by John Kindred
– Publisher —
Sean Baker of The Sean Baker Orchestra has just released Game On!! on Shredguy Records. Baker’s third solo CD to date, moves away from just a purely instrumental shred album and brings in vocalists, Jeff Martin of Racer X and Ronni Monroe of Metal Church fame, to further expand the appeal of his compositions.
Hardrock Haven talks with Baker about the new album, working with Michael McDowell’s Shredguy Records and more …
Hardrock Haven: Hey Sean it’s great to talk with you.
Sean Baker: Thanks man! Awesome to talk to you as well…..
Hardrock Haven: To those who may not know who you are please introduce yourself and the band …
Sean Baker: Sure! Hola World!! My name is Sean Baker and I’m a knuckelheaded guitarist from Michigan, which is in the United States. I’ve been a solo instrumental guitarist for the last eleven years, and I’m also a guitarist and song writer in Ronny Munroe’s (from Metal Church, Trans Siberian Orchestra) solo band. I also toured (as a second guitarist), with Racer X guitarist Bruce Bouillet for Bruce’s “The Order of Control” tour in 2013. I’ve also appeared in Mike Varney’s “Spotlight” column in Guitar Player magazine. The second guitarist from SBO is my friend Paul Kleff, who is also in the Ronny Munroe Band. My bass player Dave Donigian, has been with me since 2004. He also is the bassist for the Ronny Munroe Band! Clint Sabon played drums on “Game On!!”, and he just so happens to be one of my favorite drummers on the planet! Clint also played drums on “The Order of Control” tour as well. I’m very proud of my band….
Hardrock Haven: You recently released Game On!! on Shredguy Records. Since the first SBO album how have you grown as a writer?
Sean Baker: I think the fact that I now want to impress non musicians as well as musicians has made me become a better song writer. My goal with “Game On!!” was for people (outside of my musician friends) that could listen to it and enjoy it as well! Catchy melodies and “hooks” in instrumental music are needed more now then ever. I think that the era of “Checkout this lick I can do on Youtube” is drawing to a close, and I believe that the next logical transition would be better songs. There are some great guitarist that can’t write a song to save their lives, and I think this is where our genre needs a swift kiss in the ass.
Hardrock Haven: How did your relationship with Shredguy Records come to fruition? Label owner Michael McDowell is credited as a co-producer with you … what insight did he bring to the album?
Sean Baker: Me and Mike have been sending emails back and forth for years, and met via social media. I played on a couple of Shredguy releases including the second Adrian English CD as well as the third Shredding across the World cd. Anyways, about a year ago Mike and fellow ShredGuy label mate Toby Knapp were chatting and Toby suggested that Mike hit me up about doing a project together, and it just went from there. Mike pretty much let me do my own thing, but was very supportive in helping me get things done. Game On!! could not exist without the hard work and effort that Mike put into it. I cant thank him enough and I’m very proud of the end result.
Hardrock Haven: Game On!! Has amazing moments of shred guitar but you also add a lot of melody in your compositions. Does that come naturally or do you strive to have a semblance of balance with each song?
Sean Baker: Great question! I think the fact that I write instrumental songs the same way I write a vocal song has a lot to do with it. A lot of shred guys will just write chord progressions to shred over, I write songs that could just as easily be vocal songs. I write riffs as opposed to chord progressions and I think this is what helps me the most. Once again, I’m trying to cross over if you will, to non musicians. Everyone digs great melodies, but not everyone can listen to guitar wanking for fifty minutes.
Hardrock Haven: How did Jeff martin and Ronnie Monroe become involved with Game On!!?
Sean Baker: I had an idea about bringing in guest vocalist on Game On!! as soon as I started getting songs together. The thought was a little scary at first as Game On!! is my third instrumental record and I never used a vocalist up to that point. Ronny was a no-brainer as I just finished up a album with him (Electric Wake) and we were clicking on all cylinders. His performance on “Spooky” is just amazing! That song really brought out something new in Ronny and I couldn’t be more proud of that song. Working with Jeff Martin was a dream come true, as Jeff’s voice is on the soundtrack of my life. Racer X was a huge influence on me in my formative years and creating art with him still leaves me speechless. Jeff cranked it up a level with “Necessary Evils.” It sounds like if Jeff Martin sang for Slipknot! One of my favorite tracks off of Game On!! …
Hardrock Haven: Love the album artwork for Game On!! … Who came up with the concept art and designed the cover?
Sean Baker: Thanks man!! I’ve used the same artist for all of my CDs and just love his art to death. Tim Zulewski of cricketbow.com knocked it out of the park with the artwork. We went back and fourth over the artwork for a few weeks and couldn’t come up with anything. The previous two covers before that fairly easy, but this one took us awhile but the end result came out great. Once we came up with the casino concept it just went from there. Then when he sent me the playing card with me on it, I freaked out how great a job he did. Which is kind of funny because apparently Joe Satriani likes the artwork a lot too! There has been some controversy in the last few days regarding a promo poster he has for his latest CD which has him on a playing card, and it looks a lot like my playing card from Game On!!.
Hardrock Haven: What kind of response has the album received from fans, from critics?
Sean Baker: To be honest, this is by far the best reviewed CD I’ve put out so far. Fans have all pretty much have given me the thumbs up for it which makes me very happy. The critics seem to get it as well which is refreshing. I even get a lot of positive feedback on the Stevie Wonder tune “Sir Duke,” which I thought my Metal fans would give me crap over it but they dig it as well. The fact that people are getting it, tends to make me feel like we accomplished what we set out to do … write a album that not just guitarist are gonna dig.
Hardrock Haven: The industry isn’t kind these days to instrumental shredders or the “Metal” genre, at least here in the USA … so what motivates you to continue writing, recording and releasing music?
Sean Baker: The love of music. The love of playing guitar. The love of making music with my best friends is worth more to me then money, which is essentially just paper! It’s just a part of my make up, who I am and I just love it to death. The fact that I’ve been lucky enough to achieve some goals and accomplish some of my dreams, pushes me farther to achieve the next goal. Whatever that may be. Stay tuned …
Hardrock Haven: Will fans have an opportunity to see the group live?
Sean Baker: Yes sir! I’ve been playing SBO live shows since about 2005. We’ve played with George Lynch, Michael Angelo Batio, Marc Rizzo, Gary Hoey, Joe Stump, Michael Harris, Chris Poland, Jennifer Batten, Nevermore and countless more. We just played a CD release party for Game On!! a couple weeks back and actually had a few folks show up from a couple of different States away which floored me that people would drive so far to see us!
Hardrock Haven: Thanks again for taking time out for my questions, anything that you might want to say to your fan base that I didn’t ask?
Sean Baker: Just that we are very appreciative of your support over the course of three CD’s. It has been a awesome thrill ride and I can’t thank the fans enough for being there for us. Please check out Game On!! as I think that there is something on that disk for everyone! Peace.
Visit The Sean Baker Orchestra online: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Sean-Baker-Orchestra/
Buy the album at Shredguy Records: http://shredguyrecords.bigcartel.com/product/sean-baker-orchestra-game-on-cd