Guitarist Alex Neiser, a/k/a Critical Mess represents the new generation of players for whom Skrillex is as important as Van Halen, and more important than Clapton. His eschewing of amps in favor of modelers and adoption of new technology like the Source Audio Hot Hand is indicative of an approach untethered from tradition.
What kind of music were you playing when you first became proficient on the instrument?
I was playing Metal at that time. Metal was one of the main reasons why I actually started playing the guitar. Especially the fast shredding solos that are typical for metal music fascinated me. I remember listening to such solos back in the day thinking, “It would be really sweet if I could play that fast!” And so I decided to start playing the guitar to accomplish that goal. When I became more proficient on the guitar I actually was able to play fast solos. More recently, I don’t focus on shredding anymore but on riffs, songwriting and producing music.
What led you to create experimental (non-mainstream) music?
I just don’t want to sound like everybody else does. I don’t want to make a specific style of music if other artists already make it and already are good at it. Trying to be unique is very important for a musician in my opinion.
Whose music inspires you? Past and Present.
First of all, I was inspired by metal and rock music. I like Slipknot, System Of A Down, the early Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Bring Me The Horizon, Korn, Rage Against The Machine and Rammstein for example. Guitarists like Buckethead, Paul Gilbert, Andy Timmons and Andy McKee also inspire me. In the past two years I was hugely inspired by electronic music, above all Dubstep. My favorite producer/DJ is Skrillex. Skrillex has been the biggest influence for me recently. Moreover, I like blues, jazz, classical and some hip-hop music.
How did you get better at your current style?
I tried to learn how to produce music with the computer. I realized that nowadays the computer is an immensely versatile instrument.
This is why I started to work my way through DAW’s, synthesizer, effects and all that good stuff. I spent hours and hours watching tutorials.
What are you trying convey with your music?
My music has no political message or something like that that it tries to convey. It should just sound nice to me and hopefully to a lot of other people and be energetic.
Which guitars, amps, effects, plug-ins and software do you use to create your music, and why?
I use Ableton Live as my DAW. I record my guitar (Ibanez RGA 32) through a M-Audio Soundcard with my laptop. I use amp simulations (Guitar Rig, Line 6, Pod Farm 2) instead of real amplifiers because you can get quite a nice sound out of the sims with way less effort and at a considerably lower cost. I would use real amplifiers if I could but I don’t have the money, the room, the microphones and the skill to actually record them properly. As for guitar effects, I quite frequently use Source Audio pedals with the Source Audio Hot Hand.
I work with Native Instruments Massive and samples to create my synth and bass lines. The drums are programmed using samples as well. I mix and try to master my tracks myself with the built in Ableton effects and my cheap Superlux Headphones I bought for 25€ ($32) which isn’t the best monitoring solution to be honest.
In the videos that you can watch on my YouTube channel I show what I play on the guitar in my songs. You can see the Hot Hand I mentioned earlier being attached to my hand. The rings control the Source Audio Bass Envelope Filter Pro and the Dimension Reverb.
If you watch carefully you notice me pressing the volume knob of my guitar from time to time. This knob is modified so that it can be used as a killswitch. Furthermore, I step on a Rocktron switching unit to activate several effects at a time if needed.
Which do you enjoy more: recording or playing live and why?
I haven’t played live yet with my current project but I am looking forward to playing live in the near future. In general, I like both. I like recording because you can get everything to sound really nice, you can edit it to your liking and you can layer parts to create complex structures.
On the other hand, I also like playing live because you get that great feeling when everything works out as planned while playing it and you don’t have to worry about song arrangement, how to mix your song so that it sounds good and all that other obstacles you have to overcome while producing, which can be really frustrating sometimes if things doesn’t work out as planned.
How have you built up an audience for your music?
I haven’t really built up an audience for my music yet. But I already have a few YouTube subscribers.
With whom would you like to collaborate and why?
I would like to collaborate with Skrillex because he has been the biggest influence for me in the last two years. His music introduced me to electronic music, which changed the way I think of music. Plus, he has some of the heaviest and coolest Dubstep tracks in my opinion.
What is your latest project? When will it be available and where can people in different parts of the world get it?