Greg Howe Explains Why Metal and Fast Solos Never Appealed to Him: ’I Participated, but I Grew Out of It’

Guitar master Greg Howe explained why he never really got into the music of a generation that he was a part of. Speaking to Guitar World recently, Howe reflected on being one of the guitar players associated with the so-called “shred” movement that emerged in the 1980s.

Although participating in it, since he emerged onto the scene during that era, Howe admitted that the whole thing never really appealed to him. Looking back at his beginnings and how his music and playing have changed, he replied:

“The challenge I’ve faced over the years because I’ve came up in that era is getting people to see me outside of it. Because coming up through Shrapnel [Records] and being in the company of all those amazing shred guys like Paul Gilbert and Jason Becker has made it that I’m often associated with that first and foremost.“

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Of course, Howe has absolutely nothing against any of the guitar-wielding shredders of the era, he just feels like it was never really his thing. He continued:

“But don’t get me wrong. Those guys and that style were innovative for that era, but the whole heavy metal, in-your-face, way-too-many notes thing was cool back then and never appealed to me. I participated, but I grew out of it.”

“I never did the neoclassical thing. I never tried to do the whole ‘Bach rock’ thing. But there was a certain note density requirement, so I tried to do different things that set my songwriting apart.“

Over the coming years, after building his name as one of the most technically proficient guitar players out there, Greg was a “hired gun” for plenty of big names in the music industry. In fact, at one point, he even replaced Jennifer Batten in Michael Jackson’s live band. Apart from Jacksons, these names include Enrique Iglesias, Rihanna, P Diddy, and Christina Aguilera, just to name a few.

However, as Howe explained during the interview, he decided to step down from these roles as they felt off to him. He said:

“I had to walk away from it. Sure, it was cool for a bit, but to keep doing it was becoming disingenuous.“

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Instead, he wanted to do his own thing, explaining

“I’ve put a lot of time into my guitar playing, you know? I didn’t practice all those hours and learn how to do all these things just so I could play barre chords for some twenty-two-year-old pop star.”

To further elaborate on this decision, Gred added:

“To do so felt too safe and disrespectful to whatever power above has given me these cool abilities. I had this internal obligation to get back to what I do. But I gave up a lot to do that. It was worth it, and it’s still worth it. But I left a lot on the table when I walked away from all of that. But it feels good to be real.“

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Over the last few years or so, Greg Howe has mostly spent his time under the radar. However, he’s now back and is planning to get back on the road. Asked about the matter and whether he’s looking forward to playing live again, he replied:

“Yeah… that’s true. I’ve been mostly clamped down in the last few years because of all kinds of things. I really haven’t been out on tour since 2018. COVID hit, and then the lockdowns came, so that took me off the road.”

And there were also other more personal and, unfortunately, tragic issues:

“And then, I went through a lot of personal issues with my fiancé, who was also my manager. I was pretty much in caretaker mode for her until she, unfortunately, passed away from cancer last year.”

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“So, for a couple of years there, I cared for her full-time. So, I think it will be good to get back out and perform just to get out of the house.“

Further on, Greg was asked whether the things that happened over the last five years have impacted his perspective on music and guitar, he replied:

“That’s a good question. I don’t know… I’m not sure that it has changed things. Well, I’m sure it provided a different avenue of inspiration, which has probably allowed me to pull new forms from some less familiar directions.”

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Fortunately, he feels inspired now:

“So, I am very inspired right now. I wanted my next album done before this tour, but it’s been too crazy.”

“After my fiancé’s passing, I went through all that came with that, and I also needed to get a new manager. I had to move, and a ton of things had to be done. So, I didn’t have time to finish the record. But I am quite inspired because there are all kinds of new emotional areas and uncharted territory in terms of where I reach for inspiration.”

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“But I don’t fully know and understand all of that just yet because it’s so big and a little disorienting. So, I’m not sure exactly where I’m at right now. But I certainly feel like things like this can take you out of the game entirely and, at the very least, knock you down. Or they can make you stronger. So, I feel like I’m winning that battle.“

Photo: Tore Sætre (Greg Howe Cosmopolite 2017 (220517))

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.

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