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by Jason Cohen
The story of Submersed reads like a dream come true. Let me paraphrase it for you. Form a band, get a talented new young guitar player that is friends with Mark Tremonti (Creed, Alter Bridge), write some songs, six days later sign a deal with Windup Records, record some tracks with producers Don Gilmore (Producer, Linkin Park) and Mark Tremonti and then go on tour with Alter Bridge. Of course you have to factor the two year recording time the band put in to get the their debut CD In Due Time to sound exactly the way wanted it to.
In the past, the disgruntled musician in me would have sported a frown and would have adhered to the "that is just bull****" policy but, truth be told, these guys put the right pieces together at the right time and had the material to back it up. In addition, they seem like good guys that just want to get up on stage and rock!
Guitar.com got the chance to hang out with Submersed's two guitar players, TJ Davis and Eric Friedman right before their October show at NYC's Irving Plaza, opening up for Alter Bridge. We sat down backstage, had a few laughs, and talked about guitars, how the band came together and the love of what they do.
Guitar.com: Can you guys tell me where guitar playing started for you?
Eric Friedman: It all started with blues music. I love blues. I listened to a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughn when I was younger. Jimi Hendrix, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, B.B. King. People like that. All the blues guys, ya know. Then I started playing around in blues clubs when I was 13. Just going in and sitting in with guys at like four in the morning. Rad licks on stage. Its like, four different guitar players a night. Doing stuff like that. It was a lot of fun. Just doing stuff by ear.
Guitar.com: Everything you've learned has been by ear?
Eric: For the most part. We've been recently doing a lot of Jamming with (Mark) Tremonti. He's been showing TJ and I a lot of scales. It was actually Mark Tremonti that flipped the switch that made me want to play rock music. I love blues a whole lot, and I still do but, now we're doing the rock thing.
Guitar.com: What was it about Tremonti that made you switch?
Eric: I meet him about six years ago. I was listening to his album, Human Clay. It struck a chord with me. I heard it and it kind of clicked in my head. "This is really bad ass. I need to get with this ****." I guess after listening to Human Clay, I got to meet him, it made a dream into a reality.
Guitar.com: What about you TJ?
TJ Davis: I think it started with my dad. He was never really in a band. He did it for himself. I always watched him play and wanted to learn how to play. He ended up giving me one of his old guitars, an old school Peavey Predator guitar. I just kind of picked it up from him. He showed me a few things that he knew. I listened to a lot of Metallica and **** like that. I guess that's how it all started.
Guitar.com: Get the right hand down?
TJ: Yeah, get the right hand kickin'!
Guitar.com: Both you guys come from different areas in the country? Eric, did you live in California?
Eric: Yeah, I was born and raised there and lived there until I was 18 years old.
TJ: And I'm from Texas.
Guitar.com: How did you guys meet up?
Eric: Actually through Mark Tremonti. He had a buddy that was managing a band called, Submersed. Their guitar player walked out on them. I really don't know the whole story. I've known Mark for a while and he said, "Hey, you need to check out this guitar player. His name is Eric and he's from California." So he called me up and I flew out a couple of days later and we hung out. I guessed we clicked.
Guitar.com: You guys wrote six songs right away?
Guitar.com: How many of those songs made it on to the record?
Eric: I'd say about four of them.
TJ: I don't know. It's been so long (laughs)!
Guitar.com: You started in 2002?
TJ: We recorded the first original CD before we recorded five more tracks with Don Gilmore which, was like a year and a half ago. We were done recording then we added five more tracks. So, the songs we were writing back then, it's been two years. We kind of progressed and wrote more songs and more songs.
Eric: Some of those didn't make the cut. Like, Broken Man and Complicated ended up on The Punisher soundtrack.
Guitar.com: Do you think you are going to release the other songs on another soundtrack?
Eric: I think they may end up actually being B-sides. Hopefully we'll get them out there soon.
Guitar.com: Eric, were you working with Steve Vai's label, Favored Nations?
Eric: Yeah. Steve Vai was actually a real helping hand. He recorded a couple of demos in his home studio. Stuff like that. All those guys were real cool out there. I had a manger named, Robert Knight. He was non-stop for the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Steve Vai, all the new guitar "gods". It was a real blessing knowing him and he introduced me to Steve Vai. I was trying to do the guitar "god" thing. That's what I thought I was going to be. Maybe a little blues kid. I started taking an interest into song writing.
Guitar.com: TJ, did you go through a shredding phase?
TJ: I actually didn't until probably within the last two years. I guess the people I really hung around with in Texas weren't really into it that much. They more into playing for the fun of it. Just playing with friends, whatever. Once I got down here. I grew into it and got more serious with it. I had been wanting to do stuff like that. Go to the next step. Get to where I could do whatever I wanted to do.
Guitar.com: Now that you have been working with Mark on the road, do you guys have a practice schedule? Is it structured or do you play whenever?
Eric: Before a show we are all trying to shred as much as we can before we get on stage to get warmed up. TJ is always backstage with his little amp and running through scales all day long. I usually just hop in and just jam a bit before I get on stage.
Guitar.com: Do you guys get nervous before a show?
TJ: Not really anymore. When we first started we were kind of nervous but o so much anymore. Now we are more just anxious now and ready to get started.
Eric: Just sitting backstage getting all pumped up getting ready to rock someone's balls off.
Guitar.com: Of the people that are out now and playing, are there artists that you are really into, that you like to keep an eye on or are influenced by currently?
Eric: We've been recently listening to a lot of heavy bands like, Lamb of God, awesome guitar and drums. It's kind of weird, we are inspired by all kinds of music. We get the ideas on guitars from drum fills. You hear the different times. We listen to a lot of Metallica, Pantera and Kill Switch Engage.
TJ: Recently it's been a lot of heavier music. Not necessarily translating into what we're doing. There's definitely bits and pieces of it.
Guitar.com: Do you pick up stuff from more laid back artists?
Eric: Yeah, everything! We listen to massive attack. We get a lot of ideas and freestyle over that. Artists like, David Grey. Stuff like that.
TJ: A pretty wide variety of stuff.
Guitar.com: I hear a lot of melodic playing in your music. Sometimes the chord structure will be there and someone else is venturing off somewhere. Do accent your lead phrasings with a little bit of an effect? What are you guys using in the studio to get some of those sounds?
TJ: It's pretty much all that you see out in our rigs. We pretty much have the same things that we used in the studio. We've got the Mesa Boogie heads and a couple of pedals. He's (Eric) got a Super Shifter.
Eric: Yeah, a Super Shifter. We don't use the Acoustic Simulator on the record. We use atmospheric tones live. We use a G Major. T.C. Electronics and stuff like that. I think on the album a lot of the effects that we get are plug-ins. ProTools plug-ins that we dial in sometimes. We try to duplicate that live by programming our G Major with our MIDI pedal boards.
Guitar.com: Are you using any kind of rack system control units?
TJ: Yeah, GSX Ground Control. It controls everything.
Guitar.com: It makes life easy, right?
Eric: Yeah, you can switch between amps. You can switch between everything.
Guitar.com: What was the studio experience like having Mark Tremonti as a producer?
TJ: It was awesome!
Eric: It was unreal man.
TJ: When we recorded with Mark and Kirk, it was about over a year ago, we were still growing as a band and becoming I guess you we are getting ready to become. Just watching from Mark and Kirk both, it taught us a lot as far as music and songwriting and being able to get across the things we want to get across.
Guitar.com: Do you think stylistically they had some influence on you?
TJ: They were trying to bring out what was in us. A year after we recorded, Don came in. I don't know how to describe it. He's great.
Guitar.com: He kind of brought you to the next level?
TJ: We were ready for that next level and he helped us.
Eric: He opened up different genres of what you could take something to. "How 'bout playing it like this?" Or, "Use your fingers for this one." Try different approaches to find out what works best.
TJ: "Try that chord right here. Do the same chord but try it like this."
Guitar.com: Where did the inspiration come from for some of the Middle Eastern phrasing?
Eric: I love to play around with every style of music. From South African music to anything. Whatever is coming to my head while I'm sitting there holding a guitar. I assume your talking about Divide the Hate?
Guitar.com: Yes. You guys play multiple instruments right?
Eric: All of us. We like to do a little switch-a-roo at rehearsals and stuff like that. Eventually we want to do that in a live show. We even write like that. TJ will be on drums. I'll be on drums. We all think we are drummers in the band (laughs).
Guitar.com: How are your tempos?
Eric: Time is a magazine for us (laughs)! We're in there trying anything we can. Trying different perspectives. We like to use the dual guitar attack to our advantage. We like to do different things. Not always playing the same tones. We always have different tones going on. We blend those. We do riffs that compliment each other and compliment the song at the same time without being too much.
Guitar.com: Are you guys using a lot of Mesa gear on the recording? Rectifiers?
Guitar.com: I did an interview with John Pertrucci's Tech and he does the same thing. He brings out the Lonestar heads with Road Kings. He has some sick ****! Custom coverings.
TJ: I wouldn't even know where to begin on those things. There is so much stuff on them.
Guitar.com: There's like 20 switches on the back and 50 switches on the front.
Eric: Technological freedom!
Guitar.com: What is it like, as a guitar player, for someone that you admire so much to say that you're his favorite band?
TJ: (Laughs) I don't know how...How do you to describe that?
Eric: I guess you can try to put yourself in that position, I guess. It's just like making a dream a reality. It's kind of insane. How ever you feel in your dream is how you feel right now. It's unreal. We still can't believe it. We say to each other all the time, "Are we really here doing this?" "Are we really doing an interview right now?" It's awesome!
Guitar.com: What are your beginnings?
TJ: The way we started was me, Kelan (bass) and our singer, Donald were from Texas and we all went to the same High School. We ended up hooking up after a couple years of college. We all wanted play music and that's how it started in Dallas. We found a manger, he used to be our manager, who knew Mark (Tremonti). Our former guitar player left for whatever his reasons were. Mark knew Eric. Kiki sent our demo to Mark. He was our old manager. Mark liked it and he heard that our guitar player quit and he was like "I've got the perfect guy for you guys." That's how he introduced us to Eric. Instead him moving to Texas or us moving to California...
Eric: Why don't we all go somewhere we've never been. Close your eyes and point your finger on a map. "Hey lets got to Orlando!"
TJ: Our management was based out of there at the time. Mark was there. All of our connections and our core was there to.
Guitar.com: How fast did it progress for you guys after that?
Eric: It was ridiculously fast when I joined it. I jumped on the bandwagon a little bit late.
TJ: Before Eric came in. We had only been a band for six months. We showcased. We did all this in a matter of six months. We were like, "What the hell is going on here?" (Laughs) In my eyes, we weren't even really who we are now until Eric was in the band. We were still a "little kid" band I guess. (laughs) We weren't but we were.
Eric: It was weird. From the first moment I meet with the guys in Submersed, I think it was about four days later, we had about five or six songs. When we first met we grabbed an acoustic guitar and started playing. Then we didn't stop. All day, all night. Mark Tremonti was checking us out and he said, "You guys got something really good! You guys should go to Windup and showcase and see what happens." That would be awesome! My dream come true! Hanging out with Mark Tremonti and showcasing with Windup Records. I heard that was such a good label. Three days after I knew these guys we ended up flying to New York City. Donald, the singer and I went and played an acoustic set of five or six songs that we came up with. Plus a couple of old ones that they had from the old Submersed days. We played that night for 15 record execs. Kind of a weird uncomfortable feeling. Like, laying your balls on the table and saying "Here it is!" You know what I mean? The next day, it was a pretty remarkable experience, they offered us a record deal.
Guitar.com: That's really quick!
Eric: I was in the band about five days and then we had a deal on the table. It was crazy! Definitely a surreal experience.
Guitar.com: It sounds like you guys bring out the best musical qualities in each other.
Eric: That's what we try to do. We try to inspire each other.
Guitar.com: If someone is playing something ****ty, do you tell them, "That sucks, fix it?"
Guitar.com: Maybe a little bit nicer?
TJ: We're not that cruel.
Eric: Well hopefully none of us will ever play anything that ****ty!
Guitar.com: That's a lot of pressure!
TJ: Usually, if one of us is playing something ****ty, we figure it out ourselves without some body else having to tell us
Eric: Or, we should hope so! (laughs) It's definitely something special. You know you got something when you got five guys that never played together and when they do play together they got something going on. You feel the chemistry. You hear it in the music that these people were meant to play together.
Guitar.com: It's like love, man.
Eric: It's like love, man. It's like five guys getting married.
Guitar.com: In a plutonic musical way.
TJ: In a non-gay way.
Eric: Is there something on the CD that you really enjoyed recording?
Eric: I liked the overall versatility of the whole thing. It takes you from right to left and front to back. That's the way we are as people and that's the way we want to be on the record.
Guitar.com: Are there certain parts that you come to when you play live and you think, "yeah, this is going to be ****ing awesome!"
Eric: Yeah, for me and TJ, it's the end of Hollow, our single. This is from our metal inspirations. During the bridge and the ending we do these guitar harmonies. It's ****ing rocking. We just stand in the middle of the stage getting tangled in our hair and start jamming out. That's the moment.
Guitar.com: Is there any gear that you guys are craving to have?
TJ: A Warrior Guitar. They don't call them axes. They call them swords. (Laughs) They're all pure custom with, I can't describe them. They got everything. The bodies are custom carved. The necks are all abalone.
Guitar.com: Do you have one prized piece in your collections now?
Eric: I would have to say, my Kenny Wayne Shepherd guitar. I'm such a huge fan of his. His albums taught me how to play guitar. I learned them all by ear, note for note.
I went to his concerts and stood in the front row. I was playing air guitar right in front of his face. Like every other guitar fan would. I'm like, "Dude, look at my fingers. I know all of your riffs!" I was 13 and he was 18. He pulled me up on stage after the encore. He presented me with a white Fender Strat and signed it. He said, "hey everybody this is my buddy Eric and he wanted to come up and jam with me!". I'm like freaking out! I get up their. I look just like him. I had long blonde hair and so did he. We jammed on his single at the time Deja Voodoo.
After the end of the night he had given me a case that Stevie Ray Vaughn had given him. He put this guitar in it and said, "You got to have a case for this guitar!" I was like, "Oh my god!" It had mojo written all over it.
TJ: You're going to have to pass that down.
Guitar.com: At some point you've got to share it.
Eric: Yeah man! That's my favorite piece!
Guitar.com: Do you know the next phase your going to be heading in musically?
TJ: It's getting a little heavier but still a lot of melody. I think our heavier songs are getting heavier and our more melodic and atmospheric songs are getting more melodic and atmospheric.
Guitar.com: More extremes?
Eric: Yeah. We're trying to take everything to the next level. We're getting more intense and starting to learn more about the guitar necks. We're just trying to push the envelope I guess. We're trying to stay outside the lines of that standard verse chorus verse chorus structure that radio is staying in today.
Guitar.com: How do you think you're going to do that though?
Eric: We gonna change things! (Laughs)
Guitar.com: You'll invent a new song part?
Eric: Yeah, it will be called the Submersed part. I don't know. We are just trying to take a musical journey without following the rules that people have laid before us.
TJ: There's a lot of **** out there right now!
Guitar.com: Ok, it's coming out now!
TJ: For lack of a better word. You know what I mean?
Eric: We just have to keep the music real and passionate. People recognize that stuff.
Guitar.com: And the parting question is... Is there anything you would like to share with the other guitar players out there?
Eric: Don't stick yourself into one zone. Be open to any kind of suggestions whether, you think it is off the wall or not. Keep your head up and always have someone to look up to. That will always keep you on your toes, realize where you're at and check yourself. Make sure you're doing the right thing.
TJ: Always learn something from other people. Everybody.
Eric: Don't do drugs!
Guitar.com: Would you like to tell the people to vote?
Eric: I don't know.
TJ: I ain't even going to get into that.
Eric: Have fun with it!
About the Author:
Jason Cohen is an employee of guitar.com. He is an avid music fan and and guitarist of 15 years. He can be reached at www.greenermusic.com