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Michael Casswell - A Tribute

Issue #45

It is with great sadness that we have to report the news of Michael Casswell's tragic death in a swimming accident in September, while on holiday in Spain.
Gary Cooper

It is with great sadness that we have to report the news of Michael Casswell's tragic death in a swimming accident in September, while on holiday in Spain.

Michael has been with Guitar Interactive since the beginning and had also been one of the mainstays of Lick Library, our parent company, for which he produced many superb tuition videos that have helped thousands improve their playing. Outside of our orbit, he was also a successful performing and recording artist and a noted teacher.

Trying to compile a fitting tribute was doubly difficult because Michael wasn't just a fabulous guitarist and a vital part of the magazine's team, but was also universally liked and respected by everyone who worked with him.

In the end, we decided that the best thing to do was probably what he would have wished for himself – let his guitar do most of the talking. Over the years, he had contributed countless reviews, Tech Sessions, interviews and, above all, his unique Pro Concepts column to the magazine. We've chosen a selection of performances which show that, above all, Michael was a consummate musician and a guitarist capable of playing in a multitude of styles.

Additionally we asked Stuart Bull, one of the directors of Lick Library, a guitarist himself and a regular contributor to GI, who had known Michael longer than any of us, to write his own very personal tribute.

Michael Casswell – a tribute by Stuart Bull

Trying to write these words whilst in an emotional condition is tough as I’m sure many of you will understand. The worst or best time (depending on your point of view) to write about a tragedy is while or just after it has happened. So many emotions thoughts and feelings are within you. Love, anger, frustration, and confusion…the list goes on. I tried to think of ONE word that would do him ‘some” justice and the word I have for you and Michael is TRUTH, truth in personality, truth in Guitar Playing AND Musicianship and the ‘Truth” Album by Jeff Beck, of whom Michael was such an admirer.

Mike was an honest guy pulling no punches as regard to guitar playing education or the music business, simply put Mike told it like it was straight up, I loved this about Michael. Don’t ask him a question if you don’t want the TRUE answer, a man indeed after my own heart. Secondly, I apply the word Truth to Mike’s guitar playing as he delivered with passion, professionalism, technique and tone. Anyone who knew Mike knew he was a Tone Chaser of the highest order. Michael knew how had something should be played and he always stuck to his guns when it came recording, arranging, writing, playing and producing. Mike was the go to guy to find out if you had got it ‘right’. I recall one studio session I was playing guitar for and I'd invited Mike to the session. As I played a take of the solo he walked around feverishly pacing the control room stating ‘the sound Stuart the sound.' He didn’t approve of the sound so… we changed it.

I first met Michael when we both attended The Royal Liberty School for boys, I was two years older than Mike but we had some mutual friends so despite the age gap (huge when you are that age) I got to know him a little bit and learned of his love for music and guitar. He always had an air of class around him, his school uniform just looked cooler than everyone else’s and of course he always had great hair. I didn’t hear him play back then but the quiet confidence told me this guy was probably very good.  School days go by as they do and everyone goes off to follow their dreams (we were told not to do that!) and you find yourself disconnected from many of your classmates. Sometime later a band were rehearsing in the Cubs Hall which was a short distance from the back of my house, I heard a racket coming from said hall and went to investigate. I met one Mr. Mark Kelly now of Marillion fame. I joined the band and Mark and I became friends. Sometime later I bumped into Mike once again and told him about Mark and the two of them began rehearsing with Mike’s band “Split Grass” and no I don’t know why the name!  The two got along well and I attended rehearsals but only as an observer. Mike and I had connected once again.

In the years that followed I went to see Mike play many times when he was in town, he would be generally playing with East Of Java. Michael brought a sound and a slick professionalism to the band that none of their peers came close to. It didn’t matter which rig he used, be it his Mesa Boogie Triaxis/power amp one of his Marshalls or the Peavey 5150 I sold to him years later, his tone was always stellar. He was constantly in and out of guitar shops and amp technician premises, tweaking his gear. When I moved to the U.S. I would call Mike up and say ‘Hey, you got to get this pedal”. Fact is, it had already been in his possession or on his board for a while.

I’m still not sure how to feel about his passing and I suppose it will take a long time for it to sink in. I received an email and the subject was Mike Casswell Has Died, I honestly thought the sender's account had been hacked by one of Mike’s stalkers but one phone call later the worst was confirmed Michael Casswell had in fact passed away.  The saddest part of writing this piece is that the reality has kicked me in the teeth once again which has produced a very solemn silent moment. I can hear his unorthodox emotional technical  guitar playing in my mind. Listening to Mike play was like watching a fire burn you never knew what shape the flames would take or when the fire would grow but you always knew you were experiencing a force of nature simply known as Michael Casswell

Issue 45

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