Not only do Protest The Hero's Tim MacMillar and Luke Hoskin compose some of the most finger-twistingly exhilarating licks in modern prog-metal, but the pair have also set out to improve technique everywhere via publishing venture Sheet Happens.
The company issues tab books for artists who might not otherwise get notation to the masses, including Lamb Of God, Periphery and, of course, the band's own work. Happily, business is booming.
“It's going well,” Tim enthuses. “We've tapped into a niche, and not many people are focusing on music.
“The one tricky part that we are dealing with now is trying to offer other formats of music. We recently introduced Guitar Pro files for download with any of our books, and I think people are enjoying that.
“We haven't made a decision if we should start selling Guitar Pro or other MIDI-based files on their own. Feels a bit weird, but we also want to stay current, and we use that software to write all the music so the files are made.”
The whole process has been a useful learning experience for Tim, too.
“When Sheet Happens first started, I was transcribing or editing a lot of the books, so in those cases I would learn a lot by this process,” he recalls.
“One artist that I can remember really learning from was Propagandhi. They have pretty unique chord voicings and play in a way that I always admired, so playing through the books unlocked some of those mysteries!”
Through his transcription work, the guitarist has spotted an uplift in the quality of technique across the guitar world, but he has a keen eye for faults in his own playing.
“I'm really bad at playing with my fingers,” he concedes. “Either hybrid picking or fingerstyle. I like learning jazz standards, and usually you can use your thumb for bass notes and the rest of your fingers for the chord.
“It's an entirely foreign way of playing for me, but it also sounds very different to the typical stuff I write, so it would be nice to be able to use the technique in the future.”
Speaking of the future, Tim reveals there's nothing set in stone for PTH, after their last release, Pacific Myth, was made available to fans via a subscription platform.
“We have no concrete plans,” he says. “We are just going to write, and once we have enough material we will figure out how to release it. We will be releasing Pacific Myth to the world outside of the subscription by the Fall, so that will be a more traditional release plan.”
In the meantime, Protest The Hero will be headlining the Saturday night at the UK's Tech-Fest, and Tim's excited to be pairing a cutting-edge set of pickups with his tried-and-tested amp rig.
“At the moment, I'm using an ESP Horizon guitar with Fishman Fluence pickups,” he says. “The Fishmans have been an interesting development in the pickup world, and I like how you can charge them with a micro-USB adapter!
“For amps, I've been using the Axe-Fx II with the MFC-101 foot controller. I've really been impressed with the foot controller and how easy it is to set up a setlist of patches that you can seamlessly switch between.”
Here, Tim counts down nine guitarists that have impacted his playing - and what fine choices they are…
Protest The Hero headline Tech-Fest on Saturday 9 July - tickets are available now.
1. Paul Gilbert
“My all-time favourite guitarist. From his early days with Racer X and Mr Big to his many solo instrumental albums, all of them have influenced and inspired my playing. On his solo stuff, the variety of techniques and styles makes every song new and exciting.
“Also, I'm a big fan of this JS Bach covers on guitar, and recently, his Blue Rondo à la Turk cover, which is a Dave Brubeck original.”
2. Ron Jarzombek
“The most out-there guitarist, in my opinion. Ron has such a unique style that is very outside of standard theory. He writes his own rules and is not afraid to challenge the status quo.
“From Spastic Ink to solo stuff to Blotted Science, everything he touches brings his wild playing and leaves you confused and ashamed that you'll never be able to play and/or write like this axesmith.”
3. Dan Weller and Graham 'Pin' Pinney (Sikth)
“These two guitarists have written some of my favourite tunes, and they are all about subtleties. When listening to Sikth, a lot of stuff may go unnoticed, but once you have a good listen and get to know what Dan and Pin are doing, it's truly mindblowing.”
4. Derya 'Dez' Nagle and Joaquin Ardiles (Good Tiger)
“I've spent much time touring with these guys and was always impressed by their style. They are masters of double picking and use some interesting harmonies. Plus, they are nipple-riders and pretty easy on the eyes.”
5. Paul Waggoner (Between The Buried And Me)
“Paul was one of the first prog players that I really got into. As a player, he's very diverse and has mastered many techniques.
“He has a great balance of difficult and melody in his leads that show his skill as a player but his tastefulness as well.”
6. John Petrucci
“The godfather of prog. I got to see Dream Theater live for the first time in 2014 and got to see that Petrucci is no joke and flawless live. It's one thing to hear the riffs and solos on record, but it's another thing to see them happening in front of your very eyes.
“When he plays fast, it's with clarity that is matched by no-one else.”
7. Jason Becker
“One of the fastest players of all time. I recently saw the Not Dead Yet film, and though it's a sad story of a talent that's been lost due to ALS, it was great to see how much influence he had on the guitar community in such a short time.
“To see everything Jason has gone through and that he still wants to write music is inspiring.”
“An up-and-coming riffer from down under. Plini is bringing back the clean guitar and chooses not to hide behind distortion and effects. He's a talented guy, and I expect to see lots more from him in the future.”
9. Guthrie Govan
“Guthrie is an amazing composer and player in the metal/prog/jazz fusion world. His solo album Erotic Cakes showed he had serious chops.
“The releases he's done with the Aristocrats are great and have a good level of serious playing, but a tinge of comedy in their song names.”