Besides his signature electric 8-string model and its accomplices, the rest of Javier Reyes tonal recipe lies in his blend of Fractal Audio’s Axe-Fx and Port City’s Pearl head and cabinets with Celestion speakers. Photo by Joe Russo
Is the band still using Port City cabinets?
Abasi: Javier is. But I’m using Morgan and a 4x12 that Paul Reed Smith gave me. It has alnico 65-watt speakers in it. I mike up my Morgan 2x12. It’s got Celestion G12H speakers.
Reyes: The Port City cabs are great. They haven’t done me wrong. I’m actually sending two signals out of the Axe-Fx. One has a cab sim that goes to front of house and my in-ear monitors. The other doesn’t have a cab sim, and it goes into the front of the [Port City] Pearl, which is a very clean single-channel amp with a non-colored tone. I have two 2x12 Port City cabs. One of them has Celestion Creambacks and the other one has G12s. I use that for my stage sound.
What guitars did you play on the album?
Abasi: For about 90 percent of the album, minus the acoustic songs, I played my signature prototype Ibanez—though “Private Visions of the World” is on a 9-string.
Reyes: I think I used an 8-string PRS on a couple of songs. We used an Aristides guitar with Bare Knuckle pickups in it. And on “Private Visions of the World,” I used a Vintage Plus from ESP. I love that guitar. We used my signature Ortega 8-string classical on “The Brain Dance,” as well.
Tosin, your prototype guitar has been seen all over the web and on tour. I’m assuming it is something that will be coming out soon?
Abasi: Yeah, we’re just trying to nail the design, but I’ve been playing it for over a year. And, I should add, I’m using Fishman Fluence pickups now.
Why the change from your signature set?
Abasi: It was kind of an accident. I A/B’d them against my Duncan prototypes and they smoked my Duncans. I just couldn’t believe it. So in that moment I literally couldn’t move forward with what I was playing. Those A/B comparisons are definitely the best way to really expose differences between pieces of gear.
You’ve also been famously seen with Rick Toone and Strandberg guitars. Did those guitars make it to the album?
Abasi: Yes. The Rick Toone is on “Backpfeifengesicht.” Those instruments have a unique sound. And they both have extended fretboards beyond the nut, on the seventh and eighth strings. So there are certain songs, like “Physical Education,” that were written specifically on the Rick Toone or the Strandberg.
Javier, are you still playing your signature ESP 8-strings on tour?
Reyes: Yeah, I have two of them out right now. In Europe I even took my lower-tier model. It’s a really great guitar. For the price, it’s one of the better 8-string guitars. I use my signature Eclipse 8 DiMarzio pickups. I voiced them to have a single-coil sound but still have that humbucker thing to them. I love them. They’re very clear.
Animals as Leaders is known for incorporating Latin influences and electronic elements, and using such guitar techniques as slapping and heavy low-tuned riffing. Are those trademarks something you’re conscious about keeping in your sound?
Abasi: Animals as Leaders is a space to bring all that together without many rules, and so you hear it all come out.
Reyes: The technical stuff comes pretty naturally. But I always want to come up with something that’s listenable and isn’t complicated for the sake of being complicated. But I think we’re aware that the “thumping” is definitely a unique quality that the band has. For the time being, it’s definitely our signature sound.
Tosin, in the last interview you did with Premier Guitar for The Joy of Motion, you mentioned wanting to increase the lyrical qualities of your playing. Do you think you achieved that on this album?
Abasi: Yeah,I think so. This album is the least shreddy, as far as my lead work is concerned, and I feel like it’s a result of a few things. One is not trying to express the same things repeatedly. And my taste in guitar music has really evolved a bit. I’m really responsive to vocal-centered minds, like Derek Trucks. And by doing the Generation Axe tour and being around guys like Zakk Wylde, Nuno Bettencourt, Yngwie, and Vai—all quintessential electric guitar players—it starts to really sink into my playing.
Javier, how has your playing expanded on the new album, and who has influenced you?
Reyes: I’m thumping a lot more. A lot of these songs I can get through without using a pick. The line between guitar and bass technique is getting more blurred. Sometimes I look down and think, “I’m literally playing what looks like bass stuff.” But it’s still guitar. I like that it’s a totally unique style.
There’s a Brazilian classical player named Yamandu Costa who is just phenomenal. He has an album with a Brazilian mandolin player named Hamilton de Holanda that will blow away any guitar player with an appreciation for beautiful music.