When Damir Puh first got in contact with JTC it was about backing tracks, and we were instantly wowed. So much so that we put out Just Jam Riffy Rock on our platform.
But when we saw him jamming on his backings on Instagram, we wanted to get him in front of the camera. A killer player, a fantastic backing writer and a dab hand at a mixing desk.
This is Damir Puh in his own words.
How much of your experience as a producer comes through in your playing?
It certainly adds another dimension for sure! Music production teaches you to focus on the things that matter the most, helps you understand the bigger picture and how to maximize the value of what you play in the context of a song. After working with artists in many different genres, I started recognizing patterns of what works and what excites people, especially outside of the guitar circles, so naturally, those conclusions started to creep in my playing in one form or another.
In practical terms, it means a lot more emphasis on sound, groove, timing and the general approach and vibe, while still harnessing the typical guitar fireworks and using them as a powerful tool.
What was the main inspiration behind this release?
I wanted to do a lesson pack aimed at intermediate rock/metal players that already have a good grasp of the most common techniques, phrasing, and theory and want to take all that to the next level. I also wanted to make sure the material is still rooted in the usual rock form so it makes sense to anyone trying to tackle it, without having to alter the way they play and approach the instrument too much. And finally, one of the main ideas was creating specific licks that would not only be cool enough to play “as-is”, but that also feature multiple concepts that could be further developed and pushed in any direction.
What is the biggest takeaway from it?
For me, the general idea, intent, the way something’s played is just as important as the notes that are being played. Hopefully, I represented that element in this pack enough, so even players outside of the rock genre will find some of the concepts in Rock to Prog useful and inspiring.
The term “Prog” in the pack title goes well beyond the genre description – it’s more of an idea about viewing things differently rather than merely describing djent happy licks you can copy-paste into your next solo (although you can do that as well – just make sure to film yourself and tag me :D ).
The backings on this are crazy good, will we see more like this?
Thanks! I’m currently working on a whole new set of backing tracks in a similar style to those included in the Rock to Prog pack, and beyond. Lots of down-tuned, odd time & polyrhythm-based grooves along with other prog amenities will be included! Good backings are always inspiring to play over and I enjoy making them, so you can definitely expect more of those in the future.
And could you go back to your Riffy Rock debut and play some stuff over that too?
Riffy Rock backings cover a lot of ground as they were written with the idea of leaving a lot of space for a different interpretation. So yeah, I could see myself using them to create some cool new content.
Who is your favourite JTC player?
With all the talent on the JTC roster, it would be impossible to narrow it down to a single artist. Guthrie Govan is the obvious choice, but I’ll have to include Josh Smith and Daniele Gottardo in my personal top 3 - all very different players that I enjoy listening to, and that make me want to pick up my guitar and practice!
What topics would you like to cover next?
Slower, melody-focused playing is one of the topics that I’ll try to cover in the future. There’s a lot of lesson material on the topic, but usually in a traditional context, so I think it would be interesting to approach it from a different viewpoint.
Riff, writing, guitar lines/parts arrangement, general rhythm guitar concepts – all interesting topics that would make a great lesson pack in one form or another.
I’m way overdue to release new material as a solo artist, so track demonstrations could also be an option.
Before you go...
Watch Damir in action as he shows off a number of lines from his 20 Licks pack.
JTC’s reach is worldwide. We have customers from every corner of the globe, our Jam of the Month sees people from all walks of life getting involved, and our roster is an ever growing place of killer talent.
And with Nazim Kri’s JTC debut, we now cover every continent on earth bar Antarctica.
So let’s see what he’s all about.
How much pride is there in being JTC’s first African player?
So happy and proud! I remember like yesterday, in 2009/2010 when I started playing guitar, watching Blues Jam Tracks/Jam Track Central on YouTube. it was new, and crazy; showcasing people like Alex Hutchings or Guthrie.
I was telling myself that I’ll never reach half of this level. So when I received the email from JTC saying that I was picked, it was like a dream come true.
What is the guitar scene in Algeria like?
Algeria is a country with a lot of guitar players, with a deep passion for instruments, gear, and “guitar music”. Obviously a lot are big fans of guitar heroes from the late 80’s and 90’s, people like Satriani, Steve Vai etc. But they are also following the new wave with Martin Miller, Marco Sfogli or Mark Lettieri.
But the main thing is that the guitar is having an important place in the Algerian music with styles like Rai, alaoui, African or Algerian pop.
So a session guitarist will be able to play on many configurations also rhythmically and technically. Like 9 out of 10 bands have got guitar in their line up.
The main goal here for a guitarist is to get out of the box from that “rhythmic static” playing, so instead of playing simple “boring” chords, you try new things. New sounds, like clean delays (U2 style), lead solos with some Algerian traditional licks. Riffs inspired from prog rock...Algerian music is very open and challenging!
It started between 2005 and 2010, there were a lot of great players who gained maturity and started to show off in pop bands (myself included). And in summer 2012 the first national Guitar Day event was organised to invite the players and bands on stage and showcase their passion for guitar.
So since that time, a lot of players came alive and gained maturity. People like Nazim Mohammedi, Wassim Rahmani, Nazim Bakour, or recently Soumia Ghechami. They are always posting good content and improving.
The sad thing is that our country is not supportive of the music industry. So it’s hard to get a working visa for musicians and be able to tour easily; hard and expensive to get gear; and super rare to organise workshops, Masterclasses or showrooms about guitar. Even if you’re endorsed by a premium gear brand, it would be hard for their instruments to be sold here because of the poor currency.
But we are hopeful to see something like a NAMM Show here in Algeria! I’m sure a lot of people will come!
Out of all the backings we sent over, what clicked the most with these?
Being a big blues rock fan I think the backing track that inspired me the most is “Put it All Out There”. I'm a big west coast shuffle fan, a huge fan of Bernard Purdie, Jeff Porcaro who played rhythm so perfectly, and guitar players like Larry Carlton or Robben Ford. So that track was pretty amazing to play on. I can also say the Reloader track was as good too.
What is the biggest takeaway for you with this release?
I think the versatility of the licks is the main thing. These 20 licks are usable in many styles and it will sound “natural”. I was thinking about creating a pack based on “universal” playing” and I got inspired by players who don't shred systematically but they have that one thing that’s going to make you feel an emotion. I can talk about Mark Lettieri who is for me one of the greatests players nowadays. His approach is always to play that note to surprise you, with that bend accuracy, choosing always the right timing or groove, and in any style.
So in my release I tried to reach that kind of energy. How to say a lot of things in a simple way; to attract the ear and at the same time to create something meaningful on the track.
Who is your favourite JTC artist?
I think like 99.99% of people say Guthrie. For sure he’s the most popular JTC artist and also my favourite.. His playing is just crazy and perfect! I remember watching the “Orange Jam” and literally showing it to every guitarist I knew, and I would say, “No way this guy is human.”
Who has been your biggest influence?
Hard question because I can't really choose one player only, so I always answer by 3 essential guys! The first was Mark Knopfler, because Sultans of Swing was the song that made me start playing guitar. I’ve been listening to Dire Straits since I was young but at the age of 16 I really wanted to learn that tune. So I chose Mark Knopfler for the lyrical and smooth touch in his music.
The second is for sure Steve Lukather. I took his philosophy in session playing, like all the rhythmic stuff, how he plays the riffs, even the solos. I tried that way of thinking in Algerian music and it worked so well. Steve has the best guitar sound I’ve ever heard.
The Last is Bireli Lagrene. Absolutely unique! He took the manouche style to another level. And he played with some of the greatest jazz composers and musicians, like Jaco Pastorius, Dennis Chambers and more. Bireli is unpredictable, you can watch 100 videos of him and you’ll always be surprised. His albums are a “must have” for a guitarist or jazz music fan.
Are there any topics you’d like to explore?
I really want to make people understand the Inside of session playing. I have done it for 10 years here in Algeria, in various styles and various band configurations. So I would like to show how you can think as a guitarist in the studio or live. How you can play on a ballad, on an electro dance song, a pop song or on a rock song, and also on a RAI song too.
So a complete method to master session playing; I was mainly inspired by people like Michael Landau, Paul Jackson Jr or recently Pete Thorn. I really think that playing on a backing track is not sufficient, guitar is an instrument that can do many things, so for me as a guitarist I have to be able to solo over chord changes, and at the same time to play any simple pop song and still sound great on it.
Before you go...
Watch Nazim in action as he takes on "Reloaded" as part of the pack.
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”The technique, masses of expression on his legato cool Opeth-style chunky riffs.” Straight from the mouth of one of directors and all about Mr James Norbert Ivanyi, one of the latest breed of new artists adding their own flavour to JTC.
James’ debut has proven to be a huge hit with tons of players digging into his signature phrases.
So what’s he all about?
You have such a strong “prog” sound, where did this come from?
I think it came from having a lot of classic rock, progressive music and instrumental jazz playing in my home for as long as I can remember. My father was an artist and musician, and was really into obscure music, so I think that had a lasting impression and normalized the soundscape for me which I naturally wanted to explore myself.
What was the inspiration behind this release?
I wanted to give people the chance to see and learn something directly from me, that is exactly like the kind of music I make - which is something I get asked about all the time. Not just the heavier stuff, but also the slower and fusion side to my playing, which I think is a little less known. There’s a wide variety of phrases in the release that hopefully showcase what I’m all about, and people can get right into it, in the context I do with the original backing tracks.
Biggest takeaway from your JTC debut?
I learned so much about the overall presentation and of how my course would be viewed from the students perspective, and made a lot of calculated choices and revisions to ensure it was versatile, but also accessible to intermediate players. From the get-go I knew I’d have to be careful not to make it too difficult, at least not for the debut.
This release is unique as it has so many different backings, how long did it take to put them together?
I actually started the JTC recording sessions immediately after completing my new record, so I was still very much in the headspace and inspired to keep creating. I think I spent about a week on the bones of each one, then another few weeks on each getting the details and instrumentation right.
Who would you say is your favourite artist from the JTC roster?
I would have to say Guthrie Govan, as I actually mostly discovered him through JTC. He’s had a profound impact on me as a player and I admire his playing and philosophy on subject matter greatly. Of course there are too many great players on the roster to mention.
What other topics would you like to explore?
Of course if the interest is there, I’d like to explore more in the songwriting domain, and demonstrate my linear approach to production and guitar playing, which is something I get asked about often. I’d also like to demonstrate a more advanced phrases collection, and do something similar to ‘signature progressive phrases’ but focused on riffs, instead of phrases.
It’s a rare sunny day in the UK, and one of the JTC team starts chatting to Michael Wagner on Messenger about what’s in the works. “I have an idea for a Masterclass on the basics of being a pro” Michael writes. And so a release is born!
We like packs that solve a problem for players, and that is exactly what this one does. Michael has found a way to get the root of an issue, and solve it.
So here’s an inside look.
What was the inspiration behind this release?
There’s no shortage of JTC packages about lead playing. Picking, bending, sweeps, phrasing, scales…you name it, there’s a Masterclass. What I found out when teaching however is that a lot of people lack the basics – even when they have advanced knowledge about lead techniques. They could do the craziest licks but if you’d ask them to play a simple groove on a click, they’d have a hard time. This is the gap I wanted to fill with Professional Basics.
Because in the real world, simple stuff is what matters most. When you’re recording with a producer, you need to play consistently on any metronome or drum track, otherwise you won’t get called again. Same goes for playing with a good band. You also need to be fast finding the right voicings for a guitar part, so your chord and fretboard knowledge needs to be spot on. That’s why I focused on these three aspects in this release. There’s also lessons about lead playing, but always in the context of a more holistic picture of the guitar.
What is the major takeaway for the release?
Simple things can be the hardest. For example, recording on a metronome when you’re not used to it usually is a very humbling experience. Some of the click exercises in Professional Basics took me months to master. Originally I had to practice it for university exams, but it paid off in ways I couldn’t imagine. Since I’ve worked my way through this stuff, I never had problems working with any producer or band. Today, especially during the pandemic, a big part of my income is recording guitars from home. Without the skills I teach in Professional Basics, I wouldn’t be able to do that.
Is it a topic you could build on?
It took a lockdown and the total absence of a social life to find the time to record these lessons, so probably not! But seriously, I think I got the basics covered with this package. Of course there’s a lot more skills any professional musician needs; knowing your gear, knowing your DAW, being reliable, building a network…but I feel there’s enough material out there about those topics. All about the playing aspects that I really felt had to be in a Masterclass, I put into Professional Basics. And I’m very happy about that!
Major Issues is such a tune! Any plans for an album?
Thank you! As far as the instrumental tunes go, not yet. So far, I’m happy to release all of those one by one on JTC. If I’d work on an album, it would probably be one with vocals and a complete band! But hey – never say never.
A lot is made about your tone, in a nutshell, what’s your set up?
One of the blessings of the lockdowns was to have the time to dig into the gear part. In spring of 2020, I was lucky to find an affordable Divided by 13 FTR37 amp and the months after, I spent a lot of time working my way through different pedals. Finding the right overdrive almost drove me nuts! But after months of purchasing and sending back drive pedals, I finally found my perfect match on Ebay. It’s an older version of the Diablo drive from the German company OKKO. It turned out to be the ideal complement to the sound of the FTR37. The last piece of the puzzle was a monstrous sounding 2017 Gibson 58 Reissue Les Paul in Darkburst, for which I traded in my older Les Paul that you see in “Electric Mud”.
So all in all, the signal chain looks like this: Les Paul –> OKKO –> TS9 Tubescreamer (turned on for the second half of the tune) —> FTR37 –> UAD OX Box with a 4x12 cab –> Logic. There I use the Soundtoys Sie-Q and Echoboy plugins to sprinkle some sugar on the tone, and that’s it!
But I’m planning to do a detailed Youtube video on how exactly I used the gear for “Major Issues” in the near future. Because the secret of a good tone is not to buy tons of expensive stuff and throw it all together, but knowing how to use what you have!
And what’s next for you at JTC?
Professional Basics was a lot of work and for now, I feel like I’ve run out of Masterclass topics. So probably I just write a nice new tune and pack it up in a 20 Licks or Learn to Play package. After the gruesome exercises in Professional Basics, it’s time to go back to the fun stuff! ;-)
Andy wrote all the lyrics and later told me it was written about his experience with the tour bus we shared after there were a lot of issues in his bunk and being insufferably hot most of the time. Bit of tongue in cheek but a source of inspiration all the same.
You’re known for being an instrumental artist, so what made you want to get Andy and vocals involved?
It all started after meeting the Monuments lads on a tour early 2020, and us really hitting it off as friends along the way. Since I am an instrumental artist I always get people curious to see what would happen with a vocalist and love to tell/ask me about it in my comments... so I decided that I’d try it out and who better to have sing than Andy? He nailed it beyond nailing it in my opinion.
What was it like working with Olly Steele for the solo?
That is the absolute THE LAST TIME I’m working with that lad, that’s for sure!!!
For real, Olly is a one of a kind artist and his skills are phenomenal, he was able to get the solo happening with ease. I really admire his focus to detail that makes his sound what it is. We had discussions during the process and I could tell how deliberate every note is, I think this is the type of attitude that elevates an artist. Inspiring guy that’s for sure.
And how hard was it to learn that solo?
Oh yeh, this was a challenge, many phrasing ideas that are far from comfortable to my playing so I took a bit of time familiarising myself with the tricky licks. For me, I tend to use the drill approach and just drill and drill a lick until it starts to represent the sound I need. I didn’t count the time it took. But I’m glad there’s likely gonna be a lot of time before I need to perform it.
This is your JTC debut, so what do you want people to get out of it?
I’m most passionate about composition, so I hope people get inspired to create and incorporate some of my ideas in their compositions. Especially things like layering and stacking chords to create a sound like I did with octaves and chords. I also hope they get new chord shapes and sounds to play around with too, I really love experimenting with new shapes and sounds. Sometimes one nice chord can inspire a whole section of music.
Do you have a favourite JTC artist?
I love this question. I remember finding Guthrie Govan through JTC with his song ‘Fives’ which just made my jaw drop to the floor, I still watch that video because of how incredible it is and how musical as a composition it is too, I think a lot of players are next level at guitar, but it takes even more dedication to bring those skills into a great composition in its own right. Guthrie has this in spades. Hope to meet him one day.
What have you got planned for the rest of 2021?
So since touring is out of the question I’m planning to spend most of my time writing and recording new music. I have 3 new releases planned including an acoustic album, a collab EP with Jake Howsam Lowe and my own follow up to my last album The Zenith Rise. I’m definitely inspired to be prolific and get more music out there and try and continue to grow my music out in the world.
Any idea for future JTC releases?
Absolutely, I think in the next one I do (lord willing I am invited back 🙏)
Likely an instrumental one where the focus is on the instruments 100% I love creating interesting and tricky riffs with some sort of twist to it and I think that’s something that people may get a lot out of in future.
Before you go...
Check out Ro in action with his playthrough of the track.