He had me at Verellen. I just caught Dead Empires over the weekend, and the guitarist and bassist both were using Verellen heads (a Meatsmoke and I think a Skyhammer but that second one might have been a Loucks). So when I checked out the rig of Wild Throne guitarist Josh Holland and saw not only a Skyhammer but also the equally awesome Soldano Avenger, plus that sweet ’74 SG and a midi controller I could nerd out about, I danced a stupid jig and then fell over on the icy ass pavement.
It also helps that Wild Throne’s new LP, Blood Maker, out tomorrow on Brutal Panda, kicks all sorts of kingly booty. Check out the tunes streaming below, and then read below for the rig behind the tone.
As long as I’ve been a guitar player I have never been super into equipment. Lots of terminology, brands and year-it-was-made stuff usually flies right over my head. I get approached sometimes about what I’m using and find that the person I’m having the conversation with often knows more about what I’ve got than I do. But I’ve always been the kind of person who is, make no mistake, very picky about many things regarding my sound. Not to an obsessive, mega-collector level, though. The gear either sounds good or it doesn’t and I just kind of work from there. I’m more of a gear player than a gear knower-abouter.
That said, I am very proud of what I have and of what I’ve learned from it over the years. I enjoy sharing it with others. So I’ll take this opportunity to do that and endorse some key components that I often feel I can’t live without.
This is my guitar. It’s a 1974 red Gibson SG Standard. It actually used to be a very nice guitar. I bought it from my friend Tim about five years ago and in those short years I have put quite a lot of wear on it. It’s been smashed at least twice and had many other janky repairs done deeming its current market value at about sentimental at best. But it rules. This was a period when Gibson started putting Bigsby-style tremolo units on their guitars. They were awful and I heard they stopped producing them shortly thereafter. It caused lots of tuning problems for me and I eventually had it removed. Shame because it looked so damn cool. The only other custom mod I’ve done to it is install a Bare Knuckle pickup at the bridge. Loud as hell!
These are my amplifiers. On the left, a 100-watt Verellen Skyhammer tube head through a Randall cabinet. On the right, a 100-watt Soldano Avenger tube head through a 1960-style Marshall cabinet. Not sure about the speakers in either of these cabs honestly, but they’re holding up well after being respectively blown to bits over the years. Both amp companies are based out of Seattle and rule so hard. You may have heard of Soldano, but maybe not Verellen. They are an AMAZING boutique amp company run by Ben Verellen of Helms Alee/Harkonen. He builds each one to your personal specs by hand. The Verellen gives me a lot of straight up grit and seemingly endless power. The Soldano is similar but has a little more frequency depth and treble. The two together are beastly and complement each other very well. I also get a great sense of Northwest pride and heritage in playing both of these amplifiers when I play them. Like the northwest itself, they’re very loud and very dark.
While running stereo amplifiers most players will encounter a very loud hum. This is caused by some kind of ground loop issue I won’t pretend to understand here. This can be eliminated in different ways. I like to turn people on to the Hum X. It’s about $70 and all you do is plug one of your amps into it (doesn’t matter which one), plug it into the wall, then blam. No buzz! I highly recommend these things as opposed to more expensive alternatives like Radial brand footswitches, etc.
And this is my pedal board. There are a lot of familiar pedals here. I’ve really gotten into FX pedals the last couple years and my setup is always changing a bit. This is where I’m at today. I use the Line 6 DL-4 delay unit (aka The Green Bastard) for looping and some delay stuff as well. I run stereo delay out of the Boss DD-7. The POG 2 is an amazing octave pedal. It’s a bit pricey but worth it for me. I use it mostly for organ/synth-like tones. I have all the presets set to the same setting (you can have 8 if you like) and I jam all the controls up just to keep them away from my feet. The Boss DS-1 is FAR from the “best” distortion pedal out there, I know, but for my needs it’s great. For heavy riffing and soloing it’s got this trashy feedback-y quality that I just love. It also kind of doubles as a compressor which I’m not sure is an intended purpose but it works for me. A lot of people diss on the DS-1 but I have no problems with it! The iSP Decimator II is a noise gate pedal for when I want to keep things nice and tight. I run SO much gain that a good gate pedal has really become essential. I used a Boss NS-2 for a while but was always dissatisfied. The Decimator II just smokes it AND it has a way more badass name. The Boss PS-5 Super Shifter is for all the whammy/pitch shifting I like to do. Up, down, fast and slow- I use it all the time. I prefer it to an actual whammy pedal. It does the same thing but I it’s simpler.
The large black pedal is a Moen GEC9. This has completely changed my life as far as pedals go. I gush about it to everyone around me while they try (or don’t try) to stay interested. I used to have to tap dance all of my pedal transitions which took up quite a lot of energy and focus on stage. Now all of my pedals are individually looped into this unit and all controlled as presets. It has 10 banks (A-J) which I use as songs, and each bank has 5 presets for which pedals I want to use at any time. It even controls which amp I have on at any time (Left, Right, or both) and can switch the amp’s channels (reverb, clean, dirty or anything else). It is an amazing system for managing all of my pedal transitions and I fully endorse it for serious mulit-pedalers like myself.
I’ve learned a lot about my tastes and needs as a player without especially knowing a ton technically. I’m learning more all the time. Though, at the end of the day, the playing is always going to come from you and your fire regardless of what you’re using. I try not to heavily rely on any one piece of gear and try harder to rely more on trusting my own heart and hands. It’s nothing I’ve ever learned from a gear forum or a Guitar Center. Just play hard and make sure you spring the extra 20 bucks for good cables, shredder!