Emperor Legend Ihsahn Plays His Favorite Riffs

In this episode of Gear Factor, Ihsahn takes us through his life as a musician, from learning Iron Maiden, to the groundbreaking black metal band Emperor and into his prolific solo career.

When it came to his beginnings as a metal musician, it was Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock” that really got Ihsahn excited. “Not much to it,” Ihsahn says about the track’s basic chord structure, “but the title and the chorus was enough.”

As for his favorite riffs from Emperor, one of Ihsahn’s personal favorites “Thus Spake the Nightspirit” from the pivotal black metal album Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk. “It’s really tricky to sing and play this simultaneously,” the musician shares before showcasing the dynamic verse riffs.

“Coming from that ‘80s Iron Maiden background, instantly, I wanted to find a melody to go over those chords,” Ihsahn says of creating “I Am the Black Wizards.” “Of course, it’s not a very diatonic thing. It’s really just an E and an F. So I came up with this melody that’s played both fast and slow in the song.”

As for Ihsahn’s solo career, he plays the fresh cut “Stridig” from his newest EP, Telemark. “It’s a very simple riff, but I think the dissonance and the way it’s arranged, to be both the hook and the verse, is kind of nice. The main guitar is playing the same thing all the way through.”

Watch Ihsahn play his favorite riffs in the Gear Factor episode below and click here to grab a copy of his Telemark EP.

Emperor Legend Ihsahn Plays His Favorite Riffs

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Mastodon’s Bill Kelliher Plays His Favorite Guitar Riffs

Mastodon‘s Bill Kelliher tells us in this edition of Gear Factor that he came to the guitar late, but as we’ve seen over the years, he’s definitely able to fire out killer riffs.

“What got me into playing guitar was that all my friends were playing. I was the last guy out of six of my buddies who were all playing guitar,” says Kelliher, who adds that Van Halen was the band who put him on his path. “When I first saw Van Halen, I looked up and said, ‘Man, that’s what I want to do with my life,’” says the guitarist.

Admittedly, his friends had a head start on him as a youngster, but he recalls a friend playing Randy Rhoads riffs from Ozzy Osbourne‘s “Crazy Train” as his turning point. “I felt like giving up in the moment. I felt like they were just too good,” said Kelliher of trying to keep up with his buddies. “I could play ‘Smoke on the Water’ and stuff. But I told myself that if I could learn how to play that riff in ‘Crazy Train’ that I had a standing chance.”

Other early influences of note included Iron Maiden and the Dead Kennedys, with the latter really speaking to the guitarist. “I had accidentally got this Dead Kennedys tape passed along to me in the art room and my friend was like, ‘Dude, this is the stupidest music you’ve ever heard and it’s terrible,’ but I heard it and I coveted it. I was like, ‘This music is awesome. I don’t know what you’re thinking. This music is crazy. It’s cool as shit and I love it.’”

Records also gave him an entry point into additional music, noting that bands like Metallica and Slayer were photographed wearing other band T-shirts or sporting stickers on their instruments. Because of Jeff Hanneman having a Dead Kennedys sticker on his guitar, he gave Slayer a try.

As for his own music, Kelliher takes us back to his early days with his first band, Crinkle Pig, sharing the origins of that name as well as one of the first riffs he’d written. The guitarist also reveals that after being in a number of bands that didn’t take themselves too seriously, he was well aware that Mastodon was a definite pro band. “With Mastodon, it was like, we’re serious now. We’re going to write some heavy shit and be fucking evil.”

Taking viewers through some of his favorite riffs, we get bits of “Crusher Destroyer,” “Asleep in the Deep” and “Spectrelight,” revealing that the band typically writes in three different tunings — D standard, Drop C and Drop A.

“I like incorporating a lot of those open strings. Every song I write has got an open string somewhere. It’s kind of like an exclamation point to the low string,” says Kelliher.

The Mastodon guitarist also gives us bits of “Fallen Torches,” their new Bill & Ted Face the Music song “Rufus Lives” and his Grammy-winning Emperor of Sand favorite, “Sultan’s Curse.”

Watch Bill Kelliher’s full Gear Factor episode below and look for Mastodon’s Medium Rarities coming Sept. 11 and check out the Bill & Ted Face the Music soundtrack available now.

Mastodon’s Bill Kelliher Plays His Favorite Riffs

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Unleash the Archers’ Guitarists Play Their Favorite Riffs

As we continue to roll out Gear Factor episodes, you get to learn a little more about the era in which the artists grew up and track a bit of their evolution on their preferred instruments. Such is the case for Unleash the Archers‘ Andrew Kingsley and Grant Truesdell, who show their initial love for the music of their youth.

Kingsley recalls, “I listened to a lot of Nirvana when I was a kid and I think that was where it kind of took off. I found that it was heavier than most stuff I listened to but also super melodic. Most of the stuff I started with was pop-rock, mostly Foo Fighters and Nirvana, but I was like 10 or 11.”

After playing a bit of Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” he confesses to also being influenced by the nu metal of the late ’90s/early 2000s until he discovered Iron Maiden.

The same holds true for Grant Truesdell, but rather than nu metal, it was pop-punk that caught his ear with Blink-182’s “Dammit” being the first riff he learned. “I grew up a punk kid, so the first kind of songs and stuff I started learning, it wasn’t very metal, but Blink-182. The first riff I ever learned was from ‘Dammit.’ That was like when I was 12,” says the guitarist.

He too also points to Iron Maiden as the turning point in his metal education, recalling, “I came home from school one day and I don’t know if you remember Much More Music, but it was on TV and they were playing Iron Maiden’s Rock in Rio and that was the first time I’d seen Iron Maiden, heard Iron Maiden and it completely changed me.” The pair then serve up a bit of “The Trooper.”

For Kingsley, his journey then took him to melodic metal, citing Rhapsody and DragonForce as favorites. “When I first heard Rhapsody and the song was called ‘Emerald Sword.’ I was just like, ‘Holy crap. This is epic!’ It was still like Iron Maiden in that sound, but it introduced more cinematic themes, way more virtuoso guitar playing.”

Truesdell says “Crazy Train” was the first guitar solo he learned, stating, “It sounds a lot harder than it is, but when you’re 12 you learn that and you’re like, ‘Cool, I can tap.’” The two musicians share their love for “tapping,” with Kingsley nimbly making his way through Van Halen’s “Eruption.” “I think tapping as a young guitar player is one of those things that’s easy to learn and makes you sound better than you are,” laughs Truesdell.

Digging into their own catalog, Truesdell recalls a song called “Dream Crusher” being his first riff once he joined Unleashing the Archers. He recalls listening to an Angra song and shows a bit of the evolution until it reached what appeared in “Dream Crusher.”

Kingsley, who joined the group in 2013, breaks out “Hail the Tide,” a track that he’d written prior to being in Unleash the Archers. His first true UTA song was “Test Your Metal,” which he calls “the beginning of the quick bangers.”

The pair also dig a little deeper in the catalog, with Truesdell rocking through “Crypt” and Kingsley showcasing “False Walls,” before the pair address their new album, Abyss. Kingsley showcases riffs from “The Wind That Shapes the Land” and “Soulbound” before they both demonstrate their love for the album closing “Afterlife.”

Unleash the Archers’ Abyss album is out now and you can pick it up here. Stay tuned to the group’s website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates and watch their full Gear Factor episode below.

Unleash the Archers Play Their Favorite Riffs

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