Ethan Brosh is a guitarist known for making things happen. He's gone from an eleven year old guitar student in Israel to opening for Jake E. Lee's triumphant return to his hometown of San Diego, and this Spring he'll be releasing his second full length CD, Live The Dream, on Carmine Appice's new Rocker Records label. You don't pull off things like this without a full tilt effort, and it's a steely determination that seems to keep Brosh in focus and on point.
Coming off an impressive summer tour opening shows for Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Ethan is primed to enter 2014 with a full head of steam, and heading for the next level. He's decreasing the number of acts he's been playing with to focus on his solo career, and from the sound of the new record, that's a great idea. I had a chance to spend some quality time with Brosh in San Diego before the Red Dragon Cartel show, and we had a great talk about how he sees things, and where he'd like to go.
First off, I was curious as to how someone who's not on tour captures such a high profile opening slot:
Ethan Brosh: "This came about because I'm starting to get to know some people in the music business.
"The more shows you do, the more you're on the road, the more people you meet. I met this promoter that is a guy that loves guitar players and he booked Jake E. Lee at this club, Brick by Brick in San Diego. So I had talked to him about it already, back on the Yngwie tour when he came to the show we did here in San Diego at the House of Blues. We already discussed it back then, so it was an idea that had been around for 6, or 7 months now.
"I've waited so many years to see Jake play live, and the first time I'm getting to see Jake play is when I get to open, so I'm very honored!"
I asked if his new album, Live The Dream, had gotten a release date, and how it felt to be in a music business so different than that of the past:
Ethan Brosh: "It will be released March 4th if everything goes as planned.
"Well, my experience I guess is a little bit different from the previous generation, because they had it really good and I guess now they have to accept that it's not as good as it used to be. For me, I didn't get that privilege of being there back then. So, whatever I get, I am grateful for what I have, but at the same time I keep hearing stories about how good it was. Seeing the live footage and the records, and knowing what really went down it's hard to accept, but I'm trying my best, and I try to stay busy all the time. I'm going to try and make the best of it. I mean, what's the alternative?"Still the progress Ethan has made has been impressive, including a stint with Angels of Babylon, a project that included Megadeth bassist Dave Ellefson, and ex-Manowar drummer Rhino:
Ethan Brosh: "Ah, this goes back a few years, even to My Space, where I happened to run into Rhino, the former drummer of Manowar and he knew Dave Ellefson, and we started this project where we had a couple of records and I only played lead guitar on that record and some nylon string guitars. I recently just left that project to focus on my own thing.
"Even one band is too much to handle already. I always try to decide what to do - it's the dilemma of being in just one band or being in four. I want to stay busy and do a lot of things, I don't want to say no, because there are a lot of different things that you like, but at the same time maybe you should put all of your time into one band and really make it successful.
"It's hard to make these decisions."
One thing that separates Brosh from the herd is his ability to compose instrumentals that actually sound like songs. He's obviously a song writer - there's a ton of melody in his music, and his compositional skills are exceptional:
Ethan Brosh: "I appreciate you noticing that. That's the one thing that I always give all the attention to.
"Well, first of all, it was the most important thing for me. So, when you just pay all of your attention to something like that and you find, you start finding the solutions. You find the tools to make it happen. I listened to a lot of songs - I approach instrumental tunes as songs, and I need to have different sections and those sections have to sound like... they have to have a melody. It has to have a verse, a chorus, and a bridge, and all those things. After years of listening, and trying to experiment with writing, I'll just play guitar and something will come up and I'll be like, 'All right (snap), that's the magic, right there.' I figured out a melody that's really good, now, a lot of theory comes into play and now I need a different section, something that will still sound like it's the same song, but will provide a contrast to what I just came up with.
"I don't approach it from a guitar stand point as far as like licks - I don't base a tune as, 'Alright, this is a shred lick, and I'm just going to write a whole tune around it.' I just think about it, like, 'Alright, this is the verse, this is the chorus,' and I try to be as melodic as possible and the other thing is that I try to keep the tunes themselves very different from one another. Because, with instrumental music, the worst thing you can do is bore the listener out of their mind. So you have to keep it very different in terms of different songs, different tones - all kinds of stuff.
"In Berklee, actually, my major was songwriting. I started with classical guitar, but I got my electric guitar early on, too - I was into metal ever since I heard Iron Maiden - I think I was 11 years old - once that happened it was basically just trying to be the best guitar player I could ever be, and when I found out about Berklee - I always wanted to move to the United States. So, Berklee was a good excuse to have something to do and to move here. But I loved Berklee."
How did you grow as a musician and a person at Berklee?:
Ethan Brosh: "It was amazing. I feel like I really moved to the United States once I graduated Berklee. Because Berklee was so much a bubble, I moved here, and I went into Berklee which is isolated in that environment. Once I graduated from Berklee, then I realized where I really was. Berklee is a place like no other, because you have 4,000 musicians and most of them are very good.
"All the teachers are great musicians, most of the students are great musicians, so just being in that environment it breeds music - you can't really put your finger on it, like what really happened, or how it helped you. Just being there - it's funny, I go back in the summer, now I teach there in summers, and I need it to stay sane musically. You deal with shows, you deal with the music business, with bands, it's not the most musical thing.
"Me going back to Berklee and just seeing people who don't give a damn about the music business, just focusing on music and I love going back there. It makes me want to practice and play guitar."
I wondered just how, or even if a metalhead was accepted at Berklee:
Ethan Brosh: "It was accepted - I was definitely a minority, but people appreciated it. It was good.
"Plus, I was doing a songwriting major which is full of girls with acoustic guitars and just playing 4 chords, so I was very different in those classes."
Brosh's sound is unabashedly a modern take on '80s metal sounds. I asked about his early influences:
Ethan Brosh: "Absolutely Iron Maiden had a huge impact on me - the albums, the songs are so great. Their classic albums are untouchable. Adrian Smith is such a good guitar player, and the writing of Steve Harris - all of them are just amazing. Later on I started finding all the Shrapnel guys then, all the guitar players like Yngwie Malmsteen - which I try very hard not to rip him off or play like him, because I think we have enough guys who do that. But the thing is, Yngwie is a great songwriter and he never gets credit for that, and that's just wrong. And then, of course, Jake E. Lee once I saw the video for Bark at the Moon, that was it for me.
"I love Nuno, very much, I love Greg Howe, and of course, George Lynch, and there's so many others. Jason Becker, Paul Gilbert, Andy Timmons, Steve Stevens, there's just so many of them. Nowadays, I really dig Tommy Emmanuel, he's just so good, it's not even funny. I listen to a bunch of flamenco too - Paco DeLucia, Vincente Amigo, just ridiculous players."
Brosh got some serious experience on the road this summer. I asked how it was to open twenty five shows for Yngwie Malmsteen:
Ethan Brosh: "That tour was intense in every possible way. It was 14,000 miles - let's just start with that, that we had to drive. It was just getting there - Yngwie's an intense person. I understand why he is the way he is in those venues. I tried to stay out of his way, and he was very nice to me, every interaction that I had with him. Obviously, in what he does, he is the absolute best.
"The tour itself for me was a blast. It was a really incredible experience. The shows, they were all good. The audiences were amazing. I was very worried about that going in - if people were just going to see me as just another guy, some shredder - and, 'When's Yngwie coming on'. I thought it was going to be a crowd of guitar players that were not going to like me, necessarily. Plus, the stress of opening for Yngwie, it was a lot of pressure there. Plus, I put the whole tour together myself - I just found out about it 2 months before we left, and I didn't really have any time to play, or practice before that. After the first night I was thrilled, because it went so well."I wondered if perhaps not practicing properly before the tour had effected him a bit:
Ethan Brosh: "It was just stressful - once I was on stage, it was fine. Then again, you just play one set, and then you focus on getting to the next city. I don't even really consider that really playing - it's just the live experience, and surviving on stage. It's not really something that helps you get better, your actual playing.
"It was a really, really good test for myself because think about it - I was driving for 10 hours, not getting very much sleep, everyone being pissed off at me because I was the boss. I get to the venue, and Yngwie might have done his sound check late, so I get pressured by the venue to get my shit on stage, and everything is like - it's just a nightmare. Then I have to jump on stage without warming up, no sound check, no nothing, and try to win over those people who came to see Yngwie - so there's a lot of pressure there! If I could do that - and I did it 25 times, after that I was like, 'If I can do that, I can jump on any stage.'
"The best thing about being on tour - after 1 night, then it's fine, you just don't care anymore - you go out there. But tonight for example, I feel nervous! I just got here, I didn't get a lot of sleep, I'm out of my comfort zone, I brought a few pedals that I could get on the plane and I hope everything's going to be OK, but I'm a little nervous!"
I relate that there may be less pressure on him this evening than he thinks - Jake E. Lee was dealing with a firestorm of controversy over his band's first show in Hollywood, and some had even wondered if there would be a second show:
Ethan Brosh: "I hope, I listened to them during sound check and they sounded good - they're like four rockers who can really play. Sick drummer, sick bass player, the singer can really sing - I don't know what happened the other night, but he can really sing and Jake is Jake! He's still got it! I try to ignore what reviews say, or whatever - I just saw it - it's awesome."
Switching the conversation over to gear related matters, I ask how he had happened upon his long forgotten ADA MP-1 preamps:
Ethan Brosh: "That's because a lot of my favorite players were using them. I think that's even back to Israel, I think. I bought it on eBay and got it shipped over.
"I barely even knew how to use it. I didn't really have a good power amp, or anything like that, so it didn't sound as good as it should have, but I have 3 of them and it's a brilliant preamp. It has such a cool, compressed, clean channel and it's such an evil distortion - it's perfect for 80's metal, and it's midi-controllable. They got it right with this pre-amp.
"But now, I play the ISP Theta pre-amp, and I actually like it even more! Buck Waller from ISP Technologies used to be - he started Rocktron, owned it for 20 years, then he started ISP. It's more of a boutique kind of company. They do the Decimator which is the noise reduction unit that's in everyones rig now.
"He's a genius, so the Theta preamp - they have the head version, the rack mount version, and now the pedal version, and they all sound the same as the head.
"That's what I'm using tonight! I'm using this tiny little power amp called The Stealth, and that's what I brought with me. In my carry on - I got this power amp, this preamp pedal, and I know that I will plug into it, and it will sound exactly like what it sounded like in my home studio.
"I can get my tone in two seconds. And, it sounds huge! It's amazing!
"It's solid state, and some people won't accept it because to some people everything has to be tubes, but honestly? It sounds so good! And who said things always have to be the same?
"Check out Iron Maiden's Somewhere In Time, Seventh Son, all those recordings that have a very different tone, that sounds cool!
"It's solid state. And, it sounds different from everyone else, which is cool. It's a mystery.... 'How do you get that tone?' It's warm, but in a different way. Nothing against tubes, I like them, too - but I like a lot of things. Different tones are good for different things."
Even in his choice of axes, Brosh is decidedly retro in his weapons of choice, choosing locking terms, and hum bucker loaded Strat-types:
Ethan Brosh: "Tonight I'm going to be using my Fender HM Strat, which are very good guitars. I love Strats, but maybe Strats sometimes don't have Kahlers or Floyd Roses or whatever, but again - even with guitars I like a lot of different things and there's no perfect guitar.
"Different guitars sound very different for different situations. Charvel, Jackson, whatever. I'm going to meet up with Jeff Leigh who is a local guy here, who's going to build me a guitar soon, a custom guitar. He seems to be a very good guitar builder, so we'll see how that one comes out."
Brosh has made it a point to employee some of the finest sonic sculptors from the time when hard rock ruled the airwaves, such as producers Max Norman, Chris Tsangarides, and the master of mastering engineers, Bob Ludwig:
Ethan Brosh: "What made me decide to do it was the fact that I just love good production on records.
"I absolutely love that. That's why I have all these pre-amps, I have all these guitars and that's why I try to go all out with these records and I figured that this is a sound that a lot of engineers claim they can do. 'Can you do 80's metal rock?' 'Oh yeah, I can do it in the mix easily', but it's not that easy, it really is not.
"So, I looked up the guys who made my favorite sounding records and I managed to find them and they were nice enough to understand that I was just starting out and they dug the music - both Tsangarides and Max Norman, and they both became very good friends, two great guys. Max Norman - I actually talked him into coming out of retirement after 20 years. He'd been out of the business. I went to his studio in Stanford, Connecticut and spent a whole week there with a big 48 channel SSL board and we did the mix the right way.
"For the new album, I had Bob Ludwig master it. He is the absolute best mastering engineer of all time. Listening to the record on his speakers - his speakers are $90,000. It was the best listening environment I've ever been in. He lives just a few hours away from me in Portland, Maine, and Max came with me - we went up there and the whole mastering side of things was incredible."
True enough - about 50 CDs cross my desk a week, and it's very rare that one sounds as good as Brosh's latest:
Ethan Brosh: "Thank you so much for saying that. The record's not out yet and not many people have it and I haven't gotten too much feedback about it, but I tried so hard to make it sound good.
"It's really, really important for me. I don't know what else I could have actually done to make it any better, because I mean, I tracked the drums to tape in a really good studio, then dumped it into ProTools. I took my time recording the guitars and I have the best guitar equipment in the world in my house, so the guitars came out pretty good I think, and the bass too.
"Then I mixed it with Max Norman on an SSL board, we took our time with that, then took it to Bob Ludwig. What else can you do to an album?"
Ethan's first album, Out Of Oblivion, featured cameos by hot shot guitarists the likes of George Lynch, Greg Howe, and Joe Stump, but for Live The Dream, he eschewed any help. I asked if this was intentional this time around:
Ethan Brosh: "Well, the fact that a couple of guys I wanted, I couldn't really figure it out, but since then I have a closer contact to them, so hopefully on the next record. I don't want to mention any names... especially if things don't end up happening.
"A lot of things happen, there's so much talk about stuff in the music business - that's why I didn't really mention anything about this show tonight because I knew it was a possibility 6 months ago, but until it really happens... You know, I was supposed to open for Aerosmith about a month ago and it was in an arena in Mexico City in front of 22,000 people and I had 10 flights booked. 3 days before the show there was some kind of 'promoter conflict'. God knows what happened there, we just got taken off the bill.
"We had worked on it for 4 months and promoted it as much as we could, then to have to go out there like a phony and say 'We're not doing it'. The guy that represent us promised us that he'd put us in something else that will be really good, so hopefully in the near future, something really big will happen!"
Out Of Oblivion was released on Magna Carta Records, but there's new label involvement this time around:
Ethan Brosh: "You know, I'm looking at a picture here of Carmine Appice - he's starting a new label, Rocket Records, and I'm just about to sign a contract with them and it looks like they're going to release the album."
I mentioned that I had been consulted by a friend close to Appice concerning the lineup for his new band with Joe Lynn Turner, Tony Franklin, and Jeff Watson earlier in the year - a band called, Legacy X:
Ethan Brosh: "Wow, no way! What a killer line up that is!
"I actually have talked to his partner. I haven't actually met with him, but just from seeing him and listening to his interviews, he sounds like a great guy. I'm very excited to finally release this record."
I wrapped things up by asking Brosh if he was looking to partner with some hot lead singer from one of his favorite '80s bands:
Ethan Brosh: "Not necessarily to work with a singer, but to be the guitar player in a band."I said that I thought that his writing is special enough for such a project, and that where many bands fell short was in the writing department when replacing original guitarists:
Ethan Brosh: "I appreciate you saying that.
"You know Ozzy... I think he should have never fired Jake E. Lee. Here Jake E. Lee is going to be on stage pretty soon and I'm excited about that. Jake should always have been with Ozzy, and Ozzy should take Jake back, but I think that if Jake's not playing there then I should play with Ozzy. Y'know?
"Who knows what's going to happen, but I think I could really pick it up where Jake left, and hopefully do it justice - those things are like a 1 in a million shot, but it doesn't have to be Ozzy. There are so many bands that I like. Of course, I don't want to take anyone's job. If something opens up, Whitesnake, Megadeth, who knows?"
Who knows, indeed. One thing I do know is that any band would do well to hire Ethan Brosh as their guitarist/writer. Either way, the kid's got a helluva future ahead of him.