It’s safe to say that metal as we know it simply wouldn’t be the same without Megadeth. The other ‘big four of trash’ bands contributed certain elements to the form – Anthrax brought the humour, Slayer brought the evil and Metallica brought the gruff manliness. But Megadeth contributed intelligence, social awareness and instrumental virtuosity in a consistent and incredibly assured way. Megadeth’s lineups have changed throughout the years but the one constant is Dave Mustaine. In many ways he is Megadeth – he’s the band’s songwriting anchor, and his rhythm guitar style defines the whole band’s approach. Megadeth are returning to Australia for Soundwave 2014, and their performance is sure to be a highlight of the festival. How could it not, with classics such as “Holy Wars …The Punishment Due,” “Hangar 18” and “Symphony Of Destruction” to draw from, as well as material from latest album Super Collider, which sees the band returning to the more melodic vein previously explored in albums like Youthanasia and Cryptic Writings? Continue reading
Trivium have never been the kind of band that stays still. They’ve always bobbed and weaved, zipped and zoomed around the metal scene: a little metalcore here, a little thrash there, maybe the occasional dip of the toe into the stream of progressive metal. Their 2011 album In Waves pushed their sound into a new atmospheric level and won them plenty of new fans, and it positioned itself as a very difficult album to top. So how would the Florida four-peace approach its follow-up? The answer is Vengeance Falls [Roadrunner]. It’s at once familiar and unlike anything Trivium has done before. The crushing riffs and virtuoso twin guitar solos are still there, as is the finely honed production aesthetic that worked so well on In Waves. But Vengeance Falls finds the band putting Matt Heafy’s vocals in the spotlight like never before. To that end Trivium enlisted the help of Disturbed frontman David Draiman to produce the album. Continue reading
Mark Tremonti lives multiple lives. On the one hand, he’s guitarist for multi-platinum hitmakers Creed, and he helped to keep the guitar visible in the charts during the late 90s and early naughties when the instrument was in a bit of a holding pattern post-grunge and pre-Guitar Hero. On the other hand, he’s guitarist for a harder-edged rock band which features Tremonti’s Creed bandmates Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips plus vocalist Myles Kennedy. You’d think that with three quarters of the Creed line-up being shared between both bands there would be a lot of crossover, yet Alter Bridge is the band that those of us who heard Creed and thought “Hmm… talented band, not digging the material.” Much more than Creed, Alter Bridge is where you’ll hear Tremonti really pushing the envelope with thrash-influenced rhythms, shred-influenced solos and very dark, complex atmospheres. Seemingly buoyed by the positive reception to his solo album, All I Was, the guitarist has loaded Alter Bridge’s new album Fortress [Roadrunner] with aggressive rhythms, blistering lead chops and some of the greatest heavy guitar tones of the last two decades or so. Continue reading
2012 was a breakout year for Asking Alexandria, headlining massive sold-out European and North American tours, and capping it all off with a slot on the Rockstar Mayhem Festival. This year they’ve packed in a stack of European festival appearances as well as a huge, huge show at the Download festival. And now they’ve released From Death To Destiny, their third album. Produced by Joey Sturgis (The Devil Wears Prada, Buried in Verona, Of Mice and Men), From Death To Destiny is heavy, melodic, intense and powerful. And it’s full of the twin-guitar attack of Ben Bruce and Cameron Liddell, both of whom are die-hard Ibanez guys with their own signature models. I reached out to Bruce because I thought it’d be fun to have a nice nerdly chat about all things six-string.
I hope you don’t mind talking guitar-nerd stuff!
I’ll try my best! My guitar techs know more about guitar stuff than I do! Continue reading
French metal band Gojira have been a ‘next big thing’ for far too long. They’ve maintained the same line-up since forming in Bayonne in 1996, and each successive album has pushed them closer and closer to the spotlight. But L’Enfant Sauvage is going to change all that. This is the album that seems finally destined to bump Gojira all the way into at least Lamb of God/Trivium levels of fame. It combines a Devin Townsend-esque appreciation for atmosphere and melody with post-thrash rhythms, post-death metal drumming and a live, human element that’s missing from so much current studio-tweezed metal. After a triumphant run during Australias’s Soundwave Festival (which saw Devin Townsend and Meshuggah’s Fredrik Thordendal join them on stage for a historic performance of their studio collaboration “Of Blood And Salt”), Gojira are ready.
“The reason why we did that tour was to see a kangaroo,” guitarist and vocalist Joe Duplantier says of the recent Soundwave shows. “That was our main purpose! The reason why we came to Australia! And then we played some shows with Soundwave. But mostly we wanted to see a wild kangaroo. The last day of the tour we still hadn’t seen a kangaroo so we rented a car and went to the desert. Couldn’t find one the whole day. But on our way back to Perth we saw one, man! The night was falling and this huge kangaroo was jumping, and everyone was screaming in the car.” But now that the hunt for bipedal marsupials is over, Gojira is getting down to business. L’Enfant Sauvage is their first album on Roadrunner Records. It’s a diverse collection of tracks, some heavy, some more ambient, with an unusual amount of colour and drama for most bands other than Devin Townsend and Cynic. “I don’t listen to metal a lot,” Duplantier explains. I listen to Massive Attach and Morcheeba and Radiohead, Portishead. My brother [Mario Duplantier, drums] likes Indian music. Christian [Andreu], the other guitar player, doesn’t like music at all! He likes silence! He’s like, “Wow, this is the best.” And the bass player [Jean-Michel Labadie] listens to all kinds of metal. He’s a huge metal fan. So it’s an interesting mix. We have different attitudes, and it creates something more personal. I’d like to think that through the years, as we release albums, it’s getting closer to what we are, closer to the core. It’s a nice feeling. I love this album. We reached something that Im’ really, really happy with.”
I recently had the chance to talk guitar backstage with Alter Bridge guitarist Mark Tremonti prior to the band’s sideshow with Steel Panther during the monstrous Soundwave festival. Alter Bridge are about to release a live DVD via Roadrunner which will hopefully keep fans sated for a while in between Tremonti’s solo album and the next Creed recording. Mark is, and I say this in the most respectful way possible, a guitar nerd just like you and me, so it’s always fun to talk shop with him. So, enjoy!
How have the Oz shows been going?
We came down here without knowing what the crowd response was going to be, and it’s just like we’ve been touring here our whole lives. It’s incredible.
It’s been great watching you guys grow and evolve as a band, and especially seeing how nuts they go for you in the UK.
Yeah! This is very reminiscent of the UK over here in Australia. It’s seeming to grow very quickly. This is the second time we’ve been here and it’s already been over the top.
Slash got up and played a song with you recently. What was that like?
Oh it was great. Slash has played with us a handful of times now, and every time the crowd just eats it up. We love it. We’re all fans and we’re just honoured to have him out there.
And you’re playing with Steel Panther on this tour.
Yeah. We’ve known them for a while. We did a few shows in the States, we’re under the same management and they had the idea of putting us together on these sidewave shows. And I’ve jammed with them before, but I probably won’t do that tonight because they’re two very different shows.
Massachusetts modern metal monsters Unearth are currently here in Australia for the Soundwave festival, and guitarist Buz McGrath is rocking a pretty unique guitar for the shows. Buz was a longtime Ibanez endorser with some of the coolest Ibanez LA Custom Shop guitars in the biz, but although he still has a soft spot in his heart for that company, he recently decided it was time for a change. That led him and his unique custom ideas to find a new home with ESP, who recently introduced the LTD Buz-7 (click here to preorder it from Bmusic). Black bound maple fretboard, Snow White Sunburst finish, reverse headstock, neck-through-body construction, maple neck, alder body, 25.5″ scale, extra thin flat neck contour, 24 extra jumbo frets, EMG 707 active pickups, Grover tuners, Floyd Rose 1000 series bridge… it’s one of the sexiest 7-strings ESP or LTD has ever produced. I managed to grab some time with Buz to ask him what the deal was.
You were an Ibanez guy for a million years. What happened?
It was about a year ago that I felt like I couldn’t really do much with them. They were very good to me the whole time I was there. They made me some amazing custom guitars. Mike Taft, he was awesome. he would give me whatever I asked for. But I just felt like I needed a change. Part of my motivation was a signature model – not that that should be the be all and end all of a company, but that was part of it, and I saw that with ESP I would at least have a chance to get to that point. Whereas Ibanez has so many great players in much bigger bands than me who don’t even have that on the horizon. I thought that if Oli Herbert from All That Remains doesn’t get one then I don’t think they’re going to give me one. Or Chris Broderick [Megadeth], who ended up leaving for Jackson.
But I love Ibanez guitars. They were always good to me, but ESP made some goals of mine happen, and that’s rad. Not to mention I was always a fan of those guitars too, so it was always an easy choice.
If you’ve caught Devin Townsend live lately, you might have noticed him playing this beautiful Framus Mayfield Custom. Devin is using this guitar for his open C tuning (CGCGCE). It has a Bigsby B7 tremolo, passive MEC electronics, EMG Devil Signature set, a Graphtech Black Tusq nut, it’s made of AAA grade flamed maple body and neck, and it has a tigerstripe ebony fretboard, and check out those cool illuminated inlays on the 12th fret, headstock logo and fretboard side dots.
I had a chat with Devin backstage at the Soundwave Festival yesterday and he mentioned how he loved combining the 50s look of the hollowbody shape and the Bigsby bridge, with the EMG active humbuckers and low tuning. He’s also got a Sadowski Telecaster on the way, which I think will be really cool – I loved the ESP Telecasters he used in the Infinity era.
Wait a minute. [Record Scratch]. EMG Devil Signature Set? Check out the logos on the pickups. Cool!
Now, this is a Framus Custom Shop instrument rather than a commercially available signature model, and it’s a great example of what Framus can do. Check out their site for more info and a gallery of beautiful customs.
Oh and he’s a video of the guitar in action at Devin’s show here in Melbourne the other night.
And here’s a great interview with Soundwave TV about Devin’s next album, Epicloud, which he’ll be recording in Perth, Australia after Soundwave wraps up.
Devin Townsend first came to the world’s attention via guitar hero Steve Vai in 1993. Vai, usually known as an instrumental artist, wanted a vocalist for his Sex & Religion album. All the demos the label sent over were from real pretty, safe-sounding singers. Vai was despondent. Then Devin Townsend’s demo landed on his desk. Today “hard rock vocalist for hire” is the last thing Townsend’s name makes us think of. Terms like ‘Heavy Metal Auteur’ and ‘Progressive Iconoclast’ are considered more apt. His latest opus, the Devin Townsend Project, took in four albums and was recently capped off with a huge box set and a four-night live run where each album was performed and filmed for an upcoming DVD.
Primus have been entertaining the masses with their off-beat, colourful, twisted, highly virtuosic and even more highly listenable brand of funky avant garde rock (back in the day it was just called ‘alternative’) for over two decades now. The band went into hiatus a while ago, but the individual members never slacked off – oh lordy no. With Primus or solo,Les Claypool is perhaps best known for his incredibly original and technically mind-exploding bass playing within Primus and without, but did you know he’s also a vintner? A keen fisherman? No? Well maybe you can ask him about those things when the reactivated Primus play the Soundwave festival in Australia during February and March.
Hello there, how are you?
So, first question is more of a statement looking for a comment: you’re coming back to Australia, this time with Primus…
[Puts on robot voice] It is very exciting. I always very much enjoy coming to Australia. [chuckles] Any excuse to come to Australia is a good excuse for me.
I know you were down here recently solo, but when was Primus last down here?
Oh it’s been many moons. It’s been at least ten years.
Are you a fan of many of the other bands on Soundwave?
I have no idea who’s playing Soundwave. What happens is, people tell me where to go and what to do, and that’s what I do. My job, when I’m at home, is to tell my children where to go and what to do. When I get back into travelling mode I become a teenage child.
Drummer Jay Lane is back in the band, so now you have like a Primus/Sausage combination. How’d that come about?
Well, ah, it became apparent that the band was not going to be performing much, if ever, any more the way it was and Jay Lane was eager and available and it just seemed like the perfect time to bring him back on board. He’s a very creative individual as well as, hey, a very enjoyable person to be around.
Do you have new album plans at the moment?
We’re in the studio at this time – well right now we’re in Argentina, but we’ve been in the studio for the past few weeks.
How’s it shaping up?
Oh it’s shaping up well. Sounds are being bounced off the walls. Sounds are bouncing and sticking.
What’s it like out there for Primus at the moment?
I have no idea. Do people even put out CDs any more? I don’t know. It’s a digital download world. The only thing I can assure is that whatever release we do put together will be available on vinyl. Something that I find is a mandatory requirement with our releases.
It’s got to the point for me with mp3s where not only am I nostalgic for vinyl, I’m also starting to miss even the detestable act of unwrapping the plastic from a CD cover.
I will never miss the unwrapping of plastic on CD covers. Whoever invented that notion of shrink wrapping CD covers… whoever the bastard is that invented that hard plastic vacuum wrapping that comes on nearly item you get from headphones to steak knives, there should be a global civil suit against that individual because I guarantee there have been many instances of blood loss, if not even loss of digits, in the attempt of trying to open these damn packages.
I actually have a cut on my hand right now from that very malady, so I hear you, very much.
It’s a wretched thing. It just makes it so it’s more difficult to take back to the store if you don’t like it. I’m not talking about CDs, I’m talking about whichever product you’ve purchased in that wretched, horrible shrink wrap. I’m sure it’s really great for the environment too.
I shudder to think what it’s doing to the dolphins.
Yeah, can you imagine how hard it is for a dolphin to open one of those things?
Haha. Okay, my buddy Rohan, who plays bass in my band, is a huge fan and he has a few questions for you. The first is, is the whamola going to make an appearance in Australia?
You never do know. The whamola is like the Sasquach. It’s this ever-elusive thing where when it pops up it’s always exciting. But it’s an elusive beast.
What’s the deal with the whamola anyway? Is it like the bass player’s version of a diddley bow?
The old blues guys used to make them. It’s like a plank of wood with a couple nails in it and a string stretched across. You play slide on it with a bottle or something. It’s this rickety, homespun kind of instrument.
I’m not sure! Maybe I need to get one of these diddley-boos, or whatever you call it, so I can do some comparative performing.
And what envelope filter do you use?
I’m not even sure what it is. Just some old Korg multi-effects thing they don’t make any more… I think it’s a… no, I can’t remember. It’s nothing special though, it’s just an envelope of some sort.
Yeah! So are you much of a gear guy?
I’m not a big gear guy, but from doing this for such a long time, I’m like a couch. All the lint and all the various things accumulate around and underneath me, in my cushions. I have a lot of various pieces of equipment and instrumentation but I don’t actively seek the stuff out. They just sort of end up in my world.
One thing your playing has always proven is that no matter what you’re playing, it always sounds like you.
It’s in the hands and the genitalia.
Well yeah, especially with the bass. It’s a very low, ballsy instrument.
A very sultry instrument.
So what basses are you playing these days? Still rocking the Carl Thompsons?
I have a handful of Carl Thompsons. I have an old Dobro bass – I think it’s a Michael Kay or something, this very inexpensive thing [Actually it's a Michael Kelly Bayou 4 resonator bass]. http://www.michaelkellyguitars.com/bayou4.html But I’m actually in the process of designing and having built my own Claypool-designed bass guitar, so we’ll see how that comes out.
Will it be just for you or will it be available for the general public too?
It’ll be for me at first. If it works out we might peddle off a few of them. I just for many years wanted something specifically designed for my particular comfort and playability. I’m working on it right now with a good friend of mine. I should have it by the time we got to Australia.
Without knowing it you must have sold so many six string basses and six string fretless basses to the bass players of the world.
I avoid six string basses and six string fretlesses. I have one of each and I tend to avoid them. I love the four-string. That’s what I’m most comfortable with and that’s what I play the most.
Yeah, John Paul Jones didn’t need more than four strings, goddammit!
Yeah! Nor did Mark Sandman [Morphine].
PRIMUS – Australia: Soundwave Festival 2011
2/26 Brisbane, AU RNA Showgrounds Gregory Terrace
2/27 Sydney, AU Eastern Creek Raceway Brabham Drive/Ferrers Rd
2/28 Sydney, AU Enmore Theatre With The Melvins
3/3 Melbourne, AU Palais Theatre With The Melvins
3/4 Melbourne, AU Melbourne Showgrounds Epsom Rd
3/5 Adelaide, AU Bonython Park Port Rd
3/7 Perth, AU Steel Blue Oval Corner Guildford Rd & West Rd
This is an alternate edit of an interview originally published in Mixdown magazine.