Guitar master Paul Crook has worked with many musicians among them Glenn Hughes (composing the song Feels Like Home for Glenn’s solo record Building The Machine), Scott Metaxas from Nuclear Assault (co-producing Billy Milano’s M.O.D. record The Rebel You Love To Hate), and Frank Dimino on his Old Habits Die Hard album.
He’s also performed on television night time talk shows like Jimmy Kimmel, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Top Of the Pops in the UK and Germany and co-owns Devil Star Entertainment in Las Vegas with John Madera so the man has had a lot of things going on since day one.
Most known he is from his stint with thrash metal pioneers Anthrax during the 1990’s as well as recording and touring for Meat Loaf. Heather Williams talked to Paul about his numerous projects. Let’s dig in and find out what’s going on!
When did you get started playing guitar and what had been your influences at that time?
I started playing guitar at 10 years old. I originally wanted to learn bass guitar. I approached my father with my dream to become Gene Simmons. He said, “You want to learn guitar. It has two more strings.”
In your early days, at the start of your career, you teamed up with Rush’s keyboard tech Jack Secret (Tony Geranios) putting together some songs with him, some of which were produced by Rush founder/guitar player Alex Lifeson. What were you doing in your life at the time, musically or even non-musically, that put you in the path of Rush’s keyboard tech? That was a major step in the right direction musically for you, wasn’t it? You also toured with Blue Oyster Cult as their keyboard/guitar tech and your career just kept skyrocketing from there. What was that like playing and touring with them?
We are going back to 1984-85; I was just out of high school, playing in a metal cover band. Jack and I had mutual friends. We met/ clicked right away. He invited me to his place to do some song writing. I really enjoyed his company as well as his brother, George. We wrote/ demoed a bunch of songs. Alex Lifeson liked what he heard and was kind enough to give us his time and share some of his knowledge. Alex Lifeson is a gentleman of the highest order. I still remember him giving me a ring: “Hi Paul, this is Alex Lifeson…”. He was so nice. So soft spoken and encouraging. I was blown away to say the least. From there, Jack got me the tech gig with Blue Öyster Cult. I have nothing but fun and positive memories when I think about my time with BÖC. I love them very much. I still speak with Eric and Buck. Saying this, I would not be doing this interview if it were not for Jack opening those doors for me. Buck Dharma and Eric Bloom are incredibly important to my early development as well. They were and are a massive well of knowledge for me.
Listening to you playing with Meat Loaf, you sound amazing. You seem to be right in your element with him. How did your work with Meat Loaf come about and what has kept you playing with him for so long? Exactly how long have you been playing with him?
Thank you for the kind words. I met Pearl (Meat’s daughter) on the VH1 Maximum Rock Tour. The bill was Mötley Crüe, Megadeth, Anthrax – 2000. She was a backing singer for Crüe. She put in the good word for me to her father. Scott Ian also had a friendly hand in this. What has kept me around -Jim Steinman songs are complex and challenging. Performing with Meat Loaf is also challenging. He likes to throw curve balls at us on stage. But it’s the creative freedom that turns me on the most. Meat is all about taking advantage of what each member of his band brings to the table. I’ve been with Meat Loaf for 15 years.
Do you play rhythm parts on any Meat Loaf albums or are you strictly playing leads?
I actually play more rhythm than lead on Meat’s albums. He is always looking to change things up so he will invite outside artists to track a solo. I’m talking guys like Brian May, Steve Vai and Ricky Medlocke just to name a few.
Why is Meat Loaf’s band called Neverland Express?
Jim Steinman is a huge fan of Peter Pan.
Any more Meat Loaf albums planned for the future?
Meat has talked about a couple of ventures with me. Not sure if they will ever happen. Albums are expensive to make with literally no chance of recoup due to today’s pirating.
What are the next shows and tours coming up for you with Meat Loaf?
There is nothing planned. Meat is busy “acting” at the moment.
As well as producing the Anthrax album “Vol. 8 The Threat Is Real” you also appeared on their 1995 album “Stomp 442”. Why were you called in to replace Dan Spitz on that album? Dimebag Darrell also appeared on two songs off of this album. What was he like and what was it like working with him? What was behind the idea of not using the Anthrax logo on the cover of the “Stomp 442” album?
I have never spoken to Dan Spitz about this. I believe it had to do with him simply not enjoying his time with the guys when it came down to the creative process. He stopped showing up at rehearsal. One afternoon in 1992, I had to drive past the Anthrax rehearsal building to get home so I decided to stop in. Charlie (Benante) was by himself, recording guitars. He asked me to plug in a guitar and jam a solo. Things simply escalated from there.
Darrell… No need to talk about him in a musical sense. We are all aware of his incredibly important contributions. That said, Darrell was very kind, intelligent, engaging and fun. Like so many of us, I am honored to have been personally abused and targeted by his antics.
Regarding the Anthrax logo, I don’t have an answer for you.
Why did you not stay a permanent member of Anthrax? Do you still keep in touch with any of them?
I was never asked to be a “member”. It worked out better for all of us. I always look forward to seeing them whenever our touring schedules align. Wonderful guys.
In 1999, you joined Sebastian Bach and stayed in his band until 2004. Why did you only have one recording out of that time with him? That recording was “Rock Bottom” on a Kiss tribute album.
Bas lived about 20 minutes from me. We got to know each other well. I remember the phone ringing at 9am on a Monday morning…
Bas: “Hey dude.”
Me: “Hey, what are you doing up so early?”
Bas: “I have kids, dude. Wanna join my band?”
Me: “Hell Yeah!”
Bas: “Cool, see you at noon!”
The lack of recording has all to do with timing. He wasn’t looking to write. He just released a new album. We spent our time touring it. He then began his Broadway career. We would do shows around his theatre schedule. Sebastian Bach is a badass! I truly believe the universe worked that experience for me. There is no way I could have handled Meat Loaf if it wasn’t for Bas “priming” me.
You recorded and wrote some music with Bernie Mardsen of Whitesnake fame. Where are those recordings? Are they available for purchase?
Bernie Marsden is a powerful, creative force. We met in 1987 in Germany (festival tour) while I was teching for BÖC. He and I hit it off. He took my number. A few months later, he invited me to stay at his home in Buckinghamshire (South East of London). We spent a few months writing and recording. He then went through a battle with management shortly after I headed back to the States. I don’t have any of it. Not even sure if he does. It’s probably lost.
Wow… such great memories now that I think back. Bernie Marsden taught me how to properly play British guitar. The Brits play different than the Americans. Bernie schooled me on intonation, bending and vibrato.
Guitarist Brian May of Queen is one of your biggest influences. What is it about him that has influenced you so much? Who else influences you? (can be musically or non-musically)
Yes Brian is a huge influence. If I stop and think about the impact, I guess it has to do with being the best I can be. Everything Brian does is so perfect to me. I have many other influences. The main standout is my father, Dennis Crook. Again, it has to do with work ethic. This brings me back to your Meat Loaf question where you asked what has kept me around so long. However, this is now coming from a different point of view. Why have I been a member of the NLE for 15 years? It’s because I work f***ing hard! There is no place for complacency in Meat’s world.
What got you started into producing music?
I guess this goes back to Jack Secret. Hanging at his place, watching him and George mix our demos.
You co-own a successful entertainment company out of Las Vegas called Devil Star Entertainment with John Madera and it’s doing well! You sell an assortment of Spirits like Cherry Blood Moonshine, Hemp Infused Vodka, and Apple Flavored Whiskey among others (liquorama.net), there is Devil Star Music, Devil Star Records, and beautiful models. How did all of that get started? What made you decide to get into owning the business? Where can people look for info on the company?
John found me on LinkedIn. He gave me some broad thoughts and attached a logo. It seemed fun so I jumped in. The beverages taste great. I’m not just saying that. We recently held a Distributor Tasting Event. Everyone there was sold immediately. We use all natural ingredients as well. You mentioned “beautiful models”. Yes, we have those and we also have really cool women and men with zero experience in front of the camera submitting photos of themselves wearing our DevilStar T-shirts. We truly appreciate all of them equally.
We’ve released our first song for download this past month. It is written and performed by UK guitar phenom, Andy James. The guy is off the charts with regard to owning the fretboard. Type Hellectric into the iTunes store browser and listen to the snippet (then click purchase, please). Andy is a terrifying player. Anyone interested in learning more can visit:
What projects are you currently involved in now?
I am currently mixing an album for Farcry. They are an 1980’s style, melodic Hard Rock band out of Philly.
Do you do any clinics? Do you give guitar lessons?
I used to do a lot of clinics for DigiTech. They had me performing all around North America, Puerto Rico and also in their NAMM-booths. I kinda burnt out on it. I haven’t done a clinic in over 13 years. I should get back into it.
Guitar lessons… This is something I need to do. I feel it is now important for me to transfer what I have learned. Funny I am heading to Long Island tomorrow morning to work with John Miceli (Meat Loaf drummer). He has a large roster of students and has put together a summer jam. John has prepared all 50 of his students on a few songs. I will be jamming these songs with each and every one of his students in front of their families and friends. I am really excited about this.
Touring with so many amazing musicians, what would you say was a favorite country you’ve visited while on tour?
I don’t have a favorite country. I appreciate certain aspects from each. My favorite city to visit is Amsterdam.
Have you ever thought of making a solo album?
I think about this all the time.
Where can fans find you on social media?
What does 2017 and beyond hold for Paul Crook?
2017 has been weird. Meat Loaf canceled the “Braver Than We Are”- tour. This is the album I produced, engineered and mixed. We had plans to take this music around the world then everything came to an abrupt stop due to health issues. It is nothing remotely life threatening! I’ve been keeping myself busy in the studio. Hoping I can release information soon on a fun venture. Saying this, I am available and looking for my next touring venture. I also have a really great cover band – Gotham. We play industrial metal around the New Jersey area . We have fun mashing-up 1970’s Hard Rock songs.
Mark Tornillo (Accept, TT Quick): vocals
Scott Metaxas (Nuclear Assault, Prophet): bass & vocals
Craig Scoppa: drums
Paul Crook (Meat Loaf): guitar & backing vocals
Here is one of our songs:
Eddie Trunk and Mark Tornillo:
What do the numbers mean on pickups?
Hmmmmm, I am guessing you mean something like the SH1-14… I believe the numbers don’t have anything to do with tone. This is simply a labeling system. I could be completely wrong.
What does a guitar buffer pedal do and why and when would you want to use one?
This is placed into the signal path to maintain tone when running long cables or multiple stomp boxes.
Did you have lessons or were you self-taught?
My parents worked their asses off so that they could afford to have me study with great teachers.
What kind of noise gate/suppressor pedals would you recommend?
The ISP Decimator is great.
When on tour with Meat Loaf, what is your rig setup?
My gear is very simple these days. I run a Line6 wireless into a FRACTAL AXE FX XL+. That is it. I don’t use any speakers on stage. I run in-ear.
Tell us your favorite brand of guitar, stings, amp, and pickups?
The go-to guitars in my collection are custom-built using WARMOTH parts. I’ve been using nothing but DR STRINGS for over 20 years. Pickups… Jerry Amalfitano is my guy. I use nothing but his pickups. I love the way they crunch.
How often do you practice playing on your guitar?
I play as much as I possibly can. This means sometimes 10 hours a day.
Have you ever appeared on VH1’s That Metal Show with Eddie Trunk?
I have never appeared. Eddie is a great friend. He invited me on as a guest player. I was flattered. My schedule simply did not allow it.
What are some things you like to get into when on some downtime from music? Any hobbies, fave foods, tv shows, books etc?
I recently moved back to New Jersey from Las Vegas. While living there, I would visit the desert often to shoot my guns. My friends and I had a lot of fun out there; blowing up inanimate objects (I hate kitchen appliances).
Thank you Paul for this interview!
Interview by Heather Williams.