By Martin Popoff
Ex-MEGADETH guitarist JEFF YOUNG has had one of those pretty inspiring post-fame careers, even if it’s been more or less under the radar... of rock fans, anyway. No, after his acrimonious split with Mega-Dave back between the one album he was on, 1988’s So Far, So Good... So What!, and 1990’s Rust In Peace, Young has essentially distinguished himself as one of the top flamenco artists in the world.
But now he’s back, after doing that, as well as a more significant life event, beating testicular cancer, which took him out of the game for a number of years. Consider this a “welcome back” call from the metal community, one that is going to be able to hear Young perform again using, in fact, all his guises.
“Equilibrium, I’m just kind of letting it have a life of its own,” begins Jeff, starting with his solo album of 2010. “So I’m looking for a licensing, distribution thing for that. Let it take care of itself. Because that took a long time to create that album, and there’s a lot there for people to discover. Because I’m kind of plugging in here, after two years, back in the business after my cancer... I kind of lost two-and-a-half years of my life there. So I moved back out here to Los Angeles just two years ago, and started just kind of plugging back in after being away from the industry for a while. So Equilibrium is still there, and I’ve now got ‘Monsoon’, so that’s side A of the coin. And that was all kind of really driven just from the desire to do instrumental music and get back doing something electric, you know, kind of doing what the fans have been asking me to do since Megadeth, I guess—hundreds of e-mails every month, people saying, when are you gonna shred?”
The kind of guitarist Jeff Young is now... well, if you listen carefully to the Megadeth leads he did 25 years ago, he was actually that kind of guitarist then too...
“Yes, well, since I went away for a while and I stopped playing electric guitar and I studied flamenco, it really started... I mean, if you take it all the way back, if you listen to the Megadeth album, the solos I did on that record, on ‘Mary Jane’ and ‘Set The World Afire’, I was already kind of getting into Paco’s style back then; you can hear I was basically playing flamenco licks on that Megadeth album. And that seems to be an element, people like, that kind of Latin feel. I might’ve lived in Spain in another life. Because I’ve always been drawn to that. And when I went back to Badi Assad, when I was getting into Brazilian music, and we started touring over in Spain, I really got into it. And submersed myself into it. So kind of applying finger-style motifs, and more solos where the notes are farther apart, I guess is what I try to focus on, putting more distance between notes. That helps you come up with more original sounding licks, than just the running up and down the scale with each note consecutively. So I’ve really tried to work on note selection and distance, and I guess you can hear that on ‘Monsoon’. I tried to make each line and each phrase, as a vocalist was singing it, and try to make each line original and not a generic blues lick, or some lick that you’ve heard.”
“It’s funny that you asked that question,” continues Young. “I was just watching an Allan Holdsworth video, something kind of recent I’d never seen. He’s sitting in his home studio and playing and talking about this very subject, and how he tried to avoid the clichéd licks. So I guess lending different musical styles, you know, Brazilian and rock, because I grew up with UFO. As we were talking in the e-mail, some of the books that you’ve written are my favourite bands. So I love Zeppelin, I love UFO, Schenker, that whole, you know, MICHAEL SCHENKER thing, and the tone of the Flying V, which led me into ALBERT KING. You know, Michael Schenker was my very first V player, but once I discovered there was something about that guitar... and it was the very first guitar that I ever wanted. There’s something about the tone of the Flying V and the way people play it and the way it hits you in the chest that’s even different than the Les Paul. So I kind of made that a little bit of my style.”
No Flying V’s for Jeff back in the Megadeth days, though... “No, I was playing Tom Anderson guitars. What was weird is, I wanted that guitar as my very first guitar, and my mom wouldn’t let me have it because she thought it was too space-aged. So I never owned one, and then I went through a series of trying them all through my life, and I never really found one that sweet. And then back a couple years ago, I think 2008, I started playing one, once Gibson sent me one, and it was just perfect. It was one of the tuxedo ones that just had a great feel and sound, so that’s been pretty much my number one guitar since then. And also Reverend guitars who I endorse, make a great V called the Volcano, so I’m using that as well, and I’m noticing it’s literally in the design of the guitar. If you think of the sound waves, it’s like a ripple of water across the top of the guitar. As the sound travels out, there’s just something the way it hits you in the chest, and the articulation, which you can hear with Schenker. There’s a mid-range quack to it that I’ve always discussed with my friends. So I’ve always been seeking the right Flying Vs and now that I’ve got Reverend to endorse, they’re making some great Vs now. Kind of like a cross between a Gibson and a hot rod car, very beautiful guitars that they just debuted at NAMM.”
“We have past episodes all the way back to May 21st, and you can kind of see who’s been on the show, and what the show’s about,” says Jeff in closing, referring to his radio show Music Without Boundaries. “It’s worldwide, and its live every week via Facebook. One thing I wanted to mention, is that I’ve got a vocal project with a singer that I met five years ago. I had to go through auditioning a few singers, because she had to go back to Mexico for a while, and I went through couple of singers find the right one, but this is actually the original singer I was kind of beginning to work with five years ago. Her name is Annatjie Badenhorst. She’s a great raspy singer, but she’s also into like funk, Motown, all that kind of stuff. She sings in Spanish, English, so that project lets me get out there because I like that kind of stuff. I love hard rock and metal, but I also love, you know PRINCE and Motown and soul, and all kinds of different music. So the instrumental side lets me get out all the shred stuff and heavy stuff, and play with Brian Tichy and Ric Fierabracci, and James LoMenzo and Jeff Bowders, and a lot of cool different, you know, shredding artists. But I also like writing songs and doing that whole vocal thing. So Anna and I have a video that’s about to drop on Valentine’s Day, which is actually in Latin.”
To keep up with Jeff’s goings-on, check out his radio show Music Without Boundaries as well as his official site at Jeffnotjessyoung.com