The torch has been passed.
As figurative as this expression may be, it succinctly sums up the elite status of one worthy and capable young lion, Canadian guitar marvel Dave Martone, who’s grabbed hold of the flame and is set to blaze a new trail in his field.
Martone’s scorching live performances and those on his all-instrumental Magna Carta debut, Clean, have generated enough heat and light to sear a hole into our psyches, proving that the future of instrumental guitar music is certainly in hot and eager hands.
Largely influenced by San Francisco-based guitar demigod Joe Satriani and six-string trickster Steve Vai (Zappa, David Lee Roth), Martone pelts us with a plethora of exceedingly fast riffs while drilling us with copious amounts of metallic overdrive.
Yet, the aforementioned guitar gods know well that finger velocity and terminal technicality might get the adrenaline pumping in countless speed junkies, but aren’t always the best ways to win the hearts and minds of serious guitar geeks and music freaks. Yes, Martone can easily beat us about the head with insane finger tapping and rifle-action 64th notes. But it’s the emotional depth of many of his gentle, jazzy-blues instrumentals, not (as the song says) the flash that really, really kicks ’em in the …
“There will always be someone faster than you,” says Martone. “It’s like Joe Satriani once told me, ‘Dave, technique can be mapped and charted.’ Melody is what music is supposed to be about.”
Since releasing Clean in 2008, the affable and gregarious Martone has garnered accolades up the wazoo from numerous music publications. He’s wowed enthusiastic audiences across the globe with his obvious passion, superior technical ability and animated stage presence, and was handpicked to be the opening act for Joe Satriani’s 2010/2011 Canadian tour, a tour that saw Martone receive an unprecedented number of standing ovations.
Martone’s has also been credited with authoring an innovative technique that Guitar Player magazine appropriately dubbed “hair-tie harmonics.” “I know that people use hair ties to mute the strings of the guitar,” admits Martone, who applies the technique in the tune, “The Goodie Squiggee Song”, from Clean. “But I started to use it on the seventh fret of the guitar, and this allows me to simultaneously achieve harmonics and play fretted notes on the neck to receive two very distinct sounds in a single performance without overdubbing.”
A native of Beamsville, Ontario Canada, in the Niagara Peninsula, Martone attended Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music before striking out on his own -- one man with six strings against the world. Soon after, Martone began his relentless search for capturing the perfect tone – whether it’s something akin to the meditative sound of chanting monks or the apocalyptic crashing and creaking noises of a collapsing expansion bridge – proves that he’s a master technician with an extraordinary ear for the dreamy and the diabolical.
“Using certain guitar tones is like painting a picture with different colored paints,” says Martone, who often detunes the guitar to fit the needs of a song. “Even if the performance is great, it doesn’t matter to me. The tone has to fit.”
Over the last decade, Martone has offered the world a multitude of guitar voices on several independent instrumental guitar records, including A Demon’s Dream, Shut Up ‘n’ Listen and When the Aliens Come for labels such as Lion Music and Guitar Nine Records. Martone eventually inked a deal with Magna Carta Records and emerged with the critically lauded Clean, a record that marks a new beginning in Martone’s life.
“The title ‘Clean’ represents the culmination of experiences I had in my life at the time the record was being made,” says Martone. “On the personal side, I ended a nine-year relationship and wanted to clean myself up physically, mentally and emotionally. Musically, my approach to writing and recording these songs was a bit more ‘clean’ than it was in the past. I wanted to try something new, have a fresh start, by sidestepping the dirtier, more direct, type of recordings I’d done on my earlier CDs and present something a bit earthier and more natural.”
Featuring drummer Daniel Adair (3 Doors Down, Nickleback) and bassist David Spidel (Bo Bice), as well as special guests, guitarists Joe Satriani, Jennifer Batten (Michael Jackson) and Greg Howe (Justin Timberlake), and bassists Billy Sheehan and Ric Fierabracci (Dave Weckl, Yanni), Clean is a rare achievement, indeed.
“I remember playing back a song like ‘Nail Grinder’, sitting there, listening to it and thinking, That’s Joe Satriani on my record,” says Martone. “That was pretty unreal.”
Martone has since shared the stage and worked with a variety of talents, from Yngwie Malmsteen to Deep Purple’s Steve Morse, and appeared on Magna Carta compilations, such as the Rush tribute album New World Man (check out the title track and crunch-ified version of “Force Ten”); Guitars That Ate My Brain and Prog Around the World.
Like so many of his idols, Martone composes a diversity of songs while remaining true to his core values as an artist: playing instrumental guitar music for the masses.
“It takes commitment and a little bit of luck to establish a career in this musical vein,” says Martone. “Anyone who plays instrumental guitar music is doing it for the love of the music.”
Yes, indeed. From where we’re standing, it appears that the torch has been securely passed. Keep it burning brightly, Dave …