Interview with Bushwhack’s Jamie van Dyck

On their second release overall, ‘Canvas,’ the New Haven, Connecticut-based quartet, Bushwhack – comprised of Frank Sacramone (keyboards), Sean McCusker (bass), Jamie van Dyck (guitars/vocals), and Ben Shanbrom (lead vocals/drums) – have finally introduced vocals to their sound. Starting as a prog-y, all-instrumental band (as evidenced by their 2007 self-titled debut), the group has toughened up their sound considerably on ‘Canvas,’ and focused their sound more towards the harder side of things. Bushwhack’s guitarist, Jamie van Dyck, recently took time out to discuss shop with Guitarsite.

When/how did you get started playing guitar?

I started playing guitar in 4th grade. I taught myself for a year by ear, but I played it basically like a lap-steel which was easier for me – as I had been playing piano for several years and had no experience with string instruments. I then started taking lessons with an awesome guy named Don Wunderlee, and the rest just took care of itself. 


Who were your early influences?

My parents raised me listening to classical, mostly orchestral works from Beethoven, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky. In late elementary school, I got into a lot of contemporary late 90s pop/rock bands like Vertical Horizon, Fastball, and Splender. I was afraid of metal just based on what I assumed it meant, but when I heard Metallica with orchestra on “No Leaf Clover”, my conversion to a metalhead had begun. 


How did/when did your band form?

Frank (our keyboardist) and I have been best friends since first grade and have been playing music together since shortly after that point. In high school Frank knew Ben and I knew Brandon, so we got together and ended up writing “The Greatest Wall” in our first band practice. After Brandon quit a little over a year ago, I had already been jamming with Sean for a little while at college, so the transition was fairly smooth once we knew that he was interested. 

This is your second release, correct?

Yes, our debut album was an ongoing project throughout high school that came out in 2007. This EP is our first release since we've become busy college students and the first official release that we've self-produced, but as we're all graduating within the next year, our output should become more prolific after that. 

Why vocals with the new EP release?

We always planned on having vocals; we just never had a singer. All of us dedicate a lot of energy to composing and songwriting, and we wrote many songs before our first album even came out that had vocal ideas that we couldn't perform as an all-instrumental unit. For our EP, we realized Ben's vocals are pretty damn good in the studio if he doesn't have to worry about drumming at the same time, and I have a good ear for harmonies, so as long as my voice isn't featured, it's serviceable. That said, we are still looking for a lead vocalist for our next full-length release so Ben can focus on drums live.

Please discuss band's latest release + touring plans.

Our new EP called Canvas will be released Tuesday May 18th on iTunes, Amazon MP3, myspace, rhapsody, and CDBaby among others. It has three original songs and one cover that demonstrate the breadth of what Bushwhack is sonically about. “Stonewall” is a catchy melodic hard rock song with soaring vocals, “Morning” is a beautiful acoustic guitar orchestra that crescendos into metal riffage, “Flawed” is a progressive metal epic with more aggressive vocals that give way to melancholy piano over a wall of chugging guitars, and “Clubbed To Death” is an orchestral metal cover of an electronica song originally found on the soundtrack for the motion picture The Matrix. We don't have definitive touring plans, but we should be playing a handful of shows in the northeast this summer, and we'll announce any shows that we schedule on our myspace and facebook pages.

What type of guitars, amps, and effects do you use?

I use Schecter 6-sting and 7-string guitars, an Ibanez 6-string baritone, and a Fender acoustic. I use a Mesa/Boogie DC-5 through a Genz Benz G-flex 2X12 cab for heavy stuff, and a Fender Hot Rod Deville for the clean/atmospheric stuff. For the EP, the effects were all studio processed other than my Jimi Hendrix WAH, but live I use Boss delay/chorus/phase shifter, a tube screamer TS9 for a tone boost on some of the clean and distorted leads, the Hendrix WAH, and a Voodoo Lab Tremolo pedal. The other guys in the band want me to get an 8-string for the next record, but we'll see if they wanna buy it for me – haha.

Who are some of your favorite modern day guitarists and why?

Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree and Clint Lowery of Sevendust are probably my two favorite guitarists, really because of their approach to the guitar. They write intense, dramatic songs, and they use the guitar as their primary vehicle for expression and composition rather than as a platform to show off their chops. They're also very versatile players from highly rhythmic chugging riffage to intricate leads to atmospherics/harmonics. Bulb from Periphery and the two guitarists from Karnivool are up there as well for the same reasons (though Bulb can be a bit showy for my taste at times). 

What advice would you give to other guitarists?

Be creative! Spending time woodshedding on classic solos and shredding and developing technique is certainly a worthy endeavor (and probably something that I should do more of), but I think writing original music and jamming are some of the most rewarding and collaborative experiences you can have and allows for a more intimate relationship with the guitar and music as an art form in general. Lastly, learn enough piano to understand music on a more intuitive level. It proves very helpful in songwriting and working with other musicians.

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