I had the great honor of being able to talk to Vinnie Moore, in my opinion, one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Vinnie has been the main guitarist and co-songwriter with the British based rock band UFO for over 20 years. He’s also shared the stage with legends like Peter Frampton, and Steve Morse, and toured with Alice Cooper. He’s released ten outstanding solo albums, beginning with his outstanding Shrapnel Records debut Mind’s Eye, which to this day has become one of the most influential instrumental guitar albums to both musicians, and music listeners alike. Vinnie’s newest album is the critically acclaimed “Double Exposure”, his first solo album that incorporates various vocalists into the songs on half the album, as opposed to being strictly instrumental, and it deserves all the acclaim it’s getting. Check out my interview with the legend, Mr. Vinnie Moore.
Creatives In Focus (CIF): Hey Vinnie how’s it going? How have the last few years of global pandemic insanity followed by return to semi normalcy been treating you?
Vinnie Moore (VM): All is well thanks. It’s been good overall. Sometimes you have to make adjustments and carry on with things
CIF: Definitely. So I have a lot of questions to ask you but first, let’s start with a fun one. If you could have a drink with any guitarist, living or dead who would it be and why?
VM: Well, I was already lucky enough to have a couple of Becks beers with Jeff Beck, so that’s one hero off the list. So there would be many others, but off the top of my head here right now, I would say Ritchie Blackmore because he was one of my first guitar heroes and he created a whole style of playing. Very unique player and writer and many other players followed his lead. After that beer, I would likely head over to talk to Eddie Van Halen.
CIF: Such a shame about Beck. I can’t say I was ever a huge fan, but his unique style really paved the way for instrumental guitar music
VM: It sure did!
CIF: Blackmore on the other hand, I’m much more versed in having been a fan of all of his rock projects. Kinda skipped out on Blackmore’s Night but have admired him with Purple and Rainbow for many years.
VM: Me too. I have always been a huge Purple and Rainbow fan.
CIF: Let’s start with some basics. You’ve obviously been playing the guitar since you were 3 or younger because your playing is absolutely inhuman, but who were your first guitar inspirations, and when did you fall in love with the instrument and know that it would become your livelihood?
VM: Thanks for the kind words. I got my first guitar at 12 and was 13 when I had my first lesson. In the beginning I was pretty much into all the popular rock bands of the time like The Beatles, Led Zep, Queen, and Deep Purple. So naturally I was into Page, Blackmore, and Brian May. The Beatles inspired me more with their songs. When I had been playing for about 6 months, I heard an ad on a Philly radio station announcing a concert by some guy named Jeff Beck. His music was playing in the background and it sounded interesting. So I thought, hmmmm, I must check out this Beck guy. He seems to be quite the guitar guy. I went out to a local department store that sold records and there I found an album that would change my life. It was the Wired album. I still have that record now. I loved it and cannot even say how big of an influence it was on me. I was only learning and playing chords at the time. But I somehow managed to figure out the melody in Blue Wind. So that in my mind at the time was when I officially started playing lead guitar. It wasn’t very long after that the first Van Halen album came out. Both these records were way over my head musically and guitar wise, but they gave me something to aspire too.
CIF: All amazing influences. I’d probably add Rory Gallagher and Tony Iommi into that ‘70s guitar list and you’ve got enough sheer brilliance to keep you going forever.
VM: I was into Rory a little later. I loved the Photo Finish album. Especially the song Fuel To The Fire. And yes Tony and Sabbath were there in the beginning too. Of course the Iron Man riff was one of the first things I learned.
CIF: You came out of a wave of instrumental guitar recording artists that include Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Tony MacAlpine, with all of you debuting albums around the same time. Many people call your debut Mind’s Eye one of the greatest instrumental albums of all time. What was it about that time that brought instrumental guitar to the mainstream? Was there ever a rivalry between you guys, or was it a “the more the merrier” attitude?
VM: I still hear other players mention my first record as an inspiration and honestly it blows me away. I was 22 when I wrote and recorded that. Never expected that it would be meaningful to others on that level. I’m not really sure why guitar instrumental stuff was more mainstream at that point to be honest. Maybe because there were players like EVH and Randy Rhoads who people were excited about that were doing very guitar oriented things within a rock band. So it was just pushing the boundaries one step further. And there were a group of players doing exciting things. If you think about it, we all grew up listening to instrumental players such as Jeff Beck, Larry Carlton, and Al Di Meola. So I think it was inevitable that this influence would cause a second wave. There was never a rivalry in my mind. I just wanted to keep playing and writing and getting better at it all. What happened though is that the genre got kind of popular and then the market got saturated with too many people doing the same sort of thing. That was the beginning of the end.
CIF: One of the things I love the most about your albums, is that each one has a unique flavor. The production is always strong and you consistently showcase very different styles of virtuoso playing. Whenever someone brings up the term “shredder” about instrumental guitarists in a negative light, I’ll reference a song like Brother Carlos from “Soul Shifter” or Never Been To Barcelona from “The Maze” and tell them they need to get rid of preconceived notions.
VM: Thanks. I always try to explore different areas musically otherwise I get bored and feel like things are becoming stagnant. Yeah there is definitely a negative stigma attached to the word shredder amongst certain people. To be honest, back in the beginning of my career I didn’t like the term shred because I felt it alluded to only technical aspects of playing the guitar. I didn’t want to just be a guy who had lots of technique and endlessly sped up and down the guitar neck. I wanted to write interesting songs, catchy melodies, and express my emotions. The technical proficiency was something extra on top of that and of course I worked hard to get some of that, but that was never what was necessary to me when I heard another player’s music or when I wrote my stuff. If there was only shredding I might be impressed, but I would become disinterested pretty quickly. There is so much more. But yes it would be great if people were open minded and got rid of any pre-conceived notions.
CIF: So you joined UFO in the early 2000s, a band which slipped past my radar completely, shockingly because they fit right in among other bands I love like Deep Purple, and since discovering them through your involvement I’ve become a fan. Michael Schenker has legendary status among UFO hardcores. How did you end up in that roll, and what was the experience like at the beginning with regards to fan acceptance of the “new guy”?
VM: I was a big UFO fan as a teenager. Phil Mogg was putting the band back together around 2003 and was looking for a guitarist. I was told that he was initially looking for someone from England but it didn’t work out. So they expanded their search beyond England and that’s when I heard about it. We had a mutual friend who had worked for both UFO and me, and when he heard they were looking he thought I would be a good fit and recommended me. So my manager called one day to tell me about it and soon after I sent a CD of a bunch of my songs to Phil. A week or 2 later I got another call where I learned that Phil wanted me to join the band. So that’s pretty much how it happened. We started chatting about writing songs for what would become the You Are Here album. Once we had a good amount of material, we got together at a studio in Germany to rehearse and record. I think for the most part fans were accepting of the band which also included Jason Bonham on the drums. There is always going to be a group of people that only want the band to be the 70’s lineup but that’s to be expected. Hard to believe that 20 years has flown by!
CIF: I really love those albums. The opening solo to When Daylight Goes To Town from “You Are Here”, is truly the most epic kick ass adrenaline rush ever. I can listen to it over and over and it still blows my mind. I feel like what you brought to UFO was somewhat similar to what Steve Morse brought to Purple. A new, fresh and exciting sound that really breathed new life into great bands.
VM: Thanks and I guess I need to go back and listen to that song to remember what I played there. I’ll tell you this though, I got the final mixes for that album and that first solo had been left off. I totally lost my cool and freaked out. I Got ahold of our manager who inquired about it and the engineer had apparently lost the file somehow. So he had to do a quick remix and put the solo back in. The one thing that appealed to me about being in the band is that Phil wanted a songwriter to collaborate with and wasn’t looking for a guy to come in and be a copy cat. I never would have joined the band if that was the case. He liked that I had my own records out and my own style and wanted me to add something creatively.
CIF: You definitely did. I’ll come back to the status of UFO shortly, but I’d like to talk a bit about your new album Double Exposure, your first album as a solo artist with vocals. The album is astounding, and you selected some killer vocalists as well. Why the change? How did you decide on those particular singers, and can you talk a bit about the structure of the album and how the instrumental side correlates with the vocal side?
VM: I have wanted to do a vocal thing for quite a long time and have a bunch of songs written and ready to go. I knew I would eventually get to the vocal thing when the time was right, although I initially didn’t plan on this record being the one. This was originally intended to be a 6 song instrumental EP. It was during the lockdowns and I just wanted to stay busy and put some music out. While listening to my demos though, I started hearing voices in my head, meaning vocals. Haha. I began singing along and it hit me that these songs could be vocal songs just as much as they could be instrumentals. So I came up with the idea to do two versions of each one. I knew I wasn’t quite ready to have a new band at that moment so I figured it would be better to ask some of my singer friends to write with me and guest on it. All the singers were either friends or guys I had worked with on other projects and just sort of in my orbit. So I started jotting down lyric ideas and singing melodies on the tunes. I told the singers to totally do their own thing or that they could use any of my ideas if they wanted. A little of both things happened. When all was finished, I struggled with the sequencing a little. Do I mix the vocal and instrumental tunes together or do I totally separate them as mirror images? In the end I chose to put all the vocal songs first on the album because this was new for me and honestly what I was more excited about.
CIF: I suppose the closest thing you got to a project like this was Red Zone Rider, which I also think is amazing, and a bit of a Zeppelin-esque work. How did that project come about and is it something you’ll ever return to?
VM: Magna Carta Records were planning to do a record based around singer Kelly Keeling. I am pretty sure that they had something in the works with other players that didn’t work out. I was asked if I would be interested in doing a quick 3 week thing where I flew out to a studio in Vegas to make a record with Kelly. Kelly of course is a songwriter and the plan was to find a drummer who also wrote songs and that we would each come in with 3 or 4 tunes and just rehearse and knock out a record. Kelly is a great singer and I had the time open so it seemed like a great thing to do. I spent a couple weeks at home beforehand writing and demoing song ideas and went out to Vegas with at least 7 songs. Which was a good thing because the other guys didn’t show up quite as prepared as me. I think their idea was that we would just get together and write some stuff on the spot. Anyway, there always has to be one guy like me who is OCD and over prepares. haha. We started with my 7 songs and as it came together it was obvious that there was a vibe and that it was something special, so we all got quite excited about it. Kelly added some great ideas to my songs, and had a few really good songs of his own. His song “Save It” is one of my faves on the CD. We managed to knock out the basic tracks there in Vegas and then I went home and did all of my solos and additional parts at home. I finished my parts literally the day before rehearsal started for a UFO tour. Kelly stayed back to lay down all his vocals which I think came out killer. I think it’s a great record and am very proud of it. Unfortunately not many people seem to know about it. I really don’t know why. I would definitely be into doing something similar to this in the future if it ever came about. Cleopatra has just acquired the rights to it and has re-released it. Maybe it will find some new life somewhere.
CIF: One of the things about your career that I just realized from doing some research is that you played on a couple of tracks on Alice Cooper’s “Hey Stoopid” and then went on the road with him. As a huge Alice fan I’m interested in how that came about, and what your experience was working with Alice?
VM: Alice had some guest guitarists on that record such as Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Mick Mars and Slash. I was honored to get an invitation to be a part of it. I drove up to Bearsville Studios in Bearsville, NY and laid down my parts for two songs in about six hours. I went home thinking it was a really cool thing but never expected to hear anything more. A couple months later though, I was asked to join the band for the Hey Stoopid tour.
CIF: So did you end up doing the whole tour?
VM: The first thing we did was the Operation Rock and Roll tour with Judas Priest and Motorhead which was in the US. It was summer and most of the shows were outdoors. The original plan was that after that Alice would go back out and hit the US again as a headliner. I had a new record coming out called Meltdown and it was a perfect plan for me to be out on the road with Alice when the record would be coming out. However, their plan changed and they decided to tour Europe for 6 months instead. It would not have been good for me to be out of the US with my album coming out so I left the band and went out and did a solo tour. One of the cool things on that was that I got to open for Rush for a bunch of shows.
CIF: That’s amazing! I’m a huge Rush fan. I really admire those guys for their work ethic, and their overall kindness and “keeping it real factor.” Losing Neil was a huge tragedy, and I respect their commitment to each other.
VM: I totally agree with that.
CIF: So we know Vinnie Moore, the guitar legend. We know the company you’ve kept with other legendary musicians over the years, but what takes up Vinnie Moore the regular dude’s time when not touring and creating?
VM: Honestly, I sit around and play guitar quite a bit pretty much every day. It’s an addiction…. haha. I also hit the gym 5 times a week, basically to stay healthy and in shape. So that’s my usual daily routine. I’m a pretty boring guy actually.
CIF: Ok so here’s the big question. What’s next for you? I’m talking solo, UFO related etc. What can fans of your work look forward to in the next while ?
VM: I am planning on touring in the US and Europe this year. And I want to move closer to getting a band together with vocals. Not much more to say than that actually. I wanna continue to be creative and also to experience the fun of being onstage.
CIF: Well I’m stoked about any project you have in the works. Now I only have a couple more questions so now I’m going to make you choose between your kids so to speak. If you had to choose a favorite album that you’ve recorded as a solo artist, what would it be? And what would you say is a track you’ve recorded that best exemplifies what you’re capable of artistically?
VM: That’s an insanely difficult question. I’m honestly not quite sure how to answer. I don’t listen to my own music unless I need to learn something for a tour or rehearse. I find it painful actually because I can’t listen objectively. I will listen critically and start thinking that things could have been better or that I should have done something differently. When I hear one of my songs my brain somehow goes back into creative mode and I start hearing new things in my head that I would add or change. Then I wander “why I didn’t think of that when I wrote it”. Not sure why this happens but it’s annoying. It’s like it’s hard for me to let go of things for some reason. So this question is probably better for fans to answer honestly. Overall though, I think that my last 4 records are a great indication of what I am as an artist and player. I don’t think there is any one song that best exemplifies what I am all about because ya can’t throw all you do into five minutes. I have tried believe me. hahahaha. Sorry for not answering, but man, I just don’t have a clue.
CIF: I totally get it. As a writer, I can’t read my books because I always find an editing error or something cringeworthy that I wish I had fixed. I just put it out there. Which leads me to this: you’ve been included in my satirical musical dream series Joe The Prophet as a heroic guitarist that comes in to save the day, and I’m currently expanding your character in a book I’m working on now. Have you ever been written into a book before?
VM: As far as I know I have never been written into a book. But I am glad I am a mighty mouse type character who comes to save the day. The world needs some saving right now.
CIF: it’s been a tough couple of years on the UFO front with Phil dealing with some publicized health issues, and you guys talking about retiring the band even before that. What do you see the future of the band entailing? Has there been any further discussion lately, and how would you ideally like the story to end?
VM: I would definitely like to play some more shows and I believe that Phil would like to as well. Of course everyone in the band feels the same way. If it happens, it will likely be in 2024. We all would like to end things on a high note and regret that we had to cancel the October 2022 shows. It’s my guess that he needs to ease back into things and feel comfortable with it all. I have never been in his shoes but imagine it will take some time to feel secure about his health. We have had some informal chats about it but nothing more than that. We’re hoping for the best. Fingers crossed.
CIF: Definitely. Hoping you guys are able to give the band the send-off it deserves. Vinnie it’s been amazing talking to you. I’d like to end this one with a sage-like advice question. What advice can you offer to new and aspiring creatives that are trying to make a living in an artistic field?
VM: Have whatever your tools may be together and ready to go for when you need to use them. You want to be able to totally direct your energy into your work and not waste time setting things up. Find your quiet space where you can totally focus without distraction and then just go. I find that getting into a daily regimen helps put me in the zone. Find what stimulates you most and create that environment for yourself. I prefer being alone with no distractions, but I know there are people who sort of thrive on chaos going on around them. So find what floats your boat and do it. After you have created something, try to expose your work to others in any way you can. Of course, there are lots of ways to do that nowadays with the internet but also try to make personal connections. Believe in yourself and never give up.
CIF: Advice from the master! Vinnie thanks so much. Where can people go to find out more about you and your brilliant work?
VM: Thank you, Michael. I really appreciate it. All the usual social media places online.