Interview - Aaron Keylock

Aaron+Keylock.jpeg19 year old Aaron Keylock has already been highly touted as one of the UK’s hottest acts to watch out for. Kerrang! declared him the “New Solo Superstar” in the 2015 Fresh Blood List. Total Guitar called him one of 2016’s ‘Ones to Watch’ after seeing him at Dot to Dot saying “TG caught his set and we walked away with our brain thoroughly melted”. Classic Rock included him in the Sounds of and Class of 2015 and have called him “blistering” and a “precocious talent”.

Aaron’s debut album Cut Against The Grain has now been released on Mascot Label Group and we caught up with him after his visit to dBs Music Bristol FE last year where he spent time talking and offering advice to our guitar playing Performance course students...

You started playing at a very young age. How were you inspired to and why the guitar?

"For as long as I can remember I always wanted a guitar. I was 8 when I first had lessons and I grew up in a musical house with my Dad always playing 70’s classic rock so that has a lot to do with it. The bands that really got me were anything from Lynyrd Skynyrd, early Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones and later on Black Sabbath, Johnny Winter and Bob Dylan so quite a broad spectrum. As long as there’s some honesty and realism to it, I’ll always be drawn by it. I took to playing seriously straight away, chose to do that and never anything else."

Your debut album “Cut Against The Grain” has just been released on Mascot Label Group. How did you go about writing the songs and what themes did you want to get across?

"I don’t think about influences when I write, when you've written a song and demo it, you can hear comparisons or influences after and there’s nothing wrong with that as that’s what you draw from. If people compare my songs or my playing to others I like, it’s a compliment. When you write, I don’t think you can really think about it in the sense that if I do, it always comes out the opposite. We demoed 40 songs that I could pick from for the album so a big job was picking the 12 I was happiest with. I went through them with my producer Fab [Fabrizio Grossi] and whatever he picked I liked as I like all of them! It’s a collection of songs from the last three or four years that sum up my life so far so I wasn't really writing for an album. There’s old songs and also songs that had been around for only two months so it shows more of a journey and a process I have been through. I wrote all of it including the lyrics myself so it’s very autobiographical but I didn’t see a theme until the album was done. A common thread is that a lot of the songs are about being that one kind of hippy kid from Freeland in Oxfordshire playing rock and roll following my dream whereas everyone else growing up at school was deemed ‘normal’...whatever that is. That’s why I picked ‘Cut Against The Grain” as the title with the message being doing what you want to do and be true to yourself." 

Fabrizio Grossi, who has an impressive CV, produced the album. What was it like working with him and what gear were you using?

"For a start it was great and I couldn’t be happier with the result. Fab has worked with a lot of great guys before including Alice Cooper, Slash and even Ice T. One thing was playing the songs for a while on the road with my band [Jordan Maycock, bass and Sonny Greaves, drums] had brought them to life and then to bring them over to Fabs studio in Santa Clarita in California to record, they brought on a whole new life. I was out there for about 22 days and the album took around 15 days to record. Something that did happen was as songs are like a conversation you take a topic with one group of people and then take it to another, it can go to so many different places. It’s funny as Fab’s wife and daughter are great gospel singers so they sang on a couple of tracks also. We threw some overdubs in as I could hear parts that could be in there also which makes a change to playing live as a raw 3 piece. Fab mixed the album in LA with me in the UK and would send me over drafts of Mix 1, Mix 2 etc which worked for me instead of sitting at a desk myself with all the minute adjustments being made to decibel levels of snare drums and the like.

"Gear wise, as I was overseas for this I managed to take out 3 guitars - a Gibson Les Paul which I play all the time, a Gibson Firebird that I also play a lot and a Les Paul Junior that was built for me by TSR Guitars in Oxford. I did also borrow an old Gibson J45 acoustic out there which was really cool. Amp wise, Fab had some custom built ones and a bunch of Marshalls for me to pick and choose from. I’m really not fussy with gear at all, if it sounds cool then that’s good enough for me. I also did some overdubs back in London as when you step away from something for a bit you hear things that you could also do. For these I took in my Marshall Plexi and the Les Paul and cranked it out.

"Only a couple of pedal effects were used, but I’m not really a fan of them, to be honest I have no idea about them really as I don’t use them! When I did for a bit, as I thought that was the thing to do as others were, I tripped over them, dragged them across the stage and left them on all the time so it was pointless! I went straight back to just plugging into the amp as that’s what I like."


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