Recently The Ringmaster Review was directed and connected to guitarist Jay Parmar and his deeply impressive new album Circle Of Fire by a mutual friend. Though not a favoured style of music we were blown away from the creativity and inspired sounds within its twelve excellent rock fuelled tracks. With a collection of deeply talented musicians and a legend also contribution to the release alongside the mastery of Parmar the album is an essential and irresistible rock album for all and a master class for all budding guitarists. We had the pleasure to talk to Jay to find out more about him, his music and the album.
Hi Jay, thank you for talking to us here at The RingMaster Review.
You’re very welcome.
First question has to be can you tell us about Jay Parmar?
Sure. I guess Jay Parmar is a professional guitarist, runs a recording studio in East Sussex (Sacred Sound), and teaches guitar. I’m just a free spirit wandering through this world expressing myself through my music.
When did you first find a heart for music and then start playing the guitar?
My interest in music started when I was quite young. I remember being at junior school and going to see the music teacher about playing an instrument. The only thing available at the time was a saxophone, which I passed on otherwise we might be talking to my jazz alter ego. That interest kept up and in high school I tinkered with various musical instruments. I tried out keyboard, drums, tabla, guitar and played trumpet for a few years. My dad had actually bought me a guitar probably around 1986-87, a used Telecaster copy made by Maya Guitars, but I played for a little while and then it stayed in its case for a couple of years as being a kid I wanted something with humbuckers and a Floyd Rose vibrato and skulls on the body! My passion for guitar was ignited when I first started to listen to Iron Maiden in about 1988 though and I uncased the Tele and started playing a year later, 1989. I didn’t appreciate the Tele at the time and eventually took it apart and stripped the body of its paint. I now know it was a beautiful guitar so am putting it back together right now and customising it. It will be reborn as the ‘Snake Charmer’.
Why the guitar, and who were the influences initially that inspired you and have since?
I couldn’t see myself running around a stage with a grand piano strapped around my neck, so I had to settle for guitar. It was the sound and presence that the guitar had. I fell in love with the overdrive sound. My first influences were Dave Murray and Adrian Smith in Iron Maiden. A friend of mine had lent me the ‘Seventh Son’ album and I was totally captivated with the way these guys were playing. That album was really powerful and probably their heaviest and I was hooked. I then bought the ‘Live After Death’ album and that was on constant rotation for months. I learnt pretty much all the songs. From there I discovered Jake E. Lee, during his Ozzy days, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Marty Friedman and then George Lynch entered the picture and took over as my main influence.
No, not really. My dad had a nylon string acoustic guitar and had played at some point when I was a baby, but I don’t recall him playing. My sister took it up for a few years when she was in junior school and when I got into guitar and started playing, she showed me my first three chords, an E, A and D.
As you mentioned George Lynch (Lynch Mob/Souls of We/Dokken) has had the biggest impact on your music, what is it about his playing that makes him so influential to you?
There were so many great guitars players kinda battling for top mantel during the 80s. I was listening to guys like Malmsteen, and Vai and Jake E Lee, then Satriani. Eddie Van Halen came a little later for me, but he was part of that crowd as well. George just stood out from the whole scene. His playing was smooth, but had this aggressive edge and what really did it for me was his pinch harmonics! He has the best squeals man! Also, I realised very early on that George’s playing was always so mesmerising because there was always a progression in his playing and songwriting. He kept moving forward with each song. His sound would change for each album. George’s solos would have the essence of his playing on each new album, but there would be new licks to listen to and learn. And he rarely uses repeating/rotating licks which he plays over and over during a song. There is a lot of movement in his solos and his playing always compliment the songs rather than take them over. I was actually really into Yngwie Malmsteen when I first really noticed George. I had heard one Dokken song previously; ‘The Prisoner’ from ‘Back For The Attack’, but it hadn’t made that much of an impression at the time. I’d discovered Malmsteen’s live album ‘Trial By Fire – Live In Leningrad’ and the speed and accuracy of his playing was astounding. A friend had made a cassette tape copy of ‘Odyssey’ for me and there was little space at the end so he’d put Dokken’s ‘Kiss of Death’ on as a gap filler. I’d just listened to this fabulous Malmsteen album and then the intro riff for ‘Kiss of Death’ starts playing and that was the moment when George Lynch became my favourite guitar player. I was blown away by the song, the sound, playing, everything. It is still like that for me now when I listen to new albums by George. There is so much forward movement and inspiration in his playing. He’s constantly evolving and adding to his playing.
George plays upon a track from your impressive new album Circle Of Fire. You must have been stoked about that and how did that come to be?
Thank you. I’m really glad you liked the album. Yes, George being on the album was one of my musical dreams come to fruition. George and I have been friends for almost 10 years now. I met him when I was working on the tribute album that I played on and produced in 2002-2003 and we’ve kept in touch since. So, when I started out getting this album together I asked him if he’d play a solo on the album and he said he would. The album became my never ending project and it took longer then I envisaged to finish, but once the song ‘When Angels Cry’ was done, we met up a couple of times and I spoke with him and we figured it out. He recorded the solo in LA and the files were sent to me. And there I was one morning, in my studio listening to George playing an incredible emotive, beautiful solo over a song that I’d written, recorded, and the first song that I had sang on. It was a really special moment. I then learnt the whole solo!
‘Circle of Fire’ has 12 tracks, most of which I wrote and recorded over the last couple of years. The ideas and inspiration for the songs came from many different directions and sources. Because of the passage of time, there is also a progression and evolution that people will hear in my playing and writing style, which was influenced by what I was listening to, if I was touring, the book that I was reading, and many other factors. So, each track is capturing that unique moment, but still strung together with my sound and playing, which brings it all together. I have a wonderful collection of singers and musicians as well, and they all added their own uniqueness to ‘Circle of Fire’, and I think that keeps the whole album really interesting to listen to. The 12 tracks are the best of the tracks that were written. I think I had about 20 songs done by the time I’d finished the album but some of them didn’t fit the album, or my playing had moved on since they were written, so they were cut. There are two or three more finished songs that I have, which will be released on the CD version of the album in a couple of months.
How does it differ in direction and creation to your previous albums Will Play For Lynch– A George Lynch Tribute and the instrumental solo release Strange Day, apart from in the obvious differences.
The direction is different from both of those albums primarily because I’m always evolving as a musician. The guitarist that I was when I started recording the songs, a couple of which I wrote 5 or 6 years ago, is a different person to whom I am now. So, there was a natural progression that occurred in my writing and playing. The type of songs that I would have written 5 years ago are very different to those that I write now. I’m no longer just trying to write new Dokken songs! (laughs). The creative process was similar in that I have always recorded relatively quickly. I don’t really ‘demo’ songs and then go back and re-record, unless I need to redo the guitar sound with a different amp, or the quality needs improving. A lot of the takes on ‘Circle of Fire’ are first, second, or third takes. I re-recorded some of the rhythm guitars this time, which was different from the previous albums, because I had my studio, I could mic up my Randall amp and turn it up all the way and play with mic placement. There was a lot more thought that went into the songs as well because I wasn’t just creating backdrops to solo over and self indulge, so I was considering how vocals would flow over the music. Even with the solos, I waited until the vocals were laid down so that I could be inspired by and play off them; hence everything works together really beautifully. The production was very, very different because of my studio, which I built in 2008. I also went back to basics, re-learnt all of the production skills that I needed, and then started applying them to the work from scratch. I even changed the monitors in the studio to make sure that the sound quality was the very best that I could possibly achieve.
This may sound a silly question but is there a lot of you in the songs? Is it a personal release as well as a fine collection of inventive ideas?
Not a silly question at all. Yes, all of the music is 100% the essence of who I am. The lyrics that I wrote are as well, and I think that’s the same for everybody who contributed to the album. I’m just doing what happens naturally. I’m just being and allowing. I’m just the means to the music becoming a format that we can listen to. The ideas and inspiration come from a much higher place. It’s not something that happens in my mind because when I do that, the songs always end up in the archives as sound ‘written’ and I can hear and feel the difference in the music. There’s something missing, whether you call it soul, or spirit or whatever else it may be labelled as. Instead, I just allow the creative energy to flow and let it all happen as naturally as possible.
I guess just the essence of who I was at the time that I recorded the music. And I can also hear that in the vocal takes, which is why on all but two of the songs I asked the singers to write the lyrics. That way each singer injected their own experience, emotions and personality into the words and performance. It is personal to them so they embedded their own essence into the songs. For me, that is what makes the album special. I can feel the emotion behind the words and music.
How long has it been in the making? With the array of talent who have added to the wealth of skill on Circle Of Fire one imagines it was time consuming in a good way.
The process started about 6 years ago, but realistically the album as you hear it now was done in the last two, two and a half years. I’d found everybody except Pete Newdeck probably four years ago, but there were other events that took place which delayed my finishing the album – I moved house and build my studio, Sacred Sound, I went on tour with Eden’s Curse, I was involved in lots of side projects which took up my attention and time. Eventually I decided to drop everything and just focus on finishing the album. The album was completed when it was supposed to be though. If it had been finished even a year earlier then it wouldn’t have been nearly as good as it turned out. Everything synchronised when it was meant to.
People you recruited to help out included the likes of Pete Newdeck, Carsten Schultz, Andreas Novak, Tim Wallace, and Mike Rotella. Other than Newdeck Eden’s Curse, were these particular people you already knew and why did you wish these great musicians to add their skill to your music?
I was introduced to Carsten and Andreas when I was working with Eden’s Curse bassist, Paul Logue. He’d heard some of my tracks and wrote the lyrics and he recommended Carsten for the vocals on a couple of them. I’d been listening to Evidence One for about a year before and was really into them so I jumped at the chance to have Carsten sing. He has that perfect growling rock voice! Andreas I met through working with Paul as well. Andreas was singing on the project that I was recording guitars for. He has such an incredible and emotive voice. I love listening to his singing. The project didn’t come to fruition, but I kept in touch with Andreas and I asked him if he would sing on another project that I was doing with Mike Rotella. Andreas said that he would, but as his schedule was very busy and progress was slow, I decided that it would be better to drop that and just focus on ‘Circle of Fire’. We’d already been working on the song ‘Test of Time’ so I decided to put that one in the album. ‘Hell Is The Place’ was another song that was part of that endeavour with Andreas and Mike and I really wanted the opportunity to work with Mike so I asked him to do the solo on ‘Hell Is The Place’. Mike and I have known each other for many years now. We met as a result of our mutual admiration for George Lynch. He’s an amazing guitar player. His solo is actually just the scratch ideas that he sent me to check he was on the right track! I was like, are you kidding dude? This solo fits perfectly! Tim and I have been friends for a long time also. He has a really punchy and ballsy delivery. Again, I wanted to work with him for a long time and this was the perfect opportunity so I asked him if he wanted to write some lyrics, and ‘Harm’s Length’ is what he came up with. Just in yer face bang! It is beautiful! And I asked him to sing on ‘The Dragon’, which I wrote the lyrics to.
Going back to George Lynch and the song When Angels Cry he plays on, the track seems a natural palate for him to explore did you write it with him in mind from the start?
I didn’t have George in mind when I wrote it. That one just happened. I was playing around with a new guitar that Vengeance Guitars had built for me. It has a heavy maple body and the neck is wrapped in carbon fibre, and it has this really edgy sound and crisp delivery. I’d been playing with some keyboard sounds and had written and laid down the piano part in the song and then I was just noodling on the guitar and came up with the main riff, which sounded great. Different from what I usually write. That’s one of the first songs that I penned the lyrics to as well. Once it was done though and I was thinking about which song to send to George, that one just seemed perfect. He would have sounded great on any of the others but that one was different and knowing George I realised that ‘When Angels Cry’ would be the one that he’d really enjoy working on. He’s done the whole hard rock and metal thing for years, and I know he still loves doing that, but the really special stuff comes out when he’s playing to something a little off reservation, and that is what happened with this song.
The song reminds of bands like Motherjane, can you tell us about its emotion and inspiration?
You know, before you mentioned them I didn’t know who they were but I’ve just checked them out and wow! Amazing band! I understand where you’re coming from. I think it’s probably down to the shared Indian roots. Although I don’t listen to Indian music, my parents did while I was growing up, and I do have a fascination with exotic and eastern sounds, so the soul of that sound and style filtered into my playing and is there in the background. It’s a little more prevalent in ‘When Angels Cry’. The meaning and emotion, I won’t give too much away as I like people to have a blank canvas to work from so that they can come up with their own meaning. The song is all about what we take with us and what we leave behind when we die. The lyrics are quite dark and they felt right at the time because of my understanding of life, death and what comes after. I was thinking about past experience when I was writing the lyrics, but have a very different view and outlook about the whole subject now. It is interesting listening to the song though as it is a really vivid snapshot of a past feeling. The inspiration for the lyrics came from two places. First was a line at the end of ‘Blade Runner’, and the other was something that was said on Ya’el’s DVD ‘The Love Project’ – which is an amazing DVD.
One of my students in the US, whom I teach via webcam, put me in touch with Tony Macalpine’s manager and he introduced me to the label. I didn’t even know of the connection with Steve Vai when I met him and we were talking for about a year and he gave me some really good pointers and constructive feedback about the album. From the outset I had in mind that that’s where I wanted the album to go. It is the right place for me as they handle a lot of solo artists. It is wonderful to be on board and I feel very honoured to be part of their artist list.
As previously mentioned you worked with Pete Newdeck ,when you toured with Eden’s Curse as second guitarist in 2009. How did that experience and the opportunity to share stages with the likes of Firewind, Stratovarius, Alestorm and The Rotted impact on your own music and ideas?
Impacted me greatly. Working with Eden’s Curse really tightened up my playing. The music demanded it and before the tours, Thorsten Koehne and I hooked up on Skype once a week for a month or two and went through the parts and worked to backing tracks. So, by the time we got to the first rehearsal, which was the first time we were all in a room together playing the music, we were 90% there. We just needed to figure out endings, which we did over the next couple of days and we were all set. I recall a couple of people talking to me after the warm up gig, the first ever Eden’s Curse gig, and saying that they had heard that we’d only met up a few days earlier and that couldn’t be true as Thorsten and I played together like we’d been in the studio together for 6 months, and I said well, actually it’s true! Firewind were an influence for sure – seeing the energy and also because I knew and liked the band. ‘Walking In Circles’ was inspired by Firewind. That whole metal approach and also the intro guitar parts were written a couple of days after I got back from the finishing the first tour. Eden’s Curse were an influence in terms of the some of the guitar parts, for example the harmony parts during the bridge in ‘Walking in Circles’ and the rhythm for ‘Stop Laughing’. The other bands had an impact as well in terms of their musicianship as well. Really had a great time on the road.
On Circle Of Fire Pete not only drummed but was the vocalist on some songs, whose idea was that and was it something he was eager to do from the off?
That is a funny story actually. Pete had been laying down some vocals for some songs he’d written, which became songs for his band Tainted Nation, so I was aware that he had started to work on his singing. When (we) he came on board as drummer on ‘Circle of Fire’ I started to send him the audio files so that he could take them into the studio and record the drums for me, which he did. But most of the songs would come back with lyrics, vocals and some arrangement tweaks as well! Very unexpected but a very pleasant surprise. The songs he wrote were great and he asked who I’d ask to sing them and whether I wanted to keep his vocals and we decided that his vocals sounded fabulous so we kept them. I had him come over to the studio to re-record the vocals for ‘Walking In Circles’ and it was the funniest time. Between recording lines he’d be looking back and pulling faces, dancing around in the vocal booth, arms in the air. It was hilarious. I captured some of it on video and it is on Youtube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJ-k5TvzrsU.
One of the reasons we loved the album was the lack of indulgence which seems to litter guitar led albums very often, is this a natural restraint you have, and the ability to display your immense skills without showing off just instinctive or something you have to keep an ear on?
It is something that has become instinctive over time. One of the lessons that I picked up from George was to always think about the song, rather than use it as a background to show off guitar skills. There is a place for everything in a song and over indulging just takes the emphasis away from the big picture. I always trust that the guitars will come through loud and clear anyway, so I just hang back and let the vocals take over until it’s time to play some solos or something. Playing every guitar lick that you know on one song is like playing poker and bursting out in song and dance when you land a royal flush. You give it all away. Besides, there is plenty of time on songs for solos. I find the spaces in which to play them and if I do play over vocals then it has to be something that works with the vocals. I always try to compliment what the singer is doing with the vocal melody so that the feel is consistent throughout. My instrumental album allowed me to go crazy with the solos, for this album I wanted the songs to have space and to breathe. That space is so important. Not playing sometimes has more impact sometime then playing. ‘Harm’s Length’ is a perfect example of this because during the second verse everything stops except the drums and vocals. When the guitar solos do come in, they have that extra ‘zing’ and presence.
What are your favoured guitars, and those that graced the album mostly?
I mainly use ESP guitars and I have a signature guitar by Vengeance Guitars as well, which was used on a couple of the songs. I used all of the ESP that I have on this album. My Skull’n’Snakes and Serpent were the mainstays for the rhythm work. I have a custom orange guitar which I used in dropped tuning for the heavier songs like ‘Walking In Circles’ and ‘Circle of Fire’. 95% of the solos were done with my ESP GL56 Snake – which started life as a regular ESP LTD GL256 before I decided to cover it in rattlesnake and python skin. That is a stunning guitar. The tone is just so beautiful. I actually had it in the studio because I was changing out the pickups for Tim Wallace, who is a great guitar player himself, but once I started playing it I just fell in love with it and asked him if I could hang onto it to record with. Anyways, it never made it back to him! (laughs). I bought it from him, it had to stay!
You mentioned earlier you teach guitar too? How can people get in touch regarding learning from you?
They can drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the studio on 01273 252 441 and check out my website as well http://www.jayparmar.com/gtr.html for details. Teaching guitar is something that I’m really passionate about. I always take my students on their own personal guitar journeys. Everybody’s journey is a little different and unique to them.
What is next up for you? Any live dates coming up to support the album?
I’ll have some shows coming up later in the year. I’m putting a band together to tour this album. It needs to be heard live so that is all in the works. Also, I will have a CD version of the album out in a month or two with some bonus tracks as well.
Thanks so much for taking time out to talk with us Jay. Good luck with Circle Of Fire.
Thanks. It is a pleasure speaking with you.
Could you leave us with one song that any aspiring guitarist can only benefit from studying?
George Lynch’s ‘Mr. Scary’. Learn it like George plays it and then all the variations that he throws in when he plays live! Trust me that will teach you everything you need to know and keep you busy for the rest of your life!
Read the Circle of Fire review @ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/jay-parmar-circle-of-fire/
The RingMaster Review 03/04/2012