The prog-moshing Cannibal Corpse acolyte reveals how Mastodon’s Brent Hinds “changed the game” by getting him into Chet Atkins and Leo Kottke.
Unbridled turbulence. Dexterous metal riffing. Soulful vocals over layers of melodies and shifting rhythms. Moon Tooth’s unique beast of a sound is forged from seemingly disparate elements, and the quartet unleashes it with the kind of intensity and surgical accuracy typically reserved for extreme metal bands.
Based in Long Island, New York, Moon Tooth is steeped in the essential fearlessness at the heart of prog-rock, and their debut LP, Chromaparagon, feels like an epic journey through countless sonic realms. But not once over the course of the album’s 12 tracks do the dramatic stylistic shifts seem like a distracting party trick. Instead, they simply underscore Moon Tooth’s single mission: to play music it describes as “aggressive progressive.” While the band’s genre hopping is certainly a part of Chromaparagon’s allure, perhaps the most impressive thing about the album is just how cohesively these various sonic worlds fit together.
Chiefly responsible for creating and commanding Moon Tooth’s controlled chaos is fleet-fingered guitarist, songwriter, and occasional vocalist Nick Lee. A virtuosic shredder with a flair for the off-kilter, Lee keeps his impressive fretwork at the center of Moon Tooth’s musical maelstroms. We spoke with him about the process of fusing the band’s sonic personalities, where he comes from as a player, and how he goes about recreating Moon Tooth’s mammoth sound onstage.
Chromaparagon has an incredible number of musical ideas stuffed into every corner. How do you guys decide where to take a song—and do you ever draw the line or say “no” to an idea?
I don’t think we’ve ever said “no” to a stylistic curveball. This record was written by myself and our drummer, Ray Marte, who is also a killer guitarist. We’d each show up with half-finished riffs or song ideas and then suss them out together. Neither of us ever says “that’s too this or that’s too that.” Previously we’d been in a three-piece together, and the third guy had a problem with a lot of the very heavy things we’d bring in. But Ray and I listen to a lot of death metal and heavier stuff, and that’s an important part of our respective musical identities. This band is very much a reaction to our experience of not being able to express that within our last group. We operate with no boundaries on purpose, and it’s fun!
How do you characterize Moon Tooth’s music to the uninitiated?
The phrase we’ve been using is “aggressive progressive,” but that’s really just because saying you’re in a rock ’n’ roll band doesn’t quite get the point across these days. We’re not trying to be a prog band, really. We totally get that there’s an element of prog in what we do, but to me we’re just a rock band in the purest sense of that term—we just happen to push the envelope of what we can do musically and push each other to do crazier shit.
But there’s still a lot of classic prog in your music, especially on an instrumental like “Bats in the Attic”—which sounds like you’re quoting a bit of Yes.
Oh yeah, the “Heart of the Sunrise” riff. That was totally subconscious, but we laugh about it all the time because we listen to that Yes record a lot and always go, “Oh shit, we kind of stole that riff!” But it just happened that way—we absolutely didn’t write it as an homage or anything.
That said, we don’t operate the way a lot of contemporary prog bands work, and there’s never been an effort to write something specifically to impress other musicians. Ray and I have been playing together for so many years at this point that we’ve developed this friendly competition of who can come up with the crazier riff, but I want to write stuff that is memorable, rather than just impressive.
The album has some very dramatic dynamic shifts, including some surprising death-metal-tinged passages.
Yeah, we love blast beats. Ray and I grew up on Cryptopsy and Cannibal Corpse, and we still listen to a ton of that shit! I primarily listen to music that’s far heavier than what Moon Tooth does, but this band is a product of all of our influences and I think that shows. Pantera was a very big deal for me and Ray, especially things like how tight they could lock in live. We really aspire to pull off that kind of pocket and groove within our own thing.
Moon Tooth’s debut album, Chromaparagon, reflects the band’s diverse stylistic interests. “We totally get that there’s an element of prog in what we do,” says guitarist Nick Lee, “but to me we’re just a rock band in the purest sense of that term—we just happen to push the envelope of what we can do musically and push each other to do crazier shit.”
Tell us a bit about where you come from as a guitarist.
My dad is a huge Black Sabbath and Motörhead fan, and I always had hard rock playing in the house. My parents’ friends and my aunts and uncles always had cover bands, so I was always surrounded by it. I heard Metallica for the first time when I was 6 and that changed everything. The darkness of it really hit me hard, and I just wanted to be James Hetfield when I was a kid. Once that started, I had the typical adventure and search through heavy metal. I discovered Dimebag and Pantera next, and eventually I got into Brent Hinds from Mastodon. His style, with the hybrid picking stuff, really opened up my musical world. I got into Chet Atkins and Leo Kottke through Brent Hinds’ playing—he changed the game for me a lot. The hybrid-picking and pull-off style of lead playing that comes from country music has become a big part of what I do. I really like to steal the best parts of country guitar playing and infuse my riffs with it.
I don’t really write simple songs naturally—most of it’s pretty physically demanding on me and I like that. For me, playing music is a very therapeutic, cathartic thing. I’m always trying to force some evil out onto the guitar, so the riffs I write tend to be very physical and busy as a byproduct of that. I’m also really into building a basic groundwork for riffs and expanding on that as a writing tool. A lot of the stuff I write for Moon Tooth begins as something simple in its infancy, and then I’ll add fills and ideas until it evolves into something unique.
You play like someone with a serious musical education.
I studied for 10 years under Mike Flyntz, who is best known as the guitarist for the band Riot—a classic New York metal band that has been around since the late ’70s, and which I also play in these days. Mike taught me everything I know. I took music theory in high school for a few years and I did a semester at college as a performance major, but I hated it at the time. I’d probably feel different about it now, but when I was 18 I didn’t want the guitar to be homework. So I’m educated enough to express what I want to, but I’m not like a deep theory head or anything, and I don’t consider it that much when I write.
How does Moon Tooth go about structuring songs and making these wild changes flow so well?
It’s pretty natural, honestly. A lot of those things just come together on their own, but a lot of the time we just add a little flair between the changes. It’s mostly organic.
Once Lee discovered his Vigier G.V. Rock 6-string, life onstage improved immediately. “Because Vigier guitars have carbon-fiber truss rods,” he explains, “they have the most incredible tuning stability, which really helps when you’re switching tunings as often and drastically as I do. I used to spend a lot of time onstage having to fine-tune things before we could hit the song, but with the Vigier I just switch the tuning and I’m ready to roll.” Photo by Sean Ageman
There are a ton of guitar tracks on Chromaparagon, but you’re the sole axe-man live. How do you approach recreating all that sound onstage?
I use a lot of pedals, and live I run a ’74 Hiwatt. It’s loud as fuck, so I’m never worried about being loud enough or making all the noise I need to. For certain things, like the harmonies and double-tracked stuff, we just accept that it’s a different animal live, although I do use a lot of octaves and delays to fill things in sonically. We’re also very physical onstage—we do a lot of running around and climbing things, and we try really hard to put on a show beyond just the sonic experience.
The vocals work in a really cohesive way with your athletic guitar playing. As a band that writes around riffs, are you particularly conscious about how the vocals are going to work with parts when you pen them?
It’s really an evolving thing for us. I wrote all the vocals and arrangements for the Freaks EP we put out prior to Chromaparagon, but that album came together before we were really a band in earnest, and when John [Carbone] sang those parts, they were intact when we brought him in.
With this record, it was really time to let John do his thing and we had to do a lot of demoing to get it together. John’s a constant creator and always has new ideas and is always writing lyrics, and he’s the kind of singer who can fit his stuff into everything. The vocals on this album are much less of an afterthought, where we fit vocals over a completed song. The few songs I sing—like “Little Witch” and any of the screaming stuff—are extremely simple for a reason.
Let’s talk gear. What do you use onstage, and is it similar to what you used on the album?
I had been using a Reverend Sensei with these great [Joe Naylor] Railhammer pickups that I love. Before that I’d been a Les Paul guy, but I kept breaking the headstock on my old one. The last time it happened, it cost me $400 to repair and I just couldn’t do it anymore.
Very recently I got an endorsement with Vigier guitars, and that’s been huge for me. Because they have carbon-fiber truss rods, they have the most incredible tuning stability, which really helps when you’re switching tunings as often and drastically as I do. I’m in E standard primarily, but we have songs in open C, and we also have songs where I drop the lowest string down to A or G. And we do a ton of weird tuning stuff, like on “Chroma”—one of Ray’s songs—which is in a tuning we made up: F–A–C–G–A–C. I used to spend a lot of time onstage having to fine-tune things before we could hit the song, but with the Vigier I just switch the tuning and I’m ready to roll.
Which model of Vigier are you using?
I’m using their G.V. Rock model.
How about amps?
On the record I used a 1974 Hiwatt DR103 that we combined with a Peavey 5150 to get a more modern metal chunk. But we also used a vintage Fender Deluxe, and I brought in a ’60s Fender Vibro Champ, which we used for a lot of the cleans. That sounds huge when it’s miked up the right way.
What cab are you running the Hiwatt through?
I use a Krank 4x12 loaded with Eminence Wizards. It sounds awesome, but it’s just so loud. I’ve been thinking about switching to something smaller, because I can’t really get the goods out of the Hiwatt when I’m running a miked 4x12. If I can’t get the master volume past 2, it’s really not the tone I want. A good attenuator might be the next step. There are times I wish I had something more modern and functional, but when I play a show where I can get the Hiwatt opened up, it just sounds so good that it’s hard to move on.
What pedals are you using to get those big, dirty sounds out of the Hiwatt, which is typically very clean?
My main drive sounds are all courtesy of Fuzzrocious pedals. I mainly use their Demon model, but Ryan [Ratajski] at Fuzzrocious also built me a simple, one-knob clean boost because the Demon is so loud that when I turn it off, my clean is too quiet. That clean boost balances things out. I also use a Wampler compressor, which is on pretty much all the time and helps balance things.
Just the typical stuff. We definitely make sure we hit the songs very hard at rehearsal—even if we’ve been playing a set for a long time. I also do specific warm-ups and stretches before gigs. There will always be parts that are a headache, but between the practice and the amount of shows we play, things stay tight. We tour a lot—we’re on a long U.S. tour with Intronaut right now—and there’s really no substitute for all those hours onstage.
This studio play-through of “Offered Blood” reveals Moon Tooth’s extraordinary instrumental chops.
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
Belltone Guitars, as part of their Custom-Select System curated offering of pickups, has partnered McNelly pickups to create a one-of-a-kind retro-vibe P-90 pickup in the standard Filtertron size format. This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl, and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
The McNelly P-90 Foil-Coil comes housed in a ‘raw’ nickel outer casing with a dull nickel foil face with metal mount screw gromets to complete the ‘new-vintage’ aesthetic, making it a perfect choice for your signature Belltone custom build. Available exclusively through Belltone Guitars.
Check out the Custom-Select System belltoneguitars.com to preview the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons and all our standard and selectable components available to create your own signature Belltone. Then visit the Dream Lab on our website and select either model B-Classic ONE with its top binding or B-Classic TWO with its arm and body contours select your body color from our wide range of offerings, select your neck profile of either standard ‘C’ or thicker ’59 Round Back and either Maple or Rosewood fingerboard followed by your tuners, pickguard, and strings. Finally, review our curated custom-designed, and unique pickup selection to locate the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons to complete your signature build.
Builds start at just over $2,300.00 with a custom case and shipping included.
For more information, please visit belltoneguitars.com.
McNelly P 90 Foil Tron video Sep27
Belltone P-90 Foil-Tron Pickup
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.