Gear Metropolis

bringing the gear of DIY musicians to you every Monday

In The Studio with The Best of the Worst

August 21st, 2017

I few months ago The Best of the Worst released a new EP, Painted Fools. Here are some of the details about the recording process.

Listen to the EP here: https://thebestoftheworst.bandcamp.com/

Check out the studio here: http://www.exeter-recordings.com/           

 

The origins of our new EP reach back to 2015 when we began the demo process with our buddy Joe Lanza. We bunkered down in our practice space with him and went to work on these songs. This was the most extensive demoing that we have ever done as we fully recorded 5 out of the 7 songs on the EP. At times we were even tempted to release these songs, but in the end we were not totally excited with how it sounded so we decided to wait and work on 2 more songs to have another awkward not-quite-full-length / very long EP that we have perfected over the years (see: Quarter Life Crisis, Calling From the Grave and Natural Born Haters). By that time we were going out on our spring run with Stuck Lucky, then summer came and went, and then it was fall 2016. We had been playing these songs for a while and we were itching to get them down. For studio we looked at places we have never gone before. We wanted a different perspective on our sound so we listened to a lot of audio samples and decided on Exeter Recordings. Exeter had done some stuff that sounded real heavy and also some catchier stuff so it seemed like a good match. We have never met Joe before but he seemed excited about the idea so we jumped into it. After meeting we found out we know a bunch of the same people and were on the same page with how this record should sound.

Natural Born Haters (and the Great Bands! Great Dudes! songs) was our first foray into using a click. While we have been able to record without one previously, the use of one helped us lock in more and also sped up the process so we decided to use that approach again when starting this record. We nixed the idea of using a scratch track and recorded drums, Jay’s guitar and bass live to the click. We had been playing these songs for long enough now that this seemed like the natural thing to do and would help with the overall feel. Jay. Joe and Kozak played through the songs to get the best drum take and we followed that up with overdubs of any mistakes for Jay and Kozak.

Joe tracking drums at Exeter Recordings

As far as gear goes Joe used the same DW kit that he has had since he was in middle school. The new addition to his setup were his Saldua had crafted cymbals (china, ride, and crash) and a Ludwig Black Beauty Snare. The snare instantly popped while we were tracking and the ride cut through great when it was featured. For bass we used an Ampeg SVT head with an Ampeg cab, the standard for bass tone. We also through a Sans-Amp before it to dirty it up. Kozak played his fender P-bass with a jazz bass neck which sounded just the right amount of dirty through the setup. For guitar Jay used his Orange Rockerverb MkII 50 with an Avatar 2×12 with vintage 30 speakers. Before this record Jay had recorded all of his guitars through a Mesa but recently switched to Orange and it has been sounding amazing. Live he uses an Ep boost to push the amp but for tracking he just cranked the amp and it really started to sing. The studio has 2 iso booths so all of the tracks were completely isolated. For the live tracking he used his 1991 SG standard.

pedals used on the record

Bass overdubs were minimal because Kozak destroyed the bass parts on this record. The only funky thing we did was at the end of Habits Live Hard. We used a Boss Blues Driver to thin out the tone for the soft ending. Subtle but effective. After 2 half days of recording, Joe and Kozak had finished their tracking and it was onto Jay. The distorted tone remained mostly unchanged except when a note-heavy picking part would come up. For parts like the beginning of Where Complacency Lives, he rolled off the volume a little, to reduce the gain, so the notes came through more. For the first ringout part in Habits Live Hard he used a Moog MF chorus and in the intro of In My Apartment he used a Proco Rat to achieve a thinner/fuzzier tone. The organ lead in We’ve Been Taken Captive was done with a distorted guitar and an Electro-Harmonix B9 pedal.  

Before moving onto cleans, Cheech was up. For his main distorted tone he used a Mesa Triple Rectifier boosted by the boost section of a Zvex Box of Rock through the same Avatar cab. For guitar he mostly used his Fender Stratocaster with Seymour Duncan pickup, sprinkling in the use of his Fender J Mascis Jazzmaster.  This tone really complimented Jay’s tone well. Parts that were doubled stacked up nicely and his leads fit well into the mix. On this record Jay and Cheech double each other more than ever before so they each took a rhythm pass and then went back and laid each of their leads on top of that. After all that Jay went back with his 2011 Gibson Melody Maker Special and the Orange to beef up any rhythm parts that needed to be thicker. On the end of Like Bugs in Amber Cheech used an Earth Quaker Devices Hoof Fuzz on the lead, and in the beginning of We’ve Been Taken Captive he used an MXR Flanger.       

Cheech laying it down

Then it was clean tone time which required more finessing as many of the clean parts required a different feel. The clean channel of the Orange Rockerverb was used as a bass for all the clean tones. The Melody maker was used with the unaltered Orange clean tone for much of the clean parts in Like Bugs in Amber. Besides that song, much of the “clean” parts were boosted/overdriven. Cheech used a TC Electronic Spark for a good portion of his cleans while Jay cranked a Keeley 4 knob compressor to get a little more grit on his. During Liz’s vocal part in Habits Live Hard, Jay used a MXR Phase 90 and for clean lead in In My Apartment a Strymon Brigadier was used for some delay. The same mix of guitars were used with the addition to Jay’s Fender 69 Thinline Telecaster reissue on a few parts. The last bit of tasty guitar that was added was to the second chorus of Spoiler Alert:. Jay added his Eastwood Sidejack baritone guitar tuned to drop A to the second chorus. It really helps that chorus hit and sets it apart.

Vocals are an exhausting process just because of the quantity of singing/screaming parts. Joe and Jay spread this over two days to give their voices a break. We have went through this process so many times that we have a good feel for ourselves and developed a great rhythm for tracking with Joe. Having demoed most of the songs extensively before tracking there wasn’t much experimenting going on in the vocal booth. The one exception was in Where Complacency Lives. Jay channeled his nu-metal vibes and thus the whisper/speaking part was born. He also improvised the part after this at the end of a take and we ended up keeping it. Joe also explored uncharted territory for himself on this record, laying down some screams in a couple of parts.

After Joe and Jay laid down their vocals, it was onto horns. We recorded trombone, trumpet, and sax at the same time. It really allows Liz, Kate, and Stiffe to lock in and blend with each other. They ripped through these songs which showcased how well they play together. Compared to our previous songs, there is more of a separation between vocal parts and horn parts and it really allows the horn section to shine. The horns finished so fast that we were able to do gang vocals the same night. Tom Etts also stopped by and recorded a part on It Doesn’t Really Matter. The last day of tracking Liz recorded all her vocals and we added some auxiliary stuff. Tamborine was put on a few parts, glockenspiel on It Doesn’t Really Matter, and acoustic on a few songs as well.      

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Jason Selvaggio – The Best of the Worst / County Drop

May 9th, 2016
photo by: Triple Threat Productions

photo by: Triple Threat Productions

So it has been one year since I started this blog with Corey from Vasudeva and throughout this past year, I got to talk to many friends and a bunch of new people about guitars, amps, pedals, and recording. This week I thought I would do something different and tell everyone about there gear I use. So here it is, it glorious detail.

 

For the length of TBOTW I have basically had 3 main guitars. First was a faded Gibson SG which I got in 8th grade. I broke the headstock off this guitar three times and got it fixed each time. Once I broke it a fourth time, it was time something new. Around the time we first started touring, I switched to a Les Paul special (same faded brown). I really liked the weight of it and came to find out that it sounds pretty dark compared to other LPs. This guitar has been on every record since Quarter Life Crisis in 2008. There has always been a hairline crack in the headstock (bought it used) and after a while I got nervous about jumping around with it live. When I was loading up my old car for a show once, I left the guitar on the roof and drove away. A second later, I heard a thud and my heart dropped. It somehow survived, but I usually keep this one home now and bring it out when it is time to record my doubles. After the Les Paul I moved back to SGs and got a SG standard. Playing the LP was great, but I guess because I started with SGs it feels more like home to me. Humbuckers are great, I just max out the volume and tone and ride with just the bridge pickup. I control all of my tone through pedals and the amp. Using the pickup selector as a kill switch is also very helpful.

I did go through a p90s kick a couple of years ago. . It all started because I got an Eastwood Sidejack baritone guitar which has a great tone. It’s used on the song Kill Screen off Natural Born Haters, Growing Up. Throwing Up. off the Great Bands! Great Dudes! Split and even on some County Drop songs. For TBOTW I had it in drop A and for County Drop I went down to Drop G#. It really helps to fill the sound out, epically when layered with standard guitars. Jeff Rosenstock was the inspiration for this as I think he incorporates the low tunings very tastefully. So anyway, the tone that I got using the Eastwood convinced me to get a Gibson Melody Maker with 2 p90s, which is sweet. I brought this out as my main on a Midwest tour but it’s pretty much my backup now, its tv yellow and looks awesome. If I’m not using that as my backup, I’ll take my Fender 72 Deluxe reissue. For strings I use Ernie Ball Beefy Slinky which is a heavy set, 11 to 54. I am currently trying out the cobalt version but for years i have used the nickel wound.  I don’t ever play lower than drop d, but I love the weight of heavy strings. I use a decent weight pick (0.88 mm) so I like a string to match so I’m not ripping through strings.  

When I played with Hub City Stompers, more of a traditional ska/reggae band, I used a Japanese Fender 69 thinline Telecaster reissue for that tele single coil feel. Along those lines, I also have a G&L Tribute ASAT Bluesboy which is like a standard tele with a humbucker in the neck position. I really love this guitar for cleans. My oldest guitar that is still in working condition is my white Fender Mexican Strat. I recently swapped out the neck pickup for a Duncan Distortion and put in all black hardware. Before that I never used it much but with the new pickup, it really rips. So yea, that’s all my guitars.

For amps there isn’t as much variety as I have had the same amp for about 10 years now, a Mesa Triple Rectifier. I have not had one issue with this amp as it has withstood everything I put it through. I am not a big fan of the clean channel for TBOTW, so I use the middle distortion channel as my clean and turn the gain way down. This way there is still some grit on it. The only time I used clean channel is when I played with Hub City Stompers, there I was able to get a bright clean tone that cut, especially with the single coils in the tele. I recently got an Orange Rockerverb 50 which I have been using a bit with TBOTW. The clean channel needs a little bit of grit for me, so I have been using a Xotic EP Boost to push it a little more. It sounds really good.    

In the studio, I have always used the Mesa and double tracked my guitars with some kind of Orange amp. I own a Tiny Terror and Timber Studios has a Rockerverb which I used on Natural Born Haters. For clean tones on the records I pretty much do something different every time. I’ve used Princeton Reverbs, a Bassman, Oranges, and even a Bogner. Most recently, I picked up a Sovtek Mig 50 which I really love for cleans, especially with the G&L. Cab-wise, I have settled in on a Marshall JCM cab with GT-75s. I also have an Avatar 2×12 with vintage 30s that sounds great and is perfect for tracking.  

I’ve been in and out of the pedal game over the years but now I am definitely all in. I don’t rely too much on pedals, if something were to go wrong live, I could plug directly into my amp and 75% of my sound would be there. But I do feel that the pedals I use take my sound to the next level. The Mesa rips even more if you put a boost in front of it. I used to use a tube screamer with the volume all the way up and the gain at 0, as many people do, but I switched to using a Zvex Box of Rock and I feel like it gives me even more than the TS9 did, plus a little more of a unique sound. Here is how my whole chain lays out, with the Mesa footswitch on the board as well.

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Visual Sound Pure Tone Buffer → TC polytune mini → Zvex Box of Rock → Way Huge Swollen Pickle → MXR Phase 90 → Mooer Noise Killer → Strymon Brigadier → Wampler Faux Analog Echo → TC Hall of Fame Mini→ Boss RC-20XL Loop Station → Earthquaker Devices Levitation reverb

The boost on the Box of Rock, noise suppressor, and Levitation Reverb are on all the time. I mainly use the boost section of the Box of Rock but  I will kick on the distortion side when doing leads or octaves so it cuts a little more (I set it to boost treble as well as add gain). Once I started using this boost, the noise suppressor became necessary to control the feedback. The Levitation reverb can get pretty spacey but I set it rather mildly. The triple rec has no built in reverb so I use this to fill out my sound. The loop station has 10 banks so 9 of them are usually loaded with samples, that’s pretty much its only function for me during a show. Other than that, the pedal I go to most would be the Wampler Echo, I’ll kick it on during a clean part or big ringouts to give it some depth, I keep it set rather quickly almost slap-backy. The phase 90 is really fun too and I have started to incorporate into more parts, especially in new songs. If you catch a set now, I will most likely use it once or twice, you just gotta pick your spots with it, but it’s a classic. I added the Swollen Pickle which I will flick on when I want to sound heavier than anything. It adds serious fuzz/bottom end/feedback. I’ll only use it once or twice a set, but you’ll notice. I took this idea from by my buddy Brian from PEARS, he does the same thing for their heavy parts. The newest addition to my board would be the Styrmon Brigadier. I used to run a Way Huge Aquapus but the brigadier gives me the same bucket brigade delay but with a lot more control. I have always wanted the tap tempo plus you control the bucket loss and switch between quarter, triplets or dotted-eight delay.  

On the top right of my board I have a TC Helicon Mic Mechanic. For smaller DIY shows I’ll run my mic through this to get some slapback and a nice EQ. I tried to play with the pitch correction to sound like T-Pain, but unfortunately, it’s not that harsh.  On some recent recordings I used an Electro-Harmonix B9 to simulate organ for a few parts. It’s a really great pedal for what it does, but I found it to be a little noisy in my chain so I had to take it out.

IMG_2090

photo by: SP Photography & Design

The first time I ever played bass was recording for TBOTW in 2008. We didn’t have a solid bass player at the time so I picked up a Mexican Fender Jazz Bass, learned the album and recorded it. After that we got a steady bass player and I stopped playing. It wasn’t until I started playing in Party Attack in 2010 that I picked up a bass again. Once I came back up north after college, I started playing with County Drop. After playing with them for a while I wanted a more aggressive tone so I bought a Musicman Stingray. Love this bass, the pickup is so good. I used it on The Origin of Skeletons as well as the split we did with Paste. After a couple of years I wanted to get a passive bass that still had a humbucker, so now I play a Gibson Victory Bass. It is kind of like Gibson’s attempt at a P-bass, but it has a humbucker. I didn’t buy it with the intention of it replacing the Musicman, but I love playing it so much that it has. I took out the tone knob and the series/parallel switch so it just has a volume knob.  I like it because while it still rips, it’s not quite as harsh as the Musicman and I feel like I have more control with it. I used the Gibson to record You Firefly.

When I first started playing with County Drop I was in need of an amp (I had always borrowed one when playing in Party Attack). So I picked up a Gallien-Krueger backline 600 and an Ampeg SVT 4x10cab from some friends and rolled with that. I also has a Sans Amp Paradriver pedal which helped me get a good sound. It is basically the same as the bass pedal except it allows you to choose what mids to scoop. Now I have upgraded somewhat. I still have the same Ampeg cab but now I have a Mesa C3 cabrine head with a rackmount Sans Amp RBI. I love the Mesa head because it’s got a tube preamp and simple controls, only Bass, Mid, Treble, Gain, and Volume. The Sans Amp helps me push it a little more, get some grit in there, and shapes my sounds. I can’t praise this enough, I feel like this can always get me the sound I have in my head. I like for my sound to really cut when the guitars are clean but also blend in well during big distorted heavy parts

When I recorded You Firefly I wanted to mix up the bass tone a little bit. The bass on the record is a DI from my Mesa, a DI off the Sans Amp and mixed in lightly underneath is a dry bass signal with a Big Muff cranked. It adds a little something to my tone that I really love. For a while I recreated that sound live with a Boss LS-2 Line Selector. This pedal gives you two loops (A and B) that you can mix in however you want. In loop A I kept my dry signal from the bass and in the B loop I had a Dr. Green Bass Reverb and I swapped out the Bass Big Muff for an Idiot Box Blower Box distortion. I liked the Big Muff but the Blower Box just gives you a crisper distortion that you can really crank. I left both of these pedals on and turn the B loop down pretty low. This gave me a similar tone to what I was able to achieve on You Firefly.

IMG_2191

Recently I reconfigured my entire pedalbord, keeping only the Idiot Box distortion with I use sparingly only for heavy parts. I added an EBS Multi Comp first in my chain to even out my sound and give a little signal boost. After the distortion I have an Electro-Harmonix Nano POG which I have set to blend in an octave down. I use this to kind of get a 5 string feel when I want, without having to play a 5 string. If I want to add some beef to a part, especially if it’s on the A string, I’ll flick it on. Next is the TC Electronic Flashback mini. I always wanted to be able to experiment with delay for bass, but never had room on my board, so this pedal is great. It takes up very little space and with the toneprint feature, I have so many different delay options just a second away. Last is a Hardwire RV-7 reverb. I like how much control this pedal has, I keep it on a very light room and leave it on all the time. It just adds some space to my sound.

 

so that’s pretty much it. Who knows, in a year I may be using something totally different than what I am now. I will keep you updated. For now I am going to take a break for a few weeks with the site, but I’ll be back soon with more gear

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Cody Nicolas – Narrow/Arrow

May 2nd, 2016

IMG_2222

Hailing from Mansfield, Oh, Narrow/Arrow, and specifically Cody Nicholas, are extremely unique. It’s not often that you get to witness one man play 2 guitars at once, but that is exactly what Cody does. Pushing the boundaries of what playing guitar is, we talked to Cody about his guitar set-up.

Gear Metropolis: Hey Cody, what do you play guitar wise and how does it fit your style? Have you used anything different in the studio?

Cody Nicholas: Let me introduce ya to the team haha. Starting from the left is my “Trophy Wife” Marla.  She’s secretly a Schecter Omen 8 String, but I upgraded the passive stock pickups to Active EMG808X’s.  I hate active pickups but the low end is super flat and muddy otherwise.  When I’m doing the double guitar work, I typically approach it like a non-linear piano, left hand handles the bass lines but doesn’t always have to. The right hand handles the melody, but doesn’t always have to. She stays in standard tuning, which for an 8 string is F# B E A D G B A.

Next is Gabriella, she’s a Fender Thinline Telecaster ’72 Replica.  I have had her since I was 13 and she’s the only original member of the team.  I sold the neck humbucker to my brother (I think he turned it into a microphone). And then used the money to get the flat white pickguard cut.  I C-Clamp it onto a piano stand that’s at its tallest position, and play counter melodies with my right hand.  It’s bright and twinkly tone is the perfect compliment to the punchy bassyness of the 8.  She stays in D A D G A D, and I adjust the capo to be in whatever Key I’m playing in on Marla.

Then we have James Blonde, he’s an Epiphone ES-339, and is the newest edition to the team.  All the songs played on it originally start out on an acoustic.  But in a live show setting, especially in DIY spaces, the acoustic isn’t ideal.  Feeds back, gets drown out, by the time you get it loud enough to hear in basement show scenario, it doesn’t even sound like an acoustic at that point.  So now Jimmy makes those unplugged riffs work for him, I also like the idea that on the record it’s a pretty acoustic, but live the song is on a grungy hollow body.  I keep him an open tuning: D A D F# A E, open D with the 9th.  

Last but not least is Stella, She’s a Breedlove Cascade.  Like I said about James Blonde, I start all of his riffs on Stella.  On our EP “Middle Children” we used her on “impress your parents” and “air run”.  I don’t take her on the road anymore, but she’ll get more than a lot of time in the studio this spring.   I think it’s important as a guitar player to put in just as much time playing your acoustic, as you do your electrics.  You have to take a different approach to them.  

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GM: So what inspired you to play 2 guitars at once? Is it always the tele and you switch around the other one?

CN: It all kind of evolved from one thing to the next.  The horizontal tapping business started with the guitar in an open tuning and resting on my lap.  I was trying to play like this dude I saw named Erik Mongrain, he plays an acoustic on his lap in the song “airtap”.  I didn’t have an acoustic at the time, so I fucked around with it on an electric.  

After a couple months of wood-shedding I had a piece that I wanted to perform live with my band at the time.  I didn’t want to sit down to play it on my lap, so I rigged it with the C-Clamp to a piano stand. So essentially in the beginning (2009, I was 18) I would play one Tele around my neck, then when it was time for my piano stand guitar song, I’d just pull the cable from one and plug it into another.  Then one day somebody said (pretty sure it was Jonathan, the drummer of N/A) “you should get a Morley switcher and play them both at the same time”.  So then it transitioned into two tele’s I’d play together, then I switched to the 8 string to get a wider range with my left hand.  And that became my main guitar.  When I’m not using the 8 string, that’s when I’m playing James Blonde.

 

GM: So let’s move to amps? what are you running all of this into?

CN: My amp is real cheap and Frankenstiened together.  I run a Bugera 333XL, except I spray painted the grill so you can’t really tell til ya get up close.  It’s 120W and has 3 channels.  But I only use the clean channel and the reverb unit.  Like my 8 string, it’s kind of marketed to teenage metal heads who want a lower end, big tube amp.  I picked up a blank seismic audio can and through a Celestion V30 in the left side, and a Celestion G12 in the right. Ripped em out of some old cabs I had.  

 

Those seismic audio cabs are usually a really good deal. So you run the amp clean, do you run pedals for either guitar? Both?

I run both guitars through the same clean channel using a Morley switcher. My pedalboard is pretty straight forward, I run a Tube Screamer, digitech R-7 for extra reverb, a freeze pedal for transitions while I tune, and each guitar gets an LB-1 to boost the pickup frequency for punchy tappy parts.  

 

GM: That’s rad. So with the unique setup, what is it like when you go into the studio?

CN: We run the guitars through separate rigs in the studio and run them in stereo.  For the upcoming full length we ran the Tele through a 4×10 fender Deluxe and the 8 string through a Peavey 6505 with a Mesa 4×12.  And then blended those two amps for the songs with the 339.  With the double guitar tracks, I always have a bit of a hangup recording because I can hear them as two different parts.  But since they run through one rig typically, I’m only ever used to hearing them as one part.  

 

GM: So whats up next for Narrow/Arrow?

CN: We currently are in the middle of recording our first full length, which is definitely our number one priority right now (other than installing a new sound system in our our van haha).  We’ve done two 15 day tours this year, and plan to hit the road, headed east, mid-May.  We’re all really excited to see where this year takes the group, and pursuing every opportunity that will help it to continue to grow.  

 

Narrow/Arrow’s debut EP ‘Middle Children was released by Other People Records, Check that out while we wait for some new tunes.

http://narrowarrow.bandcamp.com/

http://www.otherpeoplerecords.com/

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Doug Gallo – Hodera

April 25th, 2016

hodera doug

Having released their first full length only last year, Hodera has built up quite a following in a short time. Having recently toured the US as well a UK, Hodera has been spreading their catchy choruses and weaving guitar work across the world. Today we talk to Doug about the gear he uses with Hodera.

 

Gear Metropolis: So let’s start with guitars. What do you use and how does it contribute to your sound? Have you used anything different in the studio?

Doug Gallo: I (Doug, Lead Guitar) use a custom Fender Telecaster primarily. It was actually a gift from two of my close friends and it is honestly the smoothest guitar I’ve ever played. It has a Seymour Duncan JB humbucker pickup in the neck, a stock fender pickup in the middle, and a Seymour Duncan single coil in the bridge. I had it modified to coil tap the neck pickup, which I use quite often. I use this guitar live and in the studio. The pickup options on this guitar give me ability to create different sounding leads sonically to layer and compliment each song individually, instead of having a “set lead tone.”

Matthew smith (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) uses a Standard Fender Telecaster primarily live and in studio. This guitar is very clean and natural sounding which allows us to use the amplifiers primarily to contour the tone. The  low action helps to accommodate partial capos which he uses on a few tracks.

In the studio we have used our telecasters along with an Epiphone Sheraton II hollow body. Live, we use Mexican modified Telecasters and a custom Fender jaguar as backups.

 

GM: Let’s move on to amps? have you always used the same thing? What kind of sounds were you going for on the record?

DG: We currently use and are sponsored by Louis Electric Amps. They are handmade boutique amps from northern New Jersey. We have had the endorsement for less than a year but we will be proudly using these amps on tours and when we hit the studio in May to record our 2nd full length album.

My tone differs from Matthews for both in-studio and live. We have similar amp models but he plays with a scooped, bright tone. I play my amp with a punchy tone, pushing the mid range and surprisingly blends extremely well with matthew’s amp and our bass tones.

hodera amp

GM: Never heard of Louis Electric Amps but I am looking at them now and they look great. What models do you have?

DG: Yeah we are super grateful to be able to work with these guys. We both us the KR12 series heads with matching combos- although the head I play is the original and Matthews is the newer version.

Here is a review of the KR 12 on Premier Guitar – http://www.premierguitar.com/articles/Louis_Electric_KR_12_Amp_Head_Cabinet_Review

 

GM: So what kind of pedals do you use? any favorites?

DG: Pedals are definitely the most intricate part of our setup. I’ll start with Matthew’s rig. He uses an Em Drive and Paramount Overdrive from Emerson Custom effects pedals for a preamp/overdrive tone. Along with a TC Electronic Arena reverb and a Boss DD20 delay set for short, slap type analog echos to thicken clean riffs.

My rig consists primarily of an older TC Electronic Nova multi effect system where I can program each song and save effect settings without messing with knobs during our set. It is the only multi effect pedal I’ve ever used simply because it features an analog drive and delay circuit, which keeps things sounding natural and responsive to volume and tonal changes. I use a Dunlop expression pedal that I route into the Nova System to control reverb trails and delay response to create ambient swells. On top of the Nova System I use a Freeze and a #1 Echo from Electro-Harmonix to add thickening layers to lead riffs. Both of us use TC Electronic Polytune tuner pedals for precision with the various tunings we use during the set.

hodera board

GM: I’ve seen a couple people run the Novas and if you know what you’re doing, you can really get a lot out of them. Do you use it in the studio? You mentioned different turnings, what are you switching between during a set?

DG: Yeah I’ve spent a few months programming the Nova before I actually started using it live. I’m really happy with the presets i have loaded. I have not used it in the studio yet, and as of now, not sure if I’ll be using it for the May recording session.

I switch between three tunings – D major open tuning, Open G, and Standard.

Matthew used mainly standard and drop D along with partial capos. Some of the newer music will consist of F major and Emaj7 tunings.

Hodera just completed a month long tour including a stop at SXSW and recently released their an Audiotree Live session. Their full length, United By Birdcalls is available through All Sounds

http://audiotree.tv/session/hodera/

http://allsounds.bigcartel.com/

Hodera.net

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Brendan Hourican – Modern Chemistry

April 18th, 2016
photo by: Deadbolt Photos

photo by: Deadbolt Photos

Modern Chemistry has been making moves lately. They finished a “NJ World Tour” in February and will soon be releasing a new EP, Dreaming Adjacent, which they worked on with Adam Lazzara and Mike Pepe. Guitarist Brendan found some time to talk gear with us.  

 

Gear Metropolis: So lets start off with guitars? What do you use and how does it fir your style? Have you used anything different in the studio?

Brendan Hourican: My first guitar was an Epiphone Les Paul and now I use an Epiphone Sheraton. I’m pretty sure I’ve always used either of those in the studio. I’ve always preferred the Gibson/Epiphone side of things in the way they feel and sound. Now I exclusively use my Sheraton (unless there’s a broken string on stage situation). I’ve always loved the way those semi hollow body guitars looked and I’d be lying if I said the look of it didn’t influence my decision to get the Sheraton. Also I’m 6’2″ and I sort of felt like a giant with my Les Paul. Besides those superficial reasons, I had heard of it being used on some pretty cool records. So between all that and a super affordable price, it was an Epiphone Sheraton for me. Now that I’ve had it for a while I’ve learned how to get some great sounds and cool feedback noises out of it so I’d say it’s here to stay.

 

GM: Great! What about amps? Have you always used the same thing? How about on the records?

BH:  I use a little solid state Marshall amp called MG 100 dfx. I got it when I was in high school was the first real amp I’ve ever had. On paper it doesn’t really seem like it would sound good, but over the years I’ve learned how to get what I want out of it. I’ve thought about “upgrading” but any other amp I try doesn’t quite give me what I want.  

Most of the overdrive in my tone is coming from the amp. I have a big muff nano that I’ll kick on every once in a while, but other than that it’s all from the gain on the amp. I’ve come to love how I can get some good bite when I really slam on the strings, or I can pluck lightly and get a nice bright clean sparkly sound. I usually leave it on the dirty channel and if I need to get a little cleaner I’ll strum lighter or roll back on my volume pedal.  That usually cleans it up nicely.

As far as recording, I have used my amp for a few tracks, but usually there are amps laying around the studio that do the job much better. For our second EP we actually hooked my amp up to a big Marshall cabinet. That was fun. Kicked everything up a notch. I’d love to say that every time we record I use my own stuff, but I recognize that some sounds that I like for our live setting might not translate in the studio.

mc board

GM: Any other pedals besides the big muff nano?

BH:  My favorite and most used pedal is my ehx Cathedral Reverb. It’s almost always on. With the reverb being fed into the overdriven amp, I get a nice screaming sound for some of my lead parts.  I’ve come to really shape my sound around what that pedal can do, which is a lot. I’m still exploring all its features and I try to find a cool way to use them all.  I also have a boss DD7 digital delay and an ehx Hummingbird tremolo pedal. I try to use those to make weird interesting sounds that don’t necessarily sound like a guitar. I also have an Ernie Ball VP Jr. Volume pedal that I mentioned before. I love using that for swells as well as volume control.

 

GM: How would you describe your tone? Who are some major influences in your sound?

BH:   I try to achieve a few different things when it comes to my tone, and they all have to do with the song and what I think the song calls for. I like my tone to be screeching and bright to fill in the spaces of the wall of sound if need be. Other times I like to sound sparkling and dreamy to create some dynamic from the other instruments. And lately I’ve been getting into some weirder sounds by using different combinations of pedals. I’ve been getting inspired by sounds outside of our genre and I’m having a lot of fun trying to recreate things that might not have even been played on guitar. Lately I’ve been drawing a lot from R&B/Pop.

As far as influences on my tone, there have been a few bands/records that have been really important. I’ll always think the guitar tones on Blink 182’s self titled album are top notch. To me they don’t seem to be locked in any time period or genre. I just love the way the guitars sound on that album. I also loved the way guitars sound on Angels and Airwaves stuff. The Dangerous Summer was a big influence on the way I wanted my guitar to sound. The way Bryan used reverb and delay opened up a whole world of possibilities to me. I love the soaring lead parts he would get and how big they made the music feel. Kings of Leon is another one that taught me there’s no shame in turning the reverb allllll the way up if it sounds good.

 

GM: Great so whats up next for you guys?

BH: Right now we are gearing up for a pretty crazy 2016. We just recently went down to North Carolina where we met up with Adam Lazzara of Taking Back Sunday to record an EP. He was kind enough to produce it with us and it couldn’t have been a better experience. Once that’s finished it will be released and we jump right back into the studio to record our first full length. We have been writing and demoing and making sure everything is ready for that. We’re all super excited that in the coming months we will be more than doubling our discography. After that it’s just gonna be a bunch of touring. Hopefully we will get to revisit some of the amazing places we’ve been and see some new ones too. New music, new videos, new live shows, new everything. It’s gonna be pretty great.

 

Modern Chemistry’s EP, Dreaming Adjacent, will be available digitally May 7th. The release show is the same night at the Asbury Park Yacht Club.   

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John DeDomenici – Jeff Rosenstock / Bomb The Music Industry!

April 11th, 2016
photo by Stephanie McKendrick Photography

photo by Stephanie McKendrick Photography

John Dedomenici has always been rock solid every time I have seen him play, and that’s a lot considering how many different groups he has played with over the years. Currently he is finishing up a literal world tour with Jeff Rosenstock (previously featured) which must have been insane. He did most of this interview from Australia which is pretty cool if you ask me.    

 

Gear Metropolis: Let’s start with basses you use. I know I seen you use a few different things in the past, so tell me what you look for in a bass and why you prefer what you use?

John DeDomenici: So I have 2 and a half id say main basses. My favorite and the one I’ve had the longest is a red 2008 Lakland skyline series 44-64 /duck Dunn signature model. I actually ordered that directly from Dan Lakin, the owner of Lakland at the time and got to meet him and try out a mess of cool stuff at the warehouse when I picked it up in Chicago.  They have been pretty wonderful to me over the years. When I used to have the stock pickups in it and they died on me on tour they overnighted me new ones for free and whenever I go there they give me a free setup and changed the pick guard when that cracked once too.  They asked me if I was playing the bass underwater last time I brought it in.  I guess we get a bit sweaty on stage…

The bass is all original except for the pickups  which I replaced with Seymour Duncan quarter pounder p-bass pickups.  Originally I was just trying to buy a fender p bass with a j bass neck but all the basses I were finding from fender at the time were active and I want nothing to do with batteries. Rick Johnson from mustard plug actually turned me on to Lakland because the Duck Dunn model is basically exactly that, p body j neck.  That bass is super fast which was useful in my :::cough cough ska days cough cough::: and sounds nice and big. It’s also a string-thru body which I prefer to get a bigger warmer sound then you normally would out some fenders.  I’ve played over 500 shows with this bass and possibly way more than that.  It’s been all over the USA, Canada, Europe and Australia. Every BTMI song I recorded on I used this bass.  Besides my cat it’s pretty much my favorite thing.  

My other bass is a 2015 midnight blue Rickenbacker 4003.  I picked this up because the main band I play in, Jeff Rosenstock, has been playing more and more as a 3 piece so I was looking for a bass that I could play more chords on and get a bit nastier and bigger than my Lakland would. I got pretty lucky and found a 2004 on Craigslist basically for half the price you’d get one new and jumped all over that. Unfortunately about a month later that was stolen along with pretty much all our other stuff.  Our fans were amazing though and crowd funded us all the money to replace everything so I was able to buy a brand new one in the same color though so I can’t be too upset about it. The only thing I’ve changed on it is I took the bridge pickup cover off and Installed one of those pickup bezels.

Basically whenever we play as a 3 piece I use this bass now. It gets a real nasty sound when you want it to but has a rounder warmer sound than my Lakland which fills out the band better and still has a pretty small neck comparatively which I love because I have baby hands.  I’ve also started playing through a guitar amp on stage as well as a bass amp and splitting the signal to an octave pedal shifted one octave up so when Jeff starts playing leads I can play chords in the guitar range and bass range. The Rickenbacker ended up being perfect for that.  It also looks super fucking bad ass and it’s basically the same bass Haruko fights robots with in the anime FLCL so that’s an added bonus.

My 1/2 bass is a Mexican fender p bass Mike dirnt signature series. After all our gear was stolen the lovely folks we were on tour with graciously offered to let me borrow their basses but none of them felt right so I needed to go out and just buy something until I was able to replace my Rick. I was originally looking for the mark hoppus bass half because it’s a lot like my Lakland and half because that’s just funny but the one store I went to didn’t have it.  They did have a mike dirnt bass which I never tried which I ended up liking which was surprising because the neck on it is hilariously oversized.  It has that old tele bass look and for the price it’s a huge sounding bass and is crazy loud. For $400 it was a no brainer. I meant to sell it when we got home but never got around to it and with my new fear of things getting stolen I decided to bring that bass with me to Australia and Europe which is where I am now.  This ended up being the right call because upon arriving in Australia I was informed my bass was left behind in New Jersey by United and if that was my Rick or Lakland I mighta had a heart attack in the airport or tried to fly a plane back myself to get it. Luckily it was just this one which I didn’t mind waiting an extra day to get back.

When we recorded “We Cool” I actually used none of these basses. Jeff wanted me to use something different than my Lakland and I didn’t have the Rick yet so I used Jack Shirley, the person who recorded the records late 70s p bass.  I was obviously not at all upset about this. My shoulder and back however were after a few days of tracking. Ok that’s all the basses I use!!

jd pedals

GM: So let’s talk about amps, I know you’re using a backline now (currently in Australia), but when you’re home what is your set up with Jeff? I saw you guys at the lanes as a 3 piece and it sounded great.  

JD: Yeah I’m using some weird shit I’ve never heard of here but at least it’s the same everyday so I’m hearing the same weird sound everyday.

When I’m home I use mostly all orange stuff.  My main amp is the orange bass terror 1000watt.  I think it’s pretty much the perfect touring amp.  It’s super small. It’s super basic, 5 controls (gain bass mid treble volume) and it’s crazy loud.  I’m pretty sure I’ve never put it past 3 in any live setting.  It gets real dirty when I want it to and can get nice and juicy and warm if I need to as well and with a million miles of head room.  My cab is a 90s ampeg 8×10 which is also pretty much perfect for touring because you can basically set those on fire and they’ll still sound the same the next day.  The size is a bit much but I do love that it’s basically ear level with me because we’re a pretty loud band off the stage and it helps me not need to be louder than necessary. Basically I’m pretty much into gear that’s going to sound good everyday every gig and need low year to year upkeep. And honestly I’ve AB’d my orange with some higher end all tube amps and I’ll take mine most everyday of the week.  The head also fits in my civic in its road case which is tight.  

When we play as a 3 piece I also use an orange dual terror 30watt head through an orange 2×12 open back cab which I send a split signal to through an ABY switch an octave up with a micro pog pedal to sound like a guitar when Jeff plays leads.  I keep that amp pretty clean and just use an OCD pedal to get it dirty which is going to both the bass amp and the guitar amp.  I can switch this on and off with the ABY so it’s not always happening but just when the leads occur. This helps us fill out the sound as a 3 piece and get crazy loud when we need to but still allow us the ability to get real quiet as a trio as well. Sometimes I will also bring an orange 2×10 bass cab out as well to run the guitar amp through along with the guitar cab but usually on tour we don’t have enough room for all that even though I do love setting up 2 full bass stacks next to Jeff’s fender deville combo.  Jeff does not love that.

When we recorded “We Cool” I used a Mesa boogie 400+ through a similar ampeg 8×10 to mine. I really love that head for recording but as an everyday amp it’s a nightmare between its weight and the tube maintenance you need to do every year or so. 16 power tubes to change out gets expensive I’m sure.

jd amp

GM: Yea I’ve been on tour with a bass player that used a 400+ and it was the worst. Not only is it heavy, but one side weighed more than the other so it’s tough to carry.

You mentioned the OCD pedal, is that ll you use? Do you feel there’s any low end loss using a guitar pedal? Also, you’ve been covering some of the keyboard and glock parts(sometimes while still playing bass) so how did that come about?

JD: My pedal board as of right now is a fulltone OCD, an earthquaker device cloven hoof, a Morley ABY switch a boss tuner and electro harmonix micro pog.

The OCD pedal being a guitar pedal is a bit weird to have on my board but I kind of just use it to give a bit of a volume boost and grit up the signal a bit as well as dirty up the guitar amp when I’m using that as well since that’s really what it’s intended for.  I go back and forth on if I feel like there’s loss of bass when I turn it on.  I run it pretty chill so that cuts down on the bass drop a fair bit.  We were robbed a few months back and we had all our pedals stolen and most of mine were not easy to find ones so I’m still figuring out exactly how happy I am with my pedal situation.  The OCD pedal is replacing an old prescription electronics pedal I had called a depth charge which I absolutely loved.  The OCD pedal though is extremely versatile for both guitar and bass and it’s one of those things where literally everyone has one so everyone can’t be wrong ya know?

The cloven hoof I use as my fuzz sound. I used to be a big muff guy all the way but was tired of replacing them every 2 tours from being damaged.  Jeff turned me onto earthquaker since they’re pretty indestructible. The cloven hoof does everything a big muff does too or at least what I needed it to and gets way way nastier.  It’s also half the size which is great for my tiny board.  (You want pictures of all this stuff btw?) and when I want to get extremely filthy I’ll have both the OCD and hoof on at once for songs like Novelty Sweater or Hall of Fame and it sounds like the bass is kinda on fire.  

I use the micro pog to split the signal from my bass and put it an octave up to the guitar amp and I use the ABY switch to toggle that on and off and just keep the pog always on.

On “we cool” I just used a swollen pickle fuzz pedal for all the fuzz parts except on the song “nausea” where I just turned one of those old acoustic amps all the way up and that’s how I got that fuzz sound on that song.  The swollen pickle is cool but I think it gets a bit too harsh in live settings.  

Since there’s just 3 of us sometimes and it would probably take 5-6 of us to cover all the parts on the album at once we are kinda forced to play a few instruments so I have a microkorg which I play on a few songs for a synth bass sound and for the end of “darkness records” during the orchestral part.  I also play bells on a few songs too and it even works out sometimes where I can just play open strings on the bass and use my free hand to play some bell melodies which is pretty neat.  We figured before we did that AJJ tour last year that we needed to be more than just a 3 piece so if we could all be playing like 3 instruments and make all this different noise that would be interesting for the 2 of 4 opener.  If that’s what ended up translating to the crowd I’m not sure but it was fun to take on the challenge.

jd bass

GM: So I’ve seen you play with like every band on long island. How do you learn/remember all of those songs?

JD: Yeah I’m in a few.

Well for one when I practice quite a bit. I never want to be the person showing up to practice unprepared so I like to know the songs forward and backwards even before we get together in a group setting.  

Usually my method is ill sit down in my living room with 2 laptops 1 with the songs I’m learning and 1 open with “notes” and just start writing the songs out note by note.  I like to use notes so it goes into my phone and I can reference it at rehearsals.  Sometimes I’m able to get Isolated bass tracks of songs from certain bands which is super helpful but not always happens. Depending on the band it takes me between like 10-45 minutes to get a song written out.  Then I just listen to those songs a ton. I run a lot so I’ll just put those songs on a playlist and just run for an hour or so to just keep it all fresh in my head and just do that for like a week straight.

That’s pretty much my weird method. I also have a fairly good musical memory I think mostly from how complicated Jeff’s songs can be so I’m just used to retaining a lot of musical information in one song.  It’s helped me tons when I play with more straight forward bands.  

 

Jeff Rosenstock released ‘We Cool?’ In 2015 and just finished a world tour with dates in the US, Australia, and Europe

Sideonedummy,com

jeffrosenstock.bandcamp.com

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Niko Porlier – Edelweiss

April 4th, 2016

ed1

Edelweiss plays with elements of math rock and post punk all with a pop sensibility. Their songs are intricate yet catchy at the same time. The guitar work will keep you hooked so that is why we talked to Niko Porlier about how he achieves his sound.

 

Gear Metropolis: Let’s start with guitars. What do you use live and how does it contribute to the sound?  When you’re in the studio, do you use anything different?

Niko Porlier: I’ve always played Fenders just out of response to what I saw my influences playing. After playing a Jaguar, Telecaster, and Stratocaster over the years I’ve really come to love the chiminess and rich tones that come with these Fenders. I’ve never owned an American made guitar until last year when I picked up a 1967 Fender Musicmaster. It’s light as a feather which is important for thrashing around on stage, and it’s only got 1 neck pickup which has always been the only pickup I used. It’s got some really fat low end to it for being basically a student guitar from the 60’s. Live, we have tons of buzz/noise as a result of all the single coil action on our gear in addition to the pedals we run it all through. It’s noisy as hell, but frankly I don’t really care. It’s part of the sound. Studio – we’ll use what’s at our disposal. I like having really diverse options in the studio, so we’ll use the Fenders of course but also a Les Paul for the sustain and heavier parts. Our last EP features a few G&L telecaster style guitars courtesy of Joe Reinhart and they did the job nicely.

 

GM: What amps/cabs do you use live? How has your setup changed over time? Did you use anything different when you were in the studio?  

NP: Amps are tricky, because they’re big and heavy, they break and the ones that sound the best are ALWAYS the heaviest and most fragile. As a result, we just use whatever backline the show has. Rolling the dice is kinda fun like that eh? We own a Fender Deville which is great and I’m currently looking to add something British and beefy like a Hi-Watt, Marshall or something of that nature. But money, so…

In the studio we like to have lots of options, so for this next LP we’ll line up an old Fender Bassman, Orange, Hi-Watt, sprinkled with some pawn shop picks (small speakers are seriously underrated) to plug into.

 

GM: Le’ts talk pedals.What do you use and how do you choose? What are your favorites?

NP: My current setup consists of a boss tuner, Pigtronix Fat Drive, Strymon El Capistan delay, Big Ear Loaf overdrive, Walrus Audio Deep Six compressor, and I’ll add a boss looper from time to time. The Fat Drive is my favorite drive pedal that I’ve owned, it’s just incredibly versatile and can do everything from a mild bluesy crunch to a thick and heavy bludgeoning. I’ve only recently gotten the Strymon El Capistan, so I’m still figuring it out… but so far… wow it’s really great. When it comes to choosing, experience is best. I only get something if I need it and plan to integrate it 100% in the set. Otherwise I end up with a lot of waste and I already think the music equipment industry is heavily over-marketed and hyped. In truth, I only spend money if I absolutely love something and need it.

ed2

GM: How would you describe your tone? What guitarists/bands have you modeled your tone after?

NP: Our tone is completely unestablished. We’ve only released a few EP’s, all of which have basically been experiments so it’s hard to say what our tone “is” per say. We’re leaning towards hyper dynamic playing styles which favor clean, subdued tones contrasted with sludgy, menacing riffs. This next release of ours is coming out with a lot of influences at hand. We worship the thick sludge that Electric Wizard mastered in the 2000’s and we also like the subdued, honest cleans that ‘Do Make Say Think’ incorporated. British indie bands like Bloc Party are the reason we’re a band though, so I would say the delay and effects which they use will always be a staple in our music. Russell Lissack, Yourself and The Air, Thomas Erak, Mike Einziger, Dave Murray, Dave Davison would be some guitarists/groups who have left a mark on Edelweiss’ guitar style.

 

GM: What’s coming up for you guys?

NP: In the midst of writing a full length, probably about time? Revamping our live set, preparing future tours, playing throughout the Northeast with friends of ours. Lots of good times ahead.
Edelweiss released their 7” ep  ‘Philadelphia’ with Mad Dragon Records last year

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Chris Teti – The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die

March 28th, 2016
Photo by Mimi Hong

Photo by Mimi Hong

Chris Teti has been at the center of the sound for The World Is… since he joined the band. Handling guitar as well as the production duties has giving him a big opportunity to shape the sound of the band which, as a band with as many layers as they have, can be a true challenge. So here we talk to Chris about his gear as well as the production for The World Is…

 

Gear Metropolis: Let’s start with guitars. What do you use live now and how does it help you achieve your sound? Have you used anything else in the past or in the studio?

Chris Teti – Currently I’ve been bringing a couple baritones and one guitar that’s standard scale.  On our fall tour I used a Fender baritone Tele, Squier Baritone Jazzmaster, and a 1976 Gibson S1.  I didn’t really change much about the baritones aside from adding locking tuners and a black pickguard for the Jazzmaster.  The S1 was a long project.  A friend of mine who sets up all my stuff had it re fretted, and then he cut a custom black pickguard for it with all new electronics.  I am always changing what I use, but am trying to just play a baritone live to keep it simple.  Also I prefer having something so different sonically, especially considering we have been touring with four guitarists.  I work at a studio called Silver Bullet, so I use the guitars the other main engineer, Greg Thomas, has as well.   He let me use some of his guitars such as- a 1976 Gibson Marauder, 1980 custom Gibson Marauder, Gibson Standard SG, and a Fender baritone Tele.  Using Greg’s Marauder and baritone Tele convinced me to get my own.  I used his Marauder on some recordings and just got the same bridge pickup he has since I liked it so much.  He plays in a band called Misery Signals and used it all over their most recent record.  Some other guitars I’ll use in the studio, and may have used live are- Reverend Double Agent, Gibson Goldtop Les Paul with P90’s, Yamaha FGX730SX acoustic, Douglas Baritone Les Paul copy, Fender P Bass.  There are many other random ones I’ve used but I have long since sold them in order to get others.  

 

GM: What amps/cabs do you use live? How has your setup changed over time? Did you use anything different when recording?  

CT: For the past couple years I’ve been using a Peavey 5150 II and an oversized Peavey 412 cab from the early 70’s.  My setup has changed a bunch in the past four or five years.  When I joined TWIABP I was using my Fender Twin Reverb live.  Shortly after that I got a Vox AC30, but couldn’t ever get it to sound right.  I tried so much to get that amp to work and it didn’t ever sound how I wanted.  That amp has the loosest low end and worst high end of anything I’ve ever used.  I used a friends hand wired AC30 and it sounded so much better.  The cabinet on it was made of much better wood.  The standard AC30’s they sell now are just made out of garbage particle board.  Derrick in TWIABP kept telling me for so long to get a 6505+ and while we were on a tour I got one after being frustrated with my Twin.  The clean always sounded good, but overdrive pedals only got me so far.  In a live setting the 5150/6505 amps have such a precise low end response that it’s hard to play anything else once you’re used to it.

 

When we record I use a bunch of different amps. Some others amps that I have and use on our recordings- Marshall Jcm 800, Marshall JMP, Peavey Century, Peavey VTM 120, Carvin X-100B. Some other cabs I’ll use are – Ampeg V4 412, 1970’s Marshall 412, Orange 412, Sunn 412.  During the recording of Harmlessness I would track some stuff while having an amp setup for someone else.  If they took a short break I would track in ideas I got while I was recording them.  We changed sounds basically almost every part on most songs.  This usually meant someone would be bouncing between multiple amps in a song.  Although for a lot of things I have just used amp simulators. A couple I have used on our records are TSE X50 and Line 6 Amp Farm. I usually track my parts long after tracking everyone else during the day, so it’s easier to work quietly at the studio. Sometimes the amp sims cut through the mix really easily and are good to have in such dense material. It can be great for weird guitar layers as well. I used X50 for my baritone parts on Katamari Duquette. It’s such a good recreation of the 5150. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between it and my own amp.  On the song We Need More Skulls from Harmlessness I just used an amp simulator on a multi effects pedal that I have for certain guitar layers that I wanted to sound disgusting.  I remember reading forum posts about Trent Reznor and apparently he would achieve his super abrasive guitar sound by using shitty multi effects pedals for distortion sounds long before there were software amp simulators.  He would just record that in without an amp and it would just sound like a buzzsaw.  I don’t know for sure if that’s what he did, but I’ll believe it since when I did that the sound was definitely close.

GM: What does your pedalboard look like and what are some of your favorites? What would you say you use the most? Anything you are looking to add?

CT: My pedalboard has been a constantly changing thing the past five years. The only thing that I have kept the entire time is the Boss RV5. I also have a Boss PS3 that I got at the same time, but I always go back and forth on using it live. When I started interning at Silver Bullet I got it since Greg Thomas showed me how Cave In used it.  I didn’t know much about pedals and only got the RV5 because I saw the band Isis used a Boss reverb pedal.  The other option to me at the time was a Digitech reverb because I saw Young Widows used one.

 

I use the Strymon El Capistan a lot for drone layers as it self oscillates, but am trying to move away from using it so much.  I was using a an EHX Freeze pedal for a while, but in a live situation it just sounded like my amp was feeding back in a bad way.  I can control the drone note and tone of it a lot easier on the EL Capistan.   When I was mixing Harmlessness I spent days days sampling various sections of the album to layer under itself.  A lot of that was mostly with the El Capistan, RV5, and a tape recorder that Derrick let me borrow.  I recently got an SP 404SX so I can make use of weird layers from the TWIABP records, and sample basically anything else I could want live.  Now that I got this sampler I wish I had it while we did the album.  

 

The main pedal I really want is the Strymon Big Sky or Blue Sky.  When we toured with Caspian I remember one of their guitarists, Philip, using it a lot.  Last summer I recorded an LP for a band from Georgia called Sleep Weather.  One of their guitarists had the Big Sky.  We used it a ton on their record since it has a rad freeze function like the EHX pedal.  It was super easy to combine that drone with other samples and bridge the whole record together.  One of our guitarists, Dylan, just got one and it has helped out a lot with the parts he uses it on.

 

pedalboard

GM: How would you describe your tone? Any other artists influence your sound?

CT: Honestly Derrick in TWIABP has been a big influence on the way my guitar sounds.  They spent years trying to convince me to get the Peavey 6505+/ 5150 II.  I really don’t have any desire to play another amp.  The sound of that amp is pretty critical for our live and recorded material.  I think it’s basically all we use for Derrick’s guitar tracks,  Any time we have tried something else it just doesn’t feel right.  The only other amps I vaguely want to use for TWIABP are the Peavey 6534 Plus or EVH 5150 III.  Both of those amps are just slightly modified versions of what I already use.  I always thought Young Widows had a great guitar sound and I believe they used a 5150 for a while as well.  Other bands that come to mind for my ideal guitar sounds or effects are- Caspian, Failure, Russian Circles, Isis, Neurosis, Shellac, Tera Melos, Mew, Don Caballero, Battles, Papier Tigre, the unreleased Risk Taken LP that Greg Thomas has showed me, Supermachiner, Daughters, Brand New, and mewithoutYou.  I’m sure everyone in the band has a different idea on how they view the songs…. but to me Rage Against the Dying of the Light was a weird combination of Tera Melos’ weird guitar effects, syncopated guitar rhythms from Papier Tigre and Battles, and weird noises/percussion layers from Russian Circles and Neurosis.

 

GM: Being involved with the production side of things, how would you say the band’s sound has changed from the older material moving into Harmlessness and your upcoming EP?

CT: I think the band’s sound has developed more because we have been playing together for a while now.  The band is always trying to expand on what we’re doing.  Having so many people means that everyone is coming from a slightly different mindset, but we all share similar tastes in the core bands we like.  If you combined what everyone in TWIABP thought influenced them for certain songs you would have a truly whacky list.  I guess that’s why we have such different songs on every release.  The biggest element for the difference in sound between our first LP and now would be that we didn’t get much of a chance to experiment in the studio.  We did most of the record elsewhere with another engineer and I think it ended up really neutering the sound.  We used my mobile recording setup for us to re track a bunch of guitar/vocal parts, and add extra layers to the record.  Low Light wasn’t even on the record originally.  We added that song only a couple weeks before it was mixed, and that was mostly done ourselves.  

 

On Harmlessness we spent at least a few hours a day just on vocals.  Sometimes it would be an entire day of vocals going between everyone who was singing.  Usually whoever had the main vocals written for a song would come into the control room and record a rough take all the way through.  We spent hours refining everything from the placement, lyrics, layering, etc.  It was a very specific process to help shape every song.  That type of care and attention wasn’t something that we got when we did the first LP.  The same sort of process would happen with all the other elements as well.  We also would just set aside time to add distorted drum layers, extra percussion, weird guitar layers, etc.  The process for a couple of the earlier records was more so just recording the original guitar part you had written, getting a workable take, and moving on.  When we did the first LP I tracked almost all my guitar parts in an 8 hours span……and that was it.  There wasn’t any time to do add weird sounds or tweak a part to sound just right.  It really felt more like a race to get something in each song.  

 

GM: Is it a challenge to mix a band like The World Is… with so many sounds coming in and out? How do you attack tracking a song?

CT: Every time we do a record I figure out new ways to work on the mix. I’m used to watching Greg Thomas tackle dense and precise metal/hardcore records, so I came to expect albums would probably have over 100 tracks per song.  It can still be a huge undertaking.  I enjoy a lot of records that take multiple listens to digest, but even years later you notice small things here and there after hundreds of plays.  It’s rad that TWIABP has gone towards things like that. While doing Harmlessness I basically shut myself off from the outside world for a month and only worked on the mix, edits, and making notes about what to add or adjust.  Even after getting notes from the band, I spent another two full days tweaking things out on the record with Greg Thomas.

 

Tracking songs with TWIABP is almost always different. Generally drums or some guitars are first.  We’ve done a couple songs by just tracking the vocals first and building around that.  We’ve built songs in the studio from referencing distorted iPhone voice memos and going piece by piece to relearn every part. When we did Harmlessness we had 21 days in the studio, and I had about 3-4 weeks to finish the mix, and get final masters. I think we recorded around 17 songs in the initial three weeks. Basically I worked from about 9am-4 or 5am every day.  We would track from about 11am to 11pm, I would work on my edits the rest of the night, and wake up to load in my edits to the main session/set up anything new for the tracking that day. We would do at least a few hours of vocals every day for a couple weeks. Vocals can be super long, especially with so many people singing.  It’s a lot more taxing on someone to sing for many hours at once, as opposed to playing something like guitar or bass.  There are many vocal section on that record that have around 8 tracks made up of doubles, multiple harmonies, etc.  Even after we finished the main tracking there was probably about a week of organizing and lining up all those sections.  Generally I tried to get people in for a few hours a day working on their respective instrument/vocal parts.  The bulk of the drums were done in a few days, and this included the band practicing and rewriting some of the songs before tracking them.  I left all the mics set up on the drums so we could go right into tracking them after rearranging some of the songs.  Even after that initial process we did a few other different set ups for the kit later in the record once we changed things further and for the distorted drum layers.  Certain people had specific schedules on when they could be in, so we had to adjust accordingly to make sure they could get all their tracking done. It helped bouncing between so many different people over the course of the record because you avoided getting burned out if they weren’t prepared to track something. The main thing is making sure everyone gets the same attention to their parts as everyone else. It can be hard when you’re trying to meet a strict deadline, but I would rather spend the extra hour ironing out the vocal pacing or layering of a song than sleep.  I thought it was awesome we were able to have Katie really take on more parts on the record as well.  She was a wizard with hearing a section and quickly having a rad harmony for it, or learning the vocal part she only heard once or twice.  Aside from that it was awesome Derrick was able to be the main vocalist for the entire first song on the record.  I think it was the first time Derrick did more vocals on a TWIABP record.  We did a record together a few years ago for their band One Hundred Year Ocean, and they are the main vocalist for that.  On previous records for TWIABP Derrick just had some shouted vocals, but nothing as melodic as this.  Anyways….. there really isn’t ever a precise approach.  The only real thing is making sure you hear everyone out and let them try out their ideas on the song.  Sometimes that means cutting your own part out of the song to make room for another that fits the music better. We’ve established a decent system of not being too attached to any one idea or part.  

 

TWIABP just released a new 7” via Topshelf Records called Long Live Happy Birthday. They are currently on tour with Into It. Over It., The Sidekicks, and Pinegrove.

 

www.facebook.com/twiabp

topshelf records.com

epitaph.com

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Rick Johnson – Mustard Plug

March 21st, 2016

rj

Rick Johnson is a man known for his many projects. Whether it’s solo as Rick Johnson Rock and Roll Machine or with others in Bomb The Music Industry, Sharkanoid, Lenin/McCarthy, and most notably the ska punk veterans Mustard Plug, Rick gets around. He is also an accomplished engineer having worked on the latest Mustard Plug album as well as working with Cheap Girls and many others. It was great to talk to a fellow gear nut.

 

Gear Metropolis: So let’s start off with basses? What do you use and how does it fit your style? Have you always played the same bass? do you use anything different in the studio?

Rick Johnson: I have always gravitated towards a fender type bass, either a jazz or a precision.  More or less a precision is my style.  There is just something about the tone that classic, plus all of my favorite bass players usually play one.

I have a revolving cast of basses. The two main guys are  a 1977 fender precision.  I put a g&l sb1 pickup in it and the output is crazy hot.  It is super heavy and currently is retired from live use and just used for studio stuff.  

I also have a mid 90s Ernie Ball Music Man Stingray.  I got this in the late 2000’s for $300 at a guitar show and for a while it was my main live bass.  Typically stingrays sound terrible….super zingy and too west coast bro punk.  For whatever reason this one sounds amazing somewhere between a jazz and a precision….still use it live and in the studio when the track needs a little more bite.

1979 Guild B301-A.  My buddy mike bought this from a furniture store in the mid 90s for super cheap.  Cool weird bass with a vibe somewhere between a Rickenbacker and a p bass.  Sometimes I play it live but typically if i need that ricky sound in the studio I will use this.

2015 Fender Road Worn 50’s precision.  Main live bass now.  replaced the bridge with an american p bass bridge.  Also replaced the pickups with Lindy Fralin P Pickups.  The nitro finish is rad and I am not worried about this thing getting beat up or stolen.

 

GM: Awesome. I can never decide if it like the jazz or p-bass more, everytime I switch, I feel like that’s the more comfortable one. So what about amps?  What amps/cabs do you use live? How has your setup changed over time? Again, anything different in the studio?

RJ: Typically it comes down to pickups. With jazzes I have always tried to like them, but there is something about the multiple pickups that cause weird phasing issues.  A jazz bass just ends up sounding hollow to me.  When you put that into a recording or live use it just doesn’t sit right for me.

My live setup has been the same for 20 years.  Gallien Krueger 800rb head through either an acoustic 8×10 or a swr 2×15.  lately it has been the 2×15 because it is smaller.  Toying with getting a 4×10 because I prefer the sounds of 10s a little better.  live I have always liked solid state amps better than tube stuff.  Too much can go wrong with tube heads and I like that with the gk it is the same sound every night.  No surprises.  Sometimes when stuff is backlined for me I get an svt or one of those orange heads and they are always hit or miss sound wise.  

Studio wise i typically favor the direct sound versus an amp, depends though. The guitarist in my old band gave me a mesa boogie coliseum 300 which is sorta like a super fender twin.  It sounds great on bass so i will use that through the 2×15 or 8×10.  I also have an ampeg b12 which is the 12″ version of the b15.  It breaks up in a different way than a b15

 

GM: I feel you on the one pickup thing, The simpler the better. Do/have you used any pedals with any of you projects?

RJ: In mustard plug it is typically just straight to amp but in other things, I will use a big muff that I built.  A perfboard copy of the green russian one.  I don’t know if it is because that is the first big muff I heard or if for whatever reason that version sounds the best on bass?  Other big muffs just sound wrong to me.  I also have a boss hyper fuzz.  It is sorta a clone of a super fuzz.  It is basically instant gratitude by beastie boys bass tone.  I have a ton of other effects but i will typically roll between those two.

 

GM: How would you describe the tone you go for? Who are the biggest influences for your sound?

RJ: I just try and go for a well rounded tone.  I like you can hear the notes you know?  Maybe I like a little too much midrange……I don’t know? Besides random weird local dudes from my hometown.  The big 4 for me are Mike Watt, Bruce Thomas, Graham Maby, and Dave Schulthise(aka blood.)  Also pretty much all 80s new wave bass players.

 

GM: How did you get into recording? What do you like most about it?

RJ: I am from a smallish town in west michigan called Muskegon.  When my old band was super active there really wasn’t a real recording studio in the area.  The only options were to either venture out of town (for a bunch of 14 year olds that really wasn’t an option) or to rent a 8 track from this terrible music store in town and figure it out.  My friend Mike eventually figured it out and we only ever recorded in diy spaces.  After doing that a couple of times we kinda figured out that if we started buying our own gear we could record cheaply so we just sorta figured it out.  

In the late 90s and early 2000’s recording gear on the internet was super cheap as most studios were blowing out gear since everything was going into pro tools land.  Since I like gear I just would buy random stuff on ebay and eventually it started taking over the apartment that my girlfriend and I were living in at the time.  At the same time Mustard Plug was getting kicked out of the house that we practiced in and the landlord offered up the space next door to us.  It was too expensive but I figured I’d moved my stuff in there and try and make a go of it.   I have been in that building ever since.

I like the fact I am helping make something that didn’t exist exist now.  It is pretty awesome to be in that position.

 

Mustard Plug started the year with a west coast tour and now has a few shows scattered around Michigan in May, some with Rude Boy George and Sailor Kicks. 

mustardplug.com

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Ryan Morgan – Misery Signals

March 14th, 2016

 

photo by: Erika Astrid

photo by: Erika Astrid

Misery Signals brings the perfect mash up of techniness with melody and their short run of anniversary shows for Of Malice and the Magnum Heart in 2014 was perfect. Misery Signals records were a huge influence on my tone so it was great to break it down and talk gear with founding member, guitarist Ryan Morgan.  

 

Gear Metropolis: Let’s start with guitars. What do you use live now and how did you settle on that for your sound? Have you used anything different in the past or on the records?

Ryan Morgan: Paul Reed Smith Custom 24 with the PRS Metal pickups.  It’s just loads of fun to play, and once it’s in my hands I never want to put it down.  I’m really happy with the sound too, but the feel of it is what sets it far apart from other instruments.  It’s not on the records, because I got mine just after the last record came out.  For a long time prior I played an ESP Horizon, which is a great guitar too, and that’s on all the records.  There is a PRS all over…Malice… (our first record) on all the clean sections, it belonged to Devin Townsend who produced that record, and we also used one of his Gibson Les Pauls for layering the heavy parts.  Lots of layering on the albums.  The rhythm sound on Absent Light (2013) is a track of my Horizon with a track of Greg’s Gibson Marauder doubled on underneath it.

 

GM:What amps/cabs do you use live? How has your setup changed over time? Did you use anything different when you were in the studio?  

RM: I play through a Peavey 5150ii head live, and I pretty much always have.  It’s just got the exact high gain nastiness I like for palm mute stuff, which is what matters most for my tone with Misery Signals.  I’ve cycled through quite a few different cabs, but I always go back to ones that have vintage 30 speakers.  Currently it’s a Framus Dragon 4×12 cab. We mix it up in the studio, especially in layered parts, but the 5150 tends to always be part of it.  I have a Framus Cobra that’s got 3 different channels and is really versatile for recording, great clean tone.  I also have an Orange 1×12 that is fun in the studio.

 

GM: How would you describe your tone? What bands/guitarists influenced your sound?

RM: That’s tough.  I guess I would say that it’s pissed and heavy, but still clear. It’s difficult to balance a really aggressive tone without going too distorted and losing all the articulation.

 

GM: Do you use any pedals live or in the studio? And if so what are they? Any favorites?

RM: I’m a big delay guy.  I have a few different delays that I like.  One I’ve been using a lot lately is the T-Rex Reptile.  T-Rex also has a reverb called the Roommate that’s got a tube in it and sounds really dope.  When I’m playing live I use a Boss DD-6 or a DD-20 for this feature that they call “Warp” where you can just hold down the pedal and the delay tail will keep sustaining until you let go of the pedal.

 

GM: What’s the one piece of gear that’s irreplaceable for you?

RM: It may be stretching your question a bit if I say my Avalon 737 channel strip – which I use for recording.  But having a quality preamp is so crucial, and everything sounds better through my Avalon.

 

GM: What was the recording process of the last album? How did it differ from prior releases?

RM: It was actually very different, because I was the boss and the producer.  We left our label and did the album on our own, so we had freedom to make every single little decision.  And we were able to collaborate with a bunch of great engineers on the mix and on other elements of the recording, we used live string players, all because we have an awesome fanbase that crowdfunded our record and afforded us those luxuries.  It’s so awesome to do time-consuming tracking and studio stuff without having to worry you’ll run out of hours in the studio.

 

Misery Signals will be releasing a documentary about their 2014 Malice X tour with director Matt Mixon.
miserysignalsmusic.com

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