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When did you begin playing guitar?

I started in 1985. It's easy for me to remember that year because I started playing the year after Van Halen's 1984 came out. That album was like the start of it all for me. The whole year of 1984 was a year of discovering new music, new guitar players, new bands. I was a geeky 15 year old in high school and I got lost in music. Bands like Ratt, Dokken, Priest, Maiden, Accept, you name it, were huge for me. I remember buying Guitar for the Practicing Musician magazine before I even had a guitar. I was ordering guitar company catalogs like Jackson, Ibanez, Carvin, ESP. It was like I knew I was going to end up playing sooner or later. I had a new friend in high school, Max Rutsch, who played bass. We hit it off and he really inspired me to get my own guitar and just start playing. My Dad made me get a crappy rental guitar just to see if I would like it first! I was like, "sure Dad, whatever!" I knew I would love it. A couple weeks later, I got my first guitar, a red Kramer Focus 3000. There is a picture of it on my mycrack, I mean myspace, photo album. <Sigh>... good times...

What is a recent influence you have had or found?

Well, most recently is definitely my bros in Gracepoint. Joining them was the kick in the ass my guitar playing needed. Before that I was more into noodling and my playing was not really inspired or structured; it had no direction. What Stefan and Sam (guitar and bass in Gracepoint, respectively) showed me was the value of hardcore repetition and always playing in time. I mean, I knew the metronome was important, but I never really used it to the level I should have. Now I almost always practice to a drum machine or metronome. I also learned the value of notation, and actually composing a solo rather than just jamming one. Jamming and improvisation are very valuable, but I was mostly just improvising because I was too lazy to write actual solos in the past!

Another recent influence I had before joining Gracepoint was The great players there really inspired me to practice again as well. I copped of few cool licks and ideas from those guys that are now ingrained into my playing. I also got back into home recording because of that site, and now I have my own little home Pro Tools studio.

What influenced you in the beginning of your career?

I feel like I am still beginning my "career" in a lot of respects. Not really beginning like a newbie, but more of a resurgence; more of a new found respect for music and my love of it. When I first started however, my influences were mostly the bands that I mentioned above. But I was always looking for something with more aggression and precision. I thought Accept was about as heavy as you could get... until I heard Master of Puppets. After that it was all over; I pretty much dived head first into the thrash and death metal scene and I never really came out to this day! Bands like Testament are still huge influences. Also, I must mention that one huge influence was just me, sitting in my bedroom as a 15 year old, thinking that there has to be more to life than just lame high school football and the high school popularity contest. That attitude made it easy for me to practice 8+ hours a day. Which brings us to the next question...

How many hours do you practice a day?

Daily practice is hit or miss due to the responsibilities of life. I probably get 2-3 hours a week outside of Gracepoint rehearsals, which are workouts in themselves. But I consider other things at this stage to be very important to becoming a better MUSICIAN, not just a better guitarist. Things like listening, reading, recording, networking, etc. all have their important roles.

What has been your best experience with music?

Honestly, I think the best experiences so far have been within the last couple of years and are still happening. I am meeting a lot of cool people, working with a lot of great musicians, getting involved in a lot of different projects. I believe the best is yet to come. That said, playing in DODD was cool because we had a great following in the Twin Cities. We were hanging with bands like American Head Charge and Clockwise and we had a lot of fun. I met my wife while she was in Head Charge; that was definitely a great experience. Working with Neil Kernon in Gracepoint is definitely a highlight so far.


Any terrible experiences you would like to share?

Early childhood piano lessons and recitals were rough! And there is nothing worse than being onstage and having the song completely fall apart to the point of where you are all looking at each other going "What the F?!?" LOL... Being lost on stage is not fun! <knocks on wood.> However, I've seen even the most professional of musicians skrew up, so it's all good! As long as you are having fun, the audience doesn't really care.

What have you been listening to lately that is guitar oriented?

Aesma Daeva! I've also been listening to Arch Enemy, Meshuggah, Darkest Hour, Haste The Day, Jeff Loomis, Dream Theater... I go through phases. One month might be bebop, another month will be classical piano, another month might be blues and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Lately I'm back to metal.

What you have listened to lately that is not electric guitar oriented?

I listen to a lot of spoken word stuff like personal development programs, stuff about financial education, investing, how to be a better husband and parent, success, how to get in touch with my spiritual side. I love personal development; it is an ongoing process and struggle sometimes. Your mind is like a garden. If you don't tend to it or nurture it, or if you don't protect it, you will find things growing in there that can kill your other plants and choke out your new seeds and sprouts. It can happen without you even realizing it. It's pretty insidious, really.

Looking down the line, what impact would you most want to see emerge from your work?

I would love it if I had the same impact on listeners that some of my musical heroes had on me. I would love to see my children think I was "cool" because I am a musician! The idea of leaving a legacy through music is a pretty amazing idea. Anything really. To be honest, I would be doing music even if it had no impact on anyone but myself. Luckily, that is not the case, because I know there have been many fans in all of the projects I've been blessed to be a part of.

I saw you have a Ron Paul sticker on your car; isn't he the crazy guy who thinks we should not have fought the civil war? Just look at this link

That's one thing I love about Dr. Paul. In any video I've seen where they try to make him out as nutty, he is always calm, cool, respectful, and intelligent. His ideas always seem to make sense, that is when he is not being interrupted rudely by the interviewer. Hell, in the video, Bill Maher's audience applauded his ideas! But it is not so much Ron Paul, the man, but rather the message. Ron Paul just happens to be the only one with balls enough out there to stand up for what he believes in. Check out his voting record. Check out his history in the House of Representatives (going on 30 years now). He has always stuck to his ideals even when he was way out-voted, out-numbered, and ridiculed. Talk about integrity. And he has more courage in his left thumb than most of us have in our whole bodies. The reason he can endure this crap is because he simply uses the Constitution of the United States as his litmus paper. Is it Constitutional or isn't it? Sure, there will always be gray areas to discuss. Now, I'm not a political person; never have been. But the message is so important in this day and age that I had to do something, if not for me, for the future of my children. Our rights and liberties are being slowly eroded by things such as the "Patriot Act." I supported (and met) Ron Paul when he was campaigning (still support him, in fact. Check out I believe in limited government, a sound money policy, peace, freedom, and the Constitution. I believe that we should be making friends and trading with foreign nations, not warring with them and building an empire. Are those ideas really that crazy? I just read somewhere that there was a poll that showed that the majority of people agree with Ron Paul's platform... when his name was not attached to the platform. That just says to me that Americans are all about the presidential candidate "celebrity" and not really the ideas and issues behind the candidate. You have to realize that the media is force feeding us candidates that do not meet the ideals that the United States was founded on. Television is the worst offender. There's a reason they call it "programming." A whole new generation is being dumbed down. It's time to wake up. Time to unplug from the Matrix.

What would be your ideal place to live?

Give me an Internet connection and I can live anywhere. Seriously, I'm not picky. I'm a pretty simple guy; I like to stay at home. I could be happy as long as I have my family, a roof over my head, a gym, tons of food, guitars, and a studio. Actually, our house is up for sale and we don't really have any idea where we will go! I was pretty worried about that at first, but now I'm really at peace with it. Whatever happens, happens. We could stay in Minneapolis, go to Alaska, or who knows? I hate winters though. Give me someplace that is always sunny and pleasant and I should be OK! Alaska is so beautiful though, it might make up for the winter...

How was recording with Neil Kernon for the new Gracepoint album?

Well, we are still in the process. We just got back from Chicago; got a few rhythm guitar tracks done. It was a blast. I love the studio. We have a lot of work to do: finish up rhythm guitars, then do clean guitars, bass, solos, vocals, mix, master. Working with Neil is great. He has tons of great stories and really knows his stuff in the studio. I am learning a lot from him about recording, gear, mic techniques, Pro Tools, tracking guitars, etc. The new Gracepoint album is going to be fantastic sonically, musically, and technically. I think a lot of people are going to love it, even folks who are not necessarily into progressive metal. It will be a very well-rounded album; very accessible and melodic, yet heavy as hell. There will be stuff on there for everyone, from metalhead shredders to their girlfriends!

In a recent e-mail you told me that Al Born, the guy who is filling in for us on drums, is someone you have been in bands with before? What Bands?

Oh yeah! Al and I go way, way back. I'm not kidding; I think I've know him for over 15 years now! We started out in the late 80's/early 90's in a thrash band called Contagion based in Eau Claire, WI. Then Contagion moved to Minneapolis and we kicked around for a few more years. Contagion parted ways, but Al and I always remained friends and in touch. I went to a band called DODD and Al went Porcelain God and numerous other bands. We got back together and formed a project called Gangplow. It was just me and Al for many months and we recorded some demo tunes. I posted them on the Gangplow myspace page, so check it out. Unfortunately, Gangplow never blossomed for whatever reason. Al ended up going to England and I started playing with some college buddies in Angry At Numbers. Still, Al and I never lost touch for too long. I was stoked when I heard Al was playing drums for Aesma Daeva. Even though we've been in a few bands together, we've NEVER been on stage as a team! AD will be the first time that Al and I will be on stage in the same band, so I'm very excited about that. He is an amazing drummer and a real pro; a very reliable guy with a great sense of humor and monster work ethic. You don't find a person like Al everyday, let alone drummer.

You have been involved with the Midwest metal scene for many years now and I'm sure you've crossed paths with Earl Root during that time. Do you have any fond memories of Earl that you would like to share?

I'm glad you asked. First let me say that it is an honor just to be considered to sit in for Earl. I don't consider myself a replacement; you can't replace Earl and he's got big shoes to fill. For me, playing with Aesma Daeva is like my personal way of paying tribute to him. Yeah, our paths have crossed many times over the years and I do have some great memories of him. When I was just getting into metal and thrash back in the 80's I remember scanning the radio stations one late weekend night. I was living with my folks in Wisconsin at the time and I came across this faint signal out of the Twin Cities; I was blown away at what I heard. It was "Pussywhipped" by SOD and it was on the "Root of All Evil" radio show on KFAI. I sat up all night listening to the rest of that show, even though I had to deal with the bad reception most of the night. I remember the host of the show being really friggin' cool. I remember seeing Earl's band, Disturbed, back in the 80's at First Avenue in Minneapolis. I was just starting to play guitar and those guys just seemed like huge rock stars to me at the time. I was fortunate to be able to see Disturbed many more times during those years. My first band, Contagion, played a huge Metalfest-type show at the Varsity Theater in Dinkytown by the University of Minnesota in the late 80's or early 90's. I think Disturbed played at that show, too. But what was really cool was that we got to hang out with Earl for the first time and he invited us down to the KFAI studios to be on his show that very night. I have video footage of that night at the KFAI studios; I'll have to dig that up to relive some memories. I remember Earl just being so cool behind that microphone. Tons of bands were just hanging out and partying at the KFAI studios while Earl did his thing, and every once in awhile he would call a band into the control room and interview them. When it was our turn, Earl was so friendly and was genuinely interested in us and our music. He briefly interviewed us, and then played a couple of songs from our crappy 4-track demo. Let me tell you, as a young kid in a fledgling metal band, Earl made us feel like the rock stars. What a class act he was... Many years went by since I was able to personally talk to Earl again. Even though we traveled in the same musical circles and I would sometimes see him at shows, I didn't take the time too often to say "hi" to him. Yeah, he was always surrounded by friends and fans, but I really regret not just stopping by to say how much I appreciated his radio show, his bands, and his music. Later on, I was fortunate to be able to catch Aesma Daeva live a couple of times. I knew he was sick, but he would still give those shows his all and he was rocking like he was 20. I was lucky enough to be able to talk to Earl about a year ago. I called him and we had a few phone conversations after that. I was able to stop by his home and hang out for a bit, meet his wife, and chat as we sat on the front steps of his home. I bought a piece of gear he was selling (a Rocktron Hush Super-C that he modded). I was looking forward to seeing him play live again, but he mentioned he had some hospital visits and chemotherapy coming up. When I heard the news about his death, I was pained just like everyone else. If you listen to metal, regardless of where you are, who you are, or how old you are, you owe him a debt of gratitude. He really was our Metal Father here in the Midwest. Those of us that were able to see his bands, listen to his radio show, shop at his record store, and meet him personally will never forget him. We are blessed to be touched by him and his musical influence. Rest in peace Earl Root. I will never forget you.

Thanks for the interview, it's been fun. I'm looking forward to meeting many Aesma Daeva friends and fans!