For those keeping an eye on American hard-rock/heavy metal, there is a good chance you have heard the name "Shredding The Envelope" mentioned in recent times. If you haven't? Oh well, too late, you just did. Back in February this one-man project released it's debut album "The Call Of The Flames", a kick-ass rock n' roll album, great guest musicians aside. Mr. Dave Reffett is the man behind the music as they say, let's just call this the "Shredding The Envelope" 1-0-1.
So, I guess to start off let's give the people a little concept about what you and your project, Shredding The Envelope, is all about? Who is Dave Reffett?
Well I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains in eastern Kentucky. I'm part French, Irish, English, Danish, and Cherokee Indian. I'm kind of a mutt actually (laughs). The coal mines, fast food restaurants and if you had some pull, the railroads were pretty much the only job tracks available to kids after high school where I'm from. But for me all I wanted to do as a kid was go cat fishing and play baseball. I was pretty good and I wanted to play for the Atlanta Braves someday which was the only good team near us. But when I was 11 or so my life really changed. My older sister used to come home with records that she had bought and I would say "Why do you waste your money on that junk, that's such a waste of time", which is hilarious now because I'm so obsessed with music. Anyway one day she said, "check this dude out" and it was a Gustav Mahler tape and I listened to it and it was like something out of outer space. Lots of rich symphonic colors and textures going on in there. That's one of the first instances when music really amazed me. And being from such a small town in the middle of nowhere I was waiting to be amazed. So when I was 12 I started playing tuba in the school band just for fun. I was pretty good and soon took on trumpet, the French horn and the Baritone, which is like a small tuba. So that was pretty fun but one day I went into the teachers office to get some sheet music or something and saw his old beat up Fender Stratocaster knock off guitar sort of like the tobacco sunburst one that Buddy Holly used to play and I was hooked. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. So I started skipping band practise so I could take it into the gym and play it. It was like magic. Then my grandmother who was about the sweetest person you ever met bought me my first guitar, a Yamaha acoustic. She always said if you could play "Wildwood Flower" then your great and I still haven't learned it (laughs). But anyway she took me to Pentecostal churches where they speak in tongues and roll around the floor and all that and there I would see guitar players and I was entranced. It wasn't that they were so great, but when you are a kid just to see some one play a guitar is pretty cool. So I would try to watch them and learn a few chords here and there.
Her son, my Uncle Billy played guitar. When he was young he played and she would go really far out of her way to buy him Gibson strings. She always thought that they were the best. And to this day I still love Gibson guitars. I also still use the Dunlop Jazz 3 picks that she got me. They just so happened to be the best; she had good taste I guess. My mom and my Uncle Billy also turned me on to Kiss, The Eagles, and ZZ Top. Lots of cool stuff. Also another dude in my family played the guitar. He was a mix between CC Deville from Poison and Paul Gilbert but then he got really into drugs and couldn't play anymore. It's sad. But he used to show me a few things when I was young. So I was lucky there was always a lot of music around me. I also remember playing bluegrass with some old bluegrass pickers down at the flea market on Sundays when I would go. It wasn't my kind of music back then but those dudes could play. And then I got good enough to get my first electric and then I started to get really serious about it. So I started to learn to play hard stuff on the guitar by playing along to records and picking stuff out by ear and watching Michael Angelo Batio DVD's, which I had stumbled upon in a guitar magazine. It's so funny to me now because he plays on my album. It's a dream come true. I was so inspired by him and other heroes of mine like Metallica, Kiss, Megadeth, etc that I wanted to someday inspire the next generation of players with my own instructional video which I'm finally working on right now. Should be out at some point soon. So anyway that's how my start began and then I got a rep as being a great player and played with a lot of different bands. And now in my career I started this new band which I'm really excited about called Shredding The Envelope. We're a kick ass Hard Rock band that just wants to make exciting music that comes from the heart.
Obviously you're a very accomplished musician, attending Berklee on a scholarship and what not, do you remember what band, song or album it was that originally made you want to pick up an instrument?
When I was about 12 or so I was staying up late to watch Beavis and Butthead who all the parents were freaking out about, because some kid watched it and accidentally set the garage on fire or something. Well that was great, but what rolled right after that was the music video for "The Unforgiven" by Metallica and I was floored. I loved the storytelling in the video, it had a rich cinematic look and really pulled you in. And I was enthralled by the band. They seemed like they were so cool. Growing up in the south where you go to church and everyone preaches fire and brimstone and thinks your evil just for having long hair, I was so impressed to see these guys who were so in the moment and in total command of everything they were doing and obviously couldn't give a fuck about what anybody thought of them. I was hooked. And the music was incredible. Then after that I started hanging with all the rock kids at school and they got me into Iron Maiden, Kiss, Ozzy, Megadeth etc… and I haven't looked back.
What are some of the specific bands or albums that really had an impact on "The Call Of The Flames"?
My favourite bands are Kiss, Megadeth, Ozzy, Black Sabbath, Dio, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, to many bands to list but I've been influenced by them all. Some of my all time favourite albums are "Kiss Unplugged", "And Justice For All", "Rust In Peace", "Holy Diver", "Powerslave" so many great albums. We'd be here all day if I got started on all of them.
You managed to bring in some incredible guest musicians for this album; Michael Angelo Batio, Chris Poland, George Lynch, and so on). How did you manage to pull in such big names for your debut album? Some record exec owe you some gambling debts or something?
That's funny, I wish. But no I just contacted them, sent them some tracks and asked if they wanted to be a part of it and like magic everybody got back to me and wanted to do it. It was a real trip for me, very exciting. And I couldn't be more thrilled with how the album turned out.
Bringing in all those big names there's got to be some great studio stories, was there a certain musician you particularly hit it off with? Anyone who there was some incredible chemistry with above the others?
Watching Mike Mangini record all of his parts was pretty incredible. He is so full of energy. Just put him in front of the kit and watch him go. He knocked out the whole record in two quick afternoons and did pretty much everything in one take. Listen to the drums on the last 2 minutes of the song "Shredding The Envelope" that stuff is fucking ridiculous. Also Joe Stump was a lot of fun. He brought in some of his killer signature model ESP guitars and we ran them through a really old vintage Marshall head with Celestion greenback speakers and it had this really warm Led Zeppelin on steroids sort of tone to it. He had his parts all worked out when he came in so I had no idea what he was going to play so it was great, I got to just kick back and be amazed. And then with George Lynch, Chris Poland, Glen Drover and Michael Angelo Batio they all did their solos in their respective studios and emailed them to me. So there was this real excitement and electricity for me having these phenomenal players send me what they had done for my tracks. It was a trip it was like being 12 years old all over again. It was a real pleasure as a fan of all of these guys to have them give it their all for me. And I'm very more proud of the music that came of all of it.
I also read that you have some studio experience prior to creating this project, did this make it harder for you to work with another producer?
Well I had done some stuff in the past with various bands I had been in but nothing like this. I produced this record with my fiancée and I had engineers help me capture my vision because when it comes to working the board I'm totally lost. I know what I want and I know how to get it but I needed the great guys I worked with for their expertise. It was a total pleasure all the way through. I did the album at this great studio in Boston called Sanctum Sound with numerous engineers due to scheduling problems because some of them worked with Aerosmith and stuff and were on call twenty four seven. This guy John Shipp got a call mid session and said he had to leave to do some Aerosmith stuff and I used to joke with him "Oh I see how it is, Steven Tyler's more important than me" [laughs]. But the majority was done by this Grammy nominated engineer Jon Lammi and this guy Joe Clapp who has worked with Sully from Godsmack and many others and everyone involved was very pleasant and fun to work with. Clapp was great because he's an artist, guitarist and writer and he would be really inspiring and help me evoke the vibe I was trying to capture on a particular take. For the mixing Mudrock is such a genius I just sat back and let him do his thing and then I would make suggestions like "lets turn this vocal up and really make it pop" or whatever you know. And with George Marino I've always been a fan of his work on stuff like "Back in Black", "Holy Diver" , "And Justice For All", "Appetite for Destruction" so I knew I had to have him master it. He is such a pro. He rocked it out and got everything really pristine sounding. It blew me away because he loved the record. I loved it because here's this guy who has worked with Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin asking me "How did you guys record this part" or "how did you get that tone". It was a real honour that he dug the music, I'll never forget it.
On a side note, I've also noticed you have done studio work for people like Janet Jackson and Fat Joe. Considering you're clearly a heavy metal type of guy, was it at all painful or discouraging having to do work for pop acts?
Well actually I worked in the radio promotions and marketing divisions of the record company and worked on releases by those artists which was great. I would love to have played on some big albums by artists like that but my involvement was on a strictly business level. The Janet Jackson album "20 Y.O" that I was involved with sold 300,000 copies in the first week of release and debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200 charts which was looked at as a failure because she got beat out by like 13,000 copies by Ludacris. But I got to meet Janet and she was a very nice person. I would have loved to have gotten the chance to play for her. I could throw down a crazy solo like Van Halen did for Michael on "Beat It".
Bruce Dickinson also seemed to really like this album. How did he get a hold of your album? Is there any chance of you working with him in a future Shredding The Envelope release?
I would jump at the chance to work with Bruce. To me he is one of the all time singers. Not just in metal but in all of music. I was really honoured that he liked the album. Getting it to him was a shot in the dark really. In the midst of promoting this release I put together a list of cool radio stations to send a CD to, and I always loved his show on the BBC so I sent him a copy. And low and behold he played a track out of the blue and called the album "A must have" and said my guitar work was "fantastic". After that I actually sent him a letter and told him "Bruce if you ever want to do another solo album, I will swim to Britain and play for free just to jam with you". He's just so damn good, we could really kick some ass together.
Let's talk about timing here - how long has this been in the works? Accumulated, how long would you say you've been writing this album for?
About 4 or 5 years ago me and my fiancée started to get serious about making the record. So I started to compile these tunes from all of my riffs and lyrics that we had and entered the studio in September of 2008 and recorded off and on until July of 2009 when the album reached completion. All in all though I would say combined I was in the studio for 20 or 30 days, something like that. Then all the guest appearances were done by the players at their own home studios and emailed to me. Except for Joe Stump and Mike Mangini who also live in the Boston area so they came in live to do their parts like I told you before. The mix took seven twelve hour days and mastering took about 4 hours.
So, why now? Considering you've been in the business for quite some time, why did you choose now to finally unleash this thing?
Well I'm 26 now, so I wanted to get the ball rolling. I hope to look back on my career someday and have put out 10 albums or so at least, so I figured I better get started. And these are songs that I felt were to good to not be heard so I had to put them out. I don't plan on having kids so these are my babies.
As many people say, "you've got your whole life to write your first album, 2 years to write your follow up", now that your debut is out, do you find you still have enough inspiration to come out with an eventual follow-up?
I have hundreds and hundreds of hours of riff tapes dating all the way back to when I was 13 up till now. So I have no shortage of ideas. I have a recorder and I'm always pounding out new riffs. If my wish comes true and doctors find a cure for death maybe all of it will see the light of day. But seriously man I'm always inspired. I've been through a lot of crazy stuff in my time and I feel blessed just to be alive. So doing the next record is something I really look forward to.
If/when a follow up does eventually come about, who are some musicians you would want to bring in? Who are some people you've always dreamed about working with?
Paul Stanley from Kiss would be great in a dream world scenario. He's a brilliant songwriter. Also Dave Mustaine would be cool. I love Vinnie Paul's drumming he is a total badass. Perhaps Mike Porto on drums, David Ellefson on Bass and me on vocals and guitar. But more than likely, like on this CD I'll play 95% of the instruments and then have a badass drummer come in to cover the grooves. Bobby Jarzombek from Rob Halford's solo band whose playing I love, almost played on this record when Mangini was busy so maybe I'll have him on the next one. He's a badass.
Ok, fantasy time - same question as before, except some dead musicians; who are some musicians you would have loved to work with but have unfortunately passed away?
Mozart or Shostakovich would be cool . Also Hendrix would be great he seemed like a really cool spirit. Dimebag for sure, that dude was such a beast on guitar and what a sweet person he was, he would have been a blast to be around. Rhandy Rhoads, John Bonham, Janis Joplin, Elvis, Bon Scott, Cliff Burton, The Rev from Avenged Sevenfold, John Lennon, Bob Marley there are so many. Paganini was cool he was like the shock rocker of his day. He used to wear a cape and face makeup and stomp around the stage like a madman, which was unheard in those days because all of the super rich opera fans thought a show should be civil and proper and stuff. He would be riding around in limos and throwing TVs out of hotel balconies if he was around now.
So a little more introspective here - Your lyrics, where do they come from? What inspires the more poetic side of you?
Well some of the songs are about rebellion and not buying into all of the rules that people try to impose on us. There about having your own beliefs and fighting for them no matter what and to believe in yourself and claim what is rightfully yours. And then other songs have been about my problems with drugs in the past and warning people to watch out for that stuff, it can really ruin you. I think the lyrics are inspirational and like everyone else out there I'm constantly trying to deal and work out everything in my existence so that's where the poetry comes from for me. And then sometimes you write a song just because its fucking fun and you love it.
So if you had to choose one song off "The Call Of The Flames" to sell it, which song would it be and why?
I love them all so much but one that comes to mind would be the song "Shredding The Envelope". There's a line in the song that says "We believe in belief, We're not afraid to fail" and for me that's one of the reasons I'm so proud of this record is because we took a risk. So many people sit on their ass their whole life or sit behind a computer all day bashing others and never stick their necks out, never follow their dreams and wonder why they don't accomplish anything. We took a risk and we were not afraid to fail and we made an album that excites our heart and an album that people all over the world have responded to and nobody can ever take that away from us.
Now that you have an album out, is there any plans to put a full band together and put this thing out on the road in the live setting in the near future?
Definitely. I cant wait to tour but I'm still looking for the right guys. Its so hard to find people that are great, a good person and committed all rolled into one. But keep your eyes peeled we will tour and will rock your heads off.
So that pretty much wraps things up, the last words are all yours.
I hope you guys will check out the album, it absolutely rules. You can get it on iTunes, Amazon MP3, http://amazon.com/gp/product/B0039W5AVK, Rhapsody, http://cdbaby.com/cd/ShreddingTheEnvelope, http://guitar9.com/guitarmusic9/thecalloftheflames.html and from pretty much any digital retailer on the planet. And to the people reading this thank you and rock on!
Posted on 26.03.2010 by
Former EIC, now semi-retired.