Brian Tarquin

Shreddin’ for Veterans
Brian Tarquin
Tarquin with some of his tools, including a Les Paul Standard, an SG copy he made from a block of mahogany, a Marshall JCM800 2×12, ’79 Mesa-Boogie Mark IIb, Orange Crush Pro 120, Rivera combo, ’80s Mesa Mark III, Gibson Midtown, and a Jeff Beck Strat.

For guitarist Brian Tarquin, helping military veterans is part of life. The son of a World War II vet, he grew up hearing stories about the camaraderie and fellowship shared by soldiers, and as a college student, he enrolled in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). While his career followed a musical path that has seen him win three Emmys, the respect for veterans is ingrained. The new album by Brian Tarquin & Heavy Friends, Brothers In Arms, is the third inspired by soldiers and featuring a host of big-time shredders – Joe Satriani, Vinnie Moore, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, Alex De Rosso, Travis Stever, Jeff Duncan, Johannes Weik, Gerald Gradwohl, and Chris Haskett.

Proceeds from it will benefit the Fisher House Foundation, which provides airline tickets and free housing to vets’ families whenever a loved one is hospitalized, and offers scholarships to vets.

A stickler for tone, Tarquin recorded the guitar and bass parts using an array of vintage-inspired instruments, amps, and effects including an ’83 Kramer Baretta, Rickenbacker 4003, Dunlop Univibe, Snarling Dogs Mold Spore Wah, Tech 21 YYZ, and a Dunlop Talk Box.

What are the origins of your relationship with the Fisher House Foundation?
I remember homeless Vietnam veterans living in the subway and streets of New York City, where I grew up in the ’70s. No one seemed to care, and it was disgraceful. I want to draw attention to veterans’ needs. What better way than through music? I did a lot of research and decided on Fisher House.

What inspired the Heavy Friends concept?
I wanted to bring awareness to veteran’s issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and health issues, all of which can lead to homelessness. I love collaborating with other guitarists on projects for causes, and wanted to create an instrumental studio version of projects like Ronnie Lane’s ARMS charity concerts for multiple sclerosis and Ronnie James Dio’s Hear ’n Aid for famine relief in Africa.

How did you decide on guest players for Brothers In Arms?
Instrumental music can be very difficult to get across, so I wanted the music to be thematic, describing a story, which keeps a listener’s attention. So, I concentrated on guitarists who specialize in instrumental music, and I composed each track specifically for that guest’s style. I host an NPR program on WFIT 89.5 FM, in Florida, and have interviewed many of the players on this album, which helped build rapport.

What was your process for creating the music?
I usually get ideas from playing riffs on guitar, then work out a rough arrangement before adding other instruments. I started this project before the pandemic, composing and recording basic tracks. Then, during lockdown, I was speaking with a lot of the guests and going full bore, recording and production. As I was composing “Speed of Sound” on a Strat through a Marshall cab, I imagined a desert in Iraq, blackened by a storm, and American troops trying to get to safety. I wanted to paint a feeling not only of great aggression, but desperation and dramatic emotions. I’ve spoken to Joe Satriani a couple of times for the show, so I sent the song to him and within two weeks he sent back the final solo.

“Luxor” was particularly fun; I wrote it on a bass and enlisted Reggie Pryor to record drums. The opening was originally a bass riff, but I thought Ron Thal could do justice to it on guitar. I was going for that classic Iron Maiden vibe, envisioning the ruins of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes as the background for an epic battle. I wanted to evoke emotions of urgency and reciprocity by imposing forces, a theme of victory for American troops. Ron’s solo bits and performances completed my overall vision.

For “Hounds of Hell,” I recruited Johannes Weik, a wonderful young guitarist from Germany. I sent the song with a track of strings to solo on, and Johannes performed a fantastic solo. I hired the Budapest Orchestra to record the final string parts live in Europe.

Your process is big on old-school gear and recording techniques. Why is that so vital to you?
Nothing sounds better than an album recorded on tape, especially drums, bass, and guitars. The younger generation likes to record parts separately in their own spaces, digitally, but when I’m recording rock, I want us in the same room, performing together, so we can vibe off each other. Otherwise, it becomes sterile and contrite – unconvincing and unauthentic.

To donate to Fischer House Foundation, visit

This article originally appeared in VG’s April 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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