Whereas many people in the Netherlands haven't heard of you, yet, can you tell us who is Steve Senes?
First, thank you for giving me the opportunity to get to know you and your readers, I sincerely appreciate it! Ok, so who is this Steve Senes guy? Well, in a nutshell, I'm a guy who simply loves to play guitar. Music has always played a central roll in my life. When I was a kid, if there was even a remote possibility that I could be listening to music, I was – including some times when I probably shouldn't have been, haha. I've always loved the escape provided by putting on some good jams and just escaping. When I was fifteen I picked up the guitar and nothing has been the same since!
Did you grew up in a musically family?
Sorta – my mother played piano and just loved music. There wasn't always music playing in the house growing up, but from a young age, my mom always instilled in me how magical music can be. My sister also played a little bit of piano when she was growing up. In fact, it was she who introduced me to the music of Kiss – one day while out shopping, she'd talked my mom into buying her some record or another – wanting to be fair, my mom wanted to get me one as well – my sister recommended Kiss, 'Love Gun' was their current record, so that's what I got. I loved it!
You are (or were) a KISS fan as I am well informed, but to what kind of bands, or music, did you also listen to when you were a young Steve and when did you start to play guitar?
In 1977 I was fortunate enough (at seven years of age) to get to go to a Kiss concert. The opening band was a (then) unknown little band from Australia called AC/DC. Bon Scott was still with them, I believe – though I'm not certain - they were touring on 'Let There Be Rock'. I've been a huge fan of theirs since then. A little later I got into bands like Van Halen (I remember at the time, you either liked Van Halen or Def Leppard, I was in the VH camp although I did and still do like both), Twisted Sister, Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, Dokken, Ozzy, Yngwie Malmsteen (who change my outlook about guitar), The Scorpions, Tesla, Extreme, Accept, Rush, a little ZZ Top, Nazareth, Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, the first two Metal Church records, etc... On the other side, though, I always kinda liked some pop stuff as well – for instance, back then I really dug a couple of REO Speedwagon records, and The Go-Go's. I guess I have a soft spot for a well crafted pop record as well – as long as there's rocking guitar. A little later, I really dug G&R and Pantera really struck a nerve in me. I know there are a ton of bands I'm omitting here, but you get the picture...
By the way, what is your favourite KISS song? J
Although the first Kiss record I got was 'Love Gun', my favorite Kiss song would have to be 'Calling Dr. Love' – it was the first of their songs that I heard and still grabs me!
I read you are a self-taught guitar player, my compliments! J Did you not have any 'normal' guitar lessons or did you not even use one of that popular guitar videos/DVD?
Thank you! No, I didn't. At the time I was learning, there really weren't many instructional videos going around. There was a guy in the neighborhood named Pete Sacchetti. Everyone in the neighbourhood knew him as the local musician-guy. One day, my friend Omar (who now works at PRS Guitars) and I were walking through the neighbourhood carrying guitars (that we couldn't play), thinking we were total badasses because we had guitars. When we walked by Pete's house, we kinda slowed down so he'd see us and think we were cool (again, we had guitars man!). When he finally noticed us, he came outside and said “come here and let me show you how to play those things”. So for a little while, once a week, I'd go to his house, give him $5 and he'd let me play on his guitar and amp. He had a SWEET Fender Telecaster Deluxe and Fender Amp (don't remember the model – but they blew away my little Memphis Les Paul clone and Sears amp). He taught me a major barre chord, how to make it minor and how to play a 5th position A Major scale. From there, I'd sit in his basement, jamming away, figuring things out. Occasionally he'd come in and show me something but for the most part, it was just sitting there, jamming, figuring things out. Had I not had his great gear to play on, though, I'm sure I wouldn't have stuck with it. Sounding good is the best motivator!
Did you record already such a DVD yourself, or is it planned?
No I haven't. I am, however, working on a series of instructional videos for the web. The basic concept of the videos is to touch on some techniques I used when making De-Evolution Of Theory. In the videos, I talk briefly about the technique (or concept), play a few examples, then show where and how I used them on the record. I've never been much of a teacher because, honestly, I don't really know what I'm doing, I just play and it kind of happens. So figuring this stuff out and trying to convey it in a way that's easy to digest has been a little bit of a challenge – but a very worthwhile one. There are a ton of videos out there that show you how to play scales, or how to sweep an arpeggio, etc. I wanted to try and do something that's a little different, so that's what I'm working on. These videos will be available on my YouTube channel -http://www.youtube.com/user/noisenet, which you will be able to link to from my website –http://senesmusic.com
You played in several bands and played different music styles. What style of music is your favourite?
Without question, just flat out dirty, heavy rock music. Doesn't have to be metal, although I'm definitely a metalhead from way back. But I like loud guitar, pounding drums and huge bone-rattling bass guitar. I don't do a lot with keyboards, partially because I don't own any, and partially because there's just something about guitar, bass and drums that, when done right, is just badass. That being said, though, as you can tell from my record, I love a whole slew of different musical vibes. A close second to the rock I mentioned would have to be a killer funky groove. Growing up, I never listened to a lot of funk, and to this day I don't own much in the way of funk records, but I've played a good bit of funky stuff in various cover bands I've been in and, when the rhythm section's locked in tight and I'm spanking a nice funky rhythm over it – There's nothing like it. That being said, I can only go for so long before I have to just crank it and go balls out rock again. Nuno Bettencourt from the band Extreme is a true master at this, and manages to do it in a way that satisfies my rock sensibilities as well. What a great band!
You won the “Guitar Player Magazine's Superstar” competition in 2009. How was that, playing in front of Steve Lukather (Toto, and called you 'Badass!' and wants to be you when he grows up..), Elliot 'Wow, wow wow wow' Easton (The Cars), Jennifer 'absolutely amazing' Batten (Michael Jackson), Earl Slick (David Bowie) and producer Greg 'just magical' Hampton (Alice Cooper, Ron Wood, Lita Ford) as a jury?
Honest answer? It was easily the most nerve rattling experience I've ever had! In 1999 I had the chance to stand on stage and play, cut heads if you will, with Steve Vai. Until the contest, that was my most jarring moment. I mean look at it, you're standing up there, with a band you've never met before this day, playing a song they've only listened to long enough to chart out, with little or no rehearsal time with the band, playing for judges, some of whom will (or already have) go down in history as some of the most influential and well regarded guitarists of all time. In the case of Steve Lukather, he is, literally, the most recorded guitarist in the history of modern music. If it had guitar on it in the 80's, some of it probably came from Luke. Additionally, the first song I ever learned was 'Just What I Needed' by The Cars, back in those days in Pete's basement – one of the first things Pete ever showed me in fact. Elliot Easton being a judge, I think, was kind of poetic in that regard. To hear such kind, complimentary words coming from such a distinguished and accomplished panel of judges was, in a word, mind-blowing.
The judges were enthusiastic. But like Jennifer Batten said, “where did you come from and why are we just now getting to hear from you?”
Hahahaha, I think there are probably a bunch of reasons for that. Some of it, I'd have to say, is luck of the draw. Some of it is because I settled into a routine of playing pretty much zero profile gigs, make a few bucks and put dinner on the table. Not really being in a gig situation where I can get up there and “kill it” and make a name for myself. I'm hoping that's changing now though!!!
Does such a competition help you in a way?
Yes it does. For one, just making it to the finals gave me a lot of confidence in my playing and writing abilities. Winning, even more so. Additionally, though, being able to say I'm Guitar Player Magazine's Guitar Superstar 2009 has opened more than a few doors for me. I'm inclined to believe I wouldn't have my deal with Global/Demolition Records had I not won the contest. I wouldn't have all of my endorsements. Having that title makes some folks a little more likely to take a listen. And I'm very thankful for that. The whole crew at Guitar Player Magazine are just top notch people! If there's something I need, I can call Editor Mike Molenda, Lauren in the business office has been very helpful to me on a number of occasions, Art Thompson and Matt Blackett have also been great! They're a great organization and I'm thrilled to have any affiliation with them!
With all the styles you play one can say you are a complete guitar player. Such one can hear on your debut album 'dE-eVolution oF thEorY'. In my review I said, and I am not standing alone in this, you sound like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Eddie van Halen and Carlos Santana in one. How long did it take to write the music for this album?
This is probably my favourite question because the answer is that everything flowed and came really quickly to me. This CD actually happened kind of by accident. I wrote a detailed story of it in the liner notes of the CD, going song by song, but here's the gist of it: The band I was with at the time had just recorded a CD – we were having problems getting the guy to mix it so I was a little frustrated. Additionally, my Brother, who is an Apple Computer lover, had finally talked me into getting a Mac and had hooked me up with some recording software (Apple Logic Express). I needed to have some recorded music in order to learn to use the software so I programmed a little beat, laid down some rhythm guitar parts, threw some bass down and a lead guitar track. I didn't write anything beforehand, just as I was recording. When I'd figured out how to get a listenable mix, I loved how it sounded. That little song is track 2 on my CD, Greaseball.
This was mid January of 2008. The following weekend I wrote and recorded the first half of The Swami and Ruth. Once I'd done that, I knew I was onto something so I decided to work on it on non gigging weekend days (cause once I start writing/recording, I lose all track of time, I'd miss gigs if I'd done it on gig days, haha). I was unable to do any work in March because of other commitments. I finished writing/recording at the end of April. Basically it was a song a day, all parts written/played, drums programmed, semi-mixed – with the exception of The Swami, I did the first half one day, the second half the next Saturday.
Regarding the diversity of the music on the record, this was both intentional, and by chance. When I listen to a record, it's pretty rare if after the 4th or 5th song I'm not ready for something else. A case of A.D.D. perhaps? In any event, I wanted to make a record that I would enjoy listening to from front to back, containing a bunch of stuff I like. When it comes down to it, the reason I picked up guitar and stuck with it long enough to learn to play it is because I love it. There are a lot of things, musically, that I love, and I wanted to try and hit as much as possible with this record.
'dE-eVolution oF thEorY' is a good start for your (solo) career I suppose. Why did you choose for such an album and what can we expect from you in the near future, another instrumental album or do you have the intention to form a band with a vocalist?
Well, making this record, like I said, happened by pure chance. Once I had the completed body of work, though, I knew I had something that I thought was pretty special and wasn't something that I could just leave on a shelf somewhere. I'm a pretty tough critic on myself, musically, so I knew that if I liked it, chances are a lot of other people would too! There's no telling what's coming up in the future. I'd say it's a pretty safe bet there's more Instrumental stuff coming but I'm also not averse to working on vocal material. I don't really consider myself to be a good singer, so it probably won't be with me singing, but I do have a bunch of vocal material that I do want to get out there.
For a lot of readers of Lords Of Metal it would interesting I think to know what gear you play with. Can you give us an enumeration?
Another favorite question for me hehehe. I play LTD guitars by the ESP Guitar Company. In 2007, on a whim, I bought an LTD EC-1000. I'd seen it in a music magazine and for some reason it resonated with me. Other than my crappy Memphis starter guitar, I've never owned or played a Les Paul style guitar. When I was recording 'De-Evolution', I worked with a bunch of different guitars. When it came time to write/record the melody parts, any other guitar I'd pick up usually resulted in me just shredding through scales, widdly-widdly, nothing musical. Without fail, though, when I'd try with my EC-1000, within a minute, I'd be on to a melodic idea. Among people who've known my playing for years, I've never been known as a melodic player, just that guy who always plays too fast. I can honestly say that the EC-1000 changed the way I play guitar and has made possible a lot of what's now happening for me. As such, I now endorse ESP and that's pretty much all I play. I have 4 different EC-1000's now. Two have the Seymour Duncan JB/59 combination of pickups, which I prefer for my rhythm and most lead stuff. A third has Duncan P-Rails, which allows me to get either a real nasty Strat tone, or a more classic P-90/OLD Gibson sound. The Fourth is my most recent, a goldtop, it has the Duncan Alnico II pickups, VERY traditional Les Paul like tones. I've used that a bunch recently for some single note harmony guitar stuff I've recorded with a project called Reign Of Kings – those guitars just do it for me. Additionally, I have an LTD H-1001 which is more of a 'super-Strat', shredder type of guitar. JB/59 combo, Floyd Rose, the whole shebang. I haven't played this kind of guitar in a decade and a half and I'm finding that I'm really digging it a lot!
For amps, I use a Marshall DSL100 that has the Platinum modification from Voodoo Amplification. I'm in the process now of getting one of their V-Rock 100 Watt heads – that amp sounds incredible! Trace Davis at Voodoo has become a close friend of mine over the past couple years and I gotta tell ya, the guy is a tone genius!
I run 1 or 2 Keeley modified Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive pedals into the Marshall, either on the clean channel or the classic gain channel, depending on what I'm going for.
For speakers, I have two old Marshall cabs, one from 1979 and one from 1982. I use speakers from WGS speakers – for guitarists – if you haven't checked these out, you need to. Killer prices and they sound phenomenal. I use their “Veteran 30” and their “HM-75”, loaded in an X pattern.
And that's pretty much it. All guitars and bass on the record were recorded direct and processed through Amplitube 2 (and Amplitube Ampeg) from IK Multimedia. I've recently acquired Amplitube 3 and can say with some degree of certainty that it will be all over my next record. It sounds unbelievable!!!!!!!
Last question: You are sent to an uninhabited Island, for some period of time. Name three albums you would bring along and why…
Now this is a tough question because I'm really a musical schitzo, LOL! Some records I always come back to, though, are 'III Sides To Every Story' from Extreme (a masterpiece), 'Van Halen 1', and the live Alcatrazz record. Course, there's also Ozzy's 'No More Tears' (some of the best guitar tones on record), Vai's whole catalog, Satch – such an impossible choice!
Thank you Steve for your time and lots of success. Is there anything you would like to say to our readers?
Thanks for taking the time to read my long winded answers, haha! I hope everyone will take the time to listen to my music will find something you really like. I try to make music that I will like: my greatest reward, however, is when my music can resonate with and bring some degree of happiness to others. Thank you for listening!