Joe Stump is one of the most intense and over the top guitarists on the planet. His maniacal guitar driven releases are amazing displays of power and jaw dropping technical command. He was named by ‘Guitar One’ Magazine as one of the ten fastest shredders of all time and by ‘Guitarist’ as one of the top 20 shredders of all time.
Originally picking up the guitar at age 10, Joe didn’t get serious until he was 13 with Jimi Hendrix being his initial main influence. On his early days Joe comments, “I played a little when I was 10 but then stopped and picked it up again when I was like 13. Listening to Jimi is what got me hooked. My first guitar was an SG copy from Sam Ash (I grew up in New York) .Then a year later I got a brand new 1974 Fender Stratocaster, black with a maple neck and big tilted headstock, just like Blackmore’s on ‘Made in Japan’. I loved that guitar, and I was lucky my parents were very supportive of my musical endeavours when I was young”.
The Hendrix and Blackmore influences were ones that would stick with Joe to this day but it wasn’t long before a new breed of player was getting heavy rotation on Joe’s turntable. “I discovered Al DiMeola and became obsessed with the ‘Elegant Gypsy’ and ‘Casino’ records and the rest of Al’s heavy electric period. The first time I heard him play it was so amazingly fast that I was blown away (you’ve got to remember that was like 1979-1980). After that I started my Gary Moore obsession. I loved his early hard rock /metal records (‘Corridors of Power’, ‘Victims of the Future’, and ‘We Want Moore’). So his stuff and Uli Jon Roth’s work with the Scorpion became the next area of “must learn” material”. At this time Joe enrolled as a student at Berklee College Of Music in 1979 and completing his degree in 1982.
But elsewhere a player making small headlines in American guitar press soon caught Joe’s attention – Yngwie Malmsteen, “I first read about him in the spotlight section of Guitar Player Magazine. All of his influences were the same as mine, so later when the Steeler and Alcatrazz records came out, I learned almost every solo on those. Then I got the ‘Rising Force’ record before it came out in the states when it was a Japanese import. That record had a massive impact on my playing. But Yngwie, Ritchie Blackmore, Gary Moore, Schenker, Uli, and Hendrix… rarely does a day go by without me listening to at least one of my favorite guys”.
During the same time Joe started listening to a lot of classical music, hearing the way his favourite players used this influence and incorporating into his own style. When asked for his classical favourites Joe replies, “Johann Sebastian Bach, Vivaldi, Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Paganini, etc… mostly stuff from the Baroque and Romantic periods”.
The mid 80’ saw Joe being part of rock/metal act Trash Broadway. The band signed a deal with Torrid Records (NY based indie label) and in addition to the band album Joe planned to do a solo record with the same label. Then Trash Broadway broke up after their self titled debut leaving Joe to concentrate on his solo career with the aim, “To make records with killer playing, be in the guitar magazines I read all the time, and enjoy all the things that come with that modest level of success. Then as I started to make my solo records I really found my niche as far as what I do”.
This niche led to a deal with Leviathan Records, the label run by fellow guitarist David Chastain and led to a flurry of instrumental releases. With the onset of grunge in 1991 the timing of Joe’s debut “Guitar Dominance” perhaps couldn’t have been seen as worse for a neo-classical influenced instrumental album, “The press thought I was nuts making this kind of record back then, outdated and unfashionable. But trends come and go and I'm still here shredding and haven't let up one bit”. Sales were good for the album and its follow up, 1993’s “Night Of The Living Shred” saw the press starting to come on Joe’s side with Guitar World magazine calling the album “the best neo-classical guitar record since Yngwie’s groundbreaking 1984 debut Rising Force”. The same year Joe joined the faculty at Berklee becoming head of metal guitar. Students over the years include guitarists of Firewind, Anthrax, Killswitch Engage and Diecast.
1996 saw “Supersonic Shred Machine” released with more positive press and the album still ranks highly with fans and Joe himself. The same year also saw the debut from a new band ‘Joe Stump’s Reign Of Terror’ with the album “Lighting The Sky” getting release in North America, Europe and Asia. On the new band outlet Joe states, “After releasing my first two instrumental discs I decided I could really expand my fan base by doing more of a vocal -band oriented type of project. So in the great traditions of Ritchie Blakemore's Rainbow and Yngwie J. Malmsteen's Rising Force I formed Joe Stump's Reign Of Terror. The music is a natural extension of what I do on my solo records with the heavy Blackmore/Malmsteen influences mixed with some good doses of speed, thrash and European power metal”.
1998 saw another instrumental offering in “Rapid Fire Rondo” before the dawn of the new millennium heralded another Reign Of Terror release in 1999’s “Second Coming”. In the finest tradition of Blackmore and Malmsteen a new singer was hired, tongue firmly in cheek Joe recalls, “Following in my heroes footsteps, it was a new record so it needed a new singer of course (laughs). I wanted this disc to be a bit more retro, more of a Deep Purple/Rainbow type of thing and little less on the speed metal side. And with Brian Troch's raspy bluesier voice I think I managed just that”.
2001 marked Joe’s second decade of recorded output with the solo offering “2001: A Shred Odyssey” a collection of rare demo material and live recordings long demanded by fans as well as another Reign Of Terror album “Sacred Ground” which would prove to be a breakthrough for the band. This third Reign Of Terror release was to be the most successful yet, featuring yet another new vocalist in former Loudness/Yngwie Malmsteen singer Mike Vescera as well as the addition of the keyboard wizardry of another Malmsteen cohort in Mats Olausson- finally stability was found in the band camp, “With the addition of Mike's killer "Dio on steroids" voice and the keyboard genius of Mats, this certainly took the status of the band up a few notches. I decided that “Sacred Ground” should be more of a band oriented effort with some of the solo sections be a little bit shorter and the music having more of that commercial Euro-metal influence. The production of the record was also slicker and smoother sounding”. The album gained more positive reviews and also saw major distribution in European territories through Limb/SPV.
2003’s solo album “Armed & Ready” saw the end of an era with Leviathan records in fine style whilst another Reign Of Terror album, the heavier “Conquer & Divide” saw joint release through Leviathan in the US and Lion Music in Europe. On “Conquer & Divide” Joe states, "The response from the press was very positive with tons of great reviews for the record pouring in, and many people saying that they really preferred ‘Conquer and Divide’ over ‘Sacred Ground’. Due to the line up being consistent and live work we had done between albums the overall band vibe was stronger. A nice mixture of aggressive classically influenced speed metal and insane guitar work.”
Returning in 2004 with renewed vigour for “Speed Metal Messiah” released on Lion Music, this sixth solo instrumental album saw Joe raise his standards in every department with a stronger production and 14 inspired tracks that showcase Joe’s guitar skills showing no sign of diminishing in his second decade. And once again an album title, that by some, was seen as pompous, on his titles Joe explains, “All of my solo records have to have the pompous title, but of course that’s a tongue in cheek kind of thing. Some guys will see the title and think I’m some arrogant prick, but it’s all in good fun. While I’m very dedicated to the instrument, I certainly don’t take myself that seriously.”
Joe then got an offer from Magic Circle Music to join a new power metal band called Holy Hell. This new gig saw Joe play to large audiences with Manowar and Rhadsody Of Fire playing big venues in Europe in addition to some huge outdoor metal festivals with them. Joe also saw a hoard of instructional and live DVD’s released through Shred Academy, giving fans worldwide the chance to get a lesson from Joe in his inimitable style.
Solo and Reign Of Terror and summer Festival gigs with Holy Hell have continued unabated whilst Joe has spent the last couple of years writing for his new opus “Virtuostic Vendetta”, released April 17th 2009 on Lion Music.