“I love this very aggressive music.” That’s what a voice claims at the end of the titular opening track on the new Angel Du$t record, Brand New Soul. The assertion comes from a man on the street outside the Baltimore hardcore band’s jam space—the band was chatting with him one night and captured the soundbite. He has the air of someone who’s maybe hearing hardcore-punk music for the first time, but doesn’t quite know how to describe it. To the average listener, “aggressive” is the first and most frequently used descriptor for heavy music.
But Brand New Soul is more playful than it is aggressive. It’s rowdy and crackling with energy, absolutely, but rarely is it aggressive in the contemporary hardcore sense. Rather than any particular look or sound, the record is about the subversive ethic and steely guts of aggression. And for Angel Du$t, rock ’n’ roll was the first aggressive music. “I think people get really focused on playing a specific subgenre, and I think they lose the importance of what makes rock ’n’ roll significant,” says frontman Justice Tripp. “It’s what you see in the origin of rhythm and blues music and early rock ’n’ roll, which is the soul and the spirit of it.”
Angel Du$t - "Brand New Soul"
Brand New Soul is militantly creative to the point that it often feels altogether untethered from anything resembling genre, industry, or cultural guidelines. Occasionally, it feels like a TikTok speedrun through every alternative and underground rock-adjacent sound of the past 70 years. The thumping sprint of lead single “Racecar” is led by acoustic guitar strumming and flowery woodwind synths. Acoustic also leads the way on “Don’t Stop,” a funky, ’90s-alt-rock-radio chug, and “Born 2 Run,” a swooning gutter-pop dreamscape. When the album closes on “In the Tape Deck,” it’s on a floating, beachy wave of synths and steel-string strumming, drifting out to sea. Over 13 tracks, the record darts between these moods and auras, stitched together with wonky samples, warped voice recordings, and fragmented, distorted notes.
This all plays into what Tripp is saying about genre dogma—that planting yourself in any one spot and boxing out everything else is anathema to real rebellion, real artistry. “When you get really hyper-focused on, ‘We’re playing this specific niche of hardcore punk-rock music,’ you set boundaries for yourself that don’t allow for exploration and true self-expression, you know?” he continues.
“I think people get really focused on playing a specific subgenre, and I think they lose the importance of what makes rock ’n’ roll significant.” —Justice Tripp
Tripp has earned this wisdom over decades. He came up in Baltimore’s hardcore scene, and fronted the iconic hardcore outfit Trapped Under Ice beginning in 2007. That band was celebrated in hardcore circles around the world, and it was also a sign of things to come. Trapped Under Ice’s drummer, Brendan Yates, went on to front Turnstile, the Grammy-nominated band at the head of hardcore’s new wave. (Fellow Turnstile members Daniel Fang and Pat McCrory served as Angel Du$t’s original drummer and guitarist, respectively.)
Angel Du$t's Gear
Zechariah Ghostribe gets some air while Steve Marino riffs, just out of focus, in the foreground.
Photo by Kat Nijmeddin
Guitars & Basses
- Fender CC-60SCE
- Taylor 810ce
- Fender American Performer Stratocaster
- Fender Cabronita Telecaster with TV Jones Power’Tron pickups
- Fender MIJ Telecaster with JBE pickups
- Charvel Pro-Mod DK24 HSH
- 1975 Gibson SG
- 2009 Gibson Les Paul Studio
- Gretsch G6659TG Players Edition Broadkaster Jr.
- Fender Jazz Bass
- Fender Precision Bass
- 1976 Marshall JMP 2203
- 1977 Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus
- 1957 Fender 5F10 Harvard
- Gibson GA-19RVT Falcon
- Sound City Concord
- Gretsch 6161
- Fender Vibrasonic
- Ampeg SVT
- Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble
- Roland RE-201 Space Echo Tape Delay
- Custom pedals made by engineer Paul Mercer
- Various Electro-Harmonix Big Muffs, ZVEX Effects, JHS, and Barber Pedals
Angel Du$t has been marked by transience, making it something of a revolving door of East Coast musicians joining Justice Tripp on his mission to make hardcore’s weirdest music. With the launch of their newest record, the band has debuted a new lineup, too, with Steve Marino and Daniel Star on guitars, Zechariah Ghostribe on bass, and Tommy Cantwell on drums. And even though it initially sprang from (and still belongs to) Maryland’s hallowed hardcore communities, Angel Du$t has been angling for something a little different from the start, and its new players each bring fresh perspective to the project.
“Some of us come from playing metal stuff, and some of us play blues and jazz and rock,” says rhythm guitarist Marino. “I think for most people, [Angel Du$t] is hardcore adjacent, but I was a fan a long time before I joined, and what I liked about the band was that it didn’t really fit into one specific lane.”
“If it doesn’t sound cool or good or interesting on an acoustic, it doesn’t matter what it sounds like when I plug it in.” —Daniel Star
The influences that fit into Brand New Soul—the title is a wink to updating and reworking music history—are as sprawling and original as the record itself. Tripp’s writing for the album was colored by records from Prince, Iggy Pop, and David Bowie, and Star brought pieces from Bad Brains and Dinosaur Jr. Marino, meanwhile, kept Neil Young at front of mind. The LP’s acoustic-forward character is in part a product of what Tripp describes as a deeply held “spiritual belief” in acoustics and their power, regardless of genre. “People associate them with folk music and weak-ass tracks, but a lot of artists like the Stooges, the Wipers, Greg Sage’s solo music, Blur, and the Feelies all used [an acoustic] as a percussive instrument and kind of pushed the boundaries of how aggressively it can be used,” says Tripp. “It’s been our mission statement as long as we’ve been a band to try to see how far we can do that without sounding ridiculous.”
Angel Du$t’s new record isn’t “aggressive” in the sense one might expect from a hardcore band.
Star agrees. He often thinks about a Tom Morello interview, where the Rage Against the Machine guitarist professed that every riff he brought to the band was conceived and written on an acoustic. “Since then, I’ve pretty much thought that if it doesn’t sound cool or good or interesting on an acoustic, it doesn’t matter what it sounds like when I plug it in,” says Star.
Marino’s background is in solo singer-songwriter music, so relying on the acoustic comes naturally. Double-tracking and hard-panning an acoustic on record is one of his favorite techniques. “I feel like young kids who like heavy music need to be told that acoustic instruments are cool, and it’s not just all about heavy riffs,” he says.
Angel Du$t’s ambitions for artistic fulfillment have earned them respect, but they’ve also drawn anger from punk purists who feel Tripp and the project have betrayed what hardcore is all about. The chief sticking points are usually with melody and aesthetic—Angel Du$t songs often feel on the surface like a DIY-ish version of power pop, and they don’t typically crush the senses with saturated, heavy riffs or blast-beat drums. “I think when Angel Du$t started, there were people who had a perception of me being a tough guy making the most heavy music imaginable, which has never been who I am but a thing I like to do, I like heavy music,” Tripp explains. “So introducing melody and musical things was offensive to that identity, the strict hardcore-punk fans. ‘If you’re not doing exactly that, then we can’t be friends,’ was how a lot of people saw it.
“Everything we do musically is experimental and challenging,” he continues. “Music is a thing that brings people together, you know? But I just think there’s some individuals who miss the point of what music is.”
“I feel like young kids who like heavy music need to be told that acoustic instruments are cool, and it’s not just all about heavy riffs.” —Steve Marino
Star half jokes that he’s hard-pressed to think of a more “inclusive” and welcoming record than their latest. “Maybe I’m biased, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a record where there’s literally something for every kind of music fan,” he says. “If you don’t wanna hear something super heavy, we got soft tracks. We have awesome funky stuff, we got rap tracks.” Marino admits there were some red lines—an acoustic guitar and double-kick-drum breakdown was nixed from one track. “What could be more inclusive than a double kick with an acoustic?” asks Tripp.
Daniel Star lifts his orange Strat-style shredder aloft. The guitarist is inspired by Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, who once said in an interview that he wrote all of his riffs on acoustic guitar.
Photo by Kat Nijmeddin
Brand New Soul’s outsider punk came to life at Wright Way Studios in Baltimore, with Tripp producing for the first time. Over years of working with vets like Rob Schnapf, he picked up tricks for executing acoustics, samples, loops, and other ephemera in the contexts of “aggressive” music. At times, Tripp would cook up an idea that he couldn’t pull off, but Star or Marino would have the know-how to bring it to life thanks to their varied backgrounds.
Marino says that on previous records he’s made, he’s typically cornered a guitar tone that’s been used on the whole record, but this time out, each song was treated like a blank slate. Engineer Paul Mercer, who builds and mods gear, brought a collection of amps, guitars, pedals, and farther-flung toys to Wright Way. Star and drummer Cantwell actually slept at Wright Way for two weeks while cutting the record, so they embedded themselves in Mercer’s playland. “He had like an old ’50s amp that he put some crazy fuzz that he built onto, and it was giving these sounds that some of us had never heard,” says Star. “I feel like being so physically immersed in that, and so many decades of technology, was able to bring so many more things out of me that I don’t think I would’ve been able to tap into otherwise. It was a very new and mind-altering thing for me.”
“What I liked about the band was that it didn’t really fit into one specific lane.” —Steve Marino
“You say, ‘Hey, I’m looking for a unique sound here,’ and Paul has a fuckin’ billion guitar pedals and amps that he built or rebuilt or altered that have really cool sounds,” adds Tripp. Marino notes that they put all six of Mercer’s Telecasters, and nearly each of his 15 guitars total, to use. It’s testament to Tripp’s production and Mercer’s engineering that all of these sounds—guitar or otherwise—flow seamlessly and feel cut from the same cloth, even as they ricochet through aesthetics. The brutal pound of “Sippin’ Lysol” collapses into the weirdo indie of “I’m Not Ready,” which in turn gives way to the hyper, upbeat Lemonheads-esque riffing of “Fuel for the Fire,” after which comes a gnarly, enraged cover of the Coneheads’ “Waste of Space.”
Eight tracks in, “Very Aggressive” circles back to the cheeky invocation of “aggressive music,” with a straight-forward steam-engine punk churn featuring Citizen’s Mat Kerekes. It drops to a crawl on the bridge, then the tempo skyrockets back to normal as Tripp bellows, “The sound is offensive to me / Very aggressive, indeed!” On its face, the song is about Tripp’s issue with the idea that aggression only takes one specific form. “You can do a lot to hurt somebody without going up and whoopin’ their ass. In some cases, I’d rather get my ass whooped than some of the alternatives,” says Tripp. “Lyrically, that song is most literally about a passive-aggressive person in your life who sees themself as the good guy, doing things that hurt people but having a way out of it because they can play that role of being peaceful or calm. I think that’s very aggressive behavior.”
But Tripp says the track doubles as a comment on “heavy music” itself and Angel Du$t’s haters. “It’s a statement of being like, ‘This is very aggressive music, even though it’s produced and musical and has acoustic guitars and melodies,’” he says. “It’s a moment to say, ‘Let’s not forget that this is hardcore punk music, it’s aggressive, it’s meant for people to jump off a stage to it.’”
Angel Du$t rip a typically fun and furious set in Jakarta in October 2023.
Living Colour’s guitarist and the ex-Ornette Coleman bassist let their Free Form Funky Freqs flags fly on the new Hymn of the 3rd Galaxy.
How many bands can pinpoint the exact number of times they’ve played together? “It’s rare,” acknowledges guitarist Vernon Reid of Free Form Funky Freqs, the power trio he co-leads with bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma and drummer G. Calvin Weston. Because “Free Form” is meant quite seriously—not a note of the music is planned in advance—every Freqs performance is a wholly unrepeatable event with its own distinct marker. This includes the three FFFF studio albums to date. The just-released Hymn of the 3rd Galaxy was performance number 73. Urban Mythology, Vol. 1, the band’s 2008 debut, was number three, after kickoff gigs at Tonic in New York and Tritone in Philadelphia (both defunct). Bon Vivant, the 2013 sophomore release, was number 15.
Owing to pandemic isolation, however, Hymn of the 3rd Galaxy was the first FFFF project to unfold asynchronously. First, Weston laid down his drums. Tacuma responded on bass. Reid brought up the rear with a pair of signature model Paul Reed Smiths and an abundance of digital and analog stompboxes, amp modelers, guitar synth floor units, and laptop-driven software synthesizers. There were no rules, save for this ironclad dictum: one uninterrupted take per track, no fixes, no overdubs. If it’s not “an organic improvised scenario,” in Tacuma’s words, it’s not Free Form Funky Freqs. It’s something else.
“I always dig an amp that’s gonna shake the room.” —Jamaaladeen Tacuma
“I just closed my eyes and pretended I was onstage with those guys,” Tacuma recalls. “The key was to keep the integrity of our process,” says Reid. “It was kind of like a self-imposed honor system.” This is, after all, a band that makes a point of not soundchecking together at gigs. “We have to explain this to house engineers,” Reid continues. “We’ll get sounds, then maybe check bass and drums, then guitar and drums. But we make it clear that the three of us are going to play only when it’s actually time to play.” To do otherwise would corrupt the method.
While their previous albums were live shows, the new FFFF opus was improvised in the studio—one artist at a time!
This improvisational purism makes sense given the band members’ overlapping histories in what Reid calls “the loose circle around Ornette Coleman.” The legendary alto saxophonist and free-jazz pioneer hired Tacuma for his groove-oriented ’70s band Prime Time, when the bassist was only 19. He later hired Weston, as well, at 17. “I was playing with [founding Prime Time drummer] Ronald Shannon Jackson,” adds Reid. “Calvin had played with Blood [experimental blues guitarist/singer James ‘Blood’ Ulmer].” There was a shared vein of experience in the contemporary avant-garde, and yet, as Tacuma observed to Reid one night, the three had never played together as a unit.
“We have to explain this to house engineers. We’ll get sounds, then maybe check bass and drums, then guitar and drums. But we make it clear that the three of us are going to play only when it’s actually time to play.” —Vernon Reid
Reid, of course, had also ascended to rock stardom with Living Colour in the late ’80s and cofounded the innovative Black Rock Coalition. For decades, each one of the Freqs had straddled genres and blown open the conversation about creative music in their time. It was practically fated for this band to form.
Vernon Reid’s Gear
Vernon Reid freqs-out on one of his PRS Custom Signature S2 Velas.
Photo by Sound Evidence
- Two Paul Reed Smith Custom Vernon Reid Signature S2 Velas (one with EMGs, one with DS pickups)
- 1958 Gibson ES-345 (on “Earth”)
- Line 6 Helix
- Kemper Profiler
Strings & Picks
- D’Addario NYXLs (.011–.049)
- Dunlop 205s, Brass TeckPicks, V-Picks
- Graph Tech TUSQ 2.0 mm (“It’s kind of a fetish,” Reid says of his fascination with picks.)
- Moog MF-107 FreqBox
- Red Panda Tensor
- DigiTech Space Station
- Eventide H9
- Chase Bliss Tonal Recall
- Chase Bliss Dark World
- Boss SY-300
- Roland GI-20 Guitar MIDI Interface
- Spectrasonics Omnisphere software synth
- Arturia Pigments software synth
Studio production for FFFF has been divvied up evenly: Reid produced Urban Mythology, Vol. 1, Tacuma took the helm on Bon Vivant, and Weston brought the remote recording of Hymn of the 3rd Galaxy across the finish line. Each album bears the imprint of its producer in some way.
Weston named the new album and the individual tracks as well, and the meaning of it all becomes clear when you pull up a map of the Milky Way (one of three galaxies, along with Andromeda and Triangulum, that dominates what is known as the Local Group). “Near Arm,” “Outer Arm,” “Norma Arm,” “Perseus Arm,” “Sagittarius Arm,” “Orion Spur,” “Scutum Centaurus,” “Far 3 kpc”—these are names that astronomers have given to the Milky Way’s various regions. In this environment, “Earth” and “Sun” (two more track titles) are just infinitesimally small dots.
“Bill Connors’ playing is so full of fire, but it’s also emotionally vulnerable in a way.” —Vernon Reid
The album title is also a conscious reference to Return to Forever’s 1973 album Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy—the fusion supergroup’s one recording to feature guitarist Bill Connors. “That record was very important in my development,” says Reid. “Bill Connors’ playing on it is so full of fire, but it’s also emotionally vulnerable in a way. I was very affected by the compositions, as well. When Calvin mentioned the title, it put this project into a frame for me—the idea of spatial ambience—and that did affect my choices for sounds.”
Those sounds are an amalgam of raw, plugged-in lead guitar crunch and otherwordly sonic glitter: notes that start as notes but become starbursts, or decay like pyrotechnic embers; chordal shapes that overlap and gather into big nebulous clouds. With his seemingly limitless tech-heavy rig, Reid has all frequencies covered.
Jamaaladeen Tacuma’s Gear
Jamaaladeen Tacuma brings his epic funk at the 2003 Ponderosa Stomp festival in New Orleans, where he performed with James “Blood” Ulmer and FFFF drummer Calvin Weston.
Photo by Joseph A. Rosen
- 1974 Fender Jazz Bass
- Aguilar Tone Hammer 500
- Aguilar 2x12s
- Korg ToneWorks G5 Synth Bass Processor
- JAM Wahcko
- JAM WaterFall
- JAM LucyDreamer
- La Bella various-gauge sets
The groove is just as essential, and Tacuma and Weston know how to bring it, whether it’s a slow shuffle (“Perseus Arm”), a mid-tempo Meters-like vibe (“Norma Arm”), or an outbreak of fast, full-tilt abstraction (“Far 3 kpc,” “Sun”). Regardless of feel, Tacuma’s criterion for a bass sound is straightforward: “I always dig an amp that’s gonna shake the room. I mean, I need that room-shaker. Coming up in Philly, hearing R&B groups at the Uptown Theater, which was like the Apollo, as long as that bass was shakin’ the room, that was the most important thing. Aguilar has proven to be a wonderful addition to my setup for the clarity and punchiness, and the ability to dial in certain sounds that I want.” Holding up the Korg Toneworks G5 synth-bass unit that he used on Hymn, during our Zoom call, he adds: “I’m not really a pedal guy, but now and then I’ll bring one out for a special black-tie occasion.”
Ultimately, what explains FFFF’s ability to create together on the fly is musical intelligence and empathetic listening. When Reid’s guitar is more enveloping and spacious and legato, Tacuma’s playing might get busier, and vice versa. “If you go outside right now,” Tacuma observes, “somebody’s walking, somebody’s running. Somebody’s listening, somebody’s talking. Somebody’s eating, somebody’s drinking. All these things are happening, and with music it’s the same thing.” For Reid, as well, deciding when to go for maximum synthesized mayhem (“Galactic Bar”) or a cleaner, more identifiably guitaristic tone (“Earth”) is a matter of attending to the moment. “It’s different than dealing with songs that have a verse-chorus-bridge,” he says. “This is a whole different kind of flow.”
“I’m not really a pedal guy, but now and then I’ll bring one out for a special black-tie occasion.” —Jamaaladeen Tacuma
When discussion turns to Tacuma’s other projects, such as his 2017 album Gnawa Soul Experience, the bassist suggests a link between the FFFF worldview and the time he shared with ethnic Gnawa musicians in Essaouira, Morocco. “Musically, I learned so much,” he recalls. “When they play all night and they don’t have anything written in front of them, and they’re just grooving and going higher and higher in the music, that’s basically what we do, when you put it in perspective. People relate to that; they can understand that.”With every Freqs encounter, the three bring new elements and ideas they’ve absorbed in the interim, and this keeps the music fresh and evolving. Tacuma and Weston continue to nourish their local Philly scene, mentoring and giving exposure to younger players. Tacuma’s annual Outsiders Improvised & Creative Music Festival always provides a burst of energy. Living Colour is still percolating since the release of Shade, its sixth album, in 2017. Meanwhile Reid has kept additional irons in the fire, including the Zig Zag Power Trio (with bassist Melvin Gibbs and Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun) and other projects. If he, Tacuma, and Weston keep up the pace, they could soon hit the big 100—the Freqs’ centenary performance. Stay tuned for that album.
Free Form Funky Freqs Live | Ch0 | 2012
Guthrie Govan reveals a new signature Charvel and experiences the digital modeling bath. Plus, bass behemoth Bryan Beller reconnects with old friends and displays his “low - rent” Geddy Lee setup.
“Supergroup” is a tired, overused term in music. However, when musical aces like guitarist Guthrie Govan, bassist Bryan Beller, and drummer Marco Minnemann jam… they are an unrivaled force of nature.
Each player has a remarkable resume: Govan has worked with Steven Wilson, Hans Zimmer, and Asia; Beller with Satriani, Vai, Dethklok, and Dweezil Zappa; and Minnemann with the Mute Gods, Trey Gunn, H-Blockx, and Mike Keneally—among many others.
What makes a supergroup novel is generally the collective’s previous endeavors and collaborations. The magic with these three cats is that their superpowers combine to become a flashy and fluent highflying act.
Formed unceremoniously for a performance at the 2011 Anaheim NAMM Show, this tremendously talented trio has released nine albums (five studio and four live) in 11 years. The attraction for both the audience and the band is the same: variety. In any given performance, you can hear them shift from Return to Forever to Yes to King Crimson to Vai to Rage to Funkadelic to moments of deranged Zappa.
“We’ve been a pretty strange, eclectic band to begin with, as the music we do tips our hats to a lot of different styles,” notes Govan. “All I’ve ever done over the years I’ve been playing guitar is to just listen to everything around me and absorb the aspects of it that I liked. I’ve never felt an urge to specialize. I’m happy to keep combining whatever flavorings I like and rolling them all together.” The result: These three executive chefs put on a spicy clinic that would even please Gordon Ramsay.
The Aristocrats’ headlining 2022 run landed at Nashville’s City Winery on July 27. Before the musical throwdown commenced, PG’s Chris Kies hosted conversations that covered Beller’s booming setup, including some old favorites and recovered friends (via social-media sleuthing), while Govan focused on detailing the slight-but-crucial changes to his signature Charvel and explaining his live tonal evolution—modernized with an all-encompassing Fractal Audio unit.
Brought to you by D’Addario XPND Pedalboard.
The Red Baron
It’s been 23 years since Bryan Beller first picked up a 1998 Mike Lull Modern 5 Jazz Bass and it’s been his No. 1 ever since. As the legend goes, Beller found a Modern 5 at the old SWR Bass Amplification factory soundroom. He loved it so much he took it to a Mike Keneally gig at the famous Baked Potato jazz club in Los Angeles, and he never brought it back. It’s worth noting that his original Modern 5 bass was stolen (among others) from Beller’s gear storage in the winter of 2016, so the above model is another M5 built in 1998 that he acquired after the raid.
Beller’s thoughts on the red rider, as listed on Mike Lull’s website: “I fell in love with it because it's an aggressive rock-flavored 5-string jazz bass. The ash body, maple top, maple fingerboard, vintage late-’60s-flavored Seymour Duncan pickups, and original-spec Bartolini preamp combined for a bright jazz bass that did everything right. I can play clean, clear pop/rock and R&B on it. I can make it bark if I get on it harder, and it reacts incredibly well to overdrive effects for the Tim Commerford/Rage Against The Machine vibe. And the playability from the 1st to 24th fret is second to none.” (Detail-oriented viewers may notice the pickups have “Basslines” listed on their cover, but originally Seymour Duncan manufactured their bass offerings under that name. They have since dissolved Basslines as a brand and welcomed bass pickups under the Seymour Duncan umbrella. Beller’s pickups are technically Basslines 67/70 Jazz Bass 5 String single-coils.)
Additionally, the bass has an original Bartolini NTMB preamp. (This is not the modern, updated versions denoted as the NTMB+F or NTMB+FL, for fretted or fretless setups). All his instruments take D’Addario EXL170-5 Nickel Wound Bass strings (.045–.130) with a tapered-core B-string. He prefers to use steels and lets them die to give his sound a rounder, thicker tone rather than simply using a standard set of flatwounds.
And finally, bassists can own their very own tone monster as Lull offers a pair of signature models based on this serendipitous partnership.
“This is a passive Mike Lull PJ5 and it has a completely different purpose,” states Beller. “It has an alder body with a rosewood fretboard so it has a dark, chocolate-y thing.” The PJ5 has a smoother, more even tone allowing Beller to nimbly walk the neck.
Spacing Is Key
Above is a pre-Gibson 1986 Tobias Basic 5-string that he purchased in 1990 from lifelong guitar nut and notable luthier Paul Slagle. (Slagle passed away in 2020.) Beller used it while attending Berklee College of Music in Los Angeles and on his audition (and eventual gig) for Dweezil and Ahmet Zappa’s band Z—until it was stolen from his North Hollywood apartment on New Year’s Eve 1994. Yet another social-media post proved fruitful as he was able to reconnect with this lavish 5-string built primarily from lacewood. This is the first time he’s taken it on tour since 1994.
For the Aristocrats set, he uses it for the song “Last Orders” off their 2019 album You Know What...? The song requires extreme finger stretches and extended chordal grabs made accessible by the Basic’s compact string spacing.
Bryan Beller's Pedalboard
Starting in the top right corner, Beller has a pair of Xotic EP Boosters (currently he’s only using one) to help bring up the output of his two passive basses to match the red Lull. This is a workaround on Beller’s end, so FOH is getting unity gain from his signal no matter the instrument. Next you see the Demeter Opto Compulator that’s always on. Then the fun starts with a TC Electronic Hall of Fame reverb, Boss CE-2B Bass Chorus, Boss DD-3 Digital Delay, and a TC Electronic Flashback delay/looper.
In the bottom left corner, we have the classic brown-box Boss OC-2 Octave (“the greatest octave pedal ever made”) and an Xotic Bass BB Preamp (his main overdrive). The Darkglass Electronics Vintage Microtubes and MXR M109S Six Band EQ are used in conjunction for a beefier Rat sound. Then there’s an Electro-Harmonix Micro POG (newest addition to the board) set to an octave up. And an old DigiTech Bass Driver that works behind the Bass BB Preamp and often runs into the Dunlop 105Q Cry Baby Bass Wah Pedal (white), giving the vocal-like sweeps more definition and prominence. Off to the left side, Beller has a Dunlop DVP3 Volume (X) Volume and Expression pedal. And a Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner keeps his basses in check.
"Low-Rent Geddy Lee"
Beller has incorporated the Behringer FCB1010 MIDI controller into his rig so he can provide some “low-rent Geddy Lee” moments in the set via a Roland JV-1010 64-Voice Synth Module.
"Low-Rent Geddy Lee"
Beller has incorporated the Behringer FCB1010 MIDI controller into his rig so he can provide some “low-rent Geddy Lee” moments in the set via a Roland JV-1010 64-Voice Synth Module.
Using the Raven Labs Model MDB-1 mixer/direct box/buffer for his pedals (no effects loop, kids) and running the Roland JV-1010 into his amps allows Beller to employ both his bass and the synth module at the same time. He feels if the JV-1010 was running just through the monitors it would sound unnatural and get lost in the mix.
His three-amp pairing includes a trio of Gallien-Krueger heads. In the top-left slot sits a first-generation GK MB Fusion (500W) that acts as the universal preamp coloring the entire rig. (The MB Fusion on the right stack is just a spare.) The MB Fusion is split two ways. The bottom-right head is a Gallien-Krueger 2001RB that hits a duo of Gallien-Krueger CX410 cabs (top set on each side). The other side of the MB Fusion runs into GK 1001RB that hits a pair of Gallien Krueger CX410 cabs cabs on the bottom of each side.
A Dream Instrument
Guthrie Govan has been with Charvel for nearly a decade. He’s developed two signature models and here is the brand-new chapter. The Guthrie Govan MJ San Dimas SD24 CM features a basswood body with an ash cap (based on the San Dimas Style 1 silhouette), caramelized maple for the neck, and a fretboard with 24 jumbo stainless-steel frets, a 25.5" scale, and a 12-16" compound radius fretboard. (The previous model had a caramelized flame maple neck and fretboard.)
“The purpose of an instrument like this is to have a dream instrument where you get called to go somewhere to do a session or to do a gig and you have no idea what will be expected of you,” Govan says in a Charvel promo video. “Can you hop on the airplane with one guitar confident that it will actually be able to deliver whatever the people at the other end will need? This was the quest of the process.”
A new feature first found on this sig is the freshly designed Recessed Charvel Locking Tremolo bridge (without a locking nut) that was created from the ground up with Govan’s input. The use of the simpler Graph Tech TUSQ XL nut allows GG to make quick changes to and from standard and drop-D tunings, and avoids getting his left-hand bitten by the locking nut when he gets a little carried away. The SD24 CM’s pickups were dialed in by designer Michael Frank-Braun (the mastermind behind Eric Johnson’s signature pickups) and are constructed in Korea. The 5-way selector has an unusual layout that avoids engaging the middle single-coil without either the bridge humbucker’s inner coil or the neck’s outer coil. The standard middle (or third position) engages the outer coils of each humbucker. Both of his Charvels take D’Addario NYXL strings (.011–.052) and this one typically rides in drop-D tuning.
While you’ll see the original “fancier” model in the next slide, it’s worth mentioning the “simplified” Japanese-made guitar just earned a Premier Gear Award in our September 2022 issue.
It's "Christmas Time"
Here’s his first namesake instrument—the Guthrie Govan USA Signature HSH Flame Maple. Similarly to the SD24, the body on this one is basswood, but the original comes with a flame maple top. The initial iteration also offered an option for a caramelized ash body. This one has Charvel’s custom MF pickups. It tends to be saved for standard tuning. Having a gigbag that can tote two guitars with operational floating trems is, as Guthrie says: “Christmas time.
The USA Guthrie Govan model included an Allparts Tremol-No clamp that has three options of functionality. Position one allows the tremolo to work as intended. The second setting locks the tremolo so it won’t move at all. And in the third spot, the bridge stays solid and stable for dropped tunings.
Couldn’t Bear To Play with Another
Ever notice Guthrie Govan doesn’t throw picks around like most rockers? Well, that’s because he generally travels with just three of his signature Red Bear picks. (They retail for $35 per pick.) His preferred plectrum is based around the company’s Big Jazzer shape, in an extra-heavy gauge with grips and a speed bevel. Additionally, on the top of the rounded edge you’ll find serration much like a dime or sixpence.
Whether it’s been flanking Steven Wilson or tangoing with the Aristocrats, Govan has been an amp-and-pedalboard guy. He’s had long ties with the British valve hounds at Victory. (In a 2019 interview with PG, he noted preferring the V30 MKII.) However, things shifted when he began working with legendary composer Hans Zimmer. For the scope and span of that gig, he needed to welcome the digital bath that is modeling since everyone uses in-ear monitors and a lone-wolf guitarist could never dream of overshadowing an orchestra in that environment. Alas, Guthrie’s dance with digital began. Through the shutdown, he collaborated often with Hans on several film scores and found boundless creativity within the Fractal Audio FM9. (He mentions in the Rundown that for one part of Dune he used 32 layers of detuned Axe-Fx patches to create a bagpipe sound.)
“I became more comfortable with this digital world, so I thought let’s see what it can offer me in a more traditional rock-n-roll context,” admits Govan. “As it turned out, our set has been evolving a little bit and it’s proving harder to get one amp and one cab to sound just right for each of those pastiche things that we like to do. With this (looks down at the FM9), I can bring 10 amps and 10 cabs on the plane [laughs].”