Meet the Guitar Superstar 2009 Host & Judges!

September 3, 2009

The Host

Brendon Small

B SmallsGuitar Player’s Guitar Superstar is thrilled to welcome back the host of our 2007 competition, Brendon Small—a man who is perhaps the funniest death-metal guitar icon in the known universe.

The comic and humorist is the co-creator (with Tommy Blacha) of Adult Swim’s Metalocalypse cartoon series, which documents the mayhem surrounding the mythical Norwegian metal outfit, Dethklok, and its guitarslingers Skwisgaar Skwigelf and Toki Wartooth—who just happen to be the two fastest guitarists alive.

Brendon—a 1997 Berklee College of Music graduate—does all the music and songs for the series, so he’s no smooth-jazz snoozer when it comes to playing guitar parts faster than The Flash after downing a case of Red Bull. In 2007, Brendon decided to twist animated fiction into reality by releasing a “real” Dethklok album. The Dethalbum was no joke, ultimately becoming the highest charting death-metal album on the Billboard 200, and launching a flesh-and-blood Dethklok tour that featured Brendon and Mike Keneally on guitars, Bryan Beller on bass, and Gene Hoglan on drums.

Just about 18 days from this moment, The Dethalbum II is set for release. A deluxe version will include a bonus DVD packed with footage from Dethklok’s 2008 tour. This fall, Brendon and his Dethklok crew will be touring with Mastodon, Converge, and High On Fire.

The Judges

Jennifer Batten

Jennifer has been a favorite of Guitar Player readers since her February 1984 appearance in Mike Varney’s Spotlight column, and her stunning version of Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” on one of our compilation CDs. She was also one of the premier players who popularized the two-hand tapping technique. We like to think she was perhaps Michael Jackson’s most visible live-performance guitarist, joining the King of Pop onstage for his Bad, Dangerous, and HIStory tours, as well as his 1993 Super Bowl set that was witnessed by more 1.5 billion viewers in 80 nations.

In 1998, another icon asked Jennifer to join his band: Jeff Beck. She contributed to Beck’s Who Else and You Had It Coming CDs, and performed live with the ferociously talented and always-surprising guitarist for three years.

A fervent educator, Jennifer has authored several music books, and still occasionally contributes lessons to Guitar Player. Her latest release is Whatever, and she has been promoting the CD with a thrilling one-woman multimedia show where she plays guitar to video clips projected onto a large screen.

This is Jennifer’s first time as a Guitar Superstar judge.

Elliot Easton

As a member of the Cars from 1976-1988, Elliot’s multi-faceted stylistic focus and enthusiasm for the experimental produced some of rock’s most ear-catching, genre-bending solos. The former Berklee student has also toured with Hall and Oates, performed with Creedence Clearwater Revisited, participated in the premiere MTV Unplugged broadcast, contributed a song to Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, formed the New Cars with Todd Rundgren, and has worked with Brian Wilson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Lee Rocker, and many others. Recently, Elliot played the solo on the Click Five’s “Angel to You (Devil to Me),” and did a cameo spot in the Australian film Ricky! The Movie.

Starting in the ’80s with the Kramer EE Pro, Elliot’s love for the guitar has inspired him to co-design many models. His current beauties include the Martin HD Elliot Easton Custom Artist Edition and the Gibson Inspired By Elliot Easton SG. Always enthusiastic to share his experience with up-and-coming players, Elliot has participated in many Rock and Roll Fantasy Camps, and he filmed a wonderful discussion on his Cars solos for GPTV (

Greg Hampton

A ferociously talented guitarist, singer, songwriter, and producer, this is Greg’s debut as a Guitar Player’s Guitar Superstar judge. He has worked with Bootsy Collins, Tommy Bolin, Ron Wood, Rick Derringer, Pat Travers, and the Tubes, among others, and he just completed production on Lita Ford’s new album.

In addition, his work on the most recent Alice Cooper release, Along Came a Spider, helped the legendary glam-and-gore rocker achieve his highest-charting album since 1991.

Recent projects include Science Faxtion’s Living on Another Frequency—which partners Greg with Bootsy, Buckethead, Brain, and Casual T—and a “top secret” collaboration with Adrian Belew that will likely blow more than a few minds when it’s released.

Steve Lukather

Who hasn’t this immensely gifted and totally hilarious guitarist played with? I don’t think there’s anybody left—at least until President Obama cuts a solo album and needs a hot guitarist. In addition to Steve’s tenure with the hit-making tsunami that was Toto, his credits include sessions for artists such as Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Olivia Newton-John, Alice Cooper, Elton John, Al Jarreau, Herb Alpert, Paul McCartney, George Benson, Eric Clapton, the Crusaders, Van Halen, and Les Paul. Steve has also won five Grammys, and co-designed his signature Music Man Ball Family Reserve Steve Lukather model.

A great friend to Guitar Player and its reader community, Steve is always up for performing at magazine events, sharing his experiences through clinics and lessons, and, right now, he is now logging his fourth year as a Guitar Player’s Guitar Superstar judge. (Steve and Joe Satriani were the premiere judges when GP debuted the event at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 2005.)

Steve’s current release is Ever Changing Times—a reference, in part, to his retiring Toto after 32 years, in addition to all the music his fertile mind has yet to unleash—and he has been touring Europe throughout the summer.

Earl Slick

Earl is also making his debut as a Guitar Superstar judge this year. The New York-born guitarist was famously hired to replace the late Mick Ronson in David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs tour in 1974, and Earl’s ecstatically soaring and edgy leads on David Live—as well as his part in the innovative melding of rock and funk guitars with Carlos Alomar on Station to Station—are almost perfect aural “clinics” on how to rage melodically and tastefully.

After his first Bowie tenure (he was to return to the fold twice in 1983 and 2002), Earl became a much in-demand session player, eventually working with John Lennon on 1980’s Double Fantasy. In the ’90s, he joined forces with former Stray Cats Slim Jim Phantom and Lee Rocker to form Phantom, Rocker & Slick. Recently, Earl has launched the side project Slinky Vagabond and the Eons with the Sex Pistols’ Glen Matlock, Blondie’s Clem Burke, and musician/fashion designer Keanan Duffty.
The making of Earl’s most recent solo album, Zig Zag, was chronicled in the November 2004 issue of Guitar Player. 

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