Interview with French Guitar Virtuoso Stephan Forte

by Michael Rampa

stephan-forte_enigma-opera-blackEvery generation needs its guitar heroes. Whenever the topic of shredders comes up the list usually includes (and sometimes exclusively) Malmsteen, Vai and Satriani.  While all are still going strong, their heyday was 30 years ago. Who are today’s fans to worship? Enter 36 year-old French virtuoso Stephan Forte. His rise to prominence is taking place during the Guitars Gone Wild era. Some of today’s axes have up to nine strings, glow in the dark fret markers and carbon fiber reinforced necks.

When asked if the industry may have a technology disorder, he quietly answers, “It might.” He confesses that nine strings are too many (and the instrument too heavy) and makes do with the 7 and 8 string models. The virtuoso world faces unique challenges; mainly exclusive niche appeal and almost no hope of commercial airplay. His epic release, “Enigma Opera Black” drops worldwide Oct. 28. Unlike Malmsteen, whose work is highly technical and dissonant sometimes, Forte somehow creates a largely cohesive, symphonic effort that is pleasing to the ear with occasional distinct linear melodies. We spoke via Skype.

It has been said that you embrace “the darker side of the human condition.” Do you agree and what does that mean?

I really enjoy the darker side of art, so it’s based on the aesthetics on rather than convictions. I have convictions and personal philosophies, but it’s really about the darker side of art

Malmsteen’s signature riff is the arpeggio, do you have something unique

I’m using my wing bar a lot and I’m really into Hungarian scales

What do you think differentiates your sound

I have a wide range of influences with multiple instruments like piano and violin. It’s different than just being interested in guitar

Are there challenges for virtuosos commercially

BIG TIME! This is not easy music and it doesn’t have radio appeal. It is very much a niche market. Death metal can still sell to a certain demographic

Do you think your genre would have more commercial appeal if you guys played more traditional, recognizable brands

I don’t think so, but that’s an interesting point. Most people know what a Strat or Les Paul looks like and visually it may arouse recognition. But there are things you can only do on an Ibanez.

Where do you think future guitar technology is headed

That’s a good question. I really don’t know. I don’t think we can just keep adding strings.  9 are too much. But there are cool things you can do with it.

Where did the title come from

I was looking for three words  that would represent the vibe. Enigma when you were a kid, things did not have the same impact. A sad song when you are 4 or 5 has a totally different impact. Opera because of the complexity and scope of the music and black because I’m on the darker side of things.

What inspires your compositions

It can be anything; a movie, a picture, a painting, a piece of music, an instrument there is no rule. I was really into Chopin and it affected me a lot

Who are your influences

SF- Shawn Lane, Jason Becker and of course, Yngwie.

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