RIGGED: DETHKLOK’S BRENDON SMALL
As part of our coverage of this year’s Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival – currently winding its way through North America — we’re bringing you a series of “Rigged” columns in which several of the tour’s musicians take you on piece-by-piece guides of their current live rig setups. Check out the rigs of Machine Head’s Phil Demmel, Unearth’s Buz McGrath, Hatebreed’s Wayne Lozinak and In Flames’ Peter Iwers. Saturday, July 9 was Dethklok’s only performance of 2011, taking Megadeth’s place on the festival bill in San Bernardino, California, but band mastermind Brendon Small was kind enough to enlighten us about his rig anyway. Here he is:
Hello, MetalSucks! This is Brendon Small from Dethklok… let’s take a look at my rig:
I designed my own guitar with Gibson that’s called the Gibson Thunderhorse (pictured above). It’s a Silverburst Explorer and I have two of them. One of them has the Gibson BurstBucker pickups and the other one I swapped out for some DiMarzio PAF pickups because they have a warmer sound. There’s a little bit more punch to it.
I used to use a lot more active pickups (and I still do on rhythm tracks) but for leads and the overall guitar sound, I want to hear my guitar come through even though I’m using gallops of distortion. I find that with medium output pickups, the more I play guitar, the more I kind of gravitate towards those. The old Gibson PAFs or the DiMarzio PAFs or the Gibson BurstBuckers which come with the Dethklok guitar. I’ve been experimenting with a whole bunch of DiMarzios and I use them all over the new solo record I have coming out. That was a real fun guitar experiment for me. I got my hands dirty in the soldering and all that.
For strings, I downtune them to C standard. I use the Dunlop (they built me a custom set of strings) but they’re pretty much the heaviest strings that I can find. Sometimes I use a .60 on the low E and sometimes I’ll use a .56, and the top is a .13 but I’m tuned down a Major Third. Basically I want the string to hold up and feel like I’m not playing a bunch of slack rubberbands. That makes me feel like I’m playing on a guitar with a string tension that feels like a standard tuning to me. I’m tuned down to C standard: C, F, Bb, Eb, G and C, so my neck holds up really well. No neck problems at all, and the whole guitar sounds different.
The picks I use are the Dunlop Ultex picks – those clear, yellowish ones with the pointy end. The 1.4 is pretty heavy. I think they have the best attack for whatever style of music you’re playing. It’s got a really good plastic density. It was explained to me that when people use the shell of a tortoise for picks, for some reason when that contacts the string, that’s the best kind of density of anything to make the string chime out in the right way harmonically. Pretty nerdy stuff, but that’s what they were trying to duplicate with this polymer density or whatever.
My live rig is pretty simple. I’ll start with the amp. The one that seems to be my solid workhorse is the Kerry King Marshall. It’s really great for metal because it has an extra gain stage and has more of a warmer midsection than you would think it would have for being associated with Slayer.
I can’t really use a delay pedal live because this amp has a noise gate on the front and there’s no effects loop. Normally, whenever I’m playing something that’s not Dethklok music, I like to use delay a lot. I’m a real big fan of delay to give a little bit of extra spaciousness to the sound — on leads, not on rhythms. The delays that I have at home that I really like are the Line 6 Echo Park, the Satriani Time Machine and the MXR Carbon Copy Delay. I’m using those all the time, just not in my live rig. I’m restricted by the amp not having an effects loop, which I’m going to change (I hope); I’m going to experiment with some other Marshalls.
Here’s what I’ve got that I think is my ultimate savior. Because I’m singing and playing guitar, I don’t want to sit there and do that whole pedal dance — turning on a whammy pedal and trying to hit a booster pedal and also trying to use a Wah at the same time. It’s impossible to do when you’re also trying to do vocals, and you’re trying to switch from the lead parts to rhythm parts or rhythm to lead. What I found to solve this problem is this pedal from Rivera called the RM1 that is a four or five pedal switching station — you have a whole bunch of pedals always plugged in and you turn some on and some off at your leisure through just the Rivera. It’s basically like a controller.
It’s got a midi in and out which is really cool because I have the DigiTech Whammy pedal, and I have it on an octave setting for one solo and then I have it on this two-octave jump setting for the Dethklok theme song in the very beginning for this one lick I use — this one single lick. It’s really cool that it does the midi switching for me. I’m pressing 1, 2, 3, or 4. On that thing there’s also a Wah pedal pressure pad thing where if you step on the Wah you can engage it in the loop by the pressure of your foot.
The pedals that I hook into the Rivera are; a Boss EQ that I use for a booster to sharpen up my high-mids so they punch through a little bit more; a Phase 90 that I roll all the way off to the left where it’s just the slowest oscillating phase that I can get; the Whammy pedal; and a Wah, where I like a low wide sweep. I have the Dimebag Wah, and the cool thing about it is that you can adjust the parameters (the highs, mids and lows and the sweep). I have one of those pedalboards that has its own onboard power to hold everything together.
I use a Randall cabinet; it’s got the vintage 30s and is 70 watts. It’s got these XLR outs that go straight to the front of house; my front of house guys really dig that because they can mic my amp and also take a line out. They usually just use the line out and don’t even mic my amp because they like the front of house to be as quiet as possible so they’re not bleeding into each other. The other guitarist rig isn’t bleeding onto mine.
That’s pretty much it. It’s pretty sparse. I use amp distortion and that’s it. I would love to have tons of pedals available to me. If I wasn’t singing, if you can call it singing (growling) and playing guitar at the same time, I’d probably experiment with a few more things. These things do the job and ultimately, you just don’t want to muddy it up too much. At home when I’m recording, I use a similar rig where I use one of several different Marshalls that I have and a Steve Vai Carvin and a couple of other amps. I’ll usually just try to mic it well and effect it afterwards in recordings and stuff.
– Brendon Small / Dethklok