Hayden Maringer: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview

Hayden Maringer Interview

Feature Photo: Hayden Maringer – Courtesy of Hayden Maringer.jpg

Hayden Maringer

Interview by Andrew Daly

The present-day hard rock and heavy metal scene don’t seem to beckon “guitar heroes” in the same way that past waves have. Still, in the eyes of six-string star Hayden Maringer, that trend may as well be damned.

For Maringer, his path to the world’s biggest stage was not the same as most. While Maringer always loved the guitar and cut his cops from a young age, it wasn’t until a guitar that he built with his own hands came into his possession that he took the next step toward rock and metal immortality.

From there, Maringer developed a knack for maintaining a steady presence in the orbit of some of the biggest stars in music, TV, and film. Moreover, with many guitars and vintage gear in hand, Maringer has soundtracked many of the most transcendent moments featuring said stars.

In an age where guitar heroes are seldom seen, Hayden Maringer is a throwback in the image of Jimmy Page and Eddie Van Halen. If you’re curious or simply are one for guitar badassery, look no further than Hayden Maringer; with his axel slung low, his ferocious riffs, and searing solos, he’s not one to miss.

Foe ClassicRockHistory.com, I recently caught up with Hayden Maringer, where, among other things, we dug into his origins in music, joining Bang Tango, gear choices, and what’s next for him in all lanes.

What first inspired you to pick up the guitar?

I first started playing the guitar at the age of three years old on a little guitar gifted by my parents. It’s strange because I don’t remember learning how to play or why I picked it up. Music also wasn’t very integral in my family growing up. For whatever reason, I really gravitated to the guitar and just loved playing it!

Can you recall your first guitar, how you obtained it, and if you still have it?

My first guitar was one of those really bad toy guitars, and it only lives on in photos [laughs]. My first real guitar was a Fender American Stratocaster. I indeed still have it 20+ years later and get asked about it all the time, but I have yet to go into detail until now.

If you have seen the Jared Dines Shred Collab IV/V, my guitar videos, or me playing live, you would be surprised to know it is the very guitar! I completely rebuilt it when I was about 15, and it has evolved ever since then.

How so?

Growing up, I could not afford a Suhr guitar, so I built my own! I completely redesigned the guitar. My dad helped me route it for HSH, and my grandpa helped me take a hack saw to the neck heal to make it like a Suhr. I installed a roller nut by hand, all new hardware, and routed the washers for the neck heal.

I also sanded the neck so thin the truss rod stripe was flopping out! I sanded it to my exact hand shape and modeled it after my old RG550, which I loved the neck on. It has been re-fretted with 6100 stainless steel frets, and I added some special electronics inside as well as a coil tap.

I assume you still have it.

I do! Amazingly, the guitar is even playable, but it honestly is by far my best-playing guitar. I call it my “ProtoStrat,” named after a “Protostar,” which was the band name that my best friend Xander Kozak came up with when we were kids. Protostar is the term for an exploding star, and that’s exactly what this guitar is; an explosion of all my influences. I hand-painted the entire guitar with a star exploding into hints of Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page, Clapton, Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, etc.

Do you still use it?

The guitar was modeled after Guthrie Govan’s Suhr as well as Glenn Proudfoot’s guitar. I love that relic-worn look, and this guitar has just become that over the years of touring and playing. It is, however, getting too fragile to bring out on the road, so I would love to have a replica made eventually!

What were the first riff and solo you learned?

I think the first lick I learned was “Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream. Although it was so long ago, I really do not remember learning it, or if that’s at all accurate. I find it interesting because [Eric] Clapton was a huge inspiration for Eddie Van Halen. I did not know about Eddie at this time, but I knew how to play every Clapton/cream record, and the same with Jimmy/Zeppelin.

Did you learn by ear, or did you have a teacher?

I learned all by ear, playing the records I loved on cassette tapes. There was no slowing down the track, the internet, or YouTube to show me how stuff was played. I’d have to wait for a guitar tab to come out in the back of Guitar World Magazine if I was stuck on anything! For that, I am thankful because I have been able to hone in on a unique style that is my own, from truly internalizing all these guitar players and styles by ear.

Who most influenced your sound, and how is that best illustrated in your style?

That is tough as it’s constantly evolving. The biggest change for me was my dad playing Van Halen’s first album for me and specifically “Eruption,” when I was about eight years old. I can remember the day sitting in his red pickup truck and having him say, “You will be able to play like this one day.”

Flash forward to now, and I’ve kind of become known for playing “Eruption,” nearly identical to the studio version (I have some videos on YouTube and my socials). I would say Eddie and Jimmy Page were my two main influences until I discovered Guthrie Govan. Discovering Guthrie was a similar awakening to my hearing “Eruption.”

Dig into that more for me.

He introduced me to all the crazy modern guitar techniques I’ve developed over the years as well as jazz fusion. I transcribed his entire record, Erotic Cakes when I was about 15 and was lucky enough to hang with Guthrie and show him my transcriptions. He signed my transcriptions, gave me a B+ (just kidding), and I have them framed in my house. It inspired me so much! It got me a scholarship to Berklee College of Music, and I think they still use my transcriptions as part of the guitar curriculum. Thanks, Guthrie!

How doesn’t your approach today differ from your early years?

My approach has definitely changed. When I was in my early years of playing, I would focus on listening to guitar players and technique. I did all those prodigy guitar “competitions,” which now just seems crazy to me to have a competition with music. These days I never really listen to guitar music or guitar players, surprisingly! I’m a sucker for a well-written song of any genre.

From a guitar perspective, what moment or moments have defined you as a guitarist?

Since I first began my music journey, I always just wanted to be the best musician I could be. There are many moments, shows, sessions, etc., that define me as a player, and I think all these avenues that I have excelled in define me as the modern-day guitarist. I have had success as a session guy touring from a young age playing for Demi Lovato, J-Lo, Bebe Rexha, Bea Miller, Jesse McCartney, Daya, Greyson Chance, Cody Simpson, and a ton more.

And how about outside of your playing?

I have had success in music directing with my company putting together tour productions/bands for countless major tours around the world. Acting, I’ve been on the TV shows Glee, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Raising Hope, The Mindy Project, Famous In Love, and most recently, This Is Us. It’s great because those roles were all musical roles where I still am able to showcase myself as a player to a huge audience.

In Glee, for instance, my character was the guitar player in the high school band. Production and writing I’ve had major placements in music I’ve written that has millions of streams. I have done film scoring for some amazing projects and did some Cues for Universals Scorpion King: Rise To Power along with Hans Zimmers’s team.

Do any of those projects, in particular, speak to your soul most?

I’ve scored for big bands, mixed and produced for some iconic artists, and played on legendary albums alongside Eric Clapton (which, unfortunately, I don’t think will ever be released – UGH!). The thing will all these projects is they all showcase me as a musician and guitar player. If you are limiting yourself to just being a “guitar player” and not a musician, then you are limiting yourself creatively. I’ve been able to showcase my musicianship in all of these avenues, and I think that is what truly defines me as a player – being diverse.

Which record do you feel features your finest work, and why?

I have had the pleasure of playing on a ton of records and have solos on tracks I am really proud of. Most are still unreleased and are new tracks we are prepping for release now. I think my favorite riff I’ve created would surprise some players. It’s actually the riff in “Skin and Bones” by my band Evaride. The riff is actually an acoustic guitar riff, but not traditional in any way.

Can you recount their inception?

It’s a very Jimmy Page-esque riff in the key of E, but the riff is actually in an odd time of 7/4! We made a pop/rock/alternative song in 7/4 that flows like it’s in standard 4/4. The average listener would have no idea! Loving technical things and odd time, I feel like this song is a special piece of music we created that I do not think has been done in modern popular music! It’s not an easy thing to do!

Are there any sessions you’ve been a part of which have been particularly memorable or challenging?

When I was around 21, I got the gig playing for Jennifer Lopez. I was called in and had to learn 25 songs on the spot by ear in one day. No charts – nothing. These weren’t easy pop songs either; they were crazy gospel-style arrangements with wild funk guitar parts, etc. J-lo was doing a live TV show to playback, and we had to record the entire set live so they could use it as a backing track for the show.

It was a situation where the music director would play the song once out loud for the band at the rehearsal studio then we would record it live directly after. This was a challenging experience because I had no time to sit through the material at all, and they wouldn’t give me the songs to learn ahead of time. It was played once; then, it was okay. Now we are rolling. The pressure was on! Everyone else in the band had played for her for years, so for them, it was just another day. For me, it was probably the most challenging task I’ve had to do in my musical career!

Is the guitar the be-all-end-all when it comes to a song for you, or merely a vehicle for you to relay your message?

I think many would be surprised to hear I actually do not like the traditional sound of the electric guitar. Living with the guitar for so long, I’ve found it’s a horribly intonated/finicky instrument, and there are just so many factors that can negatively affect its tone, which is unlike any other instrument. It’s rare I find a tone I like! My main focus these days is trying to create unique new sounds on the guitar, which is hard because most things have been done!

How do you balance the want to craft quality songs with the desire to shred? 

This, I feel, is the biggest struggle with modern music. You start adding a ton of guitars, and it just dates the song. The reason being is guitar was the most integral part of music in the ’60s-90s, so when someone hears walls of guitars, they go, “Oh, this is a throwback.”

When I started my band, Evaride, this proved to be the hardest challenge for us. Labels would hear our demos, and we would get feedback saying we sounded dated. I would think to myself, “How do I demonstrate my guitar playing while also still sounding modern and fresh?” I truly think we have found that balance to where we have guitar solos in our songs, but they feel new and modern.

What has been the key to finding that balance?

The tones are unique, and they always serve the song rather than me doing the crazy shred stuff I love to do. I also am able to express my creativity in other ways. I have found great inspiration in writing and producing. I have been producing and writing for artists for some time; however, that is limited to their creative sound and lyrical message.

With Evaride, we are able to write anything we want, and I am able to produce whatever crazy thing I’m hearing in my head. Being a duo, we always try to feature Sean’s incredible soaring vocals and my guitar playing. One of our songs I recently produced included a tapping guitar solo and was just placed as music for Thursday NightFootball on Amazon Prime.

It was so awesome to hear a guitar solo on the TV which I rarely hear! We also have had some of our music placed for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, NBC Titan Games, ESPN, Stanley Cup, and a ton more. We even had our song “Wanted” placed for the finale of the TV show World of Dance, which was a full circle moment for me because that’s J-Lo’s show!

What guitars, gear, pedals, amps, and effects are you using, and why?

I was never a gear guy, and I always liked simple setups. I can get my sound on pretty much anything and am a “one-knob” type of player. I just want to play, and I only ever focused on playing! Up until recently, that is. I’ve entered the rabbit hole and have gone completely vintage at my studio and for my guitar rig!

How has that opened things up for you?

I am finally able to get all the tones I’ve ever dreamt about. I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner. It seems like every piece of gear these days is just a cheap replica made in China of the old stuff. Why are we still trying to recreate stuff made 50 years ago!?

Tell me about some of your vintage gear.

I just finished building a Bob Bradshaw rack with all vintage gear. For my pedal tray, I have a real ’60s Arbiter Fuzz face, vintage Denmark TC Stereo Flanger Chorus, Butler Tube driver owned by Joe Bonamassa, Narrow Box 1979 ts808, Dyna Comp Bud box, Mxr Phase 90 bud box, real Ep-3 Echoplex, Boss Ge-10, Vintage MXR 6 band eq Bud Box.

In the rack, a couple of Lexicon PCM70s, Eventide H3000 owned by John Deacon’s Son, a couple of Roland SDE 3000s, Audio Arts 4100, DBX 160XT, SPX90, Rane Sm26 mixers, Dunlop custom shop rack wah, vintage Bradshaw switchers/controller, Mesa strategy 400 power amp owned by Peter Frampton, and most recently acquired Steve Vai’s legendary “Rack of Wham” which is insane!

It’s the only one ever made, and Steve had that in his rack for 30 years! The funny thing is, on forums, it’s rumored that the thing broke, and he retired it! I was expecting to have my tech try to repair it. But to my surprise, the thing sounds amazing and works like a champ! Thank you, Mr. Vai!

So, the idea of modern gear or an endorsement is out?

I am at the point in my career now where I play what I want. I don’t really like to endorse anything, and if it’s something I like, I just buy it. I build my guitars, pedals, amps. I think the whole endorsement thing is backward in the music industry.

What led you to that conclusion?

In any other entertainment industry, such as sports, social media influencers, Nascar/Formula 1 racing, etc., they make most of their money on endorsements and brand deals. It gives these artists a way to continue to push the limits and gives them the freedom to pursue the art. In the music industry, that doesn’t exist.

Sure, they will support players with free or discounted gear, but when you use a guitar or endorse a product by playing it in front of millions of people, you simply can’t buy that type of exposure. It is baffling to me that these multi-million dollar companies won’t support artists financially to help further their careers, which in turn sells more of their products. If a social media influencer gets paid to market a product on a post, why wouldn’t a musician get paid to play an instrument on tv to millions of people or on a world tour?

Has your love for vintage gear spilled over into your guitar-buying habits?

I actually prefer new guitars because I can modify them to my liking and hack them up without ruining history. I have quite a few vintage guitars, but I rarely play them because they are really only good at one thing. I obviously wouldn’t modify them because I want to preserve that history. I feel like a new guitar; it’s like a blank canvas; I can create any sound or idea I want, and I don’t feel too horrible if it gets trashed on tour!

Is there one guitar you’ve had for a long time that means the most?

I have numerous guitars that have a very deep connection and meaning to me. Definitely my “Protostrat” guitar I spoke about earlier; that’s the one I’ve had the most and means the most to me because I built it, and it was my first guitar.

However, I also have a ’58 Custom Shop Les Paul I’ve had for over 20 years that was a Christmas gift my parents slaved over to buy for me. I am the biggest Jimmy Page fan, and that guitar defined my early years. Literally, I had the email “Jimmypage1stfan” growing up. I dream of jamming with him one day!

I have thousands and thousands of hours on those two guitars. The Les Paul I have never re-fret, and the action is the lowest I’ve ever played because my frets have worn so evenly from playing it all the time! They both also define me as a player, the EVH to my Jimmy Page.

Any others aside from the Strat and the Les Paul?

There are also plenty of others; a vintage Danelectro 3021 guitar my dad helped me restore, an SG my mom gifted me, and probably about ten other guitars I have built over the years that are irreplaceable. This also doesn’t include the most insane custom guitars I’ve had built for me by numerous manufacturers over the years.

The most recent meaningful guitar for me is my 2007 Eddie Van Halen Frankenstein, built by the Fender Master Builders. I acquired it in the last few years. When the guitar came out, I was 16, and I was lucky enough to be able to hold one once from a guy that brought it to a Van Halen show trying to get Eddie to sign it from the stage (PS. Eddie didn’t).

I was so inspired by that guitar, but for a broke 16-year-old, a $25k guitar seemed like a ridiculous unattainable pipe dream. It was my dream to meet and jam with Eddie. When Ed passed, I can’t lie that part of my inspiration died with him. Knowing I would never get to meet the guy who frankly inspired me to be where I am today and explain to him how much he changed my life.

How do you honor his memory?

I figured the best way to honor one of my heroes was to finally buy the guitar that changed my life to demonstrate all the hard work I’ve put in since I was a child. I was appalled at how the Grammy’s handled Ed’s passing, so I played the guitar on tv for the Juno Awards (Canadian Grammy’s) with Ali Gatie and Tate McRae and will continue to play it live and on tour to continue the legacy of the man who made my dreams come true.

I’ve toured the world on the biggest tours with the largest acts, playing on the same stages Eddie did, and have made a great living playing music. I do not think that inspiration or hunger would have existed without Ed. I started taking pop gigs because of him; seeing him play for Michael Jackson made pop cool!

What’s next for yourself in all lanes?

Currently, my band is finishing up our second EP and continuing to write and produce new music! I am in the middle of producing a few tracks for some amazingly talented artists as well as mixing for some iconic artists through UMG.

Thankfully the touring scene is just about back in action coming out of the pandemic. I’ve had some offers for some tours but nothing that made sense as of now. I would love to get back on the road playing live again, so you can expect to see me doing some more touring and live stuff soon!

Feature Photo: Hayden Maringer – Courtesy of Hayden Maringer.jpg

Hayden Maringer: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview article published on Classic RockHistory.com©2023

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