Born and raised in Seattle, Ben Woods taught himself electric guitar by playing along to Iron Maiden albums. Around the age of 21, his electric guitar, amplifier and other gear was stolen by a junkie, so he kept practicing metal on his “beater classical guitar” and thought, “Hey this sounds like that crazy Spanish Guitar stuff!” Woods found that FLAMENCO is what he was thinking of, and began teaching himself until he needed to take formal lessons.
This opened up a whole new world of culture, art, dance, rhythm, traveling to Spain, and eventual mastery of the instrument.
Inspired by Paco de Lucia, he embarked on his flamenco education about 20 years ago and thought this style of playing would be so great in a speed metal context. He searched the world to find something like that but it didn’t exist, so he pioneered the style of arranging metal songs for flamenco guitar.
After needing a few more years to get his Flamenco “chops” really up to par he formed the band FLAMETAL in 2005. In 2010, he recorded an album of Heavy Metal covers in the Flamenco idiom called Heavy Mellow.
Not long after, Woods formed a trio of the same name and put out a double album “Heavy Mellow Vol. 1&2”. “It’s great because it’s all the metal songs we love, but I get to play them Flamenco style, which is what I do best.”
He can usually arrange a metal song for flamenco in an hour or two, will then take from days to weeks to actually be able to play it well. “The key is to make the arrangement challenging enough that it will be fun to play a thousand times for years to come.”
He also just released his own instructional guitar book with his arrangements and transcriptions of heavy metal classics for finger style guitar. The book’s songs include versions of Aces High, Bark at the Moon, Electric Eye, Flying High Again, The Hellion, Mr. Scary, Nothing Else Matters, Rainbow in the Dark and Tears Are Falling.
Woods feels lucky to have recorded with such notable musicians as Steve Stevens, Marty Friedman, Glenn Drover, Sean Reinert, Johnette Napolitano and many more. He’s also performed for Jason Becker and at Steve Stevens’ wedding.
Flying into San Francisco and going straight to the venue to perform at the first Jason Becker ‘Not Dead Yet’ Festival 2012 was very memorable for him. He went directly to the green room where he was immediately greeted by Uli John Roth (ex-Scorpions) and without warming up, played his arrangement of “Sails of Charon” for him while Matt Blackett from Guitar Player Magazine filmed it.
Woods considers every single gig “special” and lists playing in Japan, the Virgin Islands and to a hometown crowd in Seattle full of family and friends as some of his favorites. “Getting to travel is such a bonus but I love playing guitar so much that I have a great time even playing to an empty restaurant.”
Ben joined up with MIKE BENNETT (cajon/percussion) and fellow master guitarist LUIS VILLEGAS to open LUCKY STRIKE LIVE’S ULTIMATE JAM last night.
“Jam night at the Lucky Strike is amazing, and I feel very fortunate to be able to perform there with Heavy Mellow. It’s like a concert, but with a different band every two songs, great song choices and the variety is fantastic. It runs like a well oiled machine and is a great venue to see live music with great live sound. All the musicians are top notch (most of them rock stars) and the staff are all very nice and accommodating. It’s a dream, really.”