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Reb Beach - A View From The Inside, Winter 2020

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC. The address of the Whitehouse. The home of the President of the United States of America. 2020 saw perhaps the mostly hotly contested presidential election in US history. For days following the closure of the ballot box, the world still didn’t know who the winner was. Joe Biden would of course emerge the victor and interestingly it would be the state of Pennsylvania that would decide this to be the case, or more specifically Allegheny County, Pittsburgh. And it’s one such resident of the fine river county that we catch up with today. Reb Beach has one of the most stunning, technically proficient and popular guitarists for more than 30 years. Perhaps best known for his work with Winger, Whitesnake, Dokken and Black Swan, Reb has equally impressive sessions successes and achievements as a solo artist. And it’s his latest solo record that we are keen to delve into. Released 17 years after his last solo record Masquerade, A View From The Inside is an absolutely mesmerising record steeped in technical prowess but balanced with the most gorgeous, hypnotic melodies. We meet Reb at home and as you would expect, he is in fine spirits! Despite the late autumn calendar, the east coast is enjoying fluke warm weather and with his garage door wide open, Reb is making the most of it. Sadly, the view from a November Manchester window is something that can’t quite compete, though it’s only with a twinge of jealousy that our conversation begins… 


It’s been 19 years since your last solo album Masquerade. How does it feel to be releasing a new Reb Beach solo record?


Well it feels great because it’s been in the works for so long. It was just kind of a little dream I had to release an instrumental record. I didn’t think it would ever happen just because it kept getting put on the back burner so many times that I almost kind of forgot about it. It took Covid for me to even remember that I had it sitting on my hard drive. It just became a hobby and something that I did late at night in my free time because I always had something with a deadline. There was always, ’Okay, we are writing Winger, we are writing Dokken, we are writing Whitesnake, we are doing Black Swan’. I always needed to be concentrating on that or sessions that I was doing for people. There’s always something which pays me quicker! But that’s not the motivation of course! There’s just always something with a deadline that needs to be done before my little instrumental thing. It feels great! It feels awesome to see out there on YouTube and also to see the comments from people who all seem to be loving it.

The album was released a couple of days ago but what sort of thoughts are going through your mind at album release time?

I want to see the reviews because I have no idea what they’re going to say. They might say ‘this sucks’, or ‘shit sandwich’ which was from Spinal Tap. It’s exciting to see what the reviewers are going to say. There’s only been a few reviews but they are all really good. One guy said ‘if you don’t like jazz fusion you’re not going to like this’. And I was like really!? I don’t know about that. I would think people would like it just because it’s nice melodies on guitar and I try to make it as listenable as possible. That was the real challenge: to make something instrumental that kept the listener’s attention and not all shredding, not mechanical. I hate these instrumental records that are all ‘Look what I can do!’ I didn’t want that. I wanted something that was more about the song than about the shredding, even though there is plenty of shredding on this stuff.

Let’s pick up on what that particular reviewer said because one of the comments I’ve seen is one that said this is ‘firmly in the jazz rock genre’ and this was something I absolutely disagreed with, responding with a confused ‘No it isn’t!’

That’s what I thought too! (Laughs!) There’s barely any jazz on it! If a jazz player listened to my album they would say ‘This guy is not a jazz player, obviously! Everything he is playing is either a minor scale or a pentatonic’. But it’s very nice music! It’s very inside playing. So I was very surprised when I saw that review. There’s rock stuff on the record and a lot of funky stuff. Attack Of The Massive I guess is the closest thing to jazz but it’s a very inside song.

Let me just pick up on the title for the album, A View From The Inside. You’ve just suggested ‘inside’ playing. Is that where the title came from?

Well, from now on I’ll say that this is where that title came from! (Laughs!) I like that but it’s not. No, I needed a title and I wanted it to be something that was rooted to the fact that this is my solo album, it’s instrumental and it’s the guitar playing that comes from my soul. So it’s kind of a view into the real me as a guitar player.

The Whitesnake Flesh and Blood tour was cut short because of reasons relating to David Coverdale’s health and of course because of Covid 19, as were some of your other plans. It was nice to hear that this solo album was something you always wanted to do. Did all these events create the opportunity for you to finish this labour of love?

It’s because of Covid for sure. When Covid hit I immediately talked to Kip (Winger) and said ‘Oh my god, Kip, what do I do?’ And he said ‘Whatever happened to that fusion stuff you’ve been working on forever?’ and I said ‘It’s done and it’s been done for a couple of years’. He said ‘Well get a drummer on there and get it out!’ and I said ‘We’ll that’s a good idea!’. So we went down to a studio and he said ‘Look, I’ll fly out and record drums for you’ because I can’t record drums, I don’t know anything about it and he’s great at getting drum sounds. We’ve got a little studio here in Pittsburgh and we banged it out.

You’ve brought in some incredible talent to help you with the record: David Throckmorton and Robert Langley on drums, and Phillip Bynoe and John Hall on bass. How did these partnerships come together?

Well we call David Theockmorton ‘Throck’ and Throck’s been my guy… he played on Masquerade, he plays in my band here, The Reb Beach Project. The reason I do The Reb Beach Project is so that I can play with him. It’s just an honour to play with him and he’s my favourite drummer. I could play with him for the rest of my life. John Hall also plays in The Reb Beach Project. He lives here in Pittsburgh. I needed a funk bass player, and this was before I knew John Hall, and actually Robert Langley who works for Winger - he’s our drum tech – he suggest Phillip Bynoe who I’d never heard of. I looked on YouTube and said ‘Oh my god, this guy’s perfect!’ and I called him up. Then Paul Brown the keyboard player, he was a friend of Kip’s. I said I need a funk player who uses B3 organ, I need a real B3, Clavinet and Hammond and all that stuff, and Paul was the man for that stuff! He has all those original keyboards and that’s what gives it that 70s sound.

A View From The Inside is of course, as we would expect, a super high energy record with the most incredible guitar technique and wizardry, but we also have so much diversity here. We have the most gorgeous melodies, for example on tracks such as Infinito and chilled, reflective moments with Sea Of Tranquility. Picking up on what you hinted at earlier, this seems to be much more than a record simply for guitarists. To what extent would you agree with that and more broadly what was your vision for this record?

I’d say my favourite fusion artist was Jean-Luc Ponty. He did for really good records, one of them had Allan Holdsworth on, and the way that he arranged songs I never got bored. He would just do his violin solo but there would always be a guitar solo and sometimes a bass solo, and it was always interesting. Joe Satriani paved the way when he did Surfing With The Alien. He did an album that wasn’t just all head-banging rock songs. It was rock for sure but the album wasn’t boring either, and it went gold which was amazing for an instrumental record. He had a thing and I sort of wanted a marriage between that Joe Satriani thing that had some rock stuff on it and my favourite Jean-Luc Ponty albums, which had cool jams but all with melodies that were undeniable.

For A View From The Inside you have recorded a wonderful new version of the track Cutting Loose. What prompted the decision to do this? Was it perhaps demands from fans over the last generation?

(Laughs!) It’s my most asked about song from my whole career. ‘What’s that song on the beginning of your video?’ and the funny thing is I would always say ‘It doesn’t have a name, I haven’t named it, it was just a song I wrote for the video.’ and it got more comments than anything else over the years. That song has never been formally recorded and released, it was just on a video. So that’s what I redid it, because everyone loves that song that comments to me on my Facebook.

It’s interesting that you never recorded it because the number of unofficial tabs that have been available over the decades is phenomenal.

It’s funny because I didn’t know that, but I’m sure they’re wrong! They have to be. It’s such a weird riff. I showed it to a Japanese student and he asked ‘How the hell did you come up with this!?’ (Laughs!) I was just a kid trying to find unique ways to play open strings and I came up with that nice riff, it’s a great riff!

Let’s stick with the Cutting Loose video for a moment because the 90s saw many instructional DVDs from so many stunning guitarists. However, perhaps more than any other Cutting Loose continues to be held up today as the premier learning resource for all good guitarists who want to become great guitarists? How does that make you feel?

I didn’t know that was so! That’s the first I’ve heard of it. If that was true it would make me feel wonderful. I do know that I’m always surprised when I hear a guitar player say ‘I love that song Cutting Loose!’ because it was honestly never on a record. It’s just a video on YouTube where I had the giant hair and I’m as nervous as a cat playing that song and I’m soloing over it. There’s not much to it really. It doesn’t even have a melody on that version. It’s just a cool rhythm part. So I am of course very, very honoured that so many guitar players know about that song and it’s cool to show people because they dig it. Less and less people have whammy bars and you need a whammy bar to play it.

What are your memories of doing that video because of course it was one snapshot in time of what has been a whirlwind over the last almost 30 years?

I just remember a few things. I remember that I was incredibly nervous and Joe Bosso who I knew from Guitar World – thank god he was there to interview me. I’ve seen people comment on that video like ‘Who’s the bald guy with the glasses?!’. He was there because I wouldn’t have been able to handle speaking by myself. I was unable to do that, especially in my nervous state, so we had him asking questions. I borrowed an amp from a kid who lives down the street. We did it in Long Island and Rod Morganstein produced it with his little video company. That was an amazing sounding amp so that helped a lot. Apparently I said ‘Mmmm’ and ‘aahhh’ a lot so Rod Morganstein had to go in and edit out all of the ‘aahhhs’ and ‘mmmmms’ and the noises I make in between words which took him a very long time apparently!

The artwork for the record is absolutely stunning with its ‘other worldly eye’ and it’s so great to see you as an artist investing in how the album is visually portrayed. Tell me about the journey you went on where the artwork is concerned.

Well it’s interesting that you say that. I hired a guy here in Pittsburgh and we went down and we did some photos that are now being used for promotional photos for the record. I said ‘Look, we need an album cover’ and he said ‘ why don’t we just use one of these pictures of you or maybe use some pictures of you as a kid?’. I said ‘That’s a cool idea!’. So we had like from beginning to end the story of Reb. You know, you opened up a booklet of about five pages of me really young and some of those pictures got out there, I don’t know how, but you can find them. There is one interview where they use the wrong pictures and the wrong artwork. I had a conversation with Kip and he said ‘You need a graphic artist’ and I said ‘Yeah, I want something more like Aerosmith’s Rocks, just a cool black album reflecting the title A View From The Inside so give me like an eyeball is space!’. He said ‘Now you’re talking! Something more like that!’. So we trashed the whole pictures of me idea and went into the realm of an eyeball in space, and we used the guy who did all of the Winger stuff. It’s exactly what I wanted – first take! I said ‘I want a cool eyeball in space with cool graphic stuff’ and boom! That was it! We were also thinking T-shirts! Who wants just a picture of me on a T-shirt? That would be terrible. You need a graphic! I’ve got to print some up… I’m a little short on doh right now! (Laughs!)

For someone who is such a highly skilled and accomplished guitarist, would you agree that there is always something new to learn? More broadly, what continues to inspire you as an artist?

There is but I’m too lazy to learn it! (Laughs!) I’m not hungry like that anymore. I do my thing and I’ve been doing it for a long time and if I learn something new it’s interesting, and that’s cool, but if it’s even the least bit hard for me I’ll give up! (Laugh!) I’m almost 60 years old and it’s just not necessary for me to do all that. There’s a lot of people that do but I’m not one of those guys. Like the Les Paul guys – they always have their Les Paul with them and are in their hotel room shredding every day, practising. That was me when I was 16 years old, for sure! I slept with the frickin’ guitar! Now I am learning a lot of really cool stuff from all the students I’ve had. I’ve had over 200 students now so I am learning stuff and it is very pleasing to learn a new cool thing but I have this horrible memory from years of smoking weed and and I will learn something cool and then I’ll forget it the next day probably! (Laughs!)

I do think it’s interesting that you are actually learning from your students!

I learned a Phrygian scale just a few weeks ago. I already sort of knew it but I didn’t know that’s what I was playing. My student said ‘Do you know that you’re playing a Phrygian scale?’ I said ‘Is that the Phrygian scale?! Cool!’ (Laughs!) When you teach yourself how to play… We didn’t have videos or anything like that back then.

That is something quite interesting about today’s guitar student. Even only 15 years ago learning resources were fairly limited. Yes there were some videos available, tab books were available and of course we had guitar magazines, but is it possible that today’s student has it too easy in this YouTube generation? As a guitarist of 27 years myself, perhaps I’m being just a little sour!

I know what you mean! (Laughs!) What would it have been like if I’d had a video from Van Halen which explained how he did everything? Because all I had was a picture of him with his right hand on the fretboard. That’s all I knew! He was using his other finger somehow! Had I had an instructional video I wonder if that would have made me a Van Halen clone. You know, I owe everything to go to Van Halen, you know why? Because when I first got started at Atlantic Studios they wanted Van Halen solos. Like everyone wanted a Van Halen solo. So I did the Bee Gees and Chaka Khan and Howard Jones because the new thing was to get a Van Halen solo on your song, like Michael Jackson. So I really owe a lot to him just for that.

And there are so many people mourning the loss of Eddie Van Halen…

Yes, and who knows where I would be if it wasn’t for him because they kind of started the glam thing, and Winger, we were that kind of band. I wonder if it ever would’ve happened… And my playing of course, I wouldn’t have been a shredder if I didn’t tap! That was a whole thing – that I could play fast because I could tap. What if I didn’t tap? I wouldn’t have tapped if it wasn’t for Eddie Van Halen.

Finally, it is of course crazy times at the moment and you’ve indicated that you would love to be out there playing, but do you have any plans or ambitions to tour this record or even play any of the tracks live? This record need to fulfil it’s amazing potential.

I saw Joe Satriani last year on his G3 tour which was fabulous, and I got to go backstage and he talked to me for about 20 minutes. I was a little nervous because I’m a huge fan but I told him about the record and he said ‘ look, send me the record as soon as it’s done and I can get you out on this – just let me hear the record’. So I sent it to him a week ago I will see what he says! I would love to do a G3 tour! Or a Generation Axe – they have these tours for just guitar players – and of course I’d love to play this stuff live. It would be so cool, with a keyboard player and a funky bass player. It would be amazing to get Phill Bynoe and Paul Brown. Incredible!

As our conversation comes to an end, we reflect on what an incredible album A View From The Inside really is. Yes, first and foremost Reb’s spectacular guitar talent really shines through, but it’s the gorgeous melodies and Reb’s ability to create powerful emotions within his music that catapults this record into the stratosphere, colliding beautifully with that eyeball in space! To find out more check out www.facebook.com/RebBeach.
In the meantime, enjoy the video to Infinito 1122 below.I