Fusion jazz guitar master Scott Henderson discussed his love for Meshuggah and how some metal musicians today often tend to focus only on their genre.
Also known for his band Tribal Tech, as well as his work with Chick Corea Elektric Band, Henderson is one of the most highly regarded guitar players in the genre. But although he’s a jazz musician, there’s clearly a lot of stuff going on in his music, and he was most certainly an inspiration for some modern metal musicians as well.
But as it turns out, in a way, he’s also inspired by metal music. “I’m a big Meshuggah fan,” Henderson said during a recent chat with Sonic Perspectives. He actually had in-person contact with the Swedish extreme metal legends at Hollywood’s Musicians Institute, where he’s one of the faculty members. Reflecting on that, he said (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):
“I love them. They came to MI [Musicians Institute] and I got to talk to them, I got to meet them. And I asked them, ‘Is your music in different time signatures?’ And they said, ‘No, it’s all in 4/4.'”
“I was like, ‘Are you serious? So it’s all about the accents?’ And they said, ‘Yeah, it’s all about the accents. It’s totally 4/4 all the way.’ And I was like, ‘I can’t believe that.'”
“That is some amazing stuff that they play, man,” Henderson added. “They’re so good.”
Discussing the matter further, Scott said how he loves all sorts of different musical styles. And one band that he mentioned as really exceptional was Tower of Power.
“I like everything,” he said. “I’m a big fan of funk, rock, jazz, classical, progressive rock. I like everything. If you buy the album that’s just called ‘Tower of Power’ — it’s ‘What is Hip?’ and ‘Soul Vaccination’ — that’s a great place to start.”
And speaking of which, Henderson then went on to recall a story of how predominantly metal-oriented students at the Musicians Institute often tend to be just focused on metal and often refuse to look into anything else. He explained:
“In the United States, music can be very ‘cultist.’ Like, you would never catch a metal guy listening to Beyoncé because his friends would make fun of him. And I think that’s really sad because people miss out on great music by being so closed-minded.”
“We have a lot of metal guys at our school. They only listen to metal, you wouldn’t ever catch them listening to anything else.”
And, as he adds, it goes beyond just the music, with him explaining:
“It’s not just about the music, but the whole lifestyle, the way they dress, the whole thing. They’re metal guys, and they’re not going to listen to any other kind of music.”
However, the cold, dark, heavy hearts of metal musicians at MI were softened the moment they got the chance to have none other than funk legends Tower of Power play at the Los Angeles music school.
“Tower of Power came to do a concert at the MI, and those guys got their fucking heads blown off,” Henderson recalled. “They were just like, ‘Okay, so metal isn’t the only thing that can be powerful and knock you out of your seat.'”
“Because Tower of Power kicked ass, and they were so powerful-sounding and amazing-sounding, and those guys had their mouths on the floor. They were just like, ‘Holy shit.’ [Laughs]”
Some years ago, Henderson addressed the same issue and told the same story but had a few harsher words to share. Speaking to Music Radar in 2017, the fusion legend explained:
“So many players get into metal and it’s all they listen to. People get into a clique, the metal guys hang out with the metal guys, and if it was discovered that one of them was listening to Beyonce, they would be kicked out of the group!”
“It’s so ridiculous, because to them it’s not just music, it’s a lifestyle… Which is ridiculously stupid.”
“We had a year in MI when metal was huge and all the students were constantly listening to it,” he added. “Then when Tower of Power came to MI, those guys got a real lesson. It exposed them to great music outside of the metal world, because Tower of Power kicked ass!”
“The metal guys had no idea music could be so powerful without distorted guitars in it. So make sure you stay open and realize that your favorite kind of music isn’t the only thing out there.”