LIFE IS WHAT HAPPENS WHILE YOU’RE making other plans, and sometimes all the preparation in the world can’t protect you from things going wrong at the worst possible time. Since 1996, Doc and Dallas Coyle made up the lead and rhythm guitars, respectively, of New Jersey’s God Forbid. In March 2009, just a few days before the band was scheduled to hit the road on a massive tour to support its latest release, Earthsblood [Century Media], Dallas left the band after a disagreement with Doc.
“Frankly, it was over something really stupid,” Doc says, “Even though I’m his brother, it’s still a little rocky right now. I’d rather not get into the details.”
Doc started calling everyone he knew, trying to snag a last-minute replacement. Shortly after deciding on former Darkest Hour guitarist Kris Norris, he had the stressful task of teaching Norris the entire set list in a few short days.
“We’ve always been a twin-guitar band with lots of harmonies and varying guitar parts because it adds a lot more atmosphere and color,” says Doc. “God Forbid needs a second guitarist, and we got lucky that Kris could fill in on such short notice. I don’t know what the future is going to hold for us—it’s still a very new situation.”
The future didn’t turn out to be very bright for Norris, however, as he was replaced by ex-Himsa guitarist Matt Wicklund in June 2009. Happily, Doc— the only constant guitar presence in God Forbid—filled us in on his style and the recording of Earthsblood.
What got you into playing guitar?
I grew up addicted to MTV when they were playing a lot of Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, and Megadeth. When you’re a young kid, and you see a guy like Slash with his cool persona, it’s very exciting. You aspire to be put on that rock-star pedestal. I took a few lessons, but I basically taught myself off tablature and playing along with my favorite records. I kind of learned through osmosis, and I picked up a lot of stuff from guys who were a lot better than me. I grew up in a college town, and some of our neighbors were musicians. I had a guy give me his entire metal collection on tape because he was replacing them with CDs. It was incredible—an entire catalog of every metal group you could think of.
What were some of your influences?
When God Forbid started playing gigs, we got involved in the local Jersey metal core scene. Local bands such as Hatebreed and Dillinger Escape Plan brought a different kind of heaviness that influenced our style. As I got older, I started to diversify my palate, and got into Radiohead and Muse. I’m always interested in new pop music—both Lily Allen and Justin Timberlake are on my iPod.
Isn’t that kind of a weird admission for a metal player?
Really good pop music is rare, because it’s so commercially driven. The artists are so controlled. You have to be good looking, and have coaches and songwriters, so the music can sound fake and manufactured. But, at the same time, I think if you play metal, but love someone like Britney Spears, you should say it. There’s kind of an elitist attitude towards these acts—that they’re no good just because the masses listen to them. But, hey, if it succeeds, it must mean they’re on to something. So the more uncool everyone thinks a group is, I’ll go out of my way to listen to it. People are so caught up in coolness. I’m into the anti-cool. We were doing solos in the mid ’90s when it wasn’t a popular thing to do. Everyone would constantly ask me why I started playing solos. My response was always, “Why did everyone else stop?”
What’s your take on shredding?
It’s too easy to play machine-gun riffs that lack soul, and then you wind up sounding like some kind of exercise. I’m not as schooled as a lot of other players, but I purposely don’t put much technicality into the playing, because I want the stuff to be fun to play. Especially onstage, I want to be able to enjoy the show. I don’t want to be glued to my fretboard.
What gear did you use on the new record?
We were playing the ESP DV8 Dave Mustaine model for a while, so when we decided to start playing 7-strings, we talked to ESP about it, and they sent us some Stephen Carpenter models. They were so good that they became my guitars. You really get used to having that option of a seventh string—it opens up different riffs, new avenues, and songs take unexpected turns— but much of the new album was played on the 6-string model because we didn’t want to use the 7-strings as creative crutches. I’ve been using SIT Strings for years— they’re awesome—and my picks are In Tune 1mm GrippX-X. I’ve gotten heavier with the picks over the years, because I realized my hand was working really hard, and when you have a heavier pick, it can sometimes do a lot of the work for you. There could be a change in the future, though, because my hand tenses up a bit more onstage these days, and trying a different pick might help alleviate that.
The main amp tone on the album is a Bogner Uberschall. It had that really nice, heavy-metal high end from the get go. To get more mids and low-end chunk, we layered in the Krank Krankenstein. Live, I’m using the Randall RM 100 with the Mr. Scary Module, and my touring cabinets are the Randall Iso Cab and Guitar- Cable.com Almighty Cabinets loaded with 100-watt Celestions. They come built into their own road cases.
Are you much of an effects guy?
I use the Maxon Overdrive to tighten my tone—which is a trick I think everyone picked up from Killswitch Engage. It sucks out a little bit of your bottom end, but it’s great for that metallic crunchy tone. Another pedal I love is the Zakk Wylde CryBaby Wah. Some wahs can be a little shrill and overbearing at the top, but this one is really smooth. I use it more for tone—I do a slow back-and-forth textural thing on the pedal to sound a little more soulful and less predictable. Live, I use a Vox Time Machine Digital Delay, a Maxon Chorus, an Ibanez Phaser, and a Boss Noise Gate. For a while, I was feeling a little bit stifled with my leads, and I think using effects helped me step outside of my box and challenge myself.