It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re into: you can’t help but like Every Time I Die. Their music is energetic and infectious, their lyrics are that rare combination of smart, funny, deep and light at the same time, and anyone who slathers their album covers with bright pink obviously has a sense of style more akin to Steve Vai circa 1987 than any band they share shelf space with in the metalcore bin. And guitarist Andy Williams is a big part of what makes the band so awesome. Combining technical hardcore, southern metal and mathcore elements, his style (and that of co-guitarist Jordan Buckley) is like an encyclopaedia of post-thrash guitar styles. I caught up with Williams on the eve of the band’s latest Australian tour.
First thing we should talk about is the Australian tour. How many times have you guys been down here now?
This will be the second time this year, which is apparently a big deal, for an American band to come twice in a year. We’ve been there maybe close to ten times!
You’ve seen more of the country than I have!
Maybe! There was one where we drove for every show, so we saw a lot more than most people do. I mean, we didn’t drive through the middle of it. We’d probably die if we did that.
Haha. So, almost all of my readers are musicians so it’s always fun to talk about stuff from that perspective. When you’re touring in another country, what do you bring?
I have a really big Pedal Train pedal guy. I usually bring a scaled down, little version. I use those Korg Blackout tuners – I have one of those on my travel guy. I have an Ibanez Tube Screamer, a noise suppressor, and then I usually bring a Boss Super Shifter, and I have an octave fuzz that I bring.
Man, octave fuzz is one of my favourite effects, and no-one seems to use it.
The Death By Audio Octave Clang would be by far the coolest pedal I own.
The very first pedal I became aware of was the Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Octave Fuzz, which can sound really nasty.
Oh yeah! Those are great! They’re the best!
Sometimes you need that – you need something that sounds bad because when you put it into the context of the song it’ll sound great.
I used to do this thing where I would take an 8-band EQ and drop everything out and then push up the presence, and it was just this horrible sound. It sounded broken. I used to do that for a while, and then I ended up getting one of those MXR Q Zone pedals.
I’ve got one of those!
Yeah, they’re great. And that did what I was trying to do perfectly but it didn’t sound crappy.
So what’s your background as a guitar player? Who were your guys?
Man, my guys are probably the most eclectic group. I’m a huge Zappa fan. When he died, A&E, which is the Arts and Entertainment channel here, did a biography on him and there was like one scene where, like, him and Steve Vai were going back and forth. And I’m not a big Vai fan at all but the fact that he transcribed every Zappa song is kinda cool. And he just tore this fuckin’ solo apart, man, just ripped it apart. And then there was a look where he just said, like, “Okay, your turn now” to Frank, and Frank grabbed the guitar and just did the most insane, most beautiful solo ever, and Vai was crying. That was the day I was like “Okay, I’ve gotta take guitar seriously.”
Well one of the things about Zappa is people think of him as this humorist or all the crazy oddball stuff, but he could be really sensitive on the instrument. Like you listen to “Outside Now” or “Any Kind Of Pain” and these solos are really touching on an emotional level.
Yeah! I can’t remember what solo it was but it was just so awesome. They just went back and forth, and Vai just respected it so much that he got taken to a whole other area, y’know what I mean? For me, being a kid, when I watched it I was like ‘Fuck, I wanna do that to people.’ So it’s like Zappa, probably Greg Ginn from Black Flag… in Every Time I Die’s music you’ll hear it. People don’t want to hear it, but that’s my main writing influence, Greg Ginn. Anything he wrote on a guitar was what I wanted to do on a guitar. And then David Gilmour is like, I dunno, that’s another dude where it’s like there are dudes that wank for no reason, they wank to get chicks, then there are dudes like Eric Clapton who are like, the solo makes the song, y’know what I mean? And then I think his name’s Luc Lemay, he plays in that band Gorguts. I’ve never heard a dude play guitar like that in my life. Like it’s not even death metal. He considers himself death metal, but imagine if John McLaughlin or Robert Fripp had a death metal band.
I always find the Zappa thing interesting because you can tell a lot about a person by what their favourite Zappa album is. What’s yours?
Overnite Sensation. That or Shiek Yerbouti. Those two records, man. The bands he had at those times… the solos he had on Overnite Sensation like “I’m The Slime” – that solo was really lo-fi and it sounds like the recording’s there but that solo’s being played through a radio. It’s so weird. And he was so …particular to the things he wanted on those records. There was a guy hitting a bell like ‘ding-da-ding-ding’ because he wanted it there, and if you took it out of the song it would sound weird. When I was a kid my dad had that record and I listened to it when I was about ten and that always stuck out to me.
Well for me it was 200 Motels – I used to rent that on VHS when I was about 14.
Oh man. The dude who did all the claymation for that, once CGI got popular he kinda went out of business. There’s a documentary out there, I don’t know the name of it but I watched it. That dude lives in his mom’s basement and still does stop animation stuff. It just costs so much to have that guy do it.
So, guitars. What guitars are you using?
I’m kind of the guy that will use whatever. If i’m playing a Les Paul when I’m home I’ll most likely take a Les Paul on the road with me. Right now I have a Fujigen Custom, a Telecaster, a Gibson Marauder, an SG, a ’76 Les Paul Custom, a Stratocaster, a Maton… I have a tonne of guitars. Last time we toured Australia I took a Maton with me because I wanted to use it in Australia, and I used it on the Big Day Out. Fuckin’ awesome. But I’ve got a Charvel endorsement and an FGN endorsement.
The Fujigen stuff has really been taking off.
They make unreal guitars, man. The guitars they make are just top notch. I have two customs from them that are just awesome. The have unfinished necks too. Not like a satin finish on the neck, but actually raw. I don’t know how to explain it. Like, I have a Les Paul Custom that’s worn down, and it’s almost like that. It just feels like it’s been played.
What about pickups?
I’m always experimenting and there are always different ones I like with different guitars. But I’ve had a Seymour Duncan endorsement for a while and they made these crazy Norwegian Black Metal pickups called the Black Winter and they got me two sets of those, to I put one in one of my Charvels. But I’m a JB guy. I love JBs. They sound pretty much good in any guitar.
I’ve always been a Marshall guy but I just got an EVH 5150III and the cabinet. And dude, it’s almost like they put a Marshall in a 5150. It has a crazy amount of mids. I’ve been using that for a while.
It’s funny seeing who uses that amp. It makes sense that Satchel from Steel Panther would use it, but then you have like extreme metal guys…
Well what it was for me was, the Charvel guitars and the amps, I watched like an hour and a half long Gojira set from last year and the dude was using a 5150III amp and it sounded unreal, man. It just sounded great. So I called the guys that day and I was like, “Yo, I need this.”
One of my favourite things is a video on YouTube of a dude sitting there at NAMM at the EVH booth jamming away and Eddie’s over his shoulder.
I would freak out! I’m not even the biggest Van Halen fan but that’s still Eddie Van Halen, y’know what I mean!
There’s a lot of diversity in your music. What do you play style-wise when you’re not on stage?
Y’know what? It really changes. I grew up playing a lot of punk rock, so when I’m at home I do a band with a couple of other guys and it’ll sound like Madball. Like tomorrow, I have a friend who plays in the National Hockey League and he plays guitar, and we rented out the Goo Goo Dolls’ studio for tomorrow and we’re gonna write some songs that are really heavy, like death metal stuff. But it all changes, man. It depends on what I’m listening to at the time too.
It’s a funny thing when this becomes a job, yet music is something you love so much that you have to do it for fun too, and you have to find that balance of where to put your energy.
Yeah. I’ve always been a person who always wants to get better at what I’m doing.
And there’s nothing more fun sometimes than just throwing on a CD and jumping around rocking out.
Yeah! I do that for a living – I go onstage and jump around like an idiot – and when I’m home I still do it because I’m such a music freak. I love music so much. I’ve always been a 12-year-old kid. I’m 36 this year and I’m still a 12-year-old kid.
Do you have a very first musical memory?
I remember my dad sneaking me in to see John Mayall’s blues band when I was six years old, maybe five. He pulled the old ‘Hey, my daughter’s in there, I gotta go get her.’ And we got to see John Mayall Blues Band. I don’t know who was playing guitar for him, and obviously it wasn’t Clapton, but he always had great players. And I think Jeff Beck opened that night. Or Jeff Beck played last. I know Jeff Beck was on the bill. I don’t think he was playing with John Mayall, but it was Jeff Beck. I remember they had a revolving stage. And that’s probably my first memory. There are others too, like my mom used to listen to Joni Mitchell all the time and I remember crying behind the couch listening to Joni Mitchell. And not crying because of the music but crying because, like, I was pissed that she took my toy away or something like that.
Every Time I Die Australian tour dates:
Friday, 18th October
The Hi-Fi, Brisbane – 18+
Saturday, 19th October
Manning Bar, Sydney – 18+
Sunday, 20th October
Corner Hotel, Melbourne – 18+
Thursday, 24th October
Amplifier, Perth – 18+