When you invite a a published novelist to the shredder’s studio expect a narrative. Such was the case with death metal veteran and Broken Hope founder Jeremy Wagner. Not only did Mr. Wagner visit the shredder’s studio — he provided your host with a near novella on the riffs that shaped him in chronological order. So, we’ll be cataloging Mr. Wagner’s lengthy sit down — we’ll just need to do it installments. Please welcome Mr. Wagner to the shredder’s studio, take one.
I’ve attached a personal testimony to each song in order to reveal why these tracks are so important to me as a guitarist. To that end, I’m not merely dropping a standard “six-string roll-call” of tunes that directly influenced me since I became a metal guitarist. Instead, I’m going deeper here and offering my “guitar-related timeline” in this forum. I’m sharing songs that contain guitar work which first fascinated me at a young age — and made me aware that the guitar was a very special and magical instrument that drew me in. Then, on to tracks that seduced me so greatly, that made me want to become a guitarist. Further on, specific and inspiring songs that influenced me in profound ways, and for which I credit for helping develop my personal style of riffing and songwriting. I hope all this is of interest to readers and shredders alike. Thanks for taking a peek inside my experience. The power of the riff compels me.
The Beatles: Blackbird (1968)
I first heard “Blackbird” at a very young age, and it may be the first song I heard that made me wonder: “what’s that instrument?” The song is just an acoustic guitar and Paul McCartney and it’s fantastic. It’s such a guitar song … one of the great “guitar songs” that you first want to learn when starting to play a guitar, like “Stairway To Heaven” and “Smoke On the Water.”
Ten Years After: I’d Love to Change the World (1971)
“A Space In Time” is an amazing album, and the track, “I’d Love To Change the World,” is a superb piece of guitar-work—done by genius Alvin Lee. This album also made me more interested in guitars as a kid. I still have the original vinyl release from my childhood
Led Zeppelin: Black Dog (1971)
When I first heard “Black Dog” as a kid, it blew me away! I remember first hearing Jimmy Page’s riffs in this tune and I couldn’t comprehend “how” he was playing a guitar like that. It amazed me, and made me dive headfirst into Led Zeppelin for a bit.
Neil Young: Old Man (1972)
When I was a kid, Neil Young’s Harvest album was played at home a lot. It’s still one of my favorite albums. “Old Man” really affected me as a kid—and still does. It’s a beautiful song, and the guitar drew me in again.
Neil Young: The Needle and the Damage Done (1972)
Another song off Harvest. Like the song “Blackbird,” Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done,” is all vocals and guitar…and the guitar work here is so fantastic. This is where I started paying more attention to guitar as a kid, and I wanted to hear more guitar-based music.
Lynyrd Skynyrd: Sweet Home Alabama (1974)
It’s no secret that “70’s-era” Lynyrd Skynyrd is my FAVORITE band of all time. Ronnie Van Zant is one of the greatest lyricists in history, and that Allen Collins, Gary Rossington, Steve Gaines, and Ed King are among the greatest guitarists to ever walk the Earth. That said, the opening riff to “Sweet Home Alabama” must be one of the most famous riffs ever written, and it’s one of the catchiest songs I’ve ever heard. It floored me when I heard it as a kid, and I wanted to hear it over and over. The guitars captivated me.
Lynyrd Skynyrd: The Needle and the Spoon (1974)
I always thought this song was heavy. Catchy as hell, and aside from Sabbath, no one had riffs like these guys back then.
Lynyrd Skynyrd: On the Hunt (1975)
Fantastic song. Full of hooks and great lead work. Another one I find “heavy” in its own way.
Lynyrd Skynyrd: Whiskey Rock-A-Roller (1975)
The great thing about 70’s-era Skynyrd is that a lot of the lyrics are about being in a band, being on tour, and all the shit that goes with it all. I love it all because I can relate to it since being in band for all these years. That said, I didn’t know what it meant to be in a band as a kid, but I sure knew what a great song and guitar lick was — and this song is full of great hooks that hit me the right way.
Lynyrd Skynyrd: All I Can Do Is Write About It (Acoustic Version)” (1976)
This acoustic version has great guitars…more than that, this specific version has touched me deeply, and pretty much makes me tear up every time I hear it.
Lynyrd Skynyrd: You Got That Right (1977)
This song came out when I was seven years old and it was on the Street Survivors album, which was the last album that the “classic” Skynyrd lineup recorded before the fatal plane crash. This particular song showcased new guitarist Steve Gaines singing, playing guitar, and contributing to the songwriting. Gaines’ contributions included his co-lead vocal with Ronnie Van Zant on this awesome track. Again, the guitars, riffs, and the lead here got my attention.
Led Zeppelin: In the Evening (1979)
As my grade school musical influences continued, I found this track to be one of the heaviest spawned in the ‘70’s. The main riff is a monster. This song was another step toward me getting into heavy music.
Pink Floyd: The Wall (the ENTIRE ALBUM) (1979)
During my grade school years, The Wall probably influenced me more than any album. First, the track “Another Brick In the Wall” was on the radio all time — I’d hear it every day on the school bus, as our bus driver was fond of blasting FM radio to and from school—and I quickly fell in love with the song and knew all the lyrics. Next, my dad’s best friend bought the album, and they jammed the two record-set relentlessly into the wee morning hours. Seeing as I spent every weekend with my Dad and his pal, this entire album was hammered into my brain. I knew every song, every lyric, and every RIFF at the age of nine! I’m pretty sure I can credit this album (and movie) for making me first “fancy” the idea of being a guitarist.
Charlie Daniels: The Legend of Wooley Swamp (1980)
Kevin Sharp can probably appreciate this song and my story here. When I was kid, I was kinda like Donny and Marie Osmond … you know, “I’m a little bit country! And I’m a little bit rock ‘n roll!” I grew up in rural central Wisconsin, so I was exposed to both rock and country music — A LOT. I first heard “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” on the radio. I was around nine or 10. Anyway, I loved the song instantly. The music was so catchy and badass, and the lyrics were like a horror story. It was right up my alley as a kid into scary shit and new music. It made me more curious to find music like this — no wonder I play death metal and write death metal lyrics. I’ll never forget my parents dragging me to a bar out in the country, and there was “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” on the jukebox. I took about five dollars in quarters and played that song 100 times in a row. Haha! The bar was thrilled.
Ozzy Osbourne: Flying High Again (1981)
What more can I say than this was the song that turned me on to Ozzy and the great Randy Rhoads. The solo in this song is one made by gods. Randy Rhoads was a god. Made me want to hear more of Rhoads’ work…I’d never heard such things being done on a guitar before. So heavy, so tasty and shredding.
AC/DC: For Those About To Rock We Salute You (title track) (1981)
I’d heard AC/DC before as a kid: “Dirty Deeds” and “Big Balls” were in my head already. When I heard this title track in 1981, it really hit me as being a bit “heavier” than other AC/DC stuff before. Today, I’m not the biggest AC/DC fan, but I still love this song, and I’d even do it as a cover. I believe it helped propel me towards heavier music.
Judas Priest: Screaming For Vengeance (the ENTIRE ALBUM) (1982)
By the time Screaming For Vengeance came out, I knew what heavy metal was and I was given my first guitar—a Gibson acoustic. Screaming For Vengeance floored me so much! I’d never heard guitars or vocals like that before! Needless to say, my acoustic guitar didn’t interest me much. I wanted an electric guitar—but I would have to wait awhile before getting my first electric. Anyway, this entire album remains as one of my favorite metal albums of all time…I believe it’s flawless. And it truly inspired me to play guitar and be a metal fan.
Metallica: Kill ‘Em All (the ENTIRE ALBUM) (1983)
I fell in love with Ride The Lightning first, and came back to “Kill ‘Em All” later in my teen years. That said, I mention here in order of a “timeline” as it came out first.“Jump In the Fire” is my fave track, but the whole album rules. There was nothing like it at the time…the speed, the vocals, the riffs, the leads, all extreme. By the time I heard this, I was already on my way to getting my first electric guitar.
Yes: Owner of a Lonely Heart (1983)
My favorite part is the very opening riff that Trevor Rabin lays down. It’s fucking heavy! That riff has got to be one of the most famous/cool riffs ever written and recorded! This tune made me yearn to find out how someone could make a guitar sound like that—the tone and distortion, before I knew what “tone and distortion” was!
Stay tuned for future installments with Mr. Wagner in the shredder’s studio.
Read previous installments of Inside The Shredder’s Studio:
#1: Elizabeth Schall of Dreaming Dead
#2: Mike Hill of Tombs
#3: Jon Levasseur of Cryptopsy
#4: Alex Bouks of Incantation
#5: Kurt Ballou of Converge
#6: Mark Thomas Baker of Orchid
#7: Andre Foisy of Locrian
#8: Eric Daniels of GSBC and Asphyx
#9: Kevin Hufnagel of Gorguts
#10: Marissa Martinez-Hoadley of Cretin
#11: Eric Cutler of Autopsy
#12: Woody Weatherman of Corrosion of Conformity
#13: Carl Byers of Coffinworm