James Norbert Ivanyi might not be a household name in shred just yet, but he’s got the chops and compositions to get him there. His combination of progressive songwriting and tasty/often shreddy licks put him in the same ballpark as Nick Johnston or Sean Ashe, but just a bit more metal. He’s like an Aussie, proggier Steve Vai. As part of Australia Week, we interviewed him about his gear (which is further detailed in his Rigged video below), his musical inspirations, and the Aussie music scene. Be sure to check out our Weekly Riff featuring him as well.
Tell us a bit about you.
I am a musician/guitarist from Sydney, Australia. I started playing about 10 years ago, and currently I’m releasing music as a solo artist. I have released two albums under my own name – ‘Aphasia’ (2013) and ‘The Matter Circumvention’ (2015).
What is your all-time favorite recorded guitar tone?
That’s a tough one. The guitar tone on ‘Train Of Thought’ (Dream Theater) is a special one. I was in high school when I first heard that record, and up until then I’d never heard such a ‘hi-fi’ and pristine tone. The lead tone on that record has probably stuck with me the most. I was heavily into Joss Stone a couple years back, and when she was working with Jeff Beck, I became enamoured by Beck’s modern-era tones. The singing quality he gets on ‘Emotion And Commotion’ is just magic. That record was quite a turning point for me to start using single coil guitars in my own music.
Do you have a tone philosophy? How does this affect your current rig?
I do believe one should use the right tool for the job. I don’t think every guitar can ‘do it all’, so personally I like to start with the right guitar for the project, and build the rest from there. The effect on creativity a different piece of gear can have is huge.
What made you decide to pick up the guitar?
I started out playing drums and grew up in an artistic family, so I’ve always made noise one way or another. When I was in high school, DVD’s were all the rage and my mother bought me AC/DC live at Donnington Castle for my birthday. Once I saw Angus Young playing guitar, that was pretty much that.
How did you learn to play?
I taught myself how to play by watching live DVD’s and sitting next to my cd player and figuring out riffs by ear. Whenever I met someone else who played the guitar, I asked them to show me something. To this day I am self taught. I do aspire to get some lessons in the future, as there are some holes in my abilities that I would like to improve on, and learn from others.
What is the most important aspect of learning to play guitar?
I think it’s to have fun. When I first started out, I’d play all night long, stare at my guitar across the room as I went to sleep, then get up early to play before school. I had so much fun. I know other people who were getting lessons at the same time, and none of them play anymore. I think if you get a teacher, they have to be the right one. Not get stuck by ‘they are the teacher, so I’ll do what they say’.
What is your warmup and daily practice routine like?
My warmup routine is really just to have fun improvising on the guitar until I feel warmed up. Once I feel warmed up, I’ll begin working on my practice. My practice is usually focussed on overcoming and unravelling what I need to do in order to achieve the musical task at hand. It’s a slow process of trial and error.
What kind of strings, picks, and effects pedals are you using?
I use D’addario strings (9-46) XL’s/NYXL’s and Dunlop JAZZ III picks. I love pedals, and currently I’m using Diamond J-Drive MKIII, Memory Lane Jr. & Boost-EQ in my rig. I also use a Suhr RIOT, MI EFFECTS Cross Overdrive and Crunch Box. For patch control and most of my effects I use a TC Electronics G-System.
What is the very first instrument you ever owned?
The very first guitar I owned was a Samick brand Les Paul copy. It was in bad shape, and I used to get the bus a long distance across the city to a friends place once or twice a week so he could tune it up for me. Ever since then I’ve been quite attached to the LP shape.
What is the music scene like in Australia/your city? Who are your favorite Aussie musicians/bands?
The music scene is Australia is an interesting thing. Having the privilege to travel abroad for music a few times now, my view on it has changed over time for the negative. In my opinion, I feel there are plenty of avid music fans in Australia, and some truly world class musicians. I think the mindset of a lot of Australian musicians and bands is a little stuck in the past. There are a lot of great bands here, but they seem to be stuck doing the same thing, hoping for a different result. There are bands here that think outside the box, set their sights further, break the rules and do extremely well. I think if a musician or band here wants to stand out, they really have to be creative and not think supporting the next band that rolls though town is their ticket to something better.
Some of my favourite Australian musicians are David Horgan, who has been drumming with me for years. James Muller, one of the worlds finest jazz guitar players in my opinion, the band NeObliviscaris, who are a great example of a band who thinks outside the box, never falters on professionalism and isn’t afraid to take risks. Plini, a guitar player (also in Sydney) is carving a path for himself in the instrumental scene.
Who are your favorite Aussie guitar builders?
I don’t believe there are that many here, but I’ve played quite a few Charles Cilia guitars (that my friend Michael Dolce introduced me to) that are superb. I’ve also played an Ormsby multi-scale that was quite cool too.
Is it harder to get gear in Oz?
I believe it is harder for people, yes, definitely.
Does gear matter?
Of course, but only up to a point. Ultimately, tone is in the hands. All the best gear in the world isn’t going to make you a better musician.
What music inspires you?
Any musician that thinks outside the box, comes from a place of honesty and artistic integrity, I will find inspiring, regardless of the genre.
How did you learn audio production?
I taught myself slowly over time, and jumped into the deep end with it. It’s something I’m very interested in, so I’m always looking to learn new tricks and absorb as much information as I can. I’ve had some invaluable advice from some industry professionals along the way too.
Any advice for aspiring guitarists?
My advice is to just be yourself, and have fun. Don’t be too concerned with standing out. Just do your thing, and have fun with it. -The most important thing about music is to have fun. At the end of the day, its just music (it’s not heart surgery) so don’t be to hard on yourself.
Why do you wear your strap so high? Who the fuck do you think you are? Fucking Ghandi?
I think the only way to answer this question, is with a quote from the great man himself.
“If someone disagrees with you, just punch them in the fucking throat” -Mahatma Ghandi.