The members of Tetrarch are obviously too young to have starred in some golden-era-of-Hollywood film celebrating the American Dream, but their story would have made an excellent script for a ’30s feel-good flick, nonetheless. The timeless plot revolves around hard work and a maverick spirit, but, today, when so many bands struggle to find an audience and a viable way to support their art, the Tetrarch narrative also becomes a kind of beacon of hope.
The band formed in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2007, and while it has released a bevy of albums and singles—and gained tour-support spots for major acts such as Avenged Sevenfold, DevilDriver, and Seether—it has never had the commercial and promotional benefit of a major record label. Even more intriguing, Tetrarch’s latest album, Freaks, cracked the top 20 of several iTunes charts on its release. That’s a pretty stellar accomplishment for a band that is entirely independent. Go team!
Diamond Rowe shares the guitar duties in Tetrarch with guitarist/vocalist Josh Fore, and here she provides some insights about the current metal scene and how she forged her own unique style of shred.
What started you on your guitar journey? Did a particular guitarist blow your mind and inspire you to start playing yourself?
No—that’s really not what happened. It’s an interesting story, actually. I was 12 years old, and I was riding in the car with my mom, and this thought just popped into my head: “You know, it would be kind of cool to play an instrument. I think I’ll play guitar.” I don’t know where it came from, but when I get into something, I’m all in, and nothing else matters. I bought every tab book you could imagine, and I had my parents pick up gear for me at Guitar Center. I’d sit in my room for eight hours a day, and just figure it out. I’d pour over the tab books, watch video lessons, and practice like mad. As I hadn’t really listened to music seriously until then, I also had to formulate who were my favorite bands and guitar players. That’s when I discovered Metallica. They were my all-time favorite band, and I loved Kirk Hammett’s playing. I’d watch their live DVDs over and over and over again. Then, I found Kiss, Eddie Van Halen, Slash, and Dimebag Darrell, and I realized I was becoming influenced by guitarists who were really good at serving the song—even if they were shredders.
You can obviously shred yourself, so how did you determine when fast playing serves the song, and when it doesn’t?
It’s hard for me to define precisely, but when I hear someone sweep picking all over the place, I’ll usually say, “That’s really cool. I can’t do that as well as they can.” But that’s not what made me love guitar. My favorite bands were always mainstream metal bands that knew how to write good songs. The solos the guitar players in those bands played is the kind of playing that made me want to play guitar myself. I saw those solos as tasteful and exuding some kind of emotion, so I guess that’s still what I want to hear today. I mean, I love fast shredding, so if I can figure out a way to do that and still the serve the song, then I’m happy. I want non-musicians to feel something when they hear me play. I don’t really concern myself with other musicians.
That’s an interesting comment. Could you elaborate on that thought?
Well, a musician might listen to a solo, and immediately start saying, “Oh, she should have put a fast lick there,” or, “She should have done this or that.” But not everybody who listens to Metallica or Disturbed really care about that thing. They’re going to say, “Whoa, that was really a cool solo,” or, “Wow, I really felt something when those notes hit me.” So I’m more interested in serving those people, rather than other musicians who might say, “Oh, she’s not as good as Tosin Abasi.” I mean, what’s that mean, anyway? Of course, I’d like to impress people with my playing, but I’m not trying to compete with anyone. I’m trying to play music.
That said, how did you go about working up your speed?
For me it was persistence. I know that a lot of people say to hook up a metronome, start slow, and speed up. I tried that, but it made guitar playing a little too much like studying for me. I mean, it worked, but I didn’t want to do it very much. For me, it was more productive to listen to records, and learn the notes of whatever fast lick I was trying to learn. Then, I’d stop the song, and play the notes slowly until I could get it up to speed—or at least as close as possible. Once I had that down, I’d practice along with the song until my speed matched the recording. There wasn’t much of a technical method—I’d just practice the lick over and over. I’d sit there for hours [laughs].
What was the main rig you used for the Freak sessions?
I mainly played my black ESP Eclipse, but I did some lead lines and octave parts with my Les Paul Standard. My strings are a .010 set of Ernie Ball Skinny Top/Heavy Bottom. We tried a few different amps, but I remember a Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifier and a Peavey 6505 were blended together for most of the tracks. We used to plug right into our amps, but we wanted some variation for this album so we used a DigiTech Whammy, a Boss DD-3 Digital Delay, and some effects—like a phaser—added with software plug-ins.
When you started carving out a singular guitar sound for yourself, what types of things were you looking at?
Basically, I’ve played a Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifier since I started playing guitar. I’ve always liked that really chunky, fat, and grainy tone—something you can almost feel when you palm-mute the low-E string. When I play rhythm, that’s my thing. Josh, however, is a scooper. He scoops out all the midrange. I don’t. I like my mids.
How do you and Josh split up your roles when you write songs together? Is one of you the main riff writer, or the lyric writer, or is it a creative free for all?
We both pretty much touch on everything when it comes to writing. He might have a riff or a vocal melody, and I’ll help him expand on the idea, or vice versa. If he does more of one thing, it’s coming up with vocal melodies. But, other than that, we both do everything—riffs, solos, rhythm parts, counterpoint lines, hooks, and so on. It’s never really a set method, but usually somebody will start something, and then we’ll come together to finish it.
As you’re aware, there’s a thriving community of female guitarists who shred brilliantly. Did any of them influence you in some way?
This is probably going to make me a terrible person, but I’ve never been influenced by a female guitar player. In fact, I honestly didn’t even think about the fact that I was a female playing guitar until later in my career. I never wanted to seek out someone just like me, and I never paid attention to the fact that I was even different. I never thought, “Oh, I’m a girl. People won’t believe in me, and I’m not going to be able to shred.” I just liked all the dudes. I’d say, “Yeah. Eddie Van Halen. I’m going to play like that!” And, you know, I just tried to play like that. End of story.