The sonic sorceress grabs her baritone Fender and leaps into the maelstrom with sludgemasters Thou for a pair of heavy, effects-laden collaborations: May Our Chambers Be Full and The Helm of Sorrow.
It's virtually impossible to interview anyone nowadays and not have the pandemic come up. The only difference in the conversations is the degree to which it has affected the subject's life. Last March, Emma Ruth Rundle was touring solo—as in, sans backing band—in support of her 2018 release On Dark Horses, when the severity of the pandemic hit. Her last live show was on March 10, at the Fonda Theater in Los Angeles.
"That was a very strange show, because of what was happening," she recalls. "I was on tour with Cult of Luna and Intronaut. We started in February and were in 'tour-land,' so you're kind of in a bubble, where the outside world doesn't really exist and the escalation of the virus—that news wasn't impacting us. We weren't seeing it, but by the time we got to Los Angeles ...," she drifts off, the disbelief still palpable. "I'm from L.A. I was born and raised there, and driving into Hollywood, the streets were fucking empty."
"Showing up with an electric guitar and no effects is my version of the nightmare people have where they go to school with no clothes on."
Riding into an upscale ghost town sounds like an apocalyptic scenario—especially when your livelihood depends on audiences. But the adaptability of Rundle, who recorded during the lockdown and recently released an album and an EP, has been a hallmark of her career. The 37-year-old rose to prominence in the early 2000s with the Nocturnes, a folkgaze ensemble blending chamber-pop, goth, and post-rock elements into the genre. Albums like A Year of Spring (2009) and Aokigahara(2011) spotlighted her as one of the millennium's most inspired rock singer-songwriters. While in the Nocturnes, she branched out to work with post-rockers Red Sparowes, and in 2012 forged a more-straight-ahead rock collaboration under the Marriages moniker with Sparowes bassist Greg Burns. In between her musical partnerships, the prolific Rundle has also released four dazzling solo albums.
A common thread through all of her recordings is her passion for the craft of guitar playing. And her thirst for the new is reflected in that, too. With On Dark Horses, she first delved into baritone guitars—their shadowed tones magnifying Rundle's already somewhat foreboding, light-versus-dark aesthetic. From succinct to bombastic, weighty to crushing, and nuanced to vulnerable, her playing—particularly her baritone-derived soundscapes—toes the line between lilting and bludgeoning.
Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou - The Valley (Official Audio)
Rundle's pair of recent recordings, late 2020's May Our Chambers Be Full and the new The Helm of Sorrow EP, mark yet another collaboration—this time with Louisiana sludge-metal lords Thou. Although Thou already had three guitar players, these releases are a perfect refuge for Rundle's low-tuned 6-strings. On Chambers' "Killing Floor," "Out of Existence," and "Magickal Cost," her playing weaves into Thou's majestic guitar tapestry as if it has always been there Meanwhile, her haunting, hypnotic vocals transcend the musical maelstrom with melodies that pierce Thou's musical armor, adding a welcome dimension to their muscular riffing. Check out Helm of Sorrow's cunning cover of the Cranberries' "Hollywood" for a slice of that sublime magic.
The Rundle/Thou union began with what she calls a long internet flirtation. "I've been such a massive fan," she admits. "I was listening to them a lot and tagging them on social media." Rundle, also a painter, would often listen to Thou while she worked. They finally met in 2018, backstage at the Northwest Terror Fest in Seattle. "It was so uncomfortable," she remembers. "There's a lot of them and they each have a very different flavor. Everyone's got a very different personality."
When it comes to conventional electrics, Rundle favors this Guild T-Bird or her Gibson SG Special. "I just don't think you can beat an SG," she says.
Photo by Debi Del Grande
Their musical partnership with Rundle kicked off when, in April 2019, Thou was invited to be the artists-in-residence at the Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands. Artists-in-residence perform a collaborative set with an artist of their choosing, so Thou asked Rundle. "That was so much fun," she explains. "I was like, 'Fuck yeah, I'm not going to miss this opportunity.' It was just such a dream come true to be asked to work with my favorite band. We had to come up with original material for a 40-minute set. That's how it started."
In preparation for Roadburn, they began meeting in New Orleans in February 2019. By then, Rundle and Thou guitarist Andy Gibbs had already been emailing ideas back and forth. "It started like a riff here, a riff there," she recalls. "KC [Stafford, guitar/vocals] came into the project with 'Monolith,' which they had written pretty much all the way through. We just fleshed it out." Rundle says the songwriting process was very involved and thinks maybe her Thou cohorts were a bit surprised by her level of commitment. "I think some of their other collaborations were just … expedient," she surmises, carefully choosing her words. "Whereas we were really crafting full songs from absolutely nothing."
"Because I play in a different tuning than everyone else, sometimes I couldn't play the same riffs as them—the voicing would be really strange."
Before heading off to Roadburn, Thou and Rundle embarked on a short tour to warm up for the festival. Rundle performed solo as an opener, and Thou would play their own set, and every few nights they would inject their collaborative performance. "It was like, if the final album is a sculpture that's realized, where you can see features and details, what we had by the time we got to Roadburn was just a lump of clay," she admits. "I recently heard the set from Roadburn, and I can tell I was totally making things up that just sounded like words. [laughs]. It evolved a lot more after we played that set."
A lot of Thou's mighty sound relies on the number of guitars playing the same down-tuned riff. In addition to Gibbs and Stafford, the band includes Matthew Thudium on guitar and Mitch Wells on bass, so fitting into that heavy alignment provided some challenges for Rundle. She says they made it work with the help of producer/engineer James Whitten, who she refers to as Thou's secret weapon. He recorded both May Our Chambers Be Full and The Helm of Sorrow at High Tower Music in New Orleans."
Emma Ruth Rundle's Gear
With 2018's On Dark Horses, Emma Ruth Rundle adopted the Fender Jaguar Special Baritone HH as her main instrument. "They don't make it anymore," she relates, "but it has humbuckers, which is the reason why I really love it."
Photo by Tim Bugbee/Tinnitus Photography
- Two Fender Jaguar Special Baritone HHs
- Gibson SG Special
- Guild S-200 T-Bird
- Dunable Yeti
- Cordoba Luthier Series GK Pro
- Blueridge BR-143 Historic Series
- D'Addario EJ21 sets (standard-scale guitars)
- D'Addario EXL158 sets (baritones)
- D'Addario EJ46 sets (nylon strings)
- D'Addario EJ17 sets (steel-string acoustics)
- Roland JC-120
- Verellen 2x12 combo based on the Loucks head
- Korg Pitchblack tuner
- Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork
- EarthQuaker Devices Arrows
- EarthQuaker Devices Palisades
- Keeley Loomer
- Electro-Harmonix Stereo Memory Man with Hazarai
- Line 6 M9
- Two Boss DD-6 Digital Delays
- Boss RV-5 Digital Reverb
- Red Panda Context
James is a genius with guitar tone and with finding a place for all of the guitars," Rundle says. "There is some mystery and mystique to his method. There's no way to have four guitars happening all the time and have it sound that good. I think he's doing some magic and picking and choosing. It was a surprise to hear what moments came out."
It's worth noting that Rundle plays in a different tuning than the rest of Thou, which further complicated how the guitars intermingled. The tuning on Rundle's baritone is G#–C#– G#–A#–C#–G#—an open tuning that lets her barre chords with a single index finger. Thou's tuning, according to Gibbs, is G# standard, just like standard tuning, except the lowest string is G#. "The process went like this," Rundle says. "There would be basic riffs. We would all learn them together, and that would form the basis of the song. But because I play in a different tuning than everyone else, sometimes I couldn't play the same riffs as them—the voicing would be really strange." In some cases, Rundle says it also just didn't make sense to have four guitars and a bass player playing the same drop-tuned riff together. So sometimes she would play other parts. "It made sense to have a little lead melody happening or a different chord voicing," she says. "That's how we made it work. There are times where I'm playing the same 'sort-of' riffs, but there are a lot of moments where it's either a finger-picked thing or a little lead line."
Emma Ruth Rundle Rig Rundown
Exclusively a fingerstylist, Rundle uses acrylic nails to pluck her primary guitar, a Fender Jaguar Special Baritone HH. "They don't make it anymore," she relates, "but it has humbuckers, which is the reason why I really love it. That specific model was what got me into playing baritone guitars."
Because the baritone is "pretty wonky" intonation-wise, Rundle also wields a Gibson SG Special, a Guild S-200 T-Bird (both in C# tuning), and a new Dunable Yeti that was custom built for her by Intronaut's Sacha Dunable. "With the Fender, you can't get the intonation right," she says. "It's just the nature of the scale length—and then I'm doing drop-tuning on a drop-tuned instrument! It's flawed in so many ways." [Editor's note: The Jaguar Special bari has a 27" scale, whereas "true" baritones are typically 28" or more in order to intonate more accurately across the fretboard.] Ultimately, she concludes, "I just don't think you can beat an SG." She says that instrument's fretboard reminds her of the classical guitars she learned to fingerpick on—and that she still uses to write and practice on. "To me, the SG is the perfect guitar."
In addition to the baritone, effects are crucial to Rundle's sound and style. "I consider my pedalboard an instrument that I wouldn't want to do any of this stuff without. It's like a palette of tones and effects that you know will work in any given situation. After a certain amount of time, you just know when something has to have a super-hot fuzz with an octave on it for it to cut through at the right moment and make sense. And if I have an EBow, I know it's always going to go with either a slide or a really slow delay."
For acoustic guitars, Rundle uses either a Cordoba GK Pro nylon-string or this Blueridge BR-143 Historic Series steel string.
Photo by Geert Breakers
Rundle says her fascination with effects and electric guitar playing happened in parallel. "I got a multi-effects pedal with my first guitar. I think showing up with an electric guitar and no effects is my version of the nightmare people have where they go to school with no clothes on," she laughs. "It's not a place I want to be, you know?"
Speaking of school, it was while working a 13-year stint at McCabe's Guitar Shop, a folk music center in Santa Monica, California, that she received her informal musical education. "We sold instruments, we had concerts, and we had lessons. A lot of the things that I've learned that have made their way into my playing just came from the people there—the teachers that would come down. Pete Steinberg is an amazing, award-winning finger picker, and he'd just be like, 'Come over here. I'm going to show you something.'" And on the rock side, she credits the inspiration of Jimi Hendrix, Billy Corgan, Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love, P.J. Harvey, and, especially, Nancy Wilson.
"I had this revelation when I learned about Heart. It blew my mind—just seeing a woman shred like that. I felt, when I was super young, that I didn't see myself reflected in guitar magazines or in rock music, necessarily. I'm stoked that we don't have the 'bikini-fashion-show-guitar-thing' anymore, you know what I mean?"
Texas slinger Zach Person joins us in sharing the ditties we play when sizing up a new axe to see if it meets our needs. Plus, we discuss current musical obsessions.
You enter your local guitar store. An instrument calls you over, you pick it up ... what do you play? Do you have a go-to riff when testing out new gear?
Zach Person — Guest Picker
Photo by Nathan Hall
A: I usually will set the amp really clean so that I can hear the true sound of the instrument. I'll almost instinctively play through a variety of pentatonic and Lydian-esque passages, and big open chords to get a feel for how it handles tuning, intonation, etc. If it proves to sing through all of these "tests," then I'll add some drive and continue exploring. At that point, any person accompanying me knows that they've lost me for the next half hour!
Current obsession: An artist in town (Austin, Texas) named Dave Scher. He is truly my favorite guitarist, and he inspires a lot of my playing. He's so melodic, and his improvisation never feels stale. He's one of those guys that can plug straight into any amp and make it sound like he's running through a $3K+ pedal rig. Before the pandemic he was on the road for several months with Eric Johnson playing rhythm guitar (and bass on some songs), but he has his own solo project here in town. Go check him out. You can thank me later!
Dave Scher "Georgia On My Mind"
Felipe Gonzalez — Reader of the Month
A: I tune it down to D, then play "Hate by Design" by Killswitch Engage. If it resists the abuse of that riff, it's worth it. The reasoning behind playing this riff to test guitars is the mix of precise downstrokes, palm-muted notes, and ringing notes in an up-tempo song. (It's KSE, after all.) It's challenging and delightful to play. I love the power of their riffs—to play them is tricky and will develop your timing in a very good way. I think Adam and Joel are one of the best guitar tandems on the metal scene of all time.
Riff Rundown - Killswitch Engage's Hate by Design
Current obsession: My current musical obsessions are three bands I discovered by chance: God Is an Astronaut, Earthside, and Distant Dream. Sometimes the YouTube algorithm works nicely for you, and that's how I found them. I love their melodic approach in their composition and the lack of virtuosic playing, which in the end, makes me tired. This is music, not a competition.
GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT - Fade (Official Video) | Napalm Records
Ted Drozdowski — Senior Editor
A: I have a very specific ritual: a rip on the riff from Beck's "Devil's Haircut" followed by the four-note riff and opening barre chords from "Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Part II" and then some blues licks and campfire chords. If there's no buzz, it rings out, and the neck feels like love, then I plug in.
Current Obsession: Figuring out how and when to return to live performance. My band, Coyote Motel, just had its first rehearsal in 14 months and we could feel the rust, but the gears were still turning beautifully underneath. Now what?
David Von Bader — Contributing Writer
A: I have one rootsy-sounding, slippery ascending riff that starts with the open low E and slides into a little double-stop sequence that I tend to play when my hands are on autopilot. It's a lick that makes it sound like I kinda know what I'm doing, but without being too showy. As someone that put in a few years working at a busy but physically small vintage guitar shop in Brooklyn, I'm hyper aware of in-store demo etiquette and the last thing I want to do is subject shop employees to any ego riffing beyond what I really need to get a feel for a guitar or amp or pedal.
Current Obsession: I've been absolutely punishing the Walker Brothers' 1978 release Nite Flights lately. It was the last album they released as a group, but it's essentially three solo EPs smashed together. The songs each of the band's three members (they weren't actually related) respectively wrote and sang appear sequenced together in clusters. The four Scott Walker tunes that open the album are dark, wonderfully dramatic, incredibly catchy, and subtly telegraph the avant-garde (and occasionally quite terrifying) direction of his late-career solo work.
The album features some truly phenomenal guitar work by famed British session ace Big Jim Sullivan, as well as hired soloist Les Davidson, who rips a proper barn burner of a solo on the album's opener "Shutout" that perfectly accentuates the song's bad drug trip at the disco feel.
Streamlined simplicity makes acoustic sound sweetening a piece of cake.
Streamlined and intuitive. Nice range in controls. 18V means extra headroom. Quiet.
Busy graphics make control names hard to read.
Orange Acoustic Pedal
I understand why a lot of my acoustic-playing chums avoid DI boxes. They aren't the sexiest pedals in the world, and a lot of them can look pretty intimidating—with parametric EQs, notch filters, phase switches, and other highly inorganic devices that don't do much for a focused, spontaneous performance mindset. But the fact is that even a simple DI can prevent a lot of headaches. And the very streamlined Orange Acoustic Pedal (which seems conceived for the DI-averse) makes fixing or fine-tuning a baseline amplified acoustic tone feel a lot less like a chore.
It's easy to add or subtract a touch of bass and treble to very effective ends.
The Orange Acoustic Pedal is super-intuitive (which is a good thing, given that the graphics render the control names a bit indecipherable). It's easy to add or subtract a touch of bass and treble to very effective ends. And small adjustments to those two controls alone can do much to eliminate problem frequencies or add body and excitement to flat-sounding piezos. The midrange, notch, and Q-factor controls (the latter two isolate specific mid frequency ranges and narrow or widen the range of the selected frequencies, respectively) take more practice to master. But doing so can make the Orange feel like a scalpel for eliminating problem peaks. The 18V Acoustic Pedal and its useful effects loop are also super-quiet and do a fantastic job of preserving signal integrity. There is no shortage of solid DI options in this price class, but Orange's quiet performance, high headroom, and satisfying, intuitive operation make it an appealing option for DI newbies and players that like keeping their DI solution simple.
Takamine Blue Rose with Ct4-Dx preamp, Martin 00-15 with L.R. Baggs Element
Think outside the box and utilize bends to create tasty triads and dissonance that grabs attention!
● Use more than just the 3rd finger when bending strings.
● Bend into triads and create chords with movement.● Home in on bending intonation and precision.
Bending strings is one of the main pillars of rock, country, and blues playing. Imagine if B.B. King, Brent Mason, Brad Paisley, or Jimi Hendrix played without using any bends. It would be strange, right? The main bending techniques used by those four (and nearly every other person to pick up an electric guitar) will take you pretty much anywhere you need to go as a guitarist, but there are a few approaches to bending that will take you down roads less travelled.
The following examples give you specific licks to plug right into your playing, but the main idea is to gain a different approach and perspective when it comes to bending strings.
Ex. 1 is probably the most 'countrified' of the examples but works well as a tension builder within several genres. The lick is focused on the tension created by bending one whole-step on the 2nd string while fretting the note one half-step above the bend on the 1st string. The bend is released before moving to each section. The "rub" created by this pulls the listener's ear until the resolution, which is A. The first finger frets all notes on the 1st string, and the third finger frets all notes on the 2nd string.
Ex. 2 is where we start to look at what I call a "chord based" approach to bending. Using a simple I–IV vamp in D, I demonstrate two simple ways to use triads with bends. On beat 3 of the 1st measure, I bend the E one whole-step up to F# with my second finger to create a D major triad (D–F#–A). In the 2nd measure on beat 1, I bend the F# up one half-step with my 2nd finger to form a G major triad (G–B–D). I prefer to play with a hybrid pick-and-fingers technique, but it sounds just as clean when all three notes of each triad are played with a pick.
In Ex. 3 I work with a descending progression in E, using a bend at the top of a triad with my first finger to form each section. This progression sounds great on its own, but using each of these voicings in other contexts can really add some interesting flavor to your playing.
The first shape uses an Esus2 shape, bending the top note up one whole-step with the first finger to create an E major triad (E–G#–B) and then releasing the bend. The second shape has the same mechanics, only it uses an F#7 chord. The third shape continues that descending pattern, using the exact same bending mechanics but with an A6 sound. To finish the lick, I play an Esus triad using the open 6th string. Then, I use a pull-off to hit the G natural before bending it up a half-step to create an E major triad.
The progression from the previous example also works well on the upper three strings of the guitar and helps build finger strength. In Ex. 4 rather than bending the top note of each shape, I'm bending the bottom note. It follows the same Esus–F#7–A6–E harmony and resolves with the same shape we used to wind up Ex. 1.
In this last example (Ex. 5), I'm demonstrating three simple triad shapes that work well with bending the bottom note. We start with one that uses the 1st finger to bend, creating an Emaj7 sound. The second shape works over a B7, and the third resolves to E major. They are all very simple voicings to create but come in handy when you need something that sounds just a tad different.
Bending into triads can give your playing a little sparkle when needed, whether comping or soloing. The examples given in this lesson are great to use, but the idea here is to apply this concept to different shapes all over the fretboard. Some shapes might take some muscle building, but the work is rewarding. Get creative with your voicings, create and resolve tension, and most importantly bend in tune!
Chris Martin IV steps into new position of Executive Chairman and the company appoints Thomas Ripsam as CEO.
An experienced growth strategist and leader, Mr. Ripsam has a deep passion for companies with a strong heritage and legacy. He is a trusted advisor and business partner, having guided numerous boards of directors and leadership teams to shape strategies and deliver results. His expertise in strategy development, digital/technology deployment, and continuous improvement will ensure the continued growth of the 188-year-old company.
After 35 years as C.F. Martin & Co. CEO, Chris Martin is stepping into his new leadership role of Executive Chairman. During his time as CEO, Mr. Martin has guided the company through booms and crises, leaving a legacy of growth and manufacturing excellence. This transition comes as the company is experiencing unprecedented demand for its products.
"First, I want to thank everyone in the music products business for their support during my 35-year career as CEO of my family's business. What a ride!" said Mr. Martin. "I complete my term as NAMM Chairman this July at the show in Nashville, and I have been thinking about retiring for several years, so this felt like the right time. I look forward to transitioning to the role of Executive Chairman of Martin Guitar where I will continue to be a cheerleader for the Martin brand. I am excited to work with Thomas as he gets to know all of us and shares the love we all have for the guitar."
"I have admired Martin guitars since I was a teenager," says new CEO Ripsam.
Chris Martin hands the reins to Mr. Ripsam, who, over the course of his 25+ year career, first at Booz Allen & Hamilton, and most recently as a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, took on leadership responsibilities for growing the business, developing service offerings and managing teams. He has worked with consumer goods companies, specialty retailers, technology solutions providers, Fortune 50 companies, and family-owned businesses, helping to drive profitable growth, enhancing digital capabilities, improving customer experience and engagement, and generating hundreds of millions in incremental value for his clients.
An avid guitar player, Mr. Ripsam collects fretted instruments and even took a sabbatical in 2019 to work with a luthier to learn about the process of building acoustic guitars – in the style of Martin. He holds an MBA in Strategy & Finance from Columbia Business School and a BA in Business Administration and Management from Reutlingen University in Germany and Middlesex University in London.
"I have admired Martin guitars since I was a teenager," said Ripsam. "My first real acoustic was a Martin guitar and it has been a close companion to me since. Martin has always been an iconic fretted instrument builder and I have a deep appreciation for the company's continued focus on quality, craftsmanship, and innovation, as well as its unique culture and history. I am honored and humbled to join the Martin family and to carry on the legacy of Chris Martin and his predecessors."
The 4-knob drive includes transparent and character drive voices (changing the order of drive & EQ circuits) that cover boost, drive, and fuzz tones.
Overdrive versatility with its own voice Hamstead Soundworks are proud to introduce Comet: a meticulously voiced overdrive pedal that opens up a whole world of tones from a simple control set.
Representing our pursuit to take analogue drive circuitry to new heights, it can be moulded from boutique sounding overdrive with a vocal midrange, right through to a rich and creamy fuzz. Both transparent and character drive tones are accessed via a deceptively simple, but incredibly powerful switch. Furthermore, your tone can be shaped via an intuitive two-band EQ, for additional tone sculpting.
- Incredibly versatile tone shaping from a simple control set
- From tone-enhancing 'always on' preamp gain, to boutique overdrive and all the way to rich, creamy fuzz
- Transparent and Character drive voices
- Multifunction EQ/Drive switch:
- Changes the order of the Drive & EQ circuits
- Switches between two distinct clipping circuits
- Adjusts the gain structure for a wide range of drive sounds
- Active EQ with +/-15dB of clean Treble & Bass boost & cut Up to 30dB of Level boost
- High Gain mode (via an internal switch)
- Global Hi Cut adjustment (via an internal pot)
- Silent optical switching and TheGigRig's OptoKick footswitch, for excellent reliability
Drive, EQ & Gain Structure
The EQ/Drive switch sits right at the heart of Comet, providing two distinct tonal paths. While on the surface it may appear to be just a simple physical switch, it's much more than that. By selecting DRV>EQ or EQ>DRV, you not only change the order of the Drive and EQ circuits, but also the type of clipping and gain structure circuitry. The design uses complex analogue engineering on the inside, to be simple and instinctive to use on the outside.
- DRV>EQ mode gives you a very dynamic and transparent clipping circuit and places the EQ after the Drive Circuit, for studio style EQ sculpting.
- EQ>DRV mode moves the EQ in front of a more raw, yet organic clipping style that boosts the input gain into the drive circuit. Doing this provides a wide range of character drive tones that can be pushed all the way to into super saturated fuzz tones.
Global Gain & Tone Control
From pre-amp boost and right through to fuzz, Comet has a very wide range of gain available onboard. However, to push the circuit even harder into high gain territory, we've also added an extra gear. Selectable via an internal switch, Hi Gain Mode can open up heavy crunch and distortion or even highly saturated fuzz tones.
While Comet is voiced to work excellently with any guitar or bass set-ups straight out of the box, we wanted to add a little extra flexibility for those players who really want to fine tune their sound. With the internal Hi-Cut pot, you can tailor the high frequencies to suit any rig or tonal preference.
- All-analogue design
- Dimensions: 70 w x 130 d x 65 h mm
- Weight: 525 g / 1.16 lbs
- Power Requirement: 9-12 V DC ONLY, 65 mA (Centre Negative) Input Impedance: 500 kΩ
- Output Impedance: < 300 Ω
- Warranty: 5 Year Limited Warranty
Comet has been extensively tested with a large range of familiar guitars and amplifiers to ensure that it will work superbly with any setup.
An all-analogue circuit designed by Peter Hamstead. Built at the Hamstead labs in Cambridgeshire, Great Britain.
Hamstead Soundworks COMET: Interstellar Driver
Hamstead Soundworks Comet Interstellar Driver : RRP £199 // €235 // $259