TrueFire's Guitar Blog

Fireside Chat: John Wlaysewski

Our latest Fireside Chat is with a Zeppelin-loving, Fender-playing guitarist who is unafraid to go to 11 and shred on solos. His name? John Wlaysewski. He is the co-founder of and guitar player for Flying Machines, a New York-based band that John describes like this:

“Flying Machines invite you to buckle in for an engine-revving plunge toward melodic euphoria. Enjoy the in-flight movie, wherein the young hero finds out that life is not the destination but the journey, and that the road to hell is paved with good intonations.”

The band has been compared to the likes of Muse, Ben Folds, The Strokes and Queen, and their self-titled debut album has been summed up as “timeless, classic-sounding modern rock [that] is musically precocious, but never precious.” To learn more about Flying Machines and John personally, we sent Charlie Doom to fire some questions:

1. First off, if you weren’t a musician, what would you be and why?
Thanks for having me on TrueFire! If I wasn’t a musician I would be a producer. I have nurtured a talent for ‘hearing’ the great idea and making it come alive. It’s something I love doing, and in a band with a talented writer like William Ryan George (Singer/co-songwriter) I get to produce when he brings in new material, which is often. I also learned a lot about producing by watching Spencer Proffer in the studio when we recorded our debut CD.

All that being said, I’m so happy to be a guitar player!

2. Honestly, how many hours a day do you practice?
Two hours a day. Lately I’ve been playing a lot of acoustic guitar and I think it’s pushed me to play even more. But yes, I do truly love the guitar and play every day, not as a chore but because I am addicted to it.

3. What are you listening to lately?
I’ve been into Phoenix a lot lately. It inspires me that they are on their 4th album. That kind of commitment and excitement about writing and playing, to plug away in relative obscurity until having the one two punch of “Lisztomania” and “1901” from the new album. It’s inspiring to me or my ‘brain’. I am perusing MEW. Now that’s an ambitious band. I’ve been working my way through the Tom Waits triple album, Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards. I love hearing music that comes from intuition and personal vision and character tics… Waits has all of that.

4. How would you describe the music business today?
Open for revision. With all the ways people can obtain music, make music, and send it to potential fans, the future is out of the hands of labels. Blogs, tastemakers and word of mouth is just as effective in some circles as the traditional media push and top-down approach. I think the downloading revolution and the death of the ‘album format’ has forced some bands to have to write better songs and release no filler, so every track as a separate entity will get heard and desired. This can be negative in streamlining a band and inhibiting larger concepts they may want to try, but for bands that make commercial music, I think it has pushed them to write more consistent songs. In the end, I for one am glad to be here right now, to be part of what is happening.

5. Stranded on a desert island, which guitar would you take?
I am a Strat man. My American Fender Stratocaster is my muse and lifeblood. I also have been writing on a sweet Takamine I borrowed from a cousin, though I am not sure what the model and make is.

6. Should world leaders learn how to play guitar? Why?
World leaders should jam with each other. Rhythm, melody and harmony are universal concepts, and I think it shows that even cultural differences and approaches to these concepts are still beautiful. We can all learn that differences are sublime and part of the larger mosaic of the life experience. A solid 20-minute world leader blues jam might point out our humanity.

7. Let’s talk about what’s going on with you right now, your new album, and what’s next?
The band is gearing up to tour in the New Year. We have a big show at SXSW set up through Converse and the Get Out of The Garage Music Contest. The plan is to tour our way from New York to Texas and play SXSW, then hopefully tour our way to the west coast. At the moment we are booking New York shows and watching our college and commercial radio campaigns intently. One idea I have is to visit the college radio stations for interviews and acoustic performances. I am so excited to have an album in stores, and we plan to do everything we can to support its release. We are also writing some new music and seeing what direction our writing will want to go for the next CD. Looking ahead already!

8. What’s the most valuable career advice you’ve ever received?
Wow, I’ve learned a lot more from watching people work and by example than by advice. I would say that one thing I have learned is to see the whole arc of a career and not get preoccupied by success or failure. There is a larger picture; patience and seeing the forest for the trees are two extremely important lessons. Let things play out, a lot of times there is a larger good encompassing what seems to be a temporary letdown.

9. Should artists allow free downloads and file sharing — or does that devalue the music?
I would say that people deserve free music. I also believe that file sharing should be embraced as a great advertising tool to get your band to the public. Please share our music. I encourage it. The only way to devalue music is to make music of a lesser value, or make music for the sole purpose of making money. Then, even if more money was made, ‘music’ was devalued.

10. Do you feel you’re still improving as a player? How do you push yourself creatively?
I am always improving, even when that means playing less or playing more simply. I have written and performed my best guitar solos and rhythms when I have let my intuition guide my playing. And I do practice 2 hours a day – a lot of that is running scales and finger exercises. So technically I have gotten a little faster and stronger every day.

11. What attracted you to the guitar as your instrument of choice?
My favorite aspect of any rock song was always the singing and guitar playing. The energy; the sexual, visceral experience of the universe being confronted by the perfectly bent guitar note matched with the perfectly chosen vocal riff. It was always devastating. I could never sing the way I wanted to, I am more of an Elliot Smith vocally than a Robert Plant, but I was able to express myself on the guitar after about 2 years of playing, and I knew almost instantly that guitar was my voice, my way of speaking to the world.

12. And finally, any words of wisdom for your fans and fellow pickers?
Guitar players: learn way past what you need to play your music. In the end, your talent and craft will speak even if you are playing Gm, D, and C. Fill your quiet hours; days and weeks of seeming inactivity with your CD or band; with creativity and writing. Idle hands may push you to break up a project prematurely or shake things up negatively just to have something interesting going on. As much as you can, see the forest. The trees are the work, but the forest is the work of art. Say yes to as many opportunities as your life allows as each one can be the door that opens to a next level of better opportunities.

p.s. Don’t sign anything without a lawyer.

Check out John’s twitter to keep up with him personally, or peep the Flying Machines MySpace to listen to some of the band’s tracks. Below is Flying Machines latest music video for their track entitled “On A Whim.”