Interview: Scott Hughes

Dan McAvinchey: Scott, how did you get interested in music, and who were some guitarists that influenced your musical tastes?

Scott Hughes: Guitarwise, my interest stemmed from a love of 80's hard rock and metal. I started gravitating towards metal bands with really good guitarists--some of my favorites at the time being, George Lynch, Steve Vai, the Shrapnel Records guys, and stuff like that. During college, I studied quite a bit of classical and jazz theory and developed an awareness of those styles. I've tried to write stuff that borrows from all of that to some extent.

Dan McAvinchey: What guitars and other equipment do you favor to get your sound?

Scott Hughes: My main guitars are a Fender Strat Plus Deluxe, and a mongrel Strat put together from Phil Kubicki parts. They compliment each other real well. What the Fender doesn't do, the Kubicki does, and vice versa. For amps, I use a Fender Blues Deville 2x12, which has the richest sound I've ever had. For processing, I use an ADA MP1 pre-amp, and an Alesis Quadraverb GT for effects. I also have a Digitech Whammy II that I use for weird noise stuff,
and octave dividing.

Dan McAvinchey: What are you hoping to achieve musically?

Scott Hughes: I'd really like to develop into a good composer. There are a lot of players who are such phenomenal soloists, that people may forget to enjoy the songs. I'm not a Greg Howe or an Allan Holdsworth when it comes to soloing, so I have no choice but to work on developing my compositional skills so that people will have a reason to listen! To me, the ideal is someone like Scott Henderson, or Shawn Lane, who are not only amazing players, but equally strong, if not better, composers. That's the pinnacle, to me.

Dan McAvinchey: What are your most recently completed projects and what are you currently working on?

Scott Hughes: I've just released my first CD, "lapse", and am trying to market it and possibly find someone to help me distribute it. I'm also selling them through my web site at http://members.aol.com/ma36scott/index.html Other than that, I'm working on some new material, but I don't plan to start any recording until next summer. I just spent a four month chunk of my life hiding
out in my studio, so right now I don't want to go near it! All work and no play. . .

Dan McAvinchey: How do you go about composing your music?

Scott Hughes: Some ideas come from just sitting and noodling on the guitar. Other times, it'll be a concept that will spark the idea, like using a specific meter, a 12-tone row, or something more mechanical/mathematical. Once I have the idea(s), I'll put it in a computer sequencer and play with tempos, transpositions, and stuff until I get something I like.

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Dan McAvinchey: Do like recording at home or do you prefer a commercial studio?

Scott Hughes: I record at home, because it's more cost and time effective that way. I just have to be careful of the upstairs neighbors. They tend to not be so tolerant of me wanting to get 'the perfect take' early in the morning! Mastering is another story. For that, I go to a studio here in town, because I don't possess the equipment or the know-how to do it myself.

Dan McAvinchey: What went into the decision to form your own record label and release an independent record?

Scott Hughes: I didn't think it was realistic to sit around and wait for someone to discover me. I also believe that you create your own opportunities, and if you want something to happen, it's usually best if you take the initiative to do it yourself. I also wanted to see if I was capable of doing it all myself. I've learned a lot over the past few years as a result.

Dan McAvinchey: What do you find to be the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent musician?

Scott Hughes: The advantage is having 100% creative control over your material. Unfortunately, you also have 100% financial responsibility for recording, duplication, promotion, etc. That can be really hard when it's one person's solo project as opposed to, say, a five member band where expenses can be split up among several people.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you have any final thoughts for other guitarists out there who are considering the independent route into the music business?

Scott Hughes: I wish the three major guitar magazines were all still doing their 'new talent' columns. Unfortunately, the only one still around is "Spotlight" in Guitar Player, and it seems to be happening just a few times a year instead of monthly now. I thought this was a great way for unknowns to get some national exposure. Now it's really hard. Under those circumstances, I'm
amazed that I managed to sneak my way into 'Spotlight' this past summer!

One alternative that worked really well for me was setting up a web site and giving away free demos to anyone who wanted one. I did two demo cassettes before making the CD, and used this method to generate interest and build a mailing list. I had to eat about $250 for the cassettes, but it was worth it. People will always take something for free, and then, if they like it, maybe they'll actually be willing to throw down some cash for a CD. So far, the results have been really encouraging.

I've also corresponded with a lot of other guitarists who are doing similar things, and besides getting to hear some really cool underground music, 99% of them are willing to help out and exchange information, mailing lists, business contacts, etc. I think
most of us realize what a small community this is, therefore the least we can do is help and support each other.

Most importantly, I think you have to be persistent, and believe in what you're trying to do. If you keep at it, you'll eventually get somewhere. Right?! PLEASE TELL ME THAT'S TRUE!

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All the way from Portland, Maine comes guitarist/composer Scott Hughes, who is rapidly carving his own niche in the rock/fusion area--but a fusion not limited to simply jazz and rock. One of Hughes' goals is to take many idioms and styles of music and blend them into a rock and/or jazz context. Hughes believes in the importance of individual style, and therefore puts a priority on uniqueness, both as a player and a composer. He has taken a proactive approach to his career, looking for every opportunity to familiarize the world with his recorded music.

Dan McAvinchey asked Hughes to give us a career update and to share his thoughts on the independent route to recognition in the music business.