Hardrock Haven's Matthew Hoffman Interviews Guitarist Ken Snyder
Ken: I read your review, thanks. I do have one correction. Cut Throat isn’t together anymore. We are still close friends but the band just ended.
Matthew: Thanks for the update; the Internet had that in several places.
Ken: Yeah I’ll have to check that and make corrections.
Matthew: When did you start playing, and did you take lessons?
Ken: You know, as a kid in North Carolina, I played trumpet, but as none of the rock albums I had included trumpet. I asked my parents to switch to guitar. I went to four lessons but my teacher was so horrible. Actually when I showed up for my fifth lesson, I found out that he had been fired. So I actually wound up being self taught. My influences as a young novice player were Jimi Page (I was a huge Zeppelin fan), and Hendrix, but my local radio station wouldn’t play Hendrix for obviously (racial) reasons. Also many kids were excited and drawn to Kiss, I’d have to say.
Matthew: I saw Gary Moore’s name on your inspiration list and was thrilled that you appreciate him ’cause I just named him #2 on my top 25 G-men of the past 25 years! He was amazing.
Ken: Yeah, he never had the look for the ’80s metal and was overlooked by most in America, but he was as good as any of them.
Matthew: Ok. I saw that Deep Purple were also huge influences for you growing up in the world of rock and roll guitar. I just listened to the Deep Purple greatest hits this year and couldn’t believe how great Blackmore was. Last week I heard “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves” which he did with Rainbow and it sounded like it could be released today.
Ken: Yeah Blackmore was amazing when he wanted to be. Sometimes on stage he was a precursor to some of the things Yngwie would take and run with later in the ‘80s. You know Uli Jon Roth also was a big influence and he too did several of the things that Yngwie made famous as well.
Matthew: You know my favorite thing about Malmsteen, who I had as the # 1 guitarist of the last 25 years was, in his bio it said his popularity declined because experienced players grew sick of the endless hours of practice it would take to finally be able to play his material. What a compliment!
Ken: Also one of the things that happened is everyone jumps on bandwagons. Here in L.A when the grunge thing hit everyone started to cut their hair and wear flannel, and Hello, that just isn’t you. The grunge thing happened but I actually think it was necessary, which would sound crazy coming from someone with my background.
Matthew: Really that’s interesting. Why was it “necessary” Ken?
Ken: Well all the bands in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s had become so image conscious, there were people that didn’t even care if they could play their instruments. As long as they looked good we could put them on an album. It became so “bubble gum” something had to give. I think the problem is the guitar got forgotten about. Also people just started copycatting; every band stopped what they were doing, changed their styles and ran to Seattle. The labels signed them and what they got was a huge piece of crap, heroin addicts that couldn’t even tour together. Then Nu metal happened, and labels wanted every band to sound the same and then that didn’t work. Everything goes in cycles. The sad thing is today you can’t turn on the radio and hear anything good.
Matthew: Ken I haven’t listened to radio in years. It’s just like MTV, which doesn’t play videos either.
Matthew: The positive thing to all of this is I feel there actually is a renaissance going on now with Judas Priest, Saxon, Exodus, Megadeth, Overkill and others releasing great new albums in the past year or so. The thing that bothered me the most about bands saleing out was an album like St. Anger, deciding on purpose not to have any real lead guitar work or solos.
Ken: The question is who produced it? I couldn’t even listen to it because it was that bad. I get frustrated when I see people deliberately screwing things up. It sounded like a demo. The whole anti-guitar solo thing, its not like it was invented in the ‘80s, it probably went too far back you know too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing.
Matthew: The point for me is if you are a first rate guitarist you better do something real on the studio album and if not bring it in concert or do a side project. If not, all that talent is a waste. An example of someone doing it all the right way is Steve Vai.
Ken: Yeah he constantly evolves and gets better every time I see him. He seems down to earth yet confident in himself. He seems to know who he is and as a guitarist it amazes me with what he is able to do. I wish someone would tell him to stop singing though.
Matthew: You know he is so great I don’t even pay attention to it.
Ken: The point I am making on that is that he writes such crazy and bizarre rhythms that it is nearly impossible to sing over them. But he is such a great guitarist; so while Satriani is a better songwriter he keeps coming up with different paths on the instrument. Actually he owes me some money, because every time he puts out a Favored Nations record of any guitarist I go out and buy it.
Matthew: When I met him I felt the same exact way’ he was so kind and at peace with himself.
Matthew: The best thing about your record is the “surfcastafari” track. Where did that come from?
Ken: Actually, a Dick Dale commercial where he was actually on it, playing his surf style rhythms.
Matthew: I actually want to end this by thanking you for including the Hendrix style beautiful acoustic playing, with the bluesy Gary Moore sounding stuff with metal guitar shredding.
Ken: Its easy to do the fast stuff but it is so much more enjoyable to included the cleaner Hendrix type stuff, the bluesy Moore or David Gilmour kind of playing, I think that people like Vai started to turn the corner when they started incorporating emotion and feeling into their music, and also with such a huge variety of influences I can’t help for them to come out. You know, I wrote songs and then inserted guitar after I had the right song. Many soloists come out and want to show off like, “Hey ,look how good I am.” I am only concerned with writing great songs.
Matthew: That’s exactly what I put in my review; your primary mission was to write great songs and it is obvious when you listen to it. Thanks for being so generous with your time; I wish you the best of luck Ken. Nevermore is a great solo guitar effort.