“If I didn’t do this, I’d regret it
for the rest of my life,” says
Russell Klein, as he discusses the
difficult decision he made when
he dropped out of UC San
Diego’s chemical engineering
program in 2010 to tour with
metalcore sensation Adestria as
lead guitarist. It was a serious
gamble to risk a lucrative career
prospect that offered financial
security for a life potentially
filled with Taco Bell combo
dinners as a road warrior. And
while many others who’ve made
similar bets in pursuit of their
dreams live in some sort of
limbo waiting for their day to
come, it appears that Klein’s
risky move is starting to pay off.
In the four short years since the
band’s inception, Adestria has
accomplished what most bands
spend their whole careers trying
to achieve, and their success
story is, in many ways, the stuff
music dreams are made of.
Adestria got its start serendipitously
at a party when
singer Matt Anderson met up
with people who shared similar
musical tastes. Over drinks, the
initial talks began and a casual
jam session was arranged. But no
one had major expectations. “I
don’t think we had any idea we
were going to get as serious as
we have,” says rhythm guitarist
Brian Stump. But it happened,
and it happened fast. In 2010
the band recorded an EP, Oh the
Places You’ll Go, which generated
a ton of buzz almost immediately
upon its release and resulted in
Alternative Press magazine naming
them the No. 5 unsigned
band. This led to a deal with
Artery Recordings in late 2011,
and they recently released their
full-length debut, Chapters.
Adestria’s brutal breakdowns
and virtuosic, effortless-sounding
fretwork might give the
impression that these players
were child prodigies, but that’s
hardly the case. Keyboardist
Mikey Colasardo first picked
up his instrument upon joining
the band, and it has taken
Adestria—whose members are
largely self-taught—quite some
time to develop their finesse.
“We all weren’t that great in the
beginning,” says Klein. “It took
a lot of hard work and practice
together to reach a point where
we were all at a mutual ability
that was good enough. Our older
music wasn’t nearly as technical.”
Stump echoes that: “The musicianship
has come a long way
since we started, and it’s still getting
better and better the more
and more we play.” Currently
on the road with the SoundRink
Tour, Klein and Stump discuss
their band’s evolving chemistry
and the art of keeping order in a
young six-piece band.
Chapters is like an epic odyssey—
there are so many layers
and parts that come out of
nowhere. What’s your typical
writing process like?
Russell Klein: It always starts
off with some sort of riff for the
guitar, then we add drums, and
from there we add keyboards
and additional layers. We
modify it as we go, section by
section, and work on the parts
to make sure it’s not too long,
or we’ll move a part from one
place to another, or change a
note here or there. Lately, we’ve
been doing a lot of writing on
Brian Stump: We’ll build a
foundation, then tweak from
there. Everyone’s opinion definitely
comes into effect.
With so many people in the
band, do each of you have to
make a lot of compromises?
Stump: Yeah, it makes the writing
process a little difficult at
times, but nothing good ever
comes easy. I don’t mind taking
the hard route.
How do you communicate the
riffs to each other—do you
write them out in tab or give
each other mp3s?
Klein: Brian and I just teach
each other how to play the
parts. Generally, we all write
together as a group. We practiced
four days a week, so we
were all together during the
Stump: I also tab-out riffs using
a program called Guitar Pro. It’s
an incredible app that I’ve got it
on my iPhone. When we’re on
tour, even if I don’t have my guitar
handy, I can sit and bust out
a couple of riffs. I can do it over
and over, because god knows I’ve
got plenty of time on the road.
With two guitarists, a bassist,
and a keyboard player, it must
be easy to clutter things up,
sonically. How do you arrange
things so that everyone has
their own space?
Klein: There’s a lot to contribute,
and sometimes someone obviously
has to take a backseat. Our
keyboard player holds a lot of
rhythm notes down and then
accentuates a lot of the lead notes.
For the most part, we haven’t run
into too many problems there,
because we have things designated
as “when we [the guitarists] do
stuff” and “when the other person
is taking the lead.”
Stump: Basically, Russell takes the
leads and we use our keys as less of
an in-your-face, techno, secondary
lead instrument and more for
creating atmospheric textures.
But there are several moments
on Chapters, like in “More
Than You Know” and “1984,”
where the piano is the featured
Stump: Piano’s great over
breakdowns for certain parts.
That’s kind of where we give
Mikey his moment to shine,
and I’ll keep a solid rhythm and
harmonize certain lines in these
spots. None of us are overly
zealous to be in the spotlight all
the time. It’s nice that we can
kind of balance it between us.
On songs like “1984” and
“Compromised,” the guitar
parts under the vocals are
almost like a shred etude, with
nonstop 16th- or 32nd-notes.
Did you do that to differentiate
Stump: Yeah, we definitely try
to keep ourselves busy. It’s nice
to have your part in a song and
just kind of hand the torch
over—keep it rotating around.
It’s just our style, I guess.
We don’t really plan that much
ahead between the vocals and the
guitar. We kind of write the guitar
parts, write the music, and then
patch the vocals on top. It’s kind
of trial and error. There’s no real
specific reason for any of that.
So it’s not because, if Brian’s
playing chords and Mikey’s
adding stuff on the keyboards,
then playing fast, perpetual
motion lines is one of the only
other textures left?
Klein: Yeah, that’s pretty much
the reason behind it. We just
want to make sure that the parts
are interesting even without the
vocals and other stuff. We want
to make sure that there’s always
something going on.
In the breakdown in
“Compromised,” you play a
series of arpeggios that are
executed with some tricky
rhythms. Where does that
rhythmic chicanery come from?
Klein: That idea came from our
producer Nick Sampson, who
plays a lot of styles like that. He
likes those “off” timings. We
shot some ideas back and forth.
We wanted to do a breakdown,
but we also wanted to have a
lead over it. It was something
we’d never done before, and it
turned out pretty sweet. When
you get another mind in there
helping you write stuff, you get
stuff you wouldn’t necessarily
come up with on your own.
Nick’s band, I Am Abomination,
was a huge influence on us.
What other bands or players
have influenced your music?
Klein: A major influence when
we first started playing was As
I Lay Dying—you can hear it
in our music, for sure. August
Burns Red and the Devil Wears
Prada are other huge influences.
We try to do a mix of the heaviness
and style of Devil Wears
Prada, but get a little more
technical and add guitar riffs
and little things like that.
Stump: Yeah, we’ve been compared
to the Devil Wears Prada
before. I guess the melodic
breakdowns are where people
make the connection. I also like
jamming on my acoustic guitar
and really like Andy McKee. He’s
pretty mellow. If I’m lying down
and I want to relax, I listen to that.
Would you ever try to incorporate
some of Andy McKee’s
influence into your writing?
If taken from the right angle,
it could probably work with
Stump: Definitely, with a lot of
the tapping. It would be awesome
to somehow incorporate that in.
Did you do anything deliberate
during the Chapters
songwriting process to differentiate
Klein: Yes—we didn’t want to
do the usual heavy-metal riffs
nonstop, and then breakdown,
and then break down the breakdown.
We wanted to add a lot
more musicianship to it, so it’s
not necessarily just heavy breakdowns.
We’ll have a part where
we have a lot of guitar work,
and then a lot of drums—a lot
of cymbal hits between a lot of
fills—and then we’d have a part
with the piano. At our shows,
we do have heavy breakdowns—
and we like it heavy here and
there—but we don’t want it
to be only that. We wanted to
show that we’re not just any
hardcore band. We wanted to be
taken seriously as musicians.
Was it hard in the beginning to
find like-minded people who
also had a similarly high level
of technical ability? Because
your music’s not easy …
Klein: In the beginning, it was
definitely a lot less technical.
The skill level has definitely
grown majorly in the last four
years. We’ve all kind of done it
together. We all worked on our
songwriting together to develop
this style that we all liked,
because we all are into slightly
different styles and we tried to
get it to mesh together. Russell
has also kind of taken me under
Did you take lessons or are
Stump: I started real young,
playing trumpet, and then
played drums in a punk band. I
moved to guitar when I was 18.
I’ve mostly been self-taught, but
I’m definitely open to getting
lessons. Learning on my own
is awesome, but it’s getting to
the point where it helps to have
that different brain.
Klein: I took lessons for about
a year when I was in elementary
school, and then I actually
stopped playing guitar for about
five years. When I picked it up
again in high school, I taught
myself from that point on. I
read a lot of Wikipedia articles
trying to figure out theories,
and I also talk to a lot of other
guitar players. In San Diego,
there are lots of really talented
musicians and they’ll be like,
“Have you ever tried doing
something like this?” or “It
helps me remember different
chords by doing it this way.”
Although it seems like it’s
worked out very well for you
guys, one of the tricky things
about teaching yourself is that
if you learn something wrong,
there’s no one there to help
you fix it—and it could lead
to bad habits.
Klein: A lot of people have a lot
of bad habits. I have a couple of
bad habits, and it took me a while
to teach myself to not do that
same thing over and over again.
Klein: Some people hold the
pick with the side of their
index finger and put their
thumb on top of it, whereas
some people hold it with their
fingertips, using the index,
middle finger, and thumb
together. The first is the standard
way, and the other isn’t.
Is there a disadvantage to one
way or the other?
Klein: Yeah, with one you use
more finger movement, and the
other you use more wrist. When
you move your wrist, that’s the
proper way to do it and you can
get more control. But Brian uses
more of a fingertip style, which
works for him. It’s just two different
styles of guitar playing.
Is it true that Mikey couldn’t
really play keyboards when he
first joined? If so, that’s pretty
remarkable. Even though he’s
not playing a lot of virtuosic
runs, it still takes a great deal
of musicianship to keep it
together and not get lost.
Klein: That’s right. He first
picked up keyboards when we
started the band. But he also
took a couple of classes at the
college where we went when he
started out, and he started getting
a lot of practice there. He
got on the ball with learning
how to play really quickly.
Let’s talk about gear. What
guitars do you use?
Klein: Right now Brian and I
both use ESP LTDs. I’ve got
an LTD Viper 1000. They’re
not quite the custom ones, but
they’re a little over a $1,000
brand new. We’re working on
getting an endorsement from a
couple of different guitar companies,
something a little more
Stump: Mine has a Les Paullike
body and is flat black, with
EMG pickups. The EMGs are
like butter—they pick stuff up
a lot better. I’ve never really
messed around with a whole
lot outside of EMGs. I just
picked it up and loved it from
the beginning. I don’t feel like I
need to change anything.
Yeah, EMGs do pick up a lot
Klein: When we were recording,
the EMGs picked up so
much from the open strings
that we had to tape those
Do you do that live, too?
Klein: No, not live—it’s pretty
much indistinguishable live.
How about amps?
Klein: Right now, I have a
Peavey JSX with a 5150 cab.
Stump: I use an EVH 5150 III.
It’s got 6L6 power tubes, which
give it an incredible tone.
Do you guys EQ your amps
differently to differentiate
your parts, or do you set them
similarly to create one big
wall of sound?
Stump: My amps usually are set
with a little more low end. But,
in general, our tones are pretty
close. We don’t want it sounding
off balance and lopsided.
How about the oft-overlooked
components of tone, like
strings and picks?
Klein: My favorite picks are
1.14 mm Snarling Dogs Brain
Picks. They’re really thick and
have a special grip on them,
which I like because I get pretty
sweaty when I play and lose
traction sometimes. And we’re
both using Dean Markley Blue
Steels strings, .011–.052.
Stump: We’re looking into
thickening the gauge, though,
just to give it a little more beef.
But right now it’s kind of like,
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” As
far as picks, I don’t know why
but I can’t play on anything
except those grippy nylons. I
guess I’m just spoiled because
I started from day one with
them. Anything else just kind
of strains my fingers. I like the
nylon .88s—they have a little
bit of flex, but aren’t too flimsy.
Russell Klein's Gear
ESP LTD Deluxe Viper 1000
Peavey JSX head, Peavey 5150
4x12 cab, Mesa/Boogie 4x12 cab
Boss DD-20 Giga Delay
Strings, Picks, and Accessories
Dean Markley Blue Steel .011–
.052 sets, 1.14mm Snarling Dogs
Brain Picks, Mogami cables, Line
6 Relay G50 wireless, DiMarzio
Brian Stump's Gear
ESP LTD EC-1000
EVH 5150 III head, Mesa/
Boogie Dual Rectifier
head, Marshall JCM900
Ibanez TS9 Tube
Strings, Picks, and Accessories
Dean Markley Blue Steel
.011–.052 sets, .88mm
Snarling Dogs Brain
Picks, ISP Decimator
Boss TU-3 tuner, Monster
cables, Line 6 Relay
G50 wireless, DiMarzio
Russell, a lot of shredders like
light-gauge strings to facilitate
speedy lines. Are you still able
to easily shred with the .011s
Klein: Yeah. A lot of people use
even thicker strings than that.
This is actually a thin gauge for
our style of music. I know a lot
of people use .012–.056.
Judging by some of your
promo videos—where you’re
downing a lot of shots—you
guys party pretty hard. How
do you keep it together playing
music this difficult with
alcohol-impaired motor skills?
Klein: We’re pretty strict about
not partying before we play, and
we’re really good at not doing
too much beforehand. After
we play, we go absolutely nuts,
but beforehand we might do a
drink or two together just to
ease the nerves.
Rule number one for
me is: Keep your head straight
until after you play. You’ll play
a better show. Everyone’s on the
same page about that. We enjoy
partying, but we don’t want to
project that image ... maybe our
videos are doing a pretty poor
job. We don’t want to project
an overly party-band image,
because a lot of kids come out
to our shows and I don’t want
to be coming up to them smelling
like booze, totally trashed,
and making an idiot of myself.
We do party, but we try to keep
it at a level—at least at shows—
where it’s very controlled.
I’ve played shows where
I’ve partied a little bit beforehand
and I wasn’t happy with
my performance. We’ve all
done the same thing but, if
we’re not in the right state of
mind, we’re just not happy with
ourselves—because we’re our
own worst critics.