Tag: prs

Steven Wilson: “I’m Just a Nerd Who Fell in Love with the Magic of Making Records”

In 2010, Steven Wilson was standing onstage at the Royal Albert Hall in London with his band Porcupine Tree before a sold-out crowd. He hadn’t yet told his bandmates that it would be their last show—at least for a while. The band had been engaged in what felt like a relentless cycle of recording and touring for the 17 years leading up to that point. Despite having gained a dedicated following, they’d never had a hit nor the support of mainstream radio and television—yet they were constantly being told their next record would be the one to break through. But with 10 albums to their name, that still hadn’t happened. Wilson was tired.


The band went on hiatus after that show, and Wilson furthered the pursuit of his solo career (which began in 2008 with the release of his debut, Insurgentes). After a while, fans began to assume that waiting around for a Porcupine Tree reunion was a lost cause.

“I was quite a big contributor to that, too,” Wilson admits. “I would say to people, ‘No, forget it, we’re not coming back.’” But it wasn’t true. “I was telling a white lie just to get them to focus on what I was doing at that point. But actually, behind the scenes, we were working toward something that would eventually herald the return of the band.”

Porcupine Tree – Harridan (Official Lyric Video)

Porcupine Tree’s 11th full-length studio album, Closure/Continuation, marks that return. With the 65-minute, 10-track record, Wilson, drummer Gavin Harrison, and keyboardist Richard Barbieri offer a new collection of compositions that build on the band’s classic sound with a reinvigorated, visceral pulse.

Opening with the guttural, aggressively percussive bass line on “Harridan,” the album navigates through a series of kinetic musical worlds that are, in balance, both pensive and turbulent. The second track, “Of the New Day,” has a plaintive refrain taken from its title, and later on in the album, the haunting, subtly shapeshifting “Chimera’s Wreck” moves through tones of disquiet to create a nearly 10-minute narrative that’s both cerebral and emotive. Other standout tracks include the ominous “Herd Culling,” and the sinister “Rats Return.”

It’s elusive what exactly makes the record something that moves the band forward. It might be the amorphous arrangements, which stay accessible as they seem to breathe even more freely than past works, or the seamless concatenation of foreboding, hopeful, and furious overtones, or the strength in the voice that ties together each of the self-contained, emotionally complex, often dystopian scenes. But in their time away, what Wilson calls the band’s “creative core” seems to have evolved.

“I would say to people, ‘No, forget it, we’re not coming back.’”

Although Porcupine Tree never actually disbanded, there was a gap between 2010 and 2012 where they weren’t seeing much of each other, at least not for composing purposes. Then in 2012, they began a 10-year gestation of material that would end up becoming Closure/Continutation. Their writing sessions were sporadic, says Wilson: In the beginning, they would get together for just a few weeks at a time every other year.

“Part of the reason for that, I think, was that we didn’t want to feel any pressure in making a Porcupine Tree record,” he shares. “A lot of people assumed that we didn’t exist anymore, and I kind of liked that because it meant that we could work on the record in a complete vacuum with no pressure, no expectation, no deadlines.”

The 2020 lockdown motivated them to finally knuckle down and bring the record to completion, but they wouldn’t have gone through with releasing it if they didn’t feel as though they were doing something new. Part of Wilson’s jadedness at the end of that 2010 tour was because he felt, despite its relative chart success, that their last record, The Incident, was largely uninspired. “I felt like we were on a creatively downward trajectory where the music was no longer getting better,” he says. “In fact, it was beginning to sound a bit same-y. And it’s always been very important to me and the band that every record has a sense of evolution from the previous record.”

With the new album, he feels they’ve succeeded in that respect. “I’m very proud of the music, and I think it’s some of the best I’ve ever made,” he says. “Time will tell how the album fits into the catalog—it’s not something you can judge in such a close proximity. But right now, I’m fairly confident this will become one of the more popular and successful things I’ve ever done in my career.”

The band’s followers might notice that longtime bassist Colin Edwin doesn’t appear on the album. Rather, Wilson plays bass througout. He says filling that role wasn’t at all meant as a slight to Edwin but was a result of how the music came together. “It was just a very natural thing for me to try something different rather than picking up a guitar,” Wilson says. “And we ended up writing so much of the record in that way.”

“A lot of people assumed that we didn’t exist anymore, and I personally kind of liked that because it meant we could work on the record in a complete vacuum with no pressure, no expectation, no deadlines.”

Wilson’s guitar-minded approach to the bass produced a style that diverts from more predictable patterns. “I play bass like a guitar player,” he comments. “I play a lot of stuff high up, I play a lot of melodies, I play a lot of chords, and I don’t perhaps play like a traditional bass player would play.”

Writing on bass helped make the album more groove- and riff-oriented, and less polyphonic overall than past records. The newfound approach also gave Wilson a refreshed outlook on composing. “I’ve been writing on the guitar for the best part of 25 years. And frankly, when I pick it up now, I’m not sure what else I’ve got left to do!” he shares. “But when I pick up the bass, or I go to the keyboard, suddenly there’s so much more that I’ve never done before. I surprise myself more when I play them.”

Steven Wilson’s Gear

Guitars & Basses

  • Fender Custom Shop Telecaster
  • PRS Singlecut Gold Top
  • PRS Custom 22
  • Takamine acoustic
  • Ovation acoustic (Nashville tuning)
  • Babicz Steven Wilson signature model
  • Spector basses
Amps
  • Bad Cat Lynx
  • Supro ’64 Combo
  • Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 5
  • Various software plug-ins for recording
Strings
  • D’Addario NYXLs

Effects

  • Strymon BigSky Reverb
  • Strymon TimeLine Delay
  • Diamond Vibrato
  • Moog Minifooger MF Tremolo
  • Origin Effects Cali 76 Compressor
  • Source Audio Programmable EQ
  • Analog Man Prince of Tone
  • Amptweaker Tight Rock JR
  • Electro-Harmonix Small Stone Phaser
  • Option 5 Rotary Pedal
  • Dunlop Cry Baby
  • Electro-Harmonix Micro POG x 2 (one octave up and one octave down)

Aside from acoustic strumming and fingerpicking on a few tracks, and edgy riff emphasis on others, the guitar mostly takes a backseat on the album. Wilson supports his arrangements with some solos that embody his quintessential feel for the instrument, but all in all, it’s apparent that the bass was truly the guiding force on Closure/Continuation.

In July, Wilson released another project: a 320-page autobiography entitled Limited Edition of One. Its subtitle, How to Succeed in the Music Industry Without Being a Part of the Mainstream, perhaps serves as its thesis. His story is that of someone who’s had success without ever having quite broken through, and that angle is exactly what helped him decide it was worth sharing.

“I always thought it would be a very boring book. I thought, ‘Well, there’s no book to be written because I don’t have any of those stories about being on the road and drugs and religion and groupies. I’m just a nerd that fell in love with the magic of making records.

“Then the guys at Hachette [the book’s publisher] pointed out to me, actually, that’s why a book on me would be interesting. Because that traditional rock ’n’ roll hedonistic thing … people are bored with that story because they’ve heard it so many times. At that point I became more convinced that maybe I did have a story to tell.”

In his book, he provides a detailed sketch of that aforementioned “nerd” who, in his formative years, was fascinated by records like the 1967 David Bowie single “The Laughing Gnome,” and especially the work of composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. But before getting into his biography, he elaborates on the overall mood at the band’s last concert in 2010, then lists common misconceptions people have about him, the saddest songs he’s ever written, and 10 reasons why he’s not a “macho” rock star. He also talks about his love of lists.“I love making lists of things to do, and I take great satisfaction in ticking everything off my list. The satisfaction you get when you’ve done that is immense,” he enthuses in conversation. As a self-described control freak, he adds that when he writes emails, he will leave absolutely nothing up to the imagination of the recipient: “I can be paranoid about that as people sometimes can misinterpret things unless you’re very, very, very clear.”

“Love him or hate him, Kanye West is an incredibly innovative producer.”

He also writes that he doesn’t see himself as a guitar hero. “I always feel fake and slightly embarrassed when I’m being interviewed for guitar magazines,” he mentions at the beginning of our conversation. “I’ll be very boring if I talk about guitars, because I don’t know much about them, to be honest.”

While many consider Wilson exclusively a progressive rock artist, his latest solo record, The Future Bites (2021), is but one of his works that refutes that notion, as it sits comfortably in an electronic or synth-pop category. Given that, it may not come as a surprise that when asked which musicians he thinks are truly progressive today, he’s quick to praise modern hip-hop artists.

“Love him or hate him, Kanye West is an incredibly innovative producer,” he says. “Then there’s Kendrick Lamar. When you listen to the way they structure music and the way they make music, it’s so alien to the ear of people that grew up with rock music. I think that’s a really good thing, and that’s why we should listen to it.”

Wilson is less certain on how to make those kinds of innovations in songwriting, or how creative inspiration works: “I’ve no fucking clue.” He draws inspiration from all sorts of things, but also often goes into the studio and just bangs his head against the wall with nothing to show for it. “Yeah, [creative droughts] are really depressing. I get really down when I go through a period where I can’t create anything,” he shares. “I always come to the conclusion that, ‘Oh shit, I’ve written the last song I’m ever going to write. I’ve got nothing left. The well is dry.’ But I also manage, touch wood, to prove myself wrong. What I do is I carry on going to the studio, and I carry on hitting my head against the wall. I have a very strong work ethic.”

“It’s, of course, almost impossible to crystallize something in words that is beyond words,” he continues, reflecting on the ethereality of songwriting. “I think the combination of music and words is so much more powerful than simply the written word. If you can get those two things in balance, it can almost make you understand what is beyond understanding.”

Rig Rundown – Steven Wilson [2019]

See the differences and similarities between Steven’s solo setup in 2019 and his current rig with Porcupine Tree for Closure/Continuation.

Talking to Wilson, his affability stands in contrast to the frequently dark and lachrymose themes heard in Porcupine Tree’s music. He explains that, for him, writing sad songs is like an exorcism or an unburdening of his own sadness.

“Miserabilism and melancholy … I’ve always found such a beautiful thing. It’s a profoundly magical thing if you can create empathy through focusing on some of the more negative feelings that we all share. And that’s why I still think that music, where on the surface it might be sad or melancholic or depressing, has the potential to be something incredibly uplifting and beautiful for the person who experiences it.”

YouTube It

Wilson leads Porcupine Tree in a performance of “Lazarus” from the 2005 album Deadwing, illustrating his penchant for introspective, melancholic ballads that find their place among the band’s heavier material.







Ten 2×12 Cabs to Try

Zilla Fatboy 2×12

This oversized closed-back 2×12 aims to emulate the response of a 4×12 with added low-end punch and can be preloaded with a handful of different speaker options.

Starts at $432 street
zillacabs.com

Blackstar St. James 212VOC

This newly designed cab is up to 35 percent lighter than a normal 2×12 set up. It also has a removable rear panel and comes loaded with Celestion Zephyr speakers.

$749 street

Blackstaramps.com

Mesa/Boogie Rectifier Compact 2×12

Modern metal-ers will rejoice with this 120-watt closed-back cab that is constructed with marine-grade Baltic birch. The rear-mounted Celestion V30 speakers round out the package along with the twisted jute-dipped grille filters.

$749 street

mesaboogie.com

Avatar 3D Vertical Forte Replica

The standout feature of this cab are the side vents, which give your sound a wider feel. It’s constructed with 13-ply void-less Baltic birch and is available with either customized speaker options or totally bare.

$698 street

avatarspeakers.com

Marshall ORI212A Origin

Classic styling meets modern construction in this retro-flavored vertical cab. The Celestion Seventy 80 speakers offer 160 watts of power, and the angled setup is decidedly British.

$549 street

marshall.com

Orange PPC 212

You can’t miss the trademark Orange vibe of this beefy horizontal 2×12 cab. Brit-style tones are right at home with a pair of Celestion Vintage 30 speakers and a closed-back design.

$899 street

orangeamps.com

Vox V212C

For fans of that unmistakable chime, this Vox cab not only matches the vibe of an AC30 but spreads the sound out a bit with its open back. A pair of Celestion G12M speakers aim to offer clarity and warmth.

$599 street

voxamps.com

EVH 5150III 2×12 Extension Cab

Designed to King Eddie’s demanding specs, this straight-front cab is a powerhouse and features old-school tilt-back legs. Inside is a pair of Celestion G12H speakers and a very handy built-in head-mounting mechanism for the EVH 50-watt head.

$599 street

evhgear.com

PRS HDRX 2×12

As a tribute to the sound of late-’60s rock guitar, the PRS HDRX line is vintage flavored and full of vibe. This closed-back cab features the decidedly British Celestion G12H-75 Creamback speakers and poplar plywood construction.

$899 street

prsguitars.com

MojoTone 2×12 West Coast Cab

The wood wizards in the cab shop at MojoTone offer a mind-boggling number of options, right down to the piping and Tolex. This one comes stocked with Celestion G12M-65 Creamback speakers and an oval-ported rear panel.

$774 street

mojotone.com


Rig Rundown: Mammoth WVH

Wolf Van Halen and longtime master builder Chip Ellis discuss prototypes for EVH’s SA-126 and Wolfgang bass. Plus, the rest of the band show off their rockin’ wares.


Following in a parent’s professional footsteps is daunting. Imagine re-treading that ground in the public eye. Now conceptualize walking in the footsteps of one of the greatest guitarists to ever live. Succeeding on any level seems impossible. So where do you start when trying to find your own voice on an instrument your dad basically reconstructed?

“The main thing, when I started doing this, was that I wanted to find my own sort of sound and not do everything dad did,” says Wolfgang Van Halen. “When it came to guitar, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I just wanted to sound like myself.”

After 15 years in the family band (and working alongside Mark Tremonti for his solo project), that’s what Wolf did when he wrote and tracked all the instruments on the 15 songs for his debut album, Mammoth WVH, released last year. (The title is a nod to the original name of his father’s and uncle’s iconic band during 1972-’74.)

Things have changed since we last checked out Wolf’s setup. Back in 2012, when PG got the special treat of swooping into Bridgestone Arena to check out the rigs of Eddie and Wolf. We got to see the various Wolfgang models dad brought out, and Wolf’s custom-made one-off basses constructed by master builder Chip Ellis.

Now Wolf is playing guitar and singing lead. He’s flanked by two additional guitarists (Frank Sidoris and Jon Jourdan), while bass and drums are handled by Ronnie Ficarro and Garrett Whitlock (respectively). There’s still a lot of his dad’s thumbprint on the band’s setup, but there’s two new things afoot. This tour saw two new prototypes unveiled: a signature semi-hollow for Wolf and beefy, humbucker-loaded basses were being road-tested (or, as the Van Halens say, in the “crash-testing phase”).

“Through writing and recording that first album, and having fun, I ended up tracking most with a 335 and that semi-hollowbody sound became the baseline for all of Mammoth WVH,” says Wolf. So, he and Ellis sought to combine reverence for the EVH legacy with something fresh for not only Wolf’s sound but to expand the company’s appeal. “I want to make something that has the DNA of the EVH brand, but something that they don’t offer.”

Before a headlining show at the Signal in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on May 17th, PG traveled south down I-24 to see what was percolating in the EVH and WVH camps. We were fortunate enough to be joined by Ellis and Van Halen, who talked about the development of the new SA-126 semi-hollow guitar and then focused on the new thunder-stick 4-string prototype that’s being “crash tested” by bandmate Ronnie Ficarro. Additionally, we cover the setups of riff warriors Sidoris (also of Slash feat. Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators) and Jourdan (To Whom It May), who fly the EVH flag but bring their own shine.

[Brought to you by D’Addario XS Electric Strings.]

Mammoth Signature

The basis for Mammoth WVH’s core guitar tone was formed around a Gibson ES-335. Wolf tracked with that guitar the most and it helped him find his own sound, separate from his father’s. But wanting to keep things in the family, he and longtime Fender/EVH master builder Chip Ellis aimed to put the 335 heartbeat into a Wolfgang package.

Some notable Easter eggs in the guitar’s design are fret inlays that appear as M (looking down the neck) but also work as W—or E— depending on your eye angle. The SA-126 model name honors Eddie’s birthday (1/26/55). The f-hole is actually a subtle e-hole, and these guitars feature eye-hook strap buttons. (The first prototype had standard strap buttons and a side-mounted input jack, but has since been changed.)

Each one of the guitars you’ll see have different neck profiles, pickup voicings with varying heat levels (although all are humbuckers), tonewoods, and finishes. It’s worth noting that the pickups Wolf and Chip are enjoying the most are not the hottest. They said in the video that dialing back the output allowed the instrument to have a fuller, wider sound. Additional known specs (which could change at any minute) include quilted maple tops (but standard maple on this one), ebony fretboards, brass harmonica-style bridges, and 24.75″ scale lengths, and for this run all the prototypes took EVH Premium Strings (.009 –.042). (D’Addario manufactures all EVH-brand guitar strings.)

This guitar is the third prototype and was special for Wolf and Chip to put together. Eddie’s main live axe during Van Halen’s last tour was a white relic’d Wolfgang model, so they wanted to do something honoring his legacy. “It was emotional, and it felt great to build this guitar,” declares Ellis. “It was a full-circle kind of moment for me.”

Old But New

Here’s a close-up of the relic’d body for Wolf’s third SA-126 prototype, showing off the e-hole.

Backside Burns

A look around back reveals some impressive scars.

The Crown

A shot of the SA-126 headstock.

First Offering

This is Wolf’s first SA-126 prototype. It originally came with a side-mounted input jack and standard strap buttons. However, they’ve since moved the jack to the top (like an offset Fender or ES-style guitar) and opted for the eye-hook strap buttons made famous by Eddie.

Smokey Signature

And here’s the second prototype Chip Ellis built for Wolf, featuring a crisp ’burst glowing like a campfire all night and day.

Keeping It in the Family

It’s no surprise that Wolf is plugging into an EVH stack. His amp of choice for Mammoth is the EVH 5150III 50W 6L6 head matched with a EVH 5150III 4×12 loaded with Celestion G12 EVH 20W speakers. He mentions in the video that he normally lives in the blue channel and only hits the red one for solos.

Stripes

“There’s not too much I need from pedals, but it’s more for fun,” concedes Van Halen. He enlisted every EVH pedal (aside from the 5150 Overdrive that will show up later) for this run, plus a few extras. The Dunlop EVH95 Eddie Van Halen Signature EVH Cry Baby gets worked out for the solo of “You’ll Be the One.” (The recorded solo is through a talk box, but Wolf thought the wah was a simpler stand-in for live performances.) The MXR EVH 5150 Chorus and the MXR Eddie Van Halen Phase 90 have become interchangeable for him. The song “Think It Over” has become a testing ground between the two modulation effects. The MXR EVH117 Flanger gets sprinkled in for select moments, like during “Mr. Ed.” For the solo in “Distance,” he always uses the Boss DD-3 Digital Delay and the EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath.

Can’t Put It Down

“Chip did all the relic’ing, aging, and sanding of the neck and it just feels amazing. It’s hard to put that guitar down,” says Jon Jourdan. The above EVH Wolfgang is a discontinued offering, but he can’t deviate from it because of his connection to this instrument and the sturdiness of the stop-tail bridge that allows him to really dig in with his picking hand. Jourdan plays this guitar for all the standard-tuned songs.

Silver Bird

Here’s Jourdan’s PRS Custom 24 Platinum model that is decked out in an anniversary-year-only finish and boasts a 5-way rotary knob in lieu of a standard pickup selector. It comes with the company’s 58/15 humbuckers and is completely stock. Both of his guitars take Dunlop Performance+ strings (.011–.052).

British 5150

Like Wolf, Jourdan is running an 50W EVH 5150 head. His tube flavor (EL34) brings a little British bluster to the band’s sound. “We all use the 50-watt heads, so even when everything is straight up the middle everything fits in the mix and everyone has a lane,” he observes. Similar to his guitar-playing bandmates, Jourdan’s 5150 head hits an EVH 5150III 4×12 loaded with Celestion G12 EVH 20W speakers.

Open Auditions

In the video, Jourdan admits the style and design of his board makes pedal swaps a bit more work, but that doesn’t stop him from testing out new tone treats. Before this run, he traded in the Frost Giant Electronics Yama for another boost and is already looking to find a nastier, wilder fuzz in place of the Walrus Audio Iron Horse V3. The rest of the stable includes an Electronic Audio Experiments Halberd (used for “Stone”), MXR EVH117 Flanger, and Eventide H9. A Fortin Mini Zuul Noise Gate cleans up the amp and a Peterson StroboStomp HD keeps his guitars in check. A Boss ES-8 Effects Switching System is the reins for the whole system.

I’m the One

“This has actually been a longstanding project with the EVH line and it was something Ed was very passionate about when he was still with us. He was a closet bass player and loved chasing bass tones,” says Chip Ellis.

EVH has hinted at production bass models ever since Chip built several prototypes for Wolf during his run as VH bassist from 2005 to 2020. But no matter the level of buzz generated by public interest, nothing materialized. Then, in early February, they teased the upcoming tour by posting a photo of bassist Ronnie Ficarro rocking a 4-string with the caption: “Check out that sweet Wolfgang bass prototype.”

The current evolution of the company’s bass design dives off the EVH striped basses built for Wolfgang in the 2010s. The pickups are big, hot, monster-rock humbuckers that weigh about a half-pound each. “One of the earliest prototypes had a swimming-pool route and Ed kept wanting to move the pickups further and further apart because we kept getting a bigger variety of tones,” said Ellis.

Both prototypes have mahogany bodies, maple necks, and rosewood fretboards. The neck profiles are pretty close to the ones played by Wolf with Van Halen. A big-mass bridge anchors the strings and there’s actually a blend control between the pickups rather than a standard selector. (There’s a detent that lets you know when you’re in the middle, engaging both pickups.) The volume is push-pull, to coil-tap the pickups, too. Ronnie’s been riding this one during standard or drop-D tunings, since it comes equipped with a handy Hipshot Bass Xtender Key.

Bottoms Up

In a pinch, the bass’ headstock could double as a bottle opener.

Burst into Burst

The finish on prototype No. 2 almost has a Magic-Eye effect, with the opposing bursts rushing in towards each other. Another difference between No. 1 is the inclusion of a standard pickup selector (removing the blend control for a tone knob). Outfitted again with a Hipshot Bass Xtender Key, Ronnie jams on this for D-standard and drop-C songs.

Familiar and Loud

Ronnie Ficarro has been plugging the prototype Wolfgang basses into this Fender Super Bassman 300W head. The coolest part of this rig is that fact is that it’s the exact one Wolf used on the final Van Halen tour with his pops. The numbers you see above the knobs are Wolf’s settings from that VH run, and Ronnie thought it’d be a cool tip of the cap to leave those on the faceplate. In the video, Ficarro admits to being a Rig Rundown fanatic. When he’s feeling a Green Day, uh, day, he’ll open his phone and reference a screen shot of Mike Dirnt’s settings from the Rig Rundown we did in 2013.

Monsters of Rock

The Fender Super Bassman smashes into a Fender Bassman Pro 8×10.

Fundamental for Ficarro

Here’s Ronnie’s pretty basic stomp station: a trio of EVH-inspired pedals—MXR EVH 5150 Chorus, MXR EVH 5150 Overdrive, and the MXR Eddie Van Halen Phase 90—plus an Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork for approximating the low B roar that Wolf recorded on the song “Epiphany.” The non-descript silver box is a channel switcher for the Fender Super Bassman, and Ronnie’s basses are centered by the Peterson StroboStomp HD.

The Green Giant

“I never thought I’d become the green guitar guy, but it’s just become my thing over the last few years,” states Sidoris. Frank had his eye on this Gibson Custom 1964 SG Standard reissue for some time. He originally fell for its olive-drab cloak when he saw it on display during the 2020 NAMM Show in Anaheim. Fast forward through two years and Sidoris re-encounters the SG while visiting Nashville, when he sees it listed on Rumble Seat Music’s website. He went to the store and demo’d the guitar, and it was even better than he could imagine. He uses Ernie Ball 2020 Power Slinky Paradigms (.011–.048) across all his axes.

Stealthy Stinger

Sidoris also plugs into an EVH head. His flavor is the sleek EVH 5150III 50S 6L6. And, similar to the band’s other riffers, he’s relying on Celestion G12 EVH 20W speakers, but he opts for the matching EVH 5150III 100S cabinet.

Stompin’ with Sidoris

Along with his pals, Sidoris has an MXR Eddie Van Halen Phase 90, but changes it up with the inclusion of a DigiTech Whammy Ricochet, Walrus Audio Ages, MXR Carbon Copy, and a Dunlop Volume (X) DVP3. A Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner keeps his Gibsons in check and a MXR Smart Gate tames the EVH.

Rig Rundown: All That Remains [2022]

Celebrating The Fall of Ideals, Mike Martin upgrades with two smoking PRS Custom 24s, while Jason Richardson unveils two dazzling Music Man Cutlass signatures.


A lot of bands are lucky enough to carve a career with one big hit. If they’re even luckier, they’ll ride the wave of an impactful album for decades. But for melodic metalcore heavyweights All That Remains, who are honoring their game-changing The Fall of Ideals with a full album play, it’s not even their most-popular record. Following on the energy and success of that influential 2006 album, they released five straight albums that landed in the top 10 of Billboard’s U.S. Rock chart.

The coal fueling All That Remains’ locomotive is their propulsive guitar work. The original firepower was supplied by cofounding shredmeister Oli Herbert who was originally flanked by Chris Bartlett. Current rhythm rifleman Mike Martin replaced Bartlett in 2004 and provided the classically trained Herbert a solid substratum to dance all over. That duo defined ATR’s harmonious heaviness, Gothenburg groove, and aggressive attitude for almost 15 years before Herbert’s untimely passing in October 2018 just weeks before releasing their ninth trouncing album, Victim of the New Disease. Since then, the band has continued with blazing flamethrower Jason Richardson (Born of Osiris and Chelsea Grin).

Before All That Remains’ May 10th headlining show at Nashville’s Basement East, PG’s Perry Bean had to pick his jaw off the floor and re-screw his skullcap on after seeing the amazing instruments both guitarists Mike Martin and Jason Richardson brought on tour. Martin detailed his beautiful PRS Custom 24s while Richardson offered a sneak peek at his second batch of signature Ernie Ball Music Man Cutlass models.

Brought to you by D’Addario XS Electric Strings.

Thanks Brian!

For this special set of shows, longtime rhythm guitarist Mike Martin brought out a pair of eye-popping PRS Custom 24s. First up is this remarkably, ruffled, quilted-maple top (on a mahogany body) that features a stunning “sub-zero-glow, smoked burst” created by Martin’s friend Brian Giampietro, who owns Brian’s Guitars in Cheshire, Connecticut. He dropped in an EMG 81 (bridge) and 66 (neck). The alnico V neck pickup is coil-tapped so Martin can clean up for the softer parts of All That Remains. Most of the band’s material is in either B standard or C# tunings. Martin uses Ernie Ball 2216 Skinny Top Beefy Bottom Slinkys (.010–.054) on both of his guitars and plays with custom Dunlop Tortex picks.

Goosenecking

If the top wasn’t striking enough, the back of the flame-maple neck is sure to stop you in your tracks.

Always on My Mind

The last seven years, this PRS Custom 24 with a charcoal-cherry burst finish has been Martin’s main ride. The custom order included the request for a stoptail bridge where the stock production models come with a PRS-patented Gen III Tremolo bridge. This one was delivered with PRS 59/09 humbuckers, but to match the high-gain needs of ATR, Martin replaced those with EMGs (81 and 85).

The Legend of Jason Richardson

We were given a special treat when talking with All That Remains’ lead guitarist Jason Richardson, who was about to announce two new signature offerings from his Ernie Ball collection. The above Ernie Ball Music Man Jason Richardson Artist Series Cutlass makes a splash with its alder body, capped with a buckeye burl top that’s finished in a Majora Purple. (Richardson admits to being a video game nerd and got the color and name from the The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, which came out in 2000 for N64.) Additional accoutrements include a roasted maple neck with a sculpted joint, roasted maple fretboard, 24 stainless-steel, medium-jumbo frets, custom Music Man floating tremolo, and a set of custom-voiced Music Man ceramic humbuckers (only available in his signature models). One thing Richardson asked Music Man to do for his namesake speed machine was to coil-tap the humbuckers when the pickup selector is in the middle position, because much of ATR and his solo work requires fleet and fiery playing without a second to spare. All of Richardson’s 6-strings take Ernie Ball Paradigm Power Slinkys (.011–.048).

To the Point

And he’s been hitting the strings with his new custom Dunlop Jason Richardson picks (1.364 mm) that combine the size of Dunlop’s Jazz IIIs with the profile and pointiness of their Tortex Sharps.

White Walker

Here’s another one of Richardson’s new signature Cutlass dragsters that’s finished in empress white and set off with a subtly spectacular sparkle job. This one has an alder body and maple top (somewhat pointless to have the burl when it’s under a snow globe), separated by a sliver of walnut that’s sandwiched between the two core woods. Other than the ebony fretboard, this is the same as the previous stunner.

Tell Me What You See

Here’s an Ernie Ball Music Man Jason Richardson Artist Series Cutlass finished in Rorschach red that debuted at the 2020 NAMM Show. The sandwiched wood between the alder body and buckeye burl top in this one is maple.

Buckeye Burst

And the last signature axe that Richardson is carrying with him on this run is the Cutlass highlighting the exquisite nature of the buckeye burl top, with a complementary black burst that slightly rims the silhouette of the double cutaway.

Tower of Power

Both Martin and Richardson are running through the Fractal Audio Axe-Fx III. Core patches for Martin revolve around the EVH 5150III, whereas Richardson lives in the Friedman Small Box and HBE realm. The changes are connected to a click track and are automated via Pro Tools.

Rig Rundown: Shinedown’s Zach Myers & Eric Bass [2022]

The arena-filling rockers cheekily exude excess with a cavalcade of signature gear and some custom creations—including a pink number that made some see red.


Musical acts currently filling arenas fall into a few categories: pop, electronic, country, and legacy. The notion of modern or contemporary rock bands packing enormo-domes feels like a fossil, but don’t tell that to platinum-selling Shinedown, who’s been packing thousands-of-seats houses for years.

The group was founded by vocalist Brent Smith in 2001, after his previous band, Dreve, disbanded). He enlisted Jasin Todd (guitarist), Brad Stewart (bass), and Barry Kerch (drums). Zach Myers joined the fold in 2005 (as a touring member). He and current bassist Eric Bass (no joke) first earned album credits with 2008’s smash The Sound of Madness. (Rig Rundown alumnus Nick Perri was a short-time member of Shinedown and earned lead guitar credits on TSOM before fully handing over the 6-string reins to Myers.)

The quartet’s ability to fuse post-grunge pyrotechnics, four-on-the-floor rockers, and glossy, arms-in-the-air anthems, and their dynamic acoustic performances, have earned them 17 No. 1 hits on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart. (If you include the other Billboard charts, they’ve got three more.) They also have three platinum albums (three more are certified gold in the U.S.), and six additional platinum singles. If guitar truly is in a slump in pop culture and the mainstream, somebody forgot to tell Shinedown.

When PG’s Chris Kies first talked tone tools with Myers and Bass in 2013, they had some gear, and even some cool signature stuff. But this time, the war chest was on another level. Before their May 4 headline show at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, supporting their new, seventh album, Planet Zero, the duo flexed their rockstar credentials and carted out 40-plus instruments. Myers contends he uses every one of his guitars on a nightly basis. And Bass details his signature line of Prestige basses, which incorporate an ingenious thumb rest. Myers also shows off an irreplaceable PRS created by the late American fashion designer and entrepreneur Virgil Abloh (Off-White), and he explains how a custom-painted Silver Sky earned him some serious eye rolls and scoffs. Plus, their techs break down the power and might that help them rock the rafters.

Brought to you by D’Addario XS Electric Strings.

The Pink Problem

prs silver sky john mayer guitar

If you’re a fan of PRS, you know they don’t offer relic’d instruments. So, Zach Myers took matters into his own hands and had his personal Silver Sky (originally white) refinished in shell pink by McLoughlin Guitars before the custom distressor gave it their “ultimate” treatment—one that equates to a snake shedding its skin. Myers had no idea Mr. Mayer and PRS were going to release additional colors for his Strat-style signature. Needless to say, some people weren’t happy with Zach crashing the pink party, but he loves the guitar, loves John, and even admits in the video that the custom relic is an homage to Mayer’s black 2004 Custom Shop Strat. He plays it every night for the song “Monsters.”

He uses .011–.049 strings (S.I.T. and Elixirs) on standard-tuned guitars, and for lower tunings he typically rocks with .011–.052 sets. And as you’ll see in the video, his tech Drew Foppe throws curveballs at him by putting various sized, textured, and gauged picks on his guitars.

Off-White

Myers is a big sneakerhead and follower of fashion. He was lucky enough to have designer Virgil Abloh customize one of his PRS SE Zach Myers signatures before the fashion icon’s untimely passing in 2021. (Abloh reached unparalleled zeniths as CEO of the Milan-based Off-White outfit and artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear—the first person of African descent to earn such a title.) As you can see, within his Off-White brand Abloh would utilize obvious labels for things (“switch” and “guitar”). He always incorporated one element of orange in his designs, and the video game button is a killswitch. The axe gets played on “Cut the Cord.”

Tagged

Here, you can see Off-White’s signature tag on Myers’ signature headstock.

Branding

You can’t argue that anyone would mistake Off-White’s work.

I Spy

Here’s another one of Zach’s SE chambered semi-hollow signatures that was done up by L.A. street artist Joshua Vides, who has worked with Fendi, Mercedes-Benz, and Major League Baseball. The black-and-white color scheme gives a very Spy-vs.-Spy vibe, featured forever in Mad.

The Cat’s Meow

This is a PRS Private Stock Paul’s 85 that gets busted out for “Get Up” and rides in a “sort of” double drop-D tuning (both E strings tuned down to D), with custom-gauge strings (.010–.049). This run of Private Stocks features an African mahogany body, figured maple top, a dark Peruvian mahogany neck, and a Honduran rosewood fretboard, and is finished in a striking electric tiger glow.

An Extra Pair

Here is Zach’s PRS DW CE 24 Floyd—one of his two touring guitars with 24 frets. It’s a signature model for Rig Rundown pal Dustie Waring of Between the Buried and Me and comes stock with PRS’ hottest ceramic pickups. It gets stage time for “How Did You Love.”

Sweet Tea

This is one of Zach’s latest additions: a PRS 594 McCarty used on “The Saints of Violence.” Zach puts it in coil-tap mode, and Foppe rewired the guitar from LP-style to a more familiar PRS-style setup.

Santana Myers Model

When you have Paul Reed Smith on speed dial, you can get this made. Myers had the silky-looking Santana model transformed into a semi-hollow matching his SE signature format. This gets brought out for the fan favorite “Second Chance.”

Elephant on the Fretboard

Paying homage to his dear friend and Shinedown singer, Brent Smith, Myers had PRS add an inlay of elephants. (The largest existing land animal is Smith’s favorite beast.)

Old Friend

This might be one of Zach’s oldest touring guitars currently out with Shinedown. The PRS NF3 gets some action during “45” and never can be replaced, since its sound is so unique, with 57/08 Narrowfield pickups that he says are unlike any others in his live arsenal.

I’ve Got a Mira by the Tail

If you caught our 2013 episode with Shinedown, you’ll recognize this Buck Owens-inspired Mira with 57/08 humbuckers that he gets busy with on “Unity.”

Workhorse

It might be a stretch to label this Martin J-40 with such a name, seeing it’s only featured on two songs (“Simple Man” and “Daylight”). But most of the guitars in this Rig Rundown only get used for one jam per night. The J-40 takes Elixirs (.011–.052).

Blue Jean

Here’s a custom take on the earliest versions of Zach’s PRS signatures that gets the spotlight for “Enemies.” It is tuned down a whole step, to D standard. Note the distinctive bright hue on the guitar’s side, by the horn.

Scorpion

This custom McCarty 594 pays its dues for the song “Bully.” It takes an .011–.052 set and rumbles in C# tuning.

Maple, Maple, Maple!

This McCarty model is made entirely of maple and makes hay on the song “Save Me.”

More Maple?!

Another all-maple McCarty, but this is chambered and struts out for “State of My Head.”

Zach’s Blues

Here’s the latest incarnation of Zach Myers’ SE signature that debuted in early 2021. Subtle updates include a lusher “Myers Blue” (he admits it’s pretty pretentious) finish, black bobbins on the pickups, black tuning pegs, and a matching headstock veneer. This blue bombshell makes an appearance for “Fly from the Inside.” And whenever Myers sees a kid having the time of his life at a Shinedown show, he’ll call on Foppe to bring out one of his new signature models and he’ll gift it to the youngster. How cool is that?!

Rack Control to Major Drew

With a rig this big, doing this much, in front of thousands, you need a primed pilot at mission control. And lucky for Myers, tech Drew Foppe is up to the task. Everything starts at the Fractal Audio Axe-Fx IIIs. (There’s a main and a backup.) There are four channels of Shure UR4D+ wireless units (three for electric and one for acoustic). From there they run an AES digital out to the Antelope Audio Trinity Master Clock and Antelope Audio 10MX Rubidium Atomic Clock. This helps fatten the fully stereo, digital rig by converting it to analog and then sending it back. After that they use IRs off the Axe-Fx (left and right) into a pair of Neve DIs that then feed a Fryette G-2502-S Two/Fifty/Two Stereo Power Amplifier. (There’s another for backup.) And finally, they send parallel signals to two ISO cabs and two Universal Audio OX Amp Top Box reactive load boxes (both left and rights). Altogether, there are eight channels of guitar.

Zach Attack

zach myers pedalboard

While Drew oversees the main operation, Zach still has some control at his toes. He’s got a Dunlop MC404 CAE Wah, DigiTech Whammy V, Ernie Ball 40th Anniversary Volume Pedal, and the Fractal Audio FC-6 Foot Controller. Peeking out from the mini board is a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus, giving life to these effects units.

Bass’ Bass

Since our last gear chat, Eric Bass teamed up with Prestige Guitars to make a childhood dream come true. A memory that’s stuck with him since he was a young musician was how cool Stone Temple Pilots’ bassist Robert DeLeo looked harnessing a Telecaster bass. So, when Prestige asked for some of his ideas, he knew where to start. The slightly offset double-cutaway has a solid ash body, a 1-piece, hard rock maple neck (with a bolt-on connection), and a pau ferro fretboard. The neck has a slim C-shape (similar to a J-style bass). There’s a Seymour Duncan SCPB-3 Quarter Pound pickup and Hipshot hardware (4-string A-Style bridge and HB-7 tuning machines). One thing that won’t show up in the spec sheet is the sneaky thumb rest that has a small ‘E’ on it. It’s a design inspired by the top of a humbucker, because Eric was so used to resting his thumb atop of a ’bucker that he was a bit lost without it. They initially tried standard flat thumb rests, but Bass was inclined to use the curved pocket on top of the humbucker as leverage to throw around the instrument onstage. Bass’ personal instruments have brass nuts, whereas the production models will have bone.

Bass uses three or four tunings each night that will include standard, drop D, C#, and drop C. For standard and D, he’ll go with his set of signature S.I.T. Strings (.050–.110), and for the lower tunings he extends the low string to a .115.

Three on the Tree

Here’s the sleek reverse headstock for Eric Bass’ signature models.

Go for the Gold

This was the second prototype for Bass’ signature. It featured a belly-cut contour that he ultimately did away with. He prefers the bigger slab-body style and the dual edges allow for some sick double binding seen on the production models.

Kerns the Conspirator

Bass isn’t afraid to get down on someone else’s signature cruiser, and he does so each night with the Prestige Todd Kerns Anti-Star 4-string. (Kerns is in Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators and fronts Canadian rock band Age of Electric.) This one has a 7-piece mahogany/walnut body, mahogany neck, and ebony fretboard, and comes off the rack with Seymour Duncan USA Todd Kerns pickups.

Kerncidentally

Here’s Bass’ signature Prestige sporting a set of Todd Kern’s Seymour Duncan pickups.

Show and Tell

Eric sent a few basses over to Relic Guitars The Hague in Netherlands so they could mess them up in the most beautiful way possible. He gave them some instruction and creative carte blanche.

And here’s a close-up of the artwork.

Here’s Looking at You, Bass

Here’s another example of the handiwork happening inside Relic Guitars The Hague. The inspiration is the oil painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer, from 1665.

Nash Bash

This Nash PB52 preceded his Prestige signature, but you can see how he got the wheels turning for mapping out his own instrument. Bass affectionately calls this one “Grimace.”

Move It On Over

Each night, Bass takes over 6-string duties and makes music with this Prestige Legacy OM.

Refrigerator Rig

Tech extraordinaire Jeramy “Hoogie” Donais helped create this efficient fridge-sized setup for Bass. As he explains it, the Prestige basses hit the Shure UR4D+ wireless units (similar to Myers, he has three channels for bass and a channel for acoustic), then a Neve DI, and into a Radial JX44 signal manager (he does have a 100′ cable for backup but hasn’t used it in his eight years with Shinedown) that feeds it into an Ampeg SVT-7 Pro for clean tone (with an extra for backup).

Tube Tone with Teeth

The right-hand rack features a pair of Mojotone Deacon (inspired by the sound of Queen bassist John Deacon) 50W heads that run on a pair of KT66 power tubes. One beast gets engaged for Shinedown’s heavier songs and one sits below as a reserve.

Noise? What Noise?!

To help keep the rig calm and quiet, Bass has a Revv G8 Noise Gate to remove any unwanted buzz and hiss.

Eric Bass’ Gas Station

Onstage sits Bass’ pedalboard that includes a Dunlop 105Q Cry Baby Bass wah, a DigiTech Bass Whammy, and an MXR M299 Carbon Copy Mini Analog Delay. The ‘Gas’ switch engages the Mojotone Deacon, a Radial SGI-44 1-channel Studio Guitar Interface connects with his rackmount JX44, the BossTU-3W Waza Craft Chromatic Tuner keeps his instruments in check, and a hidden Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus feeds juice to everything.