my head. That gets tricky for me though because sometimes what I hear in my head doesn't sound great when I play it back in the real world. But I do what the voices tell me to do.

Scott > Tell me what it is that spoke to you about this project.

Mark  > Inspiration spoke to me. And it spoke loudly. I won't go thru again the personal hard times that led up to the creation of "Uprising" but when you go as long as I did with no real inspiration. I had the drive. But no real Inspiration. If inspiration comes knocking at your door. You better let it in. As a musician I had a lot to say. I had a lot to get out. It's therapy for me. Anytime I pick up a guitar and create, live or in the studio. I'm in a different frame of mind. Worries fade, troubles disappear. Now that being said. I'm a little or a lot OCD, depending on who you talk to. And creating can be quite, difficult. But I feel the end result is worth it.
Scott > Are you a schooled guitar player or a self-taught guitar player?

Mark  > A little of both. I had theory lessons a long time ago and that really helped me put the pieces together. But I agree with so many of my heroes. Learn that stuff and its good I think to do that. But in the end just play from the heart. Play from your soul. Play what you want. But yes I do believe you need to know a few rules before you start breaking them.
Scott > Did You develop your style by ear or by messing around on the neck playing what sounded cool to you?

Mark  > Great question! Of course when I started playing I emulated my hero's but even in the very beginning I did it my way. I would have people say hey! you're not playing that in the right place! That's not were Randy Rhodes played it. I was like, its the same notes. I wasn't in the studio when Randy Rhodes played it. Plus its easier for me to play here. Now I have discovered though, the same note played in a different position will have a different feel or vibe which is one reason I love the guitar. No real secret to my style. I play what I want. How I want. I believe there are a lot of things that go into a signature style/sound from your hand structure to your picks to your amp, cord, pedals. Your picking style, the way you play scales and chords. So I guess the short answer would be. I play what sounds cool to me. But it all starts and ends with melody and groove. You have to have those.

Scott > I was wondering if you ever hear music in your dreams and turn them into songs?

Mark  > Did I mention I was OCD? Man I'll tell ya once I start creating a song it is all I think about 24/7 its in my dreams its constantly running through my head. Cant say I've ever heard a piece of music in my dreams but I can wake up with fresh ears and mind and the creation process is much easier. I've learned the value of having to walk away. Not to push myself too hard. Because once I start fighting myself. Its all downhill from there.

Scott > How often when you start an idea for song, does it actually get finished?

Mark  > Some will take days, some will take weeks. Depends on what I hear in my head and what that piece of music wants to be. I let the music tell me where it wants to go. Sometimes my brain tries to tell me different. But I just try to let the music be what it wants to be. A great example of that is my tune "SeeSick" from my debut cd/ep it started out so simple but the music took me in a complete different direction so I went with it and it morphed into a thing all its own. I love the creative process. Watching something grow from a simple little thing is very exciting. Then to hear it after completion and go. Wow I did that? very hard to put into words how that feels.

Scott > So Mark, tell me a little bit of what you’ve learned about human nature during this new production.

Mark  > Something I've learned about my music. And I love this. Is that I will have people come to me and say. This is what I hear or feel when I listen to your music. And I think to myself. Wow that's not at all what I was feeling or wrote that about. And I love that people can interpret my music however they want and if it makes them feel a certain way. I've done my job. I've been very lucky to have people very much outside the Instrumental guitar genre tell me they really don't listen to that type of music but they really enjoy listening to my music. A huge compliment. Another thing is. And this is the artist in me. I will create this very difficult piece of music and spend countless hours perfecting it thinking wow people are going to love this! How can they not?! Then it gets put out and..... nothing. But I'll have people love the song that just took a day to write, record, produce and master. I'm like hey! What about this one? Eh its ok. I'm not complaining Its just funny to see how people will react to music and what catches the ear of all the different people out there. I love it.

Scott > What are your personal highlights on the new album?

Mark  > Tough one.... I do love them all. But my personal favorites are "Uprising" "Distant And Deadly" which features Mike Geren on bass and Chris Bickley on second lead guitar. "Black Magic Blues" which Features Jay Parmar on second lead guitar and Jay also produced that track. Hard to pick. I really do like them all.
Scott > How did you first get into the music business?

Mark  > Ah yes. The music business. It is a business 24-7 365. I've been doing it seriously for around three years now I think. Not going to lie it is tough and there is nothing easy about the business. I've been very fortunate to have some great people step up and want to help. I still handle most of it myself. I'm very busy with lots of projects on the horizon and its getting very hard for me to do it all. But I will continue to handle it all myself if need be. I believe in myself and my music, I think I have something to offer. I expect nothing. I do this for me and all the great people, fans, companies and stations that support my music. I will always play music even if I never sell another cd or mp3. Its what I do.

Scott > Who have been your main influences on your career to date?

Mark  > Top three in no particular order and depending on the day. Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen. There are many others, Jan Cyrka, Jake E. Lee, John Sykes, Vivian Campbell, Andy Timmons, Eric Johnson I could go on and on. Not to mention all the great blues players Stevie Ray Vaughn, BB KIng, Robin Trower, etc. I have a lot of influences.
Scott > Do You have any new music in the works?
Mark  > Yes! I'm currently writing and recording for my next album and hope to have it out by the end of summer 2014 I've Invited some great players to be on the new album and they have agreed and that humbles me because these amazing musicians want to play on my music. I'm excited and grateful that they would consider joining me. I'm also hoping this time to have a half vocal and half instrumental album. I've had some great vocalist express interest in working with me. I'm looking forward to it.
Scott > How has your guitar playing evolved over the years?

Mark  > It still is. I'm still learning. And that's a good thing. I think I'm trying to do what any true artist or musician is trying to do. Have my own voice. And stay true to my vision. Its very hard right now because instrumental music is a very specific genre and doesn't appeal to everyone. But that is where I'm comfortable. When you start playing you want to be the next Eddie or Jimi. That's great! Take that and use it to become you. I've spent years trying to perfect my technique. Still do. But now its about creating a song where every part serves to support the melody of the song. Thats important Melodies are what stick with people after the song is over. At least in my case they do. Ive been very fortunate in the short time my music has been out there that I still have people come to me and say I hear words in your music. And that's great because as a instrumental guitarist to have people "hear" words is a great compliment.
Scott > What are you listening to these days?

Mark  > Right now as I type this Dream Theater's new album is playing. I also just purchased Jake E. Lee's "Red Dragon Cartel" also looking thru my recently played cd pile, I have Mr. Big, Greg Marra's self titled cd which I absolutely love. Alice In chains new one, Flood the engine, which features Bill Leverty of Firehouse and Jimmy Kunes of Cactus. Great cd. Jimmy Kunes also sang on my friend Chris Bickley's album "Tapestry of souls" the new Stryper album, Maragold, Greg Howes new band. Great album. Bruce Bouillet, The order of control, another great one. And last but not least Eric Johnson, Ah via musicom. also in rotation are Mike Abdow, Life symbolic, Tore St Moren, Devilbird, Adrian English, Innerplanetarium, Steve Vai, The seventh song, Joe Satriani, Unstoppable Momentum, The Winery dogs, The new Queensryche with Todd La Torre singing and finally. Joe Bonamassa, driving towards the daylight.  
Scott > Do You have a dream car?

Mark  > Porsche 911, or really any Ferrari. Although A nice BMW would rock!

Scott > I also don't want to forget this... Tell us about any other things you may be in involved in or any special interest besides music that is close to your heart?
Mark  > I have a couple things outside of music I'm working on. I'm trying to get a small music store open. Guitars, amps, strings, accessories, that kind of thing. I'm also trying to help out one of the guitar Companies I endorse. Rick Hanes guitars. They make my Signature guitar, which has been a dream of mine from the day I picked up a guitar. They are making some great guitars and would love to see them take off in a big way. And I'm not taking anything away from the other guitar companies I support. Vengeance guitars and Spawn guitars make great guitars and together with Rick Hanes give me the tools I need to create
 the music in my head.

Scott > Lastly, please give our readers one last parting shot across the bow... What is Mark Claytor going to be doing in 5 years?
Mark  > That's another tough one but I hope I can continue to build on the small success I've had, I will always create music it's who I am, but if it all goes away, I just want to live life and be happy. No matter what you do in life music, Writing, gardening. Put your heart into it and do what you love. Life is too short and we only get one ride. And if you do get a second chance at being happy and doing what you love in this life. You better take it.

Scott > I would like to thank you for your time and candor with our loyal readers and keep on fighting the good fight to bring us some awesome music.

Mark  > Thank you Scott. A huge thank you to all my friends, family, extended family. My musical peers and inspirations. My wonderful gear companies. The awesome stations that spin my music on their shows weekly. And as always the fans that buy my music and show their support to me daily. I would list each and everyone of you but......You would kill me Scott.

Mark Claytor Official Website