Carox Rox recently got to interview with Jersey-based Rock / Metal multi-Instrumentalist Christopher Dean (former Michale Graves, Darkness Descends, Alyxx) on tour with The Guitar Collective 2018 with Angel Vivaldi and Nita Strauss (Alice Cooper, The Iron Maidens, Femme Fatale) and Jacky Vincent. The tour made a stop at the Scout Bar in Houston, TX on Wednesday, December 12th.
Carox: How did you get on this tour?
Christopher: The biggest reason I am here is that I have been friends with Angel for fifteen years. I, him and his other guitar player have all been playing in the same New Jersey scene for years and we have played a lot of the same shows together. I have toured a decent amount around the country a few times and because of my experience and my work ethic and being close friends with Angel, I had this opportunity to come on tour. Basically, he assembled Nita’s guitar player and the bass player…because she was coming over here on tour with him and she was over on the West Coast – so he put us together.
Carox: So how many gigs have you already played so far before coming to the Scout Bar?
Christopher: The first date of the tour was November 19th and I think we have only had 3 days off and one of them was a drive day so it wasn’t really like a day off.
Carox: So are you on a bus?
Christopher: Yes, we are on a bus. It is great. The bus has 12 bunks and there are 11 of us. So there is plenty of room and then we have a junk bunk for all of our suitcases. Most of my other tours have all been on E350 vans or even when I toured with Michale Graves (I did over a hundred shows with him) we never had a van. Like we did 4 months around the US last year in a Honda Odyssey minivan, hauling a trailer. We had had hotel rooms on that tour which we do not have on this one because we have the bus. The bus has a shower. I have a coffee maker so it doesn’t matter where I am I can get up and go make myself a pot of coffee – that makes me happy.
Carox: What is it like arriving in a new town every night to a different venue or crowd?
Christopher: Well sometimes it is exciting just based off the fact that because you have toured for so long you just end up with friends in most cities. So, in this case, I have some friends who managed to get to the show early, and we hung out and went to get some food and that part is exciting. Being on a bus, we were just talking about that earlier. It is different than say being on a bus tour versus a van tour because you don’t get to see the town as you are rolling in. Like if you are in the back or in the bunk. It is just a wall... so if you are in the front lounge then you get to see everything as you roll into town. I really liked the mid-West as far as visual stimulation. When you drive through Texas it is just desert for 9 hours! But each venue is nice because you get to see another bit of history. Each venue we come into there are tons of memorabilia other bands have left like fliers. In this case at the Scout Bar, there are tons of signed guitars and stuff. It is cool to be a part of that because you really do feel an embodiment of the rock n roll spirit when you go into a very roll n roll club.
Carox: Tell me about the instrument you play?
Christopher: Well tonight with Nita I am playing bass. Typically I play a 5 string bass, but I broke my main 5 string previous to the tour. So I use a 4 string Jericho bass that is strung like a 5 string and then for one song I switch out basses to play a Queen song, The Show Must Go On and that is in a different tuning for that one song so I have that. I have a big Ampeg tube amp with the giant 8 by 10 speaker and I also have digital effects – I use Axe Fx. I get a little bit of that old-school rock sound with the new edge cut and that is what I really focus on.
Carox: I was kind of wondering about you starting young at 13 to play guitar.
Christopher: 13 is kinda old if you think about it. A few months before my 13th birthday my uncle had this local music catalog in his stuff and I was looking at it and I really liked the way guitars looked. I just got this little itch. So I told my father, hey for my birthday I want a guitar. For my 13th birthday he got me a 1997 Ibanez RX40 it was a piece of junk guitar and it had a crack in the headstock and I still play that guitar live. I replaced the neck on it, I have all custom picks ups in it…I love it. It started this path of me buying just tons and tons of gear.
Carox: But you play guitar primarily right?
Christopher: Primarily I play guitars but on this tour, I play bass. But being on the Guitar Collective I am really happy as a bass player that I am around so many great guitar players. I have so many different viewpoints of different techniques that I can equate even to the stringed instrument of a bass make my playability reach the next level.
Carox: What do you say to someone in their teens who might feel like giving up?
Christopher: Well you just don’t. Sometimes people get an instrument and it opens up a door to them. I believe that everybody has a thing that they can do that makes them feel at home in the universe. I got lucky. My dad put that guitar in my hand and then the whole universe made sense. It is not always that way for everybody but for most of us musicians it is. Whatever it is, if you feel an interest, like if you pick up a guitar, just keep going. Like Steve Zing the bass player of Danzig, he is a friend of mine. But years ago I would see him out at the clubs as a fan and I would ask him what could I do to push myself to the next level? He told me “Never stop”. It is hard work and perseverance. People might disagree with what I am going to say next. I don’t feel that I have any talent. I feel that I am just a hard worker. I taught myself to play and I am here because I sat by myself in my room and honed this skill all by myself.
Carox: Musicians are so weird!
Christopher: But we are! In my case I was very secluded from my hometown, I didn’t have a lot of friends and I sat and worked on this thing and for me, it gave me a voice to speak with. You know I used to write poems when I was younger, but people would read the words and judge me based upon that or judge my feeling based upon that – whether I was sad or angry – and it was just very hard to get that raw emotion out without being judged. So writing melody kinda gives you that. People can tell that a song is angry or sad but they don’t know exactly why so it still becomes a mystery and that’s what I leaned on like a crutch. I would write songs where if they had lyrics or not it really didn’t matter. It is in the melody, every sing chord, and note or lick, there lies my true feeling.
Carox: Thank you for sharing that, it’s very deep and interesting! Tell me about playing with Nita Strauss and band.
Christopher: It is amazing. Her and Josh Villalta are a really great team. Nita worked on her album and they put it out. It is called Controlled Chaos and it is breaking charts and is getting a lot of attention. It is a very awesome album. It is the first album that I could listen to from beginning to end in a long time and I thought I could do this. I was very excited. It resonated very well with me and I was very happy to get the job.
Carox: Have you learned all the songs?
Christopher: I had to learn them all on my own. I got sent the songs as they are on the album and then I had to learn it. That is how I have got every gig. I played for Michale Graves and the Misfits. I had to learn 25 songs in 3 days. When I first joined my band Darkness Descends, I had to learn 6 songs in 2 days - a thing I have learned is the best ability is availability. If you want a job and work hard for it then you will get the job.
Carox: I loved what advice you just gave, anyone feeling discouraged would benefit from it.
Christopher: I would like to talk about my greatest musical accomplishment even though I am about to go on stage in a minute and play the way I dreamed I would when I was 13. It is so hard to beat. I taught a student, a lost kid. I worked for School of Rock before they were a franchise. I had this kid who could not afford lessons. He was a singer too. I gave him 4 guitar lessons for Christmas. His parents didn’t have the money after the 4 lessons, so I told him to keep coming in anyway. He used to come in every week for his lesson for 2 years. Then he stopped coming to school so I used to go to his house every single week. In his junior year of high school, he dropped out of school so I made the effort to get to his house 1 to 2 days a week if I could get there and we really focused on his guitar playing. He also started to get that bite after this time. After he dropped out of school we worked really hard on his music and it got him to a better place - a happier place. He went back to school in his senior year, made up everything he missed in his junior year and on top of that auditioned and got accepted to Berkeley School of Music. He is just a normal kid who just worked really hard. When he got into Berkeley – like I am a self-taught musician – but that moment when he got accepted nothing else I have done really mattered. It made me feel better than anything I have ever done. I was just so very happy to give him somewhere to feel at home. Giving back is so easy. You can teach someone a skill that brings them joy and a sense of completion. I have played thousands of shows and that is my greatest accomplishment so far.
Carox: What would you like to say to your fans?
Christopher: I just hope everyone has a great time. I try and bring all my energy to it. Keep an ear out and support music! Music is on the rise right now. And working with Angel, Nita and Jacky has been such an honor to be welcomed into this world. I just want people to do whatever their art is and make friends with your colleagues and network and that is how you will inspire yourself and others!
Christopher Dean "Everything Fades"