27 guitarists on the albums that inspired them to play
27 guitar players from across the musical spectrum, one question: what was the first album that made you want to play guitar?
We asked everyone from classic rock gods like Neal Schon and Doug Aldrich, through to metal heroes like Kerry King and southern slide king Warren Haynes, with a huge variety in between. This is what they had to say…
Sean Long, While She Sleeps
“It was probably Rage Against The Machine - Rage Against The Machine. That was the one that got me started. That was the first time that I sort of knew about a guitarist.
“Obviously you know there are guitarists out there, but that was the first one where you knew as soon as you hear it. I got the tab book and stuff and that’s where I started off playing guitar.
“I still take a lot of influence from it. That bounce that Rage have on the riffs is still with me today. I’ve started writing for our next album recently and I’ve just done a riff that’s such a bouncy Rage-type riff, so it’s still very much with me.”
“Axis Bold As Love, I think, probably, it made me want to play guitar properly. I always wanted to strum. I didn’t really understand it. Axis Bold As Love just flipped everything on its head for me.
“I was just like, ‘I want to learn EVERY Jimi Hendrix song.’ I knew nothing about the blues and that was a gateway into that and to BB King. He opened doors for me. There was a period of a whole year where I would just listen to Jimi Hendrix.”
Jaren Long, Cadillac Three
“I started playing guitar when I was 13 and it was right around when Nirvana was huge. Incesticide was the big record at that time.
“I think when I really started getting into guitar it was Rage Against The Machine. Tom Morello’s riffs were a big thing for me. I thought, ‘I wanna play riffs like this’, but me being from the South, in the States, I kind of gravitated towards taking those Rage riffs and putting them into something that Skynyrd would do. That’s what made me want to play guitar, the way that he constructed those riffs and the simple approach.”
Jeff George, We Are Harlot
“I remember vividly. My sister went to the store to get an album and I was three years old and I saw KISS Alive I.
“It just happened to be in the front of the thing and I saw the make-up and the look and my mum, bless her heart man, she bought it for me. I would just stare at it and stare at it and, listening to it, I couldn’t believe it – I was hooked on rock ’n’ roll! Every halloween, from five to 15, I was Ace Frehley. That put the rock ’n’ roll vibe in me. That album started it all for me.”
Thom Edward, God Damn
“I think it was probably In Utero by Nirvana. One of the first things I played when I was about 13 was a song called Tourette’s off that album.
“I think I wanted to be in a band before I could play guitar and we had a school gig coming up before the end of the year and we decided we could just about play that song.
“It’s quite powerful guitar-wise, that album. It’s raw and powerful, but it’s still accessible. You can learn the riffs from it pretty easily and it’s fun to play with distortion. I’ve always been into overdrives and distortion and that’s a pretty killer album for that!”
Neal Schon, Journey
“The first record my dad ever bought for me was Rubber Soul, The Beatles record. I just heard the guitar and I went, ‘Wow, that’s a really cool sounding instrument.’
“He was trying to teach me how to play woodwind instruments, because [he was a jazz musician and] his main instrument was a tenor sax. I became bored of that, so I picked up the guitar and just started listening to records.
“I really loved Albert King and BB King and then all of a sudden everything from Britain started coming over. I sort of knew what they were doing from listening to the blues records and I would sit there and listen to The Cream record Wheels Of Fire and try to emulate it as best I could, then I’d listen to Are You Experienced? and do the same thing.”
Andy Westhead, As It Is
“I remember seeing the Basket Case video on MTV and I remember thinking it was amazing and the visuals were all really cool, so I went into Virgin Megastore and I had the choice of Dookie and International Superhits and I went for International Superhits because it had more songs on it for the same price.
“I’d never heard anything else like it. It sounded exciting. It didn’t seem too complicated, guitar-wise, and Billy-Joe’s blue guitar with all the stickers, hanging low – it looked super cool and I thought, ‘I wanna do that!’ I did find the music inspiring etc., but if I’m honest I mainly thought: ‘I want to look cool’!”
Ben Biss, As It Is
“I played drums before, but the album that made me want to play guitar specifically was Three Cheers by My Chemical Romance.
“There was just something about Frank Iero’s presence onstage that made me want to not sit down onstage anymore. It made me want to learn guitar. Again, I just wanted to stand up and look cool!”
“The first album that really made me want to play was Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, in particular Shine On You Crazy Diamond. On that particular song, David Gilmour’s playing really blew my mind.
“It’s quite a simplistic style of playing when I listen to it now, but as a kid it didn’t sound simple at all. But still today I think it’s some of the most honest, soulful playing out there. It wasn’t this other nonsense of ‘What note is he using in that part of the song?’ It was just real, honest playing that suited the song and that kind of transported me.”
Niall Lawlor, Axis Of
“In a bedroom sense, it was probably Ride The Lightning by Metallica, or maybe A Vulgar Display Of Power by Pantera. That’s what I was listening to when I was 12/13.
"Then when I started playing guitar in Axis Of, it was Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes by Propagandhi. With Metallica, it was just the ferocity of it all. I loved all the palm-muting and the really quick transitions. I remember trying to learn it and showing off to people, but I couldn’t play it at all! With Vulgar… it was how Dimebag’s tone was so unique. The abrasive ballsy-ness of it.”
“It was a Hendrix Greatest Hits album. I can’t remember what one it was exactly, but it was a two disc special collection with all his hits, basically.
“From hearing him play all of those main songs, that was it: I knew I wanted to be a guitarist from then on. I think it was the energy of it. The excitement. It invoked that feeling inside of me that I needed to pick it up and play it.”
Kerry King, Slayer
“I started playing guitar when I was 13 and I think that’s right about the time that Van Halen I came out. So it might have been a marriage born from starting to play and finding that record at the same time.
“Before that it was Ted Nugent, but when I found that Van Halen record that changed everything. Eddie Van Halen just did things on guitar that I hadn’t heard before. That I think a lot of people hadn’t heard before. And he did it well.
“Most of the first two records were played entirely live, which is unbelievable in its own right. I don’t do that to this day!”
Henry Kohen, Mylets
“I think the first album would have been Led Zeppelin’s Early Days and Latter Days compilation.
"At the time I probably would have been nine or 10. Along with the CD there was a DVD, so I think it was more seeing the live concerts and the flashiness of the shows and the lights and the crowds.
“I didn’t really understand what it all meant at that age, but I remember thinking it must have been incredible to be a part of that. It just seemed really romantic. Jimmy Page set so many standards. If I’m not directly inspired by him anymore, everyone I do listen to is inspired by him.”
Andrew Matthews, Stoneghost
“I started as a keyboard player at the tender ago of 12. About two or three years later, I heard Metallica for the first time and that was a game-changer. That inspired me to play heavy music. Hearing that for the first time made me think, ‘That sounds like a lot of fun.’
“I think the first Metallica album I had was Reload. It’s probably not a cool thing to admit, but that was the one that started it all for me. It was the first album I ever got into where all the songs were riff-based and it made a big impression. The guitar was the lynchpin of the songs.”
Guillaume Bernard, Klone
“Cowboys From Hell by Pantera was an early one! I was really impressed by the sound of the guitar distortion and I tried to reproduce the same sound. It was not easy but I decided to work hard on it.
“I remember wondering how it was possible to have that sound. I didn’t know exactly at the beginning how to reproduce the sound of a palm mute. I still remember that amazing sound of Dimebag Darell, the harmonics etc. It sounds so perfect and powerful.”
“It was probably Cream. Live Cream Vol. II was the specific record, then it was Johnny Winter’s Second Winter and Hendrix’s Smash Hits.
“I’d started singing at a much earlier age and I was reaching an age that I was really starting to listen to the guitar and it was unlike anything I had heard at that time, you know? All three were extremely boundary-pushing players.
“It all happened pretty quickly [after that]. My brother had an acoustic guitar, so I would play his guitar and then for my 12th birthday I got an acoustic guitar.”
Simon Delaney, Don Broco
“That would be 1977 by Ash. That was the first guitar record I bought when I was about seven or eight and it blew my mind. I had to play guitar after that.
“It was at that time when there was a lot of Brit-pop around and Oasis and Blur were smashing it in the charts. Ash came out with that great guitar sound and it was so much rawer and heavier than the guitar tones that were big at the time.
"It caught me off-guard and made me think, ‘I want my guitar to sound that good. I want to play solos with a wah pedal!’”
James 'Jibbs' Kennedy, Oceans Ate Alaska
“I kind of always wanted to play guitar, but I guess the album that made me want to become a more accomplished guitarist was The Discovery by Born Of Osiris.
“They’ve always been my favourite band and that album was a massive leap in the metalcore world. The guitar work was amazing and I just wanted to learn all of the songs on there.”
Johnny 'Bondy' Bond, Catfish And The Bottlemen
“It’s probably one of the most responded answers of all time, but it was Led Zeppelin IV. I remember my uncle playing it. He was really into his rock music and he sort of led me, musically, at that time, so Led Zeppelin IV was in heavy rotation.
“It’s easy to put it aside as a record when you’ve heard it so much, but when you hear it for the first time, you hear it for how great it is. Just how each member is so great at what they do. It’s kind of mind-blowing. You wish you could go back and listen to it for the first time every time.”
Johnny Parkkonen, Santa Cruz
“I started playing piano when I was seven and then I heard this Air Guitar album that had Smoke On The Water.
“I think I was in first grade or something in school and my friend’s dad came to pick us up and he had this CD with Smoke On The Water on it. I was just like ‘What the fuck is that?’
"It was so cool and I had goosebumps and everything. Then I said to my mum, ‘I have to have a guitar!’ I went to my piano teacher and said, ‘Can I play the solo from this song?’ and he was like, ‘Maybe you should change to guitar!’”
“It wasn’t the first thing that I heard that I loved, it was something I discovered later: Jeff Beck’s Blow By Blow.
“My older sister had that record and it was cool because it was rocky, but it was jazzy. I didn’t even know what you’d call it, I guess jazz rock or fusion or something. And when you listened to that record, especially on headphones on vinyl, it was very big and there was a lot of space. So I would tip the hat to Jeff on that one.
"Then later I really got influenced by Jimmy Page and I love his work so much. He’s probably my favourite of the fab four British guys, you know?”
Joe Gosney, Black Peaks
“I’d probably go with Leviathan by Mastodon. When that came out it stood apart from every other metal band that I’d heard at the time. For me, that whole album… It’s crazy, it’s been out for 10 years now and it’s still a record that I put on regularly.
“I grew up with family playing a lot of old blues rock, almost heavy stuff like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin and then I kind of found my own path musically through bands like Mastodon, Mars Volta, Tool – I guess, a lot more progressive rock and metal.”
Adam Zytkiewicz, Oceans Ate Alaska
“I didn’t start from such a technical background. I was listening to bands like Blink-182 and Guns N’ Roses, I was into pop punk and classic rock stuff. It was like Dude Ranch and Cheshire Cat that straight down-picked punk stuff.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s awesome. I want to play like that and be on the Warped Tour and play cool pop punk music.’ Then I started to learn more technical things, like Appetite For Destruction and it got progressively more technical from there.”
“I used to always like the guitar side of Bo Diddley, because it was very rhythmic, the way that he played.
"And Hendrix as well, but of course Hendrix is the upper echelon. I think the way Bo Diddley played was unique in the fact that he didn’t use a lot of leads, but his rhythms were not of their selves. If anyone had given me the inspiration to start playing, it was him.”
Michael Angelo Batio
“For me, there actually wasn’t really a particular song or album. When I first studied guitar – I took lessons from 12 to 13 and I studied jazz guitar – so my teacher exposed me to people like Wes Montgomery and George Benson. But there wasn’t really a song.
“I loved jazz, but then I would learn Born To Be Wild and Hendrix songs and stuff like that. I did love the sound of overdriven guitars!”
Ollie Loring, Empress AD
“The first thing I learnt on guitar was Motorbreath by Metallica.
“I was listening to load of Metallica and I got The Black Album tab book. Those songs were obviously quite difficult, but I always just wanted to learn more difficult things. I learned the Nothing Else Matters intro and I was so pleased by that and then the One solo after a few months.”
Brad Marr, Massive
“That was the first one where I was like, ‘This is rock ’n’ roll! This is real music!’ Before that it was whatever music your parents listened to, but Guns N’ Roses was my first real rock ’n’ roll band where I went ‘This is what I wanna do!’
“You can always sing Slash’s solos and feel what he’s trying to say with his music. It’s not about how fast or heavy you can play, it’s about the emotion you put behind what you’re playing.”