Tag: Boss pedals

Miles Okazaki: Jazz with Robots

miles okazaki jazz with robots

On his new album Thisness, Miles Okazaki is credited as playing guitar, voice, and robots. If you imagine that the reference to robots is some sort of artsy kitsch—like trapping a Roomba Robot Vacuum into a tight space to sample its struggles as it percussively barrels into the four walls—you’re very far off the mark. Okazaki—who has an elite academic pedigree with degrees from Harvard, Manhattan School of Music, and Julliard, and currently holds a faculty position at Princeton University (after leaving a post at the University of Michigan, to which he commuted weekly from his home in Brooklyn for eight years)—wasn’t kidding.


“The robots are machines that I made in Max/MSP,” clarifies Okazaki. (Max/MSP is visual programming language for music and multimedia.) “It’s kind of a long story, but I’ve been doing this stuff on the side for 20 years or so. Some of the music theory, some of the conceptual stuff involved in the album, I programmed into these things that I built. These improvising machines can do things that humans can’t do. They’ll play faster than humans, but they’ll fit in because they’re playing the same type of material.”

I’ll Build a World, by Miles Okazaki

Okazaki explains that he creates parameters for the robots to improvise within: “I’m just telling this robot, ‘Play at this tempo and play this many subdivisions per beat—eight subdivisions or something like that—so that it’s linked up with the drums.” For pitches, he assigns a scale and can control the phrasing. “I’m saying for the pitch choices, ‘You’re going to use a chromatic scale and you’re going to play each note of that scale until you exhaust the scale without repeating a note,’ which makes a 12-tone row. It could be any scale, but that’s one of the settings that I have made in there. [After each 12-tone row is done] I tell it, ‘You’re going to take a little break, but I don’t want it to be the same break every time,’ so that it’s a phrase.”

To get a sound that convincingly blended in with the rest of the tracks, Okazaki had keyboardist Matt Mitchell run the robots through his Prophet Six analog synth. “I wrote a file of them improvising and ran that file through the synth,” explains Okazaki. “Matt would do the sounds for it,” so both the robots and Mitchell used the same Prophet Six in their own way.

“I’ve never been that interested in imitating anybody’s style.”

Okazaki, a family man with three children, seems busy in all parts of his life, but he must have learned to maximize his time because he’s incredibly productive. In 2018, he recorded his magnum opus, the critically acclaimed Work—a five-hour, 70-song marathon of the complete works of Thelonious Monk, all performed on solo guitar. It’s a project he’s wanted to do since his teen years. But in the process, he labored so relentlessly that he ignored his body’s warning signs and suffered a repetitive stress injury. That didn’t stop him from intensely preparing for and entering the New York City Marathon just a few months later. When that chapter was over, Okazaki again focused on his musical pursuits and proceeded to record several more albums, both as a leader and side musician.

Thisness is Okazaki’s fifth album in a three-year period and reflects his collaborative approach. It features his Trickster band, which includes Mitchell on keyboards, Anthony Tidd on electric bass, and Sean Rickman on drums. Okazaki has worked with each of these musicians for years, both in his own group and in saxophonist Steve Coleman’s, and they’ve developed a creative relationship that made it possible to record complex music quickly. The entire album was recorded over a two-day span with the quartet recording live on day one and overdubs the following day.

And the music on Thisness is incredibly complex. Though Okazaki has studied Indian music seriously, his compositions are also somewhat reminiscent of contemporary Western classical music. You’ll see no shortage of odd note groupings, polyrhythms, and mixed meters carving out space for intricate atonal melodies throughout. Plenty of advanced jazz musicians that proudly boast about their ability to play John Coltrane’s “Countdown” in all 12 keys would cower in fear if they were asked to perform some of Okazaki’s works.

Despite the puzzling, esoteric nature of his compositions, Okazaki’s roots draw from the jazz tradition. After initially starting on classical guitar at age 6, he developed an interest in jazz at 12 and was doing solo guitar gigs at a local Italian restaurant by age 13. His first guitar teachers were Michael Townsend and Chuck Easton (a bebop-influenced Berklee grad), and he took music theory group classes in a cabin in the woods with a teacher named Alex Fowler.

Miles Okazaki’s Gear

Guitars

• 1937 Gibson L-50

• 1940 Gibson ES-150 Charlie Christian (bought with matching EH-150 amp)

• 1963 Gibson C-O Classical

• 1978 Gibson ES-175 with Charlie Christian pickup

• 2018 Slaman “Pauletta” with Charlie Christian pickup modified with adjustable pole pieces drilled into the blade. A hum-canceling coil was recently added by Ilitch Electronics.

• 2002 Yamaha SA2200

• 2016 Kiesel HH2

• 2008 Caius quarter-tone guitar

Amps

• Quilter Aviator Cub

• Quilter Tone Block 200

• Raezer’s Edge Twin 8 cabinet

Effects

• Boss OC-2 Octave

• Boomerang III Phrase Sampler with Side Car controller

• One Control Mosquito Blender Expressio

• Gamechanger Audio Plus Pedal

• Dunlop CBM95 Cry Baby Mini Wah

• Boss RV-5 Digital Reverb

• Analog Man Peppermint Fuzz

• MXR GT-OD

• Electro-Harmonix Micro POG

• Dunlop DVP4 Volume

• Sonic Research ST-300 tuner

Strings and Picks

• Thomastik-Infeld Flatwound .013s (Gibson ES-150 Charlie Christian and Slaman “Pauletta”)

• Thomastik-Infeld Flatwound .014s (Gibson ES-175 with Charlie Christian pickup and Caius)

• Thomastik-Infeld Flatwound .012s (Yamaha SA2200)

• Thomastik-Infeld Flatwound .011s (Kiesel HH2)

• D’Addario Roundwound .014s (Gibson L-50)

• D’Addario Pro-Arte high tension nylon (Gibson C-O)

• Fender .88 mm for .012 strings, 1.0 mm for .014 strings

• Homemade picks using Pick Punch (Preferred material is American Express Delta Sky Miles Credit Card)

• Ilitch Electronics Driftwood pick

• Knobby picks bought from an Instagram metal shredder

During his teens, Okazaki went through a jazz-snob phase, and although he hails from Port Townsend, Washington, he never got into the nearby Seattle scene. “The ’90s, Nirvana and Soundgarden.… No, I kind of missed all that,” he admits. “I was there, but I was into Wes Montgomery and Thelonious Monk. I was stuck in the ’60s and ’50s at that point.” He still cites those musicians, in addition to Grant Green, George Benson, and Charlie Christian (whom he hailed as “the greatest guitarist that ever lived” in a blog post) as influences.

After attending Harvard University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, Okazaki came to New York to pursue his master’s degree in guitar at Manhattan School of Music. There, he found a mentor in Rodney Jones, a jazz/R&B player with tremendous chops. “I studied with, and continue to study with, Rodney,” explains Okazaki. “He was my teacher from 1997. I worked pretty closely with him for about 10 years, rebuilding my technique. My technique wasn’t good. You know I didn’t really have a teacher before him that really talked about guitar so much. I had teachers, but it was more just sort of like other people from other instruments. His technique is based on a hybrid George Benson type of deal. It has to do with the picking, but also there are many, many things that have to do with micro movements of the right hand. So, I spent a long time studying that. I still don’t really play like that, but I play kind of like a hybrid version of his hybrid version. Now mine is mixed with some other stuff.”

Jones referred Okazaki to legendary saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, and Okazaki did a few gigs with the soul-jazz master shortly before his passing in 2000. It was around this period that Okazaki made his mark on the NYC jazz scene. He worked with vocalist Jane Monheit and was initially cast as a straight-ahead guitarist. “For a long time, I was just a standards player. I was pigeonholed in that area,” he recalls. “I did this weird stuff on the side—well, I didn’t consider it to be weird—but it was hard for people in their mind to imagine that you do different things.”

The guitarist found he was able to fully explore other sides of his playing when he landed a gig with Steve Coleman, whose M-Base Collective created a new language of incredibly challenging, forward-thinking music. From 2008 until 2017, Okazaki’s artistry thrived as he played alongside Coleman.

”I don’t know how many people you know that can play in James Brown’s band. It’s harder than playing in my band, that’s for sure.“

Very few players can comfortably hang with both the down-to-earth, bluesy jazz sounds of George Benson and the futuristic, ultra-heady maze of Coleman’s music like Okazaki can. The guitarist sees the two approaches as sharing common heritage. “Benson’s language is blues and R&B, and Steve Coleman’s is, too. There’s different theories and stuff behind it, but it’s not technically different to me,” he explains.

“If it was language, I’m interested in the grammar, not so much what language I’m speaking about,” he explains. “Or if it was cooking, I might be interested in the principles of ‘how do you cook a piece of meat,’ as opposed to, ‘I’m doing French cooking.’ George Benson has a style for sure, and a lot of people, when they learn about George Benson, will also sort of imitate his style. I’ve never been that interested in imitating anybody’s style. I kind of want to have my own style.”

Okazaki’s style is radically different from both the sounds of his main guitar influences and other offerings in today’s jazz landscape. His abstruse music has been called academic, but that’s a label the guitarist isn’t particularly fond of. “I would push back a little on ‘academic’ because, first of all, I don’t like academic music,” he says. “I don’t like any type of art that has to be explained. When I go to an art museum, I don’t want to have to read the little blurb. I don’t want anybody to have to know anything about music to appreciate it. There are things involved in how it’s made that are interesting to me, but I don’t care if they’re interesting to anybody else, or I don’t want that to be a feature of it that’s really that important, unless people want to look for that.”

For Okazaki, his music might be also called academic, or complex, or cerebral, but that doesn’t explain his purpose, or set him apart. “James Brown is complex, or Robert Johnson is complex,” he says. “All these things are complex, meaning that they’re not easily explained. I don’t know how many people you know that can play in James Brown’s band. It’s harder than playing in my band, that’s for sure.”

“The test is: Does it sound good, or does it not sound good? That’s the only question for me.”

Complexity comes in many forms. Just because a piece of music happens to be based on one chord “that doesn’t mean that it’s simple,” Okazaki observes. He believes the opposite is true as well. “There are things that take a lot of work, and there’s a lot of machinations involved, and a lot of manipulation of materials and thought, and construction, and it still sounds like shit,” he laughs. “And there are things that are just one chord and amazing.”

As much as Okazaki is known as a musical thinker who can throw down some heavy information in his compositions and playing, what matters most is how it sounds. “It might look good on paper, but if it doesn’t sound like anything, then it’s not good,” he says. “The test is: Does it sound good, or does it not sound good? That’s the only question for me.”

Trickster’s Dream – “The Lighthouse”

The Trickster band was scheduled to go on a six-week tour starting in May 2020 but got derailed by the Covid lockdowns. Instead, they created a video concert featuring music from Okazaki’s 2019 release, The Sky Below. This version of “The Lighthouse” is from those sessions and captures the band conjuring the energy and spirit of playing to a captive audience.


Rig Rundown: Dead Kennedys' East Bay Ray

rig rundown dead kennedys east bay ray

The punk rock pioneer splits on nothing more than a Schecter S-1, a JCM2000, and a well-placed DL4.Punk rock is

concerning power, perspective, as well as message. It’s been the gateway medication for a great deal of guitar players and also music lovers. And also those forces are what guided East Bay Ray away from his bar-band gig in 1978.

” The little hairs on the back of my neck stood,” Ray bore in mind throughout a 2016 PG meeting. “I saw the Weirdos having fun. I stated, ‘This is what I wish to do.’ I phased myself out of bench band as well as placed an advertisement up in Aquarius Records and also Rather Ripped Records. Klaus Flouride (bassist Geoffrey Lyall) and Jello Biafra (vocalist Eric Boucher) answered the advertisement.”

And with the addition of drummer Ted (Bruce Slesinger), the Dead Kennedys were born. By the time they tape-recorded their 1981 EP In God We Trust, Inc. ( by themselves independent label, Alternative Tentacles), Ted was gone and D.H. Peligro (Darren Henley) became their solid skin slammer.Through the band’s first 8 years, four albums, and an EP, their subversive harpoon of jagged political commentary was tipped by Biafra’s verses. That obtained the country’s focus, yet what motivates musicians to today was the power triad’s natural combination of acquainted and strange aspects of punk and primitive rock. Certain, you’ve obtained the power chords and also the four-on-the-floor paces, yet deepness and subtlety under the biting messaging is essential to the DK’s chemistry. Their punk-rock bangers have modal tendencies as well as atonal flourishes, and several of their most thrilling tunes have odd-metered foundations. Their debut solitary, “California Über Alles,” is a take on author Maurice Ravel’s Boléro, no less. As well as no one else in the land of the 6-string shreds quite like East Bay Ray.

” One of the factors our tracks have lasted as long is the structure underneath has a whole lot in common with a Beatles song or a Motown song or perhaps a ’30s requirement,” he states. “There are standard building and constructions that make a track work. I actually had a hard time copying or figuring out solos off my favorite recordings when discovering to play, so I would certainly establish my own musical method to receive from one area to one more. It’s actually a lack of method that aided with the music.”

His creative thinking and resourcefulness do not stop there. East Bay Ray was the band’s co-producer/engineer on a lot of recordings, as well as he’s played with his very own tone tools, putting together partscasters that ideal matched his strategy. Ray has jammed humbuckers into the bridge of a T-style for a twangier bite that aids his speedy arpeggios sting a bit a lot more. He’s added short-scale Japanese F-style necks for slinkier playability. And, most significantly, he placed a Maestro Echoplex before his amp to create the trademark clanging sound listened to on his traditional recordings with the band. (” One of my favorite documents of perpetuity is Elvis Presley’s Sun Sessions. That is just one of the records that inspired me to obtain an Echoplex, to get that slapback resemble.”)

” We just didn’t recognize the guidelines on what to play as well as how to play,” he connects. “That’s where not recognizing something pressures you to make your own remedy, developing something unique and also new, verifying that necessity is the mom of development. The absence of strategy as well as expertise helped produce our sound and the songs.”

Before the Dead Kennedys’ headlining show at Nashville’s Brooklyn Bowl on June 15th, PG hit the phase for a enlightening however quick tone talk. We covered Ray’s economically abundant arrangement that consists of a solitary Schecter doublecut as well as a simplified, solid-sounding Marshall, and also we were enlightened concerning why he puts his Line 6 delay in advance of the amp and what that does to repeats.

[Offered you by D’Addario Nexxus 360 Tuner.]

S-1 Is Good Food

East Bay Ray was known to make use of a variety of Fenders in the early days of the Dead Kennedys. In a PG article, he described that he chose Leo’s offspring (or duplicates) because the longer range length as well as string-through construction provided his noise extra twang as well as quality. He commonly modded out bridge single-coils for hotter humbuckers since that provided him a huskier tone that punched through the mix. He keeps in mind in this brand-new Rundown that the Japanese T-styles he utilized in the ’80s in fact had a 24.75″ scale size, regular of Gibson-style electrics.

” That’s how my noise started: I liked the twangy sound with the fatter humbucking pickup. Like on ‘Holiday in Cambodia,’ I play a bunch of arpeggios as well as they truly sound out.” (In the same short article, he does mention using Gibson models, yet really felt a “Les Paul benefits one-string type things, because it is really fat, yet when you start playing two strings, it’s not as verbalize as a Fender would be.”)

For this headlining run through the U.S., Ray brought a solitary Schecter S-1. He states in the Rundown that he still has all his japanese duplicates and old fenders however doesn’t want anything to happen to them. To soup up the doublecut, he commonly swaps in a Seymour Duncan SH-1 ’59 (neck) and also Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB (bridge) for the design’s common Schecter Diamond Plus humbuckers. (Although the S-1 on this tour still has supply pickups.)

Handle Job

Ray’s guitar for the DK’s first singles,” Holiday in Cambodia” as well as “California Über Alles,” was videotaped via a Fender Super Reverb( with an Electro-Harmonix LPB-1 Linear Power Booster in front of it ). Quickly after those recordings, the self-admitted “scientific research nerd” found schematics for Marshalls and also Boogie amps and hot-rodded his Fender Super Reverb to have an additional tube channel, overhauling it to, essentially, a master-volume Marshall. He finished to a real-deal JMP for the band’s later documents and live shows. Currently when on scenic tour, he carries a Marshall JCM 2000 since it has “a versatile sound with a great midrange, and it does not have a lot of handles like the TSLs [laughs] That point is annoying to take a look at.”

A Blast from the Past

Here’s a shot from our Forgotten Heroes piece of East Bay Ray( featured in the August 2016 problem) cutting tracks at San Francisco’s Hyde Street Studios playing a Coral S-style rather than his Tele. Furthermore, you see the JMP and mighty ‘Plex lurking on the table.A More Musical Way … Way … Way

In the band’s prime time, Ray took a trip all over with his beloved Maestro Echoplex. He comments in the Rundown that while it was a vital component to his noise, it was a pain to maintain with its tape cartridges and the requirement for a container of tape cleanser. Plus, in Europe power performs at 50 Hz so the system would certainly run slower. (The U.S. conventional power is 60 Hz.) Retiring the solid-state echo equipment years back, he arrived at the Line 6 DL4 as his now-long-running replacement. EBR likes it due to the fact that it has 3 presets as well as he constantly has it locked in the analog-with-modulation setting. The key to his kerrangingly music repeats is putting the DL4 (and the ‘Plex, prior to he acquired the Line 6 tool) in advance of the amp, making each echo a cleaner degeneration than the one prior to it.Taken from our

2016 meeting, we’ll allow East Bay Ray decode the technique to his chaos:” One of the tricks is to put the echo device prior to the amp. Recording engineers don’t like that. Due to the fact that they’re at much less quantity, the echoes clean up as they go through the amp. Recording designers or some guitar players stick it in the loop in the back of the amp. They make the sound, procedure it, and after that they add the echo– but that’s even more like a post-EQ result. I do it pre-EQ. Even when I’m maxed out– like with the compressor on, the amp up, as well as the guitar right up– if there is an item of silence, if you listen to the resemble, it cleans up. The last ones will be the tidy guitar. It’s a less technological means to do it, yet it’s a much more musical way. It’s bad design, yet a lot more music. For somebody that’s learnt design,’ Each resemble is different! ‘From an artistic side,’ Yeah. That’s what makes it more interesting– since they’re different.'” As for the one in charge CS-3 Compression Sustainer, he uses it much more as an increase than squeezebox. He maxes the level, reduces back the tone, dimes the attack, and pushes the maintain, resulting in a moderate quantity jump for solos as well as single-note ditties. It’s in the chain after the DL4 and in advance of the amp so it can boost the repeats when the CS-3 is involved in addition to the eco-friendly machine.



Knob Job Ray’s guitar for the DK’s initial songs,” Holiday in Cambodia” and” California Über Alles, “was tape-recorded via a Fender Super Reverb (with an Electro-Harmonix LPB-1 Linear Power Booster in front of it). < div class=" rebellt-item col1" data-basename= "a-more-musical-way-way-way" data-href=" https://www.premierguitar.com/videos/rig-rundowns/dead-kennedys?rebelltitem=5#rebelltitem5" data-id= "5" data-is-image=" True" data-post-id =" 2657583973"

data-published-at=” 1656525573 “data-reload-ads=” false “data-use-pagination=” False” id =” rebelltitem5″ readability=” 41.534626038781″ > A More Musical Way … Way … Way In the band’s heyday, Ray took a trip everywhere with his cherished Maestro Echoplex., we’ll let East Bay Ray translate the method to his insanity:” One of the tricks is to put the resemble device before the amp. East Bay Ray was understood to use a variety of Fenders in the early days of the Dead Kennedys. Ray’s guitar for the DK’s initial singles,” Holiday in Cambodia” and “California Über Alles,” was recorded through a Fender Super Reverb( with an Electro-Harmonix LPB-1 Linear Power Booster in front of it ).

Rig Rundown: The War on Drugs [2022]

rig rundown the war on drugs 2022

Bandleader Adam Granduciel on how single-coils, the Dead’s Wall of Sound, and cascades of chorus build his live tones. Plus, bassist David Hartley gets weird, wild, and wonky.


For nearly two decades and across five albums, The War on Drugs’ founder and frontman Adam Granduciel has narrated our complex modern lives while his band has scored our dreams.

The captivating moods of their music, much like us, morph from dense melancholy to saturated, swirling madness and everywhere in between. Granduciel often layers his Springsteen-meets-Young proletariat prose atop a post-rock soundscape, but the heartbeat of their impressive, expansive live shows is their gear and how it is implemented.

“I could play the whole tour with two or maybe three guitars—a White Falcon, Strat, and maybe a Jazzmaster—but I bring all these out just for fun,” he says with a laugh as he considers his trove of axes.

So, let’s have some fun already! Before a full evening of The War on Drugs’ jams in support of 2021’s I Don’t Live Here Anymore, PG was invited to Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium. We covered Granduciel’s growing guitar collection, got the skinny on how Jerry Garcia’s monstrous setup played into the bandleader’s theatre rig, and we took in a cockpit view of his stompbox squadron full of tone ticklers, sizzlers, and wigglers. In addition, bassist David Hartley showed off a trio of Ps, an armada of Ampegs, and demo’d a fuzz that has ended his quest for razing tones.

Brought to you by D’Addario XPND Pedalboard.

Keeping It in the Family

If you’re a fan of Rig Rundowns or Kurt Vile & the Violators, you’ve already seen this Strat. The above Fender American Vintage ’57 reissue was once owned by Jesse Trbovich, who’s flanked Vile for years. Trbovich landed a true-blue ’70s Olympic white Strat and needed to unload this to make room. Granduciel quickly raised his hand as a landing spot because he really enjoyed how comfortably the neck played. And since bonding with it, he likes its low-output single-coils because he can “juice it with pedals.” (It’s worth noting that Trbovich put in a Seymour Duncan Antiquity II Strat Surfer Series in the middle position, allowing him to have hum-canceling operation in the second and fourth position.) All of Granduciel’s electrics take Ernie Ball 2220 Power Slinkys (.011–.048).

It’s the One

“When this thing is in my hands, I can react with it, and it becomes this whole other animal. It can be unwieldy, but this guitar plugged into a cranked Princeton or small tweed sounds incredible,” allows Granduciel. So, as you can imagine, this 1969 Gibson SG is Adam’s right-hand when it comes to recording, but, as he explains later in the video, it doesn’t coexist pleasantly with his live setup. He scooped this gem at Rivington Guitars in New York City.

Story Time

Flip a Coin

Granduciel had lusted after this vintage offset for weeks when seeing it listed on Reverb by Chelsea Guitars. The listing was removed and he thought that it was gone forever. A few months later, he was in NYC and decided to stop into the shop and, low and behold, the sunburst Jazzmaster was on their bench in pieces. Apparently, the original buyer from the Reverb listing was after a birth-year model (1964, as listed on the Reverb page), but when he removed the neck its pocket revealed a 1963 date. He traded in the guitar for a proper ’64 and, fatefully, Granduciel didn’t let a second pass before offering to buy it. Alongside the SG, this is another heavy hitter for recording.

Down Under with Terry

During a 2018 tour of Australia, Granduciel scored this 1966 Fender Jazzmaster that looks swanky with a matching black headstock. He claims the rhythm circuit in this one “sounds killer,” while the lead circuit is “super bright and used on ‘Occasional Rain.’” In addition to being a remarkable instrument, he loves that it reminds him of a short span of time that included a wonderful tour of Down Under, earning a Grammy for Best Rock Album, and the Philadelphia Eagles winning the Super Bowl.

Checked Past

Cracks aren’t meant to be beautiful, especially on guitars, but looking at the ’66’s backside reveals a twisted thumbprint.

Fly, Firebird Fly

This 1965 non-reverse Firebird was upgraded by its previous owner with a set of Lollar P-90s. If you recall the last Rundown with TWOD, Granduciel added a Bigsby, but that has since been removed.

Ol’ Reliable

This Fender American Vintage ’65 Jazzmaster has been a dependable dynamo for Adam. He prefers it because he knows what he’s going to get sonically and he can throw it around without worry. The newer pickups offer a snarlier tone, so it gets used for songs like “Pain,” and the top-end sear helps him cut through the seven-piece live band.

Hummingbird Season

This new-ish Gibson Hummingbird gets busted out for C# tunes and features a LR Baggs M1 soundhole pickup.

Bastion of Tone

Not quite the famed Wall of Sound procured by the Dead and audio engineer Owsley “Bear” Stanley, but Granduciel’s evolving setup is heading in that direction.

Alembic Ace

Since our last Rundown, Adam has ditched the Hiwatts (although he admits to enjoying that era of TWOD) for the Alembic F-2B Stereo Preamp that was used by Jerry Garcia and David Gilmour. He describes its circuity as mimicking the front end of a Fender Dual Showman. “There’s just so much clean headroom and they’re so creamy. And I don’t know what it is, but single-coils and P-90s just come to life here in a way that other amps don’t, so maybe that’s why Jerry and David used them so much.” The Mesa/Boogie Stereo Simul-Class 295 powers the Alembic. He does run a direct line signal from the F-2B to FOH for a clean DI option.

Take a Guess

In the video, Granduciel challenged me to guess how many speakers are in the oversized cab, and I said four. Seemed logical but, as he quickly pointed out, the Marshall 2041 Lead Organ has only a pair of Celestion (pre-rola) 12″ speakers. The Alembic runs through this pillar of power.

Fender Firepower

The other side of Adam’s grand equation is a 1960s Fender Bandmaster head that hits a Marshall 1960BV 4×12.

The Swart Solution

As we alluded earlier, his beloved 1969 SG doesn’t jive with his Alembic-Fender setup, so he incorporates its humbuckers into his live rig by plugging into the 5W Swart STR-Tremolo. The SG and Swart typically dance for “Thinking of a Place,” but Granduciel admits to kicking it on with the Fenders during the heat of battle and treating it like a tremolo pedal for parts of “Pressure” and other jams. To the right of the Swart you’ll notice a pair of Rockman Tom Scholz (yeah, the Boston legend) Power Soak attenuators throttling the Alembic and Fender.

Keeping Time in the Loop

The band uses this AKAI Professional MPC Live II for additional drum machines for the show.

User Input

They are harnessed by four Boss FV-500L Foot Volume Pedals controlled by Adam that allow him to bring the samples into the room mix. Additionally, the band syncs their modulation to it, so everyone is locked in. (The MPC clocks or syncs the pulsing of the tremolo for the band. Adam uses a Lightfoot Labs Goatkeeper 2, while bassist David Hartley uses a Malekko Goatkeeper.)

Horseshoe of Madness

Here’s a crow’s-nest view of Adam Granduciel’s massive pedal playground.

Bradshaw’s Boardroom

Most of what Adam does with his feet is simplified by this Custom Audio Electronics R-ST 24 + 2x PSS MIDI controller.

The Fun Begins

Here’s one of the sections of Granduciel’s expanding pedalboard that includes a Wren and Cuff Tri Pie 70, a MXR/Custom Audio Electronics Boost/Line Driver, an Ernie Ball Expression Tremolo, anElectro-Harmonix 1440 Stereo Looper, a Lightfoot Labs Goatkeeper 2, a Strymon TimeLine, a Boss DC-3 Digital Dimension, and a Morley ABC Pro (for switching amps). A Boss TU-3s Chromatic Tuner keeps his guitars in check.

To the Moon, Adam, to the Moon!

Here’s the meat and potatoes of Granduciel’s spreading stomp setup: (top left) a Boss FT-2 Dynamic Filter, another MXR/Custom Audio Electronics Boost/Line Driver, DigiTech Hardwire RV-7 Stereo Reverb, ADA Flanger, JHS Bun Runner, J. Rockett Audio Designs Archer, MXR Flanger, Moutainking Electronics Loud Box, Crowther Audio Prunes & Custard, a Fulltone OCD, and a trifecta of Eventides that rest on the right side—a Space, TimeFactor, and H9. Everything gets current by either a MXR Custom Audio Electronics MC403 Power System or the Eventide PowerMax.

Clovis the Rough Rider

At first glance, you’d probably mistake this for a ’60s or ’70s Fender P, but as bassist David Hartley attests, this is a 2002 Fender Precision named Clovis that he acquired brand new almost two decades ago. Part of Clovis’ charm for Hartley is that it’s the lightest P he’s ever held, making their “Evening With” shows a little easier on the back. It’s stock aside from him swapping out the standard anodized gold pickguard for the tortoiseshell. He uses La Bella 760FS Deep Talkin’ Bass Flats (.045–.105).

Jam Like Jamerson

Another 4-string that does a lot of heavy lifting for Hartley is this 1983 Fender Fullerton ’62 Reissue Precision Bass. While this one isn’t as light as the previous P, he does love how much it sustains.

Find the Note

And occasionally you’ll see Hartley put down all the guardrails and dance with this Fender Tony Franklin Fretless Precision Bass. The connection with this one came through when he heard how much vocal tonality it has. It’s a highly expressive instrument.

Ampeg Assault

The Ps come to life thanks to this boulder of bass tone: a pair of Ampeg Heritage 50th Anniversary SVT amps that hit an Ampeg Heritage SVT-810AV. The SVT on the left is a backup and Hartley plugs into the normal channels.

Simple but Not

Prior to this run, Hartley toyed with the idea of just plugging his Ps into a DI and his Ampeg. Clearly, that plan changed and he’s probably having more fun because of it. His stomp station contains a pair of Boss GE-7 Equalizers (one to help Clovis pop a bit more and the other helps brighten up the ambient drone of the Gamechanger), an Eventide H9, a Gamechanger Audio Plus Sustain Pedal, a Mountainking Electronics Megalith, a Malekko Goatkeeper, a Keeley Super Mod Workstation, and a MXR Phase 90. A Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner keeps his Ps sounding right.

Eric Johnson Pans for Gold

eric johnson pans for gold

Eric Johnson knows that excessive pride gets in the way of true progress, and that having extraordinary talent doesn’t beget personality or, simply put, make you better than anyone else. “I’ve spent so long being involved in [playing music] that, at one point, you take a break and go, ‘Yeah, but that’s not me—that’s just something I do. Who am I?’” he shares. “Regardless of how well you do it and how appreciated you are, it’s not like a carte blanche calling card that gives you any kind of real entitlement in life. If you think it does, then you don’t know who you are.”


That philosophy, along with his passion for the instrument, has, over time, superseded any ego-inflating diversions that can come from fame. And rather than resting on his legacy, the guitarist is building on it with the release of two albums: The Book of Making and Yesterday Meets Today. The records came together in a process of creative reconnaissance, where Johnson dove into his vault of recordings to find forgotten song ideas that could be polished, fleshed out, and rejuvenated for release.

Eric Johnson – Soundtrack Life (Official Visualizer)

The 18 tracks that collectively make up both albums include those that fit into a classic Johnson style, such as the brightly textured lead single from The Book of Making, “Soundtrack Life,” along with ones that explore other territories, like that album’s gentle, piano-guided “To Be Alive,” co-written with singer/guitarist Arielle, and a cover of the blues classic “Sittin’ on Top of the World” by the Mississippi Sheiks (famously covered by Howlin’ Wolf). These new compositions range from panoramic instrumentals to lilting ballads, embroidered by the guitarist’s fluid, crystalline tone and uplifting vocals. And together, they offer a new look into Johnson’s characteristic finesse.

When the last few weeks of his tour got cancelled in March 2020, Johnson, amidst the societal standstill and isolated from his bandmates, decided that the best use of his time would be to revisit his old demos and musical sketches. As he navigated through the tiny snippets, little chord changes, and other bits and pieces, he discovered that he had far more material available than expected and set to arranging and recording.

“When I take the vantage point of a listener, it’s easier to tell if stuff really has merit.”

I felt, well, if I’m going to be isolated, let me go try to find something to work on,” he says. “There’s a handful of songs that were written from scratch, and towards the end of the period I brought musicians in and we recorded new stuff. Then there’s a couple of tracks that I didn’t do anything to. They were just left over from outtakes from other records. But predominantly it was just stuff that was barely started, and I did a whole lot of work on my own.”

The songs done from scratch include “Floating Through This World” and “To Be Alive” from The Book of Making and “Hold on to Love” and “JVZ” (dedicated to Johnson’s late tour manager and guitar tech, Jeff Van Zandt) from Yesterday Meets Today. The original idea for the former album’s “My Faith in You” dates back 20 years, although its oldest song is “Love Will Never Say Goodbye,” which was built from a rough mix on a 25-year-old cassette. “That’s all I had,” Johnson says. “I couldn’t find the master take. It had synthesizer, bass, drums, and a vocal that was a little too low in level, but I just went with it. Then I added several guitars to it, and background vocals and percussion.”

Twenty-five years ago, Johnson was having an especially fertile creative period, despite his reputation as a painstaking studio craftsman. His albums Venus Isle and Seven Worlds sprang from that era, and his tenure on tour with fellow maestros Joe Satriani and Steve Vai was preserved on G3: Live in Concert. And while he’s more relaxed about record-making these days, he’s no less creative or prolific. The popular virtuoso says that every time he sets out to make an album, he usually ends up making two—and stashes the excess recordings in his vault. In this case, his efforts at rekindling his past inspirations resulted in 28 tracks that were pared down to the final 18, although he intends to eventually release five or six more of the original set on an upcoming EP.

Producer Kelly Donnelly, who has worked with Johnson on eight previous albums plus his 2014 collaboration with Mike Stern, Eclectic, helped with some of the engineering, but Johnson did most of it himself. In the process, he learned something interesting about the usefulness of low-fidelity recordings: If you pair them with recordings of a higher quality, the combination can create a compelling depth of field. This meant that he was able to salvage and build upon some of his more compromised cassette recordings. “I found that to be fascinating—it was like, ‘Wow, that kind of works.’ I didn’t know that was going to happen.”

“There has to be an element of the music that has enough power and velocity to reach out to the listener, rather than just be sonically nice to listen to.”

In 2020, Johnson worked with Fender to create a replica of his 1954 “Virginia” Stratocaster, which he played on many of the tracks from The Book of Making and Yesterday Meets Today. The guitar’s body is made with the less commonly seen sassafras wood and set up with a DiMarzio bridge pickup and ’57/’62 single-coil Strat middle and neck pickups. On the albums, he played a handful of other models, including a 1957 Strat with a maple neck, a 1965 Gibson ES-345 semi-hollowbody, and a late-’50s Les Paul. He also plays a National lap steel and Danelectro Vincent Bell Coral sitar on some tracks.

When it comes to songwriting, Johnson comments that his self-proclaimed perfectionist tendency to overthink things can work against him. “The songs where you’re really pushing and striving and stressing end up sounding like that,” he says, while the ones that just flow are the ones that are, for him, most worth working on. His creative process usually begins with making recordings of musical snapshots on his iPhone. He’ll capture a phrase on guitar or piano, or sometimes record himself singing a vocal or instrumental melody to later revisit. “They’re pretty embarrassing, if anybody ever found ’em,” he laughs, referring to the latter.

Eric Johnson’s Gear

Guitars

  • Eric Johnson Virginia Fender Stratocaster
  • 1957 Fender Stratocaster
  • 1965 Gibson ES-345
  • 1950s Gibson Les Paul
  • National lap steel
  • Danelectro Vincent Bell Coral Sitar
Strings & Picks
  • D’Addario EPN110 Pure Nickel sets
  • Dunlop Jazz IIIs

Effects

  • TC Electronic Stereo Chorus
  • Electro-Harmonix Memory Man
  • Vintage Echoplex (modded for use as preamp)
  • ’60s Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face
  • Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
  • BK Butler Tube Driver
Amps
  • Marshall plexi 50
  • Two-Rock Classic Reverb
  • Marshall 4×12
  • Fender Bandmaster Reverb
  • Electro-Voice speakers

Deciding which compositions to keep or toss can be a curious process. To better judge his own writing, Johnson says it’s important for him to detach and act like an audience member or listener—so not to give himself any favoritism. “You have to dispel all that,” he says. “When I take the vantage point of a listener, it’s easier to tell if stuff really has merit.” While that can sound like a purely imaginative exercise, he has a rather practical way of getting to that perspective. Often, he’ll just crank up his studio monitors and walk into another room to listen.

“That helps you tell whether something’s really reaching you or not,” he elaborates, “because you’re not sitting there enveloping yourself and hyping yourself on something. There has to be an element of the music that has enough power and velocity to reach out to the listener, rather than just be sonically nice to listen to.”

“There’s nobody who’s going to be able to do what you do the way you do it.”

Johnson calls the evolution of his sound a “crazy process” that he says could go on forever, but he tries to let the music speak and will work to rise to the occasion to come up with a part that fits. “Sometimes that means I have to study a part that I can’t normally play.” Which means his self-labeled “perennial student” mentality has its benefits.

When asked if he experiences self-doubt, Johnson shares that he believes the habit of comparing yourself to others can be demoralizing, but he looks to practicing gratitude as a solution. “It’s just trying to be thankful for what you have and not compare yourself to other people. The more you’re in yourself and do your best.… There’s nobody who’s going to be able to do what you do the way you do it.”

Johnson was born into a musical family, with a father who was an enthusiastic music appreciator and three sisters who studied piano. His parents have said that he loved records when he was 3 years old. They listened to a lot of swing and showtunes, he says, which he developed a taste for as a child. He got his own record player when he was 5.

When Johnson got into playing music, he began to study piano at age 11, then took some lessons on guitar—though on guitar, he was mainly transposing what he learned on piano. His passion for wood and strings, however, quickly took over. “I loved it so much that I incessantly worked at it to get better, and it’s all I wanted to do,” he says.

“When I was a kid and saw all the cats playin’ guitar—Cream and the Yardbirds and all those people—I was like, ‘This is awesome,’” he shares. “Plus, it was kind of the first generation of overdriven guitar with fuzz tones. It was a sound that you’d just never heard before. That was really exciting.” He played in bands as a teenager, and tried going to college at the University of Texas at Austin but only earned three credits from taking an astronomy course, thinking it might be something he would want to pursue. But becoming a professional musician ended up being his clear choice.

Rig Rundown – Eric Johnson [2018]

Despite his high profile and staggering proficiency, plus eight Grammy nominations and a win for his 1991 tune “Cliffs of Dover,” Johnson says he’s remained conscious of not letting things go to his head, saying, “It’s better to just let it flow, like when you were a kid just loving to play,” he says. “It’s best to let that happen naturally. Once you start becoming too aware of yourself and assimilating your legacy or living in your stature or fame or notoriety, you create a feedback loop where you’ll trip over yourself eventually.”

Fame, he says, can be stressful, but “right now I’m kind of taking a break from the whole thing. Just trying to work on myself and do other things. But it’s kind of always there a little bit because I live and breathe music.”

YouTube It

Take a good look at the fretboard on Eric Johnson’s signature Virginia Stratocaster while he performs “Gem,” from his 2010 album, Up Close, showcasing a brilliantly articulate clean tone and impeccable finger work.




Fontaines D.C.’s Poetry in Commotion

fontaines d c s poetry in commotion

We all know how the Irish saved civilization—and if you don’t know the story, look for Thomas Cahill’s excellent tome on the subject—but what about rock ’n’ roll? From Van Morrison and Them to Rory Gallagher and Taste, or Thin Lizzy to the Pogues, U2 to the Cranberries, My Bloody Valentine to Snow Patrol, Irish rockers have given the British blues explosion a run for its silver, carving out an unbroken line from soul and blues-rock all the way to hardcore punk and ultramod art-rock, and they’ve done it in large measure while hewing close to the staunchly Irish traditions of myth, poetry, storytelling, rebel yells, and romantic longing.


It’s way too soon to refer to the five 20-something lads of Fontaines D.C. as rock saviors (they’d scoff at the prospect anyway), but Skinty Fia, the band’s third slab since their 2019 Mercury Prize-nominated debut, Dogrel, has rapidly turned up the critical heat, going straight to No. 1 on the U.K. Albums Chart upon release. The leadoff single “Jackie Down the Line,” a righteously gloomy but beat-driven rocker, sets the tone for the album, with frontman Grian Chatten transforming himself into the song’s dark narrator (“I will stone you, I’ll alone you”) as guitarists Conor Curley and Carlos O’Connell mesh together in a jangly, echo-laced interplay of crafty three-note chords, 12-string acoustic filigrees, and tremolo-washed sheets of sound. Add the locked rhythm section of Conor “Deego” Deegan (bass) and Tom Coll (drums) behind them, and the band’s tightness, augmented by their dogged desire to keep experimenting, instantly permeates every song.

Fontaines D.C. – Jackie Down The Line (Official video)

“I think when we first met, we were mainly just songwriters,” observes Curley, reminiscing on their early moments together. “I mean, obviously I’m a guitar player, but I saw myself more as a songwriter, and I think the other lads did as well. So the first album was the culmination of trying to be aware of our abilities, and keep things raw and exciting. We were playing 100-cap venues in Dublin, so there was no point in trying to overextend ourselves.

“After that, we felt we had more strings to our bow, in terms of the songs that we knew we could do. We went down more of an introspective path, and definitely got into more psychedelic music with the second album [A Hero’s Death]. And now it’s just a combination of all that. I think something that defines us as a band is that we never want to sit still in a sound. We’re always trying to be inspired by different things.”

The band also stuck with producer Dan Carey (Black Midi, Geese, Wet Leg, and plenty more), graduating from Carey’s home studio in London, where they recorded their first two albums, to the larger Angelic Studio complex in the idyllic English countryside, near Oxfordshire. But before they even took up residence, each band member made the most of the prolonged pandemic lockdown to flesh out detailed demos, either working in Logic or with handheld recorded snippets of vocals and guitar. Armed with well-prepped songs and the prospect of working with Carey in entirely new surroundings, as O’Connell describes it, opened up possibilities that led to a bigger, more multi-layered sound.

“What I love about Dan is his process is in two stages,” O’Connell says. “We were in a bigger studio this time, so he wanted to take advantage of that. There’s the live guts of the recording [from the floor], and that’s just getting the sound right at the start. We spent a couple of days gaining up all the inputs, so when it hits the desk, it’s pretty much a very balanced mix. Then it’s just about playing well and having the songs arranged properly so they work.

“The first album was very much in a fighting mode, with the two guitars EQ’ed the same and just smashing off each other. On the second one, we learned to play together a little better.” —Conor Curley

“And then at the second stage, we do overdubs. We rarely add new parts, but we’ll redo the parts we have, either with a different instrument or treated differently.”

Both Curley and O’Connell also brought some of their earliest influences to bear, including the slashing surf guitar leads of the Birthday Party’s Rowland S. Howard, along with the snakebitten Fender Mustang kick of Kurt Cobain. “We also played a bit more with a blend,” O’Connell says, “like what happened with rock and roll and electronic music in the ’90s, you know? Primal Scream, Death in Vegas, even U2 went through that phase, but they all used actual synthesizers and drum machines. Our idea was to make it sound like that with our own instruments.”

Carlos O’Connell’s Gear

Guitars

  • 2019 Johnny Marr Jaguar
  • ’67 Fender Mustang 3/4 scale
  • 50th Anniversary Fender Jazzmaster [prototype]
  • Martin J12-15 with L.R. Baggs M80 active humbucker
  • Seagull Artist Studio 12 Burst with L.R. Baggs Lyric acoustic microphone system
Amps
  • Fender ’68 Custom Twin Reverb
  • Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb
  • 1975 Fender Deluxe Reverb (used only at Angelic Studio)
  • THD Electronics Hot Plate

Effects

  • MXR M133 Micro Amp
  • Electro-Harmonix Soul Food
  • Strymon Lex Rotary
  • Moogerfooger MF Flange
  • Moose Electronics Cosmic Tremorlo
  • Moose Electronics Reverb
  • Boss TR-2 Tremolo
  • Electro-Harmonix Op Amp Big Muff Pi
  • Electro-Harmonix POG
  • Boss GE-7 Graphic Equalizer
  • Dunlop Volume (X)
  • EarthQuaker Devices Life Pedal
  • Vein-Tap Murder One Killswitch
Strings & Picks
  • Ernie Ball Burly Slinkys
  • Dunlop Tortex .60 mm

The album’s title track “Skinty Fia” (roughly translated, “the damnation of the deer”) delivers on the idea. Wielding his trusty ’67 Mustang through Carey’s own ’75 Fender Deluxe Reverb, O’Connell avails himself of a chaotic wash of tremolo (aided by a reverb pedal from Dublin-based Moose Electronics, which he unconventionally places first in the effects chain, ahead of his overdrives) to propel the song’s relentless, hypnotic churn. Meanwhile, in the left channel—throughout the album, each guitarist occupies his own side of the stereo image—Curley knifes into the mix with an echo-drenched melody on his Johnny Marr Jaguar, routed into a Fender Twin Reverb, to accentuate Chatten’s menacing vocal, while Deego and Coll hammer out a beat that recalls Nine Inch Nails with a thick, dub-style low end.

“I think we’re trying to be more patient, and more conscious of the texture,” Curley says, describing how he and O’Connell have worked together to refine their sound. Like most bands with a two-guitar attack (the well-known Irish precedent of Thin Lizzy comes to mind), the symbiosis comes with time, practice, and subtle lines of communication. “The first album was very much in a fighting mode,” he continues, “with the two guitars EQ’d the same and just smashing off each other. On the second one, we learned to play together a little better. We’re still working on it, and sometimes we still try to become as one almost, when the song needs it, but I think now we’ve learned to fit in with how we’re EQing everything. It feels really good.”

Fontaines D.C. – Full Performance (Live on KEXP)

The confidence shines through on Skinty Fia, especially when the two axe-slingers choose to embrace a little sonic chaos. On the dark drum-and-bass-influenced opening track “In ár gCroíthe go deo” (“In Our Hearts Forever”), O’Connell tees up another locked tremolo effect, eventually morphing into an otherworldly chorus effect, mirrored by Curley, of what sounds like distant dogs howling. “It’s only at the end where my guitar comes in,” Curley clarifies. “I’m just following the bass with the chords, at a very high frequency, and with delays at the end of every phrase. I hit my [Industrialectric] Echo Degrader, and that’s what really sends it into a spin.”

On the Curley-penned “Nabokov,” the layers of noise lean heavily on classic shoegaze and dub, with Curley again availing himself of the Echo Degrader. “That pedal is so unpredictable, it’s almost like it doesn’t sound the same every time you use it. I’ve been using that and an RV-7 [by Digitech Hardwire] for gated and reverse reverb. There were definitely a lot more shoegazey elements that we were trying to get to, and, obviously, if you start talking about Kevin Shields or even Robin Guthrie from Cocteau Twins, the stuff they did, to me, is almost unreachable, but if you try, you might end up with something new anyway.”

Conor Curley’s Gear

Guitars

  • 2019 Fender Johnny Marr Jaguar
  • ’66 Fender Coronado II
  • Fylde 12-string (loan from Richard Hawley)
Amps
  • Fender ’68 Custom Twin Reverb
  • Lazy J (used only at Angelic Studio)
  • THD Electronics Hot Plate

Strings & Picks

  • Ernie Ball Burly Slinkys
  • Dunlop Tortex .60 mm

Effects

  • Industrialectric Echo Degrader
  • DigiTech Hardwire RV-7 Stereo Reverb
  • Moose Electronics Reverb
  • Moose Electronics Delay
  • Strymon Sunset
  • Strymon Deco
  • ThorpyFX Chain Home
  • Electro-Harmonix Nano POG
  • Dunlop Volume (X)

By contrast, both guitarists reached for a 12-string acoustic on a pair of songs: Curley on the aforementioned “Jackie Down the Line,” and O’Connell on the smoldering groover “Roman Holiday.” Oddly enough, the Fontaines acquired the guitar, a beautifully finished Fylde custom 12-string, from British crooner and troubadour Richard Hawley, who met the band on a recent jaunt in Sheffield. “We were struggling to find a really nice sound on a 12-string,” O’Connell says, “so it was like, let me just text him. He was really excited about being a part of it and lending us the guitar, and it was magic. Just a beautiful guitar. Someday I’ll get one, but you can never play it live because it’s just too precious.”

And on tour, Fontaines comes across as anything but precious. Chatten often prowls the stage like a wounded animal between verses, wielding the mic stand like a cudgel and seeming to goad the band into wilder forays of sonic exploration. At a recent packed house in Brooklyn, Curley and O’Connell whipped “Too Real,” one of their earliest singles from Dogrel, into a feedback-laden, psych-rock deluge, while an encore of “Nabokov” made the most of the dueling washes of noise that each guitarist can deliver, with precision, from either side of the stage. As a unit, they’re brash, tough, and confident—typically young, and typically Irish.

“We’ve found refuge within each other, and within our identity,” O’Connell observes when asked about the band’s recent, and inevitable, move to London. Chatten in particular, as frontman and lyricist, has been outspoken in interviews about some of the prejudices he’s encountered, a sentiment that inspired the song “In ár gCroíthe go deo,” which pays tribute to an Irish woman in Coventry who was initially denied permission to bury her late mother with the Irish inscription on her gravestone.

“We also found that accumulated frustration with a very ignorant misunderstanding of Ireland from Britain’s point of view, which started to piss us off quite a bit,” O’Connell reveals. “But then we wrote this album, and ever since, it’s starting to open up a lot. It’s given me the dream of what I thought I would find in London: a place where we’re more anonymous and where there’s less expected from us, you know?”

“We were struggling to find a really nice sound on a 12-string, so it was like, let me just text him [Richard Hawley].” —Carlos O’Connell

Surely those expectations will grow in urgency as time goes on, but for now Fontaines D.C. seems content to ride the lightning. “There’s been a lot of self-discovery along the way,” Curley says. “There’s always inspiration to be found in Irish art and culture, and we’re also massively into Irish traditional music. Me and Tom got really into Paul Brady and Andy Irvine and Planxty, and we wrote a good few Irish ballads. At one point, we actually thought of doing Skinty Fia as a double album, which I guess might’ve seemed a little gratuitous. Hopefully those songs will see the light of day in a different context.

“But now that we’re back on tour, whatever happens, I think we’re definitely not gonna take any of it for granted. We’re just trying to enjoy all the things we see, and trying to put on really good shows.”

YouTube It

In this pandemic-era livestream, Fontaines D.C. plays a half dozen songs from their Grammy-nominated sophomore album, A Hero’s Death [2020].



Calexico: Peace Talks, With Music

For forward-thinking modern artists, experimentation across genres and generations is nothing new. Whether it’s layering acoustic and digital sounds, adding pop flavor to blues-rock, or blending funk, R&B, reggae, and hip-hop, it can seem like there’s no other option than to stir all the multicolor, variegated influences of the past into something that’s refreshingly not quite any of the above. But when it comes to psych-folk, Latin-rock, alt-country group Calexico, melding musical worlds is not as much an experiment as it is an instinct.


The band’s guitarist, vocalist, and co-founder, Joey Burns, remembers when he fell in love with Latin music. It’s a story that begins with his first exposure to the bolero rhythm in the Beatles’ “And I Love Her” and weaves its way into a memory of one of his favorite films—a documentary from the ’90s called Latcho Drom (“Safe Journey” in Romani), which delves into a tale of global music history.

“We need more diversity; we need more language … however we can bring it in or just live by example and show everyone.”

“It’s about music from the Far East, Middle East, Eastern Europe, Southern Europe. It picks up Gypsy jazz, then goes to Spain for flamenco, and it stops,” he shares, gesturing the abrupt cutoff. “I’m like, why didn’t you keep going? Where’s Mother Africa, the Canary Islands, Cuba, South America, New Mexico, New Orleans, fado music in Portugal, Egypt, Ethiopia, North Africa, Mali, Senegal?”

Burns shares his abundant passion for wide-ranging global musics with fellow Calexico co-founder, drummer John Convertino. Their bandmates are an international network of musicians, and together they meld the sounds of cumbia, mariachi, alternative rock, and Americana. Their 10th full-length release, El Mirador, is a sonic travelogue that includes the mystical “Cumbia del Polvo” (“Cumbia of the Dust”), the whimsical “The El Burro Song,” which is a tale of a hungover lover sleeping on a bar’s dancefloor, and “Liberada,” which was inspired by a party in Cuba, but feels like it’s being told under the desert’s night sky.

Calexico – El Mirador (Full Album) 2022

TIDBIT: When the band set out to record El Mirador, they gave themselves a three-month tracking deadline, which included sourcing contributions from a host of international collaborators.

Livin’ in the Rhythm Section

When the band began recording El Mirador in June 2021, they set a three-month deadline until they would begin mixing. Burns, who now lives in Boise, Idaho, flew back to Tuscon, Arizona—his home of 27 years—to record with Convertino and multi-instrumentalist Sergio Mendoza in Mendoza’s backyard home studio. They recorded in two-week and one-week intervals, improvising and fleshing out the album in the studio.

“We started off with like 30 or so ideas. Then we woodshedded for the first two sessions—so a month of just woodshedding. And then from those ideas we kind of narrowed down the selection,” Burns explains. He says it’s his preference to do things that way, which makes him a nuisance to his bandmates—but clearly the method works. “We tend to just capture songs as they’re happening in real time,” he adds. “And to capture that feel, especially those first or second takes … it’s always hard to replicate. We’re just doing it live, in the moment, and I think that subconsciously highlights what I like about playing music.”

Burns and Convertino stayed with Mendoza at his home, which Burns describes as tiny. “We cooked a lot,” he says, adding that Convertino brought along a 1958 La Pavoni espresso machine, which kept the band caffeinated as they wrote and recorded. Mendoza lives near Tumamoc Hill—a nature preserve in Tucson that has a sacred connection to the local Tohono O’odham tribe—where Burns would go on hikes in the cool early mornings, listening to rough takes, mixes, and ideas to gauge his impressions.

“Turn off your brain, just listen to your heart—feel the tone or taste the cooking. Be experimental.”

As Burns puts it, El Mirador “mainly lives in the rhythm section.” To hear an example, the guitarist points to the title track. “It started on a bass line,” he says, playing it on his Manuel Rodriguez e Hijos nylon-string. Mendoza put cumbia-style woodblocks on top, giving it an “immediate lift.”

With the song’s foundation established, they sent the tracks to Guatemalan singer/songwriter and long-time friend Gaby Moreno, who added vocals. Next was Italian guitarist Alessandro Stefana, who added a Marc Ribot-style electric guitar solo, followed by trumpet players Jacob Valenzuela and Martin Wenk (Valenzuela currently lives in Tucson and Wenk lives in Leipzig, Germany). Lastly, they wanted some “really over-romantic violin playing,” so they sent it to DeVotchKa’s Tom Hagerman, in Denver, who added strings as well as some accordion.

“We’ve got what I call the Calexico orchestra,” Burns enthuses. “It’s Old World meets New World. It’s something that I’ve just been loving to assemble from time to time. It was like this swap-meet or thrift-store orchestra.”

Joey Burns’ Gear

Guitars

  • 1962 Airline 3P Res-O-Glas (white with three stock pickups and a Bigsby)
  • 2000s Manuel Rodriguez e Hijos nylon string acoustic guitar
  • 1960s Fender Jazzmaster
  • 1950s Harmony single-cutaway archtop with one pickup
  • Guild steel-string acoustic guitar
  • 1970s Univox hollowbody bass with flatwounds
  • Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster with Suhr V60LP single-coils and Suhr SSV humbucker
  • Chris Schultz-built T-Style with Vintage Vibe P-90s
Strings & Picks
  • D’Addario for electric and acoustic
  • Dunlop .73 mm

Amps

  • Carr Rambler
  • Magnatone Twilighter
  • Fender Blues Junior
Effects
  • Red Panda Particle
  • Way Huge Pork Loin
  • Smallsound/Bigsound BUZZZ
  • Diaz Amplifiers Texas Tremodillo
  • Boss DM-2W Analog Delay
  • Boss DD-5 Digital Delay
  • J. Rockett Audio Overdrive

Four-String Inspo

Burns’ two main guitars are his Manuel Rodriguez e Hijos and his 1962 Airline 3P Res-O-Glas electric. Burns owns two of the Valco-built fiberglass guitars and says he found the 1962 model in a shop in Memphis while Calexico was on tour with the Dirty Three in 1998. On his nylon-string, Burns proudly displays a printed-out graphic of Portuguese fado singer Amália Rodrigues. “She’s the patron saint of the minor blues,” he says, smiling. “I wanted to see her or talk to her or talk about her. And then there’s a stamp of Lydia Mendoza down there,” he gestures. “I’m a fan of female singers.”

He’s holding the acoustic guitar as he discusses the album and his influences, and frequently embellishes his stories with musical excerpts. Whether he’s playing “And I Love Her” or album tracks like “El Mirador,” “Turquoise,” or “Liberada,” his hands always go straight to the groove or bass line, a remnant of his past life as a bassist.

“I have two older brothers, John and Mike, and they said, ‘There’s enough guitarists in the world. Why don’t you just play bass? You’ll probably get to be in more bands or have more opportunities,’” he shares. He took their advice and studied electric bass, later joining the high school jazz band, where he gravitated more towards the Latin material they played, including samba and Afro-Cuban music. “I just loved anything where the bass was freed up,” he says, playing a syncopated bass line. “I love that push and pull. That, with minor chords and modes and melodies … I just love it. I’ve always been drawn to songs in minor modes. I’ve always loved Latin rhythms.”

One of his biggest influences is David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, who, he says “paved the way immensely in regards to what you can do with guitar, embracing so many different rhythms and genres, tone, technique, soulfulness.” Then there’s Andy Summers of the Police—who he once got to sign his guitar when he saw him at the airport—and Peter Buck of R.E.M., who he loves for his use of drone, adding, “That really connects with a lot of music from around the world.” He then begins to play the Smiths’ “Well I Wonder” as he mentions Johnny Marr, who he describes as both emotional and technical. And lastly, there’s D. Boon of the Minutemen, whose “fierce Tele jabs” he admires and likens to those of Joe Strummer. Burns sees a connection between all these artists, which he calls their “guitar duality.” “All those bands, whether it was two different guitarists or one, recorded parts that were complementary—that kind of push and pull to help with the vibe of a track or a song.”

Music Is the Connecting Force of the Universe

It’s no surprise that Burns sees music as one of the best ways to connect with other cultures. “And food,” he adds. “It’s like, turn off your brain, just listen to your heart—feel the tone or taste the cooking. Be experimental.” Naturally, he’s speaking from personal experience. “My instruments help me get to that meditative place, that poetic space. Getting immersed in tone is a good thing. Because at the end of the day, we are all just frequencies and sound waves and particles, and if we can help restore the connections between all things … I think that’s a good thing to do.”

And it’s one of the things he set out to do on El Mirador. “On this record,” he says, “it’s all about laying down the groove, laying down the foundation, and seeing what we can do to get people to move. Because if they can’t overcome fear with words, then maybe their body can help them overcome whatever difficulties or obstacles are in the way.”

Musing about music’s powerful role in connecting groups of people, Burns shares an anecdote from the ’90s, when he and Convertino were members of the group Giant Sand. They found themselves playing at a festival with Romani band Taraf de Haïdouks (which translates to “Band of Brigands”), and, at one point, the festival organizers had the two bands go onstage together to jam.

“We were so excited, and John was playing along and realized, ‘Oh shoot, the 1 is now the 2.’ It was flipped so many times that it didn’t even matter,” Burns recalls. “He realized, ‘Just don’t accent; play straight sixteenth or eighth notes.’ And it was super fun. But the band was thinking that we were trying to make fun of them and that this was an insult. They kept looking at us. They didn’t even have to motion—their look said everything. And at a certain point, one of the youngest musicians goes to the oldest member, ‘I think they’re trying to play along with us.’

“At the end I swapped sunglasses—my cheap Arizona truck-stop sunglasses for the cheap Romanian truck-stop sunglasses—with one of the accordion players. And we were best friends after that,” he laughs. “That’s one of those moments where you’re like, ‘How come politicians can’t do this? Why can’t there be peace talks with music?’

Calexico And Iron & Wine: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

Watch Burns and Co. deliver a trio of strummy acoustic tunes alongside longtime friend and collaborator Iron & Wine.




Caroline Jones’ Polymathic Picking

caroline jones polymathic picking

Country singer-songwriter Caroline Jones names her guitars. Her current go-to, a Collings I-35 Deluxe, is “Ruby.” Her Taylor Custom GS 12-string is named “Big Mama.” There’s a 1963 Strat on loan from her coproducer, Ric Wake, that she calls “Heaven.” And you’ll also see her with a 1961 Fender Esquire—called, “Tenny”—that also belongs to Wake.


“Ric lets me borrow his Esquire,” Jones says about using the instrument in the studio and sometimes at shows. “He is very sweet about it. What’s the point of having it sit at home on the wall? You want people to hear it. You want to play it. That’s what it’s for. I know it’s extremely valuable, but I just feel, what is the value if you can’t play it?”

Jones is a player, and from a young age she’s been on a quest to create the sounds and parts she hears in her head. That’s resulted in her learning multiple picking and slide techniques, tunings, and instruments. The Connecticut native spent time in the Gulf Coast where she collaborated with Jimmy Buffett and Zac Brown, but eventually she relocated to Nashville. In Music City, she has a rack of guitars to choose from in the studio, and she’s very picky, often choosing a specific guitar for just one melody, and then using another for an accompanying line or different part of the song.

Caroline Jones – Big Love (Fleetwood Mac Cover)

On her 2018 debut, Bare Feet, Jones played every instrument except bass and drums—and she spent weeks honing parts, layering rhythms, and doubling leads. But for her follow-up, Antipodes, which was released last November, she brought in a few Nashville pickers, like Danny Rader, Jason Roller, and Derek Wells, as well as special guests like Joe Bonamassa, Zac Brown, and Matthew Ramsey (Old Dominion). The initial sessions were recorded in Nashville, although most of the vocal and guitar overdubs were cut on the other side of the world in New Zealand (hence the name, “Antipodes,” which describes two locations on opposite sides of the earth), where Jones was living at the height of the pandemic.

Antipodes is an excellent showcase for Jones’ prodigious talent and versatility. The album features barnburners, like the twangy, chicken-picked single, “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable),” and also more subtle, acoustic fingerpicked songs like “No Daylight.” She also composed two songs on a New Zealand-built, Weissenborn-style lap steel: “So Many Skies,” which features Ramsey, and the earthy and bluesy, “Don’t Talk to Me Like I’m Tiffany,” featuring a somewhat restrained Bonamassa playing slide (as well as Jones on harmonica).

“Fingerpicking was the first thing that I ever learned on guitar, so it’s very natural to me. It’s probably the home of my style.”

“My now-husband wanted to get me a guitar in New Zealand to commemorate our time there,” Jones shares. “It was his idea to get the Weissenborn made by this Kiwi luthier named Paddy Burgin, and it’s beautiful. It’s made from this wood that he had sitting around for a long time. It’s really one of a kind.”

When Jones writes songs, she usually hears a version of the production in her mind that she wants to bring to life and evolve in the studio. A big part of that process also involves working with Nashville session players, who she says challenge her, and force her to up her game. “It’s extremely hard to get to that echelon of musicianship,” she says. “A lot of people don’t realize that only a few musicians are playing on almost all the Nashville records, and their level of musicianship is off the charts. For you to be comparing yourself to those people is, at times, disheartening. But I think you get a realistic picture of where the bar is for musicianship, which is something I always want to hold myself to, even though I’m very far off.”

Not that she’s that far off. The cornerstone of her right-hand work is her exceptional, yet unorthodox, fingerpicking style. She wears plastic fingerpicks on three fingers, as well as a thumbpick, which is a technique she started on banjo. It’s a style that transferred easily over to acoustic guitar, and—with a little more effort—to electric guitar as well.

“I couldn’t get any sustain or ring from my fingers,” she says. “I don’t like having long nails. I feel really dirty—although a lot of my guitar heroes have long nails or fake nails—and I just don’t like that. The picks that I use, Alaska Piks, mimic the nail. They’re not steel like banjo picks. They’re plastic, and they’re just mimicking what a long nail would be. I wear it on my ring finger—as well as my index and middle fingers—which I know is not as traditional, but I do use that finger. Fingerpicking was the first thing that I ever learned on guitar, so it’s very natural to me. It’s probably the home of my style.”

Jones also prefers fingerpicks because they have more attack, which became more important as she got deeper into country music. She uses them for chicken picking, as well as when she’s going for a cleaner, indie-type sound. Although recently, after the death of flatpicking legend Tony Rice, she’s been doing a deep dive into his catalog and figuring out those techniques.

Caroline Jones’ Gear

Guitars

  • Collings OM1 named “Sweet Annie”
  • Beard Custom Resoluxe electric named “Blaze”
  • Burgin Guitars Custom Weissenborn-style
  • Collings I-35 Deluxe named “Ruby”
  • 1961 Fender Custom Esquire (sunburst) named “Tenny”
  • 1963 Fender Stratocaster Hardtail (sunburst) named “Heaven”
  • Gretsch G6120-HR Brian Setzer Hot Rod named “Loretta”
  • 1947 Martin 0-18 named “Rosie”
  • Martin 00-21 Kingston Trio named “Surfer Dude”
  • Nechville Universal 5-String Banjo named “Starfish”
  • 1958 Rickenbacker Model BD Lap Steel (1958)
  • Taylor Custom GS 12-String named “Big Mama”
Strings, Picks, Slides & Capos
  • D’Addario Nickel Bronze .012–.053 Regular Light Set, .013s for lower tunings (acoustic)
  • Ernie Ball Super Slinky .009s or .010s (electric)
  • D’Andrea custom CJ V-Resin flatpicks in Trans Aqua (equivalent shape/gauge as Fender 351 Medium)
  • ProPik Metal-Plastic Thumbpick
  • Alaska Pik plastic fingerpicks
  • Scheerhorn Stainless Steel Bar Slide (for lap steel and resonator)Dunlop 212 Pyrex Glass Slide (electric)
  • Dunlop 220 Chromed Steel Slide (electric)
  • Kyser capos

Amps

  • Fractal Audio Axe-Fx III
  • 1964 Fender Bassman AA864 head
  • 1980s Yamaha G100-210 II 100-watt 2×10
  • Vox AC50CP2 50-watt 2×12
  • Rivera Silent Sister 60-watt 1×12 Isolation Cabinet with two Celestion V30s
Effects
  • Fishman Aura Jerry Douglas Signature Imaging Pedal
  • EV-1 Volume/Expression
  • Peterson StroboStomp HD Tuner
  • Vertex Effects Boost
  • Boss FV-500H
  • Boss GE-7 Graphic Equalizer with XTS Mod
  • Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe Compressor
  • Xotic EP Booster
  • Nobels ODR-1 Overdrive
  • JHS Pedals Bonsai
  • JHS Pedals Muffuletta 6-way Fuzz
  • Klon KTR
  • Electro-Harmonix POG2
  • Electro-Harmonix Mod Rex Polyrhythmic Modulator
  • Boss RT-20 Rotary Ensemble
  • Eventide H9 Max Dark
  • Strymon Mobius
  • Strymon TimeLine
  • Strymon BigSky
  • Electro-Harmonix 1440 Stereo Looper

“Tony Rice is one of the godfathers of flatpicking,” she says. “I’m forcing myself now to learn more flatpicking because it’s a very different sound. Even if some of the patterns are very similar—or they might sound in the same family—they’re totally different skill sets.”

Jones also says there’s no shame in using a capo. It’s an important tool in her toolbox and enables her to access many guitaristic devices—like drones and harmonics—that don’t necessarily work in every key, especially when it’s in a key that sits better with her voice.

“I’ve been a capo snob in my life, as in, ‘I’m not going to use the capo, because that’s cheating,’” she says. “But then you see the best players on earth in Nashville, capo-ing up their acoustic guitars—because the open voicings just sound better. I’m like, ‘If they’re doing it, then I’m allowed, too.’ In the end, it’s music. It’s about what sounds good. It’s not about forcing yourself to do the hardest thing so you can prove you can do it. It’s about what’s going to serve the song, and sometimes that means capo-ing up, or forcing yourself to learn a different voicing without a capo, or using an open tuning. There’s a reason all the guitar songs are in D and E and C and G and A. Those are the voicings that are natural to guitar. Sometimes we get a little too in our heads as guitar players and forget that we’re trying to make it sound good.”

“There’s a reason all the guitar songs are in D and E and C and G and A. Those are the voicings that are natural to guitar. Sometimes we get a little too in our heads as guitar players and forget that we’re trying to make it sound good.”

Jones often tunes her guitars down a half-step to make it easier to play in keys that work with her voice, and a lot of her songs are in F and Eb. It’s something she’s discovered that the Zac Brown Band does as well. “Their baseline is Eb,” she says. “They tune all their instruments down a half-step, just because it’s better for Zac. All their songs are either in Eb or Db or Gb, for the most part.”

As choosy as Jones may be when it comes to gear, that’s not a luxury she has when playing live, although she makes the best of it. She’s outfitted her acoustic guitars with Barbera Transducer Systems pickups, which she feels is a must when performing primarily on acoustic—which she’ll be doing as a special guest with the Zac Brown Band for most of summer 2022.

“I am an acoustic-pickup freak,” she says, “because that’s all anyone hears. The sound of your guitar matters to a certain extent, but the pickup matters a whole lot more because if you don’t have a pickup that’s doing justice to the sound, even if you have the best acoustic guitar, who cares? We really did a lot of R&D and the Barbera pickups are the latest top-of-the-line for me.”

She’s been forced to become a minimalist with her amps and effects as well. In the studio, her go-tos are a Fender Bassman and a 1980s-era solid-state Yamaha G100 amp that shines for clean tones, as well as an army of programmable digital pedals and transparent overdrives and boosts. But live, everything, including her acoustics, are run through a digital modeler.

“Live, we usually just recreate those sounds in the Fractal Axe-Fx,” she says. “Especially when I’m singing. When you’re trying to sing and perform and be the frontman, your energy is too scattered—for me at least—to be able to be tweaking and making sounds at the same time that I’m trying to sing and play guitar and entertain people.”

But despite her success and mastery of many different instruments, styles, and techniques, Jones, at the end of the day, still sees herself as a student. “It sometimes takes me time to find the parts and the melodies that I really love,” she says. “It’s a lot of trial and error. I’ll go home and figure out parts, usually by myself. I’m definitely not in real time like those Nashville musicians. They’re trained to come up with incredible parts in real time, and so they’re very practiced at it. For me, a lot of times, I try a lot of parts that don’t work before I find one that does. Guitar parts, especially rhythm parts, do so much for a track, and it really takes me in one direction or another. That’s what fascinates me so much about production.”

YouTube It

Caroline Jones’ precise and unique fingerpicking is on fine display during this solo-acoustic performance for the Navy Exchange’s Founded on Freedom July 4th celebration in 2020. She breaks out the resonator on “Tough Guys,” just after the 20-minute mark.




Rig Rundown: END

rig rundown end

See how these guitar-playing producers create pit-provoking, sinister sounds by combining a Swollen Pickle, 5150s, and wayward pitch-shifting.


There’s heavy music … and then there’s End. Formed in 2017, the band is vocalist Brendan Murphy (Counterparts), guitarist Will Putney (Fit for an Autopsy), guitarist Gregory Thomas (formerly of Shai Hulud and Misery Signals), bassist Jay Pepito (Reign Supreme), and drummer Billy Rymer (the Dillinger Escape Plan). The supergroup was created to push the extremes of hardcore music. And, as you’ll soon find out in this Rig Rundown, mission accomplished.

From day one, guitarists (and producers) Putney and Thomas strived to achieve a signature calling card. They wanted a monstrous, monolithic tone that bulldozed listeners. “It’s pretty aggressive [laughs],” concedes Putney. “When we started the band, Greg and I talked about finding an identifiable tone that was us and sticking with it.”

And the roots of their sledgehammering sound? “We’re very influenced by the Nordic metal of Entombed, and then, later, Rotten Sound, and American delineations Trap Them,” says Thomas. “A lot of those bands rely on the Boss HM-2 or clones to get their grinding distortion. We actually landed on the Way Huge Swollen Pickle fuzz because it’s more articulate for our galloping picking and offers more control.”

While the band does continue to challenge their consistently crushing sound, the Pickle always satisfies. “Every time we record something, we’ll try other pedals in place of the Swollen Pickle, but we always go back to it,” admits Putney. “It’s become the one. It’s us.”

Hours before End’s sold-out show at Nashville’s the End (appropriate coincidence), PG’s Perry Bean popped onstage to explore the (nearly) mirrored, merciless setups of guitarists-turned-producers Putney and Thomas. Thomas details how three octave pedals and two noise gates coexist in his setup. Putney pulls back the curtain on the development of his signature STL Tones Tonality package. And both prove that a bottom-heavy fuzz paired with prominent pitch-shifting into a 5150 is the way to part seas and elicit moshing madness.

[Brought to you by D’Addario XPND Pedalboard: https://ddar.io/xpnd.rr]

A Mean Marauder

The connection between Gregory Thomas and the Gibson Marauder can be pinpointed to when he first saw Quicksand’s video for “A Thorn in My Side.” It featured frontman Walter Schreifels riffing on the overlooked singlecut. It was only in production for five years (1974-1979), turning out just over 7,000 guitars. The Maurader was aimed as a bolt-on-neck, single-coil rival to the popular Fender models. Thomas has collected four of these ’70s oddballs, and while they all share the same ingredients (modified with humbuckers), he claims each one has its own distinctive snap and snarl.

Currently, this Marauder has a Seymour Duncan Nazgul (bridge) and Sentient (neck). The neck pickup is disconnected, making the pickup selector a killswitch. For End, both Thomas and Putney live and die on the bridge pickup. His backup Marauder has a custom-wound set of Black Triangle humbuckers. They exist in drop C tuning (with the low E tuned to C rather than D, to create more dissonance) and use various string brands gauged .010–.052.

Are You Mistaken?

The unusual Marauder continues to baffle as it is paired with a headstock normally reserved for Gibson’s Flying V guitars.

Amp Swap

Prior to starting End, Thomas played rhythm guitar for the metalcore act Misery Signals. After wrapping a tour, he and lead guitarist/cofounder Ryan Morgan accidentally swapped Peavey 5150 heads. They later acknowledged the goof but kept using each other’s amps. The above firebreather was used by Morgan on the band’s first albums Of Malice and the Magnum Heart and Mirrors. Since adopting this 5150, Thomas had its innards overhauled by “Stereo Joe,” who removed unnecessary resistors and installed bigger filter caps, giving the amp more volume and bite. It hits a sturdy Atlas 6×12 that is constructed with dovetailed 13-ply (3/4″) Baltic birch and finished with a maple hardwood front frame. The speakers inside are four Celestion Vintage 30s and two Celstion G12H-75 Creambacks.

Up, Down, Up

There’s basically three main functions or sections to Thomas’ pedal playland: fuzz, noise, and pitch-shifting. The Way Huge Swollen Pickle is Thomas and Putney’s substitution for the heralded Boss HM-2 buzzsaw—a hallmark of the Scandinavian-metal sound. The Pickle runs into the dirty channel of the 5150, creating a cascade of filth and furor. Next is the noise (or lack thereof). End are givers of gain, and to keep things tight both guitarists run two Fortin Zuul noise gates. Thomas puts a new Zuul+ on his board, controlling the Pickle, while an original Zuul runs inside the amp’s effects loop to snare any remaining buzz. End’s low-end tidal wave of destruction is fortified with several pitch-shifters adding in low octaves. To accomplish this chest-punching power, Thomas employs an Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork (dropping their tuning down to A#), CopperSound Pedals Triplegraph (co-designed by Jack White), and a Boss PS-3 Digital Pitch Shifter/Delay. (Keen observers will notice a MXR Carbon Copy that doesn’t necessarily fit into these categories, but he does run it with the mod circuit engaged, giving a slight up-and-down pitch shift to the delayed signal. So, it technically could fit under the pitch-shifting umbrella.) And a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus brings life to his board, while a Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner keeps his guitars in check.

A Cyclops and Bigfoot Walk Into a Bar…

Guitarist Will Putney first made his mark in heavy music when he started deathcore dealers Fit for an Autopsy in 2008. Shortly after that, he added production to his musical credits when he opened Graphic Nature Audio, his Belleville, New Jersey, studio. He’s since put his stamp of stank on over 50 albums by various bands, including Every Time I Die, Counterparts, Like Moths to Flames, Body Count, Four Year Strong, and, of course, his own outfits. All this background information is pertinent to establish that Putney doesn’t waste time with subtleties.

When seeking out a Dunable Cyclops, he asked builder Sacha Dunable (also guitarist/singer of Intronaut) to give him “the crazy” pickup, so Dunable dropped in his Bigfoot. The ceramic, rail-type passive pickup offers about 20k of firepower. The swamp-ash body features an oversized single knob that controls volume, and it comes with a 25.5″ scale length.

5150 Part Deux

Like Thomas, Putney does not leave home without his Peavey 5150. He’s had this 5150 II model since he was 18. He tours with another Peavey 5150 and loves recording with the EVH 5150 III (EL34), but this is the one. (Hence, it’s nestled into a secure road case for travel.) It feeds into a similar Atlas 6×12, to harmonize with Thomas’ aural avalanche.

Putney Pulverizes with Pedals

The first five pedals on Putney’s board are the same as Thomas’ setup (TU-2, Zuul+, Pitch Fork, Swollen Pickle, and Triplegraph). His board forms its own shape with the addition of the Abominable Pedals Demon Lung (fuzz), EarthQuaker Devices Astral Destiny, and MWK Audio Design Lonely Ghost (delay/reverb/boost). He runs a dbx 266xs Compressor/Gate in the effects loop of the 5150 II.