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Rig Rundown: Chelsea Grin

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.

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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).

Sassafras Sparkle

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.

Rosé Rocker

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.