guitarist BARRY GOSNELL
Based out of Houston, TX, guitarist/composer Barry Gosnell (Bear as called by most) has been playing the guitar since the age of 10, recording and experimenting with ways to expanding the guitars sound. Barry has played in various bands since the age of 15, touring the U.S. with a Heavy Metal band in the late 80’s and early 90’s, also working as a session guitarist for local studios. In the Mid 90’s Barry started on his first solo project “Sum of Me”, and has since finished a second project “Sum Thing in My Mind” and in 2008 has started work on a his third project “The Lighter Side of Heavy”.
Robert Urban reviews music by Barry Gosnell - including tracks from his upcoming projectThe Lighter Side of Heavy for GAY GUITARISTS WORLDWIDE - July 2008
For this review, Barry sent me a 10 track sampling of guitar instrumentals from his three different, well-produced recording projects - including a few from the upcoming THE LIGHTER SIDE OF HEAVY.
It's always a special pleasure for me to check out LGBT musical instrumentalists. As an electric guitarist myself, it's a double pleasure to meet and enjoy a fellow head-banger - Texas heavy rock guitarist Barry Gosnell.
Barry makes full use of the electric guitar's natural tone palette - be it clean, distorted, wah-wha'd, or chosen from different pick-up switch settings. As with Jimmy Page, Barry often combines contrasting tones for arranged orchestral effect. His soloings cover the entire range of the guitar neck - his fingers fly effortlessly all over the damn thing. In the heavier tracks, Barry's lead lines and improvisings reveal a love for super-saturated distortion with an infinite sustain. Is this over-indulgence? Well, yeah - but no more than what guitar fans adore in electric godz such as Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Al DiMeola and any number of heavy "hair-band" heroes. Although one can hear "metal" influences in his cruchy playing style, Barry's roots are more in the solid, melodic blues-rock vein. This guy has a sense of beauty and imparts it even in his most metallic tracks.
Barry's pieces feature strong, appealing rhythmic percussion grooves and a minimal amount of chord changes - (On his most recent efforts, all the drums and techno-beds are expertly programmed by Barry himself) - over which he plays instrumental guitar melodies and improvisations. If one were to replace the ubiquitous guitar leads with vocals - these could be pop tunes - ranging in style from Madonna to Peter Gabriel to Journey. This listener could not help imagining how cool it would be to pair up Barry's powerful electric guitar talents with some of our LGBT indie songwriter/singers. Could be the core of an awesome rock band. Especially in the world of gay male pop music, where there aren't too many heavy rock "guitar" bands - this guy is a find! Add in his hunky ursine good looks and you've got a win-win situation - especially for bear musicians & music fans.
A refreshing contrast to Barry's heavier side are his acoustic instrumentals - which feature him on nylon-string/classical guitar. These include the lovely "El Flaminka" from his Sum Thing in my Mind project and "The Last Ocean" from his Sum of Me project. - Robert Urban, URBAN PRODUCTIONS, NYC
BARRY GOSNELL Interview by Robert Urban for GAY GUITARISTS WORLDWIDE July 2008
- What brand/model/year instrument(s) do you record and play out with? Tell us about the guitars you make yourself, and how you came about doing it.
At present I have 13 functional guitars, a couple have been retired and are really only used for recording. The Fender Lead II and the Charvel Model 5 are kept at home. Playing out I use the Fender HeartField Talon, it has a great sound, it’s lightweight and well balanced in my hands, I’ve had it since early 90’s and it’s been my main guitar for many years. Most recently I picked up an Ibanez 2570, it has the same feel and is about the same weight, I also have a custom built guitar with EMG pickup, it has a wide tonal range and is super quiet, makes for a good alternative sound live and in the studio.
When recording, I’ve been using Parker PM20, it has a nice warm tone and it’s super comfortable, I got the Parker late last year. I’ve used it a lot on my latest project, I also have an Ibanez 321M (Mahogany) that I replaced the bridge pickup with a DiMarzio FRED, which has a great funky sound. I use several guitars while recording, each one like a child has its on voice and personality. I also use an Ibanez SR400 bass and Korg Triton when recording.
I recently started building my own guitars. It felt like it was the next logical step and almost a need because no one made the guitar I wanted. Over the years being my own guitar tech I’ve learned the inner workings of the guitar, thinking of all the things I would change. Let me tell, there’s nothing like picking up a guitar you’ve built and making music with it.
Any special/favorite amps/instrument tones/effects/approaches/techniques you've used/discovered in recording and/or performance that you really like?
I have a Marshall JCM800 stack and Fender M80 stack that I use live, and used to use Roland D5, ADA delay, and Digitech transposer/harmonizer, and my trusty bright orange Distortion pedal (Boss DM-1). Last year I invested in a Boss GT-8 and I really love it, it has every Boss pedal built in to and tons of speaker modeling, it also has a digital out which is perfect for recording, which is what I’ve used solely on my latest project.
- Who are your main influences as an instrumentalist? Which artists? Which bands? Instrumentalist? Which artists/bands were your favorites in your youth?
I would have to say that everything I’ve ever heard has influenced me. My favorites are Joe Satriani, Brian May, George Lynch, Pink Floyd (the wall was the first album I learned every song from) and so many more. Led Zepplin, Queen, WhiteSnake (all those hair metal bands), Judas Priest (gee I wonder what the attraction was there ?).
- As an openly gay musician, how do you think the overall music scene differs today from years ago?
It’s finally ok to be yourself, audiences and industry are much more accepting. So many artist back in the day who have come forward and come out, proving to people that hey, we all rock out to the same drum. Years ago if you wanted a career you had to hide it.
Can you relate any special feelings or experiences about being a gay musician in the mostly straight music world... especially regarding your formative/learning years on your instrument?
In my early days as a GLBT musician I pretty much just played along with the whole straight musician thing fearing being excluded or black balled and alienated from the music world. Now that more musicians have come out of the closet who have made it (Elton John, George Michaels) and new groups like the Scissor Sisters. I feel more accepted and in communication with others like myself with the wide reaching internet and such wonderful people like you Robert Urban! - who have provided avenues and recognition by our peers.- Tell us about your gay bear community? How life in the local gay bar/bear scene in your area? Any lgbt events/causes you've been involved with?
Being bear identified and being a musician has been great. There's Bearapolooza - which is a great group of people who tour with bear identified artisst. I'm hoping one day I can be part of that line up.
I have a partner, Chis, who is my best critic, he gives me honest opinions of music I'm working on, he is very supportive of me and my music. At the local bear bar, Tony's Corner Pocket, you'll find members of the Houston Area Bear - several of whom are quite talented and I hope to recruit some of them for future projects.
- How is the overall music scene in your locale?
The music scene is not as vivascious as it was back the 90's it seemed to take a dip for a while but I'm seeing more happening recently, more venues opening for live music and showcasing original music.
- Tell fans about your luv for your particular style of music, as opposed to other styles - how it became your favorite style, etc.My style is what I lovingly call Heavy Metal Disco. A blend of melodic and emotion wrapped around a rhythmic core. I love finding a groove or a beat and then dancing on top of it with a guitar solo or heavy rhythm that moves you on the inside and outside.
- Do you play/compose/record only your own original music? Do you do any other work in music - e.g. teaching, recording session work, hired gun, producing, etc? Does your playing appear on recordings of any other artists?
At present I am only composing and recording. I have done some producing and engineering for some bands and individuals. I played guitar for some local artists, I’ve had some radio play on the local station as well.
- Is there a particular favorite solo or part you played on a recording, or a certain piece of composed music you wrote, that you feel represents your finest work?
I would have to say that the song “The Sum of One” is one of my favorite compositions that I have written to date. It has a little bit of everything I am.
Any special thoughts on your instrument, and what it's meant to you in your life?
The guitar has been an extension of my emotional being since the first time I picked it up. The guitar is my own world that I go to and create little pieces of me to share with everyone who wants to visit.
- Any advice for new, upcoming LGBT players?
Be true to yourself and it will show in your music.
- What are your current and future musical projects?
I am currently working on a new project called The Lighter Side of Heavy… All guitar, all the time, 2 of the songs I’ve finish have been on the lighter side, I have some heavier songs already brewing. I plan on looking for an active band to join or putting something together myself. I’ve been away from the stage too long and feel the need to get back out there.
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