Recently Pappy published his top 5 influential guitarists and encouraged me to do the same (Jon’s Top 5 Influential Guitarists). I thought it would be fun to extend an invitation to a few industry professionals to get some insight into who influenced them in the beginning or throughout their career and I’m very excited to present the first person today, the exceptionally talented guitarist from Periphery – Mark Holcomb!
1. James Hetfield
This man was the reason I fell in love with guitar-based music. As a kid, I remember being hooked on certain artists like Prince, Michael Jackson and Genesis but not necessarily thinking about what role the guitar played in the music. Metallica changed that. As a young guitarist, hearing Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets was a pivotal event for me, and I knew instantly that I had to begin to learn how to play all of these riffs. And I did – as a teenager I learned every single riff from those two records. Because of those years I also developed a strong picking hand because of the dexterity required to play those songs all the way through.
2. Randy Rhoads
Randy was my introduction to lead playing. I had liked other lead players up to that point but Randy was the first (to me) in metal who combined pure virtuosity with unabashed musicality. He was flashy and had all the makings of an 80’s shredder, but his classical leanings and melodic sensibility set him apart by miles. I loved Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman, but hearing his work on Tribute, the live album, blew my mind. He played these songs live note for note, but would throw in these unheard-of fills, that sounded completely spontaneous but were just perfect for their context in the song. Thinking about it still gives me chills.
3. Eddie Van Halen
He was the first player I ever heard who not only was a virtuoso at the top of his game, but whose guitar tone was just as good as his playing. His tone was almost an extension of his personality. All you needed to hear was one chord off any of the first VH records, and you KNEW exactly who it was. I’ve heard stories in the industry about just how crazy it ear is and how precise he’s able to dial in his signature sound, but what speaks to his genius most is that 30 years after the first VH record came out, not a soul has been able to emulate the original VH guitar tone. His virtuosity seemed inspired by just how damn good his tone was.
4. Dimebag Darrell
Dime was the master of feel in metal. Nothing he did sounded robotic, canned or rehearsed. Everything from the wildness of his riffs, to the wide, evenness of his vibrato, to the swagger and confidence in his finger tone – every detail about his personality seemed to translate to the guitar 1 to 1, much like EVH. He always seemed to be a bit of a savant to me – a guy who could drink anyone under the table yet he’d get up onstage and just NAIL it. His playing was pure confidence and you didn’t have to see him live to realize that – you could hear it on recordings.
5. Devin Townsend
Hearing Devin’s music was also a turning point for me. Here you had this guy with intense 80’s chops, a pure shredder in every sense – but he disguised it in some of the most tasteful songwriting and production on Ocean Machine, Terria, Infinity and so on. You could still hear the virtuosity in his playing, but it always took a backseat to crafting memorable, hook-laden songs that stuck with you and meant something to the listener. That taught me a huge lesson and I think it’s part of the reason why I stopped focusing on lead playing for a number of years. No one cares about how fast you can play unless you write real songs.
And finally here is an amazing video of Mark Holcomb in action playing the song he wrote for the recent Periphery EP Clear called ‘Pale Aura’: