- Superswamp Guitar Hero is No. 1 Shredder
“I was in shock,” said Steve Senes, veteran Grand Strand guitarist and winner of the latest Guitar Player Magazine’s “Guitar Player Superstar” contest. Senes, guitarist for local Southern rock outfit Superswamp Heroes, was still high from being crowned No. 1 in the competition when we spoke at midnight Sunday, after he’d just landed in Myrtle Beach. He was back from a triumphant trip to San Francisco where he went Sept. 9 as a finalist and came home the overall winner of more than $5,000 worth of gear, several endorsement deals, and of course – serious bragging rights.
Senes was chosen as one of 10 finalists and flown to San Francisco, courtesy of Guitar Player. He was asked to perform an original instrumental selection in front of a sold-out crowd at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore, Calif. The competition was judged by Steve Lukather (Toto), Elliot Easton (The Cars), Jennifer Batton (Michael Jackson), Greg Hampton (producer for Alice Cooper, Ronnie Wood, Lita Ford), and Earl Slick (David Bowie, John Lennon, Phantom, Rocker and Slick).
“It’s still kind of blur,” said Senes, who resides in Surfside Beach. He’s played with a variety of local acts including Tim Clark & Déjà vu, Charlie Floyd, N’Tranze (from 2004 – 2006), and with Superswamp Heroes since 2007.
Senes first became familiar with Guitar Player’s contest when thumbing through its pages. “I read about it last year and had my album recorded then but didn’t have anything mixed,” said Senes, “So I didn’t think too much about it. I ran across it again in July and signed up for a Sonicbids account online.” Sonicbids is a growing online service for working musicians that allows for easy access and transfer of EPKs (electronic press kits).
“I sent [my entry] in through Sonicbids and hadn’t heard anything and was just about to close the account down and I thought – ‘no, I’ll give it one more day’ and literally within three minutes I received an e-mail through Sonicbids from Guitar Player that said I’d been chosen. I was really thinking that there was no way I would win, but that it would be a fun, all-expense-paid trip, and I would, at best, be able to coax some feedback from the judges.”
“What really surprised me was how great the other [finalists] were. It was like 10 guys at a guitar summer camp. We all got along really well.” Each contestant presented an original song of their choosing to the more-than-capable house band, and then performed the song, live, “American Idol” fashion. “There was a TV in the green room, where we could watch the other performers and listen to the judges’ comments, but I tried not to watch. I didn’t want to psych myself out,” he said. “It’s the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life so far. I was the last guy to play. But when I walked out on stage and into all the lights, the nervousness just went away. I said to myself ‘screw it, I’m gonna melt these people’s faces.’ That was just my way of getting rid of the nervousness. I played “The Swami” because the song goes into so many different places. I was a little worried because I knew Elliot Easton was not a fan of the shred [style] playing – I had watched his judging from previous years and he’s the Simon Cowell of the event. After I heard from Steve Lukather and Greg Hampton, who both had great things to say, I was expecting to get slayed from Elliot Easton – but he loved it. Jennifer Batton was very complimentary – she said ‘I don’t want to really compare you to anybody … but Yngwie who?,’ which was really a cool thing to say. That blew me away because Yngwie [Malmsteem] was one of my biggest early influences – it’s because of him I used to play 14-15 hours a day.”
Then came the moment of truth.
“They called us all back on stage after they’d tallied the judges’ votes. They introduced the band, named the second runner up and then the first runner up, and I thought – ‘oh-oh.’ When they called my name, I about fell on my ass. After the show was over we went back to pack up our stuff and hung out in the [hotel] lounge with some of the other finalists, the Guitar Player crew, and a friend of mine who flew up from L.A. We drank a few beers and just enjoyed ourselves. I got to bed about 4:30 (a.m.), caught the limo to the airport around 9 (a.m.) and flew home.”
Listen to Senes’ new record, the “de-evolution of theory,” including “The Swami,” an impressive 5:19 clip (don’t miss the last 90-seconds), at www.senesmusic.com.