Brian tarquin must not stray very far from his studio. The prolific composer/producer/guitarist has generated a huge catalog of releases through his BHP Music imprint, including the Guitar Masters series; tribute albums for Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and others; and his own solo projects. But his latest release, Guitars for Wounded Warriors, is more than just a bunch of hot guitarists laying down some tough solos. It’s also a charitable endeavor to assist wounded veterans and their families during a soldier’s hospitalization and rehabilitation, as well as a personal “thank you” to the men and women of the American military from Tarquin and his “heavy friends.”
“My father was in World War II, and growing up in New York in the ’60s and ’70s, I saw so many Vietnam vets on subway cars begging for money to eat,” explains Tarquin. “I felt so bad for them, because no one cared at the time. So this is my way of saying thanks to all veterans for letting people like me be free and do music. I was in the ROTC in college, and I suffered through an ass-kicking basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. I bowed gracefully out of the military, and I couldn’t watch a John Wayne movie for years after the experience, but it gave me a great appreciation for what our military people go through for America.”
The “heavy friends” mentioned on the album include guitarists Steve Morse, Chris Poland, Reb Beach, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, Gary Hoey, Hal Lindes, Alex De Rosso, and the Flyin’ Ryan Brothers, and bassist Billy Sheehan—all of whom contributed solos to the project. Tarquin actually composed the songs for Guitars for Wounded Warriors with each guest artist’s style in mind. He also crafted cinematic soundscapes that opened things up for the guitars to be much more than just solo instruments.
Flyin’ Ryan Brothers
“This is the heaviest record I’ve ever made, and I wanted it to be action packed and in-your-face, but also thoughtful and melodic,” says Tarquin. “During the composing period, I was watching movies like Where Eagles Dare, The Green Berets, Platoon, Black Hawk Down, and The Hurt Locker for inspiration, as well as playing Call of Duty 3: Modern Warfare after late-night sessions. I decided the role of the guitar was to tell these stories, so I wrote guitar harmonies that were either melodic or dissonant. All the guitar parts were designed to evoke a mood.
“It was also important that Guitars for Wounded Warriors sounded extremely natural and organic. I didn’t want to do this material with a Pro Tools edit session for each song, or use plug-ins for the sounds. So I recorded the basic tracks at a 200-yearold Farmhouse in the Catskills on an analog Ampex 24-track deck with Reggie Pryor on drums and Rick Mullen on bass. I covered all of the rhythm guitar parts and main melodies. I double-tracked the rhythm parts, panned them hard left and right, and made sure I left room for the guest soloists. It was like building a house from the ground up.”
Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal
Building that house required the right materials, and Tarquin assembled a small platoon of guitars, amps, and effects to get the job done right.
“The critical amp for the sessions was a Marshall plexi with a Mark Cameron modification— an additional gain stage and a bass-resonance control—and a Marshall 4x12 cabinet,” he says. “You can almost feel the huge sound in the tracks. Other amps included an Orange Dark Terror, an Orange Tiny Terror, a Fender Prosonic, a Marshall JCM 2000, a Soldano Reverb-O-Sonic, an EVH 5150III, and a Mesa/Boogie Mark IIB combo. The rhythm-guitar parts were played on three Les Pauls—a ’77 Deluxe, a ’99 Custom, and a 2013 Ace Frehley Budokan— and I used an Ibanez 8-string to get some sub-lows for my wall of guitars. The melodies were usually done on my Fender Stratocaster with Seymour Duncan Blackout single-coils. Pedals included a DigiTech Whammy, a Snarling Dogs Mold Spore Wah, and an original Maestro Ring Modulator.”
Of course, Guitars for Wounded Warriors isn’t simply a salute to those who sacrificed so much for their country. Tarquin is also giving back by sending some of the album’s proceeds to a veteran’s charity he researched scrupulously.
“Approximately one-half of BHP Music’s royalties from the album will be donated to the Fisher House Foundation—an organization best known for providing homes for military families to stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment,” says Tarquin. “These homes are located near major military and VA medical centers nationwide. Since its inception, Fisher House has saved families an estimated $235 million in out-of-pocket costs for lodging and transportation.”