Author Greg Prato is back again with his latest book, Shredders! The Oral History of Speed Guitar (and more). If you are unsure what a “shredder” is, Prato explains in the book’s description: “‘How fast can you play?’ ‘What guitar do you have?’ ‘Who is better, Van Halen or Steve Vai?’ For metal fans in the 80s, these were common and important questions. Tune in to MTV, pick up a magazine, or walk into an instrument store, and more often than not you’d be exposed to what is now known as shredding- the fast, virtuoso soloing popularized by musicians like Vai and Van Halen, Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen, Randy Rhoads and Dimebag Darrell.”
As he always does, Prato provides a “Cast of Characters” at the beginning of the book, listing each person interviewed and explaining who they are, which is always helpful to flip back to when you come across a name you don’t recognize. ‘Why is this person being interviewed about this subject? Oh yeah, I’ll look in the Cast of Characters.”
Since the book is an oral history, the chapters are made up completely of quotes from interviewees, with the Introduction really being the only part “written” by Prato. However, it is clear from the answers he gets that Prato knows the right questions to ask to get his subjects to open up. He is also clearly a fan that understands the subject matter, which also surely helps make those he interviews feel at ease.
The first chapter of the book is “Pre-Shred”, discussing those musicians that paved the way for the shredders of the 80s. There are also several chapters devoted to specific musicians: Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Yngwie Malmsteen, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Beck, Gary Moore, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson. There are also two chapters that speak of other notable players that didn’t get their own entire chapter. Other chapters deal with topics such as guitar magazines, videos, tabs, GIT and NAMM as well as Shrapnel Records. Still others discuss specific guitar techniques, practice routines, and equipment. Racer X and Cacophony share a chapter and there is one dedicated to the guitarist who have played with Ozzy. And lest we forget, there are certainly bass players that shred as well, so they get a chapter in addition to two chapters where bassists speak of the guitarists they have worked with (Megadeth’s Bassist on Megadeth’s Guitarists, and Rex Talks Dime). Then there is singer Graham Bonnet’s insights on the guitarists he has worked with, some of which are hilarious.
And as we know there was a period of time in the 90’s where shredding was looked down upon, and the artists share their opinions on that as well.
Alex Lifeson of Rush provided the foreword for the book and the afterword comes from Uli Jon Roth of the Scorpions. Although this is not a short book, music fans and guitar enthusiasts will find themselves engrossed and not able to put this book down. Prato never disappoints. Who knows what subject he will choose to write about next, but whatever it is, it will most certainly be a quality piece of work.