Tosin Abasi may be the face of prog juggernaut Animals As Leaders, but Javier Reyes is his creative and sonic co-conspirator, providing the eight-string muscle to Tosin's headline-grabbing fretboard pyrotechnics.
Of course, when you're in one of the world's most respected tech-metal power trios, you need to be up on your technique, and Javier recognises there's no shortage of chops among today's guitar players.
“I think there’s been a resurgence of crazy shredders, so I would say that technique is pretty important in the guitar world,” he muses.
Learning all different kinds of techniques helps to have a variety to your style
“I think the craft falls deep in all the legato lines. Learning all different kinds of techniques helps to add variety to your style. It also makes you more original, because the more you can learn the more you can create.
“For myself, I’ve been working on plenty of lines and melodies, stuff that I didn’t pay attention to for a long time.”
Javier is currently gearing up for a headline slot at the UK's premier tech-metal festival, Tech-Fest, and he can't wait to take the stage at Newark Showground.
“I’m excited about playing a lot of these festivals,” he enthuses. “We haven’t tapped into that market for a long time and it seems like it’s our year to get out to these cities, so we’re stoked on that.
We will play CAFO, so don’t start screaming at us unless we get on stage!
“There may be a few surprises - I can’t say just yet, but a few surprises. We will play CAFO, so don’t start screaming at us unless we get on stage! [laughs]”
“I’m excited about meeting some of the fans - hopefully everyone goes crazy; that’s what I’m looking forward to for the most part. It’ll be good to get back out there as the band has kind of been in hibernation for about a year, so I need to get back out on the road.”
During that hibernation, Javier has focused his attention on side-project Mestis, which incorporates the guitarist's hip-hop and jazz-fusion influences, but the stylistic break hasn't induced a sea change in Javier's tried-and-tested live rig.
“I’m still an avid fan of Axe-Fx, so I’m still using that - we used that for the new album, but I have been dabbling in some pedals as well from Dunlop,” he says.
“It’s always nice to experiment in the city or at home to see what different companies are doing and whatnot, but as far as on stage goes, the Axe-Fx is my absolute go-to gear.”
Speaking of a new album, fans are champing at the bit for the follow-up to 2014's all-encompassing The Joy Of Motion, and thankfully, Javier confirms they don't have long to wait.
“We have an album coming out this year in the fall. We’ve been working on that for a long time,” he reveals.
We’ve learned over the years how each other works best, and it's taken that time to make an album that sounds the most like what we sound like as musicians
“We’re pretty stoked on how it’s turned out, and it’s definitely an evolution of our band. It sounds like us, but it definitely sounds like we have evolved.
“There’s been a lot of things that we’ve been experimenting with - there’s a lot more nylon[-string], and it sounds the most like the three of us which sounds really cool. It’s the most collaborative record that we’ve done, so it’s pretty awesome.
“We’ve learned over the years how each other works best, and it's taken that time to make an album that sounds the most like what we sound like as musicians. It sounds different to our previous stuff, but it's definitely what we want to be hearing and what we want to be playing. I’m confident that it’s an album where fans will know we’ve taken the next step up.”
Sounds good to us. Ahead, Javier shares his short-but-sweet top five tips for guitarists - and trust us, he knows what he's talking about…
Animals As Leaders headline Tech-Fest on Friday 8 July - tickets are available now.
Learn, work, listen
1. Never stop learning
“Throughout your career in music or your life, guitarists get into ruts. When that happens, you need to just force yourself to keep learning a new trail or a new style, and that’s how you slowly get yourself out of a rut.”
2. Work together
“Get along with your band members or your peers - they’re people who you should be able to work with and get along with for a long time period, because being in a band is based on relationships.”
3. Listen to as many genres as you can
“More often that not, people get stuck in trying to write the same stuff that they’re inspired by. That’s when people often get stuck in the same style, so listening to many other genres of music helps to expand the palate, if you will, of any guitarist that’s listening to other instruments.
“These can be jazz compositions or movie scores, stuff like that. All of these things help to create a new approach to guitar.”
Writing and technique
4. Always write for yourself
“Don’t always listen to what your friends or the fans want. Because whatever album got you to any type of success you wrote for yourself, so don’t ever stop writing for yourself, and hopefully people will keep listening to what you have to say.”
5. Learn as much technique as you can
“It definitely helps to expand your ability and your understanding of the instrument. The more comfortable you are with your instrument, the more you’re going to be able to do with it. The possibilities are endless when you have a wider knowledge.”