Orchid: Hey Bryan! Thanks for taking the time to sit down and do what I’m sure is your umpteenth interview.
Bryan: Come on, I’m never too busy to talk to you. 🙂
Orchid: Ah, you’re too kind! I want to start by discussing your current tour. What band are you touring with right now and how’s it going?
Bryan: Right now I’m touring with Joe Satriani, which is amazing. Joe really knows how to put on a show and give the audience what they want in terms of awesome guitar playing and melodies, which is why he’s been so successful for all of these years. But before the Satriani tour, I was on the road with my own band, The Aristocrats.
Orchid: How did you get started with The Aristocrats?
Bryan: It all started as a one-off gig at a NAMM show in Anaheim, CA. Marco and I were supposed to do this gig with another great guitarist, Greg Howe. But he had to bail on it, and we got Guthrie Govan as a last-minute replacement. The audience response to that show was so overwhelming, they practically demanded that we become a band, right then and there. So we did!
Orchid: Describe The Aristocrats to me, what genre is it and how long have you been with them?
Bryan: It’s instrumental rock/fusion, but it’s also a lot of fun. We don’t take it too seriously. There’s plenty of complicated material and difficult playing, but we try and take it all with a Zappa-ish vibe, which is with a wink and a nod, and always trying to keep it fun and interesting. We’re not trying to blow people away with millions of notes – we want them to have fun, because that’s what we’re doing.
Orchid: Do you have any upcoming releases with The Aristocrats, and if not, what’s your latest release with them?
Bryan: We just put out a new album, our second, called Culture Clash. It debuted at #8 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Charts. So I guess that’s what they think we are, Contemporary Jazz…?! Anyway, it’s a nice press clipping, so whatever. 🙂
Orchid: I’d really like to talk about your, perhaps, more under-the-radar work. How did you get started touring with Dethklok?
Bryan: That was because Brendon Small, the creator of Dethklok, and Mike Keneally, my longtime friend and musical mentor in many ways, were friends. Keneally was a fan of Brendon’s previous show Home Movies, and Brendon was a fan of Keneally and myself going all the way back to the days when we played with Dweezil Zappa back in the early ’90s. So there was history there. What Brendon didn’t know is that I was a HUGE metal fan, so when I got the call and found out about how it all worked, I was psyched beyond belief. Finally, I could play metal somewhere other than my practice room!
Orchid: What’s it like touring with such an unconventional group, seeing as it’s a representation of one of the most epic cartoons of all time?
Bryan: It’s the most fun gig I’ve ever had. Brendon is naturally funny, so everything’s fodder for a joke with him. At the same time, he knows how to run a ship. So honestly, it’s fucking awesome. 🙂
Orchid: It would seem that you have a certain amount of anonymity working on such a project, do you enjoy that?
Bryan: There was more anonymity on the first two tours – after that, the secret was out. But in the beginning, on the first big tour, Brendon and I used to walk right in front of the venue, right down the line of people waiting to get into the show, and no one knew who we were. I really loved that. But I also dig interacting with the fans, don’t get me wrong.
Orchid: Does Dethklok have any upcoming tour dates or can you discuss that at the moment?
Bryan: Nothing that I know of right now.
Orchid: I’m sure you’ve been asked this already, but what inspired you to become a musician and when did you know that’s what you wanted to do with your life?
Bryan: My earliest memory is of me sitting on the shag carpet of my parents’ NYC apartment with big clunky headphones on, listening to the soundtrack from the Broadway musical Pippen. Really. And ever since I was young, I used to jump on the piano and just start making stuff up. It’s the only thing I was ever really interested in, which led to some turbulent times in high school because I had no patience for regular classes…but it all worked out eventually.
Orchid: Did you ever have any moments of doubt in your career? How did you overcome those feelings?
Bryan: When I was 26 I had a really big audition for Steve Vai, for what was going to be the first G3 tour with Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson. I was auditioning against only one other person. And I didn’t get it. And I really needed it, because I barely had any money and when I lost that tour I pretty much went broke and into serious debt in the following months. I freaked out and eventually got a day job, which turned into a real corporate job for me over the next 8 years. But when I was 34, I did a lot of personal work, and I quit that job and decided to give being a freelance musician one more shot. Sure enough, two years later I got another audition for Vai, this time against 15 other people, and I got the gig. I had to learn to overcome my need to take something from every situation, and instead learn to figure out what I could give to it, and that seemed to make a world of difference in how I showed up for those auditions, and other things as well.
Orchid: What, if you can share of course, is your craziest road story?
Bryan: What happens on the road, stays on the road. The craziest stuff is stuff I couldn’t possibly tell anyway. Sorry. 😉
Orchid: No worries, I wouldn’t want to break the road code! Is there any song in particular you could play over and over without getting tired of it?
Bryan: I think that you could get sick of any song if you played it over and over again, no matter how much you loved it. But I have to say, I loved playing Dethklok’s “Bloodlines” every single time we did it.
Orchid: If you could meet any one of your musical heroes, who would it be?
Bryan: John Scofield. He’s more of a jazz guy than a rock guy, but he’s my musical idol. Everything he does is amazing. Also, if I could bring him back from the dead, I’d love to meet Led Zeppelin’s drummer John Bonham and talk to him about his concept of playing and groove.
Orchid: Is there any other personal or press-related info you’d like to share?
Bryan: I’d just say that I have some solo material out as well, which is instrumental rock/fusion, and anyone who wants to know more about me can visit www.bryanbeller.com.