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The 13 best guitarists according to Jimmy Eat World's Jim Adkins

The Jimmy Eat World frontman selects the six-stringers who've influenced and shaped his style

Jimmy Eat World frontman Jim Adkins first picked up a guitar after hearing Def Leppard's Photograph in 1983 – and he's barely put it down since.

Ahead of the release of the band's new album Integrity Blues next month, we challenged him to list his 10 favourite guitarists. But it turns out that this Arizona native is something of a maverick and instead opted to discuss his favourite guitarists and the bands they play in.

“Over time there’s been different reasons why I would like a guitar player or a group that features guitar music,” says the Jimmy Eat World frontman, “because music just speaks to you sometimes and part of the magic of that is the inability or the lack of desire to truly quantify it.”

“When I was younger and starting to get into music for the very first time – and when I say younger, I mean like eight years old – it was around the birth of MTV," he continues. "To get noticed, people were spending outrageous amounts of money on crazy videos with stuff exploding and hundreds of extras. And a lot of what was going on at that time was metal, or rather theatrical metal-leaning rock ‘n’ roll. I remember seeing the video for Photograph by Def Leppard and thinking, ‘Wow! That’s rad. I want to play guitar.’"

Let’s find out who made the cut, and why…


10. Phil Collen/Steve Clark – Def Leppard

“I remember being on my way to a music lesson one day and we had some time to kill, so my mom took me to the music store and she let me pick out one cassette. I had Nena’s 99 Luftballons in one hand and Def Leppard’s Pyromania in the other, and I think my life would’ve ended up very differently had I picked Nena. The opening riff of Photograph is what made me want to pursue guitar. That’s pretty much where it all started.”

9. C.C. DeVille – Poison

“I clearly remember the Talk Dirty to Me video because C.C. DeVille demanded a different guitar for every scene that he was in. That’s so obnoxious. It’s so obnoxious. But I didn’t know anything about guitar at the time and for an impressionable young kid that was impressive. So Poison would also be on my list for nostalgic reasons.”

8. Joe Satriani

“After I started really getting into guitar, I gravitated towards the more virtuoso type players, and the dudes that were always on the cover of guitar magazines. Joe Satriani would be the next player on my list; I bought all of his records and would go see him play every time he was in town. He was the first guy I really learnt to appreciate from a technical point of view, since his music was mostly instrumental. He was all about the guitar; that was how his songs were constructed. I even learnt the two-hand tapping technique that he does in the song Midnight for a guitar recital once.”

7. Steve Vai

“After Joe Satriani, I would say Steve Vai. Getting into Satriani kind of turned me onto Vai, or rather got me ready for Vai, because he had a more trippy kind of flair to him and he was a lot more experimental. I remember buying the sheet music for Passion and Warfare; there’s one song on there that’s a crazy studio creation and the music for it was like this art piece because there was no way you could notate it. I thought that was pretty rad. As much art as there is to technical guitar playing and shredding, you can definitely get lost in the tweaking side of it, but Steve Vai definitely seemed like he was challenging that. He’d be on my list for sure.”

6. Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson would be another dude in that camp. I think Satriani, Vai and Eric Johnson actually had a band together called G3 for a while. No doubt only a very niche member of the general public would go to that show. He was in that same camp of virtuoso instrumental music though, and there was a phase very early on where I would listen to nothing but music like that. But in trying to learn how to play his song Cliffs of Dover I discovered that I’ll never be a shredder on that kind of level, so I had to figure out something else.”

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5. Ian MacKaye/Guy Picciotto – Fugazi

“After that, to sharply twist the next corner, I would say Fugazi. All my family is from Nebraska and I would go there in the summer to hang out and do family stuff. I had a cousin who was around a similar age to me and one summer he introduced me to Fugazi. It was guitar-based rock, but the dissonance and energy of it was unlike anything I’d listened to before. That really opened my eyes to the fact that there were no rules. After I heard Fugazi I was definitely more open to the ideas behind guitar playing, as opposed to the technical difficulty of it.”

4. Duane Denison – The Jesus Lizard

“What always interested me about The Jesus Lizard's Duane Denison was his almost jazz-like technique of presenting multiple voices within the same passage. He kind of plays rhythm and lead guitar at the same time. He just uses one guitar plugged into an amp, but it’s what he chooses to play that fills out the whole spectrum of sound around that. His choices are really interesting and he has great inflection capabilities.”

3. Doug Gillard – Guided By Voices

“Doug Gillard would also be way up there for me. He’s similar to Duane Denison, but he’s got sort of a more traditional rock vibe going on. The solo he plays on Guided By Voice’s I Am a Tree is basically where I ripped off a lot of stuff for leads that I choose to play. I like the way that he creates a theme and then riffs on it; he really packs a lot into a short amount of time. I’m always impressed by people who can create a full idea in a concise way.”

2. John ‘Speedo’ Reis/Andy 'ND' Stamets – Rocket From The Crypt

Rocket From The Crypt would be my number two. Again, it’s kind of conservative and traditional rock ‘n’ roll, but with a demented twist to it, and that makes it more intelligent and engaging to me. It’s like a warped take on ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll.”

1. John Reis/Rick Froberg – Drive Like Jehu

“Number one would be Drive Like Jehu. It’s John Reis again! And it’s no holds barred. It’s kind of like Fugazi in the sense that it challenges you with dissonance and forces you to really reckon with what’s being presenting. When you feature guitar in your music you’re playing on a pedestal and giving it a spotlight; that’s the way it’s always been done from blues through to rock and metal. But with Drive Like Jehu, he and Froberg are also showcasing confrontation, and from an art appreciation standpoint it’s really engaging. The energy behind it is so punk rock and it’s very cerebral the way the two things mix together. They’re my all-time favourite guitar band.”


Jimmy Eat World's new album Integrity Blues will be released on October 21 through RCA.

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