Guitarist John Hahn Interview

"A pleasant musical journey that does not tire even for a minute… His influences by guitarists like R.Blackmore, N.Schon, S.Morse, E.Van Halen, J.Satriani, S.Vai & J.Tafolla appear within his compositions. I choose tracks “Fuel Injection”, “Heaven’s Fury”, “Thrill Of The Chase” & “Close To The Edge”. Check this release… worth it!"


Guitarist John Hahn Interview:

Scott - Hi John, thanks for agreeing to doing a short-written interview w/ me and my readers. There must be a story behind the name of your newest music release. Give us the reason for the name "Undiscovered World".

John – No problem Scott, thanks for the opportunity field some questions. The titles for all 3 John Hahn releases have relevance relating to the time and music. For my debut release “Out of the Shadows”, I thought this was an apt title. Though building a name playing clubs through the eastern US for a decade prior to the release, I was unknown nationally and internationally. This Leviathan Records release afforded me the opportunity to have my musical voice be accessible to national and international audiences. My second JH release, the title “Darkness Falls” captured the essence of that release. The music was much darker and heavier than the previous JH CD. Regarding my new release, after all of these years playing, creating and recording music I feel as though to most, my music is still an “Undiscovered World”.

Scott - Here is a three-part question... Where is your music scene, can you give us a name for your style of music and who are your influences?

John – My music scene, along with the rest of the world right now, is pretty much wherever you can find it online with the arrival of Covid-19. I’ve been taking advantage of this time creating video content for the songs to get my CD to the ears of potential listeners through social media.

My style over the years has been categorize in CD reviews in different ways, one of the more prevalent would be Progressive rock/metal melodic instrumental guitar music that is sometimes compared to earlier Dream Theater in complexity of some of the tracks. “Undiscovered World” has been receiving very good reviews from Prog and Metal publications, which is encouraging that I’m connecting with a wider audience.

I write music that I would like to hear as a listener. My goal with each song is to make it enjoyable to both the most avid guitar enthusiast and the general music lover. I strive to keep the music moving forward, keep it fresh and interesting to the listener with unexpected twists and turns. Grooves are also an important ingredient. What I look for when listening, more specifically, to guitar instrumental music are tasteful passages, melodic phrasing, playing with feel, changing speeds to taste… but it always starts with a well written song. Good melody in any song, whether sang or played by an instrument is what will “hook” the listener, and will be what they hear in their head the next day. When I can check all of the boxes when composing, I feel as though I have a successful song.

My influences have certainly changed over the years but early influences started with figuring out how to play songs from bands like Kiss (the entire Kiss “Alive” 1 double-album), Aerosmith, etc. I could go on for ever naming bands from many genres that have influenced me as a player and writer over these many years. As far as guitarists, my melodic side draws from players like Neal Schon, Michael Schenker, Brian May and Steve Morse. Innovators like Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads really hit home on the music scene and were influential. Another group would include George Lynch, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, and a wave of shredders like Paul Gilbert, Vinnie Moore, Greg Howe and John Petrucci that raised the bar for guitarists. In more recent years my musical influences and tastes have really diversified and covers a very wide range.

“John and I have been friends for a long time, I played drums on his first album and he played guitars on my 'Headbanger' album. I’ve always loved his playing, but I also loved his writing. On this album (Undiscovered World) his playing has improved greatly which is hard to believe because he had very little room to improve. The song writing is just fantastic on this release. I love every cut, and it was an honor to contribute to this album.”

- CARL CANEDY – Drummer, Producer, The Rods, Canedy

Scott - How many CDs do you have out and how has your style of playing and songwriting evolved over the years?

John – Starting chronologically from the early years, there is:

1 & 2) Harpo (the band I was in for a decade) releases “Armed to Deliver” and “Fire You Fire”

3) JH debut CD “Out of the Shadows” on Leviathan Records

4) Thick as Thieves (vocal band project released in Japan) CD “Rock the House”.

5 & 6) two “Guitar Masters” project releases under David Chastain

7) JH CD “Darkness Falls”

8) Guitars on Canedy (hired gun on Carl Canedy of the Rods debut release) “Headbanger”

9) Finally my new release JH “Undiscovered World”.

I feel as though my style has matured greatly from the early days. I’m a student of music and the guitar and am constantly striving to learn and diversify my playing vocabulary, understanding of theory and different styles. As my musical knowledge expands, it becomes easier to express techniques and modal concepts that I’m hearing in my head.

Scott - What type of guitars do you play and why?

John – With everything, as my tastes and style has evolved over the years, so have my tools, mainly the guitars that help me get the job done. The 80’s were filled with Jackson, my beloved “Zebra” Charvel, ESP, Ibanez, etc. The past 15 or so years I’ve been playing PRS Core Custom 24 guitars as well as more recently Fender Elite Strat’s (HSS). As much as I enjoyed the Floyd trem based guitars of the early years for serious whammy bar aggression, I have moved to these newer, next gen non-locking trem system guitars and like them much more. Trems have become such a huge part of who I am as a player, a way to help me express, that I don’t envision ever going to a non-trem guitar. I’ve recently been looking into a new guitar to take me on the next leg of my journey. Stay tuned…

Scott - What type of amps and effects are you using playing live compared to the studio?

John – Over the decades, I’ve always been a tube amp guy. Many 50W and 100W Marshall’s. From Plexi, JMP, to JCM 800 amps. Some modified, some unmodified. Mesa Boogie, etc. When I was preparing to start tracking for “Undiscovered World” I wanted to find something that I could use to get a much more diverse array of very customizable sounds. Through my research I decided on a modeler, the Fractal AXE-FXll XL+, a HUGE departure for me. I figured that if this “amp” can cover such a range of sounds that it attracts guitarists from country players, to Alex Lifeson of Rush, to Metallica, it is worth a listen. I ordered a unit and as soon as I plugged in and heard the amazing array of amps that this modeler produces, the feel as well as sound and the almost endless “tweakability” of each, I knew I found my sound of the future. This unit is also loaded full of top-notch studio quality processing, from lush chorus, to amazing reverbs and delays to name a few. In the studio I plug the Axe-Fx directly into the interface to feed my DAW. I can also run a second out to a power amp and play through a Marshall 4x12 if I need more of an ‘amp vibe’. My live setup is the same. Send direct to FOH and monitor on stage through stereo power amp into Marshall 4x12 cabs.

Scott - What is the name of your recording software and guitar effects that you use in the Studio to get your guitar tones and lead tones? You know, what’s in your special sauce?

John – As I said, I use the Fractal unit for all guitar tones. There are so many amps and speaker cabs to choose from all in one box. For rhythm guitars on many tracks I used a tweaked out 5150 head sim, for leads I depended on a Friedman amp. I also used different amps like Marshall plexi’s for double-tracking and Fender and Mesa for clean tones.

My DAW software is Mark of the Unicorn “Digital Performer”. It is a recording software package that I’ve used for many years. It is very powerful and also allows me to slave to and lay down midi performances as well as triggering keyboard samples which come mostly from “Reason” from Propellerhead. Effects processing that I gravitate toward and sounds the best to my ears in the DAW come from Plugin-Alliance. I believe there was an instance of Brainworx SSL 4000 E Console on every track. It really took the “digital” edge off of the tracks. I also love the Pro-Q from FabFilter. It is such an amazing and powerful equalizer with dynamic options as well. I also leaned heavily on the Brainworx “Townhouse” compressor and for a flavored compression the Acme Audio XLA-3.

Scott – Who are you listening to that is new to you with great appreciation?

John – There are so many incredibly talented, little-known guitarists that you can find online these days. I’m learning new musical concepts and styles from jazz guys like Jens Larsen, fusion guys like Tim Miller… I’ve been listening to (and watching) amazing guitarists like Guthrie Govan, Tom Quayle, Matteo Mancuso, Jack Gardiner and many more. I’m currently in a mode where I am learning everything I can find to further improve and evolve my playing. These guys are supplying the drive and inspiration.

Scott - What are John Hahn's goals for 2021 and anything else in your life you would like to highlight moving forward?

John - For 2021 I would like to generate more exposure for my new CD as I feel it is a very strong release and represents a snapshot of where I am as a player and writer at this moment. I’m extremely proud of the final product. I believe “Undiscovered World” will really appeal to many and significantly grow a fan base. The issue is getting the music to the ears of a potential audience. The struggle is that the internet is saturated with musicians trying to break into relevance in their given genre, and with the current mindset of the potential listener in this new age of instant gratification, for some, there is no patience to give a new band or song a chance. If they click at all, it may be to listen for 5-10 seconds. If they don’t get it by then it’s off to the next thing. I need to grab their attention and hold it so my new release doesn’t simply fade and remain an “Undiscovered World”.