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All Star Guitar Night: Rusty Cooley


So when did you decide to push the limits of speed and intensity like you’re known for?

When I was growing up, everybody played and played well. I didn’t think about it as something that was unusual. In the midnineties, when I got my first seven string and stopped playing in bands, I thought it was time to go back to the woodshed and work on an instrumental album. There I reinvented my playing.

Prior to that, I did standard shred stuff – note tapping, one finger tapping, basic diatonic legato, and picking and sweeping. When I sat down to work on my technique, I really branched out and started working with all four fingers on my left hand, doing wide pentatonic scales with four notes per string and tapping with two, three or even four fingers. I was listening to guys like Shawn Lane and Allan Holdsworth and really extreme shred guys like Todd Duane, Derek Taylor and Buckethead. That really pushes you to play faster.

I was at sound check for All Star Guitar Night, and I heard you warming up. When you’re up there, are you thinking about what you are doing or do your hands just move?

It depends; I was pretty conscious about it today because I hadn’t played in four days. You come out here and there’s no time to practice, no amps in your room and my guitar’s been sitting in the Dean booth. It takes me out of the comfort zone, not being able to play for that long or practice over the track I’m going to play on. It’s all improvisation, but I still don’t feel like I’m on my toes like I should be.

Do you ever find yourself falling into traps, stale patterns that you return to when you’re running low on creativity?

Absolutely. When I don’t practice enough, I end up feeling kind of stale. When I’m practicing and I’m on top of my game, I can get more creative because my technique is more polished.

Do you have a specific technique to fight off that feeling of staleness?

Yeah, one of the things I do if I feel like I’m not being creative is just buy a new CD, instructional book or DVD – I just start listening again. I can be inspired by something as simple as just learning a new chord. Then I check out the scales I can use with that new chord and listen to the tonality. It can spark a whole new set of ideas.

Whose DVDs are you watching right now?

I don’t know if I’ve gotten any new DVDs lately, but when I go back to the woodshed, I’m definitely getting out my Shawn Lane or Allan Holdsworth stuff.

Do you see your playing, or shredding in general, as an art?

I don’t know if it’s an art. I try not to overanalyze too much – I just pick up and play. As a teacher, I see kids coming in who are so over-analytical that they don’t get anything done. And I have friends that spend all of their time dialing in their amps, and they never get anything done. If you just sit down, practice and play, I find you can be more productive.

Rusty’s ASGN Gearbox
Here’s what Rusty plugged in for his live performance:
Dean Rusty Cooley Signature
Model 7-String
VHT Two/Ninety/Two power amp
Rocktron Prophesy preamp
Diamond Amplification Nitrox
Bogner Uberschall
Radial Switchbone

Rusty Cooley
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