Alex Skolnick

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Alex Skolnick
Alex N Skolnick.jpg
Skolnick in 2011
Background information
Birth nameAlexander Nathan Skolnick
Born (1968-09-29) September 29, 1968 (age 50)
Berkeley, California, U.S.
Genres Heavy metal, thrash metal, jazz fusion, world music
InstrumentsGuitar, vocals
Years active1983–present
Labels Roadrunner, Nuclear Blast, Palmetto
Associated acts Testament, Alex Skolnick Trio, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Savatage, Attention Deficit, Lamb of God, Metal Allegiance

Alexander Nathan Skolnick (born September 29, 1968) is an American musician who is best known as the lead guitarist in the thrash metal band Testament from 1983 to 1993, and again from 2005. He has also performed with the Alex Skolnick Trio, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Savatage and Metal Allegiance.

Testament (band) American metal band

Testament is an American thrash metal band from Berkeley, California. Formed in 1982 under the name Legacy, the band's current lineup comprises guitarists Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick, lead vocalist Chuck Billy, drummer Gene Hoglan, and bassist Steve Di Giorgio. Since its inception, Testament has had numerous lineup changes, leaving Peterson as the only constant member. Billy replaced original singer Steve "Zetro" Souza in 1986, prior to the recording of their first studio album, The Legacy, and has been a member of the band since. He and Peterson are the only members to appear on all of Testament's studio albums.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra American progressive rock band

Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) is an American rock band founded in 1996 by producer, composer, and lyricist Paul O'Neill, who brought together Jon Oliva and Al Pitrelli and keyboardist and co-producer Robert Kinkel to form the core of the creative team. The band gained in popularity when they began touring in 1999 after completing their second album, The Christmas Attic, the year previous. In 2007, the Washington Post referred to them as "an arena-rock juggernaut" and described their music as "Pink Floyd meets Yes and the Who at Radio City Music Hall." TSO has sold more than 10 million concert tickets and over 10 million albums. The band has released a series of rock operas: Christmas Eve and Other Stories, The Christmas Attic, Beethoven's Last Night, The Lost Christmas Eve, their two-disc Night Castle and Letters From the Labyrinth. Trans-Siberian Orchestra is also known for their extensive charity work and elaborate concerts, which include a string section, a light show, lasers, "enough pyro to be seen from the International Space Station", moving trusses, video screens, and effects synchronized to music.

Savatage American heavy metal band

Savatage is an American heavy metal band founded by brothers Jon and Criss Oliva in 1979 at Astro Skate in Tarpon Springs, Florida. The band was first called Avatar, but, shortly before the release of their debut album Sirens (1983), they changed their name to Savatage as Avatar was already taken by another band.


According to a Guitar World magazine readers' poll, he is considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time [1] and one of the fastest guitarists in the world. [2]


Early years

Skolnick was born and raised in Berkeley, California in a non-traditional Jewish family. [3] His parents, Jerome Skolnick and Arlene, both PhD graduates from Yale University, taught sociology at New York University and University of California, Berkeley.

Berkeley, California City in California, United States

Berkeley is a city on the east shore of San Francisco Bay in northern Alameda County, California. It is named after the 18th-century Irish bishop and philosopher George Berkeley. It borders the cities of Oakland and Emeryville to the south and the city of Albany and the unincorporated community of Kensington to the north. Its eastern border with Contra Costa County generally follows the ridge of the Berkeley Hills. The 2010 census recorded a population of 112,580.

Yale University private research university in New Haven, Connecticut, United States

Yale University is a private Ivy League research university in New Haven, Connecticut. Founded in 1701, it is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine Colonial Colleges chartered before the American Revolution.

New York University private research university in New York, NY, United States

New York University (NYU) is a private research university originally founded in New York City but now with campuses and locations throughout the world. Founded in 1831, NYU's historical campus is in Greenwich Village, New York City. As a global university, students can graduate from its degree-granting campuses in NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai, as well as study at its 12 academic centers in Accra, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Florence, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Paris, Prague, Sydney, Tel Aviv, and Washington, D.C.

Skolnick began playing guitar at age nine. He was influenced by Eddie Van Halen, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter, Randy Rhoads, Michael Schenker, Yngwie Malmsteen, Kiss, and Scorpions. [4] [5] He was a student of guitarist Joe Satriani. [6]

Eddie Van Halen Dutch-American rock musician

Edward Lodewijk Van Halen is a Dutch-American musician, songwriter, and producer. He is the main songwriter and founder—with brother and drummer Alex Van Halen, bassist Mark Stone, and singer David Lee Roth—of the American hard rock band Van Halen. In 2012, he was voted number one in a Guitar World magazine reader's poll for "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".

Jeff Beck English rock guitarist

Geoffrey Arnold Beck is an English rock guitarist. He is one of the three noted guitarists to have played with the Yardbirds. Beck also formed the Jeff Beck Group and with Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice, he formed Beck, Bogert & Appice.

Jimi Hendrix American guitarist, singer and songwriter

James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix was an American rock guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Although his mainstream career spanned only four years, he is widely regarded as one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of popular music, and one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame describes him as "arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music".

Thrash metal

Skolnick was a member of the San Francisco Bay Area thrash metal band Testament from 1983 to 1993. He returned briefly to re-record old material for the band's album First Strike Still Deadly, as well as the Thrash of the Titans performance in 2001 before returning full-time four years later. In the spring of 2005, Skolnick and the rest of Testament reunited for a short European tour with some American dates appended. A CD/DVD release was put together from the London show of May 8, 2005. On April 29, 2008, Testament released The Formation of Damnation , its first studio album in nine years. Four years later, Dark Roots of Earth debuted at No. 12 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart and at No.1 on the Billboard Hard Rock and Rock albums chart. It was No. 9 on the World Chart.

Bay Area thrash metal, or "Bay Area thrash", referred to a steady following of heavy metal bands in the 1980s who formed and gained international status in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. Along with South Florida, the scene was widely regarded as a starting point of American thrash metal and death metal.

<i>The Formation of Damnation</i> 2008 studio album by Testament

The Formation of Damnation is the ninth studio album by American thrash metal band Testament, released on April 29, 2008. It was Testament's first album since 2001's First Strike Still Deadly, and their first of new material since 1999's The Gathering. It was also Testament's first release with original guitarist Alex Skolnick since 1992's The Ritual and bassist Greg Christian since 1994's Low. This was also the band's only studio album recorded with drummer Paul Bostaph, who joined Testament in 1993, but became a full-time member in 2007 before leaving the band four years later.

<i>Dark Roots of Earth</i> 2012 studio album by Testament

Dark Roots of Earth is the tenth studio album by American thrash metal band Testament. It was released on July 27, 2012 in Europe, and four days later in North America by the independent German record label Nuclear Blast Records. The album is available in three configurations: CD, CD/DVD and vinyl with the latter two versions including four bonus tracks. The album was produced by Andy Sneap, who mixed and engineered the band's previous three studio releases, The Gathering (1999), First Strike Still Deadly (2001) and The Formation of Damnation (2008). The album artwork was created by Eliran Kantor. A music video was made for the track "Native Blood". Dark Roots of Earth entered the Billboard 200 at number twelve, Testament's highest position ever.

Freelance work

After his first departure from Testament, Skolnick joined the band Savatage in 1994 for the recording of Handful of Rain , as well as its follow-up live album and home video release Japan Live '94 . In 1991 he recorded and toured with the Stuart Hamm band. He also played guitar for Ozzy Osbourne in 1995. [7] In 2004, he made a guest appearance on Lamb of God's Ashes of the Wake album, recording a solo for the album's instrumental title track.

<i>Handful of Rain</i> 1994 studio album by Savatage

Handful of Rain is the eighth studio album by American heavy metal band Savatage, released in 1994. This is the first album since the death of the band's founding member and lead guitarist Criss Oliva who in turn had contributed to writing on two of its songs before his passing, namely "Taunting Cobras" and "Nothing's Going On".

<i>Japan Live 94</i> 1995 live album

Japan Live '94 is a live album and VHS by the American heavy metal band Savatage. The show that was recorded was held in Kawasaki, Kanagawa, Japan on November 12, 1994 and was the last show on the short Handful of Rain tour. The show is noted for featuring Jon Oliva in a prominent role, his first since "leaving" the band in 1992. Oliva has an extended piano intro on "Gutter Ballet" and shares lead vocals with Zachary Stevens, making it his first performance as a lead vocalist with the band for two years. Oliva also performs rhythm guitar on "Hall of the Mountain King".

Stuart Hamm American musician

Stuart Hamm is an American bass guitar player, known for his session and live work with numerous artists as well as for his unconventional playing style and solo recordings.

During the mid to late 1990s, Skolnick led several projects in the San Francisco Bay Area, including Skol-Patrol, a funk band featuring Michael Manring that played themes from police shows. He recorded two albums with Attention Deficit, a trio with Manring and Tim Alexander of Primus. In the late 90s, he collaborated with electric violinist Joe Deninzon (who he met in New York City at the New School) in the band Stratospheerius, recording The Adventures of Stratospheerius album. He also appears on their Live Wires album. [8]

Becoming a jazz guitarist

In 1998, Skolnick moved to New York City and began devoting all of his energy to jazz, enrolling in The New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music and graduating with a degree in jazz performance. Since 2002, he has toured and recorded as the Alex Skolnick Trio, a jazz group known for rousing bebop renditions of classic rock and heavy metal tunes. The trio has performed at the Rochester International Jazz Festival, Musikmesse Frankfurt, Germany, the National Center for the Arts, Mexico City, and the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City. Skolnick's trio has been praised by Down Beat, Jazziz, and The Village Voice.[ citation needed ] Their album Veritas (Palmetto) reached No. 7 on the iTunes jazz chart.

Skolnick released a DVD Jazz tuition set with Rock House Method in May 2010. He recorded the album What's Next? with pianist Randy Klein in 2012. [9]

World music coalition

On June 21, 2012, Summer Solstice Day, Skolnick announced his world music album Planetary Coalition at the annual Make Music New York festival sponsored by Guitar World magazine. [10] He said that he intended to have, "musicians from all over the world, driven by acoustic guitar and bringing together inspirational melodies, in-depth improvisation and the passion of the musical styles of Gypsy, Middle Eastern, Indian, Latin, East Asian, Mediterranean, Balkan/Eastern European, African and other indigenous lands – Planetary Coalition has been guided by a single hope: that by weaving the threads that connect musical expressions with regional identities, we can bridge the gap between diverse cultures and people, and increase awareness of the ecological and social issues facing the planet, our island in the sky." [11]

Planetary Coalition was released by ArtistShare on November 11, 2014 to commemorate the centennial of the end of the First World War. The album gathered over twenty musicians from five continents, including Indo-Canadian ghazal singer Kiran Ahluwalia, Argentine bassist Pablo Aslan, Chinese pipa player Yihan Chen, American violinist Rachel Golub, Cuban drummer Horacio Hernández, Albanian accordionist Raif Hyseni, Palestinian oud player Adnan Joubran, Turkish kanun player Tamer Pinarbasi, Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, Israeli percussionist Gadi Seri, and Yacouba Sissoko, a kora player from Mali.

The project endeavored to combine artistic, ecological, political, and social issues, as well as showcase the landscape and architecture of other countries. Maddy Samaddar Johnson, an architect and urban planner, was hired as a consultant. [12] [13] [14]

Skolnick used a variety of guitars, including steel string, nylon string, acoustic, and electric. All compositions were by Skolnick, except two which were composed by Skolnick-Joubran and Skolnick-Hernandez. The tune from Mali and from China were first-time guitar-kora and guitar-pipa duos of traditional songs from those regions.

The album was praised by many publications, newspapers, and blogs. [14] [15] [16] [17] Guitar World magazine chose Planetary Coalition as one among the top 50 albums of 2014 [18] and among the top 10 acoustic guitar albums of the year. [19]

Other work

Skolnick's memoir, Geek to Guitar Hero, was published in January 2013 [20] and received positive reviews from Anthony Bozza, Bradford Morrow, Ned Vizzini, and Brad Tolinski, editor in chief of Guitar World. [3]

He has been active in blending music with works of art and literature. In 2007, he contributed a solo for Egyptian artist Nader Sadek's project, "Faceless." The song was only to be heard in an art gallery in New York. In 2012, he performed live at the Feature Inc Gallery in New York, for a musical interpretation project for the works of visual artist Douglas Melini. [21]


Skolnick plays ESP Guitars electric and Godin hollow-bodied models with Seymour Duncan pickups. He formerly played Heritage and Ibanez guitars.

In 2009 Heritage released Alex's first signature guitar. His signature is a solid body based upon the H 150/157 model. In his early years with Testament he endorsed Ibanez guitars and mainly played the 540SLTD model. Alex endorsed Charvel guitars and was featured in their ads around 1995. For amplification, he uses Budda amps and several Marshall amps including the discontinued Marshall ModeFour hybrid amps.

In 2013, Budda released a signature amp for Skolnick, called the Preceptor, [22] and later in the same year it was announced that Skolnick was signed to ESP guitars, with an ESP and LTD model in the works for 2014. [23]


1987 Testament The Legacy
1988 Testament The New Order
1989 Testament Practice What You Preach
1990 Testament Souls of Black
1992 Testament The Ritual
1994 Savatage Handful of Rain
1994 Michael Manring ThonkGuitar on "Disturbed" and "Cruel And Unusual"
1995 Savatage Japan Live '94
1997The Skol-PatrolSkol-Patrol
1998Attention DeficitAttention Deficit
2001Attention DeficitThe Idiot King
Testament First Strike Still Deadly
2002Alex Skolnick TrioGoodbye to Romance: Standards for a New Generation
Stratospheerius Adventures of Stratospheerius
2004Alex Skolnick TrioTransformation
Lamb of God Ashes of the Wake Second solo on "Ashes of the Wake"
Stratospheerius Live WiresGuitar on "Contusion" and "Shock Therapy"
2005Ofri EliazYa salio de la mar – Ladino Songsco-production, guitars
Numbers from the Beast An All Star Salute to Iron Maiden Lead Guitar on "Wrathchild"
2007Alex Skolnick TrioLast Day in Paradise
2008 Testament The Formation of Damnation
2011Alex Skolnick TrioVeritas
2012 Testament Dark Roots of Earth
2014Alex Skolnick & various artistsPlanetary Coalition
2015 Metal Allegiance Metal Allegiance
2016 Testament Brotherhood of the Snake
2018Alex Skolnick TrioConundrum

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