Tune In: Dead Tenant

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Andrew Amirzadeh aims to be known as the Andrés Segovia of electric guitar

If you’re familiar with classical music or if you play guitar, you’ve heard the otherworldly ability of Spanish guitar virtuoso Andrés Segovia. Considered by many to be the father of modern classical guitar, Segovia is still a touchstone for today’s guitar shredders-in-training, no matter what the genre.

I recently had a chance to meet and listen to one such student and admirer of Segovia—26-year-old Andrew Amirzadeh, who goes by the stage name Dead Tenant. Amirzadeh has taken master classes with several contemporary greats including Chick Corea, Bela Fleck, and Victor Wooten, and has synthesized that training into a unique playing style that blends the technicality of classical guitar composition with electric guitar.

On his new release, You Live to Live Without, Amirzadeh tackles four complex classical guitar compositions with only his Telecaster, his amp, and a pick—he didn’t use any effects pedals or multiple tracks. While he plays the compositions straight, the precise picking and reverb of his electric guitar add a transcendent quality to already beautiful music that rewards attentive listeners and ambient fans alike. Regarding the former, it’s impressive to hear Amirzadeh touch every note with precision; he’s fast, but more importantly, he’s accurate. And for those who like to work with music constantly playing in the background (like me), Amirzadeh’s playing creates an ideal backdrop for concentration and contemplation. You Live to Live Without is available through Bandcamp with the option to pay what you like, and I couldn’t recommend it more highly:

Technical proficiency aside, Amirzadeh’s playing packs a powerful emotional punch—one that I experienced first hand when he brought his unique style to a local venue I frequent in Lawrence, Kansas. Though he was sharing the bill with a couple of garage rock bands, and playing for an audience that wasn’t as attentive as the performance warranted, Amirzadeh floored those of us who managed to tune out the background noise and focus on his playing. Performing several of his own compositions along with an adaptation of Radiohead’s “Kid A,” Amirzadeh poured himself into his music, and the result was a memorable performance for the handful of us that paid attention:

Speaking with Amirzadeh before the show, I discovered a passionate person who takes his music very seriously, and values every opportunity he has to share it with others. Discussing the previous night’s show in Columbia, Missouri, he was still riding the emotional high from seeing someone moved to tears by his performance, and I got the sense that those types of experiences are extremely meaningful to him, especially when you consider his decision to play rock clubs and other unconventional spaces for this type of music. He’s aware that his decision can lead to disappointing experiences playing for inattentive and unappreciative audiences (as he’d find out later that night), but he’s determined to accomplish his goal of broadening appreciation for classical guitar technique and composition. Though Amirzadeh left Lawrence likely wondering if that particular show was worth his time, those of us who were moved by his performance would like to assure him that it certainly was.

Christian Williams is Editor in Chief of Utne Reader; contact him at cwilliams@utne.com He also paints and makes music. View and listen to his work at www.christianwwilliams.com.

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