Nick Raskulenicz on Creating the Massive Guitars of "The Devil Put the Dinosaurs Here"

WHEN PRODUCER NICK RASKULENICZ SPOKE TO GP ABOUT HIS WORK ON THE last Rush album, the first thing he said was, “Man, you gotta hear the record I’m working on right now.
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WHEN PRODUCER NICK RASKULENICZ SPOKE TO GP ABOUT HIS WORK ON THE last Rush album, the first thing he said was, “Man, you gotta hear the record I’m working on right now. I’m in the studio with Alice in Chains and I swear to god, Jerry is playing better than ever.” It turns out he was right, and here he explains how he captured it all.

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How did you get such a massive guitar sound on this record?

I didn’t want to stray too far from the tone we got on the last record because I was really happy with it and I thought it was a great sound for Jerry, but I didn’t want it to be exactly the same. On the last album we used four half-stacks. We used his old Bogner Fish preamp, each side of it going through a Mesa/Boogie power amp into its own 4x12 cabinet. And then we used his Dave Friedman head and his Bogner Uberschall. The setup for this record was identical except we added one more amp to it, an old 60-watt Laney Klipp. So it’s five half-stacks deep for every performance. They each get their own set of microphones. I think we used two mics on most cabinets and we just used one on a couple of them. Then you have to spend as much time on the phase and make sure that the sound is hitting each mic at the same time. Once you get that right, man—it just sounds like a wall, especially the way Jerry plays. He’s such a great player that he can control that sound and just make it work. That’s his tone. Nobody else sounds like that.

How many passes would you typically do for a tune?

On “Pretty Done,” for example, it’s the G&L Blue Dress Rampage with those five amps on the left and then the same combination again on the right. Then, up the middle, we used this awesome-sounding Flying V that I’ve got with a different amp combination. So for those three passes, that’s 15 different sounds all mixed together, which creates the foundation of the track. And then I’m pretty sure we used his blue Les Paul for all the bendy guitar lines and his black Les Paul for the guitar solo.

How do you keep so many guitar tracks so distinct sounding?

Well, we’re very, very conscious of the tuning for one thing. The overdubs need to be perfectly in tune. As for the tones, apart from maybe an initial left and right double, it’s about never using the same thing twice. That can mean using the same amps and switching guitars or using the same guitar but switching the amp chain. Everything you’re adding is always a little bit different. The culmination of that kind of sounds like one big hand playing, even though it’s multiple takes. Then there’s just Jerry. He’s one of the best I’ve ever worked with at doubling himself and remembering what he did exactly the way he did it on the pass before. There are a lot of little details and a lot of little bends and pulls here and there on every single one of these songs and he doubled and tripled them perfectly.

There are a lot of cool clean tones and spooky modulation effects on this record. How did you create those?

Actually we used the Fractal Axe-Fx II for some of the clean sounds. Like on the song “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here,” all those clean sounds in the verses are a combination of the Axe-Fx II and my old ’63 Vox AC30. We used that a lot on this album. It’s kind of the main guitar sound in “Voices.” It’s also in “Choke” and “Scalpel.” Whenever you hear a tone that’s a little dirty but still more on the clean side, that’s the AC30.

Talk about the acoustic guitars on the album.

This band has always had an acoustic side to it that goes right along with the electric side. Jerry’s got a really great collection of acoustic guitars. For mics, I think we used two Telefunken 251s in front. We used a Royer a couple of times, where the neck meets the body. Sometimes, we’d just pick whatever room mic was in a cool spot in relation to where he was sitting and blend that in with the close mic for some ambience. We’d track them and then we would manipulate and play with them afterwards. I think in a couple instances I took the acoustic guitars and put them over on the tape machine and Varisped them down or up a little bit and then put them back into Pro Tools, to use the tape as an effect for the compression and the EQ. That’s what was so cool about this album. We were afforded the luxury of being able to camp out at the studio for four months and really just dig in and play with sounds and experiment. So we went for it. We wanted it to be big. I think for Jerry and his tone and his guitar playing, we achieved that. I think it’s f***ing Cantrell at his best.– M B