Photo by Amy Harris
Some guitarists suffer from a compulsive need to acquire gear. As in, more gear—always more. Too much is never enough.
Is that you?
Symptoms include: a pedalboard that’s in constant flux, an overdrive that’s good, but not good enough, swapping out pickups more frequently than a golfer swaps clubs, and owning too many guitars (as if that’s even possible).
But, and this may come as a shock, that’s not every guitarist. Some are content with the gear they have. They like their sound. And—this is huge—some guitarists are even resistant to change.
Diamond Rowe, the lead guitarist in the hook-driven, melodic metal outfit Tetrarch, falls into that second category.
“I am one of those types of people,” she says. “I get emotional connections to my gear. The idea of switching my rig around gives me so much anxiety.”
It’s not that Rowe isn’t a gearhead. She is. But she knows how to get her tone. Rowe sticks with tools that work, even if that means sticking with unorthodox workarounds. For example, the staple of her sound is an always-engaged Ibanez Tube Screamer in front of a Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifier. “I always use that third channel,” she says about her amp. “I would be lying if I said that I ever switched it. That third channel is on 99.99 percent of the time. But the only way I get it to be exactly how I want is to use the Tube Screamer, the TS9, on top of it for rhythms. My TS9 is always on.”
But for Rowe, that conservative streak ends with her live rig. In the studio, she’s open to anything—different amps, amp modelers, new effects—whatever works. “I like to try different things,” she says. “Let’s give this a shot. Let’s give that a shot.”
That adventurousness applies to her playing, which is still evolving, as well. Her roots are in thrash metal and her natural tendency is to shred, but Freak—Tetrarch’s latest release and first full-length album, which follows three EPs—showcases her melodic side. Her solos are song-appropriate, tuneful, and shorter than on previous efforts, all by design.
Premier Guitar sat down with Rowe to discuss her practice techniques, tunings, new ESP LTD 7-string, and her approach to crafting soundscapes. She also explained why the Peavey 6505 is her secret ingredient for recording modern metal rhythm guitar. And, of course, we discussed her reticence toward new gear.
When did you start playing?
The day I turned 12 was the day I had my first guitar lesson. I’d just gotten into heavier music. I was listening to pop and hip-hop before. I started getting into Nirvana, Pearl Jam, System of a Down, and stuff like that. Metallica is my all-time favorite band and I started getting into Metallica at that time.
And you took lessons.
I did, for about a year. It helped me jumpstart my learning process. I never really had an awkward phase with guitar, which I’m glad about. It always felt natural to me. Lessons taught me how to read tabs, different chords, and different techniques like palm muting that I wouldn’t have known myself. Also, my parents bought me mounds and mounds of tab books at Guitar Center. I would learn my favorite bands’ songs all day, every day. I would say that’s mainly how I learned guitar.
What is your practice regimen like?
It’s a bummer, because I’m so bad at practicing the correct way. Usually when I practice, it’s either learning a song, warming up, or getting my chops up. I don’t do a lot of scales or exercises. Rather, I’ll take some of my favorite lead guitar players—like Dave Mustaine—and I’ll go to one of his harder solos, sit at home, and tinker with that for a while. As weird as it sounds, when you go to play your own stuff, it helps a lot by practicing off other people that you learn from. It keeps it fun for me because otherwise it gets a little boring. I’m not the exercise type. I wish I was, but it keeps it fun for me to learn things that I’m familiar with but that may also be making me better.
TIDBIT: Rowe says her secret weapon for getting kick-ass metal tone is the Peavey 6505, which she used on Freak and the band’s most recent EPs.
A lot of your music is very fast. How do you keep up your stamina over the course of a long set?
Well, it’s funny, but it’s harder for us to come up with things that are slower and more mid-tempo. When we started, Metallica was our favorite band. Or Testament. It was thrash bands. Now we’ve moved on and our influences come from different places—bands like Korn or Linkin Park—stuff that’s not as natural for us to play. So, the faster stuff is easier for me to play without warming up. But the slower stuff, the more melodic stuff, that’s more like, “Man, I need to practice this a bit and warm up.”
What’s harder about the slower stuff?
More feel; your vibrato. Vibrato is something that took me a while to be good at. A lot of guitar players will tell you that it’s harder than you would think. Guys like M. Shadows from Avenged Sevenfold have great vibrato, and you’re like, “That’s not hard.” But it really is. I’m still perfecting it. More so than fast alternate picking and stuff like that.
Many of your songs are in odd meters. Is that on purpose or just the way the riffs worked out?
It’s just the way the riffs work out, honestly. We’re not theory nerds or off-time nerds or anything like that. We just play the song. Especially Josh [Fore, lead vocals and rhythm guitar]. If he comes up with something that’s off time and it sounds cool, later we figure out what time it’s in and how to record it.