BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE MAY SEEM like a new band to many, but in fact coguitarists Michael “Padge” Paget and Matthew Tuck are old friends who began releasing hard rock albums as Jeff Killed John in 1998. After changing bassists and the band’s name in 2006, Bullet For My Valentine achieved international success with their debut release, The Poison. When it came time to record their latest album, Fever [Jive], BFMV enlisted producer Don Gilmore (Linkin Park, Good Charlotte, Lacuna Coil), who brought a “less is more” perspective to crafting monstrous guitar sounds. “Don helped us get an incredible mix,” says Paget. “In the past we had layered four rhythm guitar tracks, but he suggested we just use two, panned left and right, and the difference was amazing. We hadn’t realized that we were actually thinning out the sound by using more tracks. By not crowding the space, there was still plenty of room for the leads to come down the middle. That also gave us a more authentic sound, like we’re playing in the room with you.”
Did you change up any of your gear while recording Fever?
I played a Gibson Zakk Wylde Bullseye Les Paul with EMG 81 pickups for some of the crunch tones, but otherwise I used my ESP Michael Paget signature model, as I had on the previous albums. Years ago when ESP gave me the DV8 Dave Mustaine Series guitar to check out, it quickly became my favorite. Then when Dave left ESP, I took his slot, which was a dream come true. My signature model is really just a modified DV8. The inlay and name are new, but otherwise I didn’t mess with it much, because I already loved the guitar the way it was [laughs]. I played through a Peavey 6505 head, like on the last album, which I ran through various Peavey and Mesa/Boogie cabinets.
You and Matt also played in a lower tuning, right?
Yes. We were already tuning down a whole step, but on Fever we tuned down another whole step to dropped- C, and then tuned the first and sixth strings down yet another whole step (Bb, F, Bb, Eb, G, Bb, low to high).
How does your live rig differ from your studio setup?
I run a Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier along with the Peaveys when I play live. I also use the TC Electronic G-System to manage my effects, which makes things a lot easier because I’m not tap-dancing all over my pedalboard. My two most important effects are an Ibanez Tube Screamer and a Dunlop SW- 95 Crybaby Slash wah, but on the current tour I’m also using an MXR Zakk Wylde Overdrive pedal, because it not only worked well when recording, it also sounds great in my live rig. That’s not always the case, because something that sounds good in the studio can sound absolutely dreadful live, and vice verse.
Did you take lessons when you started out, and what sort of gear were you using at first?
I don’t have a musical education. I couldn’t afford to take lessons, so I taught myself by watching others. My first guitar was a Spanish nylon-string acoustic that I didn’t even learn how to tune for a few weeks. Then I got an old Aria Pro electric with a Floyd Rose tremolo, followed by my first Gibson SG. My first amp was a hand-me-down from a friend of my parents, a little Marshall Valvestate that I still have. My guitar tech gave it a good cleaning and it actually still works. The clean tone isn’t so great anymore, but the crunch is awesome.
Your solos are hardly basic. How do you compose them without any formal knowledge?
I just try to envision the shapes of notes and patterns on the fretboard, such as the ascending and descending patterns of an arpeggio. And it’s cool when you connect one shape to the next, like playing an arpeggio high on the neck, followed by an inversion a few frets lower, maybe connected by a pick scrape down the stings. When you think of all the chords you already know, and all of the individual notes within them, there are endless possibilities. Breaking away from common rock scales also makes for a more expressive lead.
Who are some of the guitarists that have influenced you?
Kirk Hammett, and Iron Maiden’s Adrian Smith and Dave Murray were big for me— but some of my favorite musicians are blues guitarists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix. Stevie both because of his lightning-fast licks and the way he could play slowly with tons of feeling. His tone is the defining point for every blues player. Once I heard him I went into a crazy blues addiction. And Jimi was the master. He pretty much reinvented the guitar and did a whole lot of stuff that seemed impossible at the time—even when he was completely smashed!