PRS: How did you start playing music/guitar? How old were you?
MH: I saw a Foo Fighters MTV concert special on TV when I was about 13 years old, and I was so captivated by Dave Grohl’s stage presence, charisma and playing that I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life. I had been messing with guitar casually before then but after discovering that, I began to play guitar with a bit more purpose.
PRS: What was it about that guitar that first pulled you in? Who were some of your biggest musical influences?
MH: At first, it was the confidence and empowerment it seemed to give the musicians that I adored. I grew up watching Motley Crue and all the 80’s and 90’s metal bands - they all looked invincible onstage. Utterly untouchable. Even then, guitar was a hobby up until I discovered Metallica. That was the first time I NEEDED to learn every single riff off of a record; so I did. I discovered the idea of practice by way of sitting in my bedroom and learning every riff off Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets. After Hetfield, Randy Rhoads was also a game changer for me - hearing his playing introduced my ears to complete spontaneity and improvisation in the context of loud, pissed off rock music. He was so flashy and tasteful, yet the songs came first. From there, I got into guys like Dimebag and eventually into much darker music like Emperor, Strapping Young Lad, Devin Townsend, Morbid Angel and a slew of others. I’ll always have a soft spot for death and black metal.
PRS: How often and for how long do you practice?
MH: I try to get some kind of practice in every day at home, but it’s very unstructured for the most part. A lot of my ‘practice’ comes from recording myself and trying to write new song ideas - and I end up writing things I’m not necessarily good enough to play yet, so I force myself to play it tightly if that makes sense. What I practice at home tends to be tied 1 to 1 to the creative process. On tour is where I actually practice the most - I like to do about 45 minutes of focused practice before our set every night, as I’ve found it keeps the coordination between my hands tight enough to where I’m not over-thinking my notes onstage. I’m loose but sharp.
PRS: You’ve played a variety of guitars during your music career; what attracted you to PRS Guitars and tell us a little about the models you are currently using?
MH: Actually my obsession with PRS began in the late-nineties; my friend let me borrow his Custom 22 for a year—he was a very generous friend—and I was hooked for that time. It had this classy, sleek vibe about it but it wasn’t a souped-up, gaudy, super Strat shred-stick that all the other kids were playing. It had class and some kind of mojo to it. Sadly I had to give it back, and I always kind of considered it to be the one that got away because I didn’t necessarily have the budget to afford one, so I jumped around for years playing different guitars. In Periphery, I had always thought about going back to PRS - they were always the easiest playing, most solid and stable guitars I encountered, and they maintained that classy look I always chased. Finally, we were on tour with BTBAM a couple years ago and I got to play Paul and Dustie’s PRSs and I was hooked; I knew I eventually had to come full-circle and play what got me into guitars in the first place. I currently am playing an Obsidian Custom 24 as my main 6 string and a Battleship Grey SE Custom 24 7-string with custom DiMarzio pickups as my main 7 string. Those are my main guitars onstage and in the studio, but I also have an S2 Custom 24 at home which is awesome, as well as another SE Custom 24 7-string.
PRS: What advice would you give a wide-eyed teenager in a garage band?
MH: There’s so much to say. But…
1) Pave your own way. For heaven’s sake do not try and emulate anyone else’s style. If you don’t have anything original to say with your music, absolutely no one will care. Stand out in any way you can.
2) Put your gear in your car, and drive. Keep driving. Play shows wherever and whenever. Periphery got our start via Internet buzz, but our band never really took off until we start playing shows indiscriminately. If Cleetus Jenkins wants you to play a show with a day’s notice in Missoula, Montana for a case of PBRs, do it. Play any show you possibly can, because there’s one thing every successful band needs to do: be seasoned. And playing awful shows, good shows, hometown shows, weekend warrior shows and everything in between will only make you a better, tougher and more hardened musician. The powers that be will notice that. Here’s a bonus result: it will also weed out the musicians in your band who aren’t cut out for it.