One day, on Facebook…(seriously? That’s how I’m starting this? Yep.) Ahem, one day on Facebook, I saw a status update from my buddy saying something along the lines of “Blahblahblah maybe one day blahblah longest guitar solo blahblahblah” Obviously, I pay attention. Fast forward a few months and I see the same person post: “I told you I wasn’t kidding! May 13, 10pm until May 14, 11pm. Live at Red 7. World’s longest guitar solo. #shreddingtheworldrecord”
That friend is David DiDonato – a world class dad, a loving badass and a dude who I met because years ago he drove me and some other people to the river to go tubing. Now he’s breaking world records and sh**, so I had to talk to him about it.
I gathered some of my own inquiries with some help from some other musicians and note-worthy folks in our music scene to bring you this interview with someone who will hopefully hold a spot next to the lady with the long fingernails in the Guinness Book of World Records.
JQ: So first, tell me who you are and what you do when you’re not trying to break world records.
DD: David DiDonato. I live in Austin with my wife and two daughters. During the day, I work at the University of Texas. My main band is a fuzzy proto-metal outfit named Modok.
JQ: Exactly which record are you trying to break?
DD: Supposedly, the current record for the longest guitar solo is something like 24 hours and 20 minutes by some 15-year old kid. To be honest, I’m a little skeptical as there doesn’t seem to be any proof or any documentation of the event.
JQ: It’s not in the Guinness Book of World Records?!
DD: Oddly, I haven’t been able to find anything concrete in there about it – and I’ve googled the hell out of it.
JQ: Yeah the only thing I could find was a random Google article myself. If you succeed, do you think you’ll try to get it in the “good book”?
DD: I hope! When I told my kids about my plan to be in the Book of World Records they said, “Yeah – but it’d be better if you got in it for something cool.”
They’ve been around guitar solos for their entire lives, so to them it’s just something that their dorky dad does.
JQ: One day they’ll know how cool you are, even if they’re embarrassed now! I want to know what the hell possessed you to do this.
DD: I’ve always been fascinated by artistic endeavors that are considered “extreme”. Kind of like Andy Warhol filming a guy sleeping, or enormous paintings, sculptures, etc.
I just think that if you’re going to do something, you should push it to its absolute limit.
JQ: Awesome. So, since you said this wasn’t really in the book of world records and you can’t find anything concrete on the actual record, is there going to be any kind of governing entity or any rules to follow? [Submitted by Orville Neeley of Bad Sports/OBN IIIs/A Giant Dog, etc…]
DD: I’ve contacted Guinness and they know about it, although it might be a few weeks before they decide to accept it. The plan is to have it streamed online and to also save the entire performance on a hard drive to send out for verification. There are a couple of logistical challenges with files of that size, but we’re trying to work it out.
JQ: Perfect segue into, HOW on earth is this logistically possible? I have so many questions for that. Are you going to eat? Are you going to only drink the minimum requirement to stay alive – or are you, uhh, going to wear a diaper? Are you afraid of your hand cramping or fingers bleeding?
DD: Well, the human body can go a couple of days without food or sleep. Hydration is a little trickier, so I will have to drink occasionally. Regarding various… biological functions, I can use a really long cord!
I also plan on using a system of walkie-talkies – you can put one of them on the pickups of a guitar while singing or doing whatever into the other one. This will only happen as a last resort, because people would be VERY quick to call foul on it.
Now, doing any kind of repetitive motion with your hands for that long can be dangerous. Aside from keeping the hand muscles limber by doing regular stretches beforehand, there’s also an element of pacing – I’m not talking about holding out one note for 10 minutes or anything, but some of the passages will probably have to be a little slower than what I might do normally. Also to address this, one of the guitars will be tuned down slightly (though not as low as the average metal band seems to want to tune these days), one will be a “drone guitar” with a capo to match whatever key is going on at the time, and I’ll also employ a metal slide, a vibrator, or whatever else I can get my hands on.
JQ: Are you going to be throwing in the Flinstones or Green Acres themes or is it going to be ALL original?
And will you have a backing band at first or any drum tracks? [Submitted by Janice Williams, Music Designer]
DD: I thought about having some sort of accompaniment at first, but then decided against it. Coincidentally, this year is the 25th Anniversary of when I started playing guitar; so from a thematic standpoint, I was going to have it be kind of like an autobiographical account of the past 25 years. So for example, if a certain technique was acquired in the third year, I’d go back to that. Also, harkening back to historical events or personal experiences. So it’s not going to be just mindlessly going up and down scales for 25 hours! (third year, I’d go back to that in the third hour, etc.)
JQ: …Wow! So have you done any practice runs? And if so, how long have you gotten?
DD: Generally, I practice about an hour a day. Most of that time is spent trying to form new patterns so I don’t rely on kind of “stock” phrases and wear out certain muscle groups in my hand. Starting this weekend, I’m going to ramp up to maybe 3-4 hours a day – but I don’t want to overdo it. The real challenge with it is going to be keeping it musical, dynamic, and interesting.
JQ: So, are you worried that the 3-4 hour time won’t be enough training as far as endurance is concerned? I imagine this will wear on you both physically and mentally, especially if you’re trying to keep things interesting.
DD: Well, it won’t be unlike Mohammed Ali training underwater for boxing matches. For the training, I’ve been using thicker strings tuned to standard tuning. For the actual performance, there will be 4 different guitar/amplifier combos that I’ll be alternating between – one will have thinner strings, one will be tuned a bit lower to reduce tension, one will be tuned to a chord so that it can be played open, one will have a delay pedal mounted on it to create effects.
If things get dire, I can use a metal slide for a little break.
Another aspect of training goes into various techniques – an important technical guideline is to never use more energy than is necessary to execute a passage. That is to say, never press down on a string with more force than that which is necessary to make the note come out clear. Same goes with the right hand – using the minimum amount of energy to play the note. In addition, there are many different forms of right-hand attack – picking with a plectrum, hybrid picking, two-handed tapping, classical finger-style, flamenco, etc.
JQ: Have you been pumping yourself up with any specific solos for this? (The entire first 30 minutes of this interview I listened to “Space Truckin'” by Deep Purple.) If so, does that mean you’ve been “enduring” a lot of prog rock? [Ha!]
DD: I’ve been listening to a lot of Deep Purple lately! Some of the passages in “Highway Star” are totally mind-blowing. Also, last weekend my band Modok played with Princess of Darkness – an Ozzy cover band – so I’ve been brushing up on my Randy Rhoads. Another way I like to practice is by transcribing non-guitar music: Orchestral, keyboard, solo violin.
JQ: How is this going to be different/better than suffering through a String Cheese Incident show? [Submitted by Chris Engberg of Play Pinball! Records]
DD: [laughs] Well, the audience is going to pay by the hour, and I’d personally not recommend more than maybe an hour and a half.
JQ: What are your top five epic guitar solos?
JQ: How can the people see this live and in person?
It’ll start on May 13th at 10pm and end on May 14 at 11pm at Red 7. We’re probably going to charge about a dollar an hour for admission, and if anyone in the audience can make it for 25 hours, they will be fully reimbursed. Info for streaming will be on badassdigest.com.
Update: Here’s the link where the attempt to Shred The World Record will be streamed on Bad Ass Digest, the blog of Alamo Drafthouse.
JQ: Any words for someone who decides they want to try to beat your record?
I would strongly dissuade anyone from trying to beat my record. Firstly, I think everyone needs to find their own thing that they can do better/longer/whateverer than anyone else; and secondly, because IT CAN NOT BE DONE.
– Submitted by Jen Quinonez, Audio Engineer