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Interview: Middle Class Rut - Unshackled Justice

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Interview: Middle Class Rut - Unshackled Justice

Do the benefits of having a larger group outweigh the headaches?
It’s like a weight has been lifted off me. There are two guitar parts going on in almost every song. Now I won’t have to be the bass player and the guitar player and the singer. I mean, there are songs that we have on old EPs that we still never ever played live because we couldn’t play them as a two-piece. So now there’s a chance that people that have been into the band for a few years are going to be hearing shit they haven’t heard before. It’s, like, “Oh man, they never played that song live!” Well, it’s because we couldn’t.

How were you covering some of the parts in previous tours?
The rig I had was pretty crazy—I ran three guitar rigs all at once. I would have my low end running through the bass setup—I got the guitar to sound a hell of a lot like a bass—then I’d have two separate guitar rigs that I could mute in and out.

Would you switch off between guitars or just use the same one through the changing rigs?
I had a couple of different guitars, but I usually stuck with the same one, depending on the tuning. It would all be run through a series of pedals.

Could you have used a more compact setup with something like a Fractal Audio Axe Fx?
I don’t think it would be the same. The way I bring things in and out—it’s pretty hands on. That setup was good and definitely served its purpose, but obviously I don’t have to truck that rig around now.

What are your main axes?
My favorite one is a ’57 reissue Les Paul Jr. That’s my main go-to guitar. I got it back in ’01. We were doing a Leisure record with [producer, mixer, and engineer] Joe Barresi, and he brought by a bunch of guitars for me to try out. I fell in love with this Jr. and was, like, “I gotta get me one of these.” He had a deal through Gibson and he got me one from their custom shop that had a massive neck. From there, I was pretty much sold on it. I loved it and also got another identical one back in ’08 for the different tunings. Whatever tree they used to make this one was a lot lighter, and I never liked it quite as much. Up until then, I only played Fenders. Our tech actually built me a custom T-style guitar with a P-90 in it—I’m a P-90 guy all the way around.

Fenders usually aren’t as beefy as a Les Paul—did you write differently when you played them?
Yeah, big time. In the old bands, I was pretty much only a Strat guy. I had maybe three different Strats. I’d be playing with pretty hot humbuckers on them.

The rig I had was pretty crazy—I ran three guitar rigs all at once.

But with the two-piece, when I played guitar it sounded like a guy without a bass player. I knew I had to craft a whole new sound for this band. That’s when I bumped up and started exclusively using the Jr.—I built my rig around the sound of that guitar.

What acoustic did you use on “Dead Eye?”
The acoustic strumming through that song is the main thread. It’s probably some super-cheap Fender. We had two Fender acoustics that we had to get at the last minute, maybe a couple of years back. It’s definitely not an amazing guitar by any means, but it served its purpose.

It’s just something off the shelf from like a big chain store?
Yeah, it’s a super low-level guitar.

What about amps?
Anybody that sees me from now on will see me with all Orange gear. They’re a company I’m somewhat new to working with. I have the MKII Rockerverb 100W head and just a basic 4x12 closed-back Orange cab.

What effects do you use?
I still have my same effects rig on the floor. It’s just not as crazy as before when it was a six-foot-long board. I’ll use a Big Muff on some of the leads. I have an MXR Micro Amp that’s super good—it’ll blow out your cleans. It’s similar to a Big Muff but it doesn’t chop your tone as much. I’m always using delays, too. I have two of the super basic Boss delays and I use them for different things. I also have an MXR Carbon Copy delay that I use sometimes.

What about the sound effects in “Weather Vein?” Is that the DigiTech Whammy pedal?
Yeah. I use the Whammy pedal all the [expletive] time. The leads on that one are kind of reverse leads—they’re backwards. I wrote those leads forwards and then I reversed them. It was trial and error, just playing what I could come up with that sounded the best when it was flipped backwards. And then once I flipped them backwards, I learned to play them forwards. I just flipped them after the fact. Once you track it down, it was easy enough to flip your single guitar track. That’s how I experimented with it. When it came time to play it, I just learned to play it that way. That pedal has got a really good octave setting and a really good harmony setting.

Did you use that for the harmony guitar parts on “Take a Shot” or did you record those parts on separate tracks?
That little lead section? I just tracked the harmony for it. One of them was more of a straight-to-the-board kind of sound. Super crunchy versus, like, a normal distortion.

But now, with the added guitar player, you can easily do these types of parts live.
Yeah, we would just play it together.

Zack Lopez's Gear

Guitars
Gibson ’57 reissue Les Paul Jr., Custom T-style with P-90s, Fender budget acoustic

Amps
Orange MKII Rockerverb 100W head driving an Orange 4x12 closed-back cab

Effects
DigiTech Whammy, Boss DD-2, MXR Carbon Copy, MXR Micro Amp, Electro-Harmonix Big Muff

Strings, Picks, and Accessories
Dean Markley Blue Steel .011–.052 string sets, Dunlop .88 mm nylon picks, Mogami cables, DiMarzio interlocking straps

If the new guys bailed mid-tour and you had to go finish the tour as a two-piece band, could you revert to your three-rig setup—or a variation of it—and pull off the new set live?
We couldn’t do this new record justice as a two-piece—no way. It wouldn’t sound like the record. It would sound more like a garage band trying to play something, y’know what I mean? I don’t think we have any interest in having an earpiece in and playing to a bunch of pre-recorded tracks. That would be lame.

For only two guys, we carried around enough gear for a five-piece. It’s just something that built up over time. I would need more low end or I would need this or that, and I would keep adding to it. When we’d travel or do one-off radio shows—like, when we’d go to Europe—it would be really hard. Most people can just rent an amp and they’d be all set. I couldn’t do that, because it was such a specific rig that I needed. I’m looking forward to scaling it down. We have a tech that’s been with us maybe four years now. I think he just finally figured out my rig—and that’s when I switched it out [laughs].

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