Guitarist Blaine "Shred Master General" Kaltman from the Virginia based rock band Stone Mob is what you would consider a renaissance man. He is an expert guitar player, writes for several music magazines, has a PhD in Philosophy, speaks fluent Chinese, is an actor and producer, and will be running for President in 2020 (just joking). He and the band just released their epic animated video entitled "Requiem" which we have featured on this site, so it was only right that we connect with Blaine to pick his brain about how he juggles so many responsibilities, his Top 5 guitarists of all time, and much more.
After reading our exclusive Q&A with the "Shred Master General", be sure to follow him and Stone Mob on Facebook and check out their website and videos on YouTube.
Tell us about how you and your bandmates in Stone Mob came together to form the band? Also, what does Stone Mob mean?
I've known Doug "Earthdog" Masterson for 20 years. I used to watch him sing in a hard rock cover band and then in between sets I would get up there and play some pseudo classical guitar bullshit. The people in the bars would be like "What the hell is this?" It was fun but I always knew in my heart we should be in a band together. His voice was amazing- so full of power and range- and with such a distinct tonal quality. Like he didn't sound like anyone else. I mean he could. He could sing Ozzy just like Ozzy or Aerosmith like Steven Tyler- but I could hear something underneath all that which was truly uniquely awesome. If anything I felt like Doug was being held back trying to sing like other people when he was an original. Making things worse ninety percent of the time he was constricted- singing songs by singers that could never hit the notes he was capable of. It didn't make any sense. But- the band wasn't meant to be back then. I moved to China- Doug kept on with his thing. But years later I was back in the US and I just called him up out of the blue and said let's start a band. And he was like "hell yes." And here we are. It was the best decision I've ever made in terms of my musical career. Because while I'm getting attention right now for my guitar playing- which I understand- there's guitar culture and guitar magazines- the only reason anyone's listening to Stone Mob is because we have such a great front man. Doug's voice brings the crowd. Aside from that Wil David aka Mr. Creative, our bassist- we knew each other in high school. He's always been into music, production, etc. So when we were in the studio he would come by to hang out and give us advice, or just make pithy comments which is one of his many specialties. Then he was our director of photography on the "Murder Town" video. I guess after a while he was like "Screw this, I'm just gona join this band." Our drummer Andy Hamburger plays with everyone and he's Cue Studio's go to session guy. We were recording their and our engineer introduced us. The rest is history. As for Stone Mob's meaning- Doug named the band and I never really thought about it. I just liked how it sounded. The word Stone is so iconic in rock n roll- everyone from Muddy Waters to Bob Dylan to the Temptations - Papa was a rolling stone- to the Rolling Stones themselves- have had an association with that word. And I liked the Mob reference because we think of mobs as tight knit groups that are big and bad. Plus- it's not personal, it's just business.
We're really big fans of the new visual for your song "Requiem ". Why did you guys decide to do an animated video for it and how did the concept come together?
Thanks! I've always loved how rock and roll refers to the electric guitar as weaponry. We call it an ax, we call a great guitarist a shredder or ax wielder or gunslinger...so I always had this idea in my head of someone using a guitar in battle. I thought "Requiem" is such a violent fast paced song that it would be well suited to that sort of video, so I wrote a script and then found a fellow named Eddix- who was absolutely fantastic- a very talented animator and a super cool guy in general- to bring it to life. I remember him asking me "Do you want it bloody or super bloody?" Ha ha the guy totally got it- the music- what we were trying to do- everything. We're mutual fans and I can't wait to see what Eddix comes up with next. He's is truly amazing.
Will we be hearing "Requiem" on an upcoming EP or album this year?
Definitely. We've recorded 9 songs and 1 instrumental which we'll be releasing this year. We were really lucky to have award winning engineer Sean Russell not only record us in the studio but also do our mixes. The guy is phenomenal and one of the main reasons Stone Mob sounds so big and bad. I could tell you stories about Sean but I don't want him to assassinate me. But I will says this- when we're recording most of what we hear from him is "Fuck yeah man- let's take it again and see if we can get it even better." He really does push us to be the best we can be and even bands he doesn't dig on- guys that he's going to make sure his name doesn't appear anywhere on that project- I guarantee they still sound better than they ever would have because of his influence. The man is a fucking wizard.
You've probably been asked this a million times but indulge me... how did you learn how to play the guitar and how did you get the name "The Shred Master General"?
I taught myself to play guitar. I took a few lessons here and there but only for a couple weeks. The teachers all wanted me to learn notes and scales- which retrospectively isn't the worst thing in the world- but as a 14 year old metal head I just wanted to rock. Of course back then I was on a classical guitar which made things difficult- but I just learned to hit the strings harder because of it. Volume is the poor man's distortion. Just ask the Kinks. So anyway I learned some chords from other kids at school that were already playing and just kinda figured things out from there. It's funny, I was doing hammer-on pull-offs before I knew how to play most chords- and it took me years before I knew what I was doing was called hammer-on pull-offs. This has actually proven to be the most challenging part of teaching my shit in guitar magazines- all my life I've played by feel and while I can reproduce what I played- I don't know how to describe what I did. I don't know the tabs. I barely know the notes- so when I'm dissecting what I played for someone else I have to figure it out as I go. It makes me feel like I'm deciphering fucking hieroglyphics. And it makes me appreciate guys like my brother who can just sight read any piece of music. He's a classical pianist and for him reading a piece of music is like reading an English book- it's just another language he's fluent in. Which, by the way, if you get a chance, YouTube Mylan Kaltman - absolutely amazing Pianist. Anyway as for the nickname- Wil started calling me that and it just kinda stuck. The other day I was complaining to Doug I was having a hard time nailing a lick and he was like "Hey, you're Shred Master- GENERAL. You will nail it." I suppose if I don't keep my chops sharp I'll be demoted to Shred Master Lieutenant- or Private- which wouldn't sound as catchy.
Name your top 5 guitarists of all time. Why is ..... #1 to you?
Narrowing down my list to 5 is almost impossible but I'll try. Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai- especially when he played with David Lee Roth who I think pushed him to write catchier licks. Angus Young from AC/DC- he's not the most technical player- although he's still pretty damn good- but I just love the rawness and energy he puts into his solos. After that I'd have to say Jimmy Page. He turned the blues into heavy metal and in some ways is the godfather of the tasty lick. Last it's probably a tie between Hendrix and Johnny Lee Hooker. You can't overstate the profound influence the early blues guys had on rock and roll- and on me personally. Growing up I was into heavy metal but I liked Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson just as much and for the same reason: Sexual Power. But I'd have to say my favorite ax man is Van Halen- not just because of his insane technical proficiency and inventiveness, or even the massive influence he had on rock guitar- but because he just wrote awesome songs. I've always said no one goes home at the end of the night humming the guitar solo. You can be the best guitar player in the world- if you're songs don't rock, no one's going to care.
You have a PhD in Philosophy, are an actor, screenwriter and producer of films such as the award winning "Back Alley Bulls", write articles that are featured in several guitar magazines including Guitar World, and play lead guitar for Stone Mob. How do you juggle all of these responsibilities and when do you sleep?
Haha, I don't sleep much. And I drink a lot of triple espressos. Although it does catch up to me and a couple times a month I end up crashing for like 12 hours straight. But you'd be surprised how much you can get done when you don't watch TV. Time is our most valuable commodity and most people waste it like a billionaire spending dollar bills. If it was your last night on earth would you spend it on the couch playing Xbox? I know life isn't that dramatic and you're probably not going to get hit by a bus tomorrow but the point is we are all slowly dying. We have a limited amount of time on this earth so please, spend it wisely. I think about what do I take more pleasure from- watching some forgettable CGI comic book movie or never ending TV show about zombies- or crushing an insane lick. And if I am going to waste time- I'm going to really enjoy the shit out of it because I've earned it. Most of my time is wasted enjoying a great dinner with family or friends, drinking copious amounts of wine, and celebrating a success like finishing a video or seeing Stone Mob in a magazine. There's no greater feeling than watching your hard earned goals come to fruition. Then again if your goal is to veg out on the couch, more power to you. And there is a place for that. I have this neighbor Jeff who comes over at night a few times a week. He's a super cool guy and we have a lot of laughs so it's a good break for me. We'll hang out, drink a beer or whatever, but after about fifteen minutes I'm always like "Sorry bro, I have to kick you out and get back to work." And he'll be like "What? No dude, let's have another beer." Ha ha I'm kidding. Fortunately my friends are super understanding. And they all know they're invited to the party should Stone Mob break big. But, you know, we're not going to break big chilling on the couch wishing it would happen. And yeah, I know you could argue it's a super long shot and what a waste of effort if we're not successful- I could've at least enjoyed all that time relaxing and catching up on Game of Thrones or whatever. But to me that's cowardly thinking. There's a wonderful quote by Teddy Roosevelt that my dad once sent me when I had worked years on a project only to see it criticized and fail. I can't remember exactly but it's something like "It's not the critic that counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds. And if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."