Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Strings & Pedalboards with Bryan Beller of DETHKLOK!!!

Hey there. I just came around to thinking that, since I’m about to go out on tour with the most brutal metal band ever not to actually exist – that being Dethklok, of course - this would be a good a time as any to write a blog post about some of the D’addario and Planet Waves stuff I’m using to pull it off.

When it comes to strings, first and foremost I’m a ProSteels guy. I just really dig D’addario’s brightest stainless steel strings, always have. My gauges are pretty standard: 45-65-85-105, and a 130 tapered-core B for my main axe, a Mike Lull Custom 5-string. But my job on tour with Dethklok isn’t to make me sound good, it’s to make William Murderface sound good. Let me explain.

If you’re hip to the show Metalocalypse (that’s the actual name of the show on Cartoon Network from which Dethklok was spawned), you’ll notice that ol’ Murderface plays a 5-string Thunderbird-style bass. So Mike Lull made me one of their T-Basses, and unlike the original that inspired it, it plays and sounds like a dream – which is key for pulling off those fast, low, chunky DethRiffs. Only problem is, there’s no 5-string model. So I’m playing a 4-string masquerading as a 5-string, and I’m accomplishing that by tuning the whole thing down a major third to C-F-Bb-Eb. (I actually look at it as a 5-string tuned up a half-step and missing the top string, believe it or not.) And for strings, I’m using 65-85-105-130 Pro Steels, with the 130 being a non-taper core in this case. I’m been practicing on it, and it’s, well, brutal. Check it out:

So that’s the instrument/strings end of the deal. But there’s also what’s going on with my pedalboard. I’ve been using the same trusty wood-and-velcro board for the past 10 years, and it’s served me well. However, there’s nothing like a major tour to expose the weaknesses in any gear you have, and this board of mine has been long in the tooth for the last two years at least. Time to upgrade.

I went out and got a Pedaltrain top-of-the-line board frame and started arranging pedals on it. For years I’ve seen techs do this while I instructed them how I wanted it, but once I got my hands on the Planet Waves cable kits (and the ability to make my own custom-length cables without having to solder anything), I began harboring secret fantasies of being able to do it myself. This was my chance. I sat down a few nights ago and got to work.

And just 48 hours later, behold:

Seriously, I can’t tell you how much fun it was to sit there, measure and cut the cables exactly the way I wanted them, test them out and hear them work, and then install them onto the board. (Pedaltrains are built so that you can run the cables under the boards, which keeps the cables clean and out of sight. Trust me, there’s a lot of cables under that board.) Call me a gear geek, but I really got off on it. In the end of the day, it was empowering to be able to do it all myself, exactly the way I wanted, and especially to be able to make the final few changes on my own once I saw it all together.

Dethklok will be touring this fall on a four-band all-metal bill, with High On Fire, Converge, and the mighty Mastodon (!). It’s an amazing show – we play the music live, while at the same time our drummer Gene Hoglan (Strapping Young Lad, Death, Dark Angel) is playing to a click that’s sync’d up to a huge video screen of the cartoon characters banging their heads in animation custom-made for the tour. You can check out the dates on my MySpace profile page at www.myspace.com/bryanbeller, and I’ll be posting on Twitter throughout the tour (@bryanbeller). The 4-string T-Bass and the new pedalboard will be along for the ride.

Also, I should mention that Steve Vai has a new DVD called Where The Wild Things Are coming out on September 29, compiled from his String Theories tour I was on back in 2007. The Pro Steels on my main axe got quite the workout on that tour (as did the Half-Rounds I used on my Mike Lull 5-string fretless, same gauges: 45-65-85-105-130) and I was very pleased to know that Steve dug the recorded sound of them, because he only spent two years mixing and editing that footage and the fewer hassles he had the better. J If you want to check out a 7-minute YouTube trailer of the DVD, just click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgObLPOUPVA .

That’s it for now. Thanks to everyone at D’Addario and Planet Waves for the killer products, and for letting me post here, and hope to see you out on the road this fall!

Yours ,

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