by John Kindred
– Publisher —
Instrumental shredder Tom Kopyto recently released his 2nd studio album Resurrection on Shredguy Records. The album comes 13 years after his first, YTK, which featured Michael Angelo Batio as executive producer.
13 years seems to a long time between albums, Hardrock Haven’s John Kindred recently talked with Kopyto. In this interview we talk to Kopyto about Resurrection and YTK, Shredguy Records, his work as a guitar instructor and a whole lot more …
Hardrock Haven: Hello Tom it’s great to talk with you.
Tom Kopyto: Thanks John! A pleasure for me as well.
Hardrock Haven: For those that don’t know you as an artist you play instrumental music and you are guitar instructor. So when did you first pick up the guitar? What or who inspired you to do so?
Tom Kopyto: C.C. DeVille of Poison made me want my first guitar. It was more the image than the music, seeing him run around a big stage with his cool BC Rich guitars, and lots of lights and confetti cannons going off. My first years in music were spent in piano lessons, learning through the Suzuki Method and playing classical pieces. What I heard in piano lessons was the extent of the music I listened to. One day my family finally got cable TV, and later that night I discovered MTV’s Headbangers Ball and metal music. This was around 1989 when they played tons of hair metal and thrash videos with shredding guitar solos. I had to play guitar after seeing that!
Hardrock Haven: You have released a couple instructional videos and are a sought after instructor in the New England area. How did you become a guitar instructor?
Tom Kopyto: I started teaching during my Senior Year of High School at the music store where I was taking lessons. They started me out with a small schedule of four students. After six months that schedule grew to twelve. Another six months and I was up to twenty six and things continued to grow from there.
Hardrock Haven: I assume that being a teacher is your primary source of income. Do you play in any bands?
Tom Kopyto: After moving to New England my priorities quickly changed as I had many more financial responsibilities and needed to establish a stable income. I had also seen the reality of what life would be like in an underground metal band when I had the opportunity to audition for a project a few years before my move from Chicago to New England. This was a signed band with a few records out, an established fan base, and touring internationally, but the money would not have been much better than working at Subway. My focus for some time now is doing instrumental music, and for the most part that’s a studio based project with guest musicians playing on the records. When I perform the material live it’s either with a backing track, hired guns, or a combination of the two.
In addition to teaching my own schedule I also run a music lesson studio with eight other teachers including Mike Abdow and Oli Herbert of All That Remains. We offer guitar, bass, drum, voice, and piano lessons and rock band programs for all ages & skill levels. And I have the the two instructional videos, “Terror Death Licks” and “Picking Sequences and Modes,” that are still available through Chops From Hell.
Hardrock Haven: Your first solo release, YTK, was way back in 2000. How did that album come about and how did you end up working with Michael Angelo Batio?
Tom Kopyto: I saw that the MACE Music label was accepting demos from guitarists and bands, so I sent in a demo of three instrumental songs and received a call a few weeks later inviting me to Monster Mix Studios to meet Michael. He was very complimentary of my playing, calling me a “virtuoso” and a “prodigy”. So we decided to do a record. I spent the Summer of 1999 recording my parts at my house. Michael mixed & mastered and got the artwork together, released it and that was YTK.
Hardrock Haven: Can you tell us how you ended up on the compilation albums: Lion Music’s Tribute to Shawn Lane Vol. 2 and Shredguy Records’ Shredding Across the World Vol.1 and Shredding Across the World Vol.2?
Tom Kopyto: I Emailed Mike McDowell (Shredguy Records) when he was putting together the first “Shredding Across The World” compilation CD and was given an opportunity to have an early version of “Black Inside” included on that release. We kept in touch and he gave me another opportunity, this time a spot on “Shredding Across The World Vol. II”. I think it was the same process with the Shawn Lane Tribute as well, but I don’t remember.
Hardrock Haven: You recently released your 2nd solo album Resurrection 13 years after your debut. Why so long between releases?
Tom Kopyto: Loss of momentum. I did that first record as a true solo record, myself and a drum machine/sequencer. So the record came out In January and there was no band to play the record out. By the time I had a lineup in place it was August. And then before I knew it, three months later I was moving from Chicago to New England. Priorities changed after the move and before I knew it, I was teaching 60+ students weekly. I stayed active artistically throughout the years and appeared on the compilation CD’s, recorded the instructional DVDs, authored multi-week courses for instructional websites, etc. And then came a re-examination of priorities which enabled me to feel that itch again to do a full instrumental record.
Hardrock Haven: From album 1 to album 2 what changed in your approach to writing music on the new album?
Tom Kopyto: On the first record I was guilty of getting lost in my own ideas – not seeing the forest through the trees – as I was still figuring out how I wanted to play music. So I was sitting in front of the 8-track recorder with the TAB paper in front of me, literally writing these solos bar by bar and putting every single note under a musical microscope. I’ve since allowed myself the freedom to just play. I have developed a more objective ear and improved in my ability to edit ideas. I’ve also learned that less is indeed more, and that less often sounds bigger. “Less” doesn’t have imply “simple”, it’s just that if you start with something incredibly complex there’s not much of a ceiling left to develop any other ideas. The short answer is, “I’m more mature in my approach.”
Hardrock Haven: Why instrumental music versus an album with a featured singer?
Tom Kopyto: After a few years of playing cover songs and original music in local bands, I quickly learned that when you’re in a group, especially doing original material, compromising during the creative process and playing what’s best for the group is sometimes part of the gig. So I started doing instrumental demos in my spare time to explore ideas that didn’t “fit” with my vocal bands. Recording the demos became so gratifying that eventually, I decided the best use of my time was to go instrumental full time.
Hardrock Haven: What led you to work with Michael McDowell and release your album on his label Shredguy Records?
Tom Kopyto: Mike is so enthusiastic about the genre and does a good job of promoting his artists and getting their music heard. We talked on and off for a few years since the release of the compilation CDs about a full length release, so when “Resurrection” started coming together I felt good about Shredguy releasing it.
Hardrock Haven: With the release of the new album what are your future plans?
Tom Kopyto: It’s very tough to gig an instrumental record in the United States. So I’m focusing on teaching clinics in retail stores and/or master classes at music camps and independent music lesson studios. Clinics are great because you’re in front of your target audience, a room of guitar playing fanatics! I also keep active on my YouTube channel, updating it regularly with lessons and song play throughs. I would like to work in a band project with vocals if the right opportunity presents itself.
Hardrock Haven: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. Is anything I didn’t ask that you might want add to the conversation?
Tom Kopyto: Thanks for the opportunity, this was a fun trip down memory lane. I would like to invite your readers to check me out at the following sites:
And “Resurrection” is available through
CD Baby: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/tomkopyto
Shredguy Records Official: http://www.shredguyrecords.bigcartel.com/product/tom-kopyto-resurrection-cd-presale
And for 7-string guitarists reading this, my signature series 7-string has just been released by Rick Hanes Guitars. You can check the guitar specs here:
Hardrock Haven: Thanks again. Hope to hear more from you in the future.
Tom Kopyto: You got it John!
Read Tom Kopyto Resurrection CD review here.