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A spacious reverb that spans low-key plate and demented, enormous cosmic reverb colors is a gas to use and easy to own.

Fun to use. Wide spectrum of sounds. Nice build quality at a great price

Can be hard to remove high harmonic content at all but the least trebly tone settings.

$129

Walrus Fundamental Ambient
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With variable voices, accessible prices ranging from 99 to 129 bucks, and slide controls that evoke old synths and vintage Jen pedals, Walrus Audio’s Fundamental series effects are functional, stylish, and dish a lot of awesome sounds at a nice price. The newest addition to the Fundamental series, the Ambient, will be good news for budget-constrained atmospheric musicians that otherwise settle for less-durable pedals at the market’s most inexpensive extremes. Some of those pedals are pretty cool, but the Walrus’ construction quality, sense of substance, and function—which is flat-out fun—make it a substantial alternative to those entry-level artifacts for a minor additional investment. It puts a super-wide range of sounds at your disposal, too.

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Joel Kosche talks about how persistence and ambition paved the way from dead-end gigging on the Atlanta circuit to becoming the guitar tech—and then the main axe man— for the chart-topping rock band Collective Soul. Plus, he gives us the lowdown on his go-to studio amps—which he designed and built from scratch.


Joel Kosche onstage with one of his humbucker-equipped MJ Guitars. Photo by Joseph Guay

When Collective Soul suddenly found itself without a lead guitarist in 2001, the Georgia-based band with seven No. 1 singles to its credit didn’t have to look very far to find a perfect replacement. Longtime tech Joel Kosche was a formidable guitarist and singer/songwriter who not only knew the band’s gear and repertoire inside and out, but had also hot-rodded its amps to achieve the trademark guitar sound heard on songs like the 1993 breakout hit “Shine,” as well as on subsequent chart-toppers like “The World I Know,” “December,” and “Smashing Young Man.”

Kosche officially filled Collective Soul’s lead guitar chair in 2003, and he has since added his own sound—shaped equally by metal, progressive rock, and classical, and distinguished by masterful use of effects pedals— to the band’s radio-friendly repertoire. He’s also joining in the group’s writing process and even put his vocal talents to work on the sardonic “I Don’t Need Anymore Friends,” a highlight of Soul’s 2007 album Afterwords.

In addition to playing with Collective Soul, Kosche recently concluded three years of tracking for his debut solo album, Fight Years, which is available on iTunes and at CDBaby.com. The album’s 14 songs chronicle his experiences as a musician—from the frustrating years he spent toiling in Atlanta bands while painting cars and motorcycles to his rocky ascent to the spotlight. We spoke with Kosche about his musical evolution as a guitarist, songwriter, tinkerer, and amp builder, and in the process discovered secrets to some of the uncanny sounds he gets in Collective Soul and on his own.

Do you remember what first got you hooked on guitar?

I remember first getting excited about music when I saw Elvis playing guitar. There wasn’t a guitar in the house, so I—like so many other kids without instruments— used to walk around strumming a tennis racket. One year, my older brother got a guitar for Christmas, but he couldn’t really hang with the lessons, so the guitar just ended up staying in a closet. My buddies and I would sometimes beat on it, trying to play things like “Smoke on the Water” on one string, but none of us knew what we were doing. Then one day, someone’s cousin came over, tuned up the thing, and strummed some chords. That was the first time I’d actually seen anyone make music on the guitar right in front of me, and I knew right then that I wanted to get serious about music.

When time period are we talking here?

This was in the early ’80s—long before you had the internet and YouTube—so I got some Mel Bay books and started teaching myself how to play chords and scales. One day I saw Roy Clark doing this flamenco kind of stuff on Johnny Carson’s show. I didn’t realize that was any different from classical guitar—it’s all done with fingerpicking—so when I was 16 or 17, I started taking classical lessons at a local community college. That was a great experience— it really taught me how to look at guitar in a different way.

How so?

On the guitar, we don’t have to really think about the names of notes—we just move the same shape to a different fret to play in a different key. But when I started playing classical guitar, I began to read music. I learned what, say, a G chord looks like on the staff in different inversions. A lot of classical guitar repertoire was originally written for another instrument, like the piano, with all these simultaneous bass lines and melodies. So I learned a lot about how harmony works and how music is structured, and I learned to approach music for music’s sake and not to just play the same old boxes and patterns.

How did you get involved with Collective Soul?


Photo by Joseph Guay
After I got out of high school, I was scratching and clawing around with local bands, rehearsing four or five nights a week in crappy warehouse rehearsal rooms and playing shows for no money. I needed to put gas in my car and have a little something to eat, so I started doing some paint and body work on cars and motorcycles. My dad’s a mechanic, so I’d always been around that stuff. I had my own little business for a few years and was always trying to get closer to music. Then one day around ’96 or ’97, a friend of mine introduced me to [Collective Soul vocalist/ guitarist/songwriter] Ed Roland. I told Ed I was trying to get out of the auto business and that I’d love to take any job that might be available in his organization. It happened that Collective Soul needed someone to work on their guitars, and I was a good fit because I’d always tinkered with mine and set them up myself.

How did you learn to work on guitars and amps?

My first electric guitar was a Japanese SG rip-off made of plywood that I bought for 10 dollars. Since it was so junky, it didn’t matter if I messed it up, so I used it to learn how to set things up as demonstrated in my little library of how-to books. Also, Eddie Van Halen was melting everyone’s face off when I was coming up, and everybody was copying him and building their own “super strats,” so naturally I had to make one, too. I bought the basic parts from Warmoth and took the body to my high-school shop class to route out the cavities for a bridge pickup and a volume knob. Later, I got into Steve Morse, so I routed out a neck pickup and a toggle switch. I put in a coil-tap switch and then took it out, painted the guitar about 10 different times, swapped out the neck—you name it—and learned a whole lot in the process. Later, when I was working with Collective Soul in the late 1990s, Ed had some old Vox AC30s that he brought out on the road. They were constantly blowing up, so that became the catalyst for me learning how to repair and modify tube-amp stuff.

How did you teach yourself that stuff?

Through trial and error and using books like Gerald Weber’s A Desktop Reference of Hip Guitar Amps and Aspen Pittman’s The Tube Amp Book. For me, those books were like finding the damn Dead Sea Scrolls or something! [Laughs.]

What was it like to transition from being the group’s tech to being their guitarist?

The band called me out of desperation in 2001 when they had parted ways with another guitarist. In less than two weeks, they were going to travel to Australia to play at the Goodwill Games in Brisbane, and then on to New Zealand for more shows. I had, like, 10 days to learn lead parts for the entire set and put together a touring rig. I was finally getting paid to play guitar, but it wasn’t all happy fun. After the tour, we came back to the US on September 10—the day before 9/11—and all our Northeast shows were cancelled. Things felt very unsettled for a while, but we finally got into a good groove and I permanently joined the band in ’03. Things have been pretty busy ever since.

While many Collective Soul songs come from the pen of Ed Roland, you wrote and sang lead vocals on “I Don’t Need Anymore Friends.”

Yeah, I recorded that one with a batch of songs that ended up on my solo record. When we made Afterwords, Ed asked if I’d like to contribute a song, so I picked one of mine that I felt would be most appropriate for a Collective Soul record—something somewhere between poppy and rock-guitar-riff oriented. It was pretty close to being finished when I brought it in—it just needed some bass lines and background vocals. Lyrically, it’s just a nice little song about how I felt at the moment. We were out on tour a few years ago, and we were at this party the promoter threw for us after the show and . . . what can I say? I just didn’t want to be there! I get sensory overload sometimes when there’s too much going on and too many people talking to me at the same time. It makes me withdraw. The lyrics are really supposed to be kind of sarcastic and are not to be taken literally—with the music business being what it is, I need all the friends I can get!

Some of the guitar parts on that song are so synth-like. What sorts of effects did you use to get that sound?

I’m a big fan of the old DigiTech Whammy pedal, and I always wind up stumbling on some cool new sounds when using it in conjunction with other pedals. For the second half of the first verse, I played a P-90-equipped MJ guitar and set my Whammy to an octave-up, octave-down sweep and ran that through a Leslie-type pedal—an Option 5 Destination Rotation—and a Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler. I set the amp fairly clean and then got those keyboard-sounding things by rocking the pedal back and forth between the octaves while I played the Bm–A–G– D–A chord progression.

Is the MJ your main guitar?

Yes. I have a few that I play both in Collective Soul and on my own. I own that one MJ Mirage outfitted with P-90s, and it’s become one of my very favorite guitars for recording, especially lead lines and melodic parts that I want to stick out a bit more. It’s an all-mahogany, chambered-body guitar with a rosewood fretboard. I own six humbucking- equipped MJs and another that’s more in the Tele style, as far as electronics go. They’re all great, and each one has its own personality, but my favorite is a beat-up black one that’s all mahogany with an ebony fretboard. I asked [MJ owner] Mark Johnson to do a thin, satin-black finish directly on top of the wood—without any clear-coat protection—so it’s taken some lumps out on the road.

What other guitars do you play?

I’ve got a few PRS McCartys and two Soloways. One is a 6-string Swan that has a cocobolo top on a swamp ash body. The other is a 7-string Swan with a swamp ash body and a black lacquer finish. Those Soloways are really cool for drop tunings because of their long 27" scale, and they hold together nicely under distortion. I think Jim [Soloway] is kind of a jazz guy, so it’s funny that I use his instruments for the big rock stuff.

Which songs do you use your Soloways on?

I used the 6-string with great results on “Sunrise” from my solo record. I used the 7-string on “Caterpillar,” “A Steel Cage to Ride,” and “New Song”— basically anywhere I could find an excuse to play it!

What sort of amps do you prefer?

Onstage, I use a pair of Vox AC30s for clean stuff, and for dirty stuff I play some Splawn amps—a Nitro and a Quick Rod through Splawn 4x12 cabs loaded with Eminence Greenback-type speakers. I love Splawn amps. They’re made at this small shop in North Carolina and have a great hot-rodded Marshall type of sound. In the studio, I use an amp I built myself. It’s basically a Marshall and an AC30 all in one. It sounds like a huge stack, but it’s only 30 watts.


Photo by Joseph Guay

Can you tell us a little more about the homemade amp—it sounds intriguing.

I’ve actually built four of them now. Basically, each one is a two-input amp with one side being pretty much a top-boost Vox AC30, and the other side being sort of a hot-rodded Marshall with some preamp gain. The hot-rodded side has a tube-buffered effects loop and a Master Volume. Both channels feed into an AC30-style power section with a few tweaks here and there, but basically it’s a four- EL84, cathode-biased power section with no negative feedback. It’s a 30-watt combo, but most of the time I run it through a 4x12 Splawn cab. Component-wise, I’ve used anything and everything, but I tend to go with carbon comp–type resistors on certain parts of the circuit and metal-film everywhere else. I’ve used SoZo coupling caps for the most part, but I’ve used Orange Drops, too. As for tubes, I think the JJ brand sounds best overall for what my amps do.

Did you build everything from scratch?

I did, except I had a guy weld the chassis together for me. I wanted the chassis to be unique, so I couldn’t use off-the-shelf parts. I basically took my drawing to a local sheet-metal shop and had it made, and then I drilled all the holes myself and had it powder-coated. I’m into woodworking, so the cabinet part was easy and fun for me. I drilled and punched all the turret-board stuff myself. And, of course, I wired it up myself.

How do you get such consistently killer dirty tones?

I find that when I use a distortion pedal, it tends to thin out the sound. I’m really just looking for more sustain, so I’ll usually step on a compressor before I step on a distortion. To get a gritty sound, I like to set my amps pretty loud and filthy, and then back off my guitar’s Volume control to get something a little cleaner. But occasionally—for instance, on a song like “Fuzzy”—I do use a Z.Vex fuzz pedal. To be honest, I can’t remember which one, but it’s a pretty cool pedal. It can get crazy if you want it to, but I set it up to be very ballsy and smooth at the same time.

There are so many great guitar moments on the record, but the multilayered parts on “Yours to Reap” really stand out. How did you record that?

Everything was done with regular guitars tuned a half-step down. Some of them were lowered to dropped C# tuning. I used the P-90 MJ guitar for every part except the solo, on which I played my trusty black MJ. The main part that opens up the song and becomes the sort of fake keyboard-pad sound is this: four tracks of guitars, each played with an EBow going through a Whammy pedal set to drop two octaves when I step on it, through some delay and then through my homemade amp. The main little riff that comes in eventually is done with my Option 5 Destination Rotation pedal through some delay and then through my amp with a fairly clean sound and the bass rolled off a fair bit to make it a little lo-fi—so that everything around it sounds bigger. After the vocal finishes, a little string-quartet thing comes in and that’s done with four guitars, each played with an EBow going through a Whammy pedal. The solo was just the guitar through the homemade amp with a little delay.

Describe your general approach to writing.

It’s nothing mind-blowing. It almost always starts with me tinkering around on whatever guitar I have at hand, coming up with a new riff or chord progression, and singing along with a melody. Later, as I’m lying in bed or driving in my car, I might find myself humming a familiar tune, only to realize it’s one I recently composed. If it sticks like that, the song is generally a keeper. As for lyrics, I’m not trying to blow anyone’s mind—I’m just trying to articulate exactly how I feel. That can be tough, because so many of my lyrics are intensely personal.

How does your classical training factor into your music these days?

I often find myself using hybrid picking even when I don’t have to, and I think that’s a technique leftover from playing classical guitar. Also, I still play classical in order to keep my chops up. I have a handful of pieces that I first learned years ago— things like Bach’s “Bourrée in E minor” and “Ave Maria”—that I’m still chipping away at. Talk about music for music’s sake! “Ave Maria” is a great one—the chords are ridiculous. It really expands your playing to work through such beautiful chords— the sort that you wouldn’t normally think to play.

Are there any new guitarists out there who inspire you?


In the studio, Kosche prefers powering his Eminence-loaded Splawn 4x12s with one of the three SugarFuzz 30-watt tube combos he built himself after studying Gerald Weber’s and Aspen Pittman’s definitive books on tube amps.
Not to put anyone down, but it’s rough now. The last guitarist who I can remember as carving out something new was [Rage Against the Machine’s] Tom Morello. There are definitely some great guitarists out there—just do a YouTube search and you’ll find tons of players who can blow through some mind-bogglingly fast stuff. Maybe I’ve just gotten old, but at this point, I’m really most interested in hearing someone who plays something creative that complements a song. It doesn’t need to be a million notes or anything.

Joel Kosche’s Gearbox
Guitars
Assorted MJ Guitar Engineering Mirage models (one with P-90s, six with humbuckers, and one with Tele-style electronics), one 6- and one 7-string Soloway Swan, assorted PRS McCarty models

Amps

Two Vox AC30 Custom Classics, Splawn Nitro head, Splawn Quick Rod head, Splawn 4x12 cabinets with Eminence speakers, homemade SugarFuzz 30-watt tube combos

Strings and Picks
Ernie Ball 2215 6-string sets (.010–.052), Ernie Ball 2621 7-string sets (.010–.056), Dunlop Ultex Sharp .73 mm

Effects
Ernie Ball Volume Pedal, DigiTech Whammy, Morley Bad Horsie 2 wah, Boss AW-3 Dynamic Wah, Boss OC-3 Super Octave, MXR EVH 90 phaser, Rocktron Replifex, Rocktron MultiValve, Heet Sound EBow, Line 6 Echo Pro, Option 5 Destination Rotation, Z.Vex Vextron Series Mastotron fuzz, Keeley Compressor

Miscellaneous

Two Voodoo Lab GCX Guitar Audio Switchers, Voodoo Lab Ground Control Pro Programmable MIDI Foot Controller, Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2, Boss TU-12 tuner, Furman PL-Plus Power Conditioner and Light Module, Furman PL-Plus D Power Conditioner and Light Module


Although Kosche also uses MJ Mirage guitars with P-90s and Tele-style electronics, he tends to favor humbuckers for his live guitars. Note the subtle differences: The two leftmost guitars’ pickups are screwed directly into the body, the two outer guitars have wraparound tailpieces, and all have Volume knobs for each pickup, a Tone knob, and a 3-position pickup selector switch—except for the pickguard-outfitted model, which has a Badass bridge, a single-coil in the middle position, Volume and Tone knobs, and a 5-way pickup selector. Kosche’s live amps include two Vox AC30 Custom Classics (top right) for clean tones and Splawn Quick Rod (top left) and Nitro (bottom left) heads driving Splawn 4x12 cabinets with Eminence speakers. The amps are plugged into a Furman PL-Plus D Power Conditioner and Light Module.


Kosche’s favorite guitar is a mahogany-bodied MJ Mirage with an ebony fretboard and a thin black finish with no top coating. “It’s taken some lumps out on the road,” he says.

Kosche only keeps a Boss TU-12 tuner, his Voodoo Lab Ground Control Pro MIDI controller, his Splawn Quick Rod head’s channel selector, and treadle-equipped pedals like his Morley Bad Horsie 2 wah, DigiTech Whammy, and Ernie Ball Volume Pedal onstage. He powers it all with a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2.


Kosche’s rack includes (top to bottom): a Furman PL-Plus Power Conditioner and Light Module, a Rocktron MultiValve, a Line 6 Echo Pro, a Rocktron Replifex, two Voodoo Lab GCX Guitar Audio Switchers, and a pedal drawer containing a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 (just out of view) driving a Boss AW-3 Dynamic Wah, a Boss OC-3 Super Octave, a Keeley Compressor, a Z.Vex Vextron Series Mastotron, and an MXR EVH Phase 90.


The SugarFuzz combos that Kosche designed and built himself from scratch—including everything but chassis welding—feature a top-boost AC30-style clean channel labeled “Sugar” and a hot-rodded Marshal-type channel labeled “Fuzz.” The SugarFuzzes are driven by a quartet of EL84s and have a Master knob, independent Volume knobs for each channel, and shared Bass, Treble, and Cut controls.

Tom Keeley and Steve Pedulla of the influential post-hardcore band Thursday discuss the importance of roots, how trust and respect empower their dual-guitar partnership, and how broken gear and effects accidents brought fresh sounds to their new album, "No Devoluci—n".


Thursday’s Tom Keeley (left) and Steve Pedulla onstage with their guitars of choice—Fender American
Standard Telecasters with Seymour Duncan Hot Rails bridge pickups. Photo by Dave Summers

Since emerging from the late-’90s hardcore underground and achieving wide acclaim, Thursday has been credited with helping pave the way for modern-rock heavyweights like My Chemical Romance, exposing the world to great new hardcore bands via the opening slots on their tours, and maintaining street cred by recording with up-and-coming bands like Japan’s Envy. More than anything though, Thursday will be remembered for defining the emo/post-hardcore blueprint via Steve Pedulla and Tom Keeley’s scintillating dual-guitar attack, Geoff Rickly’s passionate singing and open-hearted lyrics, and the utterly dominating rhythm section of bassist Tim Payne and drummer Tucker Rule.

Indulging in extreme dynamics while melody battles discordance is Pedulla and Keeley’s raison d’être. This juxtaposition was first explored on the band’s second album, Full Collapse—which they have been recently performing in its entirety to celebrate its 10-year anniversary. Thursday’s major-label debut, War All the Time expanded on the sound with a keener sense of eloquence as pianos and choirs found their way into the oft-ferocious mix. The band’s 2009 release, Common Existence, showed a conscious shift away from the post-hardcore constraints they helped establish, and now their sixth album, No Devoluci—n, finds them exploring deep valleys and high peaks—be they emotional or melodic, expressed in subtler or more intriguing ways.

“There are traditional chord structures in things we do,” explains Keeley, “but there was sort of an effort to circumvent the guitar or approach guitar parts other than thinking of them as guitar parts—kind of undoing the guitar as a traditional rock instrument and using these different effects, chord structures, and strumming patterns to make a more nebulous, melodic vehicle.”

As Pedulla puts it, “A big part of what makes us Thursday is that there are sometimes parts that are almost two leads going on, and they interlock in some strange or unconventional way—so there’s definitely a different dynamic to how we write. It’s the type of thing where both of us will be vamping on a part to try and find what we’re going to play, and we sort of have this unspoken rule where we say, ‘Right . . . bear with me. I’m going to fall on my face a lot—but I will find something.’ We have that trust. We know we’re not being judged by each other.”

Keeley agrees. “It’s a million different things—it’s never the same equation twice. Sometimes we just ignore each other and play as many notes as possible. Sometimes we dictate to each other. I think it’s safe to say there’s a mutual respect for our different points of view and different practices of guitar playing. I couldn’t imagine these songs without Steve’s unique voice. It’s a weird alchemy, a weird experiment. There are a lot of mistakes, a lot of revisions, and tons and tons of editing, historically anyway. And, eventually, even if our parts are fighting each other, we know when it’s working and we know when it’s not.”


Pedulla reaches to the nether regions of his Tele’s fretboard. Photo by Elise Shively

As far as “nebulous melodic vehicles” are concerned, it’d be hard to argue that Keeley and Pedulla have been anything but successful on that front with No Devoluci—n. Written in the wake of Rickly’s divorce, it has an emotional rawness set to churning fury, chiming elegance, and wreaths of eclectic treatments.

“But the whole record isn’t that,” Keeley is quick to add. “It’s not like our guitars sound like ghosts or anything! We certainly have a lot of power chords and traditional angular guitar work—which is sort of our thing. In that sense, it was business as usual. But with [producer] Dave Fridmann, there’s a lot of attention to pushing things toward the weird.”

Fridmann has produced Thursday’s last three records, but reportedly it was the latest one—which was barely demoed at all and was written in just a week—that particularly fired his imagination. What is it about Fridmann that keeps the band coming back to him for production duties?

“You rely on Dave to tell you when to cut the shit, quit thinking, and just play,” says Keeley. “But if I say to him ‘Hey, man, I don’t know if this part is right for this record—how does this sound?’ he’ll reply ‘It sounds like a guitar.’ That means it’s my responsibility to dial in exactly what I need. In the past, I’ve gone, ‘I’ve got no idea what guitar tone I want— what do you think would be a good idea?’ to other producers, and they’ll come up with all these suggestions. Dave does do this on occasion— he’ll fine-tune things—but generally it’s ‘What do you want it to sound like? What’s your vision?’ That’s scary, but ultimately it forces us to become better musicians with better ears. He generally trusts our gut and our instincts, as far as getting into the weird spots. It’s terrifying—but completely empowering.”

For a band of self-described non-musicians, Thursday encompasses a scope and spectrum of aural possibility that’s perhaps wider than musicians who play “by the rules.” Thursday’s distinct sound has always revolved around Pedulla’s and Keeley’s clashing tones. Clean melodies run parallel to each other before soaring through molten distortion, generally grappling with each other and causing semitone clashes, off-kilter countermelodies, and ending in all sorts of pleasing chaos. You expect dropped-D tunings, escalating octave melodies, furious tremolo picking alongside thrashed minor 7th chords, and, more often than not, the delight of crashing from clean, intricate chords to full-tilt, metal-tinged riffs. Light chorus and a splash of delay keep the flashier melodies sounding like they’ll float into forever, but it’s the stop-start breakdowns punctuated by complete silence that define Thursday’s guitar MO.

Devolving the Guitar
For No Devoluci—n, Thursday’s guitar team endeavored to unlearn the guitar—to almost completely deprogram their whole style, only occasionally bringing in their familiar melodic impalement. “Not every song has that,” Pedulla says, “but we really like to have a wide dynamic range in terms of getting real quiet and clean—and then really heavy. It’s a keystone of what we do, for sure. A good example is on the last song on the record, ‘Stay True.’ It does the same thing but in a completely different way.”

The song in question begins with an electric guitar that’s so gently picked it’s almost imperceptible. The drums enter, followed closely by a flood of EBowed feedback in the background. There’s a tension that sits underneath the calm and, three minutes into the seven-minute epic, Rickly’s voice becomes histrionic and the guitars build up along with the pummeling drums. Though it never reaches the abrasive levels of previous material, there’s a simmering darkness that never would’ve come across in the vicious heaviness of their older material.

Pedulla and Keeley are happy to discuss some of their favorite guitar moments on No Devoluci—n, as well as how they managed to get some of the more out-there sounds on the record. The first track, “Fast to the End”, has a wild noise solo—a warped, Tom Morello-esque skittering across fluctuating pitches. “It was a lot of fun to do—and I’m actually wondering how I’m going to recreate it live—but I know I’ll figure it out,” Pedulla says. “I had set up various filter and modulation settings on one of those Line 6 M13s, and I also put some parameters into the expression pedal to control each one. So I would hit a chord and switch back and forth between the different settings and also work the expression pedal. On some of the takes, I wasn’t even aware of the guitar—I would have it on the floor, hit the note, and then just play the pedals with my hands and kind of go for it. We started to realize that when you go to this effect, it does this thing and that’s a good opening, and then when you go to this, that’s a great mid section, and this is a good closing. So it was almost directed improv.”

In comparison, Keeley contributes a beautiful, slightly atonal melody to the skeletal and haunting ballad of loss, “Empty Glass.” But while the duo envisioned the type of vibe you hear on the album, the way they got it was actually a mistake.


Keeley (left) engages his bridge pickup and barres high on the neck as Thursday’s
keyboardist, Andrew Everding, strums . . . you guessed it—a Telecaster with a Duncan
Hot Rails bridge pickup. Photo by Elise Shively

“We recorded it during the last session,” says Keeley. “Geoff had the vocal part and the Hammond organ part and not much else. We knew we needed to finish it, so it fell on me to make the glitchy instrumental sections. I was really excited about that, but it was very frustrating to make, too. It ended up as a clean guitar run through a reverb pedal and a Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler. Instead of strumming, I just turned the reverb and gain up and fretted the string with my strumming-hand finger. With all that sustain, I was able to play the guitar more like a violin. There were six layers of the main progression and six layers of harmonies, and that was going to be the part—this forward-moving thing. But then I accidentally stepped on the DL4’s loop reverse-play button, and it was suddenly a more powerful piece in reverse—with these suspended melodies and a weird timing that pulls you along in this uncertain way. The sweet note of the progression is delayed just a little bit too much, and at first I was like ‘Ah man, I wish I’d taken that one set of four beats out so it hit right where I wanted.’ But everyone was like, ‘Dude, you’ve gotta leave it—that’s what’s going to really engage people and make them listen more intently.’” Keeley adds that, if it hadn’t been for Fridmann’s “writing doesn’t end until the mix is over” ethos, there wouldn’t have been nearly as many spontaneous moments like that.

But as Keeley previously mentioned, No Devoluci—n isn’t all abstract soundscapes. The whiplash switch-ups and intense guitar buildups that have kept Thursday fans enthralled throughout the band’s existence manifest themselves in the savage shift from seething fuzz to all-out saturation on “Past and Future Ruins.” But even that has evolved.

“The chorus riff has a swing to it that we haven’t had before. To expose myself a little bit, it was my attempt at making a Silversun Pickups song,” Keeley confesses with a laugh. “I don’t think it sounds anything like them, though—which is usually the story with me: If I have a favorite band and I try to write something like them, I’m usually not good enough to nail it, y’know?”

Gear Simplicity
Despite the number of textures and deceptively intricate ideas throughout Thursday’s back catalog, Pedulla and Keeley have pretty simple rigs. The latter tends to favor Marshall and Vox AC30 amps and standard Fender Telecasters with a Seymour Duncan Hot Rails bridge pickup. Pedulla is a bit more adventurous in his use of multiple effects units, but he also favors Telecasters with a Hot Rails bridge unit. He also has a custom First Act hollowbody—which is also stocked with Hot Rails.

“For some people, that’s a weird pairing— to put that hot of a pickup in a guitar like that,” he says of the double-cutaway, Bigsby-outfitted guitar. “But it’s awesome, and that got used probably the most. “Dave also has an awesome Harmony Rocket that we used, and I have a Jaguar that I played on a couple of things.”

Amp-wise, Pedulla has recently gotten into Bad Cats. “I used to use the Bogner Ecstasy Classic for distortion and I tried various combos for clean sounds, but I just got myself a Bad Cat Lynx and that’s all I use now. The second day of the tour, our front-of-house engineer came up and was, like, ‘Dude, that is the best your guitar has ever sounded!’ And I feel the same way. For the first recording session, I really wanted that Bad Cat but I didn’t have one, so I borrowed one. After two weeks or a month off, it became a challenge to find one for the next session. Dave was pretty adamant too—‘You need to make sure you have that amp again.’ Luckily, a friend of mine had an extra one he sold me at an amazing deal. So that and the Line 6 M13—that’s all I need. The only thing I use in the studio that I don’t have in my live rig, at least for now, is a DigiTech TimeBender Digital Delay pedal, which is a lot of fun.”

Keeley, on the other hand, had some difficulties with gear during the No Devoluci—n sessions. “When we went into the studio, a lot of my gear was in disrepair,” he says. “So the biggest change for me was, ‘Steve, can I play your guitar here?’ and ‘Oh, this doesn’t work—but it sounds kinda cool.’ It was a hodgepodge of amps that did or didn’t work or were blown or wires that were disconnected. It’s definitely strange making something that’s going to last forever in a context where you’re not confident in what you’re using. It’s impossible for that not to affect what you play, as well as the energy of the parts. It can add to the tension of a part or a song or just the energy of a record. I can hear things like that, at least in my own playing.”


Keeley sees the light live. Photo by Louise Lockhart

He missed one amp more than anything else. “There’s a Marhsall JCM900. It’s Geoff’s amp, but it’s the one I played in the basement days for years and years. It has been historically troublesome and finicky, but it sounds fantastic. Beyond that, the most frustrating thing was that I have a couple of AC30s that sound fantastic, but the noise . . . we couldn’t get rid of it no matter what we did! That was a daily struggle.”

Home Is Where the Hardcore Is
What separates Thursday from some of the more dubious exponents of the genre they helped create is their willingness to embrace newcomers and their steadfast refusal to turn their back on the hardcore scenes they grew up in. Whether it’s offering opening slots to recent up-and-comers Touché Amoré and La Dispute on tour or Pedulla revealing that studio communication often involves requests such as, “Play something like an old Quicksand drum beat,” the guys in Thursday continue to have a hand in the DIY scenes that made them who they are today.

“It’s a school of thought we were exposed to at a young age, and it became an inherent part of our personalities and our philosophy for life,” Keeley says. “Be authentic, don’t sell people on an idea. Rather than selling people on an idea, present them with a piece of art and allow them to take it from you and accept or reject it—and be okay with that.”

And No Devoluci—n is indeed a piece of art—arguably with more emotion, innovation, and hardcore attitude than anything Thursday has done before. All without returning to what they’ve done before—and all without turning their back on it, either.


LEFT: Keeley’s Marshall-and-Vox amp rig backstage before a show. The Bogner head belongs to Thursday’s keyboardist, Andrew Everding, who occasionally plays rhythm guitar during live shows. Photo by Clive Patrique RIGHT: Effects-wise, Keeley keeps things quite simple—he stomps on a Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler, a Lehle Dual amp switcher, a Fulltone OCD, and (not pictured) a Boss TU-2 Tuner. Photo by Clive Patrique

Keeley favors Fender American Standard Teles with maple fretboards and Seymour Duncan Hot Rails bridge pickups. This one features vintage-style bridge saddles. Photo by Dave Summers
Tom Keeley’s Gearbox
Guitars
Fender American Standard Telecasters with maple fretboards and Seymour Duncan Hot Rails bridge pickups

Amps
Marshall JCM800, Marshall 1960 AV slant Cab, Vox AC30 Hand- Wired reissue

Effects
Fulltone OCD distortion, Lehle Dual amp switcher, Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler, Boss TU-2 Tuner

Miscellaneous
DR Strings (.010, .013, .017, .030, .044, .052), Dunlop .60 mm Tortex picks, Mogami cables with Neutrik plugs, Line 6 Relay G50 wireless









LEFT: Pedulla recently got hooked on the Bad Cat Lynx—a 50- watt, 2-channel head driven by EL34s—which he routes through a Bogner 4x12 cabinet loaded with Celestion Vintage 30s. Photo by Dave Summers RIGHT: When it comes to effects, Pedulla is much more of a data head than Keeley: He uses a Voodoo Lab Ground Control Pro MIDI foot controller (left) and a Voodoo Lab Pedal Switcher (top middle)—as well as a Line 6 EX-1 Expression Pedal (second from right)—to expand the capabilities of his already-stacked Line 6 M13 Stompbox Modeler (middle). Those devices, as well as a Boss TU-2 Tuner, are powered by a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus. Photo by Dave Summers


Pedulla’s American Standard Tele has a rosewood fretboard, a Seymour Duncan Hot Rails bridge pickup, and newer-style bridge saddles. Photo by Dave Summers
Steve Pedulla’s Gearbox
Guitars

Fender American Standard Telecaster with a rosewood fretboard and a Seymour Duncan Hot Rails bridge pickup

Amps
Bad Cat Lynx head, Bogner 4x12 with Celestion Vintage 30s

Effects
Line 6 M13 Stompbox Modeler, Line 6 EX-1 Expression Pedal, Voodoo Lab Pedal Switcher, Voodoo Lab Ground Control Pro MIDI foot controller, Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus, Boss TU-2 Tuner

Miscellaneous
DR Strings (.010, .013, .017, .030, .044, .052), Dunlop .60 mm Tortex picks, Mogami cables with Neutrik plugs, Line 6 Relay G50 wireless