This is Part 4 of 5 of our interview with Darren Michael Boyd. In this session, Darren takes us through his song-writing process and talks about doing it primarily as a labour of love. He is not making any money at it just yet but that doesn’t deter his interest in continuing with his instrumental music creativity. He talks about his artistic integrity and about doing what he loves. We talk about how it can be a challenge being an instrumental rock guitarist in the vein of Steve Vai or Joe Satriani.
“You have to write something you’re excited about. That way, you have at least one fan.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle at the cleverness of that statement. It is something that I agree with very much. It’s important to be true to oneself above all else when engaged in any sort of creative endeavor. He hasn’t given up on trying to make a living for his music; it just hasn’t happened yet. And even though it’s not his primary focus, he definitely would love to make a living by creating and playing music, if he could.
We touch on drugs and alcohol in the music industry. A controversial topic but something I feel should be addressed. Not all rock musicians are druggies and alcoholics, and Darren is a perfect example of this. He is fantastic rock guitarist and has been involved in the rock music industry for over thirty years but is a moderate drinker and says he has never taken any recreational drugs. The image of the drugged-out musician is an image I hate because it does such a disservice to the music and the professionalism required to be a touring recording artist. There are obviously a few famous examples of hearty partying by bands throughout the years and drug abuse has been a problem for many artists in the performing arts world, of that there is no doubt. But to paint all musicians with a broad brush is an unfair stereotype. We also touch on how, for many bands, that image was more of a fabricated stage persona than a reflection of their own reality.
This led to a discussion about stage dynamics and how challenging it can be to perform on stage in front of an audience. Darren talks a little about his cover band and their approach to playing live. We then got onto the topic of playing through an amplifier versus playing direct into a sound system using a DI interface. Although he does seem to prefer playing through an amplifier and “moving air” as puts it, there are quite a few practical benefits to playing through a DI. For one, it helps to “control the sound” in a small venue. It also much more efficient and convenient than lugging around heavy equipment. Set up time is usually reduced as well.
From there, Darren takes us on a tour through is pedal board and talks about the pedals he likes to use. “I’m not much of tap dancer,” he tells us, meaning that he uses his pedals only sparingly. We talk about a couple famous guitarists who are very well known for using a lot of effects in their playing: The Edge, guitarist from U2 and Andy Sommers, guitarist for The Police. We are both of the opinion that it can be cumbersome to incorporate that many effects into your playing, especially on stage. He has an affinity for effects pedals but says they can be very overwhelming if you use too many of them.
“Because when I play live, I just want to rock,” he says.
We then talk about guitarists who simply just plug in to their amps with very few or no effects, such as Jared James Nichols and Angus Young. I had never heard of Jared James Nichols before and after researching him a little on Wikipedia, he is someone who’s music I wanted to check into more. He is a fantastic guitar player and a great singer. How come someone so good isn’t more famous? Look him on YouTube. If you love straight ahead rock and roll, you will not be disappointed.
“I like that mentality. The freedom…” Darren says.
We then got onto the topic of using plug-ins, computer amp modelling, and digital music recording, and how all of that technology has revolutionized the recording industry.
Darren then demonstrates his more melodic side, playing a few bars of a song called Solitary Green Witch, off his latest CD, Last Seen in Canada. It is a song that is quite reminiscent of Ozzy Osbourne’s Diary of a Madman, but make no mistake, it is original in its own right. We then talked about Randy Rhoads and his influence on Darren’s playing and on rock music in general.