What rigs did you use in the studio?

Pretty much the same rig as the last record, with the exception of the Tube Screamer and my wah. I just bought a ’68 reissue Les Paul Custom, which I played for most of my rhythm tracks, and a ’61 reissue SG I used for “Lawless Lands.” It has Rio Grande Barbeque Bucker pickups—the same pickups I have in my Guild S-100. J.D. was using a B.C. Rich Mockingbird with EMGs that I played for a couple of leads.

A lot of your tones are less jagged and metallic on this record.

I recorded through two amps simultaneously—I plugged into an Electro- Harmonix Metal Muff distortion and then into an Orange OR80 reissue, and I also used a new Orange OR50 40th Anniversary head, set up a little bit dirty through a separate Orange cab. I used that rig for every track. It was a small victory for me because [producer] Matt Bayles was telling me about all the amps he was going to make me try before we went in, and I was like “Oh, man . . . I’m not sure.” I like my own stuff because I’m really comfortable with it. So I was a bit defensive about that. As soon as we mic’d up my rig and played for a bit, we didn’t move a thing. I didn’t dare say anything, though. As soon as I would have mentioned it—“Hey, we’re using my amp, huh?”—he probably would have tried to talk me into a Soldano or something. But I really like that sound. Those Oranges are definitely my voice.

Shutt doubles his snarling pleasure at Waterloo Records, August 23, 2010. Photo by John Carrico
What are the tones on “Lawless Lands”? You often can’t tell what’s guitar and what might be a keyboard.

Cronise: Some of those tones are a Hammond organ. But we used a lot of Leslie for guitar as well, which is a sound Matt is really fond of and we liked too.

Matt definitely helped us with that one. I’m not sure it would have turned out as well if we’d produced it ourselves. He had the patience to fill that track out and give it some texture. He worked with us that way a lot.

Have your roles changed as guitarists over the years?

Cronise: It’s funny, Kyle used to never play solos at all and I’d play most of them—but he plays 60 to 70 percent of them now. But I don’t miss it. I used to play solos by default, because Kyle was really more into thrashing. But he’s totally come into his own and is a lot more interested in leads. Once he started playing that way, I got really into it, like, “Here, just take that one. And that one. And that one too!” It made things a lot easier for me—especially as I think more in terms of singing.

Did that free you up to develop the more melancholy, melodic side of your sound?

Cronise: Most music needs melody at some point to make it music, I think. And I probably feel that more strongly now. Maybe that’s why you hear more melody and less face pounding.

Shutt: I think that came out of really wanting to hear things like choruses you can sing along to—and thinking more about how a good rock song works.

Did you use any unconventional tunings on Warp Riders?

Cronise: We still tune down to C. But we wrote a lot less in that key, so they sound a little more punchy and as if they were written in standard tuning. Playing in those higher keys is definitely easier for my vocal range too. It means I strain myself a lot less and the live performances are better.

Where do you see heavy music in general going? And where would you like to see it go?

Cronise: I would like to see technology abused less. Bands are making records entirely from samples. That’s cool for some things and it can sound really good, but I think it strips the soul out of rock music. It comes across as really artificial to me. And I think you lose your ability to hear good tones. I’m not a Luddite by any means, but you really need feel to make most music—and certainly heavy rock.

To me, getting up and playing music in front of people is the ultimate. It’s been that way since people were living in caves, and when we’re living in caves again we’re going to want to have that ability [laughs]. It’s good to know how to work outside of technology.

I just want to see more good bands. The way things are with the music business— how labels treat bands, how expensive it is to tour—it seems folks are now playing things pretty close to the vest. I don’t see many bands getting the breaks we did just six or seven years ago. Plus, the industry is changing so fast and there’s so much product— good bands just don’t always get a fair shake. And a lot of bands that do get a break get signed because they’ve jumped on some genre. And that comes at the expense of really good bands that just write great songs and rock, even though they’re still out there. I mean, we played with a band called Gentlemans Pistols recently that was just killer. They rock. They have tunes. And, man, they can sing. Everything I wish more bands were doing now!

The Sword's Gearbox

Kyle Shutt
’70s Guild S-100 with Rio Grande Barbeque Buckers, Gibson Les Paul Custom ’68 Reissue, Gibson SG ’61 reissue with Rio Grande Barbeque Buckers
Orange Rockerverb 100, Orange 4x12 cabs
Ibanez Tube Screamer

J.D. Cronise
B.C. Rich Mockingbird with EMG pickups, 1979 Gibson Explorer II
Orange OR80 Reissue, Orange OR50 40th Anniversary, Orange 4x12 cabs
Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff