It's not often that a singer gets to interview their own guitarist, especially for that same singer's first ever time as being the person that conducts the interview!
Even though I am certainly not used to being the guy asking the questions, I still wanted to be the one doing it for this interview with Monument guitarist Lewis Stephens as there is a lot of history there between the two of us which I thought would make for a great read, especially for Monument fans, as well as White Wizzard fans for that matter.
I first met Lewis at Jon Leon's flat in North Hollywood the night I arrived in Los Angeles to audition for White Wizzard in late 2010 and my very first thought, even as a straight man, was "this is one good looking fucking guy!" Later that night in the rehearsal room I got to see that he also had the guitar skills to match his "rock star" looks.
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Lewis is to this day, one of the most soulful guitar players I have ever had the pleasure of working with! His tone, his ideas and the way he delivers his solos, are so unique and instantly recognizable which, in a world full of bedroom "shredding" and sloppy arpeggios, is a huge plus!
Lewis and I experienced many things together out in L.A. and developed a great friendship and working relationship as members of White Wizzard so it was only natural that I got in touch with him when I found out he was back in the UK and asked him to join Monument. Since joining the band he has added a whole new dimension to Monument's sound and live presence and his guitar work in our (currently under production) debut album is raising the bar even higher.
We have been bandmates, housemates, played music together around the world, completely obliterated Panda Express's supplies of honey walnut shrimp as well as Denny's $4 all you can eat pancakes and caused mayhem all the way from the Sunset Strip to Camden Town, Dublin to Glasgow and Arizona to Ibiza.
I am Peter Ellis, he is Lewis Stephens and this is our interview...
Peter and Lewis at the Rainbow in LA
Peter Ellis: How old were you when you started playing the guitar?
Lewis Stephens: When I was 12 years old, I went to see Def Leppard in Bristol it was my first ever show and came from the gig ecstatic and needing to learn to play the guitar after watching Phil and Viv rip it up, so my mother and father pulled together and gave me £100 on my 13th birthday and a lesson for the same day. funny thing is £100 wasn't enough to buy the left handed version of the guitar I wanted, me being 13 and bold decided "I can learn right handed instead' so I took the guitar, and have been hooked ever since.
Peter Ellis: As a guitarist, who would you consider as your biggest influences?
Lewis Stephens: Biggest influences on the guitar, my top three in ascending order would be John Mayer for his blues feel and melodic solo's, then Mr Doug Aldrich, the Man! since i watched the live 2004 Whitesnake DVD I have looked up to him learnt alot from his playing style. finally... top of the list is the Don of guitar himself Mr. Dave Gilmour, he is the only guitarist I could listen to all day, everyday and not get bored.
Peter Ellis: What is the weirdest/funniest/shocking moment you have ever had on stage?
Lewis Stephens: The funniest/ weirdest thing I've ever done on stage has to be at a wedding. I was helping my friend's function band out and seeing as we knew the couple getting married it was more of a night out than a gig, so we all went on stage heavily drunk. Halfway through the set we had to perform 'Hot Stuff' by Donner Summers, two guys got on stage and started stripping (as you do) but as I looked over the singer and bass player were getting naked as well... more and more people joined in until nearly the whole capacity were down to their undies, fun times.
Peter Ellis: How different is it being in Monument compared to being in White Wizzard?
Lewis Stephens: White Wizzard was very different to Monument. I was only 18 at the time living out in LA and I felt like I was in the deep end as it was such a fast change in my life from playing local venues to living in California and playing Download Festival, but when Peter joined, it felt like he brought a bit of home with him so that helped our friendship and band membership gel real well, and its clearly been a well working relationship as we're still together like a married couple haha. but in all seriousness I'm just real excited to get this new album out there and get back on the road.
Peter Ellis: What is your opinion of the New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal movement?
Lewis Stephens: I think there needs to be a revival in NWOTHM, and Monument is going to give it to you. Standard tuning, harmonised guitars, thumping drums, galloping bass, story telling lyrics and demonic vocals. its all coming your way from us so be prepared!
Peter Ellis: What advice would you give to young people that dream of one day being professional guitarists?
Lewis Stephens: If you dream of becoming a professional guitarist, then the main thing is you NEVER let anyone tell you that you cannot do it, if you put the hours in and are passionate about it, then there is no reason on earth why you shouldn't be able to get to where you want to be in life.
Peter Ellis: What do you like the most, the studio or playing live?
Lewis Stephens: Playing live! without a doubt, studio time is always fun, but it means mass amounts of concentration and being at your best for long hours. at a live show you're running off adrenaline, the crowds are cheering and there is just a wall of sound hitting your back, I feel it brings the best out of me when I am playing, I'll come up with little things on the spot naturally and that I will then use in the studio.