INTERVIEW: Megadeth’s Chris Broderick
Th1rt3en is Chris Broderick’s second album in one of the most coveted guitar jobs in the world: Dave Mustaine’s sparring partner in Megadeth. Broderick has some pretty big shoes to fill (Marty Friedman, Chris Poland, Glen Drover), but that’s old news: he brings his own style, feel and technique to the band in a way that they hadn’t really had since the early days of Friedman’s reign in the 90s. Th1rt3en finds Broderick once again shredding with the best of them and weaving in and out of classically Megadeth riffage with confidence and ease. I caught up with Broderick to talk Th1rt3en and, of course, guitar.
Hi, is this Peter?
Yes it is. Nice to meet you again! I met you a couple of years ago NAMM.
Oh did you really? Where at? What booth?
The Ibanez booth.
Oh nice! Very cool.
And now you’re with Jackson. How’s your new signature guitar working out for you?
It’s awesome! Dare I say, it’s perfect, for me personally. Because you have to understand, when I approached Jackson they were the only ones that never said no. They said “Yeah, we can do that, and we can do that.” So I built that guitar from the ground up thinking about everything I could from the ergonomics to the weight distribution to the placement of the tone knob. Even the placement of the pickups, in addition to the fretboard radius, the stainless steel frets, extremely tall narrow frets. I built that guitar up to be exactly what I’d want, so for me it definitely is the perfect instrument.
Are you using the seven-string version with Megadeth, or is that more of a ‘just because you can’ thing?
No. Well, I’ve always been more of a seven-string player than a six-string player, ever since they were available in the late 80s, early 90s. So for me I’ll always be playing more seven-string stuff. But since Megadeth is more of a traditional thrash band we stick to six strings just to keep those traditional thrash roots more in focus. So whenever I’m onstage with Megadeth it’s always six string, and when I do my own stuff it’s definitely seven-string.
As a seven-string geek myself I can’t wait to check it out.
Nice! I hope you like it.
What are your custom DiMarzios like?
First off, I’ve been playing DiMarzio for a couple of years, but I’ve always loved them. I didn’t realise it at the time but all of the influences I had growing up, most of them had used DiMarzios. And for the longest time I really couldn’t find that sound I was looking for, and then I came to DiMarzio. For the neck it was the PAF Pro, and then in the bridge I really liked the DeActivator, and as soon as I heard that PAF Pro I was like, “Wow, this is where all my influences live.” Whether it was Paul Gilbert or Vinnie Moore, they had that PAF Pro in the neck. And that’s what I found was missing, what I wanted to hear in my playing. And then from there, just listening to the pickups, I wanted to get a little bit more of a bump in the midrange, in the 550Hz range. So what I did was, talking with Steve Blucher at DiMarzio I had come up with an EQ curve with my gear where I had pumped up the 550Hz by 3dB then boosted the top end maybe a decibel and a half above 3Khz, and just to balance it back out so the midrange wouldn’t be popping too much over the highs. I showed him that EQ curve and he said “Alright, let me see what I can come up with.” Then he mailed me a set of pickups that were based on a PAF Pro in the neck and a Deactivator in the bridge but with those EQ modifications. And he nailed it. He is definitely the pickup guru, if you ask me. Talking to Steve about pickups is like talking to somebody that’s into quantum physics, in a way. He’s awesome to talk with about it and he definitely knows his stuff.
A few people want me to ask you about your Pick Clip invention. Is that going to market any time soon?
I keep hoping. It’s patented, I’ve got the design ready to go, but the big problem is production and getting production costs down to where I can actually afford to produce a bulk amount that would actually be worth having, and then selling them to people. So I haven’t quite got my fingers around that yet but that’s what I’m trying to do at this moment.
So on to Th1rt3en, what did you use amp-wise?
For the rhythms it was a mix of the Diezel VH4 and the Bogner Uberschall. It was a very good combination. I felt they complimented each other really well. And for the leads it was just the Bogner Uberschall. Those were [producer] Johnny K’s amps and those were amps that he really liked. When we looked at how those amps sounded in the mix, they definitely fit the sound the best out of all the amps we had.
I really like the guitar tone. It’s kind of a dirty-sounding album and there are some really bold guitar tones. There are some tracks on there that are really punky. Were you much of a punk guy?
Not so much. I never got that deep into punk but there was always one aspect of it I really liked, and that was its flippant behaviour, that F-you attitude to everything. That’s what I always liked about punk. The only problem for me personally with punk was that it also kind of did that to the whole idea of developing your craft on the guitar and becoming the best player you possibly could. So while I liked the attitude of it, I wanted to take my technique further and further into that side of things.
One thing that’s really interesting about Th1rt3en is that there are some songs on there which had previously existed in either incomplete demo or bonus track form. Did you pay much attention to the old versions when working these up?
I definitely think so. I mean, we really looked at what standout features there were on the songs as they existed before we re-recorded them, and then was was open to helping to develop them and even improve upon them.
Do you think the Big 4 shows maybe had an effect on the writing? There are some sounds on here that remind me of the Countdown To Extinction era.
That’s really hard to say. I know that consciously that wasn’t the case. It’s not like we said “Wow, this brings me back to the day when…” but you never know what kind of impact just being in that environment has subconsciously. It may have impacted it that way but it definitely was never a conscious effort.
As a Megadeth geek going way back I thought “Where are they going to go after Endgame?” I love that album but it’s pretty dark, while this is more of the kind of riff-out, headbang side of Megadeth.
Right! It’s one of those things: when you write a CD or songs in general you just have to go with what you’re feeling at that moment.
You had to fit the recording into a pretty small window of time.
Sometimes when you’re faced with a deadline you can actually produce much better than if you’ve got all the time in the world. I think that was the case with Th1rt3en. We had no completed songs besides the ones that were re-done. We sat down and went through each song as it inspired us, and they really just wrote themselves.
Do you have any favourite guitar moments on the album?
For me I’m a guitar noodler so I would say it’s “Sudden Death” and the solos at the end there. They’re very challenging to play but I had enough time on that song to really think about what I wanted to do and how I wanted the colour to come out harmonically. The rhythm behind the solos is so open: every two measures it just ascends to the next chromatic half-step up, and since it’s not a very big chord, it’s a single note pretty much, the tonality is wide open for every note. So I tried to really exploit that at the end of the song.
What’s it like to work with Dave Mustaine as a rhythm guitar player? I know that there have been times in the past where he played all the heavy rhythm guitar stuff on some albums.
Right. And that’s probably where him and I get together and play the most. The way that he feels the rhythm, the actual pulse of the song, is different to most people. And that’s where you really hear Dave’s personality coming through the guitar. He’ll rush it sometimes, he’ll pull back sometimes, so you’ve got to kind of be able to get tight with him while he’s doing that. We spent a lot of time playing rhythm together to work on that idea.
Those little grace notes and slides he does in there, there aren’t that many rhythm guitar players who include that much detail.
You’re absolutely right. The little things that if you don’t listen really carefully you might miss.
I imagine that must have been nerve-wracking when you first joined the band.
The funny thing is that Dave was pretty relaxed in the beginning, which was awesome. He allowed me to come in and work really hard to get the songs down and we had less than a month before the first tour, so I started working on the songs and getting them down as quickly as I could. And I think it was after I started to feel comfortable with it that we actually got into the minuteness of how he actually phrases the rhythm and rushes the beat or falls behind it, or the inflections he puts on the dynamics and stuff like that. So it was after I’d been in the band for probably four months that we started working together on the really little nuances.
The title track has some nice acoustic guitar tones. What did you use?
I used all Guild guitars. I used a Guild 12-string and a Guild 6-string that just sounded phenomenal.
That’s got to be one of the most fun things about being within the Fender family of brands now: getting access to Fender, Jackson, Charvel, Guild, Gretsch…
Yeah! And that’s exactly what I did when I knew we were doing some acoustic stuff. The first thing I did was call the A&R guy and say “You got any acoustics I can borrow for the CD?” and he was like “Yeah, c’mon down to the showroom.” So I went through all of the guitars they had at the showroom and picked out the two best, and that’s what we went with.”CLICK HERE to order Th1rt3en from Amazon.com