Warbringer On Making 'IV: Empires Collapse'
We had the chance to catch up with Warbringer to chat about the experience of making their fourth album, IV: Empires Collapse, and some of the creative decisions with composition, gear selection and the process of making a studio album – Hope you enjoy and definitely check out the album – it definitely evokes a grin as your head is bouncing up and down…
Thrashers from Warbringer, thanks for taking this opportunity to talk about your upcoming album IV: Empires Collapse as well as sharing some of your experiences from the studio with the Seymour Duncan readers – the first question I’d like to ask is how the five of you got on with the creative process. What was the experience like with the new lineup?
Well, we introduced Jeff Potts and Ben Mottsman to the band during the tail end of our tours supporting ‘Worlds Torn Asunder.’ Warbringer has been fortunate because we always managed to find highly skilled musicians with great attitudes. Originally, we weren’t planning on writing and recording in 2013. We ended balancing day jobs, weekly fly-in gigs in Mexico, Asia, and South America, re-learning the complete first album for an anniversary gig, and writing 11 new tunes with in a period of 3 months.
Did the process start before you arrived at the Omen Room Studios?
Oh yeah. We only spent 4 weeks tracking the record with Steve. We always do must of the pre-production on our own while we are writing the songs. The tempos and rhythmic patterns for metal are very rigid and have to be locked down immediately during the song crafting phases. We also strive for streamlined songs with lots of movement, interesting structures, and no fat or filler. Steve still plays an important role in the final product, we did experiment with overdubs, extra effects, and different drum fills. I love working with Steve because he mixes protools with an old-school DIY approach. He really pushes us to give our best performances.
John and Jeff – does the equipment roster change for you when you go into the studio as opposed to the touring rigs? Pro Tools can be an unforgiving mistress – what changes did you introduce this go around?
No, the hardest part about the studio for us is trying to capture the raw energy of our live sets. We use the same kind of amplifiers and the same kind of volumes for the basic guitar tracks. The only thing that changes is that we can keep a ‘purer’ signal path in the studio since effects and can be added and removed from the chain as necessary.
We took full advantage of the studio and used a lot of interesting amp and pedal combos for the overdubs, guitar solos and solo riffs. I can remember driving a vintage AC-30 with a compressor and germanium booster for a really unique vintage-type crunch. Jeff got a green light from Evetts to ‘Brain May’ his solos, and threw four-part guitar harmonies down at every opportunity he got. I took advantage of the environment and did a lot of cranking the knobs on a old analog delay pedal to get some eerie oscillations.
I think its important to make sure that the songs can be faithfully reproduced live, but I don’t think you should limit your creative options. You only get one chance to lay those suckers down.
One question that our readers will be particularly interested in – the pickups in the featured videos you have on YouTube speak of your Strat, Charvel and Jackson guitars using JBs, 59 and Custom Shop models. What has attracted you to these pickups versus say the Blackouts or a Dimebucker that might be considered more of a “metal” pickup?
Affordable amps and guitars have changed a lot since the birth of Heavy Metal in the 80s. Most vintage guitar amps, including the famous JCM 800 amps are only capable of light-moderate gain staging and output. In those situations yeah, your probably need a high output pick and a few OD boxes to push the amp hard enough to really ‘Crunch.’ Today there are dozens of Hi-Gain amps readily available on the market with more than enough saturation and gain for most folks. I tend to believe that my guitars total qualities shine through better when its not pushing my pre-amp hard enough to clip the clean channel. I also have really grown to appreciate the dynamics I get from playing on passive medium output type pickups. Again, My Mark V has plenty of gain when I need it.
The cover of your new album is different from the three previous installments – personally I like the tarot styled sloth king that the vultures are eying as a soon to be meal. What can fans expect from the music this eerie imagery is conveying?
I feel like we made a mistake by using the same artist twice. I believed that 3rd record was a big sonic step for us… a few critics seemed to think otherwise. As trivial as it may sound, I believed going with a completely different cover style would force a lot of new listeners to re-evaluate their preconceptions to our sound. That idea that If you’re not willing to take any chances, you might as well stay home drove us to try and explore a lot of new dimensions. We took a lot of risks with the music by including elements from progressive rock, hardcore punk, and traditional rock and roll. In the end, the record is still going to slam like a Warbringer record should, but we wanted to make sure it had enough individuality to hold its ground as the years go on.
There are loads of bands that are playing in drop tunings in order to add to the darkness and savagery of their music – it sounds like you are achieving the same heaviness while using a standard tuning (on “Hunter-Seeker” for example, off the new album), that’s reminiscent of the golden thrash era. Are choices such as tunings part of the mix when you’re writing new material?
I love playing down tuned, but I feel like you sacrifice way too much snap and attack by doing so on a Fender/Gibson scaled guitar. Add a venue with tons of natural reverb and speakers that aren’t suitable for replicating low frequencies into the mix and you might have an unintelligible mess at our tempos. Knocking a crowd to the floor with a mean riff is all about rhythm and energy.
As a musician I have a lot of fun working around a few basic open D tuning patterns. Devon Townshed and Dan Swano are a few of the only metal musicians I can think of who have successfully managed to ingratiate open tunings in metal. I am a fan of many of the 7 and 8 string players who have been emerging over the last years, keep in mind many of those guitars are built with longer scale lengths to accommodate proper tension for the lower registers.
What’s the near future hold for Warbringer? I’m guessing the saga of ‘Tour’bringer shall continue on…
Yeah, we are touring North America with Kreator and Overkill this November! Come out and enjoy the show!
Appreciate your time guys; John, Jeff, Ben Carlos and John – thanks much and best of luck on your upcoming album and tour. Keep flying the metal banner as Warbringer has for nearly 10 years!