*Photos by Steven David Walton
Emil Werstler is an American Guitarist and musician based in Nashville, Tennessee who is perhaps best known for his work with metal and gypsy jazz. In 2004, he became the lead guitarist for the metal band Daath, releasing four full length records and touring extensively. In 2010 Werstler released an instrumental album called Avalanche of Worms which received a largely positive response for its musicianship and experimental nature.
In 2012, Werstler was confirmed as the new lead guitarist for Cleveland based metal band Chimaira. With Werstler as co-writer, Chimaira’s final album Crown of Phantoms was released in 2013, reaching no. 52 on the Billboard 200 Chart. He announced his departure from Chimaira in late 2014 with the rest of the band dissolving shortly afterward.
Recently, Emil launched a crowd funding campaign for his new project: “Verlorener.” Werstler stated, “With my previous work, the listener was only getting a fraction of a musical statement out of me, whereas this is the complete version of what is truly inside of my head. This is what I’m intending to say and the sound I want to be known for."
PRS: What inspired you to pick up the guitar, and at what age?
EW: Music in general inspired me. It's a strange thing that does not physically exist, yet it can make almost anything have more depth. Even if you are staring at a wall, music seems to create a better narrative for any situation. I started playing around the age of 11.
PRS: Why do you choose to play PRS?
EW: For longest time I had no idea what I wanted out of a guitar. I was such a utilitarian player that if it worked, I did not ask questions. It was not until I bought a 2004 Spruce Hollowbody from my guitar luthier that I started to take notes on why this particular guitar worked so well.
I generally have little interest in the minute details unless I’m completely swooned by how well something works. Needless to say this guitar got my attention by the way it projected, how well it stayed in tune, and how honest the playability was. PRS guitars are very rugged and the harder you beat on them, the meaner they sound.
The Spruce is also the guitar that struck the relationship with Paul. I’m a cult player so the fact that they even took an interest in a guitarist like me says a lot about the company. They are not afraid to get behind players that do things differently.
PRS: Studio or stage?
EW: I see both being equally as important. You have to create a statement and raise the bar for yourself in the studio, then present it to the world on stage. For me, It takes a balance of both to not get sick of one or the other. The same setlist every night can get old fast but playing live has more instant gratification. The studio can be a little monotonous especially if you are the primary creative, but the reward is more long term.
In my opinion, having one or the other is not enough. Anyone can make a musical statement, but traveling half way across the world to remind people that you mean business adds a different kind of value all together.
PRS: Who are your three biggest influences?
EW: Django Reinhardt - Not just because of his wonderful music, but all of his descendants such as Bireli Lagrene, Dorado Schmidt, and Jimmy Rosenberg who is actually my favorite of all time. Charlie Christian because he paved the way for guys like Grant Green, Wes Montgomery, and George Benson. You can play Charlie or Django at breakfast and nobody will complain. If they do, then it’s time for them to go. Am I cheating and finding a way to name all of my favorites? Absolutely!
Number three is an easy one because seven days a week, Jimmy Herring puts a smile on my face anytime I get to hear him. He is the most complete guitarist and has been for many years. He is basically every player I mentioned previously thrown in a blender with Jerry Garcia.
PRS: If you had to name one song (or record) that changed your life, what would it be?
EW: One record that changed my life was “Temporal Analogues Of Paradise" by Shawn Lane. At the time I wondered why his live records were so different from his studio releases and that's when I learned about improvisation and what it all meant. I learned what it meant to be fearless and not hide behind production. I was fortunate enough to meet Shawn and see him play live a few times. It's one of the few things that I've seen in my life that I still think about every day.
PRS: What advice would you give to all the young and emerging guitarists out there?
EW: Do things your own way. Work harder on your own sound and style. Even outside of music, people that are more unique are more fascinating and fun to be around. At the same time, don't be blinded by the task of chasing it. You can have common sense and be brilliant at the same time. Borrowing what works from the majority may be rewarding on the front end, but that is for the short term and will never withstand the test of time. Having people know that it's you playing is beyond good or bad.
PRS: When you aren’t writing music or touring, what do you like to do during your free time?
EW: I admit the only hobbies I have outside of music are direct parallels to music. I’m a sucker for professional boxing. I watch the classic fights more than I pay attention to guitar culture because pugilism is a science with endless adversity just like music. I can get specific on how I’d like my coffee and I’ve heard that I make a great Bloody Mary. Ultimately anything I do in my free time is just waiting room activity. I still enjoy what I do and feel that I have a lot left to say.
Learn more about Emil's latest project "Verlorener" here!