Solo artist, session and tour guitarist and GIT teacher, Joy speaks openly with Guitarhoo! about his early years, tour experiences, latest release “SinErgy” and more.
December 5, 2003
Guitarhoo!: Where are you from?
Joy Basu: I was born in India. We moved to the US when I was very young. Mostly grew up in Indiana, India and Boston, back and forth.
G!: The following Hindu names have the meaning of “Joy”: Anand (joy/ bliss), Bijoy (full of joy), Harsh (joy), Harshit (joyful), Pramod (joy), Rana (joy/ jewel/ to gaze/ look), Saharsh (with joy), Shahalad (joy), Unmesh (eternal happiness/ joy).
Are any of these your actual birth given name?
JB: I have heard of those. But in my case the name Joy is actually coming from the meaning of to win something over. Means something similar to conquer.
G!: Well that’s interesting because you definitely are getting things done.
What inspired you to play guitar over any other instrument?
JB: Seemed like I could express myself the most on guitar. At that time when I would listen to music the aggression of heavy guitars got my blood pumpin’. I was just in awe of the sound and feel created by rock guitars. I also had a good amount of experience playing air guitar by then.
G!: Haha… Initially were you a schooled player or self taught?
JB: I did take lessons at a local music store. Then I went to Berklee College of Music for a little while and GIT. However, the most training I have had is by doing gigs. I started gigging when I was 13, and was playing in the bar circuit several times a week by the time I was 16. Even now I learn a lot every time I do a show or a new type of session, whether it be playing guitar, programming or producing.
G!: Who were your influences early on?
JB: Early on my favorite guitar players were Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Jason Becker, Yngwie Malmsteen, Randy Rhoads, Neal Schon, and Jake E.Lee.
G!: What is more important to you technique, melody or soul?
JB: Melody and soul by far. Sometimes good technique can be used to create certain moods or feel, that’s cool. But bottom line, if I am not feeling it I don’t care how “good” something is technically from the physical or harmonic aspect. To me music has to create a certain mood, whether it be sadness, aggression, happiness, or even complex emotions.
G!: Which part of your playing came most naturally?
JB: When I started playing I was so obsessed I am not sure what stuff came easily and what I spent extra time working on. I just played all the time and things fell into place.
G!: Which part of playing gave you the most challenges?
JB: Keeping time while the drummer stops and still play to a click which I am not hearing but the drummer is. What a pain but a great way to get better. It woke me up. Made me realize how accurate I need to get my timing if I want to play with the pros.
G!: Do you presently practice much at all?
JB: Very little on my own. I really should cuz there are things I wanna get better at. However, I play guitar a good amount for work and learn new things on guitar for the next job all the time. So when I do have spare time I usually end up writing and recording. Which allows me to work on my ears, production skills, keys, guitars all at the same time, and its creative.
G!: When you improvise a solo do you hear the notes and melodies in your head before you play?
JB: Usually I hear where I wanna go with the solo little before I actually play it.
G!: When you approach a solo what do you see when you look down at your fretboard (besides wood and dots)?
JB: Well if its going well I can go for the sound of where the next note should be. If I have to get analytical cuz I am having an off day or teaching then I look at everything as chord tones, inervalic value (6th, 9th etc.) of the immediate chord.
G!: How did your first pro recording experience fall into place?
JB: I was 16 teaching at a music store. One of my students was a singer songwriter who asked me to play on his demo. That was semi pro, nothing national just local.
G!: Was your first professional music release “Ominous Guitarists From The Uknown” on Shrapnel records?
JB: I think so.
G!: How as that experience?
JB: That was a great experience. I learned a lot from talking to Varney and having him critique my songs day and night. He was a great help.
G!: How did your signing with Bandai Music in Japan come about (which led to your first solo release “Joy Basu”)?
JB: I went through a friend’s management company, they took care of getting the deal. Same as anything else, send out the packages and wait for responses. It took Bandai 6 months to even respond. What was really cool is after all the haggling I signed the papers on my birthday.
G!: Wow, nice bonus! Did the CD do well in Japan?
JB: It did pretty good with sales. It did even better as far as getting into TV shows and radio.
G!: Did you tour in support of the record?
JB: Not actual tours with that stuff, but lotta trade shows like NAMM in CA. Musik Messa in Germany, a trade show in England. Also did a few clinics in the local music schools here.
G!: On “Joy Basu” you display all the classic shred techniques (sweep picking, 2 handed tapping, pick squeels, speed picking), fluently with style and finesse. How much of the soloing was planned verses improvised?
JB: Lotta that stuff was planned. I’d do several takes then start getting the right ideas and relearn how I wanted to hear something and play it over. Some cool things did happen on the fly and I kept them.
G!: Do you prefer keeping a “first take” solo with flaws which has character and/or non repeatable feeling or spending time to perfect what you feel is a suitable performance for a track?
JB: If the 1st take does capture a feel that is irreplaceable then sure keep it with the flaws. Otherwise I’d prefer to recapture the vibe from the 1st take and fix the flaws. I guess it depends on how good character/feel of the 1st take was and what the flaws were. If it was a technical flaw like an open string ringing out or a little sloppiness that could even add to the feel, keep it. If it’s a timing or out of tune thing then do it again.
G!: On the remake of “New Years Day” by U2, on your “Carbon Addict” CD, which effect did you use to create that cool phasing?
JB: I remember the on the double stop bends I used an envelope filter. The rhythm guitars were recorded dry, then they added all the delay and stuff during the mix.
G!: Is this the same effect you used on “Control”, from your “Miki & Joy Basu” CD?
JB: On Miki’s stuff she is playing all the guitars. I am programming/producing and co-writing it. You are right it sounds similar but I actually controlled a wah in a similar fashion to filter build on any give trance song while she played that part. Double tracked it and it came out sounding really big. I dig how heavy that stuff is coming out.
G!: Do you prefer playing with lots of “grease” (effects) on your guitar, or straight out of an amp?
JB: Whatever compliments the big picture.
G!: When you record do you normally put the effects on your guitar “pre-recording” or “post-recording”?
JB: Some stuff pre-recording some after. Envelope filters, wahs, anything that has to be there to start with goes on. Delays, verbs, usually after. However there are times when the delay is essential to the part in which case I may record it on there specially if I am messing with one of the parameters while playing.
G!: In your career so far, you have had the opportunity to record and perform with some major names in popular music. How did you get involved in the touring scene with artists such as Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson and CoCo Lee?
JB: It was not really that different than getting any other local gig. I came out to LA and did a really wide variety of local gigs. Ended up meeting and performing with lot of great musicians. About 5 yrs ago couple of players I had worked with in on diff local jobs (they were already in the loop of big gigs) recommended me for 2 different major gigs. After that everything kept rolling on its own. The gigs are a lot of fun. Most of the musicians on these gigs are really fun to jam with. I also learned a lot and expanded as a player through the whole experience.
Joy with Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Lopez and CoCo Lee.
G!: Touring with J-Lo, Jessica and CoCo, you must have a great view from where you stand on stage. Who has the nicest butt??
JB: LOL! I appreciate everyone’s beauty.
G!: What are some of your more memorable tour experiences?
JB: The satisfaction of playing with a tight band through a great sound system. Playing in front of thousands of screaming fans. You know all the stuff you hear about that goes on while touring, partying etc.. Its all true. I also dig going to different towns and having old friends come out to the shows and hang with them afterwards. Having my parents see me on the big stage while on tour was pretty cool too. I really love the feeling of freedom you get while on tour as well. You just get in a zone of pure fun. Traveling to different countries and eating all sorts of foods. Man, I am hungry, its about time to get myself back on the road.
G!: Hahaha… What do you use for live gear?
JB: ESP electrics and Godin nylon string guitars. Amps I have used Dual Rectifiers, Marshalls and now mostly Line6 stuff. I’ll take a pedalboard filled with goodies if I am not using a line6 amp.
G!: How was the experience performing on National TV (Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, Rosie O Donnell, Good Morning America etc.)?
JB: Awesome. They go by really quick since we are usually only playing between 1-3 songs for those type of things. Leno is really fun, its taped right down the street from my pad and I get to watch it the same night.
G!: What do you find most satisfying touring, writing or recording?
JB: They are all satisfying in their own way. You know I dig the touring. That is on the free from the real world, time to have fun, jam out and get off to the music type fun. Writing and recording is great cuz one gets to be creative. It’s actually more of a peaceful, spiritual and intellectual high.
G!: In the 90’s your recording and playing revolved more around Metal and Industrial Rock music and your current release, “SinErgy” and upcoming “Next Wave”, explores Trance/House, Electronica/Techno. What attracted you and inspired you to make this transition?
JB: I have always liked dance music. Few years ago I started really getting into it. I associate it with 2000 screaming kids at a club having the time of their lives. I started doing the research and found some artists I really enjoyed. The production and the sounds captured my attention. I just started feeling more from the dance/electronic music than anything else. Once I heavily got into recording the stuff, there were new challenges I was faced with. Everything was fresh and new. Its just amazing how creative one can be with electronic music. The synthesis aspect of it is endless.
G!: Buckethead was probably one of the first players to have combined heavy guitars with dance grooves and samples, which was very cool. Although you have some mean shredding guitar on tracks “ReJonmo”, “Phase 4”, and “Discharge”, what I like from your latest release “SinErgy” is the incorporation of “Bollywood” type vibes in songs such as “Unity” and “Angel Heart” (and “Nu Bharat Trance” and “Cosmic Expansion” from “Next Wave”). Did you view this project as a way to explore some of your Indian musical heritage?
JB: Thanx. I have wanted to do that for a while. SinErgy brushed on that vibe a little. Next Wave (the title may change) will be full of that. I may even split Next Wave into 2 separate CDs, one with the Indian influences and one without. I am really getting into incorporating Indian melodies and instruments in my music. I have been playing the sitar parts on my midi guitar, running it through a GR33. The scales are really interesting. Some of the melodies I play and then have a singer come in and re-cut it. You know about Bollywood, I am impressed.
G!: “Cyborg” and “Sector 9” have some very cool guitar effects, what did you use for this?
JB: There are so many effects on those tracks. Again some went on while recording and some afterwards. I remember using a ring modulator, evelope filter, delay with the speed increasing for a similar effect as snare builds, flanges etc. Sometimes I’d run it through several of those effects at the same time then even add a filter or sonic modulator afterwards to really get the right vibe. On Cyborg I also used a baritone guitar for the rhythm parts.
G!: Your Mom performs Indian slide guitars on the track “Unity”. Are there other musicians in the family and was that a big influence on you as a kid?
JB: My Grandfather’s cousin is a professional Indian classical singer. Indirectly he may have influenced me as a kid. I did hear him practice a lot. However, when I was 6 yrs old I could not really appreciate that to its fullest. Now I know how amazing he is.
G!: Indian food rocks! Is it “Chappati and Dal” on Friday nights at the Basu’s home?
JB: LOL! At my parents house I did grow up eating a lot of chicken curry and rice.
G!: Cool! Ask her to throw in some cinnamon sticks it really brings out the flavor.
Did you record “SinErgy” in your own studio?
JB: Yup, that was me learning how to do computer recording.
G!: Tell us about your studio (equipment, software, effects etc.)?
JB: Mac G4 with MOTU hardware. For software I use Digital Performer, Reason, ReCylce, ReBirth and sometimes Peak. Asides form my pedals most of my effects are pluggins. Novation Supernova synth and a MoPhatt sound module. For a controller I use a M-Audio Radium and sometimes my GR-33. Mackie HR-824, and Event PS-5 Monitors.
G!: You are very talented in programming and production. How long did “SinErgy” take to complete?
JB: Thank you. SinErgy took couple of yrs. I was learning how to use just a fraction of the gear listed above at that time. It was a mess, computer crashing, me getting pissed off, “why does this not work”, lol. I was also doing a lot of gigs during that time so there were plenty of weeks I’d get to SinEgry 1 day a week. Then there were months at a time I would be gone. Now I am really comfortable with my studio and I can get a lot of work done really quickly. It has become 2nd nature like playing guitar.
G!: Do you have any rituals you go through before writing and recording or are you more practical in your approach?
JB: I am usually in a creative state of mind so I can get in the studio and go at it. If for whatever reason I am not I will do whatever it takes to get myself there. Sometimes a good workout, maybe a few drinks or just some good ol’ fashioned raunchy @#$ will get me back in the right state of mind.
G!: Haha… Your website states tracks from “SinErgy” have already been licensed to soundtracks. Are you at liberty to disclose which tracks will appear on which films?
JB: One of them was a short martial arts film called “Overman”. The other is an Indo-American film still in the works.
G!: Will you be touring in support of “SinErgy”?
JB: Not just for SinErgy. However I do plan on doing shows once Next Wave is done, at that time I will throw in stuff from SinErgy.
G!: Not only are you busy recording and touring but you are also a teacher at “GIT”. Which course do you teach?
JB: Mostly private lessons. One Rock Improv class. And the funnest thing I do there is my open counseling. It’s a fun jam, over lotta electronic music. Mostly shredders come in and jam to tracks I bring. We all trade licks, jam and just have fun. Sometimes other teachers will come in and trade 8s or whatever.
G!: As a guitar player/musician do you feel knowledge and theory is as important as raw creativity?
JB: Raw creativity comes 1st in my book. However if you want to be a working musician the theory knowledge does help. If you have amazing ears you can get by without having the theory knowledge. By amazing ears I mean hearing a fairly complex song with non diatonic changes and being able to play it back right away.
G!: Do you have more concert tours with other artists lined up in the near future?
JB: Couple of more Jessica Simpson gigs and one Carbon Addict gig coming up. No actual tours are booked at the moment.
G!: What is your dream gig?
JB: I am really looking forward to doing my own shows. As far as playing with others; Britney, BT, Paul Oakenfold, Rob Zombie and of course OZZY.
G!: Which styles of music would you like to explore next?
JB: Get a little deeper into Indian music.
G!: Have you ever thought of the possibities of fusing Cornbread Dixieland Chicken Pickin’ with Molten Metal Lava?
JB: LOL! Hmm have not given that one a shot yet. But hey you may be on to something.
G!: Do you listen to radio much?
JB: Not as much as I should I usually forget to cuz I have a CD changer in the car. But atleast a couple of times a week.
G!: Do you like what you hear?
JB: For the most part I like what I hear. You can play me anything and most likely I will find something I can appreciate and learn from in it. Whether it’s the songwriting, production, vibe etc.
G!: Which era of music have you enjoyed most listening to?
JB: There has been so much stuff I have enjoyed through the years. Before I started playing guitar I loved disco. I was a total metal head through the 80s. I loved all the 80s metal bands and guitar players. That was my life. In the 90s I explored and worked in several styles of music which expanded my playing a lot. I got into the dance electronica stuff about 5 yrs ago and love it the same way I loved metal. I dig other styles too: pop, hip-hop, latin etc.. However I guess I’d have to say at one point 80s metal and now dance/electronica is what I am extremely passionate about.
G!: Do you have any goals you want to persue outside of music?
JB: Asides from regular life goals pretty much all my goals are somewhat music and music business related.
G!: What goes up and never comes down (excluding helium)?
JB: My rates.
G!: Haha, good one! (for anyone scoring at home “AGE” is an alternative answer to that riddle). Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?
JB: Be as open minded to various styles of music as you can. Give new styles several days of listening before you decide weather you like it or not. Even if you don’t like a certain artist, style or whatever, find something you can learn from it. Making the simple things sound really good is where most of the work is at. Be prepared to have a lot of fun.
G!: Joy it has been a Joy. Thanks for sharing and we all look forward to your future projects!
JB: Thank you for the great interview.
Interview © 2003 Guitarhoo!