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Mike D'Antonio digs into his signature Ibanez MDB3. Photo by Alex Solca.
Let’s talk gear. Mike, which basses did you use for this album?
D’Antonio: I’ve played Ibanez basses for a long time, and I’m pretty happy about my latest MDB3 signature bass. It’s shaped like an Ibanez Destroyer and has a Duncan SPB-3 pickup and a single volume knob. It feels a lot like my old Gibson Thunderbird, which is one of the things I loved about it right off the bat—it took me back to when I was a kid, rocking out with my Thunderbird. Unfortunately, those Thunderbird necks are so fragile—I broke mine twice on tour. Both times I thought I was going to cry for days, so I just had to retire it—I couldn’t bear to see my baby get broken anymore.
Which features of the MDB3 are you most excited about?
D’Antonio: I’m sloppy onstage—I jump around like a nut and it’s basically gym class for me—so if I have a lot of knobs, I’m going to knock into ’em and turn them off or change my tone. I’ve been asking Ibanez for a long time how I can rectify the situation—if I can get some sort of pop-up knob or if I could put something in the back. They came up with the idea of putting a tone trimpot in the back, under the plate for the electronics. There’s a little hole so you can stick a screwdriver in and adjust your tone.
Joel, you’ve been pretty faithful to Caparison guitars for a while now, and you updated your signature model over the last year or so. What did you change?
Stroetzel: The guitar I’ve been playing has a cool neck profile: Toward the headstock, it’s kind of flat, and toward the body it gets rounder. You can do fast rhythm stuff down low and it’s nice and flat, almost Ibanez-style, and then you go up and it’s rounder, like a Les Paul. I’ve had a couple of versions with coil-tapping stuff, I’ve had a couple with a Gibson-style stop tailpiece, but we got rid of that and had the strings go through the body. You get better string tension for the low [drop-C] tuning with the greater angle of the string behind the bridge. So that, and the smaller fret size—from jumbo down to medium-jumbo—is the main difference. I love the feel of big frets, but it’s tough in the studio to intonate chords with bigger frets. I really like Caparison’s craftsmanship. They’ve got great fretwork and nice woods, and they’re well balanced as far weight and tone.
Adam, you’ve gone from Caparison to Parker to PRS guitars over the last few years, right?
Dutkiewicz: We used Caparisons to track this record, too, actually—one of my old ones and two of Joel’s. My Caparison with EMGs was just one of the only ones set up and ready to go at the time.
But you’ve changed guitar brands for various reasons over the years—you had back problems from 2006 to 2007, and then apparently there were consistency issues with the lighter Parker signature models you started using after that. Have any of the changes since then had anything to do with an evolution of what you consider great tone and playability?
Dutkiewicz: Not necessarily. I just like nice guitars—they have to feel good in your hands. When you have a guitar you really love, it’s just inspiring to play more. When it’s comfortable, you want to play.
What will you be playing on the road?
Dutkiewicz: I just started checking out some EVH gear, which is cool because it’s yet another nod to my hero. It has a bird’s-eye-maple, bolt-on neck. I’ve got one that’s a solid finish and one that’s a flame top.
What do you like most about them?
Dutkiewicz: They sound great, but I think the biggest selling point is the neck—it’s one of the most comfortable I’ve ever played.
You’ve used EMGs for quite a while, Adam. Are you sticking with the EVH’s stock passive pickups?
Dutkiewicz: Yeah, the electronics they developed for that guitar sound fantastic—very musical. That was one of the things I loved about PRS, too. The EVHs are pretty road-ready, and they’re locked on both ends, so it’s going to be hard to get them to go out of tune.
Mike, which amps are you using?
D’Antonio: I have an Ampeg SVT-VR tube head and a couple of 8x10 Ampeg Classic cabs. You don’t even really have to dial them in, they just sound good no matter what. I don’t like too many dials—just give me a couple of knobs.
Do you use channel one or channel two?
D’Antonio: One. I adjust the bass and treble pretty high but leave the midrange low.
Joel and Adam, which amps did you guys use for this album?
Stroetzel: For the record, it was mainly a mix of a Laney Ironheart and a Fuchs Viper, which I think is called the Mantis now. The Fuchs sounds big and round and bubbly—like a warmer-sounding Rectifier—while the Laney has more of that Marshall-style cutting quality, where the palm-muting has some crack to it. The Ironhearts have a good, tight, focused sound, and all the notes jump out nice and clear. For the delayed-out sounds, we used a Matchless Clubman 30, and for some of the delayed stuff and textural sounds we used a Custom Tones Ethos overdrive pedal, which has a speaker out. Live, we’re both using Ironheart heads, and Adam uses an Ironheart combo for cleans. I use a Fuchs Clean Machine.
What about pedals?
D’Antonio: I’m using a SansAmp RBI, and I’m really stoked about the Rusty Box bass preamp, which is from a small boutique company called Tronographic. It sounds great and doesn’t lose the low-end. The bass is way more in the forefront on the new record, and that’s because we just freakin’ loved the tone of the Rusty Box.