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June 12, 2008 | Author: Reza Nasseri

KSE3Killswitch Engage were back in Australia to pulverize this year’s Soundwave festival with another series of fun yet brutal performances. Reza Nasseri got to hang with 50% of the guitar line-up and pick Joel Stroezel’s metal psyche. (Warning: The following interview contains terminology that goes beyond the realm English into what I refer to as “Ginglish” a.k.a. “Guitar-speak”).

When I hear Killswitch guitars, I think of the biggest, fattest, most ultimate metal guitar sound.
Haha, I don’t know about that, but we go for something that is fat and focussed at the same time. We strive to get a more classic tone, as opposed to a scratchy, scooped out, high gain metal tone, and lean towards more of a Marshall-like tone with some extra balls.

If that’s the case, why don’t you guys use Marshall Amps?
Well, because we’ve never been able to get enough “oomph” out of Marshalls. At home we’ve started using “Splawn” amps, which are made by this awesome dude called Scott Splawn. He was famous for hot-rodding Marshall’s and has been building his own amps ever since.

Kind of like a Soldano guy?
Yeah, I also love those amps by the way. I own some modded SLO 100’s which have had the clean channel and effects loop ripped out, and a depth mod put in, and we end up using that amp a lot in the studio. On this tour we’re using Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifiers which give us a lot of grind in the low-mids.

How do you find the bass responds with Rectifiers as opposed to say a Peavey 5150/ 6505 amp? A lot of people complain about the Recto’s “mud-butt”.
Haha, yeah the rectifiers aren’t as percussive as the 6505’s and definitely have a looser bottom, but our Maxon OD-9’s tighten up the bass response. The Mesas tend to rock out more in the low-mids,  but it’s also fair to say they’re pretty floppy in all directions (laughs), whereas the 5150 has a great “snap” in the top end (don’t say I didn’t warn you…”Ginglish”).

What is the most important element in the signal chain in order to achieve your sound?
It’s hard to say. We’ve been using EMG pickups for a long time, so that has a lot to do with it.

Doesn’t that end up contradicting the mid-heavy tone you aim for?
Not necessarily, because we use the EMG ’85 in the bridge position which breaks-up the mids a bit more, as opposed to ‘81’s. Most guys tend to use the ’85 as a neck pickup but we love how it sounds in the bridge position so we left it there. Also, the ’85 is a bit more focussed than the passive pickups we’ve tried out .The Maxon (OD9) Tube Screamers also play a big role in shaping our sound.

Is the Maxon OD-9 a clone of the Ibanez TS-9?
Pretty much, I think Maxon used to manufacture the old chips out of the original Tube Screamers, so then they started mass producing their own line of pedals. Anyone wanting to achieve our tone definitely needs to use an EMG ’85 and a Maxon OD-9 through just about any head.
Do you use the Maxon as your primary source of distortion, or does the distortion come from the amp?
The Maxons are set up solely as a clean boost, and when you’re using a high-gain amp this creates awesome compression. We have our gain turned all the way down and the level turned up until we get the saturation we need. The tone knob is used to smooth out the tone and tighten up the bottom end. We leave our Maxons on all the time when we play.

Even for the clean sounds?
No. We usually use separate amps for our clean sound, even in our live rig. Depending on where we are, we’ll use certain amps for our clean tones. In Australia we’re using Vox AC 30s, but back at home we use the (Mesa) Boogie Lone Stars. We’ll use amps that provide us with a nice clean dry tone and a bit of delay where we need it.

What sort of a guitar rig would you promote to guitarists on a budget chasing your tone?
I’d have to say the Peavey Valve King, is a great sounding inexpensive rig. Throw a Maxon in front of that and stick an EMG ’85 in the bridge and you should be on your way.

Do you use a Noise gate live?
Yeah, we usually use Boss NS-2 on the road, and more recently I’ve come across the rack-mount version of the ISP Decimator which kills (haha). It works in two stages, in front of your amp and in its effects loop and is just about the tightest thing you can get, whereas the NS-2 is more like an expander that is more touch sensitive like something you’d use in a studio.

KSE1What lessons have you learned over the years when preparing to enter the studio?
Definitely do not record with a Floyd-Rose when playing rhythms, because every time you put down another guitar track it’s usually a few cents sharp or flat. This might not make much difference to some, but we do a lot of stacking, double tracking, and quadruple tracking guitars and it definitely becomes more noticeable then, and sounds more “chorusy” in the overall mix.

I’ve noticed that Adam really steps up in the live show, puts on a fake drill-sergeant voice, barks bizarre orders to the crowd, and wears a cape. Is he the front-man, or is he just mental?
Oh Adam’s definitely mental (laughs), I mean he wears a cape and short-shorts almost every show (laughs). I tend to think of Adam as more of a mascot, and see Howard as the front-man. I guess it’s a tie between those guys because they both engage the audience.


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