Photo by Jenn Curtis

Do you record to a click?
We definitely record with a click. We don’t practice or play live to a metronome. Actually, this is the first tour that we’re playing one of our new songs, “Freak,” and it’s the first time we’ve ever used a track on a song live ever.

What’s on the track?
It’s just samples and stuff like that. Scratchy sounds. No guitars or anything like that—just the electronics that we had on the record. We wanted to try it out live with the song.

How’s that working out?
It’s not too bad. Luckily, I’m not the one having to play to the click. It’s just the drummer. I just play to him as usual.

“I get emotional connections to my gear. The idea of switching my rig around gives me so much anxiety.”

How do you tune your guitars?
Usually, on every other EP we’ve done, our tuning has been dropped C [C­–G–C–F–A–D] or D standard [D­–G–C–F–A–D]. But this record is the first time that most of this record is in dropped A. We also have a song in dropped B [B–F#–B–E–G#–C#].

What’s dropped A?
It’s almost like an open A. It’s A–E–A–D–F#–B–E. [Editor’s note: A–E–A–D–G–B–E is another variation.] We use the 7-string for it, but we kind of play it as a 6-string, because we don’t use that last high string.

What are you using for a 7-string? I saw a picture of you with the Stephen Carpenter guitar [the ESP LTD SCT-607B].
That’s my love for 7-string. It’s crazy because we’ve always thought about it like, “We should try a song with the 7-string.” We picked them up and we were like, “This neck feels too big. I don’t like it.” But we tried it again since we did this record in A. The 7-string I liked was the Carpenter. It’s a beautiful guitar. It has a big body. It is heavy-weighted like I like guitars to be. It’s like a perfect fit for me. I love that guitar.

Gibson Les Paul Standard
ESP LTD SCT-607B (Stephen Carpenter signature 7-string)

Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifier
Marshall 1960 cab with Celestions

Line 6 POD HD Pro X
Voodoo Lab Ground Control Pro MIDI Foot Controller
Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
Boss TU-2 Tuner

Strings and Picks
Ernie Ball Skinny Top Heavy Bottom (.010–.052)
Ernie Ball 7-String Power Slinky (.011–.058)
Dunlop Jazz III and Tortex 1.14 mm

You like heavy guitars?
Oh yeah. It’s probably because my first main guitar was a Gibson Les Paul Standard and it’s a heavy-weighted guitar. Anytime I pick up anything lightweight I feel like I’m playing with a toy. It’s just a preference. I like feeling like I have something around my neck.

Talk about soloing. A lot of your solos on the new album are shorter and sound worked out.
Some of the older stuff we did was thrash influenced and the solos were a lot longer. We were listening to a lot of thrashier stuff then. But to be completely honest with you, our least favorite comparison is when people say, “You sound like a thrash band.” We’re like, “Ah, man.” [Laughs.] For this newer record, we really wanted to try something different. We wanted to reach for some different influences and try some stuff we never tried before.

One of my favorite guitar players is Jim Root from Slipknot. I really like how he serves songs well with solos. If there’s a long solo section, he goes for it and he shreds. But if it’s a song that just needs something tasteful or short, that’s what he does. That’s what we went for on this record. I really like that. I want to be more of a guitar player that serves the song and doesn’t automatically put a shred solo in every single song.

Who does the harmony leads? Do you play both parts?
Yes. Live, usually I just play the melody line. But in the studio, I do both.

How do you divvy up the guitar duties?
It’s basically just rhythm/lead. Usually, the parts that beef up the choruses and the lead lines … that’s always me. Josh does sing and play guitar, so live if there’s a certain part that’s easier for him to do while he’s singing, we'll go ahead and switch. But for the most part we split up the guitars. I’m doing the octave, the lead lines, or the effects guitars.

At the beginning of “Oddity,” you play a really tight interlocking rhythm part. Do you spend a lot of time working on those types of parts and composing that way?

That was actually the first song we wrote for this record. It was a little closer to some of our other stuff we’ve done in the past. We came up with that guitar part and Rubén [Limas], our drummer, just came up with the drums. He was doing a drum fill that was the same timing and feel as the guitar and it came out pretty cool. It’s a quick intro to the song. Usually, we have long intros on our songs, but this one comes right in.

You’ve added a lot of atmospheric soundscapes on the new album that sound like they’re borrowed from black or death metal.
Yeah. That is one of the things I was talking about earlier. I wanted to try a lot of new stuff on this—like effects guitar. On the EPs, I never did anything with delay pedals, phasers, or whammys—nothing—and I really wanted to try it. Some of my all-time favorite bands have textural stuff like that. A lot of it came out sounding cool and we kept it. I was pretty happy about that. It’s fun to do live, too.