Djentlemen Jake Bowen, Mark Holcomb, and Misha Mansoor show off their cavalcade of signature gear from Ibanez, PRS, Jackson, Seymour Duncan, DiMarzio, Bare Knuckle, and Peavey—and then explain how digital modelers continue shaping and shifting their sound.
Our third Rig Rundown with Periphery’s Jake Bowen, Mark Holcomb, and Misha Mansoor—at Nashville’s Marathon Music Works on April 2—caught the band on their final tour stop for a spring run in support of the brand-spankin’-new Periphery V: Djent Is Not a Genre. Our time with the triumvirate of tone reminded us that these fellas never rest their ears. They know gear and how to make it work for them. That’s why each of them has spent extensive time in several R&D collaborations with some of the biggest, most influential companies in guitardom. This time Bowen, Holcomb, and Mansoor all dish on the evolutions of their signature gear and how everything meshes and molds together for the greater, Transformer-like machine that is Periphery. Whether it’s going up to 27 frets, utilizing Alnico 8 magnets, or adding an Evertune bridge to compensate for deeply dropped tunings, this trio of tone hounds will sniff it out. Let’s dig in!
Brought to you by D’Addario XPND Pedalboard.
Final Fantasy 27
Jake Bowen busted out this blue belle first because it’s his most-recent signature—an Ibanez JBM9999 that features a basswood body in their RGA shape, a 5-piece maple-walnut neck, a bound-ebony fretboard, a 25.5" scale that crams in 27 frets, Gotoh MG-T locking tuners, and Ibanez’s Gibraltar Elite bridge, plus it comes loaded with a fresh set of Bowen’s latest signature DiMarzio Mirage humbuckers. The neck model is a custom-voiced, Strat-style, single-coil-sized humbucker that incorporates some finessed tones via the 5-way. Position one and five are standard and individually engage the bridge and neck humbuckers (respectively). Position four puts the neck humbucker into parallel mode. The center slot gets both humbuckers involved, while position two selects the bridge side of the neck humbucker and the neck side of the bridge humbucker. The reason Jake opted for the single-coil-sized humbucker was to inspire fans who want to swap in their favorite single-coil pickups without any extra routing.
Ibanez is known for their wild combinations of letters and numbers for product cataloging, but the 9999s have a significance to Bowen … beyond sounding like an injury law firm’s phone number. He’s a superfan of the Final Fantasy world and 9999 is the max damage you can get in the earlier games, so Bowen requested that gamer Easter egg and they obliged. All his 6-string signatures take Horizon Devices Progressive Tension Heavy 6 strings (.010–.014–.019–.030–.042–.058).
Back in Black
Bowen commissioned this sleek JBM9999 from Ibanez’s L.A. Custom Shop. It matches all the previous model’s accoutrements but shakes it up by including an Evertune bridge. That appointment means it comfortably rides in G–G–C–F–A–D tuning and sees the stage for “Reptile” and “Zagreus.”
The Mojo Machine
This JBM9999 has a few different wrinkles than the previous two. It has a roasted-maple neck and fretboard, and while the single-coil-sized neck humbucker looks like another Mirage model, it’s actually DiMarzio’s The Chopper. That pickup worked as a starting point when Bowen was testing out their rail hum-canceling Strat pickups, and that ultimately led him to the voicing of his signature Mirage version.
Knight in White Satin
Lastly, here’s Jake’s signature Ibanez JBM100 7-string, stocked with his original signature DiMarzio Titan ’buckers, that was shown off in the 2017 Rundown. His first standard sig model was generally done in a matte black finish, but he wanted something special and felt the gold pickup covers would really pop with a white finish. The JBM100s have a mahogany body/maple top configuration.
A $200 Private Stock PRS?!
Back in 2016, Mark Holcomb ordered this 7-string custom from PRS’ Private Stock team. It’s based on his 2015 signature model, but with all of Paul Reed Smith’s bells and whistles. A few things make this guitar unique to PRS’ signature artist roster in that it has a 26.5" scale length, a flat 20" radius on the fretboard, and Holcomb’s first signature Seymour Duncan Alpha & Omega humbuckers.
When it was built, PRS sent the special instrument via FedEx (signature required), and it was left by the delivery person without Holcomb’s John Hancock outside his Austin, Texas home. It was swiped by a porch pirate and assumed to be gone forever. Mark rallied his online followers to get the word out and a fan recognized it in a flea market 60 miles south of Austin. The kicker: It was being sold for $200! The fan bought the guitar and returned it to Mark. The best part, Holcomb didn’t let the sloppy bandit deter him from touring with it as he uses it on “Ragnarok” and other low-tuned riffers. He laces all his 7-strings with Progressive Tension Heavy 7 (.010–.014–.018–.028–.039–.050–.065).
For any Periphery songs that only require a standard 6-string attack, he shoulders his brand-new 2023 PRS SE Mark Holcomb that is off-the-shelf stock. Ingredients include a mahogany body topped with a quilted maple top that incorporates an elegant violin carve, a satin maple neck with 24 frets, an ebony fretboard with a flat 20" radius, a 25.5" scale length, and this one leaves the factory with Holcomb’s just-released Seymour Duncan Scarlet & Scourge humbuckers. Controls are just a 3-way pickup selector, master volume, and push/pull tone knob for coil splitting. Holcomb puts Horizon Devices Progressive Tension Heavy 6 strings on all standard guitars.
This is Holcomb’s PRS SE SVN signature that is identical to its little brother, but has the added string and a 26.5" scale.
For the set opener “Reptile,” Holcomb enlists this PRS SE SVN signature that was modded with an Evertune bridge to accommodate “the stupid-low G tuning” that Mark stumbled upon while riffing away on vacation in Spain.
For the band’s rumbling G–G–C–F–A–D tuning, Misha Mansoor grabs this Jackson USA Misha Mansoor Signature Juggernaut HT6. Its DNA starts with a caramelized basswood body, caramelized quartersawn maple neck and fretboard, 24 jumbo stainless-steel frets, a Graph Tech TUSQ XL nut, a 25.5" scale, Hipshot open-gear locking tuners, and Misha’s signature Bare Knuckle Ragnarok humbuckers. He puts Horizon Devices Progressive Tension Heavy 6 strings on it. And it has a retro-fitted Evertune to keep things tight, prompting Mansoor to commented that “this tour is the most in-tune ‘Reptile’ has ever sounded. It’s been wonderful.” He notes that he recorded nearly all his parts for Periphery’s last two albums with this silver siren.
Orange You Glad
A few years back, Mansoor listed a bunch of gear on Reverb during an equipment purge. He almost listed this one but had second thoughts and is very glad he didn’t. His tech Vinnie gave it some serious TLC and it’s back in the rotation. A cool tidbit about this first-generation Jackson USA Misha Mansoor Signature Juggernaut HT7 is that it has a stunning quilted maple cap sitting over a roasted basswood body. There was a slight blemish on its top, so to salvage the build Misha suggested painting over the quilt, but leaving the edges exposed for a quilted binding effect. It sees work for “Ragnarok,” in their unique variation of drop-A-flat tuning (F#–D#–G#–C#–F#–A#–D#).
Snobs Need Not Apply
Another staple for Mansoor during Periphery’s live set is this import Jackson Pro Series Signature Misha Mansoor Juggernaut HT7 in shimmery blue sky burst. Many of the same appointments are here: a basswood body and a caramelized maple neck and fretboard. The stock models roar with a set of Jackson MM1 humbuckers, but Mansoor opted to upgrade with a set of Bare Knuckle Ragnaroks.
“This thing just shreds, man. It’s just so easy to play and it doesn’t fight me for the little note-y bits in ‘Marigold.’” The set closer puts this matte Jackson USA Misha Mansoor Signature Juggernaut HT6 into drop-C tuning. Mansoor is a mega car enthusiast and Formula 1 fan, so he had Jackson put this one in matte red to match Ferrari finishes.
Pass the Scalpel, Please
This might look yet another Jackson USA Misha Mansoor Signature Juggernaut HT6 with a basswood core and quilted maple top, but it has a mahogany body and flame maple cap for a darker sound and heftier weight. Misha’s signature Bare Knuckle Juggernauts give this baby a bite. Mansoor says the Ragnaroks are a sledgehammer, whereas the Juggernauts are a precision tool.
All in the Family
Misha and Jake have nearly identical setups and patches when it comes to amps and effects. Both are using Peavey Invective120 heads—a design alliance with Mansoor—that each run their own Fractal Audio Axe-Fx II XL+ units through a Peavey Invective 412 and out to FOH. The cabinets are loaded with two pairs of Celestion speakers: Vintage 30s and Creambacks. Mark uses a Fractal Audio Axe-Fx II XL+, but his is juiced by a Seymour Duncan PowerStage 700. He also has a Peavey Invective 412 cabinet onstage. In addition to live stage audio via 4x12s, each guitarist relies on Sennheiser EW IEM G4 Wireless In-Ear Monitor and side fills for a complete sound. And the three amigos plug their shred sticks into Shure ULXD4Q Wireless Units.
The Melbourne-based soul quartet used layered bass tracks, a pointy headstock guitar, old solid-state amps, samples, countermelodies, strange syncopations, and a Brazilian composer to create the complex and colorful Mood Valiant.
According to Paul Bender—bassist for the trippy yet eminently soulful Melbourne-based quartet, Hiatus Kaiyote—the band's live sets often meld into one continuous song. "I never really get a break in the set because we always play all our tunes together for some reason," he says. "I basically never stop playing. I don't have a moment where I am not doing something at any point in the set."
This all-in, throwdown approach is intrinsic to understanding what Hiatus Kaiyote is about. They'll follow an idea, no matter how obscure or complex, wherever it leads, which creates a through-composed structure that gives their music an otherworldly feel. They do have more conventional verse/chorus-type songs as well—"Chivalry Is Not Dead," and "Red Room" off their latest release, Mood Valiant, for example—but even there, the music oozes a loose, what-are-these-amazing-sounds-I'm-hearing energy.
Hiatus Kaiyote - 'Red Room' (Official Video)
Hiatus Kaiyote formed in 2011 and earned Grammy nominations in the R&B category for each of their first two releases before going on what was supposed to be a short hiatus in 2017. But that break seemed to extend indefinitely. During that time, lead singer and guitarist Nai Palm (born Naomi Saalfield) had a terrifying brush with breast cancer (now in remission). Then, with Mood Valiant almost completed, COVID hit and put everything on hold. Although for them, the silver lining was that they were able to isolate together. "We were wrapping it up when that shit went down," Bender says about the final sessions for the album. "We went into the bunker together. It kicked our ass into finishing the record, because there was nothing else to do."
"The biggest part of my attraction to guitars I like is the playability. If it feels good to play, I'm more likely to be motivated to write on it." —Nai Palm
Mood Valiant is the quartet's third full-length and continues their seemingly effortless fusion of jazz-like harmonies, electronic textures and patches, and subtle-yet-funky grooves. Added to the mix are lush string and horn arrangements from Brazilian composer Arthur Verocai (more about him in a minute), and an adventurousness that seems almost prog, as heard on songs such as the whirling and unpredictable "Rose Water," the beautiful piano ballad "Stone or Lavender," and the aforementioned experimental-yet-grounded "Chivalry Is Not Dead."
Bender is a driving force behind the band's groove. He's officially the bassist, but in addition to holding down the low end, he also covers upper-register chordal work—timbres and tones you'd expect from a guitar—as well as more ambient and spacious synth-like textures. He's not the band's only multitasker. Drummer Perrin Moss plays on a mutant kit that resembles a cross between a standard jazz-type setup with a large assortment of acoustic noisemakers, electronics, and keys. Keyboardist Simon Mavin lives in a space that combines vintage gear, samples, and modern pads, and Palm is guitarist and lead singer, although she'll often put the instrument down to focus on her complex and harmonically rich vocals.
Nai Palm subverts expectations—and makes a big style statement—by playing "gentle shit" on her Jackson Randy Rhoads V RRT3 Pro Series.
Photo by Stephan De Witt
"When I write songs alone from scratch, it's usually on a guitar," she says. "A big part of the motivation to play or not play depends on how the song feels emotionally, performance-wise. Guitar is super cerebral and focused, which I adore and I find a lot of freedom in, but it can be limiting singing because your brain is essentially doing two separate tasks. It's fun to keep my options open and not just be stuck to one thing."
Given the band's multidimensional spirit, it's no surprise that Bender has deep roots in various disciplines. His earliest experiences as a youngster were playing metal and grunge, but at one point he was halfway around the world, studying jazz at the University of Miami and cutting his teeth on upright bass.
Paul Bender's Gear
Bender's behemoth of a pedalboard.
- Ernie Ball Music Man Bongo 6
- Ampeg SVT heads and cabs
- Vintage Coronets
- Ernie Ball Slinky Long Scale 6-String Nickel Wound Electric Bass Strings (.032–.130)
- 3Leaf Audio Octabvre
- 3Leaf Audio Wonderlove Envelope Filter
- 3Leaf Audio You're Doom Dynamic Harmonic Device
- Chunk Systems Brown Dog Gated Bass Fuzz
- DigiTech X-Series Synth Wah Envelope Filter
- DigiTech Whammy
- Ernie Ball VP JR Volume/Expression Pedal
- Mooer Lofi Machine
- Mooer Yellow Comp
- MXR Bass Octave Deluxe
- MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay
- MXR M109S Six Band EQ
- MXR Talk Box
- Roland RE-201 Space Echo
- TC Electronic PolyTune
- ZVex Box of Rock
"I don't really play the upright that much anymore," he says. "But there was a good period of time when that was my whole bag. I was really into playing upright—walking bass, changes, standards, all that stuff. I definitely went down that rabbit hole pretty hard. It's pretty unforgiving when you step away for a while. It is a distinct physical challenge, and there's a particular double bass fitness that you've got to maintain. You can't really put it down for a couple years and then expect to be any good at it again."
He stopped playing jazz around the time he joined Hiatus Kaiyote, although that's only broadened his horizons, as the band's music draws from so many disparate sources. The challenge, however, isn't just weaving those different pieces together. It's also pragmatic: reproducing their multilayered arrangements in a live setting as a four-piece.
"There is something lovely and distinct about the bass having a chordal function." —Paul Bender
"Simon's only got so many fingers that he can use to play different sounds," Bender says about recreating keyboard parts on bass. "Sometimes I'll try to cover a certain countermelody idea or a chordal idea on the bass, as well as provide the bass function. That can definitely inform the parts that I write. Sometimes it happens in the reverse, where we produce a track where I might have played a regular bass part, but then there will be a bunch of overdubs and a bunch of different things happening, and it's got to be filled out a little bit more. That might change how I approach the bass part in a live context. There are times where I like doing a regular kind of bassline, but I also love getting into the chordal thing, especially when you get into 6-string territory. There is something lovely and distinct about the bass having a chordal function. It can be a really awesome flavor."
But sometimes, the challenge is in the basslines themselves, like when the recorded version is a studio creation of multiple parts stitched together.
TIDBIT: The band flew to Brazil to record composer Arthur Verocai's string and horn arrangements for the songs "Get Sun" and "Stone or Lavender."
"I've definitely done stuff where I've done weird hybrid things," he says. "I'll make a bassline that is comprised of multiple basses making up the whole thing, which is fairly elaborate and stupid, but such a fun approach. I did that on the first record, Tawk Tomahawk, on that track 'Mobius Streak.' I had a Gretsch Electromatic on 'Chivalry Is Not Dead,' from the new record, in the verses, and a Kiesel fanned-fret, super-modern bass, because it has that super-aggressive top-end-y modern thing for the slap bass shit. On the recording, I do a lot more honing in on specific things. That's the time to pull out the very specific colors and accents that different basses give me."
But Bender's only interested in using a varied assortment of instruments when he's in the studio. Once he hits the highway, he's a minimalist and relies on one axe: a blue Ernie Ball Music Man Bongo 6. "I am not taking eight basses on the road," he says. "I am taking one, because … come on. We're not at that level of touring yet where I've got some guy at the side of the stage waiting to run out to hand me another bass for this song. I am not in Radiohead, which would be fun, but that's the pragmatic reality of it."
"I'll make a bassline that is comprised of multiple basses making up the whole thing, which is fairly elaborate and stupid, but such a fun approach." —Paul Bender
"It was partially due to [singer/songwriter and guitarist] Lianne La Havas, who called me on her birthday, drunk from Costa Rica, while I was looking for a guitar," Palm laughs, explaining how she ended up with her white Jackson V. "I went into the heavy metal guitar section to get some space to hear her, and after the call thought, 'Fuck, I'm going to try the spiky Randy Rhoads guitar.' A big part of the attraction was its playability. The action was great and I loved that you can get both a clean and gritty sound from it. I have super-little hands, and the D'Angelico—although it was a vibe—was super heavy. The biggest part of my attraction to guitars I like is the playability. If it feels good to play, I'm more likely to be motivated to write on it. I also love the juxtaposition of playing gentle shit on it. It pisses off the purist metal heads, but I like to think outside of the box." Palm prefers to pair her pointy Jackson with a Fender Twin Reverb.
When Palm plays guitar, she also only uses one instrument. For most of the last decade, that was a custom semi-hollow D'Angelico EX-SS, although a few years ago she made a radical switch, which, for the music she plays, is seemingly incongruous.
Paul Bender loves to experiment with basses and amps in the studio, but when it comes to playing live, he keeps it simple and relies upon his Ernie Ball Music Man Bongo 6, which he prefers to play through an Ampeg SVT.
Photo by Luke Kellett
For Bender, using different basses and layering parts is just one part of his unique approach to the studio. He also has a fun time with amps. On the road, he's content to rent an SVT—or comparable refrigerator-like unit—but in the studio, his mission is clarity and definition.
"If I've got to pick one amp to run the bass through, I am not going to go for a big amp," he says. "I have been getting into these little Coronet amps. They are quite small, and I am not going to blast the bottom end through it." The point is using the smaller amps—in this case, solid-state models from the '60s and '70s—to focus on details and relying on the direct line for the sub frequencies. "The interesting part of the sound, or the flavor, is more that midrange and presence you get pushing it through a smaller amp like a Coronet. I am trying to hear the distinct detail in what I am playing, and the fingers and the touch and the presence. Smaller amps are great when recording. It's a whole different realm. When I am doing a gig, I might be standing in front of the fridge, but in the studio, sometimes the smaller the amp, the better. It condenses the most interesting parts of the sound to that one little speaker."
Nai Palm's Gear
Photo by Luke Kellett
- Jackson Randy Rhoads V RRT3 Pro Series
- Fender Twin Reverb
- Ernie Ball Super Slinky (.009–.042)
- Ernie Ball Regular Slinky (.010–.046)
- Electro-Harmonix POG2
- Kink Guitar Pedals Straya Drive
- Mooer Yellow Comp
- MXR Echoplex Delay
- MXR Reverb
- MXR Sub Octave Bass Fuzz
- MXR Uni-Vibe
- TC Electronic PolyTune 3
Hiatus Kaiyote don't have many peers when it comes to their aesthetic and overall approach, although they did find a simpatico creative partner in legendary Brazilian composer and arranger Arthur Verocai, who contributed horn and string arrangements for "Get Sun" and "Stone or Lavender" on Mood Valiant. "We're kind of musical loners," Palm says. "If we work with someone creatively, they have to be able to contribute something uniquely themselves. He was the cherry on top of our album, and it really made the record sing."
To work with Verocai, the band flew to Brazil, played a few shows to cover costs, and met up with him. As it was, showing up in the studio in Rio was not only the first time they met, but the first time they heard his arrangements. It was a risk, but they weren't disappointed.
"If we work with someone creatively, they have to be able to contribute something uniquely themselves." —Nai Palm
"He had a really awesome energy," Bender says. "We got to know him during the session and got to see him at work conducting and rehearsing and recording the ensemble. It was great. We had no idea what he was going to write at all. We thought, 'Hopefully it is going to be cool and we're all going to love it, because otherwise it is going to be fucking awkward if we don't.' But he nailed."
There is a limit to how far Hiatus Kaiyote are willing to push the envelope. Sure, they'll obsess over tones, allow their songs to take them on intricate musical journeys, partner sight-unseen with Brazilian composers, and fly across oceans to collaborate. But they're still an Australian-based band, and there's only so much stuff they're willing to take on the road.
"Fuck flying from Australia with a bass amp," Bender says. "That's a horrible idea. Although if we were Iron Maiden and we had our own plane, that would be a whole different jam."
Hiatus Kaiyote: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert
A bold fusion of Santa Ana and Fullerton styles yields a wide range of vintage-to-modern sounds.
Daring styling. Transparent onboard electronics. Powerful tone controls.
No passive operation. Hard to access upper frets.
Jackson X Series Concert Bass CBXNT DX IV
I remember the extreme reactions when the PRS Silver Sky was introduced. The mashup (some might say, clash) of two well-known and classic designs was an earthly manifestation of sacrilege to some. The Jackson X Series Concert Bass CBXNT DX IV could be the Silver Sky's bottom-end equivalent: design elements from two legendary instruments fearlessly thrown together to create something new. The mix already has folks talking. But the real question is whether there is more to this bass than the mix of Fender-style P/J and Rickenbacker visual cues?
What Comes From Where?
The X Series Concert Bass clearly takes inspiration from Rickenbacker's 4001 and 4003. The pickguard, neck profile, chrome bridge pickup cover, control layout, shark fin fretboard inlays, and Jacksons own "Bass Bacher" through-body bridge all nod heavily to Rick. The poplar body profile and pickups, of course, are a nod to Rickenbacker's old neighbors, Fender.
That's the breakdown on the most obvious style moves. But look closer and you'll find features that make this instrument unique. I immediately noticed that the Jackson seemed slightly longer than some basses in spite of the standard 34" scale length. One reason is that putting the Rickenbacker-style bridge on a Fender-style body situates the bridge further forward so the eye perceives the neck as a little longer.
The most unique aspect of the instrument's deign, perhaps, is the pickup placement. The J-style pickup in the bridge position is located further from the bridge than a standard P/J, and the P-pickup in neck position is located much closer to the neck than I am used to. Outwardly, the pickup positions may not seem to represent a huge change, but they make an audible difference.
The Jackson's departure from the two basses that inspired it become more obvious when you plug in. To start, the Jackson has active electronics and a flexible set of treble, mid, and bass tone controls. But the Jackson doesn't just thump in the hi-fi voice of a typical active-pickup-equipped instrument. The circuit also does a great job of delivering vintage feel in the top end, as long as the treble EQ stays below the 75-percent mark. Such tone-shaping flexibility is rare, and Jackson deserves kudos for being sensitive to the vintage-loving player via these tone controls. On the other hand, the Jackson could have featured a bypass that enables passive operation. That's a big plus for me in any active bass—especially one with such clear vintage ambitions—and it is missed here.
For anyone moving over from a Rickenbacker, or looking for a more affordable alternative, the flatter, wider neck will feel like home.
The X Series Concert Bass' very flat and wide 12"-16" compound-radius neck took some getting used to. I expect it will be an adjustment for anyone accustomed to slimmer, J-bass-style neck profiles. But for anyone moving over from a Rickenbacker, or looking for a more affordable alternative, the flatter, wider neck will feel like home.
The Old Door
The Jackson's voice exhibits a prominent and very honky midrange. And in spite of the P/J pickup configuration, the Jackson has much of the midrange of a Rickenbacker. The extra mids are especially noticeable when soloing the bridge P-style pickup. And getting something close to Chris Squire's tone is surprisingly easy with all that available midrange. The extra mids show up in the neck pickup, too, adding a pleasant woody bark to the output, and at times I could almost hear hints of an old door squeaking, which I mean in the most complimentary way. The laurel fretboard might also contribute something to this pleasant, woody personality.
The Jackson isn't all about midrange. Carve out a chunk of that midrange with the flexible 3-band EQ, engage both pickups at full volume, and it can confidently enter the sonic territory occupied by a more conventional P/J bass. The warm low end gets more room to speak, and that sound lends itself beautifully to playing with a pick. And even when digging in, the relatively transparent active circuitry never gets overbearing.
After living with this bass for a few weeks, it really grew on me. I love that Jackson green-lighted this fusion of design ideas—especially when some traditionalists on both of sides of the Rickenbacker/Fender aisle are bound to consider it a pretty wacky blend. But looks aside, the diverse sonics created by combining two legendary designs are interesting and fun to explore. I applaud big statements in general. And in the world of bass, this Jackson pronouncement is as loud and proud as they get.