In the circus world of guitar playing, the art of shred guitar occupies the role of sideshow attraction – other guitarists frequently look upon these light speed virtuosos and murmur, “How do they do that?” while trying to decipher patterns on the fretboard. It takes a true daredevil attitude to continually push the limits of a centuries-old instrument, and Rusty Cooley has found himself at the forefront of shred experimentation. Teaching the techniques to area students in Houston and participating in Troy Grady’s documentary, Cracking the Code: The Secrets of Shred Guitar, which attempted to break down the conventions of shredding through the use of super slow motion cameras, Rusty could be considered a mainstream academic on the subject.
All Star Guitar Night: Rusty Cooley

Of course, it’s not just a flurry of notes – there’s music to be made. Named one of the ten fastest shredders of all time byGuitar Onemagazine, he navigates his signature seven string Dean with a combination of breakneck speed and pure bravado, both solo and with his band, Outworld. We talked with Rusty about how he keeps on top of his game.

I understand that you only play seven string guitars. What brought about that preference?

The low string gives me extra range. I’m able to do things that you can’t do on a six string guitar without doing some down tuning, and of course, when you tune lower you lose the upper register.

What’s the gauge of the lowest string?

I use a .058 for my B string and the rest are just your standard 9 gauge set. The reason I use such a heavy B string is that it actually adds back tension. I tune down a half-step, so having an extra-heavy B string kind of pulls it back up. I’m always fighting between wanting to have heavier strings and not.

Are things going well with your band, Outworld?

Yeah, as a matter of fact, we just finished up recording a demo and we’re shopping it around right now. We’ve gotten some interest from a couple of cool labels right now – hopefully we can secure things soon.

Any names you can throw out or is everything still in the preliminary stages?

I don’t want to jinx myself! But we’ve got most of the material done and we sent out a four song demo. We have some good people backing us up – Michael Amott from Arch Enemy, Jeff Loomis from Nevermore, Karl Sanders from Nile, Chris Storey from All Shall Perish and John Petrucci are all pushing it to their labels, so you can do your homework and figure it out! [laughs]

You’re still teaching in Texas, right? What do you enjoy about that?

I enjoy playing guitar and passing it on. One of my biggest influences, Randy Rhoads, was a teacher and when I was a kid, I pretty much did anything Randy did. I got started teaching young – it beat the hell out of flipping burgers, and it still beats flipping burgers, you know?

All Star Guitar Night: Rusty Cooley