Interview with Keith Wallen

By Jeff Booth Published on Nov 4th, 2009
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Recently we were lucky enough to get the chance to sit down with Keith Wallen of Adelitas Way and ask him a few questions. Adelitas Way is currently receiving critical acclaim for their hit single "Invincible" and touring with acts such as Breaking Benjamin, Papa Roch and Shinedown.

1.) Thanks for taking the time to talk with JamPlay Keith! First things first, for our users who are not yet familiar with your music, would you mind introducing yourself and talk a bit about your influences and style of play.

Hi guys, I'm Keith. My influences are primarily rock based...Metallica was the band that started me playing guitar, I love Tool and Rage Against the Machine, King's X, there are just too many bands to name that I'm sure has had an impact on my playing. I love a good riff that has a groove. My playing is based around the rhythms of our songs, and making sure the attack of my right hand is timed perfectly with the rest of the band.

2.) You currently play with a band called Adelitas Way, who recently released a hit single titled "Invincible," would you mind discussing how it is you came to join the band, and talk a bit about your music.

I met the guys in Chicago during the recording of our album, and I felt right at home with the music these guys were cranking out. I've always been a fan of bands that concentrate on the songwriting aspects, and of course HUGE guitars! This band seemed to have a perfect combination of the two.

3.) How has having a big single like "Invincible" changed things for yourself and the band?

It's been great. In every city we go to, the reaction of the fans at the shows have slowly started to change. We've starting hearing people sing our songs back to us! Then when the set reaches "Invincible," everybody rocks out!

4.) I noticed your band is touring with some amazing acts such as Breaking Benjamin, Shinedown and Papa Roach? When you started your guitar playing journey was this something you ever though was possible? Was playing big shows ever one of your goals, or just something that came naturally as you grew as a player?

When I started playing I would have never thought I'd be where I am right now, I mean you always have the thought "what if" but at first it was just fun to play guitar and create music. Playing in bands over the years the shows started out small, even with this band, but they continue to get bigger and bigger, and the repetition of playing every night continues to enhance my playing.

5.) Would you recommend parents encourage their children to start playing at a young age?

If their children want to play guitar absolutely, it's always good to have an early start, but also keep in mind that it's never too late to learn how to play.

6.) Would you mind briefly discussing your path to learning the guitar? Did you start with private lessons, books, dvd's, etc? If you learned from multiple sources, would you mind sharing with us which you found the most valuable.

I had a friend show me a few songs and chords and I pretty much just ran with it. Tab books were great in the early years because they gave me a starting point. I primarily play by ear, so I would just listen to cds and figure the rest out.

7.) When did you transition from playing and practicing alone to playing with others? Do you feel it is important for players to get to this point as fast as possible, or should they practice their fundamentals solo first.

I started out practicing alone for a while before I joined up with anyone. I don't think its a bad thing to start playing with others soon though, they could show you something cool, or just help you learn faster.

8.) Many guitarists find themselves getting caught up, confused and even obsessed by theory. How important do you think understanding music theory is for an aspiring guitarist?

I think that depends on what kind of style you want to play. I think it's a good thing to know some music theory. It can help open the door to new chord progressions and scales, but sometime players get stuck in theory land. Music shouldn't have to be a mathematical equation, have fun with it and play from your heart if you want to.

9.) Often it seems guitarists, especially in the rock and metal genres, tend to focus very heavily on the speed and technical aspects of their playing which can sometimes have a negative effect on their music. Do you have any recommendations for guitarists like that, and how important do you think speed is when playing when compared to the overall feel of the music.

Every genre has a different strong point and negative point. With Metal, speed rules. With Country, not so much. I could use a lesson from some of these metal players!

10.) For those who are trying to build speed and add polish to their technique, do you have any exercises that they might find helpful?

The best advice I have for all the speed freaks is to take care of your body. Always make sure you stretch your forearms and tendons. As far as technique, practice, practice, practice, and you will get better.

10.) Would you mind giving us a brief description of the kind of gear you use? Are there any brands of amplifiers, pickups and guitars that you like?

I play Gibson Les Pauls through Soldano amplification.

11.) If you had to give one piece of advice to a beginning guitarist, what would it be?

Don't give up on it! It can be frustrating at first, and yes your hand is big enough. Rome wasn't built in a day, so keep at it, you'll be jamming in no time!

12.) Was there anyone in particular, whether it be a family member, musician or band who inspired you to pick up the guitar for the first time?

My Dad has been a huge inspiration to me for music in general. My good friend Shane Bragg back home taught me my first songs on the guitar.