Blackberry Smoke's Gear
Australia’s biggest metalcore export shares how a streamlined setup of signature ESP guitars and Kemper Profilers give the band a freer platform for high-energy performances.
Parkway Drive, from Byron Bay, Australia, formed in 2003 with a firm grasp and appreciation for American hardcore music. They quickly put out a split EP with pit-provoking countrymen I Killed the Prom Queen before releasing their own EP, Don’t Close Your Eyes, in 2004. Those releases endeared them to American hardcore heavies touring internationally (Shadows Fall, Every Time I Die, Bleeding Through) and put them on many of their Aussie bills. They traveled to the States to record with metalcore poster boy Killswitch Engage’s Adam Dutkiewicz, who produced 2005’s Killing with a Smile and 2007’s Horizons.
They graduated their sound with a wider, melodic attack for their next releases, working alongside Joe Barresi (2010’s Deep Blue) and Matt Hyde (2012’s Atlas). 2015’s Ire saw the band lean more into the middle of the traditional metal lane, garnering the band No. 1 slots in both the ARIA and Billboard US Top Hard Rock Albums. 2018’s Reverence balanced between the band’s classic metalcore sound, iconic British metal à la Priest and Maiden, and the mass appeal of The Black Album, putting them back atop the ARIA chart and No. 2 on Billboard US Top Hard Rock Albums.
Those two records catapulted them to international headlining status, earning them top billing on the 30th anniversary of Wacken Open Air in 2019. The throwback power and continued evolution marks last year’s Darker Still further establishing them as global gainsters.
The only downside to their rise is that it still hasn’t eclipsed their collective first love. As guitarist Jeff Ling said of him and his bandmates during our Rig Rundown, “We’re all crazy surfers. If you put us on the spot and said, ‘Choose music or surfing,”…. Sorry fans, it’s over, the music is done, out the window. We’re all surfers that happen to play music [laughs].” Lucky for all of us, that ultimatum hasn’t been dealt, so let the good times roll (and rock).
Ahead of Parkway Drive’s sold-out show at Nashville’s Marathon Music Works, Ling saddles up to talk gear with PG’s Perry Bean. Ling details both his and bandmate Luke Kilpatrick’s signature ESPs (Luke was unable to hang due to suffering from surfer’s ear) and why the EMG 81 is the pinnacle of PWD’s guitar tone, and explains how downsizing their rigs with a Kemper leveled up their playing experience and connection with the crowd.
Brought to you by D'Addario Nexxus 360 Tuner.
After a longtime friendship was solidified, Parkway Drive cofounding guitarist Jeff Ling and ESP took their relationship to the next level, creating this ESP E-II Jeff Ling JL-1 M-II signature model. Ling was floored by the invitation to work with the Japanese outfit. “For me, it was a wow, no-brainer moment because when I was younger, all my favorite bands were shredding away on ESPs. I couldn’t believe I got the opportunity, and it was a huge win.”
The string-thru, neck-thru, double-cut dynamo is based on ESP’s M-II silhouette and features an alder body. It has a 3-piece maple neck that’s carved down to an extra thin “U” shape and is paired with a 24-fret ebony board. The satin-black bomber has a 25.5" scale length, Gotoh hardware (locking tuners and Tune-o-matic-style bridge), bone nut, and breathes hot fire thanks to a set of EMG pickups (81 and 60)—a Ling preference. Another bit of customization came at the request of having just a master volume knob.
This one rides in drop-B tuning and takes a custom set of Ernie Ball Skinny Top/Heavy Bottom strings, where the standard .052 E string is replaced with a .060.
Ling goes to battle with this ESP LTD EC-1000 Evertune for the band’s most recent rippers off 2022’s Darker Still, which are tuned to E standard. The stock single-cut arrived with a set of Seymour Duncan humbuckers (JB and Jazz), but he’s opted for his favored EMG 60 in the neck and an experiment with the Fishman Fluence Modern humbucker in the bridge slot.
The band’s other cofounding guitarist Luke Kilpatrick found himself in a similar situation to bandmate Ling—what do you do to an instrument you already love? In the case of Kilpatrick, you take an already favored Horizon recipe and give it some zest. Most of the ingredients on his E-II namesake are shared by other Horizons—a mahogany body with a maple top, 25.5" scale length, 3-piece maple neck with thru construction, ebony fretboard, Gotoh hardware, and a bone nut—but his special spiciness shows up in the pickups (EMG 81 and 60), 12th fret inlay (PWD logo), and headstock (pulled from ESP’s Original Series FRX design).
Darker Still requires E standard-tuned guitars, so Kilpatrick hits the stage with the above ESP LTD EC-1000S Fluence. It features a mahogany body with set-thru construction, a 3-piece mahogany neck, Macassar ebony fretboard, TonePros Locking Tune-o-matic-style bridge and tailpiece, and a set of active Fishman Fluence Modern humbuckers (ceramic in the bridge and alnico in the neck).
Cutting Down with Kemper
“We’ve found in the past that the more we incorporate with tube amps, heaps of pedals, guitar changes, and chords going everywhere, the more trouble we had. One piece of the puzzle can take down the whole rig, and then you’re miming while a tech tries to figure everything out. You’re just screwed, so our new mentality is that we’re better off simplifying our setups for the confidence you’ll get knowing that there’s a 99.99-percent chance your shit won’t fuck up. And if it does, you’re only a few switches away from a fix.” The nexus of their streamlined solution is a Kemper Profiler Rack for each guitar-playing member (including bassist Jia O’Connor). Both Kilpatrick and Ling upgraded their Kempers with the GGD All The Gains plugin. Luke deals his dirt through the framework of a 50-watt EVH 5150III, while Ling clobbers crowds with patches built around a Friedman BE-100. The band rocks untethered thanks to Sennheiser EW 100 G4-Ci1 Wireless units.
Charvel Unveils the Prashant Aswani Signature
This signature Pro-Mod So-Cal model features a lightweight alder body with scalloped lower back bout and shredder’s cut heel offering easier access to the higher frets.
This Strat-style guitar is crafted to deliver world-class playability and performance. In the case of the PA28, this means an ultra durable and lightweight alder body with scalloped lower back bout and shredder’s cut heel offering effortless access to the higher frets. The graphite reinforced bolt-on maple neck with 12” radius rosewood fingerboard and 42mm Graph Tech TUSQ XL nut is custom crafted for lightning fast riffs and chugging rhythms alike. At the heart of the Charvel PA28 are a set of custom made Charvel humbuckers. These pickups were made with direct input from Aswani himself and feature alnico 3 magnets that offer a uniquely dynamic palette of tones ranging from fiery distorted leads to crystalline cleans. Boasting a mystifying Inca Silver thin skin nitro lacquer finish and parchment pickguard, this instrument truly looks just as good as it sounds.
Aswani first gravitated towards music after attending a number of classical Indian performances with his father and at age 13, he branched out and bought his first rock n’ roll record, AC/DC’s “Back in Black.” The magnitude of Angus Young’s thunderous playing inspired Aswani to get serious about guitar playing and in 1998, Aswani released his first album, Revelation. From that point on, he became famously known for his tight funk inflected rhythms and dizzying phrasing. His playing has reached the corners of just about every genre imaginable, playing alongside everyone from Christina Millian to renowned flutist, Ronu Majumadar. Honoring a player whose legacy includes touring with Justin Timberlake as well as writing and recording four renowned solo albums is a tall order—and Charvel has risen to the occasion.
Prashant Aswani Showcases His Charvel Signature Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 1 PA28
"Prashant’s playing is unique in that you can’t quite fit his style into any one box,” said Jon Romanowski, VP, Category Management - Charvel. “But because of that, he’s like a chameleon shifting from one genre to the next. We wanted to encapsulate that limitless approach to playing with this signature model and thanks to features like the dynamic custom humbuckers and comfortable maple neck, this guitar can do it all.”
Charvel honors the inimitable guitarist with the all-new Prashant Aswani Signature Pro-Mod So-Cal PA28, designed to deliver next-level performance and an incredibly versatile and ideal studio tonal range.
For more information, please visit charvel.com.
The DiMarzio Model J is designed to be 50 percent quieter than the original Fender Jazz bass single coil pickups, and it's 60 percent louder.
Tanya O’Callaghan, famed for her dynamic stage presence, in-the-pocket timing, and world-class touring resume talks about her new favorite bass pickup, the DiMarzio Relentless J.
Tanya has toured with Whitesnake, Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden), Maynard James Keenan (Tool/APC), Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), Steven Adler (Guns N’ Roses), Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme), The Riverdance, The Voice, Orianthi, Michael Angelo Batio, Kevin Godley, Sharon Corr (The Corrs) and David Grey, to name a few…
DiMarzio introduced the world’s first Fender Jazz bass replacement pickups at the NAMM show of 1977. DiMarzio invented the dual bar ceramic magnet structure for extra power and included twin hum-cancelling coils for decreased noise. The DiMarzio Model J is 50 percent quieter than the original Fender Jazz bass single coil pickups, and it's 60 percent louder.
We also added adjustable pole pieces to improve the string balance and designed them in our signature cream color. At its introduction, the DiMarzio Model J immediately become an industry standard and has been the pickup of choice on thousands of hit recordings.
With the introduction of the Relentless P bass pickups, co-designed with Billy Sheehan, we began to think how we could make our Jazz Bass pickup even better.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard J Bass pickup and added an arch to the top of the pickup to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuits unnecessary.
We invented (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils to add dimension, punch, and dynamics to the Relentless J sound, and we incorporated metal covers with foil-shielded cables to further suppress the background noise.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We mounted it onto a robust .09375” thick circuit board base plate so we could eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
Tanya O'Callaghan for DiMarzio Relentless J Bass Pickups
To improve the balance when both pickups are used together, we made the bridge position pickup louder than the neck position pickup. When the pickups are blended, you get a better volume match.
The Relentless pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet. We’ve expanded the mid-range punch, adding snappy highs and precise lows. These pickups have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
For more information, please visit dimarzio.com.