Here's an interview I did with Bethlehem, PA based jazz/fusion guitarist Scott Bradoka. You can hear the audio of the interview at www.themusiciansvoice.com
Meet Lehigh Valley Guitar Slinger Scott Bradoka
Bethlehem, PA native Scott Bradoka is, as his bio states, “On a mission to restore instrumental music to it’s rightful glory”. The guitarist has spent the last decade on a half pursuing instrumental excellence, with dazzling albums such as 2003’s “Create Your Own Reality”. Scott’s music can be described as part jazz/fusion, part rock, some tasteful melodies thrown in with plenty of atmosphere. Scott’s a musician’s musician, focusing on the nuances of the music, with plenty of attention paid to composition. When Scott’s not playing with his own band, The Staggering Evil Geniuses, he can be found jamming in Hooter Eric Bazilian’s solo band, producing some music for other musicians, or just happily playing around with some new equipment in his studio. The last couple of years have even seen Scott tour with guitar icons such as Jeff Beck and Buddy Guy. I recently had the chance to chat with Scott about his music and his career in general. Here’s how it went.
What made you focus on instrumental music rather than being the guitar player in a pop band or something like that?
Bradoka: Well, I was always in bands in high school and everything. It seemed like a singer was always a problem; you know, finding a good singer and everything. I went to music school, and while there I just got into a lot of guys like Carl Verheyen, Scott Henderson
, Steve Lukather
who's with the band Toto, but he does a lot of instrumental stuff. That's what I really became interested in listening to, just because it was something different and maybe more obscure. I like the whole thing with instrumental music in that you're not really shoving it down someone's throat as to what the song's about. It's open to interpretation as to one song meaning many different things to many different people.
Was it tough getting acceptance for your music at first going the instrumental route?
Bradoka: IT still is (laughs). Yeah, it's a hard sell. People want to be able to sing along, or whatever. It's a very select audience. I think all music's a tough sell right now. But it is a tough sell.
You've done several solo albums at this point obviously, but what are some of the other memorable collaborations or other non Scott Bradoka musical projects you've done?
Bradoka: I love doing stuff with Eric (Bazilian, of The Hooters) when he takes his solo band out live for shows. Todd Wolfe, who played with Sheryl Crow for 6 years or so, he was in the studio here and did a couple of tracks. Steve Brosky who's a local guy, I did some cool stuff with him here. Actually a really cool project that's just starting is my drummer and the rhythm guitar player in my band - they have a band called Drop 3. It's all just experimental music, and we're recording that here so that should be fun.
What's it like composing an instrumental song? Is it easier or tougher in your opinion than writing a pop song?
Bradoka: I would think it's easier. I mean, a lot of stuff will come to me maybe just mountain biking. You know, I'll think of a melody and I'll call the studio phone or call my cell phone and leave a message so I don't forget it. So a lot of my songs start out as vocal songs, the vocals come from a vocal melody. I don't like to sing, and I usually don't like a lot of the lyrics I write. So a lot of the songs I write will start out as a vocal song and end up as an instrumental. I think it's easier to find a nice melody than to find a melody with a nice gold hook that's going to be memorable. When I write lyrics I always think they're corny. It's like, that's been done.
I guess with an instrumental, the song has the potential to go pretty much anywhere.
Bradoka: Exactly, yeah.
One of the cool things about you Scott is that you've remained based in the Lehigh Valley. Did you ever feel the need to relocate to New York or Los Angeles to have your music heard?
Bradoka: I moved to L.A. in 1990 - I went to Musicians Institute for a year. My thing was I wanted to do studio work. That's what I wanted to do at that time. Moving back here, both of my parents were not very well health wise. So I moved back here in '92, with the thought that, every year we'd go see a realtor and look at new places, and find someplace I thought I was going to move back to. It just got to the point where, all of a sudden, the place I was trying to get away from - it was actually at Musikfest maybe mid to late 1990's. I remember walking down Main Street just realizing that I wanted to be here. You know, it's really a nice place - I'm close to Philly, I'm close to New York, in 6 hours I can be in L.A. if I wanted to. After spending my whole life trying to get out of here, I realized I actually like it here - and that I don't want to be anywhere else.
How much of a music theory guy are you? Do you think it's relevant in music today?
Bradoka: Yeah, you've got to know the rules before you can break them. I think it's great to really study music. You know, like they say, learn everything and then forget it all. Get it in your brain where it's second nature and then just kind of create and break the rules. I think it's very important.
How are you at finding a guitar tone? I talk to a lot of players who are obsessed with finding a perfect guitar tone.
Bradoka: I'm definitely a tweaker. I'm always looking for the cool new pedal or new guitar, actually I get old guitars, but I've got like 20 amps and 85 guitars sitting out here in the studio - it's ridiculous. I'm always looking for something else. It's a constant search. At the same time my live rig hasn't changed since 2003. I simplified big time around 2000 I think. For years I carried around a big rack. Now I've just got this small rack with some pedals in it. My big thing is, I take a bunch of guitars. I try to get different tones out of different guitars instead of having a bunch of different processors. I still have all the old rack gear, it just doesn't leave the studio. I'm too old to schlep it around (laughs).
I know you toured Germany last summer with Buddy Guy and Jeff Beck, then the previous year with Lee Ritenour. What was that like?
Bradoka: It's pretty amazing. It doesn't get much better than Jeff Beck. I remember the first day we were in Berlin. The dressing rooms just consisted of these velvet curtains dividing the areas. While I sat there tuning my guitars, Jeff Beck was right on the other side of this curtain just noodling like all afternoon. I was like wow! (laughs) That's Jeff Beck right there. His crowd was real receptive to us, it was great. It's all down hill after that (laughs). My jaw would drop and I'd get goosebumps every night on certain songs.
Europe is more open to the whole instrumental thing aren't they?
Bradoka: Yeah definitely. Over here, Jeff Beck would be playing in New York City at BB King's (Blues Club) for like 700-800 people. Over there he's doing 5-7,000 people. That just shows it there. Then when you're someone on a much smaller scale like I am, it's much easier to get heard over there.
What's the best thing about playing instrumental music at this point in your life?
Bradoka: I just love playing live and connecting with people, and meeting new people. That's what makes it all worth it. Not sitting in the studio by yourself for months on end, just tweaking.
That's not why we do it. We do it because we want to get in front of people and play.
In closing here with you Scott, what's the biggest selling point with your music?
Bradoka: For someone who doesn't listen to jazz, people will call it jazz. I wouldn't call it jazz. To call it jazz would really upset someone who's into jazz (laughs). It's got a rock feel, it's got a melodies that people can walk away humming. There are elements of jazz in it that will keep it more interesting than just regular pop music.
Visit Scott Bradoka on the web at www.scottbradoka.com