Ex-W.A.S.P. Guitarist Chris Holmes, “I remember partying with Cliff Burton all the time”
Guitar World recently conducted an interview, via questions submitted by readers, with former W.A.S.P. guitarist Chris Holmes. Excerpts from the interview can be found below.
I love your most recent solo record, Shitting Bricks. how did it come together? and what are you going for on your solo albums?
Over the previous, I would say four to eight years, I worked with Phil Taylor from Motörhead. We worked together on the first solo record I had, called Nothing to Lose. For Shitting Bricks, right before I came over to Finland I had some time off in L.A. and Vegas and I decided to write the songs. Then I put them on a hard drive and brought them over here and mixed everything. They were done mostly in America. But it took a year to mix it over here and get it done.
I’m in the middle of the process of doing a third one now. As for what I’m going for on my solo albums, I couldn’t tell you. I just play whatever feels good at the time. You get an idea and you go with it from there. My wife has asked me not to swear on this one so I gotta consider that. [laughs]
What was your main guitar and amp setup in the W.A.S.P. days, and what are you using now?
My main guitar back in the day was a Charvel Jackson. A yellow bolt-on Star. It’s the same one I use now. I’ve broken it about five times—I just glue it back together and put a new neck on it. The amps were Marshall Super Leads, 1971 or ’72, 100-watt tops. I used a Nady [Wireless], and I went into a parametric equalizer, then a Lexicon [effects] processor and then into the Marshalls.
I still have some of my Jacksons I had 30 years ago. They made some guitars that stand up to the test of time. I mean, I’ve beaten the shit out of them and they still work! I have a V, one of the first I ever got from Jackson. And I have a custom one, it was called the Headless Children guitar, but I repainted it and it has a CHP sticker on it. I got that in about 1987 or ’88. And I use a Line 6 cordless with a Marshall JMP preamp. After that I go into the Lexicon processor. I split it to stereo sound and then I have a stereo Marshall power amp. It’s 100 watts per side.
Then I also have a few Jackson Randy Rhoads models. Grover Jackson was really cool to me. In 1983 he endorsed me before we even had a record deal. And I told him if he did I’d always play his guitars. And they gave me everything I’ve ever wanted. Never had a problem with them. Although I had to sell a few to get back home a few times in certain bands! So these days I only have about four [guitars]. You can only play one at a time anyway. And the more you have the more you have to drag around. Or pay for in storage. [laughs]
Is it true that Eddie Van Halen used one of your guitars on an early Van Halen album?
Yeah. I grew up in the town that borders Pasadena, and back then Van Halen would play backyard parties. I probably saw them play about 50 or 60 of ’em. I met Eddie at a party and we became friends. He just has real talent. A big inspiration to me. I don’t really try to play like him but just being around the environment and stuff, there’s a lot of things I learned. Anyway, the guitar was an Ibanez Destroyer. He had one and I had gotten the same exact guitar. It was from probably 1977.
And in ’78 I got in a motorcycle accident and I was laid up in a hospital. Eddie had just gotten off the first Van Halen tour and he had taken his guitar and cut a big V out of the back of it. And it changed the tone of the guitar. Made it a lot more trebly. And he knew I had one and so he came and visited me in the hospital and asked to borrow it for their record. And I said, “Yeah.” And he left his V, the one that he cut up, at the house so I had a guitar when I got home. The one on the cover of Women and Children First is the one he loaned to me. And he used mine on Van Halen II or Women and Children First.
Then he went out on the road and I got out of the hospital. I wanted my guitar back so I went over to his mom’s. I go, “Hey, my guitar’s here…” And she said, “Look in his room.” I went back in his room and found it and it didn’t even have a bridge or a pickup in it, the prick! [laughs]
After you guys put out the W.A.S.P. album you went on the road with Metallica, who were touring behind Ride the Lightning. What was that like?
It was great, man. We were around the same age. It was a madhouse. Because they’re California boys. I remember partying with Cliff Burton all the time. Yeah, that was a drunk fest. We played in Buffalo once and it was such a snowstorm. Cliff had gotten off the bus up by Niagara Falls, he got off at customs and didn’t get back on. He got off to take a leak and they took off and left him there! We both played the show but it was snowing so bad there were only four or five people in the audience.
But they were cool. We were all friends. We’d all end up at the same hotels just trashing each other’s rooms and stuff. We were having a good time. And on Master of Puppets if you read the thank you’s, they thank [former W.A.S.P. drummer] Steve Riley and me. It says thanks to Chris “Hey Shitfuck” of W.A.S.P. That was my nickname: “Shitfuck.” They’re cool guys, man.