The Guitar.com website has published a new interview with guitarist/keyboard player Tony MacAlpine. An excerpt from the interview is given below:
Guitar.com: So you have a new album, Concrete Gardens, your first solo album in four years.
MacAlpine: Yeah. It's got 12 instrumental tunes on it. It has drummer Aquiles Priester on it, and Jeff Loomis is playing some stuff as a guest. It's a pretty exciting record.
Guitar.com: And you filmed a lot of these songs, people can watch the band play them.
MacAlpine: We actually did that, yeah, for EMGTV. That was pretty cool. We did that with the whole band. It's pretty cool. Bjorn Englen plays bass. He's been around for awhile, played with a lot of different cats. It's an interesting collection of tunes, and pretty progressive stuff. [Editor’s note: The video includes bassist Pete Griffin -- who played bass on five songs on the album -- and guitarist Nili Brosh.]
Guitar.com: And you filmed this for EMG, the pickup company?
MacAlpine: Yeah, EMGTV. They do a lot of that stuff.
Guitar.com: You've been doing some dates...
MacAlpine: Yeah, we've been traveling all around the globe. We went down to Columbia for a festival. And back in the States. We're just playing all the time. Keeping busy.
Guitar.com: What do you think about the South American audiences. They can get pretty wild sometimes.
MacAlpine: Yeah. I've played there two or three times, did a couple of G3 tours there. I played there with Steve [Vai]. The beautiful thing about all these different communities and all these different places, is that everybody gets together for the same love of music. They're pretty intense, and they're always very festive, so it's always a lot of fun to play there.
Guitar.com: Right. So you have a U.S. tour starting at the end of May. Are you hitting Europe and Japan?
MacAlpine: Japan and Europe will come later.
Guitar.com: So what is your daily schedule like these days, as far as practicing, or band rehearsal?
MacAlpine: Well we only practice as a band when we have a live show to do, or we change something. We used to get together for a couple of days and knock the tunes out. These guys are familiar with all of the records, so they're really efficient players. We don't have to get together for weeks at a time or anything.
I spend a lot of my time working on other projects for other bands I'm in, like the thing, when we have time for the PSMS, with Portnoy and Sheehan and Sherinian. Or CAB, the jazz band I have with Bunny Brunel and Patrice Rushen.
I'm doing all kinds of different things. And if it's not that, it's great to just get away and ride the motorcycles for awhile and hang out with my wife. I live a pretty normal life, like most people do. I definitely like to get away from music, because between that and the piano, I'm pretty much submerged in it. (laughs)
Guitar.com: So as far as all of your other projects, can you give us an update? Where are you at with CAB right now?
MacAlpine: Well Cab is gonna be recording a new record, and we have some shows that we're going to be doing around the L.A. area.
And PSMS, everybody is busy doing their own stuff. Those guys are busy doing the Winery Dogs, and I'm getting ready to go out on the road and do some shows with my band, so that's pretty much on hold. So at the moment, my main concern is to get the band out there and play across the U.S., and then get to Europe and Japan.
Guitar.com: Do you split your time equally between piano and guitar?
MacAlpine: I would say I play a lot more piano than anything.
MacAlpine: Yeah, it's always been that way. It's a backbone of my whole approach to music. I started piano when I was 5, and didn't start guitar until I was 12. Piano is the type of instrument that you can start at an early age, and from that you can branch off to other instruments fairly easily because of the whole nature of the way piano is laid out. You're able to see things rhythmically, and you're can see chord structures so vividly.
It's not like looking at guitar diagrams. Just reading the music and hearing it and understanding what goes on on a piano right before your eyes -- it's a very symphonic instrument. At the same time it's a very progressive instrument, so you learn a lot of things about music just playing piano.
Guitar.com: And you studied piano pretty diligently from when you were 5 to, what, about 17 -- or would you say beyond that?
MacAlpine: Yeah, from 5 to 21, when I left college to come out West, and did my first record a few years later with Shrapnel, with Mike Varney and the boys -- Steve Smith and Billy Sheehan.
Guitar.com: What kind of a piano do you play at home?
MacAlpine: I have a Baldwin endorsement, so I have a bunch of Baldwin pianos hanging around here.
Guitar.com: And do you play a lot of electronic keyboards as well?
MacAlpine: On the shows I do, because it wouldn't be feasible to actually move an acoustic around. Yeah, I have some different types of digitals I can bring out, and play some of the solo pieces that I did over the years, or some newer things that I do -- as far as the solo section. On all those records I did, I always did some sort of classical thing. So that becomes part of the show too, and people have fun with that.
Guitar.com: What about organ sounds or other instruments like that?
MacAlpine: In the studio, yeah, I use different types of keys for whatever I'm looking for. But my sound is really centered around the guitar, with some string padding in the background.
Guitar.com: So when you’re getting ready to go out and do some shows, do you put in some extra time on the guitar?
MacAlpine: Well I play guitar on my own. I wouldn't say it's any extra time, but I play pretty much every other day. I can sit and watch TV and play, with the little amp that I have, and get a lot of things down. But before I even get to the point where I'm going to try and play these songs -- I know them pretty well because I wrote them.
So it's not really a matter of your chops going anywhere, because playing an instrument like the piano, that's weighted keys. It's a lot more physical to play that than it is to play any other instrument. And it's an acoustic feel, so you really have to put forth a lot of arm weight, and stress. But the guitar is something I've always felt at home with. But I can't play it quite as long as I can play other instruments.
Guitar.com: Other instruments besides piano?
MacAlpine: Yeah. I play the violin too. That was the second instrument that I started.
Guitar.com: And do you still play violin?
MacAlpine: A little bit. You wouldn't want to hear it though! (laughs)
Guitar.com: You must have a home studio, right?
MacAlpine: Oh yeah.
Guitar.com: Are you always writing, putting ideas down?
MacAlpine: Yeah. I hear the stuff, and then when I think I've got something that's good I come in and I record it. And then I have Aquiles come in and play it, and do that kind of stuff.
Guitar.com: Besides being able to sing a melody into an iPhone, what other new technology have you really embraced.
MacAlpine: Well, these cool amp mods are great -- these apps. Some of them are pretty cool. My friend Bernie makes a lot of stuff that's really out of this world. He's made some great plug-ins for Pro Tools and stuff. And he works across the board on Logic and Digital Performer. I think the plug-ins are pretty amazing today, which makes life a lot easier in a studio environment. You don't have to use as much tube stuff that you had to use before to generate a cool sound.
Guitar.com: What is your friend's name?
MacAlpine: Bernie Terelli. He's the President of Nomad Factory.
Guitar.com: So do you use Pro Tools, Logic, or another DAW?
MacAlpine: I use all of them. Sometimes I get stuff, if somebody wants me to play on something and it's in Logic, I just keep it in it's native form, whatever it is, so I don't really need to change it. But yeah, I use Pro Tools and all kinds of different things. They're all pretty much the same once you've wrapped your head around them, they all pretty much do the same function.
Guitar.com: What would you recommend would be someone’s first choice: Pro Tools, Logic, something else?
MacAlpine: If you write songs a lot, outside of the guitar, like outside of audio, and you write with instrument and drum loops or drum machines, or MIDI-based keyboards, then Logic is a no-brainer. It's so much faster. You don't have to buy any outboard stuff to make it work.
With Pro Tools you're always getting into spending to do other things because they don't include everything. But they've come a long way since they stepped out of the whole Digidesign thing. And they make Native, which has a lot of inclusive stuff.
But hands down, Logic is just so fast, Pro 9 and 10... They're just amazing. And that ability to work in that MIDI format is really great.
But from the standpoint of audio sounds, yeah, Pro Tools definitely is the way to go. If you're just working with real drum and real guitar sounds... What I like to do, a lot of times, if I'm building a song, I will work in Logic, and then I'll take that whole project and move it over to Pro Tools and work on the audio. Like the guitar sounds.
But I don't mix these things. I've mixed lots of other things, but I don't mix my own records. So that's what I would recommend.
Guitar.com: So you feel like you can go back and forth between Logic and Pro Tools, without losing anything.
MacAlpine: Yeah, because you can bounce everything in place, track by track. And you can keep your original session the way it was, in whatever format you're leaving. But to carry it over you just make wav files, and bounce them over, and just continue from there.
Guitar.com: You spent a lot of years with Steve Vai.
MacAlpine: Not too many. It was just four years. But I was still always doing my own stuff on the side. And at the same time that I was doing that, I was doing a big pop gig in France and Europe, with Michel Polnareff.
Guitar.com: How did that come about?
MacAlpine: Bunny Brunel, the bass player, is from France, and he is very good friends with him, and he hadn't done a concert since the '70s, and he decided he wanted to come back and do it again. And he loved CAB. He would always come to Los Angeles and see us play. And CAB consisted of Bunny Brunel, at that time, Virgil Donati on drums, and myself on guitar, and some different keyboard players.
And he just loved that nucleus. And he hired that whole nucleus, and that whole three-member group became the centerpiece of his band. He outfitted it with 18 other musicians -- other guitar players, and two keyboard players, two drummers. It was a lot of fun, to go through some stuff where you don't have to struggle as much with the unpleasantries of life on the road. It was a pretty fun thing to do.
Guitar.com: You played in front of a lot of people with him.
MacAlpine: Yeah, night after night it was 20,000 or 25,000 people. He sold out Bercy [venue in France] for 18 shows in a row, which is really a lot of people. The biggest show we did was at the Eiffel Tower, and two million people. He's a legend. It's him and Johnny Hallyday -- those guys are just really big. (laughs)
Guitar.com: Two million people! Wow!
MacAlpine: Yeah. And they had the video screens going across the field where the Eiffel Tower is and all that. It was amazing.
Guitar.com: And I bet you could probably only see the first four or five-hundred thousand, right?
MacAlpine: Yeah (laughs) And they're kicking balls around. It was kind of fun. Nelly Furtado was on the bill. She was great. It was great to see the pop people. It was fun. I like all forms of music. But I still like to be able to get into a small club and rock out.