Interview with metal guitarist The Henry Maneuver

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(Hey guys! Here is an interview with a really talented guitarist in the rock/metal scene of the US. I hope you enjoy the conversation!-Derek)

Derek Kortepeter: So tell me how you got into music and how you came to realize that it was what you wanted to do with your life?

TheHenryManeuver: I grew up in a pretty musically inclined family. My aunt was a classically educated pianist, and both of my parents also had studied classical piano, so music was constantly being played in the house, and when I was 5-ish, it was understood that I would begin piano lessons with my aunt just like my sister did. My dad was in a rock band when he was younger, so naturally, whenever Led Zeppelin would come on the radio while we’d be in the car, he would crank it, and I’d notice that he’d get goose bumps remembering those days, and I thought to myself, “I WANT THAT!” Then, as I got older, I became obsessed with rock music, and the deal was if I got good grades and kept at the piano, my parents would get me a guitar, so that’s exactly what I did! Some people want crack. Some people want more cowbell, and I just want to make loud noises, preferably in a way that also pleases others.

DK: Who are your influences, and how have they affected your guitar playing and songwriting?

THM: Everything I listen to has had a big role in shaping the way that I play/write, music ranging from ABBA to Lady Gaga/Meshuggah mash-ups.   The first guitar player who really blew my skirt up, figuratively speaking – I’m more of a skinny jeans kinda guy, was Yngwie Malmsteen. There’s something about playing unnecessarily fast with a neo-classical undertone that I find intoxicating, like a Lzzy Hale Capri Sun I-V, which is why I think I have a tendency to play harmonic minor licks for no apparent reason.

I also really admire artists like Led Zeppelin, Mozart, and City of Evil era Avenged Sevenfold who are able to write riffs /melodic ideas that evolve over the course of a song naturally and feel wholesome by the time you get to the end of a piece or album. The rise and fall is perfect. It’s definitely something I aspire to do, although rarely accomplish, if ever, but it’s a lifetime goal.

DK: When you go to write music, is it spontaneous or do you have a mental sketch of what you want beforehand?

THM: When I write for someone else or co-write a song, there’s usually a vision for what the song is supposed to accomplish and/or sound like. Vocal melodies, for example, will revolve around what makes the vocalist most comfortable for his/her register and style.

BUT… when I write as myself, The Henry Maneuver, it’s pretty spontaneous. These are the songs where I can just write and experiment with literally whatever comes to mind. The only parameters that I usually give myself are general instrumentation that I want to use.   The music theory sometimes is very loosely followed, just to see what happens. I’d say a majority of THM material never gets past my personal recording computer, and I don’t let anyone listen to it, except maybe my dad.  Most of the time it’s just a galactic train wreck in the form of 0s and 1s that will forever be trapped in the ether that is my hard drive (I just wanted to use the word ‘ether.’ I’m pretty sure it doesn’t apply in this situation. #yolo)

DK: I’ve seen quite a few of your Youtube videos and I can tell that you have a great sense of humor. A lot of rock guitarists in the instrumental genre tend to take themselves way too seriously, so I find this refreshing. Was it pretty natural for you to decide to inject humor into your videos?

THM: I think it started out as a self-defense mechanism, especially when I was younger, because how do you make fun of someone who is already making fun of his/her? At least … I like to pretend that’s true. I also in general don’t take things “seriously,” whatever “seriously” means. I just don’t see a point. Taking things “seriously” to me feels like you’re putting invisible chains on how you’re supposed to treat a situation, and it feels very oppressive and unnatural to me. I hope someone farts at my funeral and takes goofy pictures with my dead body because life was too serious while I was participating. I feel as though life is worth enjoying and having a good time ‘cause like the most terrifying roller coaster you’ve ever been on, it’s going to be over in a second.

DK: You mention at Johns Hopkins that you got made fun of for wearing black fingernail polish, was the school not really accepting of metal musicians?

THM: Nah, I don’t think it’s that. I think it was just the fact that a guy was walking around campus wearing black nail polish for seemingly no reason. Once people knew it was ‘cause I played metal and thought nail polish was a cool accessory, they would be like “Oh … okay. What are you doing here then??” I … still don’t really know the answer to that question, and by “here,” I mean Earth. No clue. Place is weird. Gravity and social security numbers like … wtf??

DK: You are now a solo artist, but were the lead guitarist for the east coast band Rest Among Ruins. Was the split amicable? Do they support your solo work?

THM: Um … that’s a loaded question. Suffice it to say that I think everyone wishes the best for everyone now, but at one point, it wasn’t an ideal situation. There was definitely miscommunication, and if I could go back in time, there are things I would have said or done differently, but it just may have turned out for the best for everyone. Time will tell. I haven’t seen any of the guys in person for several years, but I’m sure if we were all in the same place at the same time, we could grab some eats from Jersey Mike’s or Royal Farms and share a laugh.

DK: I notice that you are a multi-instrumentalist, do you find that noodling around on different instruments gives you more ideas from different areas as opposed to one specific genre (i.e. instrumental rock)?

THM: Yeah. For sure. Sometimes when I try to work on one instrument, I hit a dead end or a wall in thinking, and jumping behind the piano, if I’ve been harping on the guitar for a while, really helps me gather my thoughts and continue. Also, the piano is awesome because it’s like a chart of what you’re doing. The sharps and flats are straight up a different color. Pretty genius guy, that Bartolomeo Cristofori.

DK: You are a featured artist for PRS guitars and your main axe is a PRS 20th Anniversary Custom 24, which is pretty damn cool. As a guitarist I have picked up a PRS a few times and found the guitars to be really comfortable to play. What draws you to them, and how did you get to be featured on their website?

THM: I’ve never really known a whole lot about gear. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of and am trying to learn more and more as time goes on, but especially when I was starting guitar, I didn’t have a clue as to what’s what. I come from a line of piano players, so it was a new frontier. I would go to Guitar Center, not knowing anything about guitars, and just pick them up and try them. It wasn’t until I had been playing guitar for several years that I ever even touched a PRS because as you very well know, they’re usually very high up on the wall, and I’m a fairly short guy. My pastor growing up, Lenny Stadler, who not only was an incredible orator and community leader, played bass, and I got to jam with him once when I was in high school, and after I kind of complained how the cutaways of my guitar made it hard for me to play near the higher frets, he told me to check out PRS guitars, so I finally grew a pair and asked one of the Guitar Center guys to let me try out one of their Custom 24s. After he gave me this “you break it, you buy it” speech, I sat down with it and didn’t want to move. It felt like a tuxedo that was as comfortable as sweat pants (That analogy is inspired by a recent “New Girl” episode). It was like using the bathroom at your house after you’ve been away for years in deep space, and you have issues relieving yourself in zero gravity. Nailed it.

As far as getting onto their site goes, long story short, someone at the factory hooked me up with Grover (RIP) who was working Artist Relations at PRS at the time, and he basically gave my music a shot for no reason, just being charitable. He got the thumbs up from Mr. Paul Reed Smith himself to put me up on the site after they saw my “Butt Snuffs” video, which cracks me up, and that’s that. I’ll never forget him.

 DK: Are you currently playing live shows with a band?

THM: Yes and no. Not really. I sometimes participate with groups in my area just for fun, but it’s not a touring gig or anything.

DK: What projects do you have currently in the works musically?

THM: Some are secrets but will hopefully be getting hashed out in the near future, BUT a band I’ve been working with since last year is starting to near the finish line with some jams. The band is called, “The Point Past Insanity.” They are from Des Moines, Iowa, and their sound falls under the genre of “metalcore,” but it’s shaping out to be pretty unique, in my opinion. Some of the new songs will be dropping within the next couple of weeks/months, and I even had the opportunity to do some vocals on it. Ayeeee.

 DK: What do you want people to take away from your music as an overall experience?

THM: Ideally, I’d like the music to be a moment in time where people can remove themselves from any problems that they’re having and exist as if none of that is happening, step into a world with only happy moments or a state of mind where the listener can recreate their own persona into whatever they want. The Matrix tends to be pretty rough place, and I’d like to help people escape.

 DK: Is there anything else you would like to say before this interview concludes?

THM: Please send me good vibes, and I’ll try to send them out too.

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