A look back at… “Canyon Of Spirits”

It’s now about 4 weeks until “Heavy Rootation” will be released, and right now, I am already in the process of writing new songs, but also looking back at past recordings. One plan for the album was to include the original “Canyon Of Spirits” as a free bonus track. I did publish the song in its entirety on Soundcloud a while ago…

…and I felt like writing about it a tiny bit, as this is, I guess, one of my “trademark songs”. I still play it live at the end of some of the clinics, and I know that’s an unusual choice.
It’s a ballad, it has hardly any “shred” in it at all, and the lines seem to be quite simple. However, it is one of my favorite songs to play, and it’s a challenge to play for other reasons.

The song originally was created (at least the root of it) in 2000. Back then, I was able to spend some time with my German grandfather, who, at that time, was diagnosed with a serious illness. I tried to spend as much time with him as possible, often with a guitar in my hand (an electric guitar without an amp), and sometimes, he asked me to play something when he wanted to sleep. That’s when the chords came together.

He also often asked me about places in the States, as he never got to visit, and so I told him about places I had been at there…cities, landscapes, famous places, and especially nature. He always loved hearing that, and I think in his head, he was trying to imagine all these places.

He passed away in late 2000, and it was incredibly painful for me, as he was like a father to me, and I had learned a lot for him, him seriously being a big role-model.

I wasn’t able to work on new music for some time, but eventually, I wanted to record that song for him. I made a demo,using my trusty old Yamaha-sequencer… that’s where the string-arrangement and all that was created.
Eventually, I asked a friend of mine to play drums on the song, and he did his very best… he took some time to actually sit down in a little studio to work on the drums. We played it live together in a rehearsal space, and he actually adjusted his drum-beats, playing little fills based on the lead-guitar figures.

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He also came up with the tambourine-loop that plays throughout the whole song. Then, one day, he handed me those recordings and said “Here, it’s your turn now”.

And I sat down one Sunday in a little studio and started recording. What’s odd is that I don’t recall any of the recordings. Usually, afterwards, I can recall certain moments, as in “Hey, there is that lick I eventually changed” or “Hey, here is that harmony line I came up with as an afterthought”. Not in this case.

All I remember that I sat down around noon, and then, in the evening, at like 8 or 9 PM, two friends came in and I had just gotten done.

Those parts are what in the song now, and I try my very best to play them the same way live every time. Instead of going for a “normal” structure or go into fast licks at some point, I tried to actually put in as much emotion and a…”clear statement” as possible. Faster stuff didn’t seem right at all, and instead I tried to play the melodies in different ways, adjusting the dynamics, throwing in some pinch harmonics etc.

The final “chorus”, where the heavy rhythm guitar kicks in, is one of my favorite moments when it comes to my own songs (which I am often very critical about), and when I play the song live, it is always a very emotional moment, as I try to play the song as a tribute to my late grandfather every single time.

People at clinics might be confused, as at clinics, people usually expect more…technical playing, which I still love to do and it’s part of many of the other songs. However, Canyon is about tone and trying to tell a story, make a statement and try to convey an emotion.

It’s still a very emotional song to play live, but I still love to play it live, and I think I always will keep playing it, as it is, I think, a pretty good representation of my gratitude towards my grandfather.

I actually don’t remember what guitar the lead guitar was recorded with… I do remember that the clean rhythm guitar and the heavy one were recorded with an Ibanez RG that was given to me back then. All guitars were recorded through a slightly modded Marshall JMP-1 preamp.

I hope you will like the song, even if it’s less of a typical “guitar instrumental”…

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