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JOE STUMP (2022)



Joe Stump's busy schedule made this interview possible, in which the "Shredlord" opens up like never before, offering us a few crunchy confessions....
STRUCK - 20.01.2023 -
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Between his last instrumental album "Diabolical Ferocity", his new band Tower of Babel marked by the arrival of Joe Amore (ex-Nightmare) on the microphone and especially the return of Alcatrazz on the front of the scene, Joe Stump's news has never been so busy. Chronologically, the "Shredlord" explains to us why his name does not appear in the firmament of the guitar heroes, the real reasons of the stop of HolyHell sabotaged by Joey DeMaio of Manowar and finally, the shame that he felt at his beginnings in Alcatrazz and more precisely during the Graham Bonnet period...

What is the one question you've been asked too many times that you're tired of answering?

Joe Stump: Oh, I'm trying to think! I don't like those questions where you have to talk about yourself and introduce yourself, all those questions where you have to talk about your whole career...

And do you always get these questions?

Sometimes I do, which is very strange especially when you know that I've been making albums and playing for three decades now... And so finally, I wonder why the person I'm talking to is doing an interview with me as he doesn't seem to know anything about me (smiles)!

Well, finally, I don't have many questions left to ask...


Your biggest influences are Ritchie Blackmore, Michael Schenker and of course Yngwie Malmsteen...

And I would add Gary Moore...

So it's obvious that you should become the guitarist of Alcatrazz. How is the band doing since Graham Bonnet's departure?

The atmosphere in the band is great. Together we made the new album "V" which was well received, especially by the press. We've just come off a tour with the band with which we had to do seventeen or eighteen dates in Europe. I'd like to say that we're a much stronger unit now: no offence to him, but a lot of the shows we did with Graham were pre-recorded, he sang on pre-recorded tracks. The bass was played by his girlfriend who is very nice by the way but as a bass player she's not very good... To be honest, I was ashamed of myself for deviating like that: I wondered what I was doing in there!

You're a guitarist who is known for his talent but who never had the chance to join a band that was up to scratch. We thought this would be the case with Alcatrazz, and you too I suppose. Were you disappointed that Alcatrazz was just a name in the end?

Well, I love playing Alcatrazz tunes and playing with Mark Benquechea and Jimmy Waldo, Alcatrazz drummer and keyboard player respectively. We had a good time with Graham and Beth-Ami, it wasn't all bad... And you know, Graham was singing some of the Rainbow or Schenker songs, it was an experience (Smile)...

Since his departure, have you seen an evolution in the band's fan base?

Alcatrazz was never one of those great iconic bands... and for me, it wasn't Graham Bonnet's band - knowing that Alcatrazz's musical direction was always dictated by the guitarists who played in the band, whether it was obviously Yngwie Malmsteen on "No Parole from Rock 'n' Roll" or "Disturbing the Peace" in which Steve Vai's fingerprint is all over the album...
On "Dangerous Games", nobody came (Laughs)... We had to play this album in a festival because the promoter liked it but it was the first time I heard something from this album (Laughs)... No, nobody cares about this album (Laughs) !
"Born Innocent" is a combination of what had been done in the past, guitarists who had been through the band's career including guitarists like Chris Impellitteri who had worked with Graham... And then I joined the band and played the majority of the songs on "Born Innocent" - 80%, I would say...
"Born Innocent" is a nice album, sold more copies than "V" but I think it's mostly due to curiosity about a band that hadn't released an album since the 80's : I think that's the explanation, knowing that Jimmy and Mark -who played in the band at the time- had played on Graham's solo albums...
Now Doogie (NdStruck: Doogie White) really sings on stage - you know what I mean - and we're much more productive as a band: making albums, writing tunes... but apart from that, nothing has changed!

You've done a lot of things in your career but your favourite style is still shred and neo-classical. A lot of musicians, even guitarists, consider this style rather old-fashioned. How do you see it?

Well, it's all the guitarists I love and the style I love and I'm not the only one (Smile)... Of course, it's not as popular as it used to be but I don't care because it's the style I like to play!

You keep on signing with your last solo album "Diabolical Ferocity" in which you continue to carry the torch of neoclassical music, and you remain faithful to your nickname of Shredlord. What do you say to the critics who say that you only make solo albums for guitarists?

That's a very good question. These albums will indeed appeal to guitarists or people who like guitar and music... But you know -and this doesn't only concern my fans-, people who like instrumental albums are not interested at all in the albums I do with a singer. It's strange but it's just because they are interested in instrumental stuff... It sounds strange but you have to keep in mind that there are also people like that!
But honestly, I don't think my solo albums have been given the chance they deserve because on each of them, you have great riffs and strong melodies: it's not just a sequence of fast guitar notes... I feel like people don't really know what it's about... People should listen and then give their opinion!

But as we said, the golden age of instrumental albums was in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Aren't you releasing these albums too late?

Let's look at it another way, I released my first solo album in 1993 (Guitar Dominance) at the height of the grunge period. If I had released that album in 1990, I would have had a lot more success!

So you're suggesting that the brilliance of your career was a matter of two or three years?

Probably... At the time, all you had to do was release an album and thousands of people would buy it: the public demanded this type of album!
But let's be clear, I'm very happy with the level of success I have, however modest it is... My current life between teaching at university and continuing to maintain my career suits me perfectly: I'm very, very happy! But of course, it would have been great if I had a bigger fanbase, if I had been more popular: I would have sold more records...
But at the time, when I released "Guitar Dominance" in 1993, at the height of the grunge period, no one was releasing this kind of album anymore, I thought that the fans of this kind of music had found someone in my person: there is still a positive side to all this (Smile)!

Criticism of an outdated style has been mentioned, but after all, isn't the best answer 'Forever Moore', your sensitive and respectful tribute to Gary Moore?

Of course it is! I can play many different ways... Those who say I only know how to shred have never really heard me play!

Is it a frustration to be confined to this label, however laudatory, of shredlord?

Well, I shred and people call me a shredlord: that's a fact, but there are many more dimensions to my playing than that. I'm not frustrated or bored...
I don't compare myself to him but Quentin Tarantino said he made the movies he wanted to watch. I make the albums I want to listen to!

You quote Quentin Tarantino who has no limits, do you have any that you haven't explored yet?

I think I'll probably do something more hard rock blues in the future... But I'm not old enough yet, I'm waiting for the time when my fingers can't play at thousands of miles an hour: I'll keep on shredding as long as I can... The funny thing is that, in general, with age, guitarists slow down the rhythm while I play better and better and faster and faster (Smile)!

And one last point about shredding, my last three albums "Diabolical Ferocity", "Symphonic Onslaught" and "The Dark Lord Rises" are the best albums of my career! It's very rewarding to do your best work after almost thirty years of career!

And that's what it's all about: to keep working and progressing... it doesn't matter what you do because you'll always find someone who doesn't like it anyway... And to every person who thinks Joe Stump only shreds, you'll find another one who will say that it's not true: you can't please everyone!

Your style is more aggressive and metal than Yngwie Malmsteen's. Are you sensitive to new and more modern metal styles, like the current prog metal?

I'm aware of everything that's going on and I have to be as a teacher at the university: my students like everything from djent stuff to technical death metal stuff... One of the students for example is a fan of Archspire: they are great musicians! So I'm aware of all that, but would I want to play on a seven or eight string guitar? No! I like my six strings... I don't need twenty-four frets, twenty-one or twenty-two are enough for me since I shred (Smile)!

Sometimes, my students propose me to play on the seven strings, I answer them: "No, it's ok!"... others, if I want to test their eight strings, I answer: "Take that away from me!" (Laughs)!

In music, I don't challenge myself but I like technical death metal stuff or black metal stuff, and I have elements of that music in some of my tunes, whether it's 'Maximum Damage' on "Diabolical Ferocity" with that blast beat or 'Facemelting Devastation' from "Symphonic Onslaught"... It's great to bring those blast beats or black metal elements, it brings a refreshing edge to the songs...  

You mention your students: you teach at the famous Berklee College Of Music. How do you teach guitar in this day and age when almost everything is available on the Internet?

I don't just teach technique at Berklee, knowledge as well... We dig deeper than just knowing how to sweep arpeggios or play fast... We talk about all the things related to music whether it's melody, harmony and theory on the application of certain key scales, certain chord sequences... I'm sure that everyone who posts on the internet is very good and knows what they are talking about, but not everyone does... but that's how it is!

Your new band is Tower Of Babel. The last album "Lake of Fire" was strongly inspired by Rainbow of course and Dio, especially in terms of riffs. What can we expect for the next album you just finished recording?

I would say more or less the same thing (Laughs)! If I had to compare the new compositions of Tower of Babel with the old ones, I would say that some of the new compositions are a little bit more Deep Purple: a retro hard rock side, you know... but it's still more or less the same thing: it's my vision of Rainbow! Deep Purple, Rainbow, some solos in Dio, maybe some things will remind the first Yngwie... and basically, I write most of the songs for Alcatrazz in this way too (Laughs)...

For this future album, Tower of Babel changes singer. You recruited Jo Amore, singer of Kingcrown and ex-singer of Nightmare. How did you meet him? Did you choose him because he was the singer of Temple Of Dio?

Actually, I didn't choose him. I play in Mistheria's project, Vivaldi Metal Project, in which Joe also sings. And Mistheria told me that Joe would be the perfect singer for what I was looking to do. That's how we met. Afterwards, Joe actually sent me what he was doing in Temple of Dio and indeed, it was easy to decide (Smiles)... And it's great to work with Joe because when I give him riff ideas, he knows exactly what to sing... what I write fits his voice perfectly. It's really great to work with someone who likes the same things as you!

We talk about Tower of Babel but before that you were in your band Reign of Terror. Why did you stop this adventure to start a new one?

Well, what happened was that I was working on a Reign of Terror album and at the same time I started playing with HolyHell in 2005-2006. And at that time, HolyHell had a very busy schedule: we were touring a lot with Manowar. We released an EP and an album with the band and then, when we finished the next album, there was this problem with the management and the label... Anyway, that's the reason why I stopped the Reign of Terror project but actually Tower of Babel with Joe is more or less the same thing even if it's less metal than Reign of Terror.

In these conditions, why didn't you start Reign of Terror again...

... with the Tower of Babel musicians?

Exactly, you could have avoided starting from scratch since Reign of Terror was a name with a rich discography of four albums...

You're right: maybe I should have done that (Laughs)! I didn't do it because I was working with the singer Csaba Zvekan and at that time we were getting along well and we were talking about starting a new band rather than starting again with another one.

And to answer your question more precisely, at the time, he asked me to play in the band he was in, Raven Lord -I toured with them a bit, I made an album in which I played some solos- a band in a bit of a Black Sabbath register- and it was good for me to do something different... So we were working together in this band but he wanted to do something new with me and he went and got the other musicians... I mean I wasn't the only one who put Reign of Terror together!

In the meantime and you mentioned it, you played in HolyHell who released a self-titled album in 2009 and despite prestigious dates with Manowar, nothing from one day to the next... What happened?

As I said, we had written a new album that was to be released after the EP. MetalHammer magazine was supposed to release this EP like the Manowar one but the mixing and mastering of our EP was horrible because they focused on the Manowar one. All the band members were furious and some even thought it was sabotage orchestrated by Joey DeMaio (NdStruck: Manowar bassist and HolyHell producer).

At the time, we were supposed to do a European tour with Manowar after the release of the album but it didn't happen. Why, I don't know... But after that, the singer Maria (NdStruck: Maria Breon) got fed up and decided to leave the management and the record company, that is to say to distance herself from Joey DeMaio.

Francisco Palomo, the keyboard player had written most of the compositions, I had written some chords and like all the singers, Maria had written the lyrics and the melodic lines... Everything was ready but Joey DeMaio wanted to get back the ownership of our music, he wanted to control everything to finally kill us...

But let's go back to the present and the future, your current situation is rich between your solo career, Alcatrazz and Tower of Babel but what is your priority ?

Alcatrazz is obviously my priority! Maybe HolyHell will come back and do something. I'd like to do a lot of other things if I have time but in the States I have a Rainbow and Deep Purple tribute band as well (Laughs)... you see I have a lot to do when I come back from Europe...
I've already recorded all the guitars for the future Alcatrazz album : it sounds really good and it will be different from "V"...

Have you already written the successor of "V"?

Yes, everything is done! The good thing now is that Doogie is the opposite of Graham Bonnet: when Bonnet recorded a vocal line on "Born Innocent", he stopped because he was tired and went to rest - Doogie is going to sing the whole album four days in a row...

So that means that 2023 will be busier than ever between a new Alcatrazz, a new Tower of Babel...

Yes, I'm releasing two albums and that's good, I won't have to do any more for a while (Laughs)!

We started this interview with the question you've been asked too many times, what is the one you would like me to ask you or that you would like to answer?

I like being asked if I have anything to say to the fans. Indeed, I would like to thank all those who have supported me in my past works and those who don't know me, I strongly recommend them to listen to my new album "Diabolical Ferocity" as well as the new Alcatrazz because they are probably my best works and a faithful representation of what I do...

Thank you

(In French) "Merci beaucoup !"

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