Rigged: Chimaira Guitarist Emil Werstler
Hello MetalSucks readers and other curious parties. I’ve had a lot of questions about my gear setup for Chimaira’s recent U.S. run supporting our new record Crown of Phantoms. I’ll attempt to put effort into being descriptive with the gear as well as my philosophy and reasoning behind each item.
Guitars – (Various Paul Reed Smith models):
I’ve been playing Paul Reed Smith guitars exclusively for around seven years now. I think they have a lot of character that the majority of other guitars lack. I’m a traditionalist by nature, so I use passive pickups and accent the tone by pairing them with the right wood. With that being said, all of my guitars are completely different in some way. On this tour, and most U.S. tours, I travel with around seven of them. They are used for different tunings — one main and one backup per tuning: Drop C, Drop B, and Drop A. The 7th guitar is used as a bus guitar for warming up or teaching on the road.
From right to left I have the following models: Modern Eagle 2 Trem, Swamp Ash Special (Drop C), Swamp Ash Custom 24 7-String, SE7 Custom (Drop A), Custom 22, Torero (Drop B), and then the amazing McCarty Hollow Body Spruce which is on every record I’ve ever done.
Each of these models has a tremolo, but they’re otherwise each different in their own way, something a lot of live guitarists don’t prefer. I think it’s cool to have different character with each guitar. My standard pickup is the Dragon 2 with an SC245 in the neck. The Swamp Ash has a Tremonti in the bridge, which is humorous, but the sound is even funnier. Funny as in the most fiery sounding shit you’ve ever heard.
Amps – (Mesa, Bogner):
Chimaira is a very particular brand of metal when it comes to rhythm guitar tone and character; tone that is huge, yet is to be controlled, with the ability to come to a complete stop with no excess noise (metal, right?). I don’t believe in having an amp onstage unless it is being used. If you are going to have someone drag it up and down the stairs, why not use it? I think what I’m trying to say is that I’m going for controllable girth and mass in the tone department.
My go-to amp for metal is the Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier. I think no matter what room you play it has a more natural mid range than most typical amps available for rental overseas. When the tubes are new, yet broken in, this amp is just punishing. It breaks up nicely and is percussive enough to get the job done. The external switching features really gel with the GCX, which we will get into later.
My ultimate amp is the Bogner Shiva 20th anniversary. This amp is the lead tone on Crown of Phantoms. It’s like the old Shiva models but with a few mods that make it a stronger product in my opinion. The 20th anniversary mod and gain structure are gorgeous.
I think chasing the brown sound is an overly romanticized idea based on players in the past that “had it” no matter what they played on. Whenever I play a legit amp with “the brown sound” I usually go home thinking I have issues with my hands. So you’ll find a lot of players using overdrive up front to make it more manageable. This defeats the whole purpose. This amp has it all. Less tubes with more power make this thing sound REALLY pissed yet smooth. With two KT88’s in the power section at 90 watts, and the best clean tone EVER, I’m sold.
Cabs – (Mesa Boogie, Omega Enclosures):
I find it advantageous that a lot of sound guys are familiar with the Mesa Boogie 4×12 straight (standard sized) cabinet with vintage 30s. I often find myself wondering if people actually like the way the 30s sound or if they just trust someone else’s influence too much. This cab, however, does get the job done and I find that it responds well with the Rectifier. It lives on its side when I’m using casters.
The Shiva is running through an Omega Enclosures 2×12. I’m very fond of the 2×12, and this cab is what you will see if you run into me at a jazz jam or a pickup gig in a different genre. This cab pops, so the cleans and slightly overdriven tones don’t sound like a dying battery. Very crisp and brilliant. I strongly urge everyone to check out Omega Enclosures. They sound great and have amazing visual styles to choose from, weather mocking a classic look or matching your hipster shirt.
Pedals / Rack:
My chain in front of the amp is simple. Xotic effects AC or AC+ booster into a boss NS-2 noise gate straight into the amp. This is fed into the front of both amps via Voodoo Labs GCX and Radial Bones ABY. I like the Xotic products because no matter what type of overdrive they create, they always seem to emphasize transparency. Transparency is the most important thing to consider if you want an amp to actually have a sonic identity.
The Whammy Pedal you see is controlled via GCX with external expression option. It does not feel EXACTLY like the whammy, but it gets the job done. I use the regular sized Ernie Ball volume pedal for this. I’ve always preferred volume pedals for the FX loop to control the power section of an amp or to control the amount of effect in the mix. I think a lot of people rely on new digital products to do things that a tube amp was designed to do.
I split the signal while avoiding hum by using the Radial Bones ABY. The most common idea would be to toggle between the Shiva for solos and the Rectifier for rhythms; with Chimaira, I like to have them both on simultaneously to cover all frequencies. I’ve used the Palmer DI for years on the Mesa. If I have enough channels available, I run direct as well as mic the cabs. Again, the more frequencies you cover, the more undeniable the intent.
The idea of this combination is to mock a dry/wet setup without fully committing to the idea. So, when I hit a solo patch, the Boogie is boosted and the reverb on the Shiva is thrown, so no matter what your sound guy is up to, or how bad the PA is that night, you will not be glory-robbed due to circumstances beyond your control. Since all this happens with one tap of the pedal, I use it for squeals, dive-bombs, even a one or two note phrase – then it’s back to business as usual on the rhythm channel at a normal volume.
I can’t say enough about the GCX. It’s a great way to route your signal. There is a reason I always have this piece of gear laying around for more serious gigging situations. You can truly do anything with it; if people knew what it was capable of I believe they would think twice about going digital. Digital and direct rigs are not my bag; I prefer latches, switches, knobs, and hard work on the fretboard. I think this mentality builds a player rather than letting technology do the acclimating or adjusting.Covering your inadequacies will never help you truly improve. Just like in life, if you grow a pair and face shit head-on, it can be worked out eventually.
My pedal board is pretty simple. Aside from the Ground Control Pro and volume pedal, I’m using the Kirk Hammett signature Wah from Dunlop. I actually don’t even own this pedal. It belongs to my other guitarist, Matt. Aside from its undesirable look, it gets the job done well.
I hope someone gains an idea or two from checking this out. I think it’s a little different than most amp setups out there. Due to trends and current industry limitations it’s tough to reach deep and find an amp that really does it for you. It’s easier just to go with what is out there to get the job done. I think at the end of the day, any aspiring professional would rather show up to the party in a Bentley instead of a 91 Honda CRX. I prefer to show up in a Bentley and leave in a Rolls Royce. Fuck it.