Gorguts/Dyrhythmia Guitarist Kevin Huffnagel’s Favorite Players, from Shredders to Jazz Heads

The best thing about Gorguts Colored Sands record, besides the fact that it was better than any other album released in 2013, is that the band’s co-guitarist Kevin Huffnagel is finally getting his dues. I’ve been a huge, huge fan of his other group, Dysrhythmia, for about a decade now, and although a lot of musicians in the scene love that band they’ve never gained much widespread adoration. Even in Dysrhythmia, a lot of the attention is lavished upon bassist Colin Marston (I admit to being guilty of this), in part due to his role in the slightly more popular Behold… The Arctopus, and partly because phenomenal bassists (and Warr guitarists) are harder to come by. And don’t get me wrong, Colin is absolutely one of the best musicians in extreme music. But Kevin Huffnagel is needs his dues too (and don’t get me started on how criminally underrated Dysrhythmia/Zevious drummer Jeff Eber is).

So good on Decibel for featuring Kevin in this “Inside The Shredder’s Studio” feature. He runs down his guitar heroes from days of yore as well as a couple recent discoveries like Blut Aus Nord’s Vindsval. True to the nature of Huffnagel’s unique playing style, all of the choices on his list are eclectic and excellent. I’ll include a couple of the embedded YouTube videos, but I’d recommend heading over to the original article at Decibel to read the whole thing, because there’s a slew of great choices there. Seriously, this is only about a third of them.

Marty Friedman “Dragon Mistress”

I was heavily caught up in the Shrapnel Records/shred guitar thing during the first few years of playing. Eventually, my interest began to wane, as most of it was all starting to sound the same. Marty Friedman always stuck out to me from the hordes of others, thanks in part to his expressive playing, and unique harmonic sense. This kept me tuned in, when others became 128th note wallpaper. His uncanny ability to make even a pentatonic scale sound exotic is a testament to that. Friedman’s one of those guitarists where the moment he bends a note, you know it’s him. I’ve always found that inspiring, and a key to creating your own identity as a guitarist.

Julian Bream “Nocturnal: Passacaglia”

Thank you to my late grandmother for exposing me to the gorgeous playing of Julian Bream; first by giving me his “Guitarra!” VHS collection, then by purchasing me a ticket to see him live in NYC. I’ve returned to his albums a lot in recent years, and the nuance, passion, and dynamics in his performances have made me take a closer look at my own playing … particularly when composing my recent baritone ukulele pieces. I believe one thing that sets him apart from most other classical guitarists is his varied musical background; he played early jazz, as well as Indian music, not to mention lute. His performance of Albeniz’s “Asturias (Leyenda)” was what initially drew me in, but I couldn’t find a performance of that on YouTube. Instead, I’ve chosen his performance of Benjamin Britten’s “Nocturnal: Passacaglia.” To paraphrase composer Richard Rodney Bennett: “Julian’s playing has a sort of poetry, mystery, and darkness that no one else has.”

Blut Aus Nord “MoRT Chapter II”

Vindsval of BAN has become a more recent favorite. In particular, his expertise at balancing consonance and dissonance. However, it was his extremely dissonant work on their ‘MoRT’, and ‘The Work Which Transforms God’ albums that impacted me the most when I first heard them; taking that delirious My Bloody Valentine-esque tremolo bar chord/note bending style to its darkest and most nauseating extreme. I believe he might be using a fretless guitar on these records as well? Nonetheless, this inspired me to use some fretless (subtly) on Dysrhythmia’s ‘Test of Submission’ record, as well as during the verses of “Le Toit du Monde” from the latest Gorguts album.

Sonny Sharrock “Who Does She Hope to Be”

I went to school for jazz guitar, the irony in that being it made me realize I didn’t care for many (traditional) jazz guitarists. Sonny was anything but traditional though. One of the most emotional players in the world of jazz; his raw, biting, soaring tone and knack for moving melodic themes, completely drew me in. ‘Ask the Ages’ still stands as one of my all-time favorite albums of any genre.

Voivod “Pre-Igition”

Denis “Piggy” D’Amour had the most profound impact on me as a player. I remember the first time I heard Voivod; I simply wasn’t ready for it. My ear wasn’t quite attuned to that kind of dissonance. A few years later, teen angst was setting in and Piggy’s dense, clustered, beautifully-gross playing made a lot more sense, and mirrored how I felt inside at that time. My desire to play power chords went out the window.

And while we’re at it, I’m going to leave you with live footage of a couple Dysrhythmia tunes. Because you’ve worked hard and you deserve them.

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Chris Alfano has written about music and toured in bands since print magazines and mp3.com were popular. Once in high-school he hacked a friend's QBasic stick figure fighting game to add a chiptune metal soundtrack. Random attractive people still give him high-fives about that.