Rig Rundown: Kenny Wayne Shepherd 
A slew of top-notch vintage and custom Strats, a 1960 Les Paul, and a wall of Dumbles keep the blues-rocker rolling.
It’s been 11 years since Kenny Wayne Shepherd filmed his previous Rig Rundown. PG’s John Bohlinger caught up with the blues-rocker before his recent sold-out show at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium to hear some killer playing and see some untouchable—by anyone but Kenny and his tech—gear.
The tour stop was supporting the December 2022 release of Trouble Is … 25, a re-recording of his 1997 breakthrough album, which had four top 10 hits when it was originally issued: “Slow Ride,” “Somehow, Somewhere, Someway,” “Everything is Broken,” and “Blue on Black.” There have been seven other studio recordings since then, and while he’s still mostly a Strat player, some other instruments have joined his armada, too. And Dumbles … he has lots of Dumbles.
Brought to you by D’Addario XS Strings.
This 1961 Fender Stratocaster has been Shepherd’s No. 1 since he bought it right as his career began to take off. Like all of his electrics, it stays strung with Ernie Balls—.011, .014, .018, .038, .048, and .058.—and is played with Dunlop heavy picks.
Fender built Shepherda nearly identical version of his 1961 to save wear and tear on the original. Pretty exacting custom relic work!
Here’s a Fender Jimi Hendrix Monterey Strat. The Fullerton giant made just more than 200 replicas of the guitar that Jimi played and burned onstage at the Monterey Pop Festival, in 1967. When Shepherd got the guitar he immediately had Fender make him a custom neck with jumbo frets and a backwards headstock. Graph Tech saddles were also added to this work of art.
Down to the Crossroads
Inspired by the famed Mississippi Delta intersection where Robert Johnson, by fable, cut his deal with the devil, this Strat with the Highway 61 and Highway 49 signs was created by Shepherd and Fender Custom Shop master builder Todd Krause over two years, and completed in 2015. This distinctive relic’d instrument has an alder body, a rosewood fretboard, Graph Tech saddles, and black knobs and pickup covers.
Sunny ’60 Shop
The only thing that’s been changed on this 1960 sunburst Gibson Les Paul is the jack plate and toggle surround. The rest is all original, including the frets.
Shut the Front Door (Or the Cows Will Get Out)
This limited edition reclaimed pinewood Strat’s body came from a barn built in the 1800s in Lake Odessa, Michigan. It has a rosewood neck with a hand-rubbed oil finish and a comfortable, modern C neck profile. Other features include a 9.5"-radius, 25.5" scale rosewood fretboard with 22 medium jumbo frets, three Fender Custom Shop Fat ’50s single-coil Stratocaster pickups with 5-way switching, an unbuffed single-ply black pickguard, a two-point synchronized tremolo bridge with vintage-style stamped steel saddles, Micro-Tilt neck adjustment, and a laser-etched headstock logo.
Sig to Dig
This new Kenny Wayne Shepherd Signature Stratocaster features a chambered ash body, a translucent faded sonic blue lacquer finish, an early ’60s inspired C-shaped maple neck, and a bound rosewood fretboard with a 7.25" radius and block inlay. The neck is “the ultimate copy of the neck on my ’61 Strat,” Shepherd says.
Here’s Shepherd’s Martin acoustic signature model JC-16KWS. It’s got a maple back and sides, a Sitka spruce top, Martin’s A-frame X scalloped bracing, and a mahogany neck with a low oval profile.
Billy Gibbons Wants This Guitar
The good Rev. Gibbons’ eyes popped out when Shepherd unveiled this one on an earlier Ryman gig, and BFG named it “Copperboy.” It’s another Fender Custom Shop Masterbuilt Stratocaster by Todd Krause, with lipstick pickup covers and a reverse position for the bridge pickup.
Old Tones, New Tools
Except for that genuine Roger Mayer Octavia, KWS gets his blues-rock tones using some contemporary tools. There’s a modded Venus Witch Wah by Steve Monk, a Sir Henry Vibe by Tinsley Audio, a Boss TU-3, an Analog Man King of Tone and Bi-Chorus, a gen II Klon KTR, and a Free The Tone Future Factory and Ambi Space Digital Reverb. All pedals are routed through a Voodoo Labs PX-8 Plus programable switcher. A Radial JD7 routes the signal to his three amps, and two Voodoo Lab Pedal Power X4s supply the juice.
Rumbles with Dumbles
For this tour, Shepherd uses a trio of white Fender amps and cabs hot-rodded by the late Alexander “Howard” Dumble—just a few of the 11 Dumbles in his collection. These are a Pro Reverb (called the Ultra/Rockphonix), a Bassman (called the Slidewinder), and a Band Master (called the AC763).
Dialing in Dumbles
Here are close-ups of the settings Shepherd applies to his three Dumble-built amps.
Rig Rundown: Code Orange's Reba Meyers
The sonic assassin slays with a signature ESP tone scalpel that blurs digital and analog—running through 5150s, an Axe-Fx, and a few grimy, bewildering slicing stomps.
What would you get if you put the heaviness of Converge, the industrial sounds of Nine Inch Nails and Type O Negative, the catchiness of ’90s metalcore, the frantic delivery of Black Flag, and the sampled-chopped-and-glitched production of hip-hop into a blender and hit liquefy? You’d get 100 percent of your daily intake of Code Orange.
The band was formed—as the Code Orange Kids—in 2008 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, by Eric “Shade” Balderose (vocals, keys, programming, and guitars), Reba Meyers (guitars and bass), Jami Morgan (drums and vocals), and guitarist Greg Kern (who left in 2010). The current lineup also includes bassist Joe Goldman and guitarist Dominic Landolina.
They’ve always played heavy and fast, rising quickly in the hardcore ranks with 2012’s Love Is Love/Return to Dust and 2014’s I Am King, but things took a dramatic, dense turn in 2017. (The band shortened their name ahead of the 2014 release.) Their Grammy-nominated, critically-acclaimed third and fourth albums, 2017’s Forever and 2020’s Underneath, incorporated all hues of heavy—drawn from all corners of crunch. In a 2020 interview with PG, Meyers explained the progression:
“We took as much of it into our own hands that we could—writing, recording, mixing, mastering—and it drove us crazy, but we knew if we really did this record how we imagined it, it could become something that we’re extremely proud of and is recognized by people beyond the niche world of hardcore that we come from. That was proven to us a little bit on Forever, because of the Grammy nod. We realized that if we really took what we do to the absolute fucking edge, we could make something important and bigger than ourselves. Especially bigger than our individual selves, because it’s a full-band effort.”
Creativity and performance are one thing, but how does a guitarist convey all the ideas in his or her head into a specific sound and where does that explorer mentality arise?
“We didn’t have shit growing up. I would borrow people’s old Carvin amps that barely worked, and through that you’d learn what really mattered. The crap gear sometimes would produce cool sounds that you wouldn’t expect, and your ears grow and evolve,” recalls Meyers. “Bottom line, what matters most is your hands, your creativity, and your performance. For that reason, I pick pedals that are loud and proud to speak in my language and Code Orange’s language.”
The afternoon before Code Orange’s middle slot for hip-hop duo $uicideboy$’s arena tour stop at Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium, Meyers pulled her gear aside and invited PG’s Chris Kies backstage to catalog her eviscerating setup. In this RR, she details her signature ESPs (and why they no longer have EMGs), shows how she breaks down the digital-versus-analog wall by pairing an Axe-Fx III with a 100W 5150, and chronicles the “toys” she enlists to converse in the band’s dialect.
Brought to you by D’Addario XPND Pedalboard.
Code Orange’s Reba Meyers attacks the stage every night with her trusty signature ESP LTD Reba Meyers RM-600 that is a fresh spin on the Japanese brand’s Viper model. A string-through neck-through construction (a rare find on LTD models), a single EMG 81 in the bridge (with a custom matching orange font that pairs with its headstock logo—supposedly the only EMG pickup with orange lettering), a 6-in-line reverse headstock like some M-I and M-II models, a kill switch, and a mesmerizing satin black-marble finish give this 6-string stinger its own thumbprint. Other more-common features in this slightly offset double-cut are a mahogany body, a 3-piece maple neck, a Macassar ebony fretboard, and a locking TonePros Tune-o-matic-style bridge.
In her 2020 interview with PG, Meyers had this to say about the collaborative design process: “I started playing around on an iPad and took a reverse headstock ESP guitar and virtually glued it to a Viper body and threw a weird finish on it, sent that mock-up to ESP as a basic version, and, to my surprise, Tony [Rauser, artist relations] was really hyped on it! I didn’t expect them to let me change the headstock on a model that they’d been doing a certain way for so long, but the team approved it and they figured out a process to do the finish with Saran Wrap.”
One thing keen observers will notice is that this signature (and the next) no longer has the custom EMG 81 in it. Reba swapped hers out for Railhammer Chisel Bridge humbuckers. She says in the Rundown that the Railhammer balances out and thickens the tight, taut tone of her signature Viper. And as she puts it, “It’s fun, I just love trying new shit. I want to focus on playing—you can use the pickups and gear as a tool, but if I start thinking about it too much it messes with my creative flow.”
All her guitars take Ernie Ball Not Even Slinkys (.012–.056). She attacks the strings with various brands of picks (1.14 mm), and the band’s songs revolve around these tunings: drop B, drop B# (low-E string only), custom B minor (C#-B-D-F#-B-D) for “Bleeding In the Blur,” and a few other variations.
Here’s Reba’s axe in the shape of a Japanese-built ESP Custom RM-600 with a Railhammer Anvil bridge humbucker and similar specs and layout to her LTD. She typically plays this one until it’s beaten out of tune.
This Reverend Charger 290 is reserved for when Reba needs a B-minor guitar. She took out the bridge 9A5 pickup and dropped in another Railhammer humbucker. She says that this is a thicker-sounding instrument that really eats up power chords.
Reba has been harnessing the ferocity of the EVH 5150IIIS EL34 head for a few years. She digs the 100W beast because it has a “tight sound with lots of character.” Growing up playing Marshalls, her ear is used to the EL34s, and she remarks that Code Orange’s other guitarist, Dominic Landolina, plays an EVH 5150III 50W 6L6 head, so the two blend together like a twist cone.
These EVH 5150III 4x12s have stock guts with their standard quad of Celestion G12 EVH 20W speakers, but Reba customized the look by applying the band’s longtime panther logo on the front.
Mini-Fridge Rack for Reba
If her 5150s are the toast to her tone, the Fractal Audio Axe-Fx III lays on the butter. She runs it through the effects loop of her amp and uses it to coordinates channel switching. Reba notes that for some songs she uses it only as a gate, while for others she adds in precise modulation, delay, reverbs, and “noise.” And when it comes to the digital versus analog debate, Reba believes that “the Axe-Fx does have a digital sound, but rather than try and make it more analog-sounding, I lean into the digital crispness and program sounds that sit on top and cut through our dense mix.
“I love what I play and I am intentional with it, but I don’t want to be boxed into a gear obsession, because otherwise I’ll get lost. At the end of the day, we’re just playing with toys. We’re playing a music video game in real life.”
The rest of the rack features a Two Notes Torpedo Captor X that she uses for cab sims and sending a pure, direct signal to FOH so they can mix that with the SM57 mic on the 4x12s. A Shure GLXD4 Wireless unit keeps her untethered and a RJM Mini Amp Gizmo uses MIDI to switch the amp via the Axe-Fx III. (The iConnectivity MioXM MIDI Interface in the photo is for bassist Joe Goldman.)
Reba Meyers’ Pedalboard
Starting off, Reba has two always-on pedals: the ISP Decimator and the Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer. Her three stooges of noise include the Moog MF Ring Mod, Boss PS-6 Harmonist, and an AMT Electronics WH-1 Japanese Girl Optical Wah. The Universal Audio Astra modulation machine is a recent addition that she’s been finding ways to warp into the set. Everything is controlled by the RJM Mastermind PBC/10 and laced up with George L’s cables.
Rig Rundown: Chelsea Grin
Deathcore dealer Stephen Rutishauser dishes bludgeoning riffs on Petrucci-approved sparkly 7- and 8-string stallions.
Death metal is a genre built on precision and power. Chelsea Grin’s articulate picking and gut-rattling riffs are its foundation. But thanks to a rotating cast of ripping guitarists (including Rig Rundown alumnus Jason Richardson), their five albums have shown subtle brick-and-mortar flair by incorporating elements of djent, metalcore, doom, black metal, and even post-hardcore. The current lead guitar chair has been filled by Stephen Rutishauser since 2015. His input has given their chaotic sound a more meticulous gnarl and complex rhythmic density that binds discord and darkened melodies.
Hours before Chelsea Grin’s rare club gig at Nashville’s the End, the gruesomely heavy guitarist invited PG’s Chris Kies onstage to talk gear. In this RR, the band’s face-melter details the sparkle-covered Petrucci signatures that he carries on tour and breaks down the dialed-in digital patches that color their brutal barrage.
Brought to you by D’Addario dBud Earplugs.
Man Meets Machine
“I love these guitars [Music Man JP13s] for a lot of reasons,” admits Rutishauser. “They have a bite no other guitar can achieve. I think that’s just the conglomerate of everything they put into it. It’s piercing, with a crisp, throaty midrange. It’s just a total machine.” All of his JP13s are loaded with DiMarzio-designed, Petrucci-endorsed Illuminator humbuckers. The JP13s handle all songs in drop-A and drop-G tunings. He landed on this particular iteration of the John Petrucci signature because of its tonewood pairings: basswood body, mahogany tone block, maple top, mahogany neck, and rosewood fretboard. His drop-A guitars take Ernie Ball Ernie Ball 2621 7-String Regular Slinky Cobalts (.010–.056) and his drop-G guitars (like the one above) take Ernie Ball 2615 7-String Skinny Top Heavy Bottom Slinky Cobalts (.010–.062).
This delicious Music Man JP13 is finished in root beer sparkle. This one is an anomaly as it has a JP13 body matched with a JP15 neck. The difference is more than a number, as the 15 model shifted to a roasted-bird’s-eye-maple neck and fretboard. He notes the varied ingredients provide less spark in his pinch harmonics, but Rutishauser does enjoy how it brightens up his palm-muted chugs.
The Boom Stick
Rutishauser’s choice for his main 8-string, which handles drop-B jams, is this Aristides 080. The unique thing about this beast is that it contains no wood and is made completely of resin-based Arium. It features a 27" scale length, MEC Electronics, and Lundgren M8 humbuckers. Plus, its C-shaped multi-scale neck (26.5"-28") starts at 2.17" wide and spreads to 2.75" at the 12th fret. The Richlite fretboard has a compound (14"-19") radius and is fitted with 24 Jescar medium-jumbo, stainless steel frets. It’s laced with Ernie Ball 8-String Slinkys (.010–.074).
A Black Hole
The 080s magnificent galaxy-sparkle finish gives way to a clear back piece that shows off the blackened Arium construction at its nucleus.
This champagne-sparkle JP13 handles any required 7-string backup duties.
Light and Mighty
Both Rutishauser and bassist David Flinn rely on Fractal Audio juggernauts. Stephen plugs into the Axe-Fx II XL+, while Flinn runs into the original Axe-Fx Ultra. Rutishauser’s principal tone is based on the FAS Brutals. He intensifies that setting with putting a drive into the Brutals and parametric EQ after it. He’ll occasionally patch in a reverb, delay, and modulation at the end of his chain, but ahead of the EQ. The laptop runs Cubase for the guitar track, click track, 808 bass drops, and left-right stereo tracks.
Racked and Ready
Focusrite’s Clarett+ 8Pre interface controls their inputs. A Radial SW8 Auto-Switcher wrangles all backing tracks out of Cubase. Sennheiser EM 300 G3 wireless units cover both the stringed instruments and the band’s in-ear monitors. At the bottom rests a Behringer X32 Rack, which routes and regulates the band’s in-ear monitors.