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Let’s start with a bit of background. There is certainly plenty of rock and blues influences to be found in the latest single, tell me a bit about the sonic path which you have taken to get there?
Christian: Well I started out as a guitar player. I played guitar for Jennifer Paige for a U.S. tour in college, and I’ve played guitar in numerous bands before that and after. As a guitar player, I always gravitated to Rock and Blues. Growing up my idols were Jimmy Paige, Jonny Lang, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Brad Gillis, and Robert Randolph, among others, so my rock and blues influences are pronounced.
Although “Wherever the Hammer Falls” an anthemic and energetic song, there is only minimal lyrics throughout. Does the song have a specific meaning or should the listener just work that out for ourselves?
Christian: Yes, this song is mostly a guitar solo. I originally sat down to write a jam to use to open concerts. I have a power trio that I would play gigs with all over the Northeast for a long time now. I’ve had several members over the past decade but we always played all of my songs and a mix of blues-rock covers and modern pop songs converted into a rock/blues format. We would frequently jam at the end of songs which was mostly just a drum and bass change with a guitar solo over it. It was fun but it started to feel disorganized. My mission was to write a jam that showcased a guitar solo but didn’t feel thrown together. I started writing this song by jamming by myself in my basement with just a single distorted guitar and before long I had a few hooky riffs, added some fast lines, then added all the other instruments. The vocals were actually the very last thing that I added. I was planning on releasing it with no vocal but at the last minute, I decided that no vocal at all didn’t quite feel right. Even the best guitar-driven songs at least have 1 hook line. The last 2 steps were hiring The Trenton Bishop Gospel Choir to cut the vocal lines and Erik Johnson (Huffamoose, The Fractals) to play real drums to replace my programmed midi drums.
And staying with the current single, you created the video yourself, how easy and enjoyable was that?
Christian: Haha’ it actually was a lot of fun. It was difficult to get all the shots done in time but I really enjoyed it. The video idea actually came to me while I was writing the guitar parts. For some reason, I thought that the song sounded like the perfect background for a mix of a news broadcast and violent over-the-top anime. I know that sounds random but for some reason, the bizarre nature of distorted metal guitars over a weird funk/metal drum beat made me think of a man in a suit giving a formal weather (or news) report then suddenly breaking away from the camera to have a kung fu fight with neon graphics and a group of ninjas. Sadly, I was not able to film or 3D render anything as extreme and challenging as this but I own a suit, and I have Blender on my computer so I made do with what I had and what I could do.
It is safe to say that you have a fairly technical guitar style, who are some of the musicians, guitarists, and otherwise, that you look up to?
Christian: I had formal lessons as a child but the majority of my guitar chops are self-taught. I mentioned above that some of my heroes are Jimmy Paige, Jonny Lang, Stevie Ray Vaughan. I also love a lot of the shredders like Brad Gillis, Randy Rhoads, Dann Huff, Phil X, etc… I definitely have spent a lot of time playing through speed tutorials and sweeping lessons. I desperately want to be able to play as fast as someone like Phil X someday. I remember one time watching a video of Phil X just shredding through leads as someone off-camera called out song titles. He was able to sweep and economy pick through songs that he might have only played a few times or never before. I can’t help but be a bit jealous when I have to go over the same line 20-30 times slow before I can play it at speed but I guess that’s why I have to keep practicing lol.
We seem to be turning a corner on the recent pandemic now but how tough was it for you to be away from the usual scenes and stages and how did you manage to stay creative?
Christian: I am very grateful that I was able to make it through the pandemic safely. Among other things I really missed playing live. I took the time that I wasn’t able to play live to get more comfortable with other digital audio workstations (DAWs). I familiarized myself with Ableton and wrote a lot of new material. I also wrote a lot of instrumental music.
And have you come away from the experience with any new understanding or have you learned anything unexpected about yourself that might inform the way you work in the future?
Christian: Absolutely, I always knew this but the pandemic emphasized that you should never take any gigs for granted. I am very lucky to do music for a living and one thing that makes it very special to me is that it feels like I’ve never “worked” a day in my life at it. I love playing gigs, releasing new material, playing with a band and I hope I always get to do these things for the rest of my life.
And where to next for Christian O’Connor?
Christian: I’m going to be releasing several more singles this year and next year with accompanying music videos. Also, I’m a big fan of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and many other cryptocurrencies. Before I transitioned full time into music, I was very into coding and it’s been a hobby of mine ever since. I plan to release a 6-song NFT this fall . . . it gives me a chance to play with two of my favorite things!
Thank you for taking the time to talk to me.
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