JOE STUMP - Blue Collar Blackmore

June 4, 2009, 9 years ago

By Carl Begai

joe stump feature

Guitarist Joe Stump breathes new life into the term “no nonsense” even if the overblown title of his latest album, Virtuostic Vendetta, suggests otherwise. Fact is, while some well-loved fret-shredders boast about the insane amount of high budget gear used or which classical etudes from a well known late century composer inspired the playing on a new record, Stump invariably shows up with a “shut up and play” attitude. Virtuostic Vendetta continues this tradition, relying on the seeds of inspiration rather than smoke and mirrors to get Stump’s point across. It’s about guitar, bass and drums slamming out instrumental fireworks, recalling the brighter moments of artists like Ritchie Blackmore, Jimi Hendrix and Yngwie Malmsteen, and more importantly, showcasing Stump’s ability to make the old school a fun place to be. Not that it wasn’t fun before; now it’s just a little bit louder.

“I’m a huge lover of guitar,” says Stump, stating the obvious. “My work room looks like it belongs to a 16-year-old; I’ve got these cool Blackmore pictures up, shots of Yngwie and Jimi, I have all kinds of guitar DVDs, racks of Blackmore bootlegs, so I made a record that I, as a huge fan of playing guitar, would love to buy. Some of the tunes hold up if you’re into power metal but not into the whole guitar thing, because they’ve got the riffs and melodies. It’s music, it’s very old school and straight ahead. It’s not one of those guitar records where I’m dabbling in all kinds of different styles. Hendrix, Frank Marino, the baroque Malmsteen stuff, and there’s always been that heavy Blackmore vibe in my playing, but on this record is much more pronounced.”

Stump went so far as to compose a track entitled ‘Blackmore’s Boogie’ celebrating his idol’s trademark sound of yesteryear. Makes you wonder what he thinks of Blackmore drowning himself, and many would say his credibility, in the medieval Renaissance currents of Blackmore’s Night for the past twelve years.

“I have a lot of respect for him because he’s loved that kind of music his whole life, and he did make a really serious commitment to his new music,” says Stump, diplomatic as ever. “It’s like he picked up a new instrument. I listen to a Blackmore’s Night record and there are moments of brilliance, but the whole thing starts to wear me down by the end. It’s sort of similar with the live show. It’s quite good, but he doesn’t play nearly enough electric and it’s almost as if he’s doing it out of spite. Everybody’s waiting for him to throw down on the Strat. He does a couple tunes, but he’ll play a lot of those solos that were done on an electric acoustically. There are some brilliant tunes on those Blackmore’s Night records, though, and a lot of the melodies are very Rainbow-esque.”

stump out side berklee

Virtuostic Vendetta marks the end of a five year breather since Stump’s last solo album, Speed Metal Messiah. He’s been far from idle, however, having toured and recorded with Holy Hell as well as doing solo shows and teaching, simultaneously writing for the new record. With so much time between outings, it’s only natural that Virtuostic Vendetta showcases an ultimately stronger form of Stump shred.

“I’ve been sitting on this material for a while. Speed Metal Messiah was heavy duty neo-classical super-technical stuff, but I’ve been playing so long and so much that a lot of the things that I used to have to break my balls to execute flow out of me a lot more naturally. So I might play something that’s scary technical, but instead of thinking I’m going to knock everybody’s dick in the dirt with this amazing shit it just comes out organically. The whole fast guitar thing was cool and fun, but if you have a whole record of nothing but technical stuff it’s not very entertaining.”
“A lot of people will pigeonhole the record without giving it a chance,” he adds, “but this one has a nice mix of older school stuff. I think I really put it all together as far as combining really technical playing with old school playing, and giving a nod to all my heroes on the tracks. It’s all about riffs and melodies, keeping it listenable and entertaining. People will ask, ‘Do you like any new instrumental records?’ and I tell them I don’t fucking know, I don’t listen to that shit (laughs).”

The length of the pieces on Virtuostic Vendetta is unusual for Stump, with all but one track clocking in at over five minutes and pushing as high as nine. It was a case of Stump really letting himself go and not caring what people think.

Joe Stumps Virtuostic Vendetta on Lion Music

“One of the reasons I left a lot of the pieces is because people buy my records to hear me play guitar,” he explains. “I actually cut a bunch of them down, believe it or not (laughs). I was playing some really cool shit but I wasn’t sure what to do with some of it. It’s like, ‘I can’t make that track 11 minutes…’ Then again, people that like my records don’t care. They’re more like, ‘What the fuck is he doing cutting stuff down?’ (laughs). It’s a great record for the kind of record it is.”

Stump will be taking his show on the road in Europe later this year – an annual tradition – in support of Virtuostic Vendetta. Again, his approach is bare bones; find a singer, grab the band, make sure there are batteries in the GPS…

“I do these tours where I’ll go to Europe for three weeks, and it’s a blast,” he says. “I play some of my instrumental stuff, maybe four or five Reign Of Terror tunes, and a ton of Deep Purple and Rainbow. I always bring a singer with me, though, because I can’t just play instrumental stuff because in Europe they don’t go for that. Clinics and stuff are cool, but nobody’ll hang for a full instrumental show.”

Given the state of the music industry, add on today’s often obscene travel expenses, and it’s clear Stump is in this for the love of music and the stage. The fact he’s actually able to make a living at it can be considered a just reward. Stump shrugs it off as par for the course.

“All the other guitar guys are sitting in their bedrooms with their hands on their pecker, I’m out there doing some damage. If you’re not out there playing… I can’t imagine being one of those guys where you get a band together and program all the material for the studio but never perform live, maybe go out and do something with a backing track. It’s just so non-rock (laughs). On these little tours I do, sure there’s an expense, but I usually end up doing really well in the end. Some of the shows are really good and some of ‘em kinda stink, but that comes with the territory.”

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