Jack Semple’s Guitar Warz win delivered confidence and a hook



By Steve Newton

One day about a year ago, I bumped into a guitar-playing acquaintance who was visiting the Georgia Straight office to put a free musician’s ad in the paper. He started raving about this “wicked” guitarist he’d seen the night before at Jake O’Grady’s, a guy from Saskatchewan named Jack Semple. As it turned out, I was going to be in the neighbourhood of Jake’s that night anyway, reviewing Kim Mitchell at the PNE, so I figured: what the hell, I’ll drop in to the East Hastings pub and see what all the fuss is about.

Now, I’m a big Kim Mitchell fan—I’ve loved the guy ever since the Max Webster days—but this Semple character was just as proficient on the frets. No wonder he’d beaten out about 1,500 other Canadian guitarists to win the 1992 Guitar Warz competition.

“[Winning the award] was more of a boost to my confidence than anything else,” says Semple, contacted by phone at his home in Regina. “You know, like every time I’m feeling the shits about the business or anything, I play the videotape back and go, ‘Yeah, yeah—Jesus, I won!’

“And it has helped my career insomuch as people like you have something to write about. I mean, there’s a reason for you to write an article, or at least there’s a hook.”

While winning Guitar Warz hasn’t yet made Semple a household word, it has helped the fleet-fingered 35-year-old to pursue one of his main musical interests—teaching—through the release of the Jack Semple Instructional Guitar Video: Beginner to Pro. The market for instructional guitar videos is a strong one these days.

“Every great guitar player who is recording has got an instructional video out,” says Semple. “Like Eric Johnson, B.B. King, Joe Pass—you name it. You look in the back of Guitar Player magazine, and there’s dozens and dozens. You watch one of those videos, and first of all your mouth just hangs open, ’cos you can’t believe how good these players are. But then you can rewind the tape and steal their licks!”

Budding guitarists who’d like a few pointers from Semple can order his video through Regina’s Film Crew Productions at (306) 777-0160. Another good idea would be to trek out to North Burnaby for one of his shows at Jake O’Grady’s (May 6 to 8). Semple promises that his four-piece band will be serving up some very funky, kick-ass, modern R&B.

“It’s kinda like Tower of Power without the horn section,” he says.


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