Joe Stump: Discourse With The Dark Lord



Joe Stump: “The Dark Lord Rises” (2015)


In our continuing coverage in honor of International Guitar Month, we have the distinct pleasure of presenting our interview with guitarist extraordinaire Joe Stump!

Hello Mr. Stump! I know you are extremely busy and really appreciate you taking the time to interview with me. It is a real privilege for me to get to speak with someone so inspirational and a personal idol! I have listened to you for many years and look forward to many more!

I would also like to thank you sharing so much of yourself through your music! Being around musicians all the time, I have a deep respect for you, knowing that it is a tough road that involves passion, drive, personal sacrifice and is all too often taken for granted. You have my utmost gratitude! – Odyssey

The Interview:

Odyssey: Having your hands in so many projects, do you find it difficult to change gears moving from one to another since they cover a pretty wide musical range?

Joe Stump: Well, I’ve scaled down a bit as I’m not doing the Exorcism thing any longer. The material, while cool really wasn’t my thing.  I didn’t write any of it so for one record and an EP, it was fun to just play on and a bit removed from what I normally do.  Due to my schedule filling up, it didn’t make much sense for me to keep doing it.  Now it’s just my solo thing and the new band I have: Tower Of Babel (record should be out later this year.  I wrote all the material and it’s all very Rainbow/Purple influenced), HolyHell (things should finally be getting going this year) and I also have Black Knight’s Castle (Blackmore/Rainbow tribute) and Stormbringer (Purple tribute). So, other than HolyHell most of the other things are generally all in the same ballpark so it’s no sweat.

Odyssey: What does each project bring to you personally and creatively? Do you prefer solo projects over band collaborations?

Joe Stump: I like doing both.  I really enjoy my solo thing and the audience for that is very specific but, of course, you reach far more people with a vocal thing.  Each project brings different challenges and those things help you to improve and grow as a musician.

Odyssey: How do you pick people to collaborate with?

Joe Stump: It doesn’t really work that way.  Usually [with] everybody I’ve ended up working with, it happened in a situational type where it just clicked and came together.  All of it very natural and organic so it’s not like I necessarily picked people.  I’ve been quite fortunate to work with some outstanding virtuoso players.

Odyssey: Being primarily a solo artist, is it harder or easier to write with others? Are you ever involved with the lyrics?

Joe Stump: I’m never involved in the lyric writing.  I always leave that up to the vocalist, but when I compose a vocal tune it’s not like I just throw some riffs together.  I’ll write the whole thing — intro, verse section, pre-chorus, chorus and also arrange the whole tune.  Sometimes I write or imply the vocal melody and sometimes I leave it up to the singer.

Odyssey: Is there anything outside your comfort zone musically that intimidates you (setting up an interview with my heroes, like yourself, intimidate me LOL)?

Joe Stump: One time, years ago I was playing one of my tunes for Uli Jon Roth. Uli’s one of my heroes and that was very intimidating. I was quite nervous.  I’ve played live with Uli several times and was very comfortable, however, with me playing and him just hanging and observing, it was a completely different story.  He’s a great guy and of course a guitar legend.  Anytime he comes around I always try to see him.

Odyssey: Who would you like to play with that you have not played with before? Any favorites that you have played with that left a special mark on you?

Joe Stump: Well, Uli for sure.  As I’ve been lucky to play with him on several occasions but other than classical composers, most of the musicians that have impacted me are guitarists (Yngwie, Blackmore, Uli, Gary Moore, Hendrix, Schenker).  While it would be great to play with any of them, when it comes to my heroes I’m content to hang, watch and take it all in.  As far as other musicians, the late great Cozy Powell, Ronnie James Dio and Phil Lynott immediately come to mind, but then who wouldn’t want to play with those legendary icons.

Odyssey: How does touring differ between each of your projects? Do you have any tour plans in the works this year (Any in FL? I would love to see you!)?

Joe Stump: I’m playing live all the time, mainly regionally in the northeast these days so tons of shows in the pipes as far as that goes (solo stuff, also doing the Blackmore thing with Black Knight’s Castle and Stormbringer).  It’s also looking like I’ll be doing a run of European shows with Tower Of Babel in June which should be cool.  But, no matter which band I’m playing with, I always make sure I’m over-prepared and ready to go there and do plenty of damage.

Odyssey: To my ear, your newest solo album The Dark Lord Rises has a bit more “feel” and darkness that I have not heard in previous releases. What has changed and/or influenced this? Personally, I think it’s your best album. While still being ridiculously complex it just “speaks” to me and seems so accessible while retaining the technical superiority I have come to expect from anything that you do.

Joe Stump: That seems to be the general consensus regarding the new record.  Many people very familiar with my past work consider The Dark Lord Rises my finest hour.  I’d say the reason is the fact that while Ritchie Blackmore has always been one of my heroes and biggest influences (him and obviously Yngwie) since doing the Blackmore tribute bands, I’ve completely immersed myself even deeper into every aspect of his playing and that really comes across on the new record.  Also, I’m always trying to find the perfect balance between technique and emotionally charged playing. On the new record it really shook out that way, plus my shit rocks.  One thing Blackmore always had was that dark bad ass rock attitude and tons of balls, whether it’s live or on record.  I’m always trying the channel that.

Odyssey: Being so technical, how do you go about writing songs and tying them together into a single album idea?

Joe Stump: I’m always playing, practicing and composing so it all just takes shape and starts to fall together very naturally and organically.  It’s not like I’ve got some grand concept.  I’m not that deep.  I enjoy many different schools of metal and hard rock so I just try to channel my influences and do my own thing with it.  After I compose a bunch of tracks, it’s usually time to do another record whether it be a solo or a band thing.

Odyssey: Where to go from here: At this point, is it more a matter of creative invention rather than having a goal of getting better at something you already know or have heard before? Is there anything specific you are working on?

Joe Stump: If you break the new record into 3 categories, meaning you have some fierce heavy tracks like Out For Blood, Hostile Takeover and the black metal tinged Starring Into The Abyss and you have the neo-classically based tunes The Dark Lord’s Allegro, Neo-Classical Shredfest No 4, Battle Tested, Brothers In Shred and Concerto No 2 in B Minor and then you have the more older school hard rock Blackmore/Gary Moore type things Stratomaster, The Black Knight Returns and Tormented Soul.  On just about all my records the tunes usually fall into one of those three.  It’s not a formula thing, just a reflection of what I like to write.  But on each release I’m always trying to step up my game in all aspects and The Dark Lord Rises is certainly proof of that.

Odyssey: I have talked to a few other, long-standing musicians that don’t listen to music anymore because it is their job or feel that other music is below them. Agree? If not, how do you avoid this?

Joe Stump: No, not me.  I’m listening to stuff all the time: Blackmore, Yngwie, Bach, Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, Gary Moore, Uli Jon Roth, Mercyful Fate, Accept, King Diamond, Rata Blanca; the list goes on and on.  Even after a live show, I’ll still throw stuff on the stereo on the way home or back to the hotel.  Just because I’ve been at this for decades now doesn’t mean I’m not a massive fan.  It’s a great way to stay excited and inspired.

Odyssey: Is it hard to separate Joe Stump the listener from Joe Stump the musician? Anything just “feel” right that may not be “technically” complicated or challenging?

Joe Stump: No matter how technically complex or balls out fast something is, it still has to be showcased inside a track that’s musical and all of my favorite players that I’ve mentioned previously manage to deliver both killer technical command and gut wrenching emotional playing in almost everything they play.  Plus, it can’t just some fancy soulless guitar exercise.  For me that balls and bad ass attitude of rock has to be in there as well.  There’s tons of guys that play well technically but that doesn’t mean they have that element.  It’s either in you or it ain’t. You either rock or you don’t.

Odyssey: With your unbelievable talent and long running career, what have you not tried that you want to try? Knowing that you are a fan of Al Di Meola and other Jazz, are there any other genres that you remain interested in and/or play?

Joe Stump: No, my jazz and fusion days ended many many years ago.  The things I do that are removed from the metal and neo-classical genre are either nylon string suedo flamenco/classical bits or the Hendrixy/Frank Marino/Gary Moore blues period/retro hard rock stuff.

Odyssey: Are there any up and coming/newer artists that are impressing/influencing you?

Joe Stump: I’m well aware of many of the newer players.  I hear them thru my students at Berklee.  Whether it’s technical death metal, modern metal core, djent, etc. Some killer stuff going on and it’s great, but that’s for the newer generation of players.  I’m cool with the guys that really inspire me (Yngwie Malmsteen, Ritchie Blackmore, Gary Moore, Uli Jon Roth, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Schenker, Hank Shermann, Andy LaRocque, Walter Giardino, Wolf Hoffman).  I’ve been listening to them all for decades now and still get excited hearing them play.

Odyssey: Do you play or desire to play any other instruments?

Joe Stump: No.  I’ve played bass on a few tracks on some of my past records but Jay Rigney, who’s played bass with me for many years now – (he’s on my solo stuff, The Reign of Terror and HolyHell) is a killer/monster bass player in all aspects so he’s got all that covered and then some.  But no, I eat, breathe and sleep guitar and have no interest in any other instruments.

Odyssey: Do you find it harder to get public recognition in the US since you are so influenced by the European sound like Uli Jon Roth (I saw him last month and was left in a daze), Gary Moore and Ritchie Blackmore? What differences do you see between acceptance, fans, tours, etc. US versus overseas?

Joe Stump: I’ve toured all over the world as both a solo artist and with the various metal bands I play with and there’s fans for the type of thing that I do everywhere. Generally speaking, Europe is much more of a metal mecca as opposed to the states and they tend to embrace all forms of metal over there.  As far as the guitar thing, it’s a very specific niche and there’s fans all over that come out to see that type of thing (many of them of course guitar players/fans of guitar driven music).

Odyssey: What do you enjoy most about teaching? Do you prefer clinics or master classes better than one on one and why? Have you ever taught someone that really blew your hair back?

Joe Stump: I like all of it: clinics, lessons, master classes, shows etc.  I’m quite fortunate that I make a nice living with the guitar in my hands and never take that for granted.  As far as teaching goes, it’s always cool working with dedicated and driven players who mean business when it comes to the instrument.  Also, when it comes to the highly technical/shred/metal guitar thing, it’s not something you dabble in.  You’ve got to be in it 100 percent.  Sure, I’ve had a ton of killer players study with me.

Odyssey: Has has the manner in which music is created and distributed affected you positively or negatively (streaming, Pro Tools allowing self-production, etc.)?

Joe Stump: It doesn’t effect the way I go about things as far as making records goes but, obviously, the way it affects all artists is the way we’re paid for what’s released royalty-wise.  One time, years ago, someone was reviewing one of my records and described me as everyone’s favorite underground guitar hero (thought that was cool) and still to this day, in the grand scheme of things, I’m still a bit underground.  That being said, I certainly can’t complain considering the state of the industry.  I’m doing quite well.

Odyssey: Between teaching, playing and all of your other projects, how do you find balance? What other interests do you enjoy in your limited down time?

Joe Stump: I really don’t have any hobbies or a ton of outside interests.  I’m a Corvette enthusiast- I have 2 of them a 1990 C4 and an older 82 C3 Stingray so that’d be one thing outside of guitar and music I enjoy.  And being from New York, I’m a massive Yankee fan and have been watching them religiously for decades now.  So you can’t beat those 2 classics — America’s greatest sport car and most iconic sports franchise.

Odyssey: As is traditional with any Metal Nexus interview, the floor is open to you (rants, parting word and/or anything else you would like to share with myself and our readers, etc.)

Joe Stump: Just a sincere thanks to all of the fans that have supported me throughout the years and those of you that aren’t familiar with my stuff, check out The Dark Lord Rises. If you love hard rock/metal/shred guitar you won’t be disappointed. Also, I’m playing live in the northeast all the time whether it’s solo or with my Blackmore/Rainbow/Purple bands so come out, see some live damage and get your face melted.

Odyssey: Again, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your time and your consideration! This is truly one of those “once in a lifetime” opportunities that I can hardly contain myself about! Much respect now and for many years into the future Mr. Stump!

– Odyssey


For more information on all things Joe Stump, please check him out on the Web and Facebook.

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About Odyssey

I have had a life-long love of music, but from the first time I heard Kiss and Black Sabbath with my landlord's son in Nicholasville, KY in the mid 70's, I have been hooked on Hard Rock and Metal. While my tastes in music have done nothing but expand since then, Metal remains closest to my heart. In addition, I have played bass, still play guitar and have literally 1000's of CDs/MP3s, so my knowledge is long steeped and honest. I don't buy the whole splintered, sub-genres thing and choose to like bands and music based solely on individual merits. Obviously, this is always colored by my mood, what I need at any given point and time and what is generally pleasing to my ear. I also don't like to rip any music or band, instead having an open mind and ear for it all because I have a passion for it all. It is completely subjective and in a constant state of flux. Consider me a music "nerd" not a music "snob". As an extension of this love, I hope to share this passion with everyone here and learn from your passion as well! - Odyssey -

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