Interview: Guitarist Ethan Brosh gets melodic on third solo album
Ethan Brosh

Israeli-American guitarist Ethan Brosh has shared studios and stages with such rock royalty as Yngwie Malmsteen, Michael Schenker (UFO), Eddie Money, Eric Martin (Mr. Big), Mike Mangini (Dream Theater), and brother drummers Carmine and Vinnie Appice (Ozzy Osbourne, Dio).

Fleet-fingered Brosh also teamed with members of Megadeth and Manowar in the super-group Angels of Babylon and contributed guitar tracks to (Stryper singer) Michael Sweet’s 2016 solo album One-Sided War.

But Ethan’s been stepping out on his own in recent years. Raised in New York, the Bach-loving Brosh picked up the guitar after hearing Iron Maiden and relocated to Boston, where he studied (and later taught) at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. He made a splash with his 2009 solo debut Out of Oblivion on the Magna Carta label, then committed to years of session work and collaborations before following up with 2014’s Live the Dream.

Now Brosh is back with his third exciting instrumental release, Conspiracy.

Mixed by Max Norman (Bad Company, Ozzy) and mastered by Brad Blackwood (Alison Krauss), the 14-track disc boasts fluid, memorable melodies by Brosh and robust rhythms from band members Giorgio Mongelli (bass), Dan Whitelock (drums), and Nate Montalvo (guitar). The release is packed with more of the lickety-split string work Ethan’s become known for, and Steel Panther guitarist “Satchel” enjoys a guest cameo on the swashbuckling single “Tomb of the Gods.”

Oh, and the album features fantastical sci-fi cover art by Iron Maiden illustrator Derek Riggs.

We spoke with Brosh by phone earlier this week about writing and recording Conspiracy, his mission to elevate instrumental rock guitar to its highest heights, and his upcoming North American tour with Ross “The Boss” Friedman (Manowar, Dictators).

AXS: Tell us about the creation process for Conspiracy. How was it like—or not like—doing your first two albums?

ETHAN BROSH: Well, I always try to make a better product. Like everybody else, I try to evolve as a musician and just be a better songwriter, better guitar player, and make a better album with better sound quality. I’m huge on production! So this is something where every time I put out an album, I see it as an opportunity for me to get it better than last time. Especially in the style we’re talking about, hard rock and heavy metal. It’s all about the huge sound and nice mix! I just wanted to make a better album, period! I do think it’s actually a better album than my previous two. With those records, it was the same story: I spent a lot of time, money, and effort to make those records! But at this point, I just think that somehow, when I listen to this record, it flows better in my mind. It’s a fun listen, and I think I got a slightly better balance of harder tunes and mellow tunes. I’m really happy with the mix that Max Norman did, and the mastering came out really good. I’m very happy with the results!

AXS: Is there a concept or narrative that listeners should be aware of? The sci-fi sleeve art nods at the space race, and the title hints at international intrigue and cover-ups.

E.B: There’s not an overarching story. But there’s a story behind every song. In the CD and the vinyl, there’s a long description for every song that talks about the whole thing and how they came about. But as far as a concept for the album itself, it’s not something I read too much into. It’s just something where I noticed that a lot of the song titles had more of a connotation that would sound fitting for heavy metal. It was back to my heavy metal roots! So I figured Conspiracy would be a good name for the record, and it fit exactly with what Derek Riggs had in mind for the cover. This album cover was actually an idea that was sent to Iron Maiden for The Final Frontier. I don’t know why Maiden ended up going with someone other than Derek, but when Derek showed me the sketch, I loved it! It unifies everything, as far as the sound and the look of the record.

AXS: Tell us a bit about the band you’ve got playing with you, and how everyone else contributed in the studio.

E.B: For the last four years or so I’ve had the same band. We’re a tight band. Tight playing-wise, and tight as friends! It just works! And finally, I got to involve my band on an album, which is something that didn’t really happen on my previous albums. Those were with hired guys. This time the whole process was a lot smoother. I had more experience making records and better recording equipment. I can jam with the band and just have sessions with them and was able to enjoy the whole experience. It just came out better overall, I think. Max Norman—the guy who made my last record, Live the Dream—I spent ten days with him in New York working on mixing Conspiracy and letting him do his thing. I’d give my input, but the thing I love about Max is that he’s a perfectionist! Sometimes I was driving him crazy, like, “I want this a little quieter” or “I want this louder!” But we’re similar in that way. He wants it the best way possible, and he’s generous with his time and helped me fulfill the visions of what I had for the sounds. I think both of us are happy with the results. And we’ve got a great mastering engineer in Brad Blackwood. He’s worked with a lot of Grammy award-winners and has mastered for a lot of the industry. I wasn’t even there in Nashville when he did it. I sent him the tunes with my instructions. We did a bunch of the revisions, but everything sounded so clear and so huge! I was very happy about it.

AXS: The song “Tomb of the Gods” also features a guest solo by Satchel from Steel Panther. Some people can’t get past that band’s humor, but they’re very talented.

E.B: Yeah! I always knew that they were good players. But until I saw them live for the first time, I didn’t quite get just how amazing their show is, how funny they are and how big the production is. The musicality is great. Satchel’s playing is flawless! I’ve seen him play many times, and I can’t tell you a single time I saw him make the tiniest mistake, a missed fret or string noise or anything. He’s so smooth! He’s very musical and melodic, and the band is amazing. It made me so happy to have him agree to participate on the record. He’s such an awesome guy.

AXS: The video for “Tomb of the Gods” looks like it was shot out in the middle of nowhere. It’s got a cinematic look to it, as if it could be on Mars. Where was that filmed?

E.B: [Laughs] It’s an undisclosed location [laughs]! It’s an undisclosed location we selected because it looks like Mars [laughs]!

AXS: You’re a very melodic guitarist. You’re technically skilled, but you take the time to create melodies in the songs.

E.B: You can hear with my instrumental music, it’s never just one long guitar solo or “shred-fest.” The tunes are written as songs, with intros and verses and a chorus. Normally they have a bunch of sections, and a lot of thought is put into each of those and into what the whole form of the song will be like so that it all flows and feels natural. And on this record, a bunch of guitar stuff from the demos—the improvised solos—stayed on specifically because I knew I couldn’t do them any better! They felt organic and natural. So usually that’s how I operate. Later on in the process I might feel like, “Oh, this section is too long; let’s cut it shorter” or “We need to add another part.” Like when Satchel agreed to play on the record, I had to create something in the tune that didn’t exist before. I had to do open-heart surgery on that particular section and create a space for him! You have to think about how things modulate.

AXS: What advice would you give to a youngster just starting out on a guitar today?

E.B: I would say you need to focus on one specific thing. You can’t slack off on the foundations! Nowadays it’s easy for someone to get lost with all the information out there! You have all these short video clips that show you all these flashy things in a million different styles. You can go crazy over the amount of stuff out there! So I’d say you really need to stick to something and approach the guitar in a certain way, in that you’re focused on just one style or one thing at a time. It helps to know theory, to know some chords, to be able to play some rhythm. And then you can come up with your own stuff!  But if you want to be a good guitar player, you’ve got to spend a looot of time working on it!