Whether it’s playing acoustic finger style Flamenco with dancers, or playing timeless Rock and Metal songs, Ben Woods (Heavy Mellow, Flametal) is the first and only musician to successfully combine real Flamenco and Metal.
Born and raised in Seattle, 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 skills 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.
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.
Over the last few years, BEN WOODS’ HEAVY MELLOW have literally pioneered a new musical genre with flamenco guitar arrangements of heavy metal classics (a la “Flamenco Metal”) and have become fan favorites on the Monsters of Rock and several other cruises, including the Moody Blues Cruise and Yes’ Cruise To The Edge, as well as Hollywood’s Jam Nights: Ultimate Jam at the Whisky a Go Go and Soundcheck Live at the Lucky Strike.
Woods and his trio are a new breed of virtuoso Spanish Guitar fronted groups. In 2012 Woods, a master of authentic Flamenco guitar and famous for his fusions, created the genre- bending group HEAVY MELLOW with the help of Grammy nominated latin guitar master Luis Villegas and percussionist extraordinaire Mike Bennett (drummer for the Richie Kotzen Band), earning them an international reputation as the masters of Flamenco and Metal.
Ben Woods, Luis Villegas and Mike Bennett released their latest masterpiece “VOLUME 3” September 2016 on Flametal Records with rock and Metal classics by BLACK SABBATH, DANZIG, MOTORHEAD, JUDAS PRIEST, DIO, QUEENSRYCHE, EUROPE, BILLY IDOL, THE FOO FIGHTERS, SYSTEM OF A DOWN, DAVID BOWIE on Flamenco guitars.
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.”
Woods has also released his own instructional guitar book METAL CLASSICS For FINGERSTYLE GUITAR with his solo guitar arrangements and transcriptions of eight heavy metal classics for finger style guitar from OZZY, DIO, Metallica, George Lynch/Dokken, Judas Priest and KISS, transcribed both in musical notation and tablature.
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.
The e-book also provides online access for the download or streaming of audio demonstrations.
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.“