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Articles Home » Music Talk » OG Shredder Interview with Guitarist David T. Chastain By Thomas Amoriello Jr.
OG Shredder Interview with Guitarist David T. Chastain By Thomas Amoriello Jr.

OG Shredder

Interview with Guitarist David T. Chastain

By Thomas Amoriello Jr.

Boston Rock Radio




David T. Chastain has been respected in the underground of what is known as "Shred Guitar" since right before the explosion of this genre during the mid to late 1980's.  Shrapnel Records producer Mike Varney recognized his talent and released two of his recordings before many of the legendary names in this field came to light such as Marty Friedman, Paul Gilbert, Ritchie Kotzen, Jason Becker, Tony MacAlpine and more.  David later went on and founded his own label (Leviathan Records) releasing music that he recorded along with a new generation of guitar heroes including Gus G. (ex-Ozzy), Joe Stump (Alcatrazz) and other neoclassical shred guitarists and metal acts.  Although the band that used his last name (Chastain) appeared in many metal magazines and were distributed throughout the world there was not a "breakthrough" single that took the group to the mainstream level.  Having said that, the music stood on its own merit with a high level of musicianship beyond what other groups presented as packaged cookie cutter images created by stylists, use of the same producers, and a generic formula of writing power ballads and other pop oriented anthems for MTV exposure.  Thank you David for this exclusive interview with Boston Rock Radio.


You were a Shrapnel Records artist before Tony MacAlpine, Jason Becker, Greg Howe, Paul Gilbert, Marty Friedman and many of their legendary players.  How exciting it must have been to be an early part of the roster that Mike Varney assembled in the golden age of shred guitar. 

David T Chastain: I was just thrilled to get an album out on a label that wasn't my own! The first CHASTAIN album on Shrapnel Mystery of Illusion has a ton of energy since everyone in the band was so excited to be in a studio recording an album. We all respected Mike and were grateful for the opportunity. Of course the bottom line was Shrapnel was definitely the shred label of the time. 


In this day and age of Pro Tools and other computer software aiding in the recorded performance back then you were working with reel to reel tape including limited access to studio time.  How prepared were you before you entered the studio to make these early records whether you were recording as Chastian (the band), CJSS, or David T. Chastain? 

DTC: We had to be totally prepared as we were usually limited to 100 hours to record and mix an album. Unfortunately we had to take some "tracks" just because we were running out of time, or someone was sick, or in the case of vocalists, their voices just gave out after a lot of hard singing in a short amount of time. Or in my case, the solos were usually last so I had to take a few things I know I could have played better. Luckily as time progressed we had larger budgets. On the Chastain album In Dementia, Kate French, the vocalist, had over 100 hours just to record her vocals. Nowadays with most musicians having some sort of home studio, time isn't a factor to any degree


Were you ever considered or audition for a big name act back in the day such as an Ozzy type situation that just wasn't a right fit at the time or something that you declined for various reasons?

DTC: Nothing "super major." I did have a couple of offers from big name vocalists who were breaking off from their "name band" but I don't really want to reveal who they were as it was kind on the Q.T. on both of our parts. Generally I don't like playing other people's material... so it would be hard for me to join ANY band unless I was really into their music. It seems I can only play my own music and have little interest in playing other people's music. With that said, if Dio would have offered me a chance to at least help write and record an album that would have been a dream come true. I believe I did send in an audition tape for the Iron Maiden slot in 1990 but they called me and told me they already filled it.


You have worked with some great drummers such as Scott Travis (Judas Priest), Fred Coury (Cinderella) and Ken Mary (Alice Cooper).  Do you have something important  to say about working with a solid rhythm section that you feel sometimes goes over looked?

DTC: You are leaving out my current drummer Stian Kristoffersen. Also Larry Howe, Dennis Lesh, Mike Haid, John Luke Hebert and Les Sharp. The bottom line is I have always had excellent drummers in my bands. I guess I am just lucky. I am a little different producer than most. I am always trying to get the drummers to play "more" as opposed "less" in the studio. I have to push them to put in more fills and play solos. In mixing an album the drum sounds makes or breaks the entire mix. Under mixed drums makes an album sound weak. So yes I place a drummer at the top of the list when I go to record an album.


Who were some big name guitarists that you are aware of that cited you as an influence?

DTC: None that I know of! HA! I have had hundreds of guitarists over the years tell me I was a big influence in one way or another but no major stars that I recall. I am not really a social animal. I have never been to a NAMM show or guitar show and I am not the type to hangout backstage at someone else's concert. Let's face it I have a somewhat different style so you would have to be pretty weird to try to emulate it. I have heard other bands' songs that I think has the "Chastain" sound/vibe to it if not a very similar lick. So maybe more influence in the songwriting than the guitar solos... who knows. Someone can be influenced subconsciously by something and never know it. That is one reason I hardly listen to any other metal music. If I listened to 3 hours of Metallica I would pick up and guitar and write very Metallica influenced music even if it isn't a direct rip off. It would sound Metallica. I personally never copied anyone when I was learning. That never interested me. I was at least playing some originals right from the start.


I once read a story in a magazine such as Circus or Hit Parader that stated you were once stuck on a plane for more than 24 hours and did not have access to a guitar and it was the first time in years that you went a day without playing your instrument.  Do you care to fill us in or elaborate on that story?

DTC: I was on the West Coast flying back to Cincinnati and planned on practicing once I arrived home that night. I had not missed a day in something like 19 years where I didn't practice at least one hour. Somewhere over the middle of the country we had to make an unplanned overnight stay due to severe weather conditions. So I was stranded without my guitar at the airport since it was in the baggage hold of the airplane. So that broke the streak.

How is your approach to the guitar different in 2019 as to when you were developing your virtuosic technique in the late 1970's?

DTC: I practice far less lead guitar now days as opposed to the early days. Now when I "practice" guitar I am more in the mindset of composing as opposed to trying to improve technique. At this point, I can record a guitar solo on a song that isn't embarrassing but it is far more difficult to write a good song.


You started Leviathan Records as a vehicle to release your own music as well as by other artists.  In Greg Prato's book, Shredders, The Oral History of Speed Guitar (and more), you state how you were the first label to recognize the talents of future Ozzy and Firewind guitarist Gus G.  What was it about his demo submission that stood out from the hundreds of others you received?

DTC: Actually if memory serves, I believe he was taking lessons from Joe Stump at Berklee in Boston and Joe suggested he send me his demo... so Joe should be given credit for "discovering" Gus. The first thing I noticed was Gus wasn't a mindless shredder. He was a good songwriter and had great vibrato. I can't listen to any guitarist or vocalist who doesn't have a good vibrato. I think we released 4 albums of Gus' early in his career. I actually had to push Gus to play more guitar on the Firewind records. I was the one who "pressured" him into including an instrumental on the Burning Earth album. The track "The Fire and Fury" is still one of his biggest songs. Even to this day I tell him he should release an instrumental album. I certainly respect Gus and what he has done with his career and I am happy to have been a small part of it. 




You were an early pioneer in the guitar instruction VHS department with your Progressive Metal Guitar release from Backstage Pass.  Do you currently teach guitar lessons or do clinics on a regular basis?

DTC: I stopped giving guitar lessons about the same time that video came out. I imagine around the early 90s. When anyone asks about lessons I just tell them to watch the video as that is what I would teach them anyway. Plus they can watch it for free on YouTube and save themselves a bunch of money. I personally never took lessons and I think that is one reason I have a somewhat unique style. It was solely created without outside influence. Lessons and clinics were not things I enjoyed doing back in the old days. I always felt guilty taking people's money for lessons.  


Do you have a latest project that you care to promote? 

DTC: We are currently releasing tons of reissues. It is strange to me that labels still want to reissue those early albums that are over 30 years old. So why go through all of the work and money releasing a new album when in 2020 we have 4 reissues coming out? I still write music nearly every day but it is more out of habit than necessity. I have hundreds of hours of unreleased music gathering dust in the closet. Check out www.leviathanrecords.com/chasdisc.htm as that is a list of my recordings that I at least "claim" to be a part.  




Boston Rock Radio Guest Contributor Thomas Amoriello is a heavy metal guitarist, educator, recording artist and children's picture book author who resides in Lambertville, New Jersey.  You can learn more about Tom at:  https://thomasamoriello.com

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