By Wes Woods
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Guitarist Gary Pihl spent the late 1970s playing with Sammy Hagar before he joined the classic rock band Boston, and has appreciated both experiences.

"What you see is what you get. He's a fun-loving guy. He's always in a great mood. And a great singer," Pihl said of working with Hagar. "I enjoyed my eight years there in the band."

As for Boston founder Tom Scholz, "Tom always shows up on lists of the 100 great guitar players of all time," Pihl notes. "He's always on the greatest list of keyboards. Then throw in the greatest rock songs of all time. Boston is on them.

"He's the smartest guy I know. It's been a real pleasure working with him."

Boston, known for megahits including "Amanda" and "More Than a Feeling," is set to perform Sunday at the Pechanga Casino in Temecula and Tuesday at the Forum with Cheap Trick.

Boston has seen a lot of changes over the years, but Pihl said rock music is "absolutely thriving," with its mixing up of musical styles going as far back as Red Hot Chili Peppers, who debuted in 1983.

"They have a great singer (Anthony Kiedis), but he would rap some stuff as well. I always thought he was mixing some of these different styles together," said Pihl. "The boundaries are being crossed as we speak. That's a great thing. There's so many bands ... maybe they'll never be nationally famous, but it's great, very innovative stuff. ... Warped Tour, etc., might have a secondary stage with acts you've never heard of, but you come away saying that is the best band I have heard in my life."

Pihl said he became friends with Scholz from a common interest in electronics after Hagar's band opened for Boston in the late '70s.

"They liked us. They said, ‘You should open for our entire second tour.' It was '78 to '79. From that time, I'd pick Tom's brain about electronic stuff with cool guitar sounds. We started with that in common. So that led to the gig," he recalled. "When Sammy joined Van Halen, Tom said ‘Gary, come back here and help us finish the ‘Third Stage' album.' I said ‘I'm out of a gig, I'd be glad to do it.'?"

From there Pihl worked on the next Boston album and tour. Later, he became vice president of Scholz Research & Development Inc., which builds music technology products, and Scholz's right-hand man of sorts.

Pihl said in the music business, it's impossible to avoid technology so one has to embrace it.

"Technology will change and you never know which way it will go," he said. "The iPhone and iPads can carry thousands of songs in your pocket. That technology is so appealing. Who wouldn't want to reduce their music library to the palm of their hand? But does it sound as good as vinyl? No, but it's different.

"The message of the song is still the most important thing."