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Krishta's Exclusive Interview with UFO Guitarist Vinnie Moore

By Krishta Abruzzini, Pacific Northwest Writer
Thursday, March 12, 2009 @ 4:26 PM

“…I am just finishing up the guitars. The record is called 'The Visitor' and will be out on June 2nd, I think.”

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Vinnie Moore received his first guitar as a Christmas present. He played with the box it came in more than the guitar. Little did he know, the contents of that box would not only be his future career, but would etch his name among the immortal gods of rock. Nice Christmas present, mom!

Vinnie chatted with me recently about his long-anticipated solo CD as well as the new UFO album. Despite his many accomplishments within an industry consisting of megalomaniacs, Vinnie remains grounded in his unassuming demeanor.

KNAC.COM: Your start as a professional guitar player came from a 4-track demo you sent to Guitar Player Magazine, which was picked up by its ‘Spotlight’ column written by Shrapnel Records exec Mike Varney. What was that demo like?

Moore: I think the tape I sent to him had about 6 instrumental tunes and 2 with vocals. It had some shreddin’ guitar type stuff as you would expect, and I covered some different directions stylistically to show some diversity.

KNAC.COM: At that time, did you think you had a chance of ever playing professionally?

Moore: I was hoping like hell but didn't know if it would all work out or not.

KNAC.COM: What was it like for you to get that phone call that your demo had been chosen?

Moore: It was very exciting. Almost unbelievable.

KNAC.COM: This led to your first professional work in the music business which was writing and playing the music for a national Pepsi commercial. In 1987, Shrapnel released your breakout album, Mind’s Eye in which you were given the title "best new talent" in Guitar Player, Guitar and Guitar World magazines, and Mind’s Eye sold more than 100,000 copies. Not bad for a guy at what, 22 years old?

Moore: Yes, I think I was 22 at the time. It was definitely a magical time for me. So many things happened so quickly; way more than I had ever imagined. In a matter of months, I went from some kid playing guitar and recording in his bedroom in Delaware, to doing a Pepsi commercial...making a record...winning awards in the guitar magazine readers polls...and making a best selling instructional video. It's pretty corny to say, but it was indeed a little bit fairy tale-ish.

KNAC.COM: So it was it a surreal time for you.

Moore: Yes, it was pretty surreal. But I was real busy doing my thing, so I didn’t spend too much time sitting around to think about it all. I was traveling a lot and just kept pushing forward.

KNAC.COM: You’ve come into your own signature sound through the years and have been placed in a progressive neo-classical style. What exactly does that mean?

Moore: I have no freakin clue. My earlier stuff had quite a bit of influence from classical music so that splains the neo-classical part. When i think of progressive, music bands; Yes, Jethro Tull...and early Genesis come to mind. I don’t sound anything like any of them. So I guess the term was kinda generalized to categorize anything that wasn't simple and straight ahead.

KNAC.COM: I know you consider yourself a ‘rock’ guy, so what style would you give yourself as far as a genre is placed?

Moore: Hmmmmm...With my solo stuff...I am a little bit all over the place stylistically. I love music and as long as it's good and played with passion, it doesn’t really matter what style it is. So I have been influenced by rock, jazz, blues, funk, r&b, techno...it's all good. If it's a good song, it transcends style. I guess you could put me in the explorer category.

KNAC.COM: You’ve been a member of Alice Cooper’s band; you toured the U.S. on the Operation Rock ‘N’ Roll tour, and also performed on Alice’s album “Hey Stoopid”. What was it like working in that camp and with Alice?

Moore: I had a blast doin’ that. It was cool to be part of a band after doing the solo thing for quite a while prior to that.

KNAC.COM: Was it a difficult decision or natural progression for you to go play with Alice Cooper; especially after coming from a career in which you had complete artistic freedom, to playing someone else’s songs?

Moore: It was definitely a much different scenario being a hired hand. But I knew I would continue doing my solo stuff too. So it wasn't like I gave anything up to do that gig. But inevitably, it was clear that the hired hand thing wasn't going to be what I wanted to pursue on a long term basis.

KNAC.COM: Your own band has toured extensively as a headliner and also was chosen as opening act for legendary rockers Rush on the Northeast leg of their ‘Rock the Bones Tour. Do you feel more accomplished with touring your music, or is it all satisfying to you?

Moore: It is always great to go out and play solo shows.

KNAC.COM: You also toured Japan as a member of the T.M. Stevens’ Band, which included Bernie Worrell (Parliament Funkadelic) on keyboards, Wil Calhoun (Living Colour) on drums, and Al Pitrelli (Megadeth) on guitar. That sounds like a dream of a lineup!

Moore: That was a real cool tour. Funky as hell.

KNAC.COM: How did you hook-up with the UFO boys?

Moore: One of my guitar techs, named Jerry Carillo had also done sound for UFO. He knew that they were looking [for a guitarist] and recommended me. They asked me to send some of my stuff. I put about 11 tunes I think it was, on a CD and sent it to their manager. At that time, I actually wasn’t real sure if I wanted to do it or not. I was a big fan of UFO growing up and already knew how to play a lot of their songs...but I just wasn’t sure about it right away. I didn't really think I would hear anything more about it, but about 10 days later they called and said that Phil Mogg wanted me to join.

KNAC.COM: Obviously you were not just a ‘hired gun’ for UFO, as you were a major songwriting contributor on the 2004 SPV Records You Are Here. (Smart publishing move!)

Moore: As I said, the hired gun thing is not really what I wanna do. I feel beyond that at this point in my career. I have too much creative energy and need to write. When (Michael) Schenker was in the band, he wrote a lot of the tunes. What Phil wanted was for a guy to come in and play that same kind of role. They needed a songwriter and I think this is a big part of his decision to ask me to join. There are lots of guys that can shred on a guitar....but he was looking for someone who could write with him.

KNAC.COM: What’s it been like working and touring with Phil Mogg & company?

Moore: It's always quite the experience…especially when Pete Way is in the band. For the most part, it has really been a blast. We all get along really well....and the fans have been great.

KNAC.COM: What happens when Pete Way is around? Any experiences you can share?

Moore: Bad things man....bad things. Haha. I couldn’t explain that one to you in a week. Let's just say he is more spinal tap than spinal tap. He drinks quite a bit of white wine onstage and has had some of the best falls ever. I wish we had them all on video. It would be absolutely hilarious.

KNAC.COM: UFO has a new release coming out this year?

Moore: Yes and I am just finishing up the guitars. The record is called The Visitor and will be out on June 2nd, I think.

KNAC.COM: I think a lot of people don’t realize there’s a lot of work to being a professional musician. Tell me what a typical day is like for you.

Moore: Making the UFO record has been pretty crazy. But music is a labor of love for me so I never count the costs. It started with me getting a bunch of song ideas and sending them to Phil. He chose the ones he liked best. We got together in Hannover, Germany to rehearse for a week in January. Andy went into the studio in Germany to lay down drums and I went home as I record my stuff in my studio. We totally utilize the internet to send sound files back and forth. They would upload drum and bass tracks, and I would download them and record guitars. Then send them my stuff. In fact, one night i was playin’ guitar and watching the Simpsons. I came up with a cool part, then more related ideas started flowing. Before I knew it, I had the skeleton for a new song within 10 minutes. I started to think a little, and realized that we didn’t really have a song for the record like this one, so I went into my studio and laid it down. At 11pm, I uploaded it and then sent emails to our manager and the engineer in Germany saying 'hey guys...give this one a listen...it could be cool". The next morning at around 10...they called me and played it for me with Andy's drums recorded on it (they were 6 hours ahead). So on a whim...wham...we have a new song...this wouldn't have been possible if Al Gore hadn’t created the internet. Back to the question...I find myself constantly writing and recording.

KNAC.COM: Do you like being on the road?

Moore: Hmmmmm....not really. I love the being onstage part....and also it is cool to hang with the guys and see the fans. But the charm of seeing different cities has unfortunately worn off. There is so much traveling involved. I have always been a home body. I don’t go out of the house for days sometimes when I am home.

KNAC.COM: Do you consider yourself a technical or emotional player? I.E; Yngwie Malmsteen vs. Steve Vai

Moore: I think I have both of these qualities. I have a certain amount of technical ability, but to me...playing from the heart and soul is what it's all about. It's all about the passion and expressing your emotions. At times, having more ability physically can make it easier to play from the heart. If the physical part is transparent, then I can concentrate on the music and not waste my mental energy thinking about fighting with the guitar. When the physical part is second nature, then you can just focus on and get lost in the music.

KNAC.COM: You also conduct a lot of guitar clinics all over the world. What would you say is the most important thing you can teach a young player?

Moore: To listen to as many styles of music as possible and to realize that you can spend a lifetime learning. Music is endless. Also, try to always wear a condom.

KNAC.COM: As a beginner, would you recommend starting off with an acoustic or electric guitar?

i would say electric because it is a little easier to play and I think a beginner would be more inclined to stick with it.

KNAC.COM: You’ve been endorsed by Dean now for how long?

Moore: For about 2 years.

KNAC.COM: You have designed your own signature guitar through them. What were you looking for?

Moore: Something that sounded great, looked great, and felt transparent in my hands.

KNAC.COM: You also designed your own humbucking pick up. What sets your design aside from the others (Les Paul)? What tone were you going for (for both the guitar and pick up)?

Moore: I like a natural tone. So my goal was to get a pickup that didn’t color things too much. I wanted it to sound very natural so that you could hear the pick hitting the strings and the fingertips fretting the notes.

KNAC.COM: Is there a set-up you use that enhances this?

Moore: Not really. But I find that I don’t use as much distortion on my amp as most people. This helps keep it more clear and natural.

KNAC.COM: Are you predominately going for a clean, non-distorted tone then?

Moore: Not entirely clean. I like some overdrive so that it sings.....but not a lot of the fuzzy, scratchy stuff.

KNAC.COM: What effects pedals or gear do you use that is a 'must have'?

Moore: Probably my wah pedal and a delay. Sometimes I realize I am stepping on the wah out of habit and considered leaving it at home because I didnt wanna be too dependent on it. But instead I have made a conscious effort to only use it when it's really needed. My guitar tech says that he cant even tell my delay is on because I use just a smidgeon of it. I like to use it to add just a little ambience but hate when there is too much delay and it masks your sound.

KNAC.COM: You have a new solo release coming out May 18th titled “To the Core”; tell me about that.

Moore: It has been a while since I have done a solo CD. I have been on the road so much that is has taken me quite a while to finish this. I think it is my best record yet by far. I went in some directions stylistically that I havent done before. I like to explore. It's an instrumental guitar record but it's not just a bunch of wankin off...I like to write songs a create moods.

KNAC.COM: What directions did you go in?

Moore: Well it's basically a rock record of course....but I don’t wanna be limited by that. I like to mix it up. I have a tune with an R&B vibe, some tunes with a little bit of a techno vibe.....and I think I may have showed more of my funky side too. I have a lot of bebop in my phrasing also. And there is the sound of a motorcycle in "Into the Open Highway"....just that there is worth the price of the CD. hahah

KNAC.COM: Is it hard coming up with a title for your songs, being there are no lyrics? How about for the album?

Moore: I find it very difficult to come up with a record title. I would come up with something I thought was cool and then an hour later think,"nah, thats not good enough”. Then I would see titles that other bands had used and think…"did they really call their CD that? That absolutely sucks". haha. In the end....you can second guess forever but the title really doesn’t matter a whole lot.

KNAC.COM: Will you be touring your solo release?

Moore: Yes. At the moment, I have some shows lined up for Italy. That's all I know for now but there will be more. I cant wait to play some solo shows. It has been a while.

KNAC.COM: Do you have your touring band lined-up?

Moore: Not yet.

KNAC.COM: Do you play any of your solo stuff whilst out with UFO?

Moore: Whilst? Good one...very English. Nah....only UFO tunes.

KNAC.COM: If you could form a super-band, with any of the players you wanted, who would it be with?

Moore: Well, I think someone like Carmen Electra on vocals, and the guitarists from the Robert Palmer addicted to love video. On bass, Tal who is playing with Jeff Beck rules. That would be absolutely perfect for me. For backup vocals...Shania Twain and Gwen Steffani would be great. That would totally rock.

KNAC.COM: You missed Sheila E on drums! Must have hot drummer chick.

Moore: Yes, that sounds good. Welcome to my way of thinking. ha

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