Total Armageddon With Tasteful Shredding: An Interview With Christopher Amott

We here at Gear Gods are stoked to see that Armageddon, the oft-dormant project from former Arch Enemy guitarist Chris Amott, are kicking things into high gear. Earlier this year, the band dropped Captivity & Devourment, an album sure to start popping up on the year-end-lists of guitar enthusiasts, and they are prepping for a quick jaunt across the U.S. with Ascension.

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Chris took some time to do a quick Q&A with us to talk all things guitars, Armageddon, his new career as a guitar instructor at The Collective music school in New York City, and more. Check it out!

You’ve been living in New York City for some time now. How are you liking it out here for music, and for life in general? There are great metal and hardcore scenes here, and it must be exciting to be around all of that.

For sure, definitely exciting to live in New York City, I’ve been here for about 2 ½  years now. Yes, the music scene is great, and there is so much else going on, so much, art and culture in general… great restaurants and bars, lots of cool shows. You can meet a lot of interesting people because it’s such a big city, but that means the concentration of idiots is higher too haha.

It’s the center of the universe, even though it can feel like a black hole at times :-D

How did you get involved with The Collective music school? That place is very cool.

Our drummer Marton was a student at The Collective, so when I first auditioned him for the band we did it at the school. One thing led to another and I ended up doing a couple of guitar clinics here and now I’m a teacher here. It’s a cool place. Great for young aspiring musicians, if you can afford to go there.

How does your private lesson teaching method differ from the clinic format? Although your clinics are well known, formal private lessons seem like they are new territory for you.

I basically start off with asking the students a few questions, like how long they’ve played, what kind of stuff they like, and what they want to learn. So we have a chat for a few minutes and by that point they’ve usually played a little something on the guitar and I can judge where they are at and what they should work on.

People are generally striving to be better at what they consider the technical aspects of playing, wanting to pick faster and to learn techniques like sweep picking and fast picked flurries of notes. This is great, and is something that I practice myself a great deal. Being able to shred is awesome for dramatic effect and an essential part of metal guitar. But it’s equally important to work on your hand tone, as I like to call it, and bending, vibrato and playing clean. And by clean I mean effectively muting unwanted string noise from the distortion.

Thus, in my opinion technique is not just how many notes you can squeeze into a solo, but also the ability to execute correct bends and to be able play clean. It is extremely beneficial to work on these things, it will make your playing stand out more and make it come alive. Just playing three-note per string licks really fast has nothing to do with music. It’s your choice of notes, your rhythmical timing, your hand tone, your vibrato, and your ability to mute in a dynamic way that will make your playing sound good.

Will you be hosting any clinics at the Collective as well, or are you only teaching lessons for now? Will there be a Chris Amott guitar class anytime soon?

I did two there already, one last summer and one this summer. I just hosted a guitar workshop with a group of students. That thing ran once a week for 4 weeks. It was fun!

In addition, I know you’ve been working on an instructional DVD with Guitar Messenger. What was that experience like?

Ah, the infamous instructional DVD. Last year I got it into my head that I should make one of those, because it’s what shred guitarists do, right? I contacted Guitar Messenger, because I saw one DVD they had done and I thought they did a really nice job on it. Ivan Chopik who runs that site was into the idea, in fact he was a fan of my work in Arch Enemy which was very cool.

It’s on the back burner now and I don’t know when or even if it will happen, honestly. I’m wondering who will buy an instructional DVD these days? It seems very old-school.

I’m probably better off putting up guitar demonstrations on my Youtube channel, or set up some kind of serious website where I sell video lessons. We’ll see… my heart’s not really in it at this point to make a DVD.

Let’s talk gear. I know you’ve had a variety of signatures over the years, most recently a custom Super Strat through Jackson. What sort of rig are you taking on tour?

I just got a new white custom Soloist from Jackson which looks and plays amazing, so I’m definitely bringing that as my main and then I’ll use my black Soloist as back up. Other than that, the Kemper, EVH cabs, Midi Moose foot controller and a Line 6 wireless.

Is your live rig different from what you use in the studio with Armageddon? 

Ever since I started using the Kemper that’s pretty much been it. I use it to record my demos and I use it live. For the album I recorded the DI signals of the rhythms so our mixing guy could reamp them.

I know you’re a huge fan of the EVH amps, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I hear that amp’s tone all over Captivity and Devourment. There’s a nice variety of guitar tones all over the album, for that matter.

EVH amps are amazing! But right now I only use their cabs. Thank you for saying that about the guitar tone on the album, there are several different brands of amplifiers in play there, EVH is among them… There’s also ENGL, Peavey and Mesa Boogie.

Armageddon has been kicking around for years, but it seems like you’ve been reignited recently.

That’s right, been around a while… probably the least active band in the industry! We’ve played just about every style in metal too.

Tell me a bit about the writing of Captivity and Devourment. It sounds like Sara had a pretty big role in the composing of these songs.

I write the core of the songs, and our bass player Sara wrote the majority of the lyrics and also contributes some to the music. I definitely take ideas and input from other people, it’s important to me. But the basic visions for the the songs are mine.

You’ve got all these kids in your band! It must be exciting to have some fresh faces to play (and to have recorded) with.

Yes, two of the members are quite young, Joey and Márton are 24 and 22, the rest are old fuckers like me :-D.

They are young and and hungry to play and not jaded in any way. They are excited about touring and traveling.

Speaking of new bands, what are you listening to these days? Are there any guitarists (old or new) whose playing you’ve been enjoying? 

Many of my favorite bands feature guitarists who are not necessary technically amazing and virtuosic soloists in the traditional sense, but it’s the songs they write and their creativity that influenced me.

At the end of the day it’s about songs, compositions, arrangements and the the musical ideas. I take influences from many types of music, there’s good stuff in most genres. What do I listen to now? I like melodic music with good vocals and lyrics. Pop music, both electronic and guitary bands, Ariel Pink, Electric Youth, Empire Of The Sun, Connan Mockasin among others is what I’ve been listening to lately. Regarding metal I’m still listening to the stuff I grew up with… Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Megadeth and Pantera etc. I’m not really seeking out new metal bands but I still love the classics and I have a passion for writing and playing metal. My mood is very affected by music, I generally try to listen to stuff that lifts me up in some way, and even depressing mopy tunes can lift you up in some way, it’s like therapy.

Catch Armageddon on the following US dates, or if you live in Saitama, Japan!

Sep 24 Brooklyn, NY – Black Bear Bar

Sep 26 Holyoke, MA – Waterfront

Sep 27 Buffalo, NY – Broadway Joe’s

Sep 28 Cleveland, OH – Foundry

Sep 29 Indianapolis, IN – The 5th Quarter

Sep 30 Chicago, IL – Live Wire Lounge

Oct 1 Covington, KY – Backstage Cafe

Oct 2 Knoxville, TN – Open Chord

Oct 3 Chattanooga, TN – Ziggy’s Underground

Oct 4 Asheville, NC – The Odditorium

Oct 5 – Baltimore, MD – The Depot

Oct 11 – Saitama, Japan, – Saitama Super Arena

Written by

Max is managing editor of Gear Gods.