Too often these days the term "Guitar God" is used to describe a guitar player, and it's usually tossed around like the word "blue" when describing the sky. I am one of those anal music nuts who thinks a title like that has to actually be earned through skill and ability. Artists like Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Mark Knofler, Pete Townshend, Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai have earned that title. And while I am sure there are many more guitar slingers that people will argue fit that bill, I think the one I saw tonight at Northern Lights in Milwaukee has definitely etched his name in the silver cup of the Guitar Gods.

Tonight I saw UFO. A band legendary for its earlier guitarist Michale Schenker, his Flying V and his blazing guitar work. To many he is without question a Guitar God. What I find amazing is that long after he left UFO they have settled in with a new guitarist whose technical proficiency, style and passion make UFO two for two in the Guitar God department. I am speaking of course of Vinnie Moore. For those of you that have never heard of Vinnie Moore, I have two suggestions. First, crawl out from under the rock you have been living under. And second go down to your local music store and buy a few new CDs.

Vinnie has been around professionally since the mid eighties when he broke into the music scene, not with a high energy rock masterpiece, nor with a soulful power ballad, but with a Pepsi commercial. Definitely a unique way to be introduced to this powerful talent. He parlayed that commercial into a solo career and in 1987 Shrapnel records released his first album "Mind's Eye". It was an instant hit and Vinnie was given accolades such as "Best New Artist" by several guitar magazines. The album itself drew sales in excess of 100,000 copies. From that point on his music spoke volumes and people listened. Polygram signed him to his first major label contract and released his second album "Time Odyssey" (1988) and Epic Records followed that up with his third solo effort, 1991's "Meltdown", an album whose title track garnered national airplay across the US. His following albums 1996's "Out of Nowhere" and 1999's "The Maze" (both released on Mayhem records) showed Vinnie's growth and maturity as he expanded not only his writing style, but also his realm of influence.

Through the years Vinnie has been building a reputation and a resume that most young guitarists would die for. He played with the likes of Alice Cooper, Tony McAlpine, Bernie Worrell and Al Pitrelli. He opened for Rush on their "Roll The Bones" tour and that was the first time I saw and met this now legendary rocker. Now after quite a few years between the last time I saw him and tonight's performance I was given the chance to sit down and talk with Vinnie after the show. It was a short interview, but one I will be eternally grateful to him for sharing with me. So with that I say thank you Vinnie, it really was an honor and a privilege.

VM: Hey, nice to meet you.

Z: Same here, good to see you again.

VM: So we've met before?

Z: Yes, many many moons ago on the Rush tour. I did a bit of the security.

VM: Oh cool.

Z: Let's get down to business as I know you have to leave in a little bit. My name is Paul Kloiber, most people in the music business call me Zombie. I am a writer for the online musical site Tonight I just wanted to ask a few casual questions to get a feel for what's going on with UFO. You've come into the band and really added something that was missing. A lot of people talk about all the guitarists the band has had over the years, including Mick Bolton, Larry Wallis, Bernie Marsden and of course Michael Schenker. Quite frankly with what I heard tonight I gotta say Michael who?

VM: Well thank you very much.

Z: I want to know about the chemistry coming into a group like this. Obviously with the writing and the music and you being the new guy how does the chemistry work?

VM: I just put together a lot of ideas and send them to Phil. Then he sifts through them and writes lyrics to the ones he likes the best and it kinda works like that actually.

Z: Now some other bands write the lyrics first and then add the music, some write the music first and then do the lyrics.

VM: Music first.

Z: Ok.

VM: I give him lots of ideas. The he sings over some stuff and then we get together and I hear it and I know what he's going for. Then we kinda hone it in and I do some more writing to tie it up.

Z: Now the growth in your music from what you wrote when you first came around and going all the way back to the Pepsi commercial.

VM: (laughs) You remember that?

Z: Where do you feel that your writing has gone. Obviously from the beginning when you were coming out as a solo artist and now into the dynamics of the group. How do you feel that your music has grown?

VM: I think it's gotten less technical. It's matured and I think my writing's gotten better and has more feel it in now.

Z: More passion to it?

VM: Yeah, more passion.

Z: Now you're touring with these guys and obviously three of them have been around together for a long time.

VM: A very long time.

Z: Who's the joker of the bunch? Who's the guy who plays the practical jokes?

VM: It's actually me and Phil.

Z: So what was the last joke you pulled?

VM: Ahhh…what was the last good one. God, it's just like constant goofing on one another. It'll come to me.

Z: Now for all the years that you've been doing this, from the beginning and touring solo, to being out with these guys now. What's the best memory you have from being on tour?

VM: Well I would have to say playing with these guys and from my solo career when I went out for the "Meltdown" CD. We were opening for Rush and just toured clubs.

Z: Now I always hate asking this, but those were the best memories, then what was the worst? What was the worst thing to happen when you're out on the road?

VM: I would have to say the times when the gear is not working properly. You're going out there and you're trying to play really well and the gear is messed up. That always kills me.

Z: Yeah, I think there were some issues with your soundman tonight. Phil's mic was cutting out a couple times.

VM: Wow I didn't even notice that.

Z: Now, the fans. Back in the eighties when you came out the fans were a whole different crowd then they are now. What's the difference you see in how you're received from then to now?

VM: I don't know… It seems kind of similar. It's a lot of the same kind of people, reacting the same kind of way to the music.

Z: What's the next direction for both you and for UFO?

VM: Well we're going to continue to tour and do a new record soon hopefully. And also as a solo artist I have a new record finished and that's going to be coming out sometime in the summer.

Z: Great! Who's doing the vocals? Or is it all instrumental?

VM: It's an all instrumental solo record. John DeServio from Zakk Wylde's band "Black Label Society"played bass. Van Romaine played drums and a friend of mine Tim Leonard played keyboards.

Z: Now if you had anybody to choose from. To join you on stage, just to play with you for one night, one concert. Who would you pick to play with?

VM: You know, this is probably weird, or you'll think it's weird, but Flea and Chad from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Because they're so funky and full of energy.

Z: Now that's a show I'd pay to see! (Flea, Chad…if you're reading this…call Vinnie!)

Z: Vinnie you've been all over the world, touring solo and with bands. What's your favorite place to play?

VM: Man, anywhere the people are there and into what we're doing. It really doesn't matter what city or country as long as the people are into it.

Z: You've written a lot of songs over your career, some metal, some more melodic, even some very technical songs. Are there any secret desires to write something different? Maybe a hidden pop song in there or a country song?

VM: There's no real plan when I write I just pick up the guitar and start going for it and whatever comes out comes out. So it's more of a being inspired thing, so I don't know. A secret desire? Maybe a hit song that sells a gazillion copies and brings in a gazillion women.

Z: Well the gazillion women are never a bad thing.

Z: Now I kind of took a cue from my mentor Dr. Music and he likes to do this little word association things where he just tosses out a word and gets your first reaction to it. So I wrote down a few and they're a little all over the place so just shoot from the hip and tell me what ever pops into your head.


Z: (laughs) Great answer but I haven't started yet.

VM: Ok, go for it.

Z: Home.

VM: Family.

Z: Kids.

VM: I miss them.

Z: Passion.

VM: Music.

Z: Coffee.

VM: Love it.

Z: Comic Books.

VM: Nahhh.

Z: Retirement.

VM: Never.

Z: Vacation.

VM: Sometimes.

Z: Soccer/futbol.

VM: Both… I am totally into American football. Soccer because my kids play.

Z: Sunday.

VM: Bloody Sunday.

Z: And the final thing, and I'm going to play devil's advocate here….The US Embassy in the UK.

VM: Pete Way's at home.

Z: All right that's it. The strangest interview has come to a close. I really want to thank you for taking the time to sit down with me and I have to tell you again what a great show it was tonight.

VM: Thank you I appreciate that. It was good talking with you.

Hey, what can I say, I was nervous. This was the first time I have ever sat down with an artist with the purpose of actually doing a full blown interview. Vinnie was as gracious as he is talented and I hope to see him on tour again in the future. Thank you to Vinnie, Phil, Andy, Paul and Rob who were all so very personable after the show. You are truly a class act.

Photos: Paul Kloiber

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