Check out All That Remains guitarist Jason Richardson‘s YouTube page, and you’ll hear his relentless, signature guitar playing seamlessly interwoven with a palette of epic, cinematic elements. When we connected with Jason, we were very excited to hear that we were supplying many of the epic/cinematic elements (win!). We got a chance to talk with Jason about how he got his start in music, his love of analog synths (…we get it), and how Hans Zimmer inspired his latest track. Check out our full interview with him below:
How and when did you first start playing guitar and writing music?
I had always kind of dabbled with guitar before I started taking it seriously, and decided at some point to practice regularly with the instrument. The main reason I wanted to start getting better at guitar was so I could start writing my own songs. Before I started playing guitar, the order of instruments I learned was piano, drums, violin, and then finally, guitar came into the picture. Drums were my primary focus at the time that I discovered Dream Theater’s album Train of Thought, but that album made me decide that I really needed to be able to write my own songs, so that’s when my main focus switched over to guitar. Guitar ended up working out the best of everything I tried, so I put all of my effort into it.
What was the path or the turning point that landed your first major gig?
I was in high school still at the time, playing with my local band ‘Gallows Hill,’ and one day our other guitar player randomly mentioned how a band we all loved at the time ‘All Shall Perish’ put out an ad looking for a new lead guitar player. After I found that out I learned a couple of their songs, filmed it, and sent the videos off to them to check out. I legitimately wasn’t expecting a response at all from them, but I got an email back in less than 12 hours. I was on my way to school the next morning and checked my email on my phone and saw the response. I talked to them on the phone later that night, and I ended up dropping out of my senior year of high school a couple months later to go on tour with them throughout the US and then Europe/European festivals later that summer.
Who/what are your biggest musical influences?
When I was growing up still learning how to play guitar, and still learning music theory and all that, I would go through phases of being obsessed with Dream Theater and Children of Bodom. I was really really into the idea of guitar/synth harmonized solos and both those bands have an abundance of those. I also was into all the other greats of guitar like Paul Gilbert, Yngwie Malmsteen, Jeff Loomis, Alan Holdsworth, Greg Howe etc. I could make a very long list of incredible guitar players that influenced me a lot. Then later on I started to get way more into the electronic/synth/orchestral side of things, pretty much everything outside of the core band consisting of guitar/bass/drums. The possibilities are pretty much endless with what you can do as long as you know how to use the tools. That’s one of the main reasons why I ended up discovering Heavyocity 🙂
We’d love to hear a little bit about your creative process. How do you usually get started on something new?
This is a question that always stumps me every time I’m asked it…It entirely depends. I don’t have one set way to start something. Songs could start from opening a stock HY loop, and then evolving into my own thing entirely — just from being inspired by an initial loop of something you never would’ve thought of on your own. One example I’ve been using recently is for my newest song “Tendinitis”, which I got inspired from watching the Hans Zimmer Masterclass series. I had a piano open on my midi controller when I started watching the series just in case inspiration struck and sure enough, it did. Hans said that he doesn’t think he’s ever written a melody that couldn’t be played with one hand on the piano. I put my hand on my midi controller when he said that and just played the very first piano part in the song “Tendinitis”. I was only on video 3 of 31 in the series so I stopped watching and started working on the intro to that song immediately. There were no guitar parts to the song until I had around a minute long intro — I programmed a synth arpeggiator in there and the idea popped into my head of what that synth would sound like if I learned how to play it on guitar. So I figured it out and that ended up being the main riff of the song. I’m sure I’ll keep discovering new ways to start songs out and find inspiration from other obscure things as well! It’s a constant learning experience.
As a solo artist and guitarist in All That Remains, we were really excited to hear that you’ve been a Heavyocity user for a while now. We’d love to hear when in your process you reach for your Heavyocity instruments.
I go for HY instruments in pretty much everything I make. Anytime I need a massive punchy percussion anything for any genre it’s 9 times out 10 an HY library. I’ve been really pumped on FORZO for all my newest stuff that I want brass in. All of the textures and specific phrases are very creative — I haven’t heard that kind of content in a lot of other brass libraries I’ve tried. FORZO is definitely bringing a lot of new stuff to the table.
Do you ever encounter writers’ block; what’s your remedy to cure it?
Yes, 100%. It’s very frustrating/discouraging when it happens. Honestly a new library can help out when that does happen, because all the new sounds or phrases could spark an entirely new idea. Learning a song from an artist you like can always help, because it can give you inspiration for your own songs as well. I’ve mapped out an exact melody from a song I loved before, changed a couple notes around, and then the part ended up evolving into something entirely different. Recently I just started going over a bunch of different drop 2 chord inversions I forgot about and that has been sparking some new ideas as well.
What’s your studio setup like? (DAW/Hardware systems); do you have a favorite piece of gear (or plugin)?
I’m currently running a Mac Pro with a Pro Tools Ultimate system and Vision DAW slave machine. I use VEPro on the slave for all of my VIs. I have an Omni, HDIO and 2 HDX cards for PT hardware. Monitoring set up is a Chord Ttoby power amp and Amphion 2 18s. Within the past year I started buying analog synths as well and I now have a Roland Juno 106, DSI OB6, Moog Sub 37 and a Polivoks. I finally realized how awesome it is to be able to have the controls for everything accessible and tangible right in front of you, as opposed to having to use a mouse to change all the settings. I have a routing set up so I can run whatever I want through FX pedals as well, Strymon makes some seriously powerful stuff and it’s awesome to be able to have those options on tap ready to go if I want to use them. Fractal Audio Axe FX III is also awesome for monitoring my guitar while recording and writing because you can set it up to where there’s zero latency at all even with your buffer setting all the way up since it has its own DSP. Axe FX III is also good as an insanely powerful and routable FX processor since it has so many separate inputs and outputs. That unit goes far beyond just a guitar amp modeler. My favorite plugin would have to be my own signature amp sim that my friend Taylor Larson and I developed with Joey Sturgis over at Joey Sturgis Tones. I’m a little biased obviously but that amp sim ‘Toneforge: Jason Richardson’ seriously sounds incredible for a plugin.
These are really just a few of my favorite things but we don’t have all day (do we?).
If you could snap your fingers and have any virtual instrument custom-tailored for you, what would it be?
Hmmm, this is seriously hard to answer! I’ve been sitting here thinking for almost 15-20 minutes straight on this one question and can’t come up with one specific thing. It would probably end up being some sort of choir library I guess if I had to pick. It would have a way for you to very easily program the words you would want it to say as opposed to using phonetics and lots of trial and error with certain syllables to get it to react properly. I’ve found a couple choirs that allow you do this, but it takes a lot of tinkering to get it to where you want. I bet if HY made an exclusive, all-encompassing choir library it would be one of the sickest ones out there!
What role do Heavyocity products play in your work?
I own pretty much the entire catalog and out of all of them I think FORZO is my current favorite. They’re all essential and incredibly useful, but if I had to choose one right now it’s FORZO. Once I opened up the Brass Loop Designer and started messing with that, it just opened up a plethora of new ideas for me! They’re all incredible and I use HY on everything I write, I can 100% say that my solo material would not be what it is if it wasn’t for Heavyocity.
Check out Jason’s latest track, “Tendinitis” here: https://youtu.be/jSMeE6os9XY