early on by legends like Steve Vai and Joe Satrianias well as
hard rock bands like Iron Maidenguitarist Brian Hunsaker
strikes a blow for furthering the spirit of hard rock guitar with
his all instrumental album Across The Galaxy. With its scintillating
guitar-centric focus, the 11 track Across The Galaxy is getting
major kudos from rock instrumental guitar fans. Performing all the
guitars, keyboards, classical guitar, bass and drum programming, Hunsaker
sounds like a one man R.I. (rock instrumental) swat teamhis
searing electric guitar leads flying through the sonic spectrum at
the speed (and sound) of light. A couple tracksincluding the
CD-closer Farewell To The Kingshowcase Hunsakers
acoustic fretboard skills and demonstrates yet another side of his
multi-level guitar-centric identity. Recorded at Nebulas End
studios in Washington state, Across The Galaxy is a
monumental sounding CD debut from a hard rocking, heavy metal guitar
instrumentalist on the rise. www.BrianHunsaker.net
mwe3.com presents an interview with
did you grow up and when did you become interested in playing and
performing on the guitar? What was your early musical training like,
including early lessons and instruction and was there a moment in
time when you knew that being a musician was really for you?
BH: I was born and raised just north of Seattle,
in a city called Lynnwood. My first musical instrumental was a violin
I played in 3rd and 4th grade. I didnt enjoy it and rarely practiced,
but it likely helped my coordination when I took up the guitar later.
When one of my friends played Joe Satrianis Surfing With
The Alien for me in 1989 I was totally blown away. I had no idea
a guitar could make such amazing sounds! I knew right away that I
wanted to learn all those crazy guitar tricks, on electric guitar.
I knew I wanted to be a musician right then, whatever it took!
I was never interested in acoustic guitar. I found it too limiting.
Electric guitar is and always has been my inspiration, and its
by far more versatile. I only use acoustic guitars for recording,
After hearing the Satchman, I got my mom to buy me a weird-shaped,
high-action 1982 Gibson Corvus from my friend in 1989 for $150 and
started trying to learn Iron Maiden and Joe Satriani songs on my own.
I figured since I am a left-handed person, I should play guitar left-handed.
So I tried it that way for a few weeks, and wasnt getting any
better. Then I had the thought to hold up the guitar like my old violin,
and noticed that I had the wrong hand on the fret board! I immediately
started playing right-handed and was instantly better.
I took lessons for about a year in 1990 from a local teacher named
Curt Hamblett. My friends always thought his name was a little too
close to Kirk Hammett, but he was a good teacher in spite of that.
I definitely got my fundamentals down in the very beginning, which
is super important. There was also a great guitar player that worked
at that same music shop named Omar Torrez, I hear hes famous
now, who got me into Yngwie, Al DiMeola and some other players. He
was already a really great player back then. He knew how to play every
song you could name. It was uncanny! Seeing him play motivated me
to practice hard and keep seeking out new music for inspiration.
mwe3: You were greatly influenced by guitarists such as Eric Johnson
and Joe Satriani while growing up. Can you add in some other information
about your musical influences while growing up, and what about some
other factors that convinced you to go into the rock instrumental
BH: Yeah, in the beginning Satch was untouchable
to me. Later I got into Steve Vai (Passion And Warfare), Eric
Johnson, Vinnie Moore, Tony MacAlpine, Andy LaRocque and just about
every new shredder that came out. At that time in the early 1990s
when my style was still forming, I hadnt figured out what made
certain melodic virtuosos such as Satriani and Neal Schon so much
more popular and more pleasing to the ear than others. It wasnt
the blinding licks, it was the melodies between those and how they
blended the two together so seamlessly. I used to be all about speed
for the first five or so years I was playing. People said I played
like a robot and had no feeling at all. In hindsight, that was pretty
much true. But it did really hone my technicality for later when Id
concentrate on using it wisely and in context.
In college I took a lot of music classes including jazz improvisation
and music theory. I met some really amazing players during that time,
and it really humbled me. I continued to find new influences like
Ritchie Blackmore and Trevor Rabin and further refined and expanded
my technique by making up songs targeting techniques I wasnt
good at. This worked amazingly and I recommend it!
In the early nineties, as we know, the American music scene shifted
to favor alternative music. I could not for the life of me find a
singer I liked the sound of at that time. After failing to complete
a solid band for a few years, I pretty much quit playing guitar in
2002, I noticed that virtuosity was no longer uncool.
I found new bands like Symphony X and a ton of European bands that
I really loved. So I picked up my guitar with steely resolve, never
to put it down again. I woodsheded like mad and became a far better
player than I ever was before, in every way. I even seemed to find
the elusive feel that I never had. I was no longer the
robot player. I had understood and accepted what made certain shredders
stick out from the pack, and decided to focus on furthering my style
and song writing as far as I could, while remaining accessible to
hopefully more than just guitar players. Melody is king if you want
a song to be great! The next year (2003), I realized I had never really
tried to write a full instrumental song, and that being a huge instrumental
fan, I needed to rectify that!
mwe3: What were some of the challenges involved with recording
the entire Across The Galaxy album yourself and where and when
was the CD written and then recorded?
BH: I write as I record, in my home. I improvise
most of the lead guitar until I find the best melodies and licks,
recording each take. So by the time the song is written, Ive
forgotten how to play most of it since a lot was first takes. Then
I go back and learn the song so I can record the final takes. It may
sound weird, but it works well for me.
I wrote my first complete instrumental song in 2003. The song, Spring
Break, which is on my CD took about 30 hours to write and record.
I liked the song but didnt pursue writing any more like it.
I didnt write any more instrumentals until 2008. Thats
when I met John Jaunesea fiery neo-classical player who lived
nearby. He told me he wanted to make an instrumental compilation CD,
and he wanted me to make a couple tracks for it. This started to light
a fire within me, and I cranked out two moreThe Voyage
and Blue Angelfor the 2008 Northwest Shred Fest
CD. Around this time, several players, some of which played on the
CD, were contacting me and telling me that they loved my songs and
that I needed to make a whole CD worth of them. So now the fire was
raging and I started to crank out more rocking tunes to go with the
first three. I wrote three more, and then moved to China in 2009 for
two years. While over there, I finished ninety five percent of the
rest of the material on the CD. When I moved back to Seattle last
year, I finished up what I had and spent a month re-recording and
As far as what challenged mewhen I wrote Spring Break
back in 03 I had a very basic computer, a forty dollar SoundBlaster,
and a 10-space rack guitar rig that did not record well. I also knew
almost nothing of mixing. I had a huge uphill battle to make a pro
sounding record. By the time I wrote the next few songs, I had much
better equipment for both recording and playing. I constantly upped
my game and each song started to sound more and more hi-fi. I started
attending a Sonar user group in Seattle and learned tons of mixing
tricks from the very experienced users there. That was invaluable.
I bought a couple great books on mixing. In the end, when everything
was written, I had to re-record large parts of my earlier songs from
scratch, but it was worth it! When I was in China, I recorded those
last five songs in the same tiny 7x9 foot room I slept in, with nothing
but my guitar, headphones, preamp and computer!
The artwork for Across The Galaxy is also fantastic. Can you
say something about the design of the album and CD artwork? How about
the video for Gila Monster? Is there a story behind the
making of the video and are you planning more videos in the future?
BH: My childhood friend Brian Laws came up with the cover concept
off the top of his head and took a few days to get the cover art looking
amazing. That is my main guitar on the cover, a McNaught Phoenix Rising
I had custom made in 2009. I had to take a lot of photos to get one
that would work for the cover. Brian did an amazing job on the artwork
and I am blown away. Hell get my next CD artwork job for sure!
Gila Monster is a funny story. One of my friends said
it would be cool and a little wacky to have a super heavy song named
Gila Monster. I needed one more song for the CD and decided
to do something different. I detuned it down to B, like a 7-string,
for the rhythm guitar. I have been adamant in the past about never
detuning and that it was just a fad, but I figured what the hell.
The song turned out pretty cool and heavy. This is the only song Ive
ever written where I named the song before writing a single note.
I should try that more often! I chose Gila Monster for
the first video because the song was still fresh in my mind.
There will definitely be more videos. Im currently wrapping
up the video for Farewell To The King. It may be done
by the time this interview goes live. After that, I will make at least
one or two more videos featuring songs from Across The Galaxy.
Stay tuned! Im also going to start creating more instructional
mwe3: What guitars are primarily featured on the Across The Galaxy
album and how about matching your guitars with certain amps and
how about other sound enhancing effects that are used on the Across
The Galaxy CD?
BH: As I mentioned, my main guitar is a McNaught
Phoenix Rising custom built by McNaught Guitars. Its absolutely
amazing sounding, feeling and looking. Thats on about half the
tracks. I have WCR pickups in it and I cannot recommend them highly
enough. They have a completely thick and rich sound. The songs written
before I got the McNaught mostly feature my 2006 Ibanez S. The
Voyage was recorded with my LTD MH-400. I used a Kramer Sustainer
for Spring Break to get those feedback harmonics and endless
sustain. Acoustics used on the album include a forty dollar Chinese
acoustic-electric and a Cordoba classical guitar I picked up last
winter. For the Gila Monster rhythm tracks I borrowed
a couple guitars from friends so I could tune down to B and use really
As far as amps, Im very nontraditional because I havent
had a normal amp for about 17 years. Very early on I decided to go
all digital as it was far more flexible and less expensive than armfuls
of stomp boxes. I have owned multi-FX units by Yamaha, Zoom, TC Electronics,
SansAmp, and in 2003 bought the Line 6 Vetta head after asking Michael
Romeo (Symphony X) about it after their Seattle show. I was pretty
satisfied with that amp for a few years. You are hearing it on five
of the tracks on Across The Galaxy. I did have to multi-mic
it through my Bogner speakers to get the sound I was after. In 2009
I bought the Fractal Audio Axe-Fx Ultra, which has been my main rig
ever since. The majority of the disc was recorded with that. No mics,
no guitar speaker cabinets. Its all virtual. My best gear purchase
ever, truly. I cant see ever wanting a non-digital amp now.
Sounds and feels totally authentic to me.
Matching amps with guitarssince I only ever had one amp
at a time, that wasnt an issue. I did sometimes create specific
patches for songs using the virtual amps contained in the Vetta and
Ultra. On both of these units you have the capability to use 2 amp
models at once, which I almost always take advantage of. Since these
are virtual amps, I wont go into detail on which I use for what.
Anyone whos interested can contact me for more info.
For other effects on the CD, I used compression, delay, reverb, chorus,
stereo expansion, tube plug-ins and a very subtle harmonizer on one
song. I normally record all my harmonies on separate tracks and play
mwe3: What do you look for in a guitar and what advances in rock guitar
technology most interest you as a working musician these days? What
do you think about the fascination with collectible vintage guitars
and if you could have one guitar, new or vintage, what would it be
To me, a guitar must be great to look at and feel nice to hold, but
how it plays is the most important aspect of all. However, almost
any guitar can be made to play amazingly for around $300 by taking
it to our local pro Seattle guitar setup shop (Mike Lull Guitar Works).
The sound of a guitar can also be upgraded by changing pickups. I
never keep stock pickups in any guitar. The magnitude of sound improvement
by switching pickups is dependent on the quality of the wood though.
Some things I stay away from are locked bridges and smaller scale
length necks like Gibson and Peavey make. It gets too cramped up on
the highest frets, even for my small fingers.
Newer stuff thats coolsomeday I should try a roasted neck.
They are supposed keep their neck tension a lot more constant during
the temperature changes, meaning they stay in tune better. Vintage
gear doesnt interest me other than looking at it and thinking
it looks cool. I wouldnt want to plug in. Im a product
of the digital age! I need all my limitless effects at my fingertips
at all times. I dont think recorded guitars sounded all that
great anyway until Boston and Van Halen came out in the late 70s.
If I could have one guitar...well, I already have my dream guitar,
the McNaught. It really was, for me, the guitar to end all guitars.
Id someday like to play my buddy Jaegers guitar (a custom
Suhr) and see how that stacks up. I also want to buy a composite acoustic
guitar from Composite Acoustics. Those are completely amazing sounding.
What new and exciting directions are you planning to take in the future
both as a guitarist, performer and a composer?
BH: Im starting a vocal progressive metal
project as we speak. How progressive it will be remains to be seen.
Melody and vocal harmonies will be the main focus. We currently have
a full band, but still want to add a keyboardist. We will be writing
and recording simultaneously, then start to gig and label-shop afterward.
I also may try to write more classical guitar pieces, flat picked,
since Farewell To The King had such a phenomenal response.
I am not confident in my jazz abilities so Ill probably continue
to stay away from that. Its been too long since my jazz improv
days and I never was a great jazz player. Its too cerebral for
Thanks to Brian Hunsaker @ www.brianhunsaker.net