Skindred’s Mikey Demus Plays His Favorite Guitar Riffs
The future was written for Skindred's Mikey Demus with Back to the Future. In this episode of Gear Factor, the musician credits the 1985 Michael J. Fox film for not only inspiring his love of Chuck Berry, but also sparking his desire to pick up the guitar.
“I think the first riff that made me want to pick up guitar was probably something by Chuck Berry. Seeing Marty McFly kick an amp over onstage in Back to the Future, I thought it was the coolest thing at the time,” says Demus, who further went down the rabbit hole with the '80s rock doc Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll, where he was inspired by Berry's jam "Carol."
Though loving the guitar, Demus admits he had an independent streak, attempting to pick up things on his own rather than learning the scales and fundamentals of certain tracks. But that also led to finding himself as a musician.
Another big discovery along his way to becoming a professional guitarist was learning drop tuning. He cites Rage Against the Machine and Nirvana as big influences during this turning point in his life, playing bits of songs from both bands. He adds, "I still think that’s one of the coolest riffs ever,” while rocking a bit of "Heart-Shaped Box."
Digging into his own band's catalog, Demus shares bits of "SDW," the first riff he wrote for Skindred, as well as the "gallop-y" "Start First."
He also cites "Rat Race" as one of his favorite riffs, though admitting it's a bit of a punisher. "It’s really frantic and it’s really hard to pick up after not playing for a long time. I imagine when we can get back on a stage that’s going to be one of the hardest things to play," says Demus.
While that's a little more complex, Demus says singer Benji Webbe challenged him to write something simpler so that kids could easily pick it up. Demonstrating a bit of "Big Tings" and "That's My Jam," the guitarist says he sees the benefits of that, concluding, “To me, a riff doesn’t have to be super complicated to be cool or awesome. A lot of time taking something away gives it way more space and makes it groovier, makes it funkier, makes it more percussive. You can picture a crowd jumping up and down to it. That’s the kind of approach I like to think about when writing a riff.”
Skindred's Mikey Demus Plays His Favorite Guitar Riffs
Check out the full Gear Factor episode with Skindred's Mikey Demus above. Skindred will reissue their fan-favorite album Roots Rock Riot with new unheard tracks and its first ever vinyl pressing on April 23. To grab a copy of the reissue, click here. (As Amazon affiliates, we earn on qualifying purchases).