A musician who paints pictures with sound, guitarist Paul Speer was renowned as a pioneer of the New Age music movement of the ‘90s. Having released several albums on the famous instrumental rock fusion record label Miramar back in the ‘90s, Speer has maintained his presence on the guitar front with a number of acclaimed solo albums on his Rainstorm imprint. His 2007 album Oculus was a sonic masterpiece that paired a CD with a DVD featuring breathtaking footage of historic Italy. Back in 2000 Speer made his Hell’s Canyon album with drummer Scott Rockenfield and now at the close of the first decade of the millennium he’s back with his Wonders CD. A collaborative work, the 12 track, 67 minute Wonders continues onward with Speer’s devotion to sonic architecture. The album features Speer in excellent form united with Paul Lawler—a U.K. based multi-instrumentalist (flutes, percussion, keyboards, dudak)—and French vocalist Satine Orient. The sound is mostly instrumental with few Enya-esque cameo vocals from Satine. Some of the tracks are a bit subdued for Speer, who before has fearlessly scaled the sonic stratosphere on earlier albums, yet on balance, there’s enough here to please long time fans and anyone lucky enough to hear Speer’s latest project in the realm of imaginary, rock-based film soundtracks.

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Musical Background

I blame my lifelong love of guitar on a trumpet rented when I was 9 years old. I took a few lessons but never connected with the instrument so, upon returning it to the music store, on my way out I noticed a used 3/4 size Stella selling for $19. I still have that guitar and I am now 56.

By the time I was 11, my two brothers and I had a trio going and played our first paid gig when I was 12. That sealed my fate as a musician! We continued on through high school and later I attended music school at the University of Idaho where I led a 7 piece horn band comprised of other music students.

After leaving school, I ended up in Seattle and toured with nightclub acts for a few years and eventually found myself in Los Angeles in the mid 1970's. Mixing daytime session work with club gigs at night, I expanded my resume to include recording engineer and record producer. I produced my first record in 1978 and have done about 250 albums so far. Moving back to Seattle in 1979, I began accumulating professional recording gear and started a studio. Access to quality equipment spawned my first solo album Collection 983: Spectral Voyages which was released on Catero Records of San Francisco in 1984.

In 1981, pianist David Lanz and I began working together and our efforts resulted in three very successful albums on Narada/EMI between 1985 and 1993. I have also collaborated twice with Scott Rockenfield, drummer for the metal band Queensryche. One of our projects, the video album TeleVoid, was nominated for a Grammy in 1998.

In October of 2006, Memphis became my new home and it is fascinating to live in a place with so much important musical history. Plus, there is a terrific local music community here.

New CD

The new release is called Wonders, as in "Wonders of the World." It is a collection of musical impressions of awe inspiring places like the Petra temple in Jordan, Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, the Ganges River in India, and the mountain Denali in Alaska.

I collaborated with UK musician Paul Lawler and Satine Orient from France, who contributed vocals on two cuts. An interesting aspect of this project is that none of us have ever met in person. We did the entire album by exchanging files over the internet and chatting on Skype.

The guitar style and sound are similar to other albums of mine but, instead of playing my 1990 Charvel 750XL, a 1974 Les Paul Standard was used resulting in a slightly different color. My parts were recorded in my Memphis studio with Pro Tools utilizing the Line 6 Amp Farm plug.

Favorite Guitars

The '74 LP Standard is getting a lot of use these days but I still play the Charvel on occasion and a Larrivee LV-03R for acoustic tracks. Other cool guitars in my collection include a '59 LP Jr, ‘66 335, ‘67 335, ‘76 LP Black Beauty, and a ‘98 L5-CES.

I always record with Amp Farm and do all the effects in Pro Tools though I do use a volume pedal going in sometimes. Mostly, my guitars are strung with Ernie Ball Regular Slinky strings.

Musical Influences

Though I grew up listening to and playing the music of Hendrix, Page, Clapton, and Beck, I feel I am mostly influenced by singers, musicians other than guitarists, and orchestral composers like Igor Stravinsky. If you analyze my style, you'll find much of it to be quite singable as I often take "breaths" like a singer does. As a guitarist however, milestone albums for me include Are You Experienced? and the first Led Zeppelin album.

Upcoming Plans

I've released two albums in the past two years so I'll probably take a break for a while. I keep busy as a producer and am currently doing an album with Will Tucker, a 15 year old blues singer/guitarist. We recorded at Ardent Studios here in Memphis, a studio that has hosted ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Led Zeppelin, and other greats over the years. Good vibes abound in that building! The last tour I did was 15 years ago and I don't have any plans on the table at this time.

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