We asked Twelve Foot Ninja guitarist Stevic MacKay about his preference in amp modeling, and received a reply we weren’t expecting.
Most people have worked out by now that Guthrie Govan is actually a wizard. He has the hair, beard, British enunciation and command of the guitar that could only be explained by some sort of outer worldly wizard shit . . . Irrespective of whether he can ride a bike or not (is that rumor true?), he is a bloody incredible guitarist and an extremely affable gentleman.
In 2014, I saw one of his clinics and amidst predominately retarded questions from the audience that Bob Fuckface from the local music shop could’ve answered (as opposed to one of the most proficient, versatile electric guitarists on the planet), someone asked something I found interesting, “Hey Guthrie! Do you prefer Axe FX or Kemper?”
The brand that changed the game for amp and effect modeling was not even in that sentence . . . Line 6.
FYI: Guthrie’s response was that guitarists are too focused on what gear they use which was quite profound given the story I’m about to share.
I’ve observed a lot of Axe FX users in particular (including some profile members of the “Djent” community) being quite vocal about Fractal Audio’s apparent superiority comparative to Line 6. As a Line 6 user and occasional product trainer for the Aussie Line 6 distributor, this motivated me to challenge my own views/bias to ascertain whether there really was that much of a difference when it came to the finished product (recorded and live).
I wanted to delve a bit deeper into the growing perception that Line 6 is a “stepping stone” brand and consider the idea that perhaps I was actually using inferior gear.
It was somewhere in-between the Line 6 HD500 and HD500X that I experienced something of a Line 6 crisis. I started to believe maybe my equipment WAS inferior. I hypothesized that the outspoken Axe FX community might be motivated by one of two things:
1.) Axe FX IS significantly better.
2.) The impassioned views around Axe FX’s superiority are somewhat proportionate to the cost of the Axe FX. In other words, if you fork out over $2.5k for a digital modeling unit when there are other digital modeling units on the market for 75% less money, I think there is motive to want to justify your buying decision and recruit as many others as possible to re-enforce it. Nobody would want to face the alternative scenario of acknowledging they unnecessarily paid significantly more money for something they didn’t have to because they blindly bought into someone else’s purchasing rationalizations.
I entertained the notion that it was 1.)
So I contacted Fractal Audio and shared my story, something along the lines of: I’ve always been a Line 6 user, want to improve my sound, I hear the Axe FX is the way forward . . .
The guys were really cool and I bought myself an Axe FX II. Admittedly, I felt like I was turning my back on a friend by using different gear, but I had to find out for myself what the hype was all about.
I read the Axe FX II manual, used Axe Edit and Fractal Bot and I just couldn’t get it to do what I wanted. I felt like I was in a Vietnamese restaurant with a 50-page menu and all the options cancelled each other out. It was like using Linux if you’re used to OSX. With too many options I become indecisive, then make impulse decisions and wind up eating seahorse dick soup or something instead of what I really wanted.
I reconsidered my departure from Line 6 and told the guys from Fractal I couldn’t get what I wanted out of the gear (especially because of my Variax tech dependence in Twelve Foot Ninja live). The sounds I did get out of Axe FX were not me . . . I felt kind of homogenized into the djent sea. I didn’t want that sound for myself and I didn’t want to use presets. I wanted “my sound” which was actually forged with Line 6 gear all along.
Then I became aware of the cognitive dissonance inherent in that thought: I bought an Axe FX to replicate the sound of my Pod . . . Why not just use the Pod? Then I did some further investigating . . . What metal band starting with Mesh and ending with uggah do a large cohort of Fractal Audio “djent” users want to sound like?
If modern metal was Catholicism, Meshuggah is Jesus. So which albums did the captains of metals salvation use Axe FX on?
But…the Axe FX?…For the love of onomatopoeia!!!
My research tells me that the guitar tones on every Meshuggah release from Nothing to Obzen was recorded with Line 6 gear.
“Nothing” was the Pod Pro
“I” and “Catch 33” was the Pod XT Pro
“Obzen” was the Vetta II.
Incidentally, “Koloss” guitars were recorded with a VST plugin in Cubase.
Approximately 55.7% of Meshuggah’s U.S. sales have Line 6 gear all over them (everything prior to “Nothing” used amps). I literally broke the dashboard of my car drumming along to “Rational Gaze” (love that guitar tone!).
So is it weird that a large amount of Axe FX users are spending a lot of time and money chasing tones made by Line 6 gear? I reckon it is.
I’ve seen some guitarists bag out Meshuggah’s heavy tones online saying they’re shit! Which guitarists? You know . . . um . . . Fred Narkel from the Farkel Narkels . . . His band has that logo that looks like a pile of sticks . . .
I asked myself, who else is actually out there (as opposed to in their bedroom) using Line 6 gear in a cool way?
That’s when I started a Line 6 gang. Bedazzled jackets and secret handshakes pending.
Here are some of my findings:
In summary: Use whatever works for you. Line 6 works for me.