Alex Skolnick

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Alex Skolnick
Skolnick in 2011
Skolnick in 2011
Background information
Birth nameAlexander Nathan Skolnick
Born (1968-09-29) September 29, 1968 (age 51)
Berkeley, California, U.S. Currently resides in Brooklyn, New York
GenresHeavy metal, thrash metal, jazz fusion, world music
InstrumentsGuitar, vocals
Years active1983–present
LabelsRoadrunner, Nuclear Blast, Palmetto
Associated actsTestament, Alex Skolnick Trio, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Savatage, Attention Deficit, Lamb of God, Metal Allegiance

Alexander Nathan Skolnick (born September 29, 1968) is an American musician who is best known as the lead guitarist in the thrash metal band Testament from 1983 to 1993, and again from 2005. He has also performed with the Alex Skolnick Trio, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Savatage and Metal Allegiance.

According to a Guitar World magazine readers' poll, he is considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time[1] and one of the fastest guitarists in the world.[2]


Early years[edit]

Skolnick was born and raised in Berkeley, California in a non-traditional Jewish family.[3] His parents, Jerome Skolnick and Arlene, both PhD graduates from Yale University, taught sociology at New York University and University of California, Berkeley.

Skolnick began playing guitar at age nine. He was influenced by Eddie Van Halen, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter, Randy Rhoads, Michael Schenker, Yngwie Malmsteen, Kiss, and Scorpions.[4][5] He was a student of guitarist Joe Satriani.[6]

Thrash metal[edit]

Skolnick was a member of the San Francisco Bay Area thrash metal band Testament from 1983 to 1993. He returned briefly to re-record old material for the band's album First Strike Still Deadly, as well as the Thrash of the Titans performance in 2001 before returning full-time four years later. In the spring of 2005, Skolnick and the rest of Testament reunited for a short European tour with some American dates appended. A CD/DVD release was put together from the London show of May 8, 2005. On April 29, 2008, Testament released The Formation of Damnation, its first studio album in nine years. Four years later, Dark Roots of Earth debuted at No. 12 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart and at No.1 on the Billboard Hard Rock and Rock albums chart. It was No. 9 on the World Chart.

Freelance work[edit]

After his first departure from Testament, Skolnick joined the band Savatage in 1994 for the recording of Handful of Rain, as well as its follow-up live album and home video release Japan Live '94. In 1991 he recorded and toured with the Stuart Hamm band. He also played guitar for Ozzy Osbourne in 1995.[7] In 2004, he made a guest appearance on Lamb of God's Ashes of the Wake album, recording a solo for the album's instrumental title track.

During the mid to late 1990s, Skolnick led several projects in the San Francisco Bay Area, including Skol-Patrol, a funk band featuring Michael Manring that played themes from police shows. He recorded two albums with Attention Deficit, a trio with Manring and Tim Alexander of Primus. In the late 90s, he collaborated with electric violinist Joe Deninzon (who he met in New York City at the New School) in the band Stratospheerius, recording The Adventures of Stratospheerius album. He also appears on their Live Wires album.[8]

Becoming a jazz guitarist[edit]

In 1998, Skolnick moved to New York City and began devoting all of his energy to jazz, enrolling in The New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music and graduating with a degree in jazz performance. Since 2002, he has toured and recorded as the Alex Skolnick Trio, a jazz group known for rousing bebop renditions of classic rock and heavy metal tunes. The trio has performed at the Rochester International Jazz Festival, Musikmesse Frankfurt, Germany, the National Center for the Arts, Mexico City, and the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City. Skolnick's trio has been praised by Down Beat, Jazziz, and The Village Voice.[citation needed] Their album Veritas (Palmetto) reached No. 7 on the iTunes jazz chart.

Skolnick released a DVD Jazz tuition set with Rock House Method in May 2010. He recorded the album What's Next? with pianist Randy Klein in 2012.[9]

World music coalition[edit]

On June 21, 2012, Summer Solstice Day, Skolnick announced his world music album Planetary Coalition at the annual Make Music New York festival sponsored by Guitar World magazine.[10] He said that he intended to have, "musicians from all over the world, driven by acoustic guitar and bringing together inspirational melodies, in-depth improvisation and the passion of the musical styles of Gypsy, Middle Eastern, Indian, Latin, East Asian, Mediterranean, Balkan/Eastern European, African and other indigenous lands – Planetary Coalition has been guided by a single hope: that by weaving the threads that connect musical expressions with regional identities, we can bridge the gap between diverse cultures and people, and increase awareness of the ecological and social issues facing the planet, our island in the sky."[11]

Planetary Coalition was released by ArtistShare on November 11, 2014 to commemorate the centennial of the end of the First World War. The album gathered over twenty musicians from five continents, including Indo-Canadian ghazal singer Kiran Ahluwalia, Argentine bassist Pablo Aslan, Chinese pipa player Yihan Chen, American violinist Rachel Golub, Cuban drummer Horacio Hernández, Albanian accordionist Raif Hyseni, Palestinian oud player Adnan Joubran, Turkish kanun player Tamer Pinarbasi, Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, Israeli percussionist Gadi Seri, and Yacouba Sissoko, a kora player from Mali.

The project endeavored to combine artistic, ecological, political, and social issues, as well as showcase the landscape and architecture of other countries. Maddy Samaddar Johnson, an architect and urban planner, was hired as a consultant.[12][13][14]

Skolnick used a variety of guitars, including steel string, nylon string, acoustic, and electric. All compositions were by Skolnick, except two which were composed by Skolnick-Joubran and Skolnick-Hernandez. The tune from Mali and from China were first-time guitar-kora and guitar-pipa duos of traditional songs from those regions.

The album was praised by many publications, newspapers, and blogs.[14][15][16][17] Guitar World magazine chose Planetary Coalition as one among the top 50 albums of 2014[18] and among the top 10 acoustic guitar albums of the year.[19]

Other work[edit]

Skolnick's memoir, Geek to Guitar Hero, was published in January 2013[20] and received positive reviews from Anthony Bozza, Bradford Morrow, Ned Vizzini, and Brad Tolinski, editor in chief of Guitar World.[3]

He has been active in blending music with works of art and literature. In 2007, he contributed a solo for Egyptian artist Nader Sadek's project, "Faceless." The song was only to be heard in an art gallery in New York. In 2012, he performed live at the Feature Inc Gallery in New York, for a musical interpretation project for the works of visual artist Douglas Melini.[21]


Skolnick plays electric ESP Guitars and Godin hollow-bodied models with Seymour Duncan pickups. He formerly played Heritage and Ibanez guitars.

In 2009 Heritage released Alex's first signature guitar. His signature is a solid body based upon the H 150/157 model. In his early years with Testament he endorsed Ibanez guitars and mainly played the 540SLTD model. Alex endorsed Charvel guitars and was featured in their ads around 1995. For amplification, he uses Budda amps and several Marshall amps including the discontinued Marshall ModeFour hybrid amps.

In 2013, Budda released a signature amp for Skolnick, called the Preceptor,[22] and later in the same year it was announced that Skolnick was signed to ESP guitars, with an ESP and LTD model in the works for 2014.[23]


Year Artist Album Notes
1987 Testament The Legacy
1988 Testament The New Order
1989 Testament Practice What You Preach
1990 Testament Souls of Black
1992 Testament The Ritual
1994 Savatage Handful of Rain
1994 Michael Manring Thonk Guitar on "Disturbed" and "Cruel And Unusual"
1995 Savatage Japan Live '94
1997 The Skol-Patrol Skol-Patrol
1998 Attention Deficit Attention Deficit
2001 Attention Deficit The Idiot King
Testament First Strike Still Deadly
2002 Alex Skolnick Trio Goodbye to Romance: Standards for a New Generation
Stratospheerius Adventures of Stratospheerius
2004 Alex Skolnick Trio Transformation
Lamb of God Ashes of the Wake Second solo on "Ashes of the Wake"
Stratospheerius Live Wires Guitar on "Contusion" and "Shock Therapy"
2005 Ofri Eliaz Ya salio de la mar – Ladino Songs co-production, guitars
Numbers from the Beast An All Star Salute to Iron Maiden Lead Guitar on "Wrathchild"
2007 Alex Skolnick Trio Last Day in Paradise
2008 Testament The Formation of Damnation
2011 Alex Skolnick Trio Veritas
2012 Testament Dark Roots of Earth
2014 Alex Skolnick & various artists Planetary Coalition
2015 Metal Allegiance Metal Allegiance
2016 Testament Brotherhood of the Snake
2018 Alex Skolnick Trio Conundrum
2020 Testament Titans of Creation
Azusa Loop of Yesterdays Lead Guitar on "Detatch"


  1. ^ "Readers Poll Results: The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". Guitar World. Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
  2. ^ "Need for Speed: The 50 Fastest Guitarists of All Time – Page 43". Guitar World. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
  3. ^ a b Leseman, Linda (December 19, 2012). "Testament's Alex Skolnick Went From Geek to Guitar God".
  4. ^ "Alex Skolnick: Interview with Metal Rules!!". January 27, 1998. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
  5. ^ "Michael Schenker - Metal Master Kingdom Interview". January 17, 2018. Retrieved August 19, 2018.
  6. ^ Bosso, Joe (November 21, 2011). "Testament's Alex Skolnick on taking guitar lessons from Joe Satriani". MusicRadar. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  7. ^ "Testament's Alex Skolnick Recalls Brief Stint As Ozzy Osbourne's Guitarist". August 17, 2016. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  8. ^ Romero, Angel (May 16, 2012). "Stratospheric Violins". Progressive Rock Central. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
  9. ^ "Pianist-Composer Randy Klein Releases Second Two Duos Project". All About Jazz. October 3, 2012. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  10. ^ "Alex Skolnick to Appear at Mass Appeal: Guitars Event In NYC". Guitar Aficionado. June 5, 2012. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  11. ^ "About". Planetary Coalition. June 21, 2012. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  12. ^ "Director". Nomad 9 Design. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  13. ^ "ArtistShare Profile: Alex Skolnick Part 2". ArtistShare. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  14. ^ a b Leseman, Linda (November 18, 2014). "Alex Skolnick's Planetary Coalition Breaks All the Rules". The Village Voice. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  15. ^ Harris, George W. (January 22, 2015). "Come Fly With Me…Alex Skolnick: Planetary Coalition". Jazz Weekly. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  16. ^ Bosso, Joe (December 16, 2014). "Alex Skolnick talks Planetary Coalition track-by-track". MusicRadar. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  17. ^ Drozdowski, T. (January 8, 2015). "Testament's Alex Skolnick Goes Global with 'Planetary Coalition'". Guitar World. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  18. ^ "Guitar World's 50 Best Albums of 2014". December 26, 2014.
  19. ^ "Acoustic Nation's Ten Top Releases of 2014". December 15, 2014.
  20. ^ "Testament Guitarist To Release 'Geek To Guitar Hero' Book". October 15, 2012. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
  21. ^ Smith, Roberta (July 19, 2012). "Douglas Melini: 'A Sharing of Color and Being a Part of It'". The New York Times. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  22. ^ "NAMM 2013 Video: Alex Skolnick Demos His Signature Budda AS Preceptor Guitar Amp". Guitar World. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
  23. ^ [1] Archived September 17, 2013, at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]