Q&A with virtuoso guitarist Brian Tarquin, a multifarious musician award winning composer and extremely creative soul

"I believe the old days of the music industry are long gone forever for many reasons. For one the music style of the world has changed completely now. We live in George Orwell’s futuristic world whereby everything is programed and the government controls society."

Brian Tarquin: Beyond The Warrior’s Eyes

A heavy and glorious fusion-prog collection, “Beyond The Warrior’s Eyes” (on Downtown Music/Dashgo Distribution, 2024) is Brian Tarquin & his Heavy Friends and his friends: Jean Luc Ponty, Eric Johnson, Robben Ford (Miles Davis), Steve Morse (Deep Purple), Dean Brown (David Sanborn), Hal Lindes (Dire Straits), Chris Poland (Megadeth), John Tropea (Billy Cobham), Steve Kindler (Jeff Beck), Carl Verheyen (Supertramp) & Larry McCray (John Mayall), the late Phil Naro, and the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, latest collaborative album. “Beyond The Warrior’s Eyes” mission is to support the charity, Hope For The Warriors, who provide medical care, mental health counseling, professional training and education, physical conditioning and transition services for wounded, ill, and injured Marines and Navy members. The album “Beyond The Warrior’s Eyes” was produced, engineered and composed entirely by Brian Tarquin.

 (Photo: Brian Tarquin)

Tarquin has won 3 Emmys for “Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition for a Drama Series” and has been nominated for an Emmy 6 times. In 2022 & 2023 the Josie Music Awards nominated Tarquin for "Musician of the Year (Guitar)" and "Music Producer of the Year." Additionally, in 2023 the Josie Music Awards nominated Brian Tarquin & Heavy Friends: Brothers In Arms for "Instrumental Album of the Year" and "Music Video of the Year" for “Speed of Sound” featuring Joe Satriani. Resulting in Satriani and Tarquin winning Best Video award in 2023. In 2019 Tarquin received a Global Music Gold Award for his release Orlando In Heaven for “Best Album.” In 2023 the Hollywood Independent Music Awards nominated his company BHP Music-Guitar Trax Records for "Independent Record Label of the Year."

Interview by Michael Limnios                    Archive: Brian Tarquin, 2023 Interview

Special Thanks: Anne Leighton / Photos by Michael Howard (Cocoa Beach Photography)

What do you hope people continue to take away from your music? What do you think is the key to make a GOOD music album?

I consider an important aspect with my music is the way I record. I use a lot of classic analog gear such as, a modified Trident 24 recording console, the Neve Compressor 33609, Rupert Neve Designs Portico II Master Buss Processor, Neve 1074, Chandler ltd Germanium Compressor, and a host of other gear including an array of microphones. I also use real tube guitar amplifiers such as a 1969 Fender Super Reverb, Marshall Plexi, 1984 Marshall JCM800, 1979 Mesa Boogie Mark IIb, Rivera Quiana Studio and many others. I have an array of guitars that I use to color each particular song as, an Ovation 12 string acoustic, Guild 6 string acoustic, Fender Jeff Beck Signature Strat and a Gibson Les Paul Custom to name a few. I look at all of these tools as using the whole crayon box of 120 colors. Each guitar, amp, preamp, mic, etc. is a certain crayon color to help enhance a song’s picture. I love working in the analog domain because it sounds just like the albums, I grew up with in the 60’s and 70’s, nothing sounds like drums, guitar and bass on analog tape! 

Larry Coryell once told me in the studio that “we as musicians have to do as much as we can through our music to make people aware of social issues.” I hope that people can let their emotions take them to inner peace and happiness through listening to my music. I consider myself to have been very fortunate in life to have found music at an early age. I found that no matter what changing moods I have gone through in life; music has been the great equalizer. No matter if it is pain, happiness, sadness, anguish, exhilaration, love, music has played a key role in helping me cope and keep well adjusted. So, if I feel angry maybe I’ll pick up a Gibson Explorer and write an aggressive track or if sad maybe pick up a Gibson ES 335 and compose a bluesy song. So, you see what comes out musical is directly related to your inner emotions – from the brain to the fingers.

Do you have any interesting stories about the making of the new album “Beyond The Warrior’s Eyes” with: Jean Luc Ponty, Robben Ford, Steve Morse, Carl Verheyen, Larry McCray and others?

Because the majority of the album was recorded over the Pandemic, there wasn’t a lot of personal interaction with the guests because everyone was on lock down. I performed all of the bass parts, rhythm guitar parts, guitar melodies and solos (other than the obvious guest solos). I used my longtime friend and session drummer Reggie Pryor. I am a stickler for detail, so the Pandemic gave me the opportunity not to rush and take my time to get sounds and tones correct.

Artists and labels will have to adapt to the new changes. What are your predictions for the music industry? How do you think the music industry will adapt to it?

I believe the old days of the music industry are long gone forever for many reasons. For one the music style of the world has changed completely now. We live in George Orwell’s futuristic world whereby everything is programed and the government controls society. Today the younger generation have bought into the idea of making music on their iPhones and laptops using premade musical loops and plug ins to alter their vocals. Cut and paste, hit the space bar, alter performances – all this has changed the way people create music, if you want to call it creating. Somehow it seems no one wants to practice actual instruments any longer, as society’s attention span has grown ridiculously short. So, the end result is less than star quality and very unforgettable. Hence, no more Rock Star caliber performances, recordings or tours.

However, an important factor is to know the music business and understand how musicians, composers, etc. are paid. Early in my career I worked at record companies in radio promotions, finance, business affairs and learned the business inside out. I was hungry for knowledge on how to make money from being a recording artist and composer. So, I understand cross-collateralized royalties, recoupment and reserves being held. I always thought if you are going to be an artist in this industry you should be required to work in it for at least a year before you sign any kind of deal. That way you are well informed to any decision you make regarding signed agreements. I even wrote a couple of books on the topic, “Insider’s Guide To Music Licensing” (Allworth Press) and “Survival Guide For Music Composers” (Hal Leonard). The whole reason I wrote them is I found most music business books were written by lawyers and are written very pretentiously. So, I wanted to write one in plain simple English terms for the average musician.                      (Photo: Brian Tarquin, guitarist, sound engineer, producer, and composer)

"Jimi Hendrix was always one of my favorite guitarists because he was such a trail blazer. He was a universe ahead of everyone else. Not a lot of people know this, but Hendrix had jazz influences in his playing, like the Wes Montgomery octaves. But because of the overdriven tones, Jimi’s octaves sounded massive like in the song “Third Stone From The Sun”. In fact, that is where I learned how to play octaves by listening to Hendrix, years before going into jazz and even knowing about Wes Montgomery."

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I really do miss good guitar rock and my parent’s kitchen wall phone! But really rock was the voice of my generation, loud guitars, driving drums, thumping bass and screaming vocals. Through our music we told everyone to F**K OFF! It was the music of a generation of rebellion, look at the original Woodstock! Now to generations Y & Z it is their grandparents’ music and it’s no longer hip to the young. But to be fair I think every generation goes through this, because my dad being from the Big Band generation could not figure out why I was listening to rock. In turn his parents couldn’t understand why he was listening to swing jazz. SHRED’S NOT DEAD!

I also miss fusion instrumental music. For example, Larry Coryell was the first to play jazz guitar through a Marshall cabinet and incorporate rock with jazz. His stories were fantastic which intrigued me while he was telling them. For instance, he told me when he first came to NYC in the 60’s he was going up a 6-floor hippie walkup in the village and he saw this book called You Are All Sanpaku, written by George Ohsawa. Sanpaku is a Japanese term meaning "three whites" referring to eyes in which either the white space above or below the iris is revealed. The theory being when the “sclera” (the white part of the eye) is visible beneath the iris, it represents physical imbalance in the body. Usually claimed to be present in people who have addictions to alcohol, drugs or people who over-consume sugar or grain. In short according to Ohsawa, Sanpaku is a sign from nature, that one's life is threatened by an early and tragic end. He claimed that the only cure would be by a macrobiotic diet emphasizing brown rice and soybeans. In fact, one of Larry’s last albums was called Barefoot Man: Sanpaku (2016), which he does a remake of a Charles Mingus song “Manteca”. Fantastic album and I urge everyone to listen to it!

What has been the hardest obstacle for you to overcome as a person and as artist and has this helped you become a better musician?     (Photo: Brian Tarquin)

Because my songs are mostly instrumental, it can be very difficult to get across to the general public at times. There are no words or lyrics that they can relate to in the song. I always like to make the music thematic, describing some sort of story to the listener. This helps a lot to keep their attention and interest in the song. So, with all this in consideration I chose the guest artists very selectively. I concentrated on guitarists who specialize in instrumental music, because composing instrumental music is very different than writing lyrical songs. I would also compose each track specifically for that guest artist’s style. I learned this craft during my contemporary jazz solo days, seeing how people reacted to my music, both radio music directors and listeners.

Of course, for “Beyond the Warrior’s Eyes” there was the logistical issue of aligning everyone’s schedule for recording their parts. But doing it virtually helps because they can record their parts on their own time. The Pandemic really put everyone at home with time on their hands, so it worked out for this project. In fact, for the song “A Soldier’s Journey” I hired the Budapest Orchestra to record the string parts live in Europe. This was an elaborate process by getting proper orchestra charts and making sure all of the instruments are orchestrated correctly. Once they were recorded in Budapest, I had to fly all of the instruments into the final session and mix. It took some doing but I am extremely pleased with the final outcome.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications?  

Through history music has had a massive impact on society. Just think of how music shaped the 20th century with swing jazz in the ‘20s and how rock evolved from Buddy Holly in the ‘50s to Metallica in the ‘80s. In fact the ‘60s wouldn’t have been nearly as vibrant without the British invasion and the California scene. For me I try to create social impact through my music. I use the guitar as a paint brush on a canvas to evoke emotions. For example, stylistically using a clean ES-335 tone through a Fender amp paints a very different picture from that of an overdriven Les Paul tone through a Marshall cabinet. Guitar has always been my main instrument because I could relate to all the wild sounds that could be made from the instrument. Jimi Hendrix was always one of my favorite guitarists because he was such a trail blazer. He was a universe ahead of everyone else. Not a lot of people know this, but Hendrix had jazz influences in his playing, like the Wes Montgomery octaves. But because of the overdriven tones, Jimi’s octaves sounded massive like in the song “Third Stone From The Sun”. In fact, that is where I learned how to play octaves by listening to Hendrix, years before going into jazz and even knowing about Wes Montgomery.

Brian Tarquin - Home

(Brian Tarquin / Photo by Michael Howard, Cocoa Beach Photography)

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