Rival Sons Guitarist Explains Why He Doesn’t Play Fast: ’I Can Appreciate That but I’m Looking for Texture and Color’

Scott Holiday, the guitar player for Rival Sons, spoke up on why he doesn’t prefer to play fast. During his chat with Guitar World recently, Scott reflected on the matter while discussing the band’s brand-new album “Darkfighter” which came out on June 2. When reminded by the interviewer that he used to refer to this new record as “cinematic” in its sound and feel, Scott responded:

“Even if you go back to ‘Before The Fire‘ [released in 2009] and tracks like ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There‘ and ‘Flames Of Lanka,‘ there’s a cinematic quality I’ve always wanted to harness, which sucks you in and paints a picture.

As far as the “cinematic” feel goes, Scott added that he likes being that kind of a guitar player, explaining:

“I’ve always prided myself on being that kind of player, where I’m more into painting with color.”

Rival Sons Rig Rundown with Scott Holiday [2023]

And that also comes with playing music at not-so-high tempos or just keeping things slower overall. Explaining things further, Scott added that playing fast is just not his thing, although he does appreciate the skill:

“I don’t need to play all the notes at a very high speed. I can appreciate that in players, but I’m looking for texture and color. That’s how I listen to music. Although I love a good rock ’n’ roll guitar solo, too – and plenty of fuzz.”

To further elaborate on this, Scott was asked to share who he believes are some of the guitar players who are particularly good at the “texture” aspect of things. He replied:

“Certainly, guys like Dave Gilmour. I think Nels Cline is a big color painter. A lot of the prog guys. I mean, I think Page was a big colorful guitar player like that. Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.”

DARKFIGHTER Track by Track (Official)

Of course, there’s also The Edge of U2. And as Holiday explains, The Edge has gotten some negative comments for using the delay so much. But, in the case of U2 and their music, it just works:

“The Edge was a great textural player. Not seemingly a technical player to anybody, and he took a lot of shit for having to use the delay – but it was really appropriate. If you’re looking at what he’s doing with U2, they did not need Larry Carlton.”

Apart from that, Scott also recalled Jeff Beck as one of the more “textural” guitar players:

“I’m gonna mention Jeff Beck because I miss him already. How does a blues guitar player become the biggest prog phenom ever? They’re all textural players.”

Rival Sons - Darkside (Official Audio)

Rival Sons are often referred to as one of the “blues rock” bands. But then again, the band members don’t necessarily feel the same on the matter. Reminded of it, Scott said that he doesn’t really get that:

“I hear that all the time. We even play blues festivals. I don’t get it at all… but I do get it. We can play the shit out of some blues-rock, but I’d say there’s probably a lot of acts that do it better if that’s what you’re looking for.”

The topic of playing fast is older than the modern variant of the guitar. The topic is often divisive and, one side will always equate it to great musicianship while the other will think the opposite.

Rival Sons - Nobody Wants To Die [Official Video]

However, game-changing guitar virtuoso like Steve Vai also addressed the issue many times, pointing out that being able to play fast does not automatically mean that one is a great musician. In an interview from a few years ago, Vai was asked whether the ability to play fast was his main concern from when he started playing the guitar. He replied:

“Well, in the beginning, it was a big concern because faster was cooler, at least that’s the way I saw it. I wanted to rip. When I was 12-13-14 years old and I heard my heroes, I wanted to rip like them.

“There were two things that I seemed really attracted to that I can recollect when I look back. One of them was melody, I always loved the melody, and ripping, I liked having control.

Steve Vai - Teeth of the Hydra (Official Music Video)

“In my mind, I wanted to be in control of that instrument, I wanted to feel effortless, I wanted it to look elegant, I wanted to entertain people and fascinate them with what I could offer. You’re allowed to think that way, by the way, there’s nothing wrong with that. That was in my mind.

“Now, part of me also felt like, ‘Yeah, but I don’t know if that’s gonna happen.’ It wasn’t a problem, and it wasn’t a burning desire in the sense I was gonna mow over everything to get there.

“I did like the idea of being a boss, you know, just having that thing in your hand and just feeling freedom, freedom all over. Freedom, not just with being able to play fast, freedom of melody flowing through you.

Steve Vai - "Tender Surrender"

As he added, it’s up to an individual to decide what they want and what they need for their music:

“So, you really need to decide what it is that’s attractive to you. As I evolved as a musician and a guitar player, other things became interesting too, obviously, and maybe it’s my age – I’m gonna be 60 this year, and things like that aren’t quite as important as they were when I was younger.

Photos: Antje Naumann (AllSystemsRed) (14-06-07 RiP Rival Sons Scott Holiday 2)

  • 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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