A collage of Delson's workhorses that included several custom PRS models and two well-loved Strats.

Sensing I was curious about his armada of guitars, Delson pulled a few favorites from their boats. He talked about how much he’d enjoyed using unfamiliar instruments like a 1973 Fender Mustang in a competition blue finish and a 1970 Gibson ES-335 with its walnut-colored stain. Seeing that a 1978 Gibson SG was absent from one of the racks, he chided his cohort. “Mike keeps taking the choice stuff to EastWest,” he said, chuckling.

Delson was relieved to see that Shinoda hadn’t made off with a guitar belonging to Ethan Mates, the record’s chief engineer: a reissue Fender 1962 Stratocaster from the Fender Custom Shop’s Master Built series, made by master builder Jason Smith in a relic Coral Pink finish. Delson was so taken with this guitar that he used it extensively on the record. He retrieved it from the rack and tremolo-picked a D natural minor scale. “I’m not sure whether it’s the action or the setup, but this guitar feels amazing to me,” he said. “It’s super versatile for lead and for rhythm, and it has this messy wildness to it that feels right for this record.”

Delson lowered the Stratocaster’s sixth string down to D and played an aggressive palm-muted power-chord progression. “It would be most intuitive to play a heavy passage like that on a guitar with double humbuckers, but I like to be contrary. On the Strat it becomes a different thing. It almost sounds like Helmet.”

The Hunting Party: An Engineer’s Take

Engineer/Producer Ethan Mates has collaborated with Linkin Park since 2006. In his own words, he details some of the recording techniques used on the band’s new album.

We took a much more live, playing-centric approach to writing and tracking this record, as opposed to the more electronic style we used on the last couple of albums. We set out not to fall back on the same old guitar tones we’d used for the past six years. We started by creating a small collection of core tones to be used in a sonically consistent way throughout the record.

Delson's two racks of gear.

The core sound is created through Orange, Bogner, and Engl amps, and we’re also using a Chandler amp for overdubs and higher parts. Generally we have three microphones on each cab—either a Shure SM57 or Heill PR 30 next to a Sennheiser 421, and then either a ribbon mic like a Royer R-121 ribbon or a Neumann FET47, to capture a fullness of sound. We use pretty standard miking techniques, close-miked for the most punk rock, in-your-face sound, although sometimes for an ambient sound we use a room mic on the drums, or throw loudspeaker cabs in the live room and mic those.

In front of the guitar chain we’ve kept things simple, using the Z.Vex Super Hard-On, or the Z.Vex Mastotron for really chunky rhythm parts. We discovered that the Mastotron makes a really cool sound when the battery is running out, so we’ve been gathering as many dying 9-volts as we can find.

On top of all that, we’ve been drawing from a much broader palette of tones. A lot of times Brad likes big stereo washes in the chorus, so we experiment by stringing together a bunch of different reverbs and delays, sometimes using two different heads with a different effect chain in each one. Also, Brad likes using the Electro-Harmonix HOG for synth-like sounds. We’ve been using all of these tools to breath new life into Linkin Park’s sound. —Ethan Mates

Delson is most closely associated with the PRS Custom 24, and despite his new affinity for the Stratocaster, he hasn’t turned his back on this old companion. “I love the PRS,” he said, eyeing the axe tenderly. “It’s always served me so well for live work, and it’s been really cool to combine its timbres with the Strat’s for recording.”

Next Delson directed me into a hallway, where he opened a large cupboard housing shelves and shelves of stompboxes. On the wall behind it were framed aphorisms by musical heavyweights. (“A song is anything that can walk by itself.” —Bob Dylan … “Well, if you find a note tonight that sounds good, play the same damn note every night!” —Count Basie.)

“Most of these pedals are Ethan’s,” said Delson. “He’s always scouring eBay and has assembled this sick collection. A lot of them are strange and rare, and many are customized. There are times when an arrangement calls for something out of the ordinary, and Ethan comes back here and chooses a bunch of pedals to curate a one-of-a-kind sound. In some instances you can’t even tell it’s guitar.” He pointed out the main pedals used on the new record, including a Z.Vex Super Hard-On, an Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb, and a Dr. Scientist Reverberator.