Keeping pace with one of the fastest guitar players alive is no task for the faint of heart or slow of hand. Luckily, Nick Z. Marino stepped into the gig formerly and famously held by Jens Johansson with ample chops. Now, his solo career takes off with his latest record Freedom Has No Price, distributed by Malmsteen’s Rising Force Records. “I’ve always loved Yngwie’s music and admire him as a guitar virtuoso,” says Marino. “It was a great honor to join him as keyboardist. You can definitely hear some of his influences on my album, but if you listen to the whole record, you’ll hear my unique way of composing. My singing and playing differs a lot, too.” Nick’s album outshreds just about anything released this year and establishes him as a rising force in his own right.
Define “shredding” on keyboards in heavy rock.
Playing extremely fast with extreme precision, deep feeling, and a superb sound that gives you a sense of flying!
How do you use keyboards differently than most bands that have a keyboardist?
When it comes to a solo part, I think more like a solo guitar player. I try to get out of the box with unusual scales and modulated sounds.
What was the first thing that you heard that made you see keyboards as a legitimate in a heavy rock context?
Jon Lord of Deep Purple. The way he used a distorted organ sound with high energy and incredible speed—it changed the stereotype of a keyboard player. Other incredible inspirations were Jan Hammer with his out-of-this-world Moog solos, plus Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman. I also have to mention Jordan Rudess and Derek Sherinian.
What material should people practice if they want to play like you?
For speed and technique, classical music and scales. To get into a heavy rock vibe, play along with all songs that burn a fire in you, even if there are no keyboards in them.
What’s in your rig?
A Korg Trinity perched above a Triton, Yamaha pianos, and MIDI controllers with Apple Logic virtual instruments. I’m using all of the Korgs’ assignable knobs, as well as their ribbon controllers, for effects and dynamics. The tone is as important as the performance.
What are some of Yngwie’s more keyboard-heavy songs and how do you handle the patch changes?
In “Trilogy,” I use a self-programmed harpsichord sound mixed with string pads on the [Trinity]. On the Triton is a fat choir sound mixed with a low-volume church organ. The big fat string sound in “Adagio” quickly has to be replaced with church organ when we go into “Far Beyond the Sun” right afterwards. The patch on the Trinity has to be switched to the solo synth sound during the song for the solo part. In “I Am a Viking” and “Black Star,” I’m using a special distorted guitar sound where I play harmony on the lead melody line along with Yngwie.
How much musical freedom does Yngwie give you?
My relationship with Yngwie is great. He’s like an older brother you always listen to and respect. He has a great sense of humor and every rehearsal or studio session starts with laughter and jokes. Musically, I have absolute freedom for my solos and improvisation. Certain parts have to be played like the record, though.