Emily Burton

“I don’t understand why it takes six months to record an album,” declares Fireball Ministry’s Emily Burton. “Either you can play it, or you can’t.”

Founding her band in the late ’90s, Burton evokes ’70s stoner rock with slow grooves and laid-back leads. “We try to play honest music with no pretense to it,” she says. “And playing heavy ’70s-style rock definitely keeps you from getting too hipster-ish. Somehow, the ’70s and ‘trendy’ don’t seem to match.”

How did you develop your style?
After hearing Cream and Black Sabbath at 15, I knew I wanted to play. My first teacher wanted to teach me with songbooks, but I wanted to play rock right away. I knew so little at the time that I thought distortion was a way of playing—not an effect. My first guitar was a rented Cort, but when my parents saw I was serious, they bought me an Ibanez Steve Vai model. Later on, I wanted a Gibson SG, because Angus Young and Tony Iommi played them. You can’t go wrong with an SG. I have small hands, and the neck on my ’70 SG is thin.

What’s your current rig?
Naturally, you don’t want vintage gear to get destroyed, so I leave the SG at home, and use Minarik guitars on the road. Lars Minarik is known for his crazy body shapes, but his guitars are well made, they sound rich and warm, and the playability is great. My goldtop Lotus model is chambered, so it’s also lightweight.
My amp rig is a ’90s reissue Orange 80-watt AD and a ’69 Sound City cabinet. Orange amps aren’t for everyone, as they can sound dark, but they also have real muscle. You can get a lot of distortion and beef, but you need a lot of volume, and when you crank it, it sounds amazing. People are always asking me to turn down! The Orange doesn’t have a lot of versatility—even the clean sound is fuzzy—but so much of my sound is rooted in that amp. For effects, I just use an Emma Reezafratzitz RF-1 Overdrive for some signal boosting. My strings are a .010-.052 SIT set, and I usually tune to dropped D.

How do you maintain your ’70s approach in a digital-recording environment, as well as in the current musical landscape?
We record digitally because it’s cheaper, but we don’t use digital editing in post-production. You can usually tell when something has been pitch corrected, and it sounds terrible. I want our albums to sound like those Grand Funk live recordings—now that was a show!

As far as current music—well, I don’t listen to new stuff much. I feel like some soul has been lost. But there’s something very basic in ’70s music that’s easy for the average person to connect with. For example, a guy approached me after a show, and said our music was “beer metal.” I thought that was very funny, cool, and accurate.