Alter Bridge singer Myles Kennedy discussed lead guitar rock being ‘dead’ after Nirvana in a new Metal Wani interview.
“I rediscovered my love and passion for lead guitar probably three or four years ago. And I’d focus for so long on being a songwriter and a singer, but I started as a guitar player and a lead guitar player in particular.
“Yeah, I just missed it. And that was part of the reason this record is more of a plugged-in amplified affair versus a full-on acoustic record because I knew that would help facilitate that. Yeah, it’s been a lot of fun, I forgot how much I missed applying leads.
“I play some lead with Alter Bridge but not a lot. And also more blues-based. This record has definitely blues-based undercurrent throughout it, which seems to be where I’m most comfortable as a lead guitar player. It allowed me to kind of step out and do a lot of hoodily-hoodiliies.”
He also discussed rediscovering his love of playing lead guitar.
“Well, it actually happened a really long time ago. It’s interesting. I’m gonna sound like I’ve been doing this since the prehistoric times but I started playing in the mid-’80s, and we did have color TV back then, but yeah…
“So that was a thing, that was cool, and it was fun. Then a record came out and changed everything, it was the Nirvana record, and suddenly, the guitar was just dead. So I started to kind of shift away even though I loved it.
“I was kind of burned out with it as well, there was just too much of it. ’80s rock had gotten to a point where it was just kind of run out of options, and so it was a refreshing change with the whole movement that came about in the ’90s. And I really focused for the next almost 20 years on songwriting, that was my thing, that’s what I wanted to really develop.
“But come about 2018 or so, I was doing some of those little licks, and was like, ‘This sure is fun!’ I was talking about this recently in an interview, I saw a documentary, it might have been on [2009’s] ‘Crack the Skye’ where Brent [Hinds] talks about lead guitar playing for Mastodon.
“I think he says something to the effect of, ‘Who doesn’t like to play lead guitar? It’s fun!’- or something like that, to paraphrase. And I was like, ‘That is so true!’ Because the thing about playing lead or improvising, it’s very zen.
“Once you build up the musical vocabulary, you’ve got your bag of tricks and licks that most guitar players, if you ask any producer, they’ll tell you every guitar player has his three licks that he just kind of re-invents and plays in each song. It’s kind of true.
“So you have your three tricks and do what you need to do, and use them. But what you’re doing is you’re speaking a language. There’s that’s the beauty of improvisation, that’s why I love jazz so much.
“When I listen to John Coltrane, that guy is speaking fluently, like crazy fluently. Miles Davis is the same sort of thing. It’s about being here, it’s about being present.
“The thing is when you’re improvising if you’re worried about what’s coming up, or you’re thinking about what you just did, you fall off. So there’s something very challenging and very beautiful and very meditative about it, and I think that’s why I have rekindled my love with it.” Ultimate-Guitar transcribed his comments.