Guitarist Spotlight: Paul Danial (Ministry of Rock)

In the final part of our guitarist spotlight series, we feature Paul Danial, axeman for local hard rock/heavy metal band Ministry of Rock. Having rocked Singapore for more than 20 years, and a signature series of guitar with Swing guitars, we talk to Paul to learn more about his musical history and some advice for aspiring guitarists.

HMT: Greetings Paul! Thank you for giving us this opportunity to talk to you! The PD Signature Model was recently released under Swing guitars, how did this collaboration with Swing guitars come about?

It was in 2009 when I began searching for ‘my axe’, a guitar that was built for my needs. A tool that could handle multiple genres. Having already acquired a Swing guitar, I knew that this company produces well made guitars. The level of craftsmanship is there. Initially, all I wanted was a customized guitar to my specs.

As I have done demos for Tesla, a Korean based guitar pickups manufacturer. My 1st endorsement. I had our local dealer package my resume. Swing responded with an offer to make me my signature model. I was like wtf! In a thrilled way of course. Thus the Swing PD signature model was born.

What was it that made you decide to have a signature model released under Swing guitars instead of other more popular companies, such as Fender or Gibson?

The response from our local dealer was that Gibson had stopped the Asian regional artist programme due to the economic downturn etc etc. honestly, Local endorsements are currently just ‘off the rack’ gear at 50% off or so. U dont get to create your own instrument. So taking up Swing’s offer was not a difficult decision plus they made me 2 guitars for free. Thanks to Mike from Standard Value n SV Guitars for putting the deal together.

The Paul Danial signature model

Besides playing with Ministry of Rock, would it be possible to tell us more about your personal music history – from your very first introduction to rock and metal music – up to today? What are some of the bands that you have been in besides Ministry of Rock?

Rock music and playing the guitar came as a package after my 6th birthday. My family were big fans of blues, country, oldies and rock. So naturally I got hooked on the Beatles, Budgie, Deep Purple, Free and CCR vinyls just to name a few. I began playing daily when I was 12 onwards, learning classic rock covers. I was strongly into Black Sabbath, Scorpions and Rainbow at that point. I was pretty much a product of the void-decks. A self-studied musician.

Later teens in the 80s, I was always in project bands whether it was progressive jamming ie; practicing songs that would enhance individual skills or doing gigs that ranged from underground to wedding receptions. The stuff that I was covering at that time was varied from Destruction, Loudness, Vinnie Moore to wedding ballads like Bryan Adams.

At professional club level, I spent 12 years working with a couple of Top40 bands ie; radio friendly commercial music. I did learn stuff there. There were 2 bands that were experimental with their pop so I got to explore genres like 70s funk, acid jazz and jazz standards. The Rocker in me was crying out.

What are some of your personal influences?

In my formative years, there was Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple/Rainbow) Uli Jon Roth (Scorpions) Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath) John Fogerty (CCR) Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) George Harrison (the Beatles) there are quite a few more…like Jeff Beck and Brian May but there is 1 name that I must mention now as his guitar playing captivated me since the 1980s. he has just passed away 2 days ago….the late Mr Gary Moore RIP.

There are the jazz cats that I dig like Ritenour, Carlton, Benson and Earl Klugh.

The early shred cats like Satch, Vai, Vinnie Moore, PG, Friedman and Becker.

What I have done is to avoid copying these great players but steal and reinvent their licks into my improvisations. A philosophy that Ritchie Blackmore employs strongly.

Before the Swing signature model was unveiled, you are constantly seen wielding your blue les-paul shaped guitar. What was your guitar journey like?

I came from a poor family, I worked part-time during school holidays and finally bought my very 1st electric guitar when I was 17. It was a white Japanese Epiphone flying-V. Michael Schenker was another big influence haha. When I was 18 I traded the guitar for a Japanese Aria Pro ‘the Cat’ another awesome axe. I finally owned a 2nd guitar when I was 21, a Yamaha pacifica which was the prize for winning the Yamaha Best Guitarist competition. A guitar wars tournament.

I bought my 1st Strat when I was 24, a 1994 Fender USA. I had to earn and save up, it never came easy.

When my craving for a Gibson LP got bad, I stumbled on a limited edition put on sale online. A 2006 midnite blue finish Gibson LP studio. (only 150 were produced) this baby was a screamer.

The Fender Strat and Gibson LesPaul both carries my favourite guitar tones. The PD Swing specs and mods is all about capturing the best of this 2 legendary tones.

Do you have a specific favourite guitar tone?

The sound of my guitar thru a driven Marshall stacked amp. Master volume at 7 or more!!!

Haha – that’s rock n roll! Ok some serious insight here…..going from LesPaul to Strat.

The mods on my Swing PD enables me to go from traditional humbuckers to parallel wired tones (very twangy tele-ish tone) coupled with an orange drop capacitor and treble bleed mod. I never have dull tones even when I roll off my guitar volume knob. With this installed, the Swing PD allows me to vary my tones from Heavy Metal to Blues Rock.

What is your favourite personal setup?

I’m still in the basics of things. My guitar would go into my pedal setup to the amp being miked up. It works for now and that’s crucial.

If I owned multiple amps, then I would go into preamp Master/Slave and efx looping.

Most guitarists, when they first pick up the guitar, prefer to go the shred-friendly route, abandoning tasteful playing and ignoring the importance of guitar tones. What are your personal views about this phenomenon?

Well it’s a learning journey in life, music is life. Hopefully the newer generation of players will seek knowledge and realize the importance of the basic music knowledge and finger tone in the early stages.

Paul Danial showcase at The Esplanade

Also, many guitarists nowadays pick up guitar without having prior musical knowledge (I am personally one of these shred-master-wannabes haha!), what are some of your advices, and how does one break the plateau that one quickly hits when learning guitar without music theory?

Playing fast is exciting! It does get selfish after a while. Heres a basic musical tree for tracing our roots.

Lets say u dig a shredder like Yngwie, Vai or Petrucci – they were influenced by Blackmore, Page, Jeff Beck and Hendrix (1960–70s) in turn were influenced by Chet Atkins, Scotty Moore, Django Reinhart and Robert Johnson (1920-1950s).

Just a minor example of where to begin and why the blues will always be a major key to playing Rock or Jazz. So go study music when your heart and mind has opened. You will then be elevated from guitar player into musician.

Ministry of Rock frequently does covers of old school heavy metal and hard rock bands. Being in a band that plays mostly covers, what are some of the challenges that you encounter as a guitarist?

Doing justice. Improvizing without killing the song. I take on the challenge because I know I will learn something out of it. What I have done is to break up different periods of rock and metal bands into flavours. I improvise based on era and sub genre flavours.

As one of the veteran guitarists in the local music scene, with the influx of both modern pop and extreme music, has the perception towards guitarists and attitudes of guitarists changed over the years?

Hey im still 22 if u minus out the GST, leap years, public holidays and school holidays too hahaha. Well technology has made everyone wiser in some ways. In music it’s a different ball game altogether.

Having a good attitude in life starts at home, towards your elders, your family and friends. Then the respect to your musical notes, songs will have meaning. Be proud of your heritage and where you come from.

Any other advices that you would give to the many aspiring guitarists out there?

If u want to be a fluent musician, study music seriously. Practice new things to keep learning, when u keep playing the same old things that’s not practice, its called rehearsing.

Respect to be respected. Music is Life m/

Thank you for taking the time off to answer our questions!

Your welcome mate m/ rock on!

Long Live Rock N’ Roll

Ministry of Rock and Paul Danial on the internet:

©2011 Heavy Metal Tribune | Hong Rui

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