See how this badass Texan uses her signature Epiphone Sheratons to create pop-music earworms that get wrapped in barbed wire thanks to a “patent-pending,” 3-pedal-combination trademark.
Emily Wolfe doesn’t play guitar. She bends it to her will. Like a bronco buster taming a stallion, she saddles up on her signature Sheratons and lets it rip. Much of the magic felt and heard on her self-titled debut was pure adrenaline hitting your speaker. Her second album, 2021’s Outlier, incorporated Wolfe’s love of Motown grooves and modern-pop stickiness, both of which refreshed her songwriting with backdrops of more polished, waxy tones, but tumbleweed oscillation, helicopter, square-wave chops, and barbed-wire fuzz are still howls welcomed in this Wolfe pack.
“When I go up there, something could hit me at any point—an emotion that I felt 10 years ago could come out in a bend on the low E. There’s so much rawness [to classic rock]; the edges are not perfect, but there’s a magic in that,” Wolfe told PG in 2021.
But how do you marry earworm poppiness with a gunslinger’s approach to guitar?
“Some of my rock friends say, ‘Pop isn’t relevant,’ and I’m like, ‘What are you talking about—it’s everywhere!’ It’s so sticky for people, and that’s really fascinating to me. I want my music to have that quality … but also the realness of a raw guitar tone. [With Outlier] I wanted to make something that would be classic 10, 20, 30 years from now,” she explained in our profile. “That was the goal, and I think we achieved it.”Before Wolfe’s headlining show at Nashville’s Blue Room (located inside the Third Man Records compound), PG’s Chris Kies joined the shredding songwriter onstage to talk shop. The resulting conversation covers the development behind her Epiphone Sheraton, how a boring night in Cleveland spent with her “Chex-mix-crushing, brother-in-tone” bass player Evan Nicholson convinced her to play a doubleneck guitar, and we discover what three pedals work together to make what she describes as “the sound that belongs to me.”
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Emily Wolfe’s first “real” guitar was an Epiphone Sheraton. (She really wanted a Gibson ES-355 like blues hero B.B. King, but Wolfe was just a strapped college student.) That first experience with a semi-hollowbody guitar had a seminal influence on her guitar-playing journey, contributing to her singular sound. “Every decision I made with my gear was as a result of building my tone around that first Sheraton.” Now honored with a signature Epiphone Sheraton of her own, the Stealth is a modern take on John Lee Hooker’s longtime favored ride. It has a layered maple body with a mahogany neck, signature bolt inlays, a Tune-o-matic bridge, CTS pots, two volume controls and one tone control, and Epiphone’s Alnico Classic PRO pickups. She discreetly put her John Hancock on the back of the headstock. She uses Ernie Ball Slinky Cobalt strings (.010–.046) and strikes them with Dunlop Tortex Jazz III .88 mm picks. This one stays in either standard or drop-D tunings.
The White Wolfe
The “White Walker” edition of Emily’s signature Stealth features all the same specs of the black model aside from the aged bone white finish. This one does take a custom set of Slinkys (.012–.060) and holds a Wolfe-tweaked open-C tuning (C–G–C–E–A–D).
How does a boring night in a Cleveland hotel lead to Wolfe owning a doubleneck Epiphone? Well, her bass player (and best friend) Evan Nicholson wondered if Wolfe had ever tried a doubleneck guitar. She said ‘no,’ and so started the quest to prove that women can rock a pair of necks, too! She acquired this Epiphone G-1275 and uses it mainly for her cover of T. Rex’s “The Slider” by using the lower 6-string (in drop-C) for the rhythm parts and the 12-string for the song’s solo. The two necks tuned separately allow her to put both guitar parts under her hands with one guitar.
Dancing with the DeVille
Saying an amp has “no character” might be seen as negative by some, but Wolfe prefers the “middle-of-the-road” base tone in this Fender Hot Rod DeVille 410 III. It packs plenty of volume, and Wolfe adds, “I get to pick what character I want with my pedals.”
Emily Wolfe's Pedalboard
“If I get a new piece of gear, I have to figure out every single part of it before I can really use it,” Wolfe confessed to PG while talking about Outlier. That sensible curiosity has led her to dialing in precise parameters on the pedals and creating colossal combos with singular Wolfe gain staging. Her silver bullet is the EarthQuaker Devices Tentacle analog octave-up pedal, running into a Fulltone OCD, and an MXR Six Band EQ. She claimed to PG, “That’s the sound that belongs to me.” The sequence creates a “crazy fuzztone” from the overdrive. Then she uses the EQ to reduce some of the lows and boost the mids for a sound she says will get her guitar to cut through any mix.
Other spices in the rack include an Analogman King of Tone, an EarthQuaker Devices Dirt Transmitter fuzz, an Ibanez Analog Delay Mini, an Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe, a Walrus Audio Julia chorus/vibrato, and a Strymon Flint. The Empress Buffer puts the Delay Mini and Flint outside the RJM Mastermind PBC’s control.
But Wait... There's More!
Underneath the hood, Wolfe has tucked in a pair of MXR M109S Six Band EQ pedals (one hitting the King of Tone and the other hitting the OCD), an Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork, an EarthQuaker Devices Tentacle analog octave up, and a couple of Strymon power supplies (Ojai and Zuma).
Shop Emily's Rig
Epiphone Emily Wolfe "White Wolfe" Sheraton
Ibanez Analog Delay Mini Pedal
Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe
Walrus Audio Julia Analog Chorus/Vibrato V2
Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork
MXR M109S Six Band EQ Pedal
EarthQuaker Devices Tentacle
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.
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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.
The Belgian metallers show how a Silverburst LP, vicious 100-watters, and precisely placed 'verbs take them to realms most dark.
Over the course of seven studio albums, two EPs, and five live albums, the Belgian quintet have explored the extremes of pounding doom, grinding sludge, spacy hardcore, haunting folk, and thematically grim that all coalesce together to create Amenra.
In this episode, Amenra bassist Tim De Gieter interviews bandmate guitarist Lennart Bossu (also of Oathbreaker) who showcases a rare Les Paul hybrid and early Kurt Ballou design, breaks down his 100-watt fascination (and a slimmed-down contingency plan for cleans), and demos core sounds that involve ethereal reverb and gruesome gain.
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1988 Gibson Les Paul Standard Silverburst Showcase Edition
Above is a 1988 Gibson Les Paul Standard Silverburst Showcase Edition that's been Amenra guitarist Lennart Bossu's main stage companion for over 10 years. The Showcase Edition run was something Gibson did in the late '80s where they did a limited run (200 pieces each over a total of nine models).
Originally, this Silverburst came with an ebony fretboard (a Les Paul Custom feature) and EMG 85s. Bossu didn't like how the active pickups manipulated his tone so he retrofit the LP with a more normal voice by way of a pair of Gibson passive humbuckers (500T and 498R).
Bossu tunes down to b standard for Amenra and sometimes goes into a DADGAD variant (B–F#–B–E–F#–B). All his electrics take D'Addario EXLs (.013–.056) and he plays with Pickboy Carbon Nylon Sharp 1.14 mm picks.
GodCity Instruments Guitar
Here's one of Kurt Ballou's earliest GodCity Instrument designs that Bossu acquired in 2012. He typically used this with his other band Oathbreaker. However, that band has become dormant so he tunes this beast to B for Amenra songs. Compared to his silverburst, Lennart says the GCI is brighter and has a trebly bite because of its maple body and neck.
1996 Gibson Les Paul Custom
Now if Bossu's gear stash was in a fire, this 1996 Gibson Les Paul Custom would be the item he'd grab. He doesn't tour with it (saves it for special one-off shows), but uses it extensively in the studio. He's played and owned older, more valuable Les Pauls, but this particular one is magic in his hands. At one point he did try EMGs in it (losing the original pickups in the process), but he's since brought it back to its natural state with some Gibson 'buckers (498T and 490R).
For any acoustic flourishes on Amenra's Mass albums and 2021's De Doorn, Lennart will use this Gibson J-45.
Marshall JMP 2203 and a late '70s Ampeg V-4
Amenra crushes so the firepower needed comes from this 100-watt, one-two punch—a Marshall JMP 2203 and a late '70s Ampeg V-4.
Bossu will run the Marshall in two ways: He'll plug into the low input and dime the preamp control creating a clean pedal platform. (In the video, bassist Tim De Gieter asks Bossu how that's possible and Lennart explains that it must be a fluky head because it has more headroom than a typical Marshall.) The other way he'll run it would be in the high input with the preamp around five and then pushing it harder with a TS-style overdrive.
The V-4 is similar to the Marshall in that it gets its growl from pedals and usually stays pretty clean on its own.
Depending on the situation, either head would hit this standard Mesa/Boogie 4x12 that's loaded with Celestion Vintage 30s.
Radial JDX-48 Reactor Guitar Amp Direct Box
For touring, Amenra's FOH engineer will insert the above Radial JDX-48 Reactor Guitar Amp Direct Box so the V-4 has a direct signal at his disposal in case mics are moved or something in the room impacts the Ampeg's tone.
Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb
For recorded clean tones, Bossu will a Fender '65 Twin Reverb reissue combo.
Shift Line Twin MkIIIS
However, in recent times, he's brought the Shift Line Twin MkIIIS and ran that and used the '65 as an extension cab. The Russian pedal recreates the Twin Reverb's preamp and allows him to use impulse response cab sim and also sends a direct line to FOH. The blue box has a thru input that allows Lennart to plug the pedal into the '65without altering the Fender's tonal character giving him the option to toggle between the preamp of the pedal or the combo.
Quilter Labes Tone Block 201
Fly-in gigs provide Bossu with an amp crapshoot as he's at the mercy of backline companies and their stash. When cartage is light, he'll slip the Quilter Tone Block 201 into his travel bag and rest easier knowing he's got something to work with when the band hits the stage.
Lennart Bossu's Pedalboard
Trying to keep travel costs down and restrict his pedal pleasures, Bossu forces himself to keep his pedalboard to this size. Currently, he's working with a pair of flexible EarthQuaker Devices reverbs—Afterneath (cavernous and deep) and Levitation (delicate and pristine with added modulation). For lead sounds he'll run the TC Electronic Hall of Fame Mini with the MXR Carbon Copy delay. The enraged Amenra tones come to life with either the Providence Stampede STD-1 Distortion or Fulltone OCD (he prefers the 18V setting for more amp-like distortion).
All the pedals are run through and governed by a Providence PEC-2 Programmable Effects Controller, all his guitars are kept in check by a Boss TU-3S Chromatic Tuner, and dynamics and feedback are harnessed by the Boss FV-30 Volume Pedal.