Dom Landolina has always played Strats. “I like the way the body curve feels so natural. because of how aggressive I play live. I like the low-profile bridge … just everything about it works for my style.” Photo by Joe Calixto
What were you listening to when writing Underneath that influenced your playing?
Meyers: Honestly, it was all over the place. When I worked on “Cold.Metal.Place” I was listening to Sepultura and listening to their crazy off-beat drum stuff. I programmed some drums to sound like that, and that song turned into its own electronic take on that sound. I don’t think anyone would ever guess that song came from listening to Sepultura.
Landolina: Consistently influential players for me are Dimebag Darrell, Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, and Trey Azagthoth from Morbid Angel. Trey is super inspiring, and I get lost listening to Morbid Angel records and focusing on what he’s doing. He uses a guitar as a songwriting vehicle, but also has a lot of cool tricks and plays a lot of things that you can’t get out of any other instrument, like his use of harmonics and whammy bar tricks. I tried to bring those concepts into my riffs. We listen to so much music and study bands deeply and try really hard to pinpoint why we like those records. We were all listening to a lot of the classic Roadrunner Records material: Type O Negative’s World Coming Down and October Rust, Fear Factory’s Demanufacture and Obsolete, Sepultura’s Chaos A.D. and Roots, all of the Pantera records were super-influential, and same with the classic Alice in Chains and Deftones records.
Reba, you have a signature model with ESP. Tell us about the process of designing the RM-600 with them.
Meyers: I’ve played an ESP LTD Viper since I was 14 years old, and I fell in love with it. I hadn’t seen anybody else play that model at the time—probably because I was living in a very small bubble in Pittsburgh—but I felt very connected to that guitar and stuck with it forever even though everybody made fun of me for never getting a new guitar. Eventually I met Tony [Rauser] from ESP in California and he asked how I felt about doing a signature guitar. Of course, I was hyped as hell! I started playing around on an iPad and took a reverse headstock ESP guitar and virtually glued it to a Viper body and threw a weird finish on it, sent that mock-up to ESP as a basic version, and, to my surprise, Tony was really hyped on it! I didn’t expect them to let me change the headstock on a model that they’d been doing a certain way for so long, but the team approved it and they figured out a process to do the finish with Saran Wrap. We collaborated on the actual specs of the guitar, mocked it up as a one-pickup design, and found a good killswitch to put in. They sent me a prototype and my only complaint was that it was too light, so they made me a heavier one and that was it. ESP was super cool about it the whole time and willing to do everything that I wanted to, so I’m very happy about the whole situation.
I’m sure it’s especially gratifying to have a signature model next to Stef Carpenter from Deftones and Max Cavalera from Sepultura. It’s really cool to see them finally add a woman to those ranks.
Meyers: I was psyched about that, too. It was such a natural thing for them, and I think they would’ve asked me to do a signature guitar regardless of gender, but I was psyched to be able to represent women as the first with a signature guitar from that company, and especially so with them being a metal guitar company. That needed to happen really bad and I’m happy to represent that.
Dominic, you’re a dedicated Strat player. What makes them the right guitar for you?
Landolina: I recently built a really cool acrylic-bodied parts Strat that I’m using live now, but the guitar I used on the album and played primarily live for most of my time in this band is a black U.S.A.-made Fender Strat that I modified to run just an EMG 81 in the bridge. I was so influenced by Hendrix that I wanted my first electric guitar to be a black Stratocaster. I bought that first one with money from my first summer job, and they just feel right in my hands. I like the way the body curve feels so natural because of how aggressive I play live. I like the low-profile bridge … just everything about it works for my style. It’s probably because I’ve been playing them for so long, but no other guitar feels right. I set them up with a single volume control and a killswitch made by a company called Iron Age that makes sick switches with lights in them. I’ve had the same killswitch and volume pot in that guitar forever, and I pour sweat into those electronics, but everything in there’s lasted a really long time. When I play that thing live, it gets thrown around with no regard at all, so I need a simple, effective setup that can’t be screwed up from the performance factor.
Tell us about your playing relationship. What do you each bring to the table that complements each other’s sound?
Meyers: Honestly, having Dom in the mix with writing this record was so important. Dom and I have a way of bouncing things off each other that I just love. Dom comes from guitar in a more metal way because that’s what he grew up on, and I grew up on punk. So he plays things very rigidly and accurately, and I play things looser. The combination of our styles really works out in a cool way. Any time I’m stuck or need some kind of cool trick, he has something in his pocket for it. “Erasure Scan” and the main riff on “Rabbit Whole” and the pinch harmonics are things I soaked in from his playing. And he wrote a lot of that shit, too! Just having someone else in the band to get excited about guitar ideas with that loves it as much as I do is really inspiring for both of us. Dom’s fucking awesome. That’s all I can say!
Landolina: The way Reba put it is really accurate. I cut my teeth on metal, so that’s just in my brain all the time, and I learned how to play by looking up tabs and Googling videos of people playing Megadeth riffs, but Reba’s a trained musician, so she has such a knowledge of chords and how to melodically use the guitar in the correct way. You can hear it all over this record in things like the verse of “Sulfur Surrounding,” which is something I would’ve never thought of, which is a really nice guitar passage that makes me think of “Cemetery Gates” by Pantera with that nice, flowing melody. I think there’s an unspoken competition between us in one-upping each other with our guitar abilities, and I think that’s a big part of why we keep evolving as players. We just want to beat our former selves and each other, but in a healthy way. It’s a great working relationship.
There’s a lot of really great modulation and spatial effects on the guitars throughout the album. Was that mostly real pedals or done in the box?
Meyers: It was a mixture. I used a lot of EarthQuaker Devices stuff and a lot of Abominable Electronics stuff. They have a pedal called the Hellmouth that’s like a Tube Screamer, but way grimier and noisier, and I love it. That pedal helped me cut through even more on leads. I used the EarthQuaker Grand Orbiter phaser, that I love, and the Afterneath a lot. A lot of it was in the box and the Soundtoys plug-ins are what I relied on for a lot of modulation stuff.
Landolina: We used a lot of Cry Baby wah, a lot of Boss Harmonist, a lot of ring modulators. All of our clean parts are full of chorus and reverb and delays. We used so many effects, and it was a real mix of digital stuff and real pedals. I ended up with a Line 6 Helix for live stuff now, and it’s such an awesome tool. A traditional board that covered all the sounds on the album would’ve been a nightmare to use. The Line 6 is so programmable and sounds great. I also use an Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer, which is just a staple. I like the digital sounds a lot, but I want to have an authentic base tone and I use the Helix like an accessory. We still use real tube amps and that’s a big part of our sound.
I hear a lot of Disembodied’s influence in Code Orange’s sound. Can you guys tell me about how they entered your sphere of reference and the impact they’ve had?
Meyers: Absolutely. That was one of the first bands that crafted the sound we stem from, and, for some reason, a lot of ’90s metalcore really seeped into Pittsburgh and a lot of people there worshipped that sound for a long time. My idea of heavy music all comes from ’90s hardcore, like Disembodied and Martyr A.D. I love how grimy those recordings sound. The way their guitars sounded kind of shitty and a little out of tune, but somehow awesome, is a huge thing for me. It’s just perfect.
Landolina: We’re all students of that shit: bands like Earth Crisis, Hatebreed, All Out War. And we all obviously got into Disembodied. One that’s really influential for me is Deadguy. Keith Huckins from that band writes really great stuff and has a fully realized sound as a guitarist. You hear a Deadguy riff and you know who it is immediately. Same with his other bands, Rorschach and Kiss It Goodbye.
It’s interesting how often ’90s metalcore has been co-opted and still is often overlooked for its influence. It’s cool to see that sound so proudly transcend the niche of hardcore through Code Orange’s success.
Landolina: Agreed. It’s amazing how many metal bands you saw in photos in the ’90s wearing Agnostic Front shirts, and it seems like the real influence hardcore and metalcore had on bigger bands is never spoken about much.
Meyers: It’s rare that it’s done in a way that’s tasteful. We always try to keep our roots and its influence very genuine. I hate it when I hear some of these Warped Tour bands steal some of that stuff when they really don’t know where it comes from. I hope we can represent it and carry that torch in a tasteful way. I think it’s so common that underground sounds and artists get ripped off by big artists and not get credit for what they’ve done, but we’re going to always try to represent where we come from, and hopefully we can take that further!