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Photo by Frank White
Songs like “Brave This Storm” and “Vengeance Falls” lead you to think the music is going one way, but then it twists in different directions.
Heafy: Yeah, that’s a part of our sound—the dynamics, the sudden changes, and the intense juxtaposition of fast and slow. You never really know what you’re going to get out of our band.
Beaulieu: One of the goals of this record was to write big songs with great grooves. To get people sucked into a rockin’ groove where their primal instinct is to bang their heads or tap their feet. Any song on this record would sound amazing at a festival in front of 60,000 people.
Your music also evolves from album to album.
Heafy: Each of the first five records is different, but Vengeance Falls channels the best of each record. I like to keep people on their toes, and keep us on our toes. It goes back to the mentality we had when we made our first couple of records: We make the kind of music we want to hear.
How do you split the guitar duties?
Heafy: I usually track all the rhythm guitars on the record. When it comes to splitting up solos, it’s really as casual as, “Do you want this part or that part?” If something requires a lot of shredding, it usually goes to Corey. When there’s something breathy and melodic that calls for a sing-along solo, I do it. We treat our solos as mini-songs within the song.
How do you come up with your harmony parts?
Beaulieu: It’s all about the big picture. It’s about experimenting with different harmony sounds and also listening to the vibe of the song. Sometimes I might try a harmony, but it sounds too happy—if it’s a dark song, playing thirds might sound a little too cheery. So I just leave it plain, or add a lower octave to beef it up. Octaves can sound pretty dark if you add them to the right part. Or I might throw in a higher octave for a slightly different vibe.
You both have signature guitars. What can you tell us about them?
Heafy: My Epiphone Les Paul Custom is completely modeled after the first Les Paul Custom I got when I was 11 or 12, which I used to record Ember to Inferno, In Waves, and Vengeance Falls. I sent that guitar to the Epiphone shop and they modeled everything: the weight, the dimensions, how it plays. The back of a Les Paul Custom is pretty boxy, and it’s hard to play at the higher frets, so we cut that back and added the Les Paul Axcess heel. I also put EMG 81/85s [neck/bridge] in the 6-string and 707/81-7 [neck/bridge] in the 7-string.
Beaulieu: My signature models [both 6- and 7-string] are made to order by Jackson. They’re not mass-produced in a factory. The same shop that builds the one I get makes them, so I play exactly what people get. However, my model is a USA version, so it’s three, four, or five times as expensive as Matt’s.
Heafy: I wanted to make something our fans could afford, whether it’s someone just starting off or someone like me in a professional band. A Gibson Les Paul Custom costs $3,500. I didn’t want to play a better version of what’s in the stores. I play the same exact model. The guitars I used on this tour and the European tour weren’t custom-built. They shipped directly from the factory.
Corey, would the price of your signature model be an obstacle for younger fans?
Beaulieu: I’m hoping by the end of next year we’ll start doing a Japanese import version in the $1,200 range.
You both had passive pickups on your previous Dean signature model. Now your respective signature guitars have active pickups.
Heafy: Let’s see: Ember was active. Ascendancy, The Crusade, and Shogun were passive. In Waves and Vengeance Falls were active.
Corey, you use Seymour Duncan Blackouts while Matt uses EMGs. What sonic differences do you hear between those active pickups?
Beaulieu: I like the Blackouts because they’re more balanced, quieter, and have a bit hotter output. When Matt plays his EMGs, they sound great. I had EMGs in a couple of my guitars and it seemed like I didn’t get enough lows. For my playing style, it seemed a little bit bright. The Blackouts are smoother to my ears. I loved them the first time I heard them, and I have a hard time adjusting to other active pickups.