Declan recently got the chance to chat with Long Island metallers Car Bomb before their set last week in Glasgow. As well as discussing the latest album, they amongst other things, discussed working with Joe from Gojira and what equipment they are currently using. Read on for the full transcription…
When recording your latest album Meta, you decided to team up with Joe from Gojira to help produce the album. How did that come about?
Jon Modell: Yeah, we’ve known him for ten years now and we met him when he played bass for Cavalera Conspiracy like the one and only time. We were also playing that bill somehow and we basically built a friendship from there. He lives in New York with his wife and kids so he’s local, we see him and that’s how we know each other. Joe and Elliot own a studio together called Silver Cord Studios, so when that was being built and when we were getting ready to track it seemed logical to not only do drums and vocals there but to ask Joe to give us some guidance. He’s got a great ear and no bullshit attitude so we welcomed it.
JM: Yeah sure, he had great guidance and a unique perspective that you can’t sometimes see when you’re too close to it.
What is the difference between a producer that’s not had much experience in a band in comparison to a producer that is a member of one of the best metal bands around?
Greg Kubacki: I don’t know. He has so much more experience of playing in a band and he has rawer energy because he plays guitar and sings. That’s why we chose him. We didn’t choose him because he’s like a hit maker or he works with other bands it’s just because we know him as a person and he brings this raw, emotional charge to everything which is something that we try to do on our own but we know we’d come through if he was at the helm.
JM: He’s also been a huge fan of the band since day one so we knew he wasn’t going to try and change us or push us in a direction we didn’t want to go in. He knew what we were, he knew what we were trying to do so he was a great and logical choice.
Something that I noticed when listening to your latest album is the fact that it isn’t over-produced. With the majority of technical bands, sometimes ProTools can take over and remove the human element away from the music. This doesn’t seem to be the case with your band. Was that considered during the recording process?
GK: Absolutely, especially when there’s that one effect that bands do with tremolo and then they speed it up before the breakdown and the whole mix gets choppy? That’s the worst! Haha but yeah Elliot doesn’t play to a click, like we try to keep it as raw and organic as possible. I mean there is some editing but it takes as long as possible before we start chopping things up, auto tune, all that shit.
That’s amazing that you don’t track to a click.
Elliot Hoffman: Yeah, I mean it’s just me and Greg in the studio. I play with him live in the studio when we are doing takes and there’s no click track or anything like that. It keeps it live and it’s like a rollercoaster that goes up and down instead of totally being locked in. I feel like with music now when it’s locked to a grid and they go in and edit all the drums to make it perfect it sucks the soul out of it a little bit you know? So we try and keep all of that intact and it makes a huge difference in the vibe.
GK: You can tell it with “The Violent Sleep of Reason” too, the last Meshuggah record. They recorded everything live in a room together and it just adds this other thing to this record that makes it sound amazing!
JM: Yeah we don’t play to a click live and keep that unpredictability of how our tempos will all shape up. It does keep things very interesting for us and hope for the listener too man. I mean it’s great if that works for your band but it just doesn’t work for us.
Your music is very challenging and you can’t always get your head around the music after the first listen. When bringing material to the group, how quickly does it take the band to learn a riff or an idea and then get to grips with its pacing and vibe?
GK: [begins to laugh] There are still a few parts we still don’t one hundred percent know. There’s a little cheat sheet stashed under the live rig there just in case we forget sometimes. It takes a while, some riffs are pretty easy to follow and then there are a few that take a good couple of weeks to wrap your head around.
What equipment do you use live and does it differ to what you use in the studio?
EH: You know, when I’m in the US when I don’t have to rent a kit I’ll use the same kit as I used in the recording studio so that it sounds almost exactly the same as the record but I think with the guitars and bass it’s a completely different story. Greg went into a black hole and tried a bunch of different amplifiers for different sections and the bass. We are looking to simplify Jon’s rig a little bit. Greg has got this spaceship because he does all the effects and stuff like that so a good portion of the stuff has to remain the same as it is on the record to replicate the parts live. We try and keep the rig as simple as possible and still get the job done without turning into a science project. The tones have been great live and we’ve been able to replicate the stuff on the album pretty well.
So what is your current kit at the moment?
EH: I’m like a fusion, jazz kind of guy so I use those sized drums. I like small drums tuned low and a cracking snare drum like Primus or Stewart Copeland and that’s kind of like our sound where it’s not your typical drum kit from hell that everybody uses. It’s cool because it adds an aspect of individuality to the sound of the band in general. It kind of bums me out when I put on a record and want to check out a band for the first time and they are using the pre-set drum kit from some piece of software and I’m just like “ughhh”. I’m a big fan of individual drum tones like even Mario from Gojira, he’s got his own specific way of tuning the drums and you can tell immediately it’s him so when people hear my kit, I don’t know if they can tell it’s me specifically but it’s definitely got its own thing. I use my own snare drum sample like I’m triggering the kits live and that’s like a signature part of our sound like the way the kick mixes with the heavy, chuggy guitars.
I use Yamaha drums you know, recording customs preferably and Zildjian cymbals, Vic Firth sticks, DDrum triggers, all kinds of shit. Being in drums you gotta fuckin’ use twenty different manufacturers worth of stuff! I’m not endorsed by anybody so if anyone is reading this and wants to endorse me then that’s cool.
So what about yourself Jon?
JM: So with studio bass it’s tracked direct so there’s no real amplification going on there. I use one of those U5 direct box’s which is amazing but live I’ve been using the Gallien-Krueger 1001 head and I’ve been playing Dingwall bass guitars for the past year or so. I just got my second one as he’s on back order for a while so I’m psyched I’ve got two now, it’s the NG2 one that Nolly uses from Periphery and I also use that Dark Glass preamp that sounds amazing. That’s basically my set up.
It’s quite a simple set up?
JM: yeah, I was using the Axe-FX for a long time and it was a little more than what I needed. I just wanted to turn some knobs if I wanted little tweaks, I mean I’m a computer guy but at the same time I never really embraced the Axe-FX as a bass player so for me to go back to the roots of having a bass head with a lot of thick tone to it. I think the whole band have kind of seen that it really enhances our live sound.
And what about yourself Greg?
GK: The staple of my sound is a Gibson Baritone Explorer with stock pickups that I got on eBay and ever since then it’s given me that classic Metallica picking sound like raw but still clear and articulate. It also holds the low notes very well because we do a lot of low bends and stuff so it just feels right to me so I use that for the recording and live. Amp wise I use Dual Rectifiers for recording and the Axe-FX live because it’s really easy to switch between different patches and have effects. For effects I use BOSS pedals, Lexicon effects processors and whatever’s in the Axe-FX.
Have you ever tried out the Kemper Profiler?
GK: No I haven’t yet but a friend of ours, Earl from Seventh Sun, he’s actually a violin player but he plays guitar parts on the violin so it’s pretty wild and he loves it.
JM: That dude from Ion Dissonance had one too right? The bass player? We played some shows with them in December in the States, awesome band by the way, but yeah, he was rocking one of those. They are very interesting but are a little pricy though right?
Yeah they are expensive, I’ve got one myself and I can’t hear the difference between the Kemper and the real thing.
What’s the best advice you would give to new artists regarding the type of music you play?
GK: Just write, write a lot of music and try to have your own voice however way you can. Try and pull influences from other types of music or art or anything. I think especially nowadays, a lot of people Google how to make music and then the result is the same, all pop music sounds the same, all metal music sounds the same, all sub genres of metal sound the same. Really strive to find your own voice because that’s the stuff that people pay attention too.
Finally, what’s next for you guys after this Gojira run is over?
EH: I think we don’t have anything planned for the summer immediately. We are all working guys so we’ll probably do some regional stuff around New York and then maybe some short hits around the US or wherever we can. The thing is we don’t have the availability to go out for an extended period of time. We’re potentially going to be playing a couple of festivals so we will probably do some dates around that but I don’t know how long that run is going to be. Essentially we are open to any opportunities that present themselves and just trying to free up our schedule as much as we can to make those things happen. Shit comes out of the woodwork and we ask ourselves if we can do this but we try and make it happen.