As a teenager growing up in Northern Ireland in the early 80s John discovered heavy rock and metal when it was in its infancy with AC/DC, Accept, Judas Priest and all those now classic bands. The first band he ever saw live was Blackfoot in the Ulster Hall, Belfast. "In the 80s I heard and saw some great bands that I still listen to today. Like everybody else, I reckon that the music of my generation was the best."
John bought his first Kerrang in Feb 1982, issue 10, and from the photos always thought the guitarists were the coolest. He took up the guitar as a teenager, and had a few lessons from a hippy neighbour who taught him how to play Bob Dylan songs. John joined a band and had fun performing a mixture of covers and some original stuff but his guitar playing went on hiatus while he went back into education. After finishing his PhD (that's the reason he came to Oxford) he landed a great job and could finally afford the time to get back to playing music and the disposable income to buy some good gear.
What was your first instrument? When and where did you start playing?
My first guitar was a black Les Paul copy made by Kay, bought for me by my mum, and a Kay 50 watt amplifier (thanks mum). I tried to play along to Priest and Maiden. The first song I managed to learn all the way through was "Breaking the Law". Of course, there wasn't the internet or any tablature back them. You had to figure it out by ear from the LP. Put the needle down in roughly the right place, play along, and then rinse and repeat until you got it right. Maybe.
What bands and artists have influenced your playing?
I've always been a devout AC/DC fan, both Bon Scott and Brian Johnson eras equally, it's all good to me. After a quick scan my music library seems to be dominated by AC/DC, Accept, Black Sabbath (especially the Dio years), Dio, Megadeth and Manowar. As for guitarists, my influences are Angus Young, Tony Iommi, Glen Tipton, Wolf Hoffmann and more recently Joe Bonamassa (saw him in Brighton 2015).
Those of you who know me, know that I enjoy a good whinge about what I don't like. So here goes. For example, the 90s flew straight past me (Exhibit A: that was the year Mr Blobby went to No.1 in the charts). I don't get grunge, hair metal, Machine Head, Sepultura, Slipknot, Industrial, Prog, or anything seriously detuned (most modern metal). Oh that felt good.
What gear do you use?
I've used various gear over the years, but generally Marshall amps and cabs. Most of my guitars are flying Vs. I have a Jackson KV2 which was specially made for me (took 4 months to paint it). I always found that any guitar that had been used by Dave Mustaine had the perfect neck and setup for me (Jackson KV, ESP DV8R, Dean VMNT).
Currently I use Gibson Les Paul Standard guitars, a Blackstar ID:100 head, a Marshall 1960B (vintage) cab, and a TC Electronics G-System. The LP Standard 2015 model with the robotic self-tuners is a brilliant piece of kit. I can tune up or tune to a completely different tuning in seconds.