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© Robert Kenney/Corbis
JT Woodruff has a dirty little secret. The frontman for post-hardcore darlings Hawthorne Heights is a massive fan of hair metal, with a particular fondness for bands like Poison and Dokken. "It's also surprising when you consider the role of the virtuoso guitarist in that genre," he says, "which is very unlike what my band does."
Despite his admiration for shred specialists, Woodruff says that he's never been tempted to follow suit with sweep arpeggios and feats of hammer-on wizardry. " Maybe it’s because I’ve always been able to sing, so I never focused on writing leads and practicing that style of playing," he theorizes. "But I love people who have that kind of ability. That kind of shredding is in my blood, even if I don’t do it myself.”
In choosing his 10 Essential Guitar Albums (OK, one is a song), Woodruff says that he was drawn to the specific tones on various recordings, pointing to a selection that actually didn't make the final cut: Norman Greenbaum's 1969 hit Spirit In The Sky. "What a cool, unique tone!" he enthuses. "Just the way that guitar sounds, with the distortion and the echo – it pulls you right in."
Describing his own guitar technique, Woodruff asserts that he's a classic power-chord man, leaning heavily on root notes with the occasional melody line. "I basically use the guitar as a vehicle for writing lyrics and melodies," he explains. "All of the interesting guitar stuff on our records comes from Micah [Carli] or Mark [McMillon]. You don’t have to be a virtuoso to write songs, though. Nobody writes a song because they just came up with lead guitar solo – you have to start with chords and work from there."
On the following pages, Woodruff runs down his choices for 10 Essential Guitar Albums - well, nine, actually, with one song selection.