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.
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!
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
Now that I’m back home in Australia I’m sorting through my NAMM photos. Here are some more pics and a press release about the UV77REMC, the new 20th anniversary reissue of the UV77MC.
First up are my pics from the display:
New Ibanez Universe 7-String Re-Issue Rockets 20 Years Back to The Future
January 29, 2010
It was 20 years ago when Steve Vai joined forces with Ibanez to produce his ultimate weapon, the 7-string Universe, the first production 7-string solid-body electric guitar. The groundbreaking Universe was quickly recognized as the “Most Innovative Guitar of the Year” by music retailers at the 1990 Music and Sound Awards.
Originally designed as a virtuoso shred machine, the guitar would have a new life later in the ’90s with its extended low-end range making possible the new breed of rhythmic metal of heavy music players such as Korn and Dino Cazares. Ibanez is proud to recognize Steve Vai’s achievement with the release of the new UV77RE Universe 20th Anniversary edition.
Like the original, the solid body UV77RE reissue is seven strings of fire, ready-made for maximum shred and some of the meanest riffing on the planet. The multi-color swirl motif arrives once again from the original Universe artist, Darren Johansen. Because of the swirl paint process each Universe guitar is uniquely individual in appearance. As with Ibanez’s other Limited Edition Reissues such as the famous Bob Weir model, all UV77RE models are crafted in Japan by the same luthiers who created the originals.
1990 not only brought the Ibanez Universe guitar to the world, it also debuted Steve Vai’s groundbreaking, earth shattering album, “Passion and Warfare,” and each U77RE comes with a commemorative poster of this sonic masterpiece.
Only 100 UV77RE reissues will be available worldwide.
Perhaps one of the more surprising Ibanez offerings at NAMM this year was the pair of Joe Satriani signature acoustics. While he’s used acoustic guitars in the studio for years, Joe’s not exactly the first name that comes to mind when you think ‘acoustic,’ but he’s been playing a prototype of this new model on stage with Chickenfoot lately, and the guitar is now in production. Here are my pics from NAMM (that’s the JSA10 on top and JSA5 on the bottom).
Ibanez Unleashes New Joe Satriani Signature Acoustic Guitars
January 28, 2010
Already world famous for its JS line of Joe Satriani signature electric guitars, Ibanez this year embarks on a shimmering new acoustic adventure with Joe, with the new JSA acoustic guitar. Joe says his JSA acoustic “feels great, plays great and sounds wonderful. And, in all black, it looks so cool! It has outstanding projection and an impressive dynamic range too, with a powerful clear tone essential for live performance. The JSA acoustic has a full and balanced sound that’s perfect for strumming, soloing, or delicate finger picking. It has good access to the upper frets, and the electronics make anything you play sound clear and natural.”
JSA signature acoustics arrive in two models, the all-solid construction JSA10BK and its more affordable version, the JSA5BK. JSA10BK features a solid Engelmann spruce top and solid rosewood back and sides. The JSA5BK combines a solid Engelmann spruce top with mahogany back and sides.
Both JSA models feature fine Fishman pickup/preamp electronics, chrome Grover tuners and black high gloss finish and come equipped with D’Addario® EXP™ coated strings.
Ibanez also launched the 24-fret JS2400 which Joe mentioned in my interview with him back in June. Here’s what Joe had to say about it at the time.
“It’s a really cool thing. I’ve always liked the idea of having those frets up there but I never wanted to move the humbucking pickup. That’s always been the problem because the humbucking neck pickup really only works where Gibson stuck it on the Les Paul. To me, that’s the spot, and once you start moving it back towards the bridge it starts to become horrible-sounding. Other guitars that have had the 24 frets and they move that pickup, it’s like, you may as well get rid of it, you know? So I was determined to solve this. And what saved us was the DiMarzio Pro Track. Ibanez got this thing right up against the last fret. It’s amazing how they were able to do it. It’s got a little bit more generous cutaway to the body so you can get up there and play up there. We’re still experimenting with the bridge pickup. I’m thinking it might be a Norton, one of the pickups I designed along with the FRED and the Mo’Jo with DiMarzio. Steve Blucher at DiMarzio is a wizard, so when I say I designed the pickups, that’s a euphemism for me requesting something (laughs). I say “Steve, can you just give me something that goes, like, ‘KKRRR-RURRRR’?” and he goes “Okay. Gimmie a couple of days.”
Specs include basswood body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard, original Edge bridge (by the way, the Edge is now standard on all Prestige JS models – woohoo!), DiMarzio Mo’ Joe bridge pickup and DiMarzio Pro Track neck pickup.
Huge thanks to Daniel for emailing me about this!
Hoshino has given in after many years of requests from German Ibanez distributor Meinl to build a 12-string Ibanez RG! Now, I suppose this will only be available in Germany for now, but who knows, if it’s popular enough and if word spreads far enough online, maybe it’ll prove to be profitable enough for Ibanez to make it into worldwide distribution.
Structurally the guitar appears to be based on the RG570 (albeit with a fixed bridge), with a humbucker/single/humbucker (Ibanez V7, S1, V8) configuration, 5-way switching, volume and tone controls, 24 frets and no pickguard. If the body wood is anything other than basswood I’ll eat my hat.
More info here.
Here’s something super-cool for Ibanez geeks such as myself. Ibanez has announced it will run a contest to allow (what I assume will be) one lucky fan to design an Ibanez Jem model of their very own. RAD! More details will be announced soon. The contest will mark the 77,777th Jem guitar sold. This is in addition to the 20th anniversary Universe reissue, officially dubbed the UV77RE. Isn’t it pretty?
Guitarists normally have to depend on a separate effect pedal to get the distinctive, warm overdrive sounds of a tube amp. No more! The new TSA15H Tube Amp has a genuine Tube Screamer circuit, built right into the front end, for all the warm tube overdrive punch and crunch you’ll need. Includes foot-switchable function, with Tube Screamer Overdrive, Tone, and Level controls. TSA112C speaker cabinet and IFS2G footswitch sold separately.
Great work, Ibanez. I hope to see the line expand into 50 or 100 watt heads some day.
This photo has been doing the rounds on a few forums for a few days, and I don’t like to post interweb leaks and stuff, but since this is from a Japanese guitar magazine – not a catalog hastily snapped on a cellphone or something like that – and because Ibanez has commented on it on their official forum, I figure it’s okay to post without getting smacked. Dig that cool bevelling.
I’m not sure what I like best – the crisp clean bevelling, the Edge Zero bridge, the no-tone layout, the three-way toggle switch… too cool!
There’s another official Ibanez pic (below) from Loud Park … by the way, note the RGA guitars on the top rack… am I seeing an 8 string RGA with locking trem there? Is it flanked by two 6-strings, or a 6 and a 7?
Just a heads-up, the Ibanez Jem7EAFX – the fixed-bridge Jem that everyone liked the idea of but weren’t so thrilled about the big Vai/Earth decal behind the bridge – is being discontinued in 2010, according to the venerable Rich Harris of Ibanez Rules in a post on Jemsite. So if you want one you’d better snap it up now.
The Chickenfoot website (www.chickenfoot.us)has been upgraded and to celebrate the relaunch one lucky winner can get their hands on an autographed Ibanez JS with Chickenfoot graphic!!! WANT! Read my interview with Joe Satriani about Chickenfoot here.
The Chickenfoot site says:
Hello People of the Foot! We are excited to invite you to check out the updated version of the site, and most importantly, encourage you to start uploading your photos and videos from the tour! If you don’t already have an account, just create one and you’ll be off and running!
Most importantly, we are also celebrating the site launch with a BRAND NEW CONTEST — UPLOAD YOUR BEST LIVE VIDEO FROM THE TOUR AND WIN AN AUTOGRAPHED CHICKENFOOT GUITAR + FULL MERCHANDISE SWAG PACKAGE! Entries are voted on by the community and Joe, Chad, Mike and Sammy will be choosing the grand prize winner themselves in a SPECIAL LIVE BROADCAST FROM THE DEC 5 VEGAS SHOW. We’re putting the final touches on it now and you can expect to get a special peak at SOUNDCHECK, see the guys announce the winner, and answer a few questions from you fans. More details coming, upload your videos and start voting on others today! To post a video, log in and click on the “PROFILE” link up there on the top of the page to the right under the logo, then click the “Add video” link. You can view videos by visiting the MEDIA section and videos also will show up on their tour detail page.
We’ll be updating you in the coming weeks with more details on the site but please start poking around and see some of the cool new features that we have for the awesome community of fans who have supported the band so amazingly on the whirlwind trip from the album’s release to GOLD! Once you are logged in, you can add tour photos, tour videos, and even maintain a blog here at CHICKENFOOT.US. We’ll pick our favorite blogs and feature them on the home page.
Please be thoughtful and only post appropriate content (that means photos and videos from the shows)– we will be keeping an eye on things and switch to moderated first if it becomes necessary.
Oh yeah, one last thing… ON DEC 1st for ONE NIGHT ONLY, you can check out a world premiere of CHICKENFOOT LIVE theater show in participating theaters. For more details read here.
Megadeth guitarist Chris Broderick’s bitchen new custom Ibanez S5470 has been completed. Remember the work-in-progress pics last week? Well here it is, all assembled and ready to rock:
GUITAR CENTER LINKS:
Ibanez S5470 Electric Guitar Transparent Black Sunburst
Ibanez S5470 Electric Guitar Red Viking
Ibanez S5470 Electric Guitar Sapphire Blue
Ibanez S5470 Electric Guitar Red Optimus 889406826083