In our 2nd article for the Guitarist Spotlight column, we feature Qin, guitarist from death metal outfit, ITNOS (also featuring Zul – Cynical Sounds). We learn more about his roles in ITNOS, and some of the thought process in music writing.
Check back every Friday as we talk to different guitarists each week!
HMT: Hi Qin! Thanks for being a part of our Guitarist Spotlight column! Before we start off the interview proper, give us a brief introduction of yourself. How long have you been playing the guitar, and how did the journey into music begin?
Hi HMT! I’m Qin, guitar player of ITNOS. I was invited by Zul, the bass player, to join ITNOS when he wanted to reform the band back in 2008.
I have been playing guitar since I was 11 when I started to pick up the acoustic guitar and I first played the electric guitar when I was 13. Initially I wasn’t that serious about the instrument, everybody else in my school was playing guitar so it seems like a normal thing to pick up the instrument. I had the privilege of having a guitar teacher at that time who taught music in my secondary school. He was constantly pushing me in terms of practicing and learning about the instrument but it was KISS that really inspired me to play guitar. Discovering KISS was a big thing for me and later on I discovered Megadeth and Slayer which was really awesome because I was blown away by Megadeth’s brilliant guitar works and Slayer’s speed and aggression.
Besides ITNOS, have there been any other bands that you were, or are currently involved in? If so, how have the experiences between bands been different?
At the moment ITNOS is my only band. It’s better for me to focus with one band rather than having all this other bands because time and commitment is an issue here. I’m still a full-time student so it’s really tough for me to be in other bands.
Prior to ITNOS, my first band was a KISS tribute band! My friends and I were big KISS fans so we just cover every KISS songs that we were able to play. After that I was still in cover bands with my friends playing heavy metal and thrash metal songs. The difference between ITNOS and the cover bands is song writing. With the cover bands, it was just about having fun with my friends.
ITNOS plays a technical style of death metal. As a guitarist, what are some of the challenges playing music with riffs that are so technical? Is it more difficult composing the music, or playing the songs itself?
Firstly I am not the only guitar player in ITNOS. I share guitar duties with Jumaat who came up with most of the materials from Thru the Collonades. Jumaat is a very humble and talented guitar player; he really helped me a lot when I first joined the band. ITNOS is currently working very hard for the debut album and I play a bigger part in coming up with the new songs. I can say that I am so lucky to be playing with the guys in ITNOS because they are so talented! Funny that you mentioned ITNOS being technical death metal, the guys would be the first to disagree. It is definitely challenging playing this type of music; it’s very fast so I really need to practice my playing only then can I play it cleanly and accurately.
How do you come up with the riffs when writing for the guitar parts on ITNOS?
There is no methodical approach, I just play my guitar for endless hours and I would stumble upon new riffs, of course this does not happen all the time. Sometimes I have this idea in my head and I will hum along to it. Hearing drum patterns or beats might also help me to come up with riffs. It can be anything really but there is a conscious effort to try making it sound different. I try to play something new every day and not just play the same old stuff on the guitar.
I listen to mostly every types of music there is. If it’s metal, I don’t mind if its black metal, old school death metal, thrash metal, grindcore etc. I just keep an open mind as a musician and take all these different influences and blend it in a tasteful manner I guess.
Also, what does it take to be able to play music as technical as ITNOS’? Did you have any practice routines that you worked on before being able to play at such level?
I would say that I need to work on my alternate picking technique, build on my speed and endurance by practicing scales and just cover a lot of songs. In order for me to play certain songs, it requires certain techniques so it was definitely helpful for my playing. I practice a lot all the time even before playing for ITNOS, I have this mentality where I will feel guilty if I don’t practice enough! I just want to improve in every aspect of my playing. My guitar teachers helped me a lot in the beginning. Playing with other guitar players is also helpful as it helps me to be more self-critical of my playing rather than just being self-indulgent.
Have you ever had formal training on guitar, or are you self-taught?
I didn’t go to any music school but i wish I had or I will if there is an opportunity in the future. I am mostly self-taught but I do have a few guitar teachers that have taught me. My first guitar teacher was a guy named Saiful and my last teacher, Sanny. They taught me more about music theory and tips on techniques. Without them I might not be as serious as I am now about guitar. I also had a lesson with Addy Cradle but he told me to find other teachers after just one lesson.
As a guitarist, who are some of the biggest influences on your playing style over the years?
From the beginning, my influences were those guitar shredder guys such as Paul Gilbert, Jason Becker and Tony MacAlpine. I also like modern shredders like Jeff Loomis, Chris Broderick and Kiko Loureiro. As for death metal guitar players, I really like the late Chuck Schuldiner, Paul Masvidal, James Murphy, Ralph Santolla, Vogg of Decapitated. If I have to list all of them I think that list would be a very long one!
What is your setup both for recording and for performing live? Do you have a personal dream or favourite setup?
I have only played 2 live shows with ITNOS. I hope for more upcoming shows. As for my setup for performing live, i’m not really a big fan of pedals. I like to keep things simple and focus more on my playing when I’m onstage so I only use 1 pedal which is a MXR Micro Amp that acts a boost for my solos.
As for a personal dream, maybe endorsement for equipments?hehe I need a good high gain amp for the kind of music that we play. That’s really essential for both recording and performing live.
6, 7 or 8 strings, and why?
At the moment my answer would be 6 string. I would like to think that there are still plenty of possibilities with a 6 string guitar but I’m not saying no to 7 and 8 string guitars. I can’t say much about it simply because I have not tried it. I might try 7 and 8 string in the future because the tone is definitely heavier which is awesome! The analogy would be a painter having many colors to paint with but I guess he needs to know how to use those colors.
Besides the guitar, do you have play any other instruments? If so, how has it helped you in your guitar playing?
I play a bit of drums but I completely suck at it! I can never play like my drummer Azli of ITNOS because he is insanely good. Maybe it helps me with better timing I guess. I wish I can play other instruments as well.
Finally, what are some parting advices you want to give to aspiring guitarists out there?
Play guitar with someone better than you, this will help your playing a lot. (Well it works for me!) Don’t just play your guitar alone in the room, get a few friends and form a band! I work on my weaknesses as a guitar player and I try not to play the same old stuff every day. And finally, never regard music as a competition; respect other musicians regardless of musical abilities as we all have the same hopes and dreams. Just keep playing guitar and keep supporting metal! Thanks to HMT for having me here!
ITNOS on the internet: