“When people notice that I pay a lot of attention to melody and they come up to me and they tell me ‘Oh, I love your sense of melody’, that’s usually what I like to hear. I like to hear that a lot more than ‘Oh, you play such fast arpeggios.’”
Guitarist Ethan Brosh is enjoying a successful career in music, both as a player and instructor. He has two solo albums under his belt, recently releasing Live the Dream, produced by the legendary Max Norman. As well, Brosh is the guitarist for Angels of Babylon with Dave Ellefson (Megadeth), and Rhino (Man O’War, Holy Hell). He has also been a hired axe for rock veterans such as Eddie Money, Kelly Keeling, and Pat Travers, and has opened for Lynch Mob, Michael Schenker, Danger Danger, Enuff Z’nuff, along with many others. Most recently, Brosh completed a month on the road on the Spellbound Tour with the legendary Yngwie Malmsteen.
“I never really saw it coming,” admits Brosh of his experience touring with Malmsteen. “I always knew that, at some point, something like this would have to happen, but it’s one of those things that you think, ‘Ah, maybe it will happen in the far future,’ and then, all of a sudden, you get a phone call and it becomes a reality. It’s been great. And now it’s almost like I’m taking it for granted, just like walking into these venues and seeing Yngwie sound-checking next to me. But I know that in a couple weeks when it’s all over, I’ll be like, ‘Wow, this was a really surreal thing, just getting into all these venues, so many shows, one after another, and just being there right next to Yngwie.’”
Brosh was able to do the first half of the Malmsteen tour with the Ethan Brosh Band, joined by his sister Nili Brosh. Like her big brother, Nili is also a Berklee College of Music graduate. She is also one of the school’s youngest faculty members. “People really love that concept of brother and sister shredding together,” says Brosh of the family duo. “I know that this is going to be a very strong gimmick at some point. I’ve never seen a brother and sister doing what we’re doing. It seems like people are really digging that concept. I think maybe one day we’ll make something out of it. For now, I’m focusing on my thing. She’s focusing on hers.”
On the second half of the tour Brosh performed with his band. The Boston-based group is Carlos Adrian Araiza on vocals and guitar, Brosh on lead guitar, JC (Jason Cornwell) on bass, and Ramon Miquilena on drums. Burning Heat ‘s credo is ass-kicking rock and roll, devoid of any serious subject matter. The title track to their album What the Hell Happened to Rock and Roll? is an anthem of protest against all the drivel that passes for rock and roll these days. “Rock and roll is not what it used to be,” Brosh affirms. “There are not a lot of cool bands that I like or want to listen to. I hate to be negative. That’s just the way I feel. And I’m not saying I’m better than anybody – I’m just looking for something fun to listen to. The song talks about that, and it’s just a very straightforward, very catchy song. There’s a lot of fun missing in the rock world. There’s a lot of metal out there, super heavy metal. There’s just not a lot of fun bands out there with catchy choruses and guitar solos – all that fun stuff. You don’t need double-bass all the time, seven-string guitars, and solos trying to rip off Yngwie [laughs].”
Brosh fuses different elements of the craft into his own unique style. “Sometimes I’ll play some fancy chords or throw in some augmented arpeggios and sharp fourths and all these things. Yeah, I really dig into music theory and I try to grow as a musician. I really don’t play straight-ahead jazz or fusion. I play some classical. But again, I want to stick to what I’m good at. With classical music, you got to be on it all the time to be good. I play rock music. I stick to what I do, but I try to bring influences from many different styles of music.”
Check out the song “Downward Spiral” featuring George Lynch
Brosh and George Lynch (Dokken, Lynch Mob) share a resemblance in sound and style. “Downward Spiral” is a song from the Out of Oblivion record that Brosh recorded with Lynch. Brosh explains how he and Lynch became acquainted: “I love George. He’s a great guy and one of my biggest influences. At the very beginning he had some competition for the best guitar hook – best melody, basically. And I sent my tune ‘Hit Man’, which is the first song on my first album. I sent it in and he chose it. So I won that competition and he got to know me that way. And then we talked about collaborating. Whatever I felt Out of Oblivion lacked, I basically tried to put on Live the Dream. It’s a little bit more riff-oriented – just have a little bit more groove on some of the tunes. I added some acoustic guitars here and there. I experimented with different sounds. I think the production is much bigger. And, of course, the songs are different.”
When asked what got him hooked on guitar in the first place, Brosh responds:
“It comes back to me being 10 years old, finding an Iron Maiden Number of the Beast cassette in my brother’s collection and seeing Eddy on the cover and being like, ‘Whoa, this is so cool. I have to listen to it.’ That, starting to listen to Iron Maiden, and asking my friends, ‘What makes that sound?’. I couldn’t believe a six-string instrument could make that sound.
“I try to incorporate a lot of different ideas and techniques in my playing. A lot of the metal players they play mostly minor arpeggios or maybe major arpeggios here and there. I’m trying to make it a little bit more complex – add some more notes to that and play interesting chords with my own ways of playing these arpeggios. I try to do it in a heavy metal context.
“I’m really trying to be a songwriter and that’s they way I approach writing my tunes. When I write my instrumentals, I don’t write based on a lick or based on a certain phrase that sounds cool or sounds fast or whatever. I try to be as melodic as I can. I have different types of melodies and I try to make my tunes sound different from one another. I try to approach it as this is an interim, this is a verse, this is a chorus. When people notice that I pay a lot of attention to melody and they come up to me and they tell me, ‘Oh, I love your sense of melody’, that’s usually what I like to hear. I like to hear that a lot more than ‘Oh, you play such fast arpeggios.’”
The challenges of songwriting are not lost on Brosh: “Sometimes these incredible moments happen where you just get an idea in your head in two seconds and that’s where the tune really lies. So you get this first melody and that’s the whole tune right there. But then everything else is based on it and you take the melody that just came to you out of nowhere – you could never produce that. Then you have to really start thinking and going through the mechanics out of making a real tune out of whatever you have. You might have one great melody, but that’s just one section and you have to make it a real tune. So you’ve got to find another melody that will work with it. You got to figure out what key you want it in and what key you want the other section to be in, and then what would the drum groove be, and all these things. This is really where the hard work comes in. So it’s really not easy to actually record a full album when it’s your own solo instrumental record and there are so many components and it’s on you. That’s why it takes a really long time and a lot of effort and a lot of money.
“You also have to have something in your personality where you’re actually able to finish a project, because there are a lot of talented players out there, that have great ideas, but then they can never sit down and finish a project. So, you’ll find these people who are like 45, 50 years old, and they got some ideas from like 30 years ago – they’re great ideas but they’re not doing anything with it. They came up with some kind of excuse of why they couldn’t finish it. And I understand. It’s really difficult. It’s really difficult to go and make all the decisions.
“You’ve got to have it in your personality to be realistic and not just a musician that gets all kinds of ideas but then doesn’t do anything with them. You gotta get those melodies and harmonies in your mind and you have to be very practical and realistic and actually do something with it. And that’s where a lot of musicians fail. For me, I’m realistic like that, but it takes me forever because I’m also a pretty big perfectionist. For me to finish an album I just want it perfect and it takes me over two years. For business it’s not the best thing. I guess, at least, I can be proud of my record.”
Check out the “Out Of Oblivion” commercial