Ethan Brosh – The Dream ForetellsMonday, 23rd April 2018
Fresh off an opening slot in support of former Manowar guitarist Ross the Boss, budding guitar hero Ethan Brosh sounds relieved to be back in the comfort in his own environs. The life of an instrumental guitar player in this climate is not an easy one considering the sheer lack of future guitar gods waiting in the wings, not to forget the baseless stigmas the guys already in the game are faced with; i.e. “Guitar heroes are so 1980s.” However, Brosh is quite the determined gent, self-releasing his third album, Conspiracy, a guitar tour-de-force that combines fluid playing, technicality, elaborate melodies and tightly-wound song constructs. Unlike some of his peers, Brosh knows how to pen a memorable tune, which will no doubt serve him well as he continues to swim upstream, all the more reason for us to connect with the man over the phone…
Dead Rhetoric: Conspiracy is your third album. As you start to release more, is the excitement still there even as you build more of a catalog?
Ethan Brosh: Absolutely. This wasn’t a quick project that was just put together and that’s it. This is something that I’ve been working on for three years and I’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of money and a lot of effort to make it happen. I think it’s my best work, so, for me, putting it out there, I don’t take it lightly. This is something that we’re playing now on the road. It’s what’s going to be the sound and the new look for a little while now. So, the excitement is there exactly as it was for my first and second record, there’s no doubt about it. If this was my tenth record and I just jammed in the studio for a couple weeks and somebody threw up a quick picture for an album cover, then maybe the excitement wouldn’t have been there. But, this is not the case. I put a lot of effort into this one for a long time and I feel very relieved that this is actually out there now.
Dead Rhetoric: You worked with (producer) Max Norman, who is a veteran rock guy. Outside of the experience of working with him, what did you learn from him?
Brosh: It’s a lot of little things. This is actually the second time I’ve worked with Max. A couple of years ago, I kind of convinced him to come out of retirement and mix my second record, Live the Dream. We became very good friends. When we mixed Live the Dream, we were there in the studio for ten days, 14-hours every single day and I was sitting right next to him mixing the whole thing. I’m very, very involved in every single process throughout the recording and release of the album. It’s basically not that I just send files to somebody and go ‘Alright, you go and mix it.’ I was sitting next to Max every second throughout the process and the same thing happened with Conspiracy. I was at his place in New York this time and I was sitting right next to him for every little tweak of every little thing. I learned a lot about mixing and EQ’ing and learning this what you do for drums and this is what you do for guitars. Production is something that I really put a lot of time, effort and money into. I think production is very, very important, especially in this style of music. In rock music, it’s just the intensity and the size and the whole package, the sound of it is very important. Sometimes, just playing two power chords that’s something easy, easy technically, it’s all you need, but, it needs to sound properly and it needs to sound impressive. If that’s not there, then the music is not being driven the right way. So, production is a huge part of it and I also find it fascinating. It’s something that grew up on records that just sounded so flawless and so incredible. That’s what I’m trying to achieve for my music. Sitting next to somebody like Max who actually made a lot of those records, I’m just listening to all the tricks that he’s teaching me. I’m learning a lot about production and a lot about how you actually produce a band and how you record a drummer and how you record a bass player and those things. And, I listen to the stories and now, Max and I are very close friends.
Dead Rhetoric: You can do several things well at once; you’re not the prototypical shred guy who can only do one thing. So, when composing, where do you draw the line between technicality and having memorable parts that the average listener can latch onto?
Brosh: My approach to writing in general, is that I really think of instrumental music as songs just like regular songs that you have vocals for. I’ve seen a lot of instrumental guitar players that the way that they write or approach writing is based on the guitar “trick.” Or based on the fast groove or the fast double-bass groove, something that came from a metronome or came from an exercise or came from some kind of a trick where they wanted to develop that guitar trick and write a whole tune around it with a bunch of variations, keep everything fast and that’s where the approach is coming from. A lot of the approaches are coming from “Okay, I have some melody that just hit me.” I don’t even sit down and force myself to write something. If all the sudden something just hits me and I think it’s great and I’ll continue to sit there and write it. Usually, it comes from either a good riff or a good melody. And, what I do is if I get a good melody, then I try to get it to sound as best as I possibly can make it. Then, I understand that a real song is not just one section. What is difficult is if you have one great section, you got to come up with something else that will be a nice contrast, but at the same time, sound like it’s the same tune and it’s a natural flow. So, that is where a lot of the challenge really happens. You can get one great section and then for the next ten years, you might not get another one to work with that song. I kind of tend to let things happen naturally, at first, then, once I get a good piece of music, then I try to spend a lot of time thinking what will actually make sense for the whole song to flow and to stay interesting and for one section to just naturally flow into the other and keep in mind I got an intro, I got a verse and I got a chorus, then I might have a solo section where everything goes crazy. I don’t even worry about it until everything is recorded until I have drums and I have bass and I have everything else. At the very end, I’m like “Okay, time for me to sit down and play a crazy solo.” That’s the easiest thing for me to do. What’s really difficult is good writing. That’s where a lot of people fail.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s almost like you’re a songwriter at heart.
Brosh: If there’s one thing I hope to someday get credit for, it’s my compositions and songwriting. There’s a lot of guys who can play fast and who are so technical. That’s all nice and good, but I’d like to actually be credited as a good musician. This is what I’ve always been after.
Dead Rhetoric: You just wrapped a tour supporting Ross the Boss. How did the new songs from Conspiracy translate live?
Brosh: Excellent. I had a really great time to finally take these tunes that I’ve been hearing so much in the past three years and actually put it out there and play it live, nice and loud with the rest of the band. The whole tour was just like a process of trying to play better and better every night and have a conversation with the band of what works and what didn’t work. And, changing the set and opening with a different tune and just shuffling them around to see what’s a better flow. Those things are fun when you actually get to focus on the actual music and what works live and when in the set it works live. That’s kind of what I see throughout the tour as being the good times. The hard times, of course, are the load-ins, the loading out and all the drives and the snowstorms. Sometimes personalities you have to deal with…those are the things that are not so glamorous. Whenever you have four musicians together and you’re talking about the tunes and what works and what doesn’t, that needs to be happening. I was excited about it. This is the first time that I’m introducing a lot of new material and I was enjoying that part a lot.
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned that with playing live, comes trial and error. Does this ever influence you when putting together new songs?
Brosh: Sometimes. Sometimes when you have times where during soundcheck, I got a bunch of ideas for songs because there is something to going into a venue and getting all excited and it’s a nice, big venue, empty of most people. So, there is no stress, you’re not performing, but you’re plugging into equipment and you’re playing really loud and you just start messing around on random stuff and you play with your friends. In those moments sometimes, new things are born. There is no stress and you’re in a venue that sounds good and everything is really nice and loud and fun and you’re just jamming and sometimes inspiration will come in these moments.
Dead Rhetoric: Then you need to find something to record these ideas with, right?
Brosh: Yeah, that’s true! Usually, I’ll try to play it a bunch of times in a row until I kind of remember the idea and soon as I get home, I try to actually do something with it.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve played with guys like Michael Sweet (Stryper) and Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio, Heaven and Hell). So, who is on your bucket list?
Brosh: There is so many people. [Laughs] It’s like basically everyone that I grew up idolizing. I would love to do something with any of the guys from Iron Maiden, obviously. I would love to play some guitar for Bruce Dickinson. I would love to have maybe a guest solo from Adrian Smith or something like that. That would be incredible. There’s so many people. I’m trying to think…I would love to maybe one day if the opportunity arises play guitar for Whitesnake or Megadeth, one of those 80s metal bands. Of course, I wouldn’t want to take anyone’s job, but those things change all the time and people come and people go. I would love to do something like that. That’s one of the top things on my list.
Photo credit: Enver Perez