Shred Lords: Seth Jackson
Interview by Elliot John Doe
After last year’s in-depth interview with the bulk of Wellington, New Zealand’s premier Black Metal heavyweights, Bulletbelt, I felt it was time to introduce their new guitarist Seth Jackson and see where he get’s his insane skills from, what his influences are and what the future holds for him as a musician before he hits the road with Bulletbelt for their ‘Cloak The Night’ NZ Tour!.
Hi Seth, thanks for taking the time out to do this interview today, so when did you start playing guitar?
When I was 17, I’d actually started playing drums two years before and I joined a band called ‘Human Butchery’ when I was about 15 or 16, which was a death metal project that I formed with one of my friends, then after that I joined an indie sort of rock band where I used to dress up wearing masks and stuff called ‘Sullen Moon’ with a couple of people. Then I actually got bored of playing the drums and thought “Ya’ know what?” I actually want to actually start writing the songs and contribute musically, so I started playing guitar and went to my 7th form music teacher and told him I wanted to start playing and writing melodies and stuff and he looked me straight in the eye, laughed and said stick with the drums, which cracked me up but all it really did was make me say “fuck you, I’m going to bust my ass and get even better!” Even for years after that people told me to stick with the drums and I was like “nah, I want to be a guitar player, that’s what I want to do.” I only started playing the drums really because I was shy.
How long have you been playing for?
So I started playing gigs when I was about 16, then two years later when I started guitar I joined a Pantera tribute band, and I’d been in my own band ‘Purjury’ where I sang and played guitar. We only played a couple of times then it kind of fell apart because the other guy got a girlfriend and all that first band kind of shit, then I joined the Pantera tribute and I didn’t know any of it, way above my ability level, but I thought I have to do this, so I just locked myself in a room for a couple of months and learnt it all by myself, then I’d just get drunk every gig to cover the fact that I couldn’t really play it. So I started playing live when I was 17, so about 14 years all up. I think I got better between year one and year three of playing, then I kind of chilled out for awhile and didn’t really play much for a couple of years, then I picked it up again and really progressed from about 2009-2012, what really pushed me was learning every Testament solo from the album Souls Of Black, and I think a good way to stop stagnating is to step away from your instrument for a little while, you know come back in a couple of weeks or months with a fresh set of ears and try something a little different.
What was your first guitar and how did you acquire it?
I went into a cash converters and found this little ‘hondo’ I think it was called, very similar to like a Jake E Lee era Charvel. The real reason I bought it was because it made pinch harmonics sound awesome. That was the defining choice and I played that one for years. The second one I got was a gift from my girlfriend at the time. It was like an Ibanez copy Les Paul style by a company called Diplomat.
How would you describe your playing style?
Everything I do has a solid blues undertone, even if I’m shredding or playing thrash I always try and come back to that and have a bit of soul in there rather than over complicating things, so you could say my style is more of a modern version of classic playing, so it has all things like sweeps and tapping but presented in a more classic way, 80’s players like Skolnick, Jake E Lee, Michael Schenker mixed with virtuoso characters like ones who really inspired me when I was younger such as Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Malmsteen, but finding your own little inflections to balance that out in the way you play, because obviously if you play long enough you develop your own style. So ultimately mine is a fusion of all that stuff, the Seth Jackson style I suppose you could say.
When did you join Bulletbelt?
Mid-late to late last year, just in the process of them finishing up the pre-production for the new album, I contributed I think exactly what they needed, it was pretty good timing. I actually got convinced by a mate of mine because I didn’t really want to play music at all at the time, I was kind of having a break.
What have been your greatest struggles as a musician?
I guess as a musician the lifestyle is like a full-time job sometimes, so it’s hard working and having kids and being a musician, that’s probably the hardest one. The environment for music is always in pubs with alcohol and drugs and stuff like that, that influence is a big one. Money for gear and equipment, you know always having to pay for everything yourself, you always have to put a lot of money into it you know, travel, gigs, accommodation. Playing, writing, recording that’s the fun part but the financial side is very difficult.
What have been your greatest achievements as a musician?
Proving my teacher wrong and actually getting good at playing. Haha!. Putting a band together in a week and opening for Ace Frehley, which I also sang for that too. Playing with Dennis Stratton (ex-Iron Maiden). I don’t think I’ve actually achieved my biggest achievement. I think there’s a lot of stuff still to happen through music. Ultimately at the moment the biggest achievement has to be the playing ability, spending the last 14 years honing my craft to where I feel comfortable with putting it out there, that I can jump on at the last part of an album and lay some stuff on top of there, put on solos I’m happy with and that the band are happy with in a really short amount of time, that to me is a big achievement.
What are your current plans with Bulletbelt? Are you recording a new album, writing new music, touring, making a video, etc?
All of the above! We’ve just finished recording our new album, practicing hard to start our New Zealand tour. After that we’ve got a few things set up for a music video, getting the last bits for the album finished up and getting it out there. It’s the most active I’ve been with a band in a while. We just played up in Auckland with Gorguts and Marduk. I think it was the perfectly placed gig for us and we played just right to kind of boost promotion for the tour, we’re a really different band for the kind of gig that it was but we got a lot of really good feedback, like how different we sounded as band, especially with the new songs, but in a good way, and people who had never seen us before saying they didn’t know what to expect but we sounded really good. It was fun to play at the King’s Arms. I haven’t played there in about 10 years, so it was like revisiting an old memory which was cool.
Outside of your main band what are you doing with your time? Are you teaching, studying, playing in a side project, etc?
I recently got engaged and keeping busy with family life and work, I have a few other projects I’m chipping away at; a death metal project I’m doing with my good friend, just trying to find some other musicians to work on it, but we’ve recorded about five demos. Bulletbelt is definitely my main focus at the moment; everything else is taking a bit of a back burner and being chipped away at when we have the time. It’s got a bit more electronic stuff going on in there too, a bit of an industrial metal feel I suppose you could say. I really haven’t heard anything like it, it’s hard to explain really somewhat of a concept EP, but we’re just adding the finishing touches and hopefully we can put something out in the near future. I also work at the local venue Valhalla which takes up most of my weekends, but I get to see all the bands that come through which is really cool, like I got to see Cryptopsy and Inquisition when they came through, you also get a good idea of how a lot of stuff works venue and industry wise which is pretty cool.
What are your plans as a musician for the coming years?
Starting to write again, that’s something I haven’t done in a while, maybe writing some stuff for the next Bulletbelt album. I need an outlet for the stuff I like playing too, so getting back into some of my other projects I’m involved in. All my life I’ve practiced through writing, even if I don’t put it out I just write things, do arrangements, add to songs, help people out with projects. That’s how I grow. The most is becoming more creative as opposed to just getting technically better all the time. And just getting those other projects out.
What are your biggest goals for the immediate future?
Travelling with Bulletbelt, like doing an Australian tour and maybe getting on some other tours and exposing ourselves as much as we can. That would be our goal for the immediate future as far as the band is concerned.
What is your best advice for beginners and guitarists just starting out?
Get comfortable with it, strap it on to yourself all day everyday, that’s what I did. I even had an argument with my brother and he punched me in the face whilst I was holding my guitar because I never took it off me. I didn’t have any social life because of it. I didn’t go out at the weekends during high school; I spent every single moment I could busting my ass and just getting used to it, making it another part of your body, basically. Doing little routines like alternate picking practice, don’t worry too much about learning songs at the beginning, just get comfortable with it. Get the tools first then go from there, then begin to learn songs or start writing, so before you’re too influenced by the outside you let your inside come out first, then anything else that you learn has a bit of a flavour of you in there.
Thanks for your time Seth and good luck with the upcoming album and tour!.
Elliot John Doe & Metal At The Gates.