TAZ TAYLOR BAND
TAZ TAYLOR BAND BLAZES
OUT FROM UNDER A ‘BIG DUMB ROCK’
British Born, San Diego Based Rock Guitarist
Returns To The Instrumental Roots of His 2005
Breakthrough ‘Caffeine Racer’ After Popular
European Recordings With Renowned
Vocalists Graham Bonnet (Ritchie Blackmore,
Michael Schenker) and Keith Slack (Schenker)
Taylor Has Opened For Michael Schenker
Group, Dokken and Uli Jon Roth (Scorpions) and
Toured Europe With Bonnet
An ode to his lifelong love of motorcycling, the title of Taz Taylor’s 2005 breakthrough indie recording Caffeine Racer has been a perfectly prophetic metaphor for his incredible, full speed ahead career since then.
After a few whirlwind years of recording with renowned European rock vocalists Graham Bonnet (Ritchie Blackmore, Michael Schenker, Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai) and Keith Slack (Schenker, Steelhouse Lane)—and a successful European tour with Bonnet in 2007 and 2008 the British born, San Diego based rock guitar powerhouse comes full circle, re-embracing his passion for instrumental hard rock on the edgy yet melodic and grooving collection Big Dumb Rock.
The ten-track set includes quirky titles as: “Hornitos Concerto” (a tequila reference), “Dog Breath” and references to the fact that it takes “11 Years” for “Blue Agave” plant to mature before it can make tequila. “City Zen” is a roundabout reference to the fact that Taz Taylor Band drummer Val Trainor found the song’s groove reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song.” They started calling it the “Illegal Immigrant Song”—which somehow led to citizen, aka “City Zen.”
So what gives with the album moniker Big Dumb Rock? For Taylor, who sticks to a single axe (the Gibson Explorer) and uses Peavey Amps (with which he has an endorsement deal), it’s all about the accessibility of his music to rock fans, not just hardcore guitar heads and students.
“A lot of instrumental guitarists trip on making their music esoteric, almost to the point where enjoying it requires special knowledge,” he says. “These types of artists are brilliant at what they do, but they’re only playing for fellow guitarists and students. Their audience is limited only to those who understand the technical dynamics of the instrument. Big Dumb Rock is more like listening to an album by Van Halen, UFO or Deep Purple, only without vocals. It’s a modern equivalent of classic hard rock. I’ve got a lot of guitar solos, but the songs are also very melodic and expressive. I love ‘Caffeine Racer’ for the way it represented me at the time, but this project has much more emotional playing and a looser feel to it.
“My debut was the result of holing up by myself for a period and doing everything except for the drums myself,” Taylor adds. “Since then I’ve done a lot of touring and playing live with a lot of amazing musicians, and that made me a better artist and performer.”
Among the musicians he’s referring to are the three veteran San Diego musicians in the Taz Taylor Band, who help the guitarist take his artistry to the next level: Trainor (who joined in 2006), keyboardist Bruce Conners (2009) and bassist Barney Firks (2010). Taylor’s regional slate of So Cal gigs in recent years includes opening for the Michael Schenker Group and onetime Scorpions guitarist Uli Jon Roth at Brick By Brick and Dokken at 4th and B in San Diego; and opening for Roth at the Galaxy Theatre in Santa Ana.
“Working with the band has made a big difference,” says Taylor. “It has inspired a sound that’s more intimate and real. There were some personnel changes over the years, but this band has a great chemistry. We have a great respect for each other and truly listen to each other’s input.”
Many of the transformative live experiences Taylor has had since the Caffeine Racer days were in Europe on tour with Bonnet, who has performed and recorded over the years with many of Taylor’s top all-time guitar influences; following in the tradition of Blackmore, Schenker, et al was a very humbling experience, but a challenge Taylor rose to effortlessly. He and Bonnet did shows everywhere from the UK and Vienna to Switzerland, Budapest and Prague in support of the Taz Taylor Band album Welcome To America, on Escape Records; it became one of the biggest albums in the label’s history.
In 2009, the band released Straight Up (also on Escape), which featured another onetime Michael Schenker Group vocalist, Keith Slack; while riding high with the band Steelhouse Lane, Slack replaced Kelly Keeling in MSG for a tour of the U.S. Europe and Japan in the late 90s and recorded the popular Unforgiven Live World Tour double disc set. Straight Up included a guest appearance by anther of Taylor’s musical heroes, keyboardist Don Airey, who played with Deep Purple, Rainbow (Ritchie Blackmore’s band after Deep Purple) and Ozzy Osbourne.
The success Taylor has had in Europe with these two recordings has already inspired a media campaign for Big Dumb Rock in Germany. The guitarist finds his success on his home continent ironic, like a mirror image of Seattle born Jimi Hendrix’s initial breakthrough in the UK. “I’m from Europe but moved to the U.S. to find success as a musician, only to find my greatest success as a recording artist so far back home,” Taylor muses. “The goal with Big Dumb Rock is to get that kind of buzz going here in the U.S. We went a bit rogue on this one. We owed Escape the option one more album, so we asked them up front if they would be interested in an instrumental record. They said they would not, so we went ahead and made the album that we wanted to make, knowing that we would be releasing it independently. It was just a case of doing what felt right for the band at this time, rather than fulfilling an obligation. We made this album above all for the joy of playing music.”
While the all-instrumental Big Dumb Rock defines this era in the Taz Taylor Band’s evolving history, Taylor insists he will be writing for and recording with vocalists in the future. Ironically, while he loves collaborating on songs with singers who are also lyricists and making things happen with them in the studio, when it comes to live performances, Taylor prefers the free spirited fun of playing instrumental songs.
“When I’m writing instrumental songs for singers to add their lyrics to,” he says, “I’m focused on structure and simplicity because vocal songs have to follow certain guidelines. But with instrumental compositions, what I play is what people are going to hear and there’s nothing going on top of what I’ve written. I have to make it interesting on its own—but that allows me to be even more expressive and take musical risks that are very exciting. Ultimately, though, both forms are about communication. Whether I’m performing for 50 people in a club or a large arena, I enjoy looking at the expressions on people’s faces and seeing how effectively we are touching them with our music. I’ve been a guitarist for many years and I am as passionate as ever about making sure that we are communicating with more and more rock fans all the time.”