She’s responsible for some of the most uncompromisingly brutal riffs to have been committed to record in the last couple of years and has been steadily rising through the ranks of the UK metal scene with her band Heriot since 2019. But, since taking part in Jackson’s viral ‘Virtuoso Mega Shred’ campaign earlier this month, Debbie Gough’s profile as a next-gen guitarist to watch has absolutely skyrocketed - and rightly so.
The campaign video, which promotes Jackson’s all-new American Series Virtuoso guitar in all of its pastel-to-gothic colourways, was written and masterminded by Periphery’s Misha Mansoor and also features Megadeth legend Marty Friedman, as well as Dave Davidson of Revocation and Gargoyl and Erra guitarist Clint Tustin.
No doubt the prog-metal collab of the year, the video has racked up over three-quarters of a million YouTube views and counting. But, if you’ve somehow missed it, the premise is simple: five top guitarists from a cross-section of eras and sub-genres of metal each take turns at shredding their fingertips off in a variety of incendiary styles, with the Jackson American Series Virtuoso being the one true axe to handle them all.
Taking her solo in-between Friedman and Mansoor’s contrasting efforts, Gough is the only one of the group to really put the Virtuoso’s Floyd Rose 1500 Series double-locking tremolo bridge system through its paces with dive bomb after glorious dive bomb, before making full use of the guitar’s 25.5” scale length in an explosion of fretboard-scorching licks. It’s an enormously fun performance and one that will no doubt inspire fresh and seasoned players alike to take a Jackson Virtuoso out for a spin and see if they can’t make it wail just like she does.
According to Debbie, who's been playing Jacksons since she was just 14 years old and became endorsed by them in 2021, the whole idea of being part of the campaign seemed a little “far-fetched” until it actually happened. Since then, she’s come to view it as one of the most inspiring and life-affirming moments of her career to date.
Dialling in to give her take on the high spec shred machine and taking her spot among the all-star line-up, it’s clear that Debbie Gough is a young guitarist who’s going places fast. Curious to uncover a little more about where she’s come from as an artist too, we’re treated to the guided tour of the 10 albums that have most profoundly shaped her life in this special two-part interview…
You’ve been a fan and a player of Jackson Guitars for a long time now. In a nutshell, what is it that you’ve always loved about them?
"I think Jackson have always been a staple brand for people playing metal. For me personally, I saw loads of my favourite guitarists – people who influenced me to play this genre of music – using Jackson, so they were always a familiar go-to brand. Then, when I started playing them myself, tonally they were always great and I got into using them for the Floyd Rose so I could play dive bombs and things like that. They’re just the go-to brand that can give me all of those kinds of necessities to play metal."
How did the opportunity to work with them as part of the American Virtuoso campaign come about?
"It had kind of been discussed very briefly for a while, and I was kind of excited by it. But I wasn’t really thinking about it because the whole concept of going to LA to film this campaign seemed – I don’t know – a little far-fetched! I guess I didn’t really believe them. Then Tim [Hillier-Brook, former Architects guitarist], who handles the Jackson artists in the UK and Europe had come down to a Heriot show and said, 'It’s happening!' Then, when we got on the flight, he was like, 'You didn’t believe me until we got here, did you?' I was really amazed when it did come to fruition."
Everybody has been talking about the Virtuoso Mega Shred video. What was it like getting to shred it up alongside Misha, Marty, Dave and Clint?
"It was definitely one of the craziest experiences of my life, if not maybe the craziest one! It was amazing. It was so inspiring to be around metal guitarists from different kinds of backgrounds of heavy music – not only from a stylistic point of view – but just from a background point of view. You know, different ages. Everyone was in that room because they love playing guitar.
"It really made me feel very grateful that I’d fallen in love with guitar and that I’d found that kind of purpose on this earth. Not that I’ve ever lost it, but it did rekindle exactly why I love playing guitar."
Had you heard anyone else’s solos before you wrote and recorded yours, or was it all pieced together remotely and kept as a surprise for you all on the day?
"I didn’t hear anybody else’s solo until we were on set! I’d heard the track the whole way through and been given my timestamp to play over, which was all good and dandy, but I didn’t hear any of the other guitarists’ solos until we were actually there. So it was really cool hearing how everybody else had their own take on the track."
Based on your particularly whammy-centric performance, can we safely say that there's a nice robust trem system on these guitars?
"There definitely is! You know, when it was flown from America to the UK, it came and out of the box it was in tune. I promise you! It was the same when I flew two of my other Jacksons over to Bulgaria recently. They were both absolutely in tune."
Part of the point of getting you all together was to show that the Virtuoso is a guitar for all different breeds and generations of metal players. So, what are some of the features that you think will make it appeal across the board?
"I think tonally it’s quite a versatile guitar to play. It’s double humbuckers with the Seymour Duncans in there, but they do respond quite well with lead as well as rhythm playing.
"Obviously, you’ve got that flexibility with your Floyd Rose there to use for all the trem stuff, and then working up the neck, it’s quite easy to get to the higher frets to solo. It’s not a heavy guitar either, which sounds insane, but sometimes other brands make guitars that are so heavy that they’re never going to be accessible for everybody to play. This one is quite light."
Are you working on new material with Heriot at the moment? If so, will you be writing / recording / gigging with a Jackson American Series Virtuoso in your hands?
"We are writing new music at the moment. I can’t say too much more about that, but it is happening! I took the Virtuoso to play its first show with us the other day at Burn It Down, which was really cool. Again, it didn’t let me down with the tuning, which was wicked. That’s kind of the number one thing with playing a guitar live - especially with a Floyd - you don’t want it to be giving up on you halfway through a show! I’m definitely going to use it in the studio as well."
Debbie Gough: 10 albums that changed my life
1. Lamb of God - Ashes Of The Wake (2004)
"This really got me into thrash metal, got me into groove riffs and looking more intricately at what guitarists were actually doing on record, rather than just appreciating the music. I got more into learning about song structures and actual songwriting from that album."
2. Wand - Golem (2015)
"I really like this album because it’s quite experimental for a shoegaze band. It’s quite atmospheric, but it’s also very doomy in places as well and it kind of scratches an itch for me, especially in the songwriting that’s involved with that.
"They really pay attention to dynamics and that’s something that I took away to include with Heriot as well. A lot of the atmospheric bits come from Wand’s influence – particularly the album Golem."
3. Hayley Williams - Petals For Armor (2020)
"I think the song Crystal Clear is just absolutely amazing. Maybe these are all my favourite albums for songwriting, but I think that song is perfect because it seems to end with a resolution. It kind of tells a story. I listened to that album a lot in lockdown as well, so that obviously made its mark!"
4. Cancer Bats - Hail Destroyer (2008)
This was massively influential for me. I really loved Scott Middleton’s playing on that album. Tonally as well, his tone is savage on this album and it kind of led me to get into slightly heavier music than what I was used to, prior to listening to Cancer Bats. They became like a gateway band to get into heavier styles of metal.
5. The Chariot - One Wing (2012)
One Wing by The Chariot was an important album for me because I got into The Chariot around the time of joining my first band. I think they influenced DIY hardcore bands and the underground music scene really heavily. I took a lot away from the way they produced their songs and their live shows. Everything to do with that album was really cool because it was just raw.
6. Oathbreaker - Rheia (2016)
"I love this album so much because it feels so haunting and the atmospherics that run through it are still haunting, but they give you that little bit of light relief. The whole thing is so immersive. I don't think there's an album like it that feels as immersive to me as Rheia by Oathbreaker - even the attention to detail on the interludes and things like that.
"Them breaking up was horrific. I need the follow-up album from Rheia! But they ended on a massive high because I think that’s one of the best albums ever made ever ever ever!"
7. Code Orange - I Am King (2014)
Another one for me in a similar vein to The Chariot was I Am King by Code Orange. Code Orange and Nails were kind of like my introduction to the [Boss] HM-2 sound, guitar tone-wise. I think Code Orange’s guitar tones really stood out to me and I Am King was such an aggressive album and one that I listened to when I was early on in playing in bands. I’ve got a lot of happy memories of listening to that album.
8. The Dillinger Escape Plan - Dissociation (2016)
"Even though it’s not their biggest album or their most discussed album, I really fell in love with them for it because they were getting more experimental with the electronic side of the band.
"I just feel like Limerent Death is the most incredible song ever, with the tempo change in it. That really hooks me. I feel like it’s a really honest and raw, emotional kind of album. It was a different route for Dillinger to take because obviously they’re known for being mathcore and savage vibes, but I liked that they went down a different path for Dissociation."
9. Brutus - Burst (2017)
"Burst by Brutus is another album that feels like home to me. I really love the atmospherics in that album. Actually, that’s another album that feels as immersive as Rheia. I think the way that they put songs together is really interesting because I can’t really think of a band that mainly tends to play heavy songs, but with so much reverb. It’s good with me! They’re just a great band who I love very, very much."
10. Converge - Axe To Fall (2009)
"I think this is my favourite album by Converge. I can remember very, very, very vividly being on the bus to work when I was about 18 and listening to Dark Horse for the first time and thinking how it was just absolutely amazing that they had one guitarist in the band, but Kurt Ballou was doing so much lead work and keeping the rhythm going with lead lines all the time. And it wasn’t just that, they were really scatty lead lines! I really miss mathcore and I really love Axe To Fall. The tone in it as well - I just think it’s a great album."