College visit takes Alistair down memory lane

2016-04-22 10:11:54

Alistair recently was invited to give a guest lecture at his old college. The trip to Athlone in the Irish Midlands took him down memory lane. Here he reflects on his journey over the past 24 years.

It is 2016, but for a few hours on Monday I felt like I was back in 1992. That’s 24 amazing life -filled years ago! Monday saw me return to my old college, Athlone Institute of Technology where I studied Plastic Engineering, or at least that was the cover story for everything else that went on down there. I was invited down to give a guest lecture to the Music & Instrument Technology class and share some of my stories and experiences. I was a bit nervous about the idea as that’s not something I have done before, but I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity.

I set off early Monday morning on the three-hour drive down to the Midlands and it was really a drive down memory lane. I decided I should dig out the music I would have been listening to back in 1992 and after many albums passed through my mind, somehow Roxette’s Joyride seemed the perfect choice.

That to me was the greatest driving album of the year and it didn’t disappoint. It accompanied me up along the Donegal/Sligo coast and took my mind back to the summer of 1992. The first summer I had a car, the first summer of freedom. Roxette was played loud and often in my little red Toyota Corolla van. What a summer that was and incidentally the summer I first met a beautiful young girl called Kim. When Roxette was done there was only one album that could bring me back to Athlone and that was Steve Vai’s Passion and Warfare, the album that in so many ways changed the course of my life.

I went to Athlone to study Plastic Engineering, but to be honest I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. Who does at 17?! Even when I left Athlone, I had no clue about my future, but events had happened that set the course to come.

You see, on my very first week of college I met a guy called Donal who was the best guitar player I had ever heard. We hit it off and connected through a mutual passion for music. He was that guy who seemed to know everything about music and I was keen to learn. He started playing incredible albums to me that, one-by-one blew my mind – Joe Satriani -Flying in a Blue Dream, Yngwie Malmsteen – Fire & Ice, Jason Becker – Perpetual Burn; But one stood out above the others, and that was Steve Vai’s Passion and Warfare.

Growing up in the countryside in Donegal I had a pretty sheltered existence and the influence of these guitar Gods hadn’t made it up here, but somehow Donal knew all about them. Vai’s music just blew my mind. It was the music I wanted to hear all my life, but couldn’t have imagined it could exist. It had such a big effect that I went out and bought my first guitar two weeks later. Truth be told, Athlone was a turbulent time for me and I wasn’t very successful at my studies but thats where my love for the guitar went to another level and started me on a course that would take me beyond my wildest dreams.

How could I have ever imagined back in 1992 that 24 years later I would be back in the College giving a guest lecture and sharing the story of how I went on to form my own guitar company, How I had a dream to build a guitar for Steve Vai, how I ultimately built that guitar for Steve which he went on to play all around the world, how I have been able to meet most of my musical heroes through my guitars and how I get to build guitars every day and call it a job.

There have been a lot of ups and downs over the past 24 years and it hasn’t been easy at times but when I think back of the dreams of a 17-year-old, my wildest dreams don’t come close to what I have experienced so far and I get to share it every day with Kim, my wife of 18 years, and my four amazing kids. Living the dream!!