Victor Gann – Guitarist Extraordinaire: Chapter III
Victor Gann is a guitarist extraordinaire based out of the Dallas/Fort Worth area who recently unleashed his next glorious chapter of instrumental intrigue. Entitled III, this vibrant collection of guitar driven tapestries are wondrous to behold, with selections such as Eye Of The Storm, Raylyn’s Heart, The Life Together, and Evie’s Smile captivating the senses and setting the imagination in flight. In addition to the III magnum opus, Victor Gann also owns and operates a music school, composes film scores, and produces albums! Highwire Daze Online recent caught up the ubiquitous Victor Gann to find out more about the almighty III, advice on securing an endorsement deal, his work with the Raylyn’s Heart Foundation, and a whole lot more! Read on…
Where are you based out of and what is your local music scene like there?
I am based in the Dallas Fort Worth area, up in Denton. The scene here is very active, but very different. Denton is a big college town, so there is plenty of music and it’s also very diverse. At the moment singer songwriters somewhat rule the land. There are many coffee shops and open mics all around the town. But with that being said we have music of all types here: metal, country, rock, pop, punk, funk, polka…it’s all here, and many of them have great musicians in their bands. Now the odd thing…bands don’t have many places to play. Clubs and even rehearsal spaces are closing fast here. This is going to be an unpopular answer, but there is truth in it. One reason many of these places are closing is because of the abundance of singer songwriters. Many here think, why should I pay to see a band play their songs when I can go to an open mic or restaurant for free and hear songs I know? As a result many bands are taking their focus away from Denton…I’m in that group. And I don’t know about other areas, but tribute bands have taken over in DFW. And worse, many people think that by supporting these tribute acts that they are supporting local music. But there is a strong rock scene developing in DFW, the bands that are catching attention are good.
How does the mighty III compare to your previous solo endeavors?
Thank you for calling it mighty! We put a lot of hard work into this one. To me the biggest difference in III and the other releases is this, we are a band. Yes, it’s my name on the album, I toyed with the idea of changing it, but some of my endorsements didn’t like that idea…and I understand. But having Thomas and James in the band and on the songs…these were true collaborations. I may have come in with the main idea but then James would say, as he always does, “What if we play that part in 6?” So we would try it, and in some cases it worked. Or Thomas may have had an idea, “Never Forget” that was incredibly strong, just not arranged. So I would arrange in the way I needed to say what I needed.
Also on this release I gave myself more freedom. Literally every note on The Devil’s Been Busy was written. Most of these solo’s and melodies were written, but I gave myself some room to just go for it. Some of the songs I’ve never played the same.
I was also much more open on this release. Yes, it’s still a guitar album but we have all types of instrumentations and orchestrations on some songs. We really wanted each song to be as good as it could be. Song for song I believe this to be my strongest release. I think the melodies are stronger and with us working as a band I think the performances fit the song.
From a production standpoint I have to give a shout out to Jason Rochester of Mockingbird Sound in Denton. I’ve known Jason a few years and we have worked on several albums together. But this was the first time I used him personally and I believe it was his first instrumental album. Jason gave me all the freedom I needed and if I had an idea that stunk…he would tell me…and yes, it happened. There were also times where I wanted to try something and he would just go “Ok??” hell, I wasn’t sure if some of them would work, but he was open to seeing if it did work. He also didn’t fight me on the tones of this album. Nothing against the newer tones people are using, I just didn’t want them. I wanted this to sound close to the tones I grew up on and I think we got really close. So working with Jason was another true collaboration. That’s the reason he is also credited with additional guitars on the album, I wanted him on it, my way of saying thanks. The 12 string guitars you hear…that’s him, not me.
Tell me about the track Raylyn’s Heart and your work with the Raylyn’s Heart Foundation.
Thank you for asking about this. Quite a story behind it. A friend of mine, more like a member of my family, and a friend to many of the artists in this area Eric Stenger and his wife Christy had their first child, Raylyn. Well, Raylyn encountered some issues, she needed a heart. Many of us got together and wanted to do something for them. We decided we didn’t want to do a one time benefit, since this is going to effect her the rest of her life. So, we started a foundation, the Raylyn’s Heart Foundation. This also made it possible that we could help other children if needed. I was named President. While with them we had three great yearly benefits, each one bigger than the previous. The community was also very responsive, we had people from all over help us. My time ended after the 3rd annual benefit. I was able to get my former teacher, my friend, and former Denton resident Andy Timmons to perform. We all know how great a player he is, well, he’s a better person. He flew in from his South American tour to perform, and then went right back on the plane after to go back on tour. I even tried to pay him and he always said no. He actually told me that if I was asking him to do this, then he knew it had to be for a good cause. I did leave a check in his guitar case while he was playing…don’t know if he ever did anything with it or not. The foundation helps pay medical bills and associated costs to the family, even though they have great insurance, this is so far out of the norm and of course the family needed some time off from work, so we try to help ease some financial worries. I stepped aside after the last benefit, the foundation was growing so big that I knew someone with proper experience needed to help take it to the next level. As a result I wanted to give something back to the family and felt inspired to write a song for them, so came the song Raylyn’s Heart. I wanted it to be something that showed promise, and I hope it does.
Select two other tracks from III and what inspired the song titles?
Two other songs I will pick are “The Life Together” and “Evie’s Smile”. Each song on the album has a story behind it, but these two are a bit more special. You know me, I write about things I know. So I always want to give something to my wife Shannon, the result of that is “The Life Together”. I wanted this song to capture our lives at this moment. We are happily married, at least I am and we have to great beautiful daughters, Evie and Victoria. I wanted this song musically to express my love to Shannon and my thanks for everything that she gives us. Being an artist, I’m a selfish person, I work too much, and because of that our lives go more in my direction, and she joins in. I believe I got close on this song to expressing everything to her that I wanted, but it doesn’t encompass everything. She is truly the love of my life. I’m not the best with words, but this song is my soul speaking.
The next song “Evie’s Smile”, is about our youngest daughter Evie. Victoria our oldest was able to be on the last album, but Evie was in the belly still at this point. So on this album I knew I needed to included something regarding Evie. And she is something else, she wants to make people feel good and laugh at any time, that’s her greatest pleasure. One time when I was having a horrible migraine, Victoria was trying to console me while Evie was just trying to make me laugh, that’s the way she is. And she loves to have a good time and smiles all the time. I wanted this song to express that and include some of her sounds as well.
What is your guitar weapon of choice and why?
My guitar of choice right now is a prototype of a Victor Gann Music Man model. I started working with Ernie Ball and Music Man a few years ago, well, they don’t have a lot of lefties on their roster. So we started working on a model for lefties and as of right now I am very happy with it. Still have some adjustments to make to it, but it plays better than anything I have.
What advice would you give a guitarist seeking an endorsement deal?
There are many factors in this. The first is this, know your stuff, know music. Any different style you can know the better, why? Well, this makes you more valuable to bands or companies looking to hire musicians, the more valuable you are, the more exposure you have. The next, have a good relationship with everyone you come across. You never know who they may be or what they may post about you, if a company you are interested in working with finds something negative about you, there is a good chance you may be of no value to them. Also, don’t expect a free ride endorsement out of the gate, many people do, you have to show your worth to that company. The more loyalty you show to that company the more loyalty they will show you, which will get you an even better endorsement deal with them. Also, anyone needs to ask themselves what is an endorsement deal. Some people think that just means you get free stuff. Not the right approach. It’s a working relationship, meaning the more value you show, the more value you get. And don’t hide your endorsements, these companies rely on you to help promote their products and reach people they may otherwise not.
How did bassist Thomas Hopper and drummer James Burns become involved in the recording process?
Thomas has been with me since after the release of my self-titled EP. He played as well on The Devil’s Been Busy and has just grown as a musician. The Devil’s Been Busy is his first real recording, so he was just trying to compliment my playing on that. For this release he was both feet in. He wrote, made recommendations on instrumentations and melodies. He’s a force of nature, the jumps that he has made in his playing are tremendous. And my goodness if he doesn’t always come up with a great bass line or idea.
This is the first release with James. We went through a time with drummers. Our first drummer, well, we just belong in a working environment. Then we had another for a brief time. We loved him and not that I consider my music complex, he just wasn’t the right fit. Well, I did some searching and found JB. In speaking to him he said all the right things. And at our first jam together, while in the first song, I think me and Thomas knew he was the guy. JB is incredible as well. With him and Thomas the pressure is on me to deliver, because they sure do. And just like Thomas, James jumped right in. If he thought of a way to make the song better, he speaks up, he also never runs out of idea.
I can’t say it enough, I view this now as a band, as a true collaboration. And with JB and Thomas being the monsters that they are, they make me want to be a better musician. I believe we are all on the same level, but these guys push me. Plus I also have faith in them. Even if someone gets off somewhere I don’t worry, I know with these two all will be well and I just keep going. That is something I haven’t had in a long time, for many years I always worried about what the other players were doing…I don’t anymore. These guys are the best I’ve ever played with, and I mean that. That fully understand what we are trying to do and they have the knowledge and the chops to back it up.
Will there be any live shows as The Victor Gann Band?
Yes. I am currently in talks with a few national promoters. To be honest, it comes down to time. I do everything. I am the manager, agent, promoter, all the above. Now on top of that I’m also a husband and father. And also I run a successful Music School in Sanger TX. So each day is a juggling act. We do plan on getting out with this release and get out to all over. Hopefully in the next few weeks I’ll know more on this. As of now most of my time has been spent promoting the album and such. But as that begins to wind down I do plan to escalate the bookings. Also, I’ve been told there may be someone interested in working with us who could take that load off of me. We are ready, again it just comes down to how much time I can devote on that aspect.
Are you involved with any other bands or music projects?
Yes I am. I’ve agreed to do another film, not certain when all will begin with that. The first band Mobile Commotion is made entirely of students of mine, wasn’t planned out that way. Recently they released their debut EP. These guys are all in high school and wrote, performed, and recorded everything on their album. Two of their members, Lauren Pena and Ethan Faircloth have already been accepted to Musicians Institute…keep your eyes and ears open for these guys. I was lucky enough to get to produce their album. For their first time they made it easy. I’ve worked with bands that have been together longer than these guys have been alive that didn’t have their professionalism.
The next band I’ve been working with is Dieselbeast. I mentioned Jason Rochester earlier, this is his band. Also, one of my students Wyatt Williams plays lead for them. They also just recently released their debut album and I was fortunate enough to be asked to produce it. It was such a fun album to help make. To be honest, I’m not sure I did a whole lot on it. They had down what they wanted to do, and they did it. If you like old school metal, these are the guys for you. I may be biased, but this album just kicks tail. We got great tones for everything, the songs and the performances are there are well. I fully expect that these guys will not be a local band for long.
You provided the score for a short film entitled Sins Of The Father. What goes through the thought process in providing a film score, and is that something you would like to do more of in the future?
Doing the score for that film was such a learning experience for me. With all the commercials and show themes I’ve done, I just really thought this would be an extension of that, I was wrong. I came to find that in a film the music basically becomes another character of the film, so every piece in some way needs to have a relationship with the other pieces. So in the beginning I did think of it just as a long commercial, I found out pretty quick that I was off base. Of course I had the script and even came to some of the filming, that really helped me get my head around it.
I would just read the script, can’t tell you how many times I did that, and also I took direction from the director of the film. She would give me her vision of what the music should be doing. You have to take in all accounts of what is happening in any one scene, the different characters that are in it, what are those characters doing, what is their background, their environment. I don’t know if that is how everyone else does it, but that is what really helped me get into.
Say for one example an ex gang member who lost his son is having a fight with his wife in the scene. So there are only two characters, well, I don’t need a lot of instrumentation for that, something simple. Given their loss I know there should be tension in the music, foreboding if you will. Now also since this is husband and wife I don’t want the music to be too busy, let the actors do their job, but my job is to compliment what they are doing. Just like a character witnessing the scene would.
Which guitarists do you find inspiring to listen to?
Oh my, such a big list. Angus Young is always top of the list, he will always be my favorite, the way he plays straight from the gut always inspires me. Joe Satriani, his sense of melody is not from this earth, he is the alien. Brian May, his solos are always perfect for whatever song he plays on. Eddie Van Halen, he’s the King. Andy Timmons, his feel and tone…makes me need more practice. Tony Iommi, being left handed myself I’ve always looked up to him. Steve Stevens, how he adds what he does to the songs he plays on, I would never think of the things he does. I would say these are my biggest influences, but there are so many great players that I listen to that I could fill up the entire issue.
What’s up next for Victor Gann?
Right now pushing this album more and trying to get some booking. With my career each release I want to grow off the previous release. So even though I haven’t had the time to really get anything going yet, that will change. My music school is doing really well. We now have Piano and Vocal teachers, plus two other GIT grads who teach here.
I love teaching, these guys become more than students, they become family. I become very invested in all of them. And I’ve been blessed with an abundance of highly motivated students. I have had so many go off to music schools and pursue a career in music. Each one of them inspires me. It’s pretty amazing the level of talent in this area. And also, the younger generation in their teens at the moment, from what I’ve seen watch out for them, they may be the next game changers. They seem to work harder overall and have a better sense earlier of what it is they wish to do. Will be fun to watch.
Any final words of wisdom?
One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was this, finish each and every idea you come up with, even if you don’t like it. There is something to learn from what you don’t like. Try seeing if you can make it work. And don’t stop learning. Listen to everything, there is good in all out there and you never know what may inspire you. Beyond that, give back. Give your time and knowledge to help those who may make a change…after all that may be how you make a change.
III by Victor Gann is now available from Evia Music!
(Interview by Ken Morton)