INTERVIEW: Meshuggah’s Marten Hagstrom

Meshuggah’s distinctive brand of crunchy, intense, precise, complex metal has set heads banging for over 20 years now. Riding high from the success of sixth studio album obZen (2008), Meshuggah is almost ready to finally guide the tour bus towards the off ramp and begin work on the follow up – but not before they hit Australia for the Soundwave festival and sideshows (as well as a few gigs in New Zealand) I caught up with guitarist Marten Hagstrom on February 10 to discuss writing, recording, and the past and future of Meshuggah’s distinctive custom Ibanez 8-string guitars.

Is Soundwave the last of the touring cycle?

Yeah it actually this. This is finishing off the obZen touring cycle for us. We’re really looking forward to it. Last time we were in Australia was great and we’re hoping it will be the same this time. Getting some nice weather in and getting out of Sweden right now seems like a good thing.

I dunno, it’s pretty freakin’ hot here right now.

Well we’ve got snow up to our waists. This has been the coldest winter in a long time up here!

So have you already started working on the next album?

No not really. We’re one of those bands who, we don’t really work a lot on material when we’re still in the touring cycle. We’ve got some stuff that we didn’t really get to finish for the obZen album and some of it feels like it belongs to that album so we probably won’t use that, but we’ve got a couple of things that still feel really fresh so we’re gonna work a little bit on that when we get back. But most importantly we’re just gonna have to sit down and start focusing on the writing because, coming to the end of the tour cycle we switch modes and switch focus. It’s like, we’re done with all the live stuff, now we can just take a little breather for a week or two then start to get a feel for what we want out of the next album. So still it’s very early on. The only thing we’ve really accomplished as far as the next recording goes is we’ve rebuilt our studio a little bit to accommodate what we want out of the recording. But as far as writing we haven’t done much yet.

Well as a geek who writes for music mags, I like this kind of stuff, so what have you done to the studio?

We have this studio here in Stockholm. It’s two stories, and the recording room is down in the basement, so a couple of years ago we ripped out the whole basement and just started from scratch and built a real studio the best way we could. We had some help from the outside as far as how we were going to construct it but we did all the carpentry and all the work ourselves. The room itself turned out to be great but we knew beforehand that we were not going to get a perfect result to begin with. So what we did was we finished it, we rehearsed in it and we tried to get the feel of the room, and now we had this guy who has built a lot of studios here in Sweden, he’s like a wizard, an old guy, and he was like, “Well you need diffusers here and there, and this type, and you need to order it from here,” and whatever. So we ordered a shitload of stuff and then we took, like, two weeks to get everything up on the walls so we could get the acoustics we wanted. We’ve gotten pretty close, we’ve just got some minor details to fix. Most of it’s been carpentry, putting up diffusers in the whole room.

Everyone was worried that studio recording in general was on its way out, with Pro Tools, plug-ins and that sort of stuff, but it seems everyone’s building their own actual studio these days.

Yeah. It’s a good trend, I think. Obviously it’s a bad thing for a lot of studios, but on the other hand, we can see it: we’ve got a studio of our own and we’ve been working in this studio since the Nothing album. So we’ve done it for quite a while. But the thing is that these old massive studios, they’re pretty expensive. And if you’re a band that know a little bit about what you want out of things, you don’t need to go to the most costly and flashy and expensive and exclusive studio to get the right result. So it makes sense for guys who are really interested in producing themselves and getting into the tactical and technical aspects of being in a band, and pretty much take the responsibility over your own productions. We’ve been doing that all the time but it took a while for us to find a place to actually build our studio. I would say that a lot of major studios have gone down the drain but for every one that does that there’s, like, five or six small studios, that a lot of times bands own, that pop up. We’ve been getting quite a lot of requests from bands wanting to record here at our place, so there’s still a need for studios, it’s just how you build the studio. It’s easier for people to do it on their own. Back in the day that was impossible. You had to have a lot of fucking money to do that, and now that’s not the case. I would say that some artists, some bands, there are always a couple of guys who are really tech nerds who really go for that stuff. A lot of guys see it as an opportunity to invest some of the money that you bring in playing in the band to build the studio up. But most of the time we turn bands down when they ask to record there. We’re sharing it with Clawfinger, who are friends of ours. And [sharing the studio with other bands] takes up so much time from the studio, because we built it for ours and their sake, so 90 percent of what’s going on in the studio is about Clawfinger and Meshuggah, so it leaves very little time to make any money off it, at least not right now.

Plus you don’t want people coming in and moving your shit around.

(Laughs) Exactly.

So you mentioned how every band has a couple of tech nerds: are you one such tech nerd?

Not really. I know as much as I need to. You care about the stuff you do from a guitar standpoint, and I’m very specific about what kind of specs I’ve got for the custom guitars I get from Ibanez and stuff like that. And in the studio I know how things work so that I can be a part of the recording in a fruitful way, so to speak, but I’m not one of those guys who runs out and reads magazines and goes ‘Oh shit, have you seen this new hard drive?’ and goes mental about that. That’s more Fredrik’s stuff (laughs). But all of us guys in the band, we know a lot about how we’re set up in our studio because you kind of need to, you know?

Now, onto the 8-strings. How did that come about?

It was a long time ago – around 2000 I’d say, or maybe a little bit earlier. We’d always been 7-string players, and the only thing that differed with our setup as far as 7-strings went was we dropped the tuning down half a note: standard tuning but half a note down. That’s kind of a legacy from back in the day when it was more of a thrash metal oriented band, where you had to have the vocals in a certain range. But apart from that, the vision for the 8-strings, that was kind of an idea where we wanted to have an instrument that could be consistent in tone where, normally you would tune down a regular guitar and get that sloppy note out of it, but we wanted to take that baritone approach towards how the guitar would sound. There was this guy here in Sweden called Frederik, he has a brand called Nevborn. He approached us and said “I wouldn’t mind trying to build you an 8-string guitar because that’s one of the projects I’ve been working on, and I think it would really fit for what you guys want to do next.” So we tried it out and it really helped us in ways that we didn’t expect. What happened was, going down that low you had to change your approach to what you wanted to write. The guitar itself inspired the way of writing, instead of the other way around. All of a sudden we had this new tone, the single-string down-low playing that we hadn’t messed around with that much. On the old 7-string stuff we have a lot of single note riffs but it doesn’t come across the way it does on the 8-strings. So they’re very different beasts than a regular guitar. First of all, they’re pretty big. A lot of the custom-mades we have are 30” measures, so they’re pretty close to baritone range, and they were very liberating, I’d say. It opened up a new vista for us.

Your customs look cool! The body shape is a little different to the production 8-strings Ibanez recently came out with. They look more metal. How else do they differ from the production 8-string Ibanez?

Yeah. Looking the way they do and being such big guitars, it makes the body look a little bit different. But you were saying about the difference between the retail and the custom. The retail 8-string that Ibanez put out, it’s an RG. It’s a bolt-on neck, it’s standard scale, it’s more like you would play a 7-string. It doesn’t differ that much. You get a different tone, obviously, from having a lower range and more consistency out of the notes on the 8-string, but it’s not even close to the custom guitars. I don’t know how to explain: the difference between having the neck-through, the measure and everything, it just makes it a totally different guitar. And we’ve got the Lundgren pickups which Ibanez doesn’t run on the retail. So it would be unfair to compare the 8-string retail to the customs we’ve got.

Have you ever talked with Ibanez about making your guitars available to the public?

I’m actually going to discuss it with Mike Taft at Ibanez. We used to work with Rob Nishida at Ibanez and he quit after 14 years on the job. He wanted to try something new. So we’re gonna talk to Mike about that, because there’s a lot of people that seem to be interested in acquiring a custom 8-string in the setup we use. I think it might be a wise thing to maybe release some kind of limited edition. Because they’re pretty expensive guitars. It turns out to be that way when you spec it so hard. For some people the 8-string that came out as retail, it’ll probably suit some people better than our guitar, because ours takes some adjusting. But as well as those people who want to have a lower price tag, there are always people who are interested in getting the real deal, so we’ll see what can be done with that.

I’m a big Ibanez geek and I’m not alone – there will always be collectors who will buy something like that.

Yeah. It wouldn’t be a major series or anything, it would just be cool to put something out, but we will speak about that [with Ibanez]. We’ve been trying a lot of different approaches to how we want our guitars. The first ones we got were pretty close to perfect, then we started messing around a little bit with the specifics of the guitar, but we’re still looking to nail it about a thousand percent.

Amp-wise, what are you guys using? Or rather, what are you using instead of amps?

We’re running though Line 6. We’ve been using Line 6 Vetta II heads for the bass and the Pod Pros for the bass for the live sound. On the last couple of tours, as far as guitar amps go we’ve been using, well as you say, it’s not amps, but we’ve been using the AxeFX by Fractal Audio, but it’s a bit of a mish-mash as far as amps go. But the AxeFX as well as Line 6 have really helped us bring our tone to the stage without the hassle. We’re going DI so we’re heavily relying on the monitor system but it’s such an easy way to have everything in your little rack: you just plug it in and you have a consistent tone every night. You don’t have to worry about the house or anything like that, so that’s what we’re running through right now.

To my ears, even though the sound is distorted it doesn’t really sound like you’re not using an absolute shitload of distortion: there’s more punch there than you’d usually get with such a high level of gain gain.

We use quite a lot of distortion but I would say that what makes it come across as maybe a bit more clean and powerful is the 8-strings. They have a different tone, and the way the guitar resonates makes a tremendous difference on how you have your settings on the amp. I’d say it’s a combination of what you can get out of the Fractal Audio and what the guitar actually does. A lot of that single-string stuff tends to clean up the tone a little bit, y’know?

Okay, last question, and this is a bit off-topic, but the big news in metal this week is David Ellefson returning to Megadeth. Do you have any thoughts on that?

I didn’t know! I didn’t hear!

Yeah, he’s back!

I didn’t hear that! That’s awesome! It’s always cool when original people get back together. I mean, if you’re a new Megadeth fan who really likes the new stuff I guess it doesn’t really matter (laughs) but for me, it was the first three albums that I really listened to, and coming back to formula is probably something good in this respect. That’s cool!

CLICK HERE to buy Meshuggah albums from Riot!


Tour dates

Brisbane, Australia Feb 20 Soundwave Festival
Sydney, Australia Feb 21 Soundwave Festival
Sydney, Australia Feb 22 Manning Bar
Melbourne, Australia Feb 25 Billboard
Melbourne, Australia Feb 26 Soundwave Festival
Adelaide, Australia Feb 27 Soundwave Festival
Perth, Australia Mar 01 Soundwave Festival
Wellington, New Zealand Mar 03 SFBH
Auckland, New Zealand Mar 04 Transmission Room

NEWS: Gibson Acoustic Aaron Lewis Southern Jumbo

Check out Aaron Lewis’s new Gibson. Whether you’re a Staind fan or don’t even listen to rock, this looks like a pretty damn gorgeous guitar.

The Gibson Acoustic Aaron Lewis Southern Jumbo guitar is an exact replica of Aaron’s most treasured acoustic, his 1951 Gibson Southern Jumbo. As Aaron has said, “Those are the crown jewels. I don’t think I could go out in front of audiences and do the intimate kind of show I do without those guitars. They provide the perfect accompaniment to my voice. The deep resonance from each of those guitars — when you hear them ring out, with their sound bouncing off the walls of the theatres — it’s just staggering. Sometimes I think I don’t even have to sing. Let these guitars do the singing for me!”

Gibson Acoustic will produce 413 of the Aaron Lewis Southern Jumbo Signature Acoustic guitars, which will be available in three different production models. The first 13 guitars produced will be hand aged in the Gibson Montana Art Shop, to look and feel in every way exactly like Aaron’s original 1951 model. They will be personally played by Aaron Lewis himself, in live or studio performances, and the guitar body of these exclusive first 13 numbered instruments will be signed by Aaron Lewis. MSRP is $17,198. The next 37 guitars will also be numbered, and hand-aged in the Gibson Montana Art Shop.MSRP $8,598.

Each of the Aaron Lewis Southern Jumbo Signature guitars will feature a solid Sitka spruce top and solid mahogany back and sides. They will have replicated internal body bracings, “pearloid” parallelogram inlays, vintage replica, custom aged Kluson style tuning machines, vintage replica sunburst lacquer finish, and a custom engraved truss rod cover with a silhouette of Aaron Lewis and his guitar. They will come with a certificate of authenticity signed by Aaron Lewis. MSRP for guitars 51-413 will be $3,653.


COOL GEAR ALERT: Big Bends Nut Sauce

After discovering the company on Twitter and seeing their tweets about the magic their product could work on a Bigsby bridge, I decided to order Big Bends Nut Sauce to see what all the fuss is about. Yesterday I applied it to the nut and bridge of my Bigsby-loaded Ibanez Talman TC-825 and the results are incredible. Tuning stablity is vastly improved and, most important of all, I no longer get the annoying ‘ping’ sound that occurs when the string, bound up at the nut, slips loose when using the bar.

Wanna try it yourself? Here are some videos demonstrating how to use Nut Sauce on various types of guitars. Cool! 

CLICK HERE to see Ibanez Talman guitars on eBay

NEWS: Wesfest 5 – February 28 at the Roxy

I hope he doesn’t mind, but I’m copying and pasting the following from Bryan Beller’s BellerBytes email update. (By the way, you should totally sign up for it at the recently redesigned

WesFest 5 Headlining Band: Tal Wilkenfeld, Vinnie Colaiuta, Oz Noy and John Beasley

Yes, that’s right. Tal’s band for WesFest 5, at The Roxy in L.A. on Sunday, 2/28, is as follows:

Oz Noy – guitar
John Beasley – keys
Tal Wilkenfeld – bass
Vinnie Colaiuta – drums

Getting an itchy trigger finger for tickets? Understandable. Go with it:


I’m also really pleased to announce this year’s WesFest sponsors. Their generous and gracious support is key to making this event a success:

Mike Lull Custom Basses
Fender Musical Instruments
D’addario Strings
Lurssen Mastering
DW Drums
EBS Professional Bass Systems

I appreciate, as always, your indulgence in reading about a cause that’s near and dear to my heart, the Wes Wehmiller Scholarship at Berklee College Of Music. This show raises money for that scholarship fund, which benefits some of the best bassists coming out of Berklee today.

And if you’re in L.A. or anywhere close, it’s going to be quite the scene. Check it:

WesFest 5: A Concert To Benefit The Wes Wehmiller Scholarship at Berklee College of Music

Sunday, February 28, 2010
The Roxy Theatre
9009 West Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Doors open at 7:00 PM

WesFest 5 Performing Artists

* Tal Wilkenfeld (HEADLINER)
* John Montagna
* Joe Brooks
* Danny Mo & the Exciters (featuring 2009 Wehmiller Scholarship Winner Justin Schornstein)
* The WesFest All-Stars (featuring Mike Keneally, I, Claudius, Tamara Silvera, Kira Small, and Ali Handal)

Ticket information

$35. per pair of tickets in advance (advance tickets are available through February 25, 2010)
$20. for single tickets in advance
$30. for single tickets at the door.
* All advance tickets will be held for pickup at the box office. Paper tickets will not be mailed.


NEWS: New Joe Satriani DVD/CD – Live in Paris: I Just Wanna Rock

Haven’t picked this up myself yet but I hear that it’s pretty freaking stellar. Satch’s new DVD and double CD, Live In Paris: I Just Wanna Rock, is out now, and it’s just the think to tide you over until the next Joe Satriani or Chickenfoot release.

You can see a few clips at Satch’s website here, or click here to enter the sweepstakes to win a signed Ibanez guitar, Vox Satchurator, Planet Waves guitar strap and some other goodies.

NEWS: Evil IKON Customs guitar means death for us all

This savage beast crept meanacingly through my email inbox this evening and laid its eggs of doom deep within my festering brain. I’m not sure if I should play this guitar or unload three cans of Raid on it before whomping it with a shoe for five straight minutes then clumsily scooping up the remains in wads of absorbant kitchen paper and running the whole mess out to the trash just to make double sure that parts of it – only parts of it and that’s what’s so disturbing about it – aren’t still alive and waiting to creep into my bedroom and sink its putrid fangs into my neck while I sleep.

Guitar Strikes Fear in Community

Custom guitar builder, Ikon Customs takes guitar building to a new level with unique custom body shapes and materials…all without sacrificing the tones and performance of the instrument.

Houston TX February 10, 2010 – Ikon Custom Guitars is introducing its first production models to the guitar market. The Arachnoid 1is 100% hand built in the USA using traditional and innovative techniques. After years of effort to challenge conventional appearances and styles of guitars, Ikon Customs feels it has finally reached a new pinnacle in guitar design, appearance and manufacturing.

The body of the Arachnoid 1is constructed of a poplar wood core for strength and tone and a proprietary resin compound that allows the builders to sculpt and shape finished bodies into new and innovative designs. The resin compound took many prototypes and years to finalize before committing to final production. In addition to the proprietary compounds, Ikon Customs also builds bodies using other materials such as fiberglass, carbon fiber and Kevlar. Founder and President, Marc Anthony H. Bertone feels that with these new materials, his design concepts will be limitless.

The Arachnoid 1 is available in three models:

Arachnoid1 Weaver: Red Oak Neck and Fretboard
Dyed fretboard, printed graphic “tatooed” on
Poplar headstock with a walnut veneer
Death Dealer high output passive pickup
Top loading fixed IKON USA Bridge
IKON Grip USA locking tuners
Proprietary resin formula over Poplar body
Adjustable aluminum nut
Custom airbrushed paintjob
Available in Flat, Satin or High Gloss finish
chrome, black or gold hardware
25.5″ scale, 24 jumbo frets, available in flat or 20″ radius
MSRP: $999

Arachnoid1 Recluse:
Maple, Walnut, Bloodwood or Purpleheart neck and fretboard
Inlaid Aliencult Skull logo
Poplar headstock with Carbon Fiber or exotic burl veneer
Death Dealer high output pickup or Stealth active pickup
Top loading fixed IKON USA Bridge
IKON Grip USA locking tuners
Proprietary resin formula with hand-laid fiberglass over Walnut body
Adjustable aluminum nut
Custom airbrushed paintjob
Available in Flat, Satin or High Gloss finish
chrome, black or gold hardware
25.5″ scale, 24 jumbo frets, available in flat or 20″ radius
MSRP: $1999

Arachnoid1 Widow: Cocobolo or Bocote (or any other exotic wood; subject to availability and may affect final pricing) neck and fretboard
Inlaid Aliencult Skull logo, LED glowing fret markers
Poplar headstock with Carbon Fiber or exotic burl veneer
Death Dealer high output pickup or Stealth active pickup
Top loading fixed IKON USA Bridge
IKON Grip USA locking tuners
Proprietary resin formula with hand-laid fiberglass and carbon-fiber over Walnut body
Adjustable aluminum nut
Custom airbrushed paintjob; ours or your choice of colors
Available in Flat, Satin or High Gloss finish
chrome, black, gold or any painted color hardware
25.5″ scale, 24 jumbo frets, available in flat or 20″ radius
MSRP: $2999

Ikon Customs is now actively seeking to establish domestic retailers and international distributors. For more information, visit or

About Ikon Customs
Established in 2006 with the intent of changing the world of guitars and musical instruments, Founder and President Marc Anthony H. Bertone set out to find new and unique approaches to designing musical instruments that defied tradition and style. What started as a hobby in the garage has now turned into a lifetime pursuit and career.

NAMM 2010: Orange Rockerverb II

I’ve been a fan of the Orange Rockerverb series for a while (one particularly happy Rockerverb memory was cranking up a Tony Iommi SG through one and blasting out some Iron Man). Now Orange has beefed up the Rockerverb line with the Rockerverb II. Check it out.

Orange Launch Rockerverb II

The Rockerverb series has long been regarded as a masterpiece of guitar amplification and Orange amps are proud to announce the launch of the new Rockerverb II, which builds on the classic proven Rockerverb formula and improves the specification and range available.

Over the years Orange has listened carefully to feedback from their endorsers and players around the world and they are now ready to launch the next generation of world class guitar amps.

The New Rockerverb II series includes the following new specifications and changes:

– Enhanced valve F/X loop offering a totally transparent sound
– Improved reverb tone which delivers an unforgettable sound across all levels
– New middle control on the clean channel
– Re-designed combo’s with new front mounted controls
– Range now includes new Rockerverb 50 watt 1×12 model with new spec 2xEL34 valves

All models and built using tried and tested top quality components and deliver the legendary orange sound. From Chiming tube driven reverbs to sparkling tube driven effects loops and ultra high gain distortions these are rightly regarded as the most versatile guitar amps on the market delivering some of the purest guitar tones in the business.

The Rockerverb 50 head, Rockerverb 100 head and Rockerverb 50 (2×12 and 1×12) combo’s will be launched in March 2010 with the new upgrades.