Thrice’s main riff-writer Teppei Teranishi plays a Fender Jaguar Baritone Custom during the band’s set at the 2015 Wrecking Ball festival in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Perry Bean
Is your touring rig pretty close to what you recorded with?
Teranishi: Yeah. In the past, like with Major/Minor, we wanted to track live, so that was as straightforward as possible. But this record was a lot different because our producer, Eric Palmquist, was intentional about trying to pull some different tones out of us. He set up maybe four or five different amps at the same time and he’d mix and match in the control room to get the kind of tones that he wanted.
He relied heavily on a ’66 Fender Bassman that was pretty much running all the time, and he was also running a Marshall JCM800. He had some other amps that I didn’t even really look at, but the one that really stuck out to me was this little Watkins Scout. It’s this tiny, old amp that I think was maybe 10 watts. It had a sweet, creamy, nice and compressed distortion that I thought sounded really cool. For the clean tones, we used a lot of the Roland Jazz Chorus combo. We would start recording, and then Eric would say, “Play the part,” and he’d go out into the live room and tweak the amps. And then he’d come back into the control room and we would listen to it and make changes, if needed, based on what we all heard.
What was your pedal setup like for this record?
Teranishi: Well, I just changed up my whole pedal scenario. On this last record, I didn’t just walk in with my pedalboard and set up for recording. Instead, we had a mountain of pedals sitting in the control room, and Eric was really into fiddling with them. However, most of the distortion came from running my AC30 really hot—I’m a fan of tube distortion. I did subtly use my JHS Pulp ’N’ Peel compressor in front of the AC30. I also used a JHS overdrive for stuff that I wanted to boost, and for most of the cleaner parts, I just rolled back the volume.
Kensrue: For a long time, I was getting all of my gain by driving my amp really hard, and then backing it off for clean tones, but I could never quite clean it up as much as I wanted. Then I realized you could have the best of both worlds by using overdrives to push the tubes. So now I’m basically using two amps that are just on the edge of breaking with stacked overdrives so the amps feel and sound really lively. I’m actually trying these Mojo Hand FX Rook Overdrives to get my baseline sound. They constitute my middle tone, and then I’m boosting up or dropping down from there. Mojo Hand is actually doing a small run of custom artwork Rooks for me that should be available soon. Those Rooks work really well for running into other pedals and I have one going into the Walrus Audio Harvester for the next step of gain. And I didn’t think I was going to land here, but my last pedal in that chain is a Walrus Audio Iron Horse distortion as the last piece on my amp plate. I keep it set with the distortion knob almost off because it’s got a really nice, tight low end that I haven’t had in a long time. So, the tonal characteristics are not really shifting, the Iron Horse is just firming things up and giving it a little extra punch.
Right now I’m looking at it like this: I want to have five levels of sounds. I consider my Rook as about three or in the middle, and if I want to come down from there, I subtract volume going into it. If I want to go up, I add the Harvester and then, I add the Iron Horse on top of that. I have a pretty complicated board that runs with a MIDI controller, and one of the pedals on my board that I use like a Swiss Army Knife is a Line 6M5. It has the ability to create volume presets that I have set to 75 percent, 55 percent, and a 35 percent setting of my total input volume. And so, I'll just cut the input into the drive pedals because I feel like rolling off the guitar’s volume knob muddies the tone.
Thrice’s cofounding guitarist/frontman Dustin Kensrue wields his Nash JM-63, which has Lollar humbuckers—a High Wind Imperial at the bridge and El Rayo in the neck position. Photo by Sangsouvanh Ping Khounivichit
Teppei uses a M5 live because there are a couple of random parts that would otherwise require a bunch of different pedals. The M5 streamlines this for both of us. I’m using the Liquid Foot controller—it’s a really cool system—because I’m singing and playing. Using MIDI means I don’t have to dance around the board. I’ve been using it for the past year now and I feel like I’ve finally got the hang of it. I’m thinking of redesigning my setup right now to simplify things even more.
Were there any wacky effects that you never thought you would see yourself using that appeared on this record?
Teranishi: Yeah, definitely. There was a lot of chorus on this record, which we never used before. It came from the Roland Jazz Chorus. Eric had a bunch of really weird pedals, and a lot of them I wasn’t familiar with. Dustin has an Electro-Harmonix POG that we actually used a lot, too. It’s cool because you can use it pretty subtly. For example, if you want a little something more on a lead, you just sneak in a little bit of the higher octave and it sounds great. I’ve never really used one of those before, and I thought it was a cool pedal.
Kensrue: The Walrus Audio Julia is a newer chorus/vibrato pedal that sounds killer and has lots of different sounds that are all really usable. Instead of just turning either chorus or vibrato on, it has a blend control. It’s kind of shocking how many sounds you can get out of it.
Thrice jams “Black Honey,” the second single from To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere, live at the Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland. Be sure to check out Teppei’s droney, baritone lead in the intro that sets the mood for the entire song.
Songs like “Death from Above,” “Whistleblower,” and “Blood on the Sand” are very politically charged. Given the current state of affairs, do you think music can shift the political zeitgeist?
Kensrue: I believe everything can change. The way in which people react to music is unique. It has a lot of potential to change us on an individual level, and it’s individuals who are going to change society.