Inside The Shredder’s Studio #15: Jeremy Wagner (Take 2)

Broken Hope’s Jeremy Wagner sat down with us beginning last week for his four-part shredder’s studio. Here is the second installment from the death metal veteran turned author. We’ll be running the final two takes at a time to be revealed in 2015.

Savatage: Sirens (title track) (1983)

The guitar work of Criss Oliva is godlike — same category as Randy Rhoads. This song has a real cool intro with a clean guitar part that I always loved, and then it got heavy after that. “Sirens” inspired me in terms of guitars and vocals — I’d never heard either done in such a way.

Van Halen: Panama (1984)

I’d heard Van Halen before when I was younger —“Eruption” and “Jamie’s Cryin” to name a couple — but, having a visual of Van Halen actually performing the song live in concert, and seeing Eddie Van Halen’s fingers playing the notes, had much more impact on me than just hearing the music. This song made me first think how “fun” playing a guitar could be.

Kick Axe: Heavy Metal Shuffle (1984)
When I was in junior high in central Wisconsin, I listened to a late-night metal show on the radio called Metal Shop. Anyway, one night “Heavy Metal Shuffle” by Kick Axe came on and instantly got to me. My mom bought me the Vices album with this track on it and it soon became one of my favorite albums for a little while.

Celtic Frost: Dethroned Emperor (1984)

Aside from Metallica’s Ride The Lightning tracks, nothing came close to being as heavy as this song. “Dethroned Emperor” was so massive and catchy that it boggled my teenage mind. As the guitar was still a mystery to me, I couldn’t comprehend how a band could have such riffs.

Stevie Ray Vaughn: Cold Shot (1984)

This song was also an MTV video and the script was hilarious. In the video, Stevie Ray Vaughn is married to a bitch who hates his guitars and hates him being on the road, so she keeps fucking Stevie up. Despite the pain and hate, Stevie keeps pulling guitars out of thin air and doesn’t stop playing. I remember thinking how awesome it would be to have so many guitars like Stevie Ray Vaughn did, but more important, the music and guitar playing in the song is what really hit home. Vaughn had such a remarkable style and great hooks that later inspired me to try “opening up” my approach to guitar.

Run DMC: King of Rock (1985)

This was an MTV video that got my attention. The Run DMC guys go onto a “rock museum” in the video — and this was before the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame! The main guitar parts in this song grabbed me, and as I was just beginning to screw around with electric guitar, I wanted to learn how to play the main riff in this song. I still dig this tune.

Piledriver: Witch Hunt (1985)

I discovered Piledriver thanks to Metal Shop on WAPL. The song “Witch Hunt” had that same sort of heaviness and groove that “Dethroned Emperor” did for me. I was so blown away by ‘Witch Hunt” that I immediately went out and spent all of my savings on Piledriver’s Metal Inquisition album! I must’ve played that album thousands of times. As a fledgling guitarist, I felt compelled to learn the riffs. When the late Broken Hope vocalist Joe Ptacek and I were discussing cover songs in the mid-90’s, “Witch Hunt” was among several we wanted to do.

Yngwie Malmsteen: I’ll See the Light Tonight (1985)

I loved this MTV video and the entire song. It was my first exposure to Yngwie — in terms of music AND visuals. Though the dragon in the video is badass, I really loved the hooks, leads, and wondered how a guy like Yngwie could play like that AND how he could “sling” his guitar so it would fly around his body like a hula-hoop. It definitely made me look at guitars differently.

Slayer: Hell Awaits (title track) (1985)

THIS SONG BLEW MY HEAD CLEAN OFF! The entire intro into the first verse is my favorite part. I’d never heard anything so heavy or epic before. It made me learn how to “chug” on guitar on up my speed. Amazing inspiration.

Corrosion of Conformity: Positive Outlook (1985)

There was a period of time in 1986 when I was 16 — a year after Corrosion of Conformity’s Animositycame out — that I couldn’t get enough of this album. Just listen to the riff in this song from 1:35 to 2:33…it’s heavy as fuck! This track later inspired me to write heavier riffs on guitar.

Beastie Boys: No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn (1986)

Like Run DMC’s “King of Rock,” the track for “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn” was another MTV video that got my attention. The video was fun to watch (and even featured Kerry King), but it was the main guitar riffs in this song that reached out and grabbed me. Like with other songs I was hearing (or seeing on MTV), I wanted to learn how to play the riffs here.

Megadeth: The Conjuring (1986)

The guitarwork is extraordinary and of the highest skills on this song, and when I was 16 with a new electric guitar in hand, I felt compelled to master this level of playing.

Whitesnake: Still of the Night (1987)

I want to be clear that I’m NOT a Whitesnake fan, but I LOVED this one song! Okay? The video for “Still of the Night” was all over MTV and was MTV’s most requested video in its first week of release. I didn’t care about requests, puffy hair, or fucking Tawny Kitaen. I really loved the guitars and riffs in this song. The bridge and the solo parts are so guitar heavy, that they can’t be ignored. John Sykes is such an awesome guitarist, and I thought it was a shame he wasn’t in Whitesnake by the time the “Still of the Night” video came out.

Joe Satriani: Surfing With the Alien (title track) (1987)

I couldn’t stop listening to this whole album — and this title track specifically — when it came out in 1987. The shredding riff on this song from 1:09 to 1:14 is so fucking badass. It made me want to learn more fretboard gymnastics.

Napalm Death: Scum (title track) (1987)

The track “Scum” hit me kind of the same way Celtic Frost’s “Dethroned Emperor” did — it was so fast, and massive and catchy that it kicked my head in. This song was only a prelude to both what Napalm Death AND former ND guitarist, Bill Steer were going to become. This song is really badass.

King Diamond: Abigail (1987)

Does anyone remember Z-Rock? Well, I sure do! For those who don’t know, Z-Rock was a nationally syndicated radio network based out of Dallas, Texas in the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s that played heavy metal and hard rock music. Thanks to Z-Rock, I first got introduced to bands like Metal Church and King Diamond. When I heard “Abigail,” I straight up was like: “What kind of vocals are these?” Then the more I heard this track, the more I fell in love with it. The guitars were so goddamn sinister and had blistering lead-work. I discovered the great Andy LaRocque at this time, and he is so revered in my heart to this day.

The Cult: Love Removal Machine (1987)

The Cult may very well be my favorite “rock band” ever. For a few years as a teenager, I grew a bit jaded, thinking anything that wasn’t metal and brutal enough, was shit. I’m glad such views were short-lived. I was quickly amazed and interested by Billy Duffy’s riffing and all the Marshall stacks to the sky that were part of The Cult’s video backline. The guitars on this track are fantastic and made me want to riff out like Billy Duffy. Since 1987, I’ve fallen in love with so many songs by The Cult. Duffy is an extraodinary guitarist, and Ian Astbury is a unique and awesome frontman. The Cult are mentioned in this forum as they definitely spun my guitar and music world around—starting with this track.

Death: Zombie Ritual (1987)

Here’s where death metal came into my life in a big way. Death’s “Scream Bloody Gore” was full of great songs and there wasn’t anyone who sounded like Death at the time. Though I thought Napalm Death, Wehrmacht, and Celtic Frost were heavy and extreme, they weren’t what I’d call “death metal.” Listen to the guitar-work and the vocals. It’s all brilliant. This song sent me into the death metal abyss I’m still in today — that’s a great thing!

Numskull: Off With Your Head (1988)

Numskull founding member/lead guitarist/chief-songwriter Tom Brandner was my first real guitar teacher from 1986 to 1988. Tom is a classically trained, highly educated guitar prodigy who can play any all works by Paganini, and Randy Rhoads leads note-for-note. He taught me scales, speed runs, arpeggios, modes, power chords, and many elements of guitar and music theory. 1988 was the year I formed Broken Hope and Tom was the first guy to ever hear the first Broken Hope riffs and the first to ever read my first BH lyrics! He is a very important and vital person in my guitar history, and he’s one of my dearest friends. That said, Tom’s band, Numskull, were local favorites where I grew up, and they became legends when their debut Ritually Abused came out in 1988. The track “Off With Your Head,” is fucking heavy as hell, sadistically catchy, and full of amazing riffs and lead work. Highly underrated.

Death: Pull the Plug (1988)

The first time I saw Death in concert was in Milwaukee. I had just gotten Leprosy and couldn’t believe how much heavier Death had gotten. “Pull the Plug” is a fan favorite, and there’s good reason: the song is full of stellar riffing, it’s brutal as all hell, and it might have one of the catchiest choruses ever written in death metal. I was so motivated to be a death metal guitarist at this point, thanks to “Pull the Plug” and Chuck Schuldiner’s phenomenal brutal creations.