Converge’s 6-string steamroller—who also happens to be a famously heavy and in-demand producer (and gear designer)—takes PG inside his GodCity Studio to talk mics, tracking, instrument building, and more.
If you’ve thought to yourself, “this is the most vicious-sounding record I’ve heard,” chances are Kurt Ballou’s fingerprints are on it. Since officially starting in 1995 inside his parents’ garage and eventually opening GodCity Studio’s doors in 2003 (in “Witch City” Salem, MA, no less), Ballou has chiseled out granite tones for bands like Every Time I Die, High on Fire, Torche, Cave In, Old Man Gloom, American Nightmare, and Kvelertak. (“He brings a lot to the table, and he’s been pretty important in terms of how our sound got formed,” Kverlertak’s Vidar Landa in a PG interview on working with Ballou.) Oh, and we can forget his genre-shaping band Converge, that he’s played guitar in since 1990, co-produced since 2001’s hardcore pillar Jane Doe and been the console captain since 2006’s No Heroes.
As you’ll soon find out in this hour-plus episode, the dude is fascinated with every component of guitar tone. In between recording projects and creating new instruments and pedals, Ballou virtually welcome PG’s Chris Kies into GodCity Studio. In this Rig Rundown, Ballou details his own GodCity InstrumentsCraftsman Series 1 (something he calls a “simple rock ’n’ roll machine”), provides a crash course on mics (types and techniques), and shows off additional GCI pedal wares—and a few foreign specimens—that contort, mangle, and destroy any (in the prettiest way possible) guitar’s native tongue.
D'Addario Auto Lock Strap:https://ddar.io/AutoLockStrap
[Facing a mandatory shelter-in-place ordinance to limit the spread of COVID-19, PG enacted a hybrid approach to filming and producing Rig Rundowns. This is the 38th video in that format.]
As you’ll quickly find out, if Kurt can’t find exactly what he’s after, he’ll design something that will get the job done. Above is his first guitar—built under the God City Instruments brand—called the Craftsman Series 1. This one features a chambered mahogany body with a spruce top (“it’s incredibly resonant, snappy, and lively”), set-neck construction (maple neck/wenge fretboard), 25.5" scale, Graph Tech nut and bridge, and a custom-wound, hot Slugjammer humbucker (13k output, 44 AWG). He prefers D’Addario NYXL strings (.011–.052), hammers away with Planet Waves Duralin picks .70 mm (yellow), and Ballou uses a bunch of tunings for Converge, but two of his favorites are “a little out of tune” D standard and one he calls “open Slayer” (C–F#–C–F#–C–F#).
(This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a God City Instruments’ Craftsman Series 1 on a Rig Rundown. For those that missed it, Djunah’s Donna Diane rocked out a wenge-top Craftsman Series 1 in her Rundown in late 2020.)
A close-up of his Malcolm Young-inspired Craftsman Series 1 body.
Need proof that Converge have diehard fans all over the world? Look no further than this Sparrows’ Sons head that was built for (and sent over to) Kurt from their Belarus guitar shop. He doesn’t know much about the circuit, but he notes in the Rundown that early in the signal path sits an active inductor-based midrange boost that sort of acts like a Neve preamp. Another think he mentions is that its gain knob is a dual pot that controls two tube stages at the same time giving the amp a wide range of crunch. (Ballou admits that he doesn’t use it for clean and rather make it a blast furnace of rock.)
The handmade beast (even has handwound inductors) floored Ballou enough that he ordered a second head for his European setup (but has since brought it home). He believes he owns are two of four or five in existence.
The Sparrows’ Sons custom jobber runs into a massive Emperor 6x12 that is loaded with various speakers, but what was mic’d and recorded for the Rundown were a pair of Eminence Texas Heats.
Because he’s Kurt and he’s awesome, not only did he treat this like a recording session, but he used four mics, in four different positions, to show how each works independently and how they work in unison to create a monolithic sledgehammer. The lineup starts (left to right) with an AEA N22 active ribbon mic, Heil Sound PR 30 large diaphragm dynamic supercardioid mic, a Rode (top) Reporter omnidirectional dynamic mic, and an sE Electronics X1 D large diaphragm unidirectional condenser mic.
“One of the nicest things about owning a studio and designing pedals is that I can figure out what do I have a need for,” admits Ballou. And as you’ll soon find out, his biggest (and constant) need is angry, violent, metallic distortion. Starting at the top left (and then going clockwise), we have the Demedash Effects T-120 Videotape Echo. “This is one of the coolest analog delay pedals,” giddily asserts Ballou. He loves the overall functionality of the pedal and its feature set, but the icing on the cake is that when bypassed you can hold down the left footswitch and it will act as a momentary freeze/shimmer/oscillator. Next you have the Shift Line A+ Astronaut III Multiverb Space Unit. Kurt got hip to this pedal when Converge was touring Russia and ventured into a guitar store in St. Petersburg. For this pedal, Kurt’s go-to setting is the reverse shimmer.
The single-knob red GCI design (Oh Yes!) is Kurt’s latest creation (mentions tentatively it may be called Onslaught) that is a “mid-forward, ultimate thrashy, djenty, clanky, articulate, heavy guitar pedal.” The red pedal on the right is Kurt’s first original codesign—the SBD or Super Beatle Distortion—that was inspired by a circuit from Fu Manchu bassist Brad Davis’ Creepy Little Fingers. Taking it up a notch, Ballou added in an active mid boost in front of the fuzz circuit. Additionally, he boosts the bass level after the fuzz circuit so it sounds huge.
Next up in green is the God City Instruments OGR (a collaboration with Electronic Audio Experiments’ John Snyder). The Optical Gain Reduction is a compressor that Ballou uses on every bass-recorded track in God City Studio.
Then there is the Foxrox Electronics Octron2 (inspired by the guitar feedback lassoed by Mahogany Rush guitarist Frank Marino) that Ballou uses for thorny solos that bristle with weird overtones and elastic ghost notes. Following that is a newer GCI Crimson Cock (original codesigned with Rob Davis) that is a treble booster loosely based on the Rangemaster circuit with an added range control (a cap blend on the input) and the switch toggles in a Muff stage at the end of the circuit.
The penultimate stomp is the God City Instruments Ape Eye (collaborated with Soursound) that is dirt box centered around the API 2520 discrete op amp. Lastly, we have Kurt’s Jugendstil silicon fuzz that is aptly described on their site: “If there were a Venn Diagram showing the overlap between ‘90s British shoegaze and ‘90s Swedish death metal, Jugendstil would feel right at home in the middle.” And everything was powered by a Truetone 1 Spot PRO CS7.
An unheralded but appreciated tool used by Ballou is this Radial Engineering SGI TX that is line driver system that takes an unbalanced instrument signal and allows you to drive it as far as 300' feet without noise.
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- God City Instruments The Constructivist Guitar Review - Premier Guitar ›
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
Belltone Guitars, as part of their Custom-Select System curated offering of pickups, has partnered McNelly pickups to create a one-of-a-kind retro-vibe P-90 pickup in the standard Filtertron size format. This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl, and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
The McNelly P-90 Foil-Coil comes housed in a ‘raw’ nickel outer casing with a dull nickel foil face with metal mount screw gromets to complete the ‘new-vintage’ aesthetic, making it a perfect choice for your signature Belltone custom build. Available exclusively through Belltone Guitars.
Check out the Custom-Select System belltoneguitars.com to preview the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons and all our standard and selectable components available to create your own signature Belltone. Then visit the Dream Lab on our website and select either model B-Classic ONE with its top binding or B-Classic TWO with its arm and body contours select your body color from our wide range of offerings, select your neck profile of either standard ‘C’ or thicker ’59 Round Back and either Maple or Rosewood fingerboard followed by your tuners, pickguard, and strings. Finally, review our curated custom-designed, and unique pickup selection to locate the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons to complete your signature build.
Builds start at just over $2,300.00 with a custom case and shipping included.
For more information, please visit belltoneguitars.com.
McNelly P 90 Foil Tron video Sep27
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.