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"I think the strength of our personalities and how we interact with each other is such a big part of the sound,” says Govan. “It doesn't have to be genre specific or anything like that. Photo by Sean Molin
Bryan, what did you use to get that synth sound on the intro to "Dance of the Aristocrats?"
Beller: The main synth filter sound you hear is a regular bass guitar through a SWR Mo Bass. It's an amplifier with built-in effects and I was using the bassynth effect. It's a true analog filter. It just sounds really great. It's impractical to travel with that head, so I can't bring it with me everywhere, unfortunately. But I have an Electro-Harmonix Bass Micro Synthesizer that I use when I play that tune live and I combine that with the SWR Mo Bass to make the sound that you hear on the record.
Did Marco have that sound in mind when he brought in that tune?
Beller: You know what, the amazing thing about Marco is that he’s a complete multi-instrumentalist. He plays every instrument and is capable of producing a fully formed, very mature demo. I mean he's put out like 15 records of his own where he plays almost all the instruments. Of course, the intention of the song is there but it really comes to life when we play each other's music. That said, in this song it was a keyboard synth on the demo.
Let's move onto gear. Guthrie, are you still playing the Charvel prototype #2 that we saw you with on the Steven Wilson tour?
Govan: Interestingly, I am now playing prototype #3, which turned up yesterday. These guys really care when I give them suggestions and are on the case immediately. So they turned up at the gig yesterday with prototype #3. Different bridge—that's all I'm saying.
What was it about the old bridge that you didn't like?
Govan: One of the things that has worried me for years is I don't like the full-on, double-locking trem and all the ungodly metal work that tends to come along with that design. It gets in the way of your picking hand and then there's the tedious locking nut and not being able to change the tuning in the middle of a gig. Life's too short for double-locking trems, in my opinion. I've always tried to make a vintage-style trem stay in tune and I've never quite succeeded. When I was trying to relearn the songs for this current tour I listened back to a couple of moments from our live DVD [Boing, We'll Do It Live!] and thought, "Really? That was in tune two minutes ago, what happened?" But with this model, I think we have cracked it. Sorry to taunt your readers, but I think we cracked it … you'll see!
So a signature model is in the works?
Govan: We're working on it. It will probably happen fairly soon. I don't want to promise anything, but I know how excited the internet gets about these things. If I put two Facebook posts out and one is about a new album and the one is about a signature guitar, the guitar one will distract everyone from the album. It's weird to me, but that's how things seem to work. I guess people need to know something. With that in mind, we’re working together and have one very nearly dialed in that is very close to deserving the title of a signature model. Other than that, I cannot and will not say—but something will happen in the foreseeable future.
What basses did you use on this record, Bryan?
Beller: I basically just used two instruments. I have my bright bass, a Mike Lull Custom Modern 5, and my dark bass, which is a Mike Lull Custom P/J 5. The bright one has an ash body and maple fingerboard—it's the red one that I’ve been playing for 13 years. The dark one has an alder body and rosewood fingerboard and I use that for the darker sounding stuff like "Louisville Stomp" and "And Finally," which is this dark, thick R&B tune. Also on "Gaping Head Wound," which is this jazz-fusion-y tune, for lack of a better word. I use the bright bass on "Culture Clash," "Desert Tornado," and "Living the Dream."
How about amps? What did you guys plug into for these sessions?
Govan: The trusty Suhr Badger 30, with the lovely Suhr Koko Boost in front of it. Much like the last album, I did the two-amp trick, so I split the guitar signal with an Axess Electronics BS2 Buffer and mixed two amps at once. The other amp this time was a Fender Super-Sonic 22.
Beller: When I'm in the studio, I use a totally separate chain. I track three or four channels all the time. I use an ART Tube PAC into an old UA 1176 compressor and that's my main sound. I also use a SansAmp PSA-1 set to jazz and then the rest of it is a bit of a wild card but I usually go with a dirty direct sound with an MXR M-80 for that sound. On "Ohhhh Noooo," that was a really cool dirty sound and I used a Darkglass Microtubes B3K on that. That thing rocks.