The Rock Fever got a chance to interview guitar maestro Ben Higgins.
Apart from being the brains behind his band “The Reckoning” , he’s one of the finest guitar instructors at GuitarMasterClass (The Top Gun of guitar players) and his latest video is on the verge of receiving a million views in the first two months of its upload!
He demonstrates a powerful mix of melodic lines and shred guitar in his solos.He is quite literally, 30 shredders loaded into one, and manages to have his own dynamic style on the top of all the others,which makes him our favorite guitarist .
“The Reckoning” have released their Debut EP. Check it out here
TRF: How and when did you start writing music? Tell us the artists that influenced you while growing up.
BH:I started putting together musical ideas not long after I’d made the move from an acoustic guitar to the electric. I would put together chord progressions and melodies, no matter how naive, and record them on a tape player, using the built-in microphone. Eventually I graduated to a 4 track multitrack recorder which enabled overdubs and guitar harmonies, which was great because I’d started getting into Jason Becker and Marty Friedman by then and it enabled me to put harmonies down and stuff like that.
In terms of artists who influenced me; the first artist you could say I was a fan of is Michael Jackson. I got into his music when I was little, primary school years. However, the occasional guitar solos in his music led me onto guitarists like Eddie Van Halen and Slash. Inevitably I was to discover bands like Guns n Roses and Iron Maiden. By the time I’d started getting into the guitar and writing, I was firmly a metal head !
TRF:Every artist talks about how inspired they were while writing their music. What was your creative process while writing Defining Armageddon?
BH:The funny thing is that I wrote those songs back around 2004, possibly even earlier. I remember that Metallica’s St. Anger had not long been out and I’d split with my first band. So we could be talking late 2003 even. Over the years they’d been places and had lyrics changed but the basic songs were there. Back when I wrote them, there wasn’t any particular vibe that I was aware of. I was a bit more politically minded back then so some of the lyrics reflected that. However, as time passed I felt they no longer reflected what I felt so I changed the content of the lyrics completely.
I do remember that I was just excited about the riffs I was coming up with. My first proper band had veered towards ‘Nu-Metal’ because that’s what people were into. I didn’t like that but it’s what my band members preferred. You know, breakdowns and simplistic, repetitive riffs. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun and there were some great ideas but I was the one who was always trying to sneak in some proper old school metal in there!
So, being on my own to write meant that there was no one to say ‘Oh, that timing is a bit weird’ or ‘that’s too fast’ or whatever! It was like being let loose in the toy store.
TRF:What is your dynamic with Rob Lundgren, the vocalist of The Reckoning?
BH:Well, Rob is his own man and he isn’t actually ‘in’ The Reckoning as such. If I was to try to describe how The Reckoning works I’d say that I work more like Yngwie Malmsteen. He creates everything, the music, lyrics but he brings the overall thing to life in a band, rather than call himself a solo artist. I’m similar to that. I create everything and put all the pieces together and I get brilliant people to bring it to life with me. The main difference to Yngwie is that I still prefer to view myself as a band and not use my own name. I don’t see myself as a solo artist at all but the way I work is closer to that than a traditional band dynamic.
To get back to your question though, Rob is awesome to work with. He’s very laid back and confident, no matter what I throw at him. Must be a Swedish Viking thing! I’ve asked some difficult stuff of him (well, to my mind) but he’s like’ Yeah, whatever… no problem!’ He’s a true professional and a gentleman.
TRF:Your shreds are pretty insane. What would you say you focus more on, technique or melody?
BH:For me, it’s definitely melody. When I’ve written the chord progression which will go underneath the solo, then I usually start imagining lead lines in my head before I start trying to play anything. It’s impossible (at least to me) to imagine super fast runs in your head note for note, so I’ll just get a feeling for melodies and then I might imagine where a flurry of notes could go but I won’t know exactly what kind of fast thing I’ll do.
When I’ve got the strong lead lines established I’ll get to work on bridging them together as smoothly as possible without too many unnecessary notes. Everything has to flow so I’ll assess what I’m creating and ask myself ‘Does this sound like it flows naturally or does it sound like a bunch of exercises?’ The listener shouldn’t be aware of a guitarist’s thought process when hearing their solo. If you hear an obvious pause before the next lick you can almost tell the player is taking stock and planning his next move. So my aim, once I’ve got the basics down, is to smooth out all the little cracks so it’s unbroken and consistent.
TRF:Who have been your biggest musical influences?
BH:In terms of song writing I would say Megadeth without any hesitation. To a slightly lesser extent, Metallica and Iron Maiden. Although some bands that have influenced me in a slightly less obvious way are Opeth and Satyricon.
In terms of lead guitar it was Joe Satriani’s superior melody and feel that made me aspire to be a guitarist that could phrase properly. Yngwie Malmsteen made me take more notice of my picking and Marty Friedman and Michael Schenker greatly influenced by string bending and vibrato.
TRF:You’re a world sensation on the YouTube community thanks to Guitar Master Class. Why did you decide to begin uploading tutorials?
BH:I was shown Guitar Masterclass by a former bandmate and thought that I had a chance as much as anybody at becoming one of their instructors. I actually shot an audition video in his house with his camera. I’d never had a job doing something I loved before and I thought it was time to make the leap. When I got accepted I realised I had better get my own filming gear. I barely scraped enough money together to get a camera and video editing software. I was really flying by the seat of my pants for months and I honestly thought I was too poor to do the job because I didn’t have all the right gear. I didn’t really know what I was doing. In fact, some might say I still don’t !
TRF: You’re quite the artist, and I’m not just talking music here. You have some wonderful artwork on your website. Does the art inspire the music, or is it the other way round?
BH: Thank you. The art that you see on the site was directly inspired by the music on Defining Armageddon. I approached it as if I were making a music video and creating a different, 2nd story to the original lyrics. Some of the characters and concepts I’ve added do follow the original story of the song but some scenarios were completely new. None of the characters actually existed when I wrote the songs but the meanings behind the songs did. So I’ve just widened things a bit !
Speaking generally, I am always inspired by the works of others, especially films and literature. Even computer games, as adolescent as that may sound !
TRF: What’s an average day in your life like during recording?
BH: In terms of recording for The Reckoning ? There is no average day, haha ! It usually involves lots of psyching myself up and pretending I’m relaxed when I know I’m not ! There will be colorful language and guitar picks slammed down on tables in between takes. I think it’s always like that when something really means a lot to you. You can try to detach yourself to a point but you’ll always be emotionally involved.
I’m also one of those guys who, when I start recording a rhythm track, like to play through the whole song rather than record 1 pass of the verse and paste it for the remainder of the song. If I’m in the zone and it’s going good I think it’s a shame to stop if you haven’t made a mistake, so you just as well keep going and record the whole track. As a result, things may take longer but I feel happier with it because it’s real.
Oh, and it’s always loud. Very loud.