T.D. Clark reflects after ‘Guitar Gods’ Tour
Not the main event, but definitely one of the main attractions – T.D. Clark brought his own brand of neo-classical guitar to the stage under the wing of the great Yngwie Malmsteen, whose wife, April, put on this amazing tour. The idea was simple – put together some of the world greatest guitarists, bring along their bands and put on a wicked show. Martyr not only spoke with Malmsteen on the subject, but we actually witnessed it live as well. Even though the show started almost two hours late, due to unforeseen stage setup time, Clark managed to get up on stage and simply sustain the crowd, hypnotizing them into forgetting all their angst at the wait, and zone in entirely on his guitar prowess. Speaking with Clark after his set, Martyr’s Devin Size exchanged cards with Clark and arranged to speak once the tour was done. Speaking to Clark while he was hanging out with some friends at a tavern in his hometown, Aurora, Ill., Size discussed with him the meaning of the Guitar Gods Tour, and how it felt to be a part of something so monumental.
DS: It’s great to talk to you after seeing your performance in Toronto, it was unreal.
T.D.: I’ve got to say, I love Toronto. First time playing there, and just loved it. We got to walk around for a bit earlier on because we got there early. We went by the square downtown, that’s kind of like Times Square, but it’s much cleaner and totally kick-ass.
DS: So how did it feel to play on something called the Guitar Gods Tour?
T.D.: It’s interesting. I had actually played a show with Malmsteen in Chicago at the House of Blues, it was awesome, place was packed – sold out. That particular point, I had had a great career already, but as you know, any guitar player, whatever you’re influenced by, you respect what that man brings to the table, technically – it’s immense. Zakk Wylde said once that “you can’t deny that he changed the face of guitar,” and it’s true. After that I wished we could play more shows together. Come to the future, I played two shows with Uli Jon Roth, one of them was with Bumblefoot. So when this opportunity came up to do the Guitar Gods Tour, I applied, not thinking I would have much of a chance, I immediately got a response. I sent in footage from the House of Blues show, and they remembered me and knew I had already played with Malmsteen, so it could work. I was pretty stoked. Malmsteen and April had the final say, and when I found out, I freaked out.DS: Well of course, Malmsteen is such a legend, anyone should be honoured to play with him.
T.D.: Oh for sure, to be up there with all of these guys. I mean, Gary Hoey, I’ve been a fan of for years, I cover his version of “Hocus Pocus” all the time because I just love it. And Malmsteen, I’m notorious for busting out “Far Beyond the Sun,” and even Bumblefoot, I love playing “Chinese Democracy,” it’s one of my favourites on the (Guns N Roses) album. So I mean, it was just great for my band and I.
DS: And the fact that you just came out with your new eclectic album Shreddtime Stories to promote on tour was great. Most guitarists, especially great ones, usually stick to one style. You’re all over the place. Without a single lyric, it seems like every instrumental tells an entirely different story on the album?
T.D.: Well you know what, thanks a lot. Because if there’s one thing for sure when I make an album, is that listeners of guitar playing or non-guitar players can love. To me, some of the biggest names I’ve always enjoyed their music, were people like Elton John and that, who are just so melodic. You can sing the melodies on piano, or guitar. Some of my early influences, like Peter Frampton, I just used to hum these melodies. When I write songs, I try to do just that, that’s like my main concern. I’m not concerned with impressing guitar players. I love full on technique, but I love melody driven melodies.
DS: I love that. Some guitarists, like even Malmsteen, can be a lot to take in some times. So much going on at once it’s hard to follow.
T.D.: Well I have this process when I make an album to avoid exactly what you’re talking about. I call that the “Cat-out-of-the-bag Syndrome.” A lot of guitarists in my genre, tend to use every trick, lick, string shifts, whatever on their songs, so it’s like you listen to one song, and you’ve heard all their skills – the cat’s out of the bag. To me, I try to do only what the song calls me. Take a song like “Just South of Dublin,” I could’ve shoved a bunch of arpeggios and such in there, but it just didn’t fit.
DS: Yeah I see that, and there’s such a huge range of style between songs like “Moroccan Bedtime Stories,” to say for example the title track “Shreddtime Stories,” you’d think it was two totally different artists if you didn’t have the tunes on the same album together.
T.D.: I’m glad that you like that. On every one of my records I try to do something different. One of my albums called Next Big Adventure was all about traveling the world and touring, songs inspired by that stuff. I try to always do some different things, I’m a big fan of all kinds of stuff. I’m a big fan of guys like Jesse Cook, who is Canadian by the way! Love Jesse Cook. I’m really into anything worldly and different. Music to me is total expression. I don’t want to sound like a stacked answer, but I’m always trying to evoke something different – with sounds or even guitars.
DS: Well I think truly that since you broke out solo in 1995, to now, that drive to constantly do something different is what has kept you relevant and topical over the years, has it not?
T.D.: I have to agree, and I really think that is true. You know, I think it’s weird. A lot of guys I know that got into playing guitar and stuff, you read it in interviews all the time, that they got into this for like chicks, or partying, or whatever. When I got into this seriously, I got into playing because I just wanted to be a great guitar player. I was inspired by my uncle, actually, who was only four years older than me. But he was young, and was a master pianist. He was 15-16 and already taking lessons from a legendary jazz pianist, he had graduated from the Conservatory here in Chicago. He inspired me to be a great player, and I still strive for that every day.
Interview by Devin Size, Photos by Ftfphotography