The YouTube gear connoisseur explains why a StingRay trifecta and a signature Fishman Fluence humbucker is all he needs for a tour.
If you’ve perused YouTube for videos dealing with triple rectifiers, 5150s, the cheapest guitars imaginable, or absurd gear listings on eBay and Reverb, you most certainly know Ryan “Fluff” Bruce. The mastermind behind Riffs, Beards & Gear has amassed over 400K subscribers and nearly 100 million views since starting his channel in 2006. His charm is a mixture of quality, inviting guitar-related content with high-brow information and effective, well-timed low-brow comedy. And, of course, some high-brow goofs, too. On top that, Bruce often leaves his Pacific Northwest video sanctuary to continue chasing his main passion—playing guitar in a band. His current venture is Dragged Under.
The quintet is a Negroni of rock, stirring in equal parts upbeat pop-punk (with anthemic choruses), melodic metalcore moshers, and spine-testing breakdowns. Occasional garnishes include sinister synths, acoustic guitars, and even orchestral overtones. They formed in 2019 from the ashes of Rest, Repose—with carryover members vocalist Anthony Cappocchi and fellow guitarist Josh Wildhorn. Bassist Hans Hessburg and drummer Kalen Anderson filled out the lineup for their 2020 debut, The World Is In Your Way. And since that release, guitarist Sean Rosario has replaced Wildhorn and helped bring their brand-new batch of jams, Upright Animals, together for a June 2022 release.
Ahead of Dragged Under’s headlining show at Nashville’s punk-rock lair the End, on September 1, PG’s Perry Bean jumped onstage to talk shop. “Fluff” showcased his attractive and adaptable Music Man riff cannons, detailed the development of his signature Fishman Fluence humbucker (and who’s voicing he stole for one of his own), described his transition from the Line 6 Helix to Axe-Fx III, and spearheaded a jovial chat that involves a peculiar Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Warlock.
Brought to you by D’Addario String Finder.
For a man who gets his hands on many, many instruments, it must be hard for Bruce to narrow down his collection to a few key axes. But he’s a pragmatic player that looks at all the requirements of a touring tone pony. This custom Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay he calls Mr. Sparkle (Simpsons season eight reference) is his “No. 1 A,” not only for its sonics, but its sensibility. It is loaded with his signature Fishman Fluence pickup in the bridge (more on that in a minute) and a Fishman Fluence Single Width pickup in the neck. The StingRay’s roasted maple neck ensures no movement when encountering extreme climate changes. Plus, even if something does change, it has a very-accessible truss rod adjuster at the end of the fretboard. The Music Man bridge rests on the mahogany body, making it very stable. It sits in the 8-pound range, so it’s not a boat anchor, allowing “Fluff” optimal movement onstage without requiring an on-call chiropractor.
Fluff the Fisherman
Bruce is the latest rocker to put his tone print on the Fishman Fluence line of pickups. His multi-voice humbucker has three settings. Position one (modern active high output) starts with a boosted active ceramic sound that has a switchable high-frequency tilt for a darker tone. Position two (modern passive attack) cops Lamb of God guitarist Willie Adler’s setting one, in his signature Fluence pickup, and offers an articulate passive, rhythm tone. And position three (slightly overwound single-coil) is muscular and maintains the high-end sting.
Just Like Jerry
Now, while Jerry Cantrell never played a baby-blue guitar or a StingRay, Bruce says this one-pickup, one-knob mosh machine is a slight nod to the simple, sawtooth G&L Rampage favored by the Alice in Chains ripper. The lone pickup is Fluff’s signature Fishman Fluence. He mentions in the Rundown this StingRay has a considerably larger neck profile than the previous bass-boat sparkle StingRay. Both guitars we’ve seen so far stay in drop C# and take Ernie Ball Paradigm Beefy Slinky strings (.011–.054).
A Buick Riviera
This particular StingRay was built for a band that dissolved before it could be delivered. It sat on the Music Man shelves for months until Fluff was offered the guitar. With no need for the extra humbucker, he had them remove the neck unit and cap off the pickup selector. It reminds him of a ’70s Buick Riviera with its malibu gold finish. This slick ride cruises in drop D, takes Ernie Ball Burly Slinkys (.011–.052), and has a lone Fishman Fluence Classic humbucker.
For years, Fluff and his bandmates relied on the accessible and reliable Line 6 Helix. After releasing their second album, Upright Animals, the band realized they have a lot more tonal requirements (pitch-shifting, acoustic guitar, octave, etc.), necessitating increased digital horsepower. So, they graduated to the Fractal Audio Axe-Fx III. Bruce’s core tone starts with a Marshall JVM setting and he creates colors from that platform. The Matrix Amplification GT1000FX-1U powers the Axe-Fx III. Fluff runs a wireless setup thanks to the Sennheiser EW IEM G4 unit.
Kick Out the Scenes!
Fluff handles all the changes with this Fractal Audio FC-12 Foot Controller.
The Axe-Fx III runs into this stereo Mesa/Boogie Horizontal Rectifier 2x12 that has a pair of Celestion Vintage 30s.