(Forrest York Guitars)


Tennessee-based Forrest York doesn’t make a lot of albums but when he does it’s always memorable and exciting. Hard to believe it’s been 5 years since reviewed Forrest’s 2013 Rainy Season, and the underrated guitarist returned in 2018, albeit under the radar for what is his 2016 album, Elements. Elements was / is so under the radar that many listeners didn’t even learn till later that it had actually came out on CD. Containing all the sonic aspects that made Rainy Season so brilliant, in fact, Elements takes his sound one step beyond. A number of musicians take part in the Elements sessions, including Forrest’s son Ryan York, who adds drums to the album’s magnum opus “The Undertow”, which clocks in over 13 minutes. Several other musicians appear adding drums, additional guitars, synths and more, yet composing all the music, producing all the music and with his guitars front and center, clearly Forrest York and his unique instrumental rock sound is the focal point of Elements. It’s hard to draw a bead on where it’s all coming from, yet, true to form, Elements combines a range of eclectic instrumental rock of say, Steve Howe or Steve Hackett, with other sounds drawn from the Teutonic synthscapes of Edgar Froese and the spacier sounds of Tangerine Dream, with emphasis on electric guitars. Forrest has stated his fondness for both Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck and fans of Beck’s more melodic fusion workouts will take Elements to heart. Fans of Beck, Hendrix and Howe do the right thing and pick up Elements by Tennessee’s own 21st century guitar hero Forrest York. presents an interview with
The Elements Interview

mwe3: Why do you call the new album Elements? Is it because all the elements of your sound are in the mix? Seems like it has everything that is great about your sound in there.

Forrest York: You are correct. The title “Elements” refers to the many elements in music. The title song was recorded with David Adkins on drums and me playing guitar but I went back and re-recorded my guitars. I really have a great vibe with David, we play well together.

mwe3: It took a while for your to follow up your 2013 album Rainy Season. When was the music for Elements written and recorded and how would you compare the two albums? Some of the tracks on Rainy Season date back to the 1980s and ‘90s so as far as your current music, is Elements more of a now kind of album?

Forrest York: This record was written not long after my first interview with you after Rainy Season. But I did not record it then. This material was written to be performed live. I still have yet to put together a band large enough to play the big productions on Rainy Season so I wanted to write material that could be performed with a small ensemble. I did a couple of live performances but I truly had no intentions of recording this material. CD sales are so slow now. I didn’t want to make another record.

I enjoy making my videos. I run my guitar shop. Over a year went by where I had not played nor thought about these songs. And then I just woke up one day and said I need to record this material. I’m very glad I did! But I didn’t want to make just another CD… I wanted to make a vinyl record. Rainy Season was such a studio production, one guitar track for the verse, a totally different track and sound for the chorus, yet another guitar for the bridge. It was fun doing that.

The new album has several tracks where the guitar goes start to finish all with the same sound and that same guitar… not a lot of overdubbing. “Undertow” is one guitar. There is one spot where one track fades out and the other guitar track fades in, so for a second there are two guitars but it is one guitar all the way through. I filmed it while I recorded it and you can watch it on YouTube!

The song, “Elements” is the same exact thing. One guitar all the way through except for one spot where one track fades out, another one fades in. There is also that background track that starts the song that plays all the way through. 2 guitars. There are no keyboards on the song. The synth that you hear is guitar synth, played simultaneously with the guitar track.

“Willow Tree” is one guitar up front with a rhythm guitar and light textural background guitars. The final track, “Für Alisa” is one guitar start to finish and actually recorded live with Sam Baker on drums and Jeff Keeran on keyboards. No big production at all but there was magic in the chemistry of us all playing together!

I like doing complete guitar tracks. All of my live videos are just one guitar start to finish. I like solo guitar pieces. What you can do with six strings… I consider that an art form. “Equilibrium” is the exception. It has many many overdubs… many ebows! “The Opening” is a pretty big number. I play my guitar horn sound from the Roland guitar synthesizer and I stack a few of those horns to make it sound like a horn section.

mwe3: Last time we spoke you were saying that you didn’t care if your music was marketable, at least in the conventional sense, or not. And you also called your music ‘alternative New Age’. Do you try to strike an artistic balance on Elements? There are certain genre-crossing musical elements and at the same it has a kind of New Age flavor, even though the music is more contemporary fusion oriented.

Forrest York: I am so non-music industry. I live minutes away from music city. (lol) I really don’t want to be tied to the money aspect of the music industry. I just make my own music. I don’t owe any record execs anything. I appreciate your kind words. Genre-Crossing… there are so many things I love. My artistic balance is me just trying to be happy. Guitar is how I express myself. “Weeping Willow”, “The Undertow”, “Elements”… the whole record, performing these songs was therapeutic.

mwe3: Your son Ryan York adds a lot to the Elements album. How did you choose the other musicians who play on the CD including engineer Jimmy Mansfield? Are they the same musicians who play on your Rainy Season album?

Forrest York: Ryan did a great job on the record. He only played drums on this record. He played drums and bass on Rainy Season. He really made the song, “The Undertow”! I wanted him just to play ride cymbal, he totally turned it into the big monster that it is! And he had the flu when he recorded it! Jimmy Mansfield is a wonderful engineer and he has a studio large enough to do what we need. We did “The Undertow” there and a few of the other songs drum tracks. Seth Timbs played on the first record and the second but he and I have played music together for over 20 years. Same with Bruce Tanksley, who played on both records. Bruce played on “Cell Division” as did Jon Grimson who also played on Rainy Season. Abe White played on both records. So I do like to use the same people over and over. The musicians on “Cell Division”, Seth, Jon and Bruce, as well as Abe White all played with me in a band, These Are Houseplants . We are on YouTube.

mwe3: The track “Weeping Willow” is somber yet quite elegant sounding. Does that track span genres? Seems like the entire Elements album so tastefully crosses a number of musical / guitar genres.

Forrest York: “Weeping Willow” was the crowd favorite live. It is very tender. I do a style of hybrid picking where I use a pic and my finger nails. Nails sound completely different. It is also one of the few songs of mine that is in a major key! Minor is actually my happy key, lol.

mwe3: How about the Elements track “Equilibrium”? How did you settle on that track title? Is it because the song is very evenly keeled in its unfolding?

Forrest York: “Equilibrium” is a quirky track that kind of changes keys back and forth, there is an equilibrium when you play it as you bounce between modalities. I love it and it is very natural to me but I understand it’s odd to some people.

mwe3: Do you mind people comparing your guitar sound to that of Neil Young, albeit in an instrumental guitar music setting? I know we spoke about Hendrix last time but has Neil Young heard your guitar music? I think he would totally enjoy it. What other guitarists, current or otherwise do you draw inspiration on? Do you like living in the now more than in the past, at least as far as music goes?

Forrest York: You mention Neil Young and that is interesting, I have had several people tell me that I remind them of Neil Young’s soundtrack to the movie Dead Man with Johnny Depp. You are kind to put me in conversations with Jimi and Neil Young. But, I totally live in the now... although I feel Elements is like a 1970s album. I want to be new and fresh with my guitar. I don’t want to sound like anybody else. I will say, that I draw from other musicians, they don’t have to be guitar players. I can be very impressed and influenced by a cellist. It has more to do with how they play and how they make me feel.

I think “Undertow” is very unique and original, I’ve never heard anyone else use the ebow and get that sound. It is my technique of using the ebow along with the slide guitar. I’ve done this since the ‘70s…
“The Undertow” was unique because I had an accident and cut my finger and was unable to play the guitar other than slide guitar for a few months. So I played my ebow slide every night, I played “The Undertow” every night. I was obsessed with it. I had already performed it live twice but now in the studio, I became one with it. I don’t know how else to say it. That guitar track is what my soul sounds like.

mwe3: Do you mind people calling you a progressive rock recording artist? Do you think your music falls into way too many categories for a descriptive term yet is progressive rock still a valid comparison?

Forrest York: I will proudly accept the label of progressive rock. I grew up on YES and Genesis and I played in a band with Bruce Tanksley that was truly progressive rock. Multiple parts, multiple sections, mixed time are the ingredients of prog. My music today perhaps does not meet these guidelines but I am from that school and my music is adventurous. The biggest difference now for me is I like to groove. I don’t want the song to jump around and change rhythms and time signatures. I just don’t feel it like that anymore.

mwe3: As a modern day recording artist, what do you like best about the internet and do you think it’s fair in the way musicians can’t completely control the exposure of their music? How can it be leveled to make it more fair so artists can survive at least financially?

Forrest York: Beethoven said, that what makes it great also makes it weak. It’s big and beautiful and wide open! But trying to make a dent, trying to stand out is difficult. In the old days, record labels and their A&R guys would decide what everybody gets to listen to. Today is better than that.

mwe3: What were some of the guitars used on the Elements recording? Last time around you were talking about the Yamaha SG2000, the 1962 Gretsch Country Gentleman and your custom Strat. Have there been some new additions to your guitar arsenal in these past few years?

Forrest York: Nothing new, all of my favorites. The Yamaha SG 2000 on all of the ebow parts. There’s a lot of guitar synthesizer on this album songs like “Elements”, Willow Tree”, “Fur Alisa”, “The Opening”. All done with my custom Strat with Roland pick up.

mwe3: Forrest I was saddened by your auto accident last year. Is that why it took a while longer to get your new album Elements out there? I don’t know if you want to tell us about this harrowing episode or not.

Forrest York:
I had a head on collision with a dump truck! I wasn’t wearing a seat belt. I was in a coma for while... I am lucky to be alive!


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