While the tallest letters on the marquee for this summer’s Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival might have been reserved for big-name acts like Disturbed and Avenged Sevenfold, somebody had to whip the crowd into a raging metal frenzy before the big boys took the stage. That’s when up-and-coming bands like Stone Sour, HELLYEAH, and Halestorm came in. It didn’t matter if they were playing for nine or 9,000 people, these three bands brought the heavy like there was no tomorrow. And given a good enough reaction, there could be a tomorrow—in the form of a headlining slot on next year’s tour.
Stone Sour may be new to some, but they have actually been around for more than 17 years. Though the lineup includes Slipknot guitarist Jim Root and vocalist Corey Taylor, the band precedes Slipknot and never really went away, just sort of hibernated a few years at a time. With Root, Taylor, and Josh Rand on guitar, there have been three Stone Sour albums including the latest, Audio Secrecy [Roadrunner], which was released in September 2010.
Jim, are you using your Fenders on the new record, or are those strictly for Slipknot?
Root: I’ve been switching guitars for each song. I’ve had a Gibson Flying V fetish for years, so they’re all over the album. I don’t get to use them much with Slipknot. I’m tall and they feel good because they’re a bit bigger, plus I dig the access to the upper frets. There’s no horn in the way and the balance is great for me. The shape, feel, and the sound are unique. I recorded with my white Tele that I used on the last Slipknot album, too. There were about 90 guitars in the control room.
Rand: The crazy thing is that they were all personal guitars, not the studio’s guitars. I’m not as out of control as Jim is. At one point I was, but I realized I didn’t need so many guitars. The maintenance sucks. You still have to take care of them, even if you’re not playing them. I was spending so many days going through all my guitars every month, dressing the frets and all that. I’m just over it.
How did you decide which ones to use?
Root:We’d just listen to a track and play along with it on all kinds of different guitars. For the third guitar tracks, tone wasn’t as an big issue because they had so many effects on them. For those, I’d grab whichever one felt good, or if I wanted to make sure a particular guitar made the record.
Rand: I mainly used a PRS Custom 24 that was built for Jim in 2001. During recording I fell in love with that guitar and signed on with PRS. I used other guitars for layering and ear candy, but it was mainly that PRS.
So you are doing more leads this time?
Rand: Not really. Two of my leads are on B Sides and one is a song that’s never going to be released. That bums me out, because it’s the best solo I ever did. It’s the heaviest Stone Sour song ever recorded, but it didn’t fit the rest of the album.
It sounds like you already had specific guitars or tones in mind to use with each track.
Root: After doing a lot of recording I know how certain guitars will sound. Granted, a tone I thought might sound great on a song won’t, or something that worked in the past might not this time. In some cases I’ll dial up a combination that worked on past albums.
Have you ever found that multiple layers of guitars can actually sound thin?
Root: It’s case by case. Two guitars together with a third track will make a completely different tone than just the two. But sometimes too much layering is just too much layering. The straightforward heavy songs are usually no more than three guitar tracks, but for some of the more ethereal songs, where we aren’t using distortion, you can just keep layering until you have like 17 guitar tracks.
A super group is intriguing. Take a guitarist from one band, toss them in with a new batch of musicians with diverse backgrounds, and you may get to hear a Mister Hyde-style personality switch that you didn’t anticipate. Changing creative ingredients and the desire to play music for a good time brought Mudvayne guitarist Greg Tribbett and Nothingface guitarist Tom Maxwell together with Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul to form HELLYEAH. With Mudvayne vocalist Chad Gray and Damageplan bassist Bob Zilla onboard, Tribbett provides their mission statement: “HELLYEAH is about a good time. We’re trying to bring that back. I think that’s what’s missing in the rock and roll scene today. Everybody is so serious! What happened to the actual rock star? We want to play music that’s just a party, with no apologies. With us, every night is Friday night.” HELLYEAH released their latest album, Stampede [Epic], in July 2010.
Greg, the difference between your sound in Mudvayne and HELLYEAHis pretty remarkable.
Tribbett: It took me five Mudvayne records to figure it out. I needed a different outlook. Mudvayne is very intricate and had a real thought process behind it. I wanted something more down the middle. Vinnie Paul came along with this band and I couldn’t say no to him.
How do you like playing with another guitarist?
Tribbett: It’s really cool. When we first got together we discovered we actually play a lot alike, rhythm wise. His solos are a little bluesier and mine are more intricate. One of us will pick who wants to do the solo. I think we’ve done a coin toss before. I was using Randall in Mudvane, now I’m running two Marshall Vintage Modern stacks, with an Ibanez Weeping Demon wah pedal and an Ibanez Tube Screamer. I’m about as basic as you can get.
Tom, your style is straight up rock, but a little bluesy too.
Maxwell: Jimmy Page had a massive influence on me, and then later on Slayer and Metallica. I think I’ve blended the two. I admire Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai, but they’re way more acrobatic than anything I’d ever do. I was never very good at playing other people’s stuff, so I started writing my own songs—just crappy high school stuff, but at the time they sounded good to me.
What’s the story behind your signature model Dean guitar?
Maxwell: I got offers for guitar endorsements, but I’d rather pay for a good guitar than get crap for free. I was really impressed with how much love Dean puts into their guitars. I’m playing three prototypes now and they sound kickass. I’m bringing those prototypes with me on tour, but we’re still tweaking the details. Dean is developing its own pickups, and my signature pickup will be based on a 1957 Gibson humbucker. Those and my old Marshall JCM800 heads stocked with Groove Tubes EL34’s. I don’t fix what isn’t broke.
Do you use any effects?
Maxwell: I use an Ibanez Tube Screamer for grit. It has the chunk and extra girth without blowing the sound out with too much midrange or bass. It gives you the overdrive without sounding too metal, and I have it on 90 percent of the time. I use a Dunlop 535Q wah for solos. I like being able to adjust the degree of the sweep, or I can have it set wide open. I’m using my trusty old Boss Super Chorus, which is great for chord work because it’s subtle. A lot of choruses can actually increase the volume and change the tone. This one just adds a floaty kind of sound without getting too crazy.
Halestorm aren’t new to the festival circuit, but are still in the first leg of what’s to be a nonstop year of touring to promote their first full-length album, Halestorm [Atlantic]. When bassist Josh Smith pointed out to singer-guitarist Lzzy Hale that she would be the only woman performing at Uproar, she shrugged it off. “Part of me likes sticking out like a sore thumb, because I can’t slack off,” says Hale. “It forces me to bring it because I’m representing. Another part says, ‘Hey, I made it into the boy’s club!’ But, ultimately, that doesn’t matter, because we’re all here doing what we love every day. I forget about it until someone reminds me, which they rarely do.” GP recently caught up with Hale and lead guitarist Joe Hottinger.
There’s a pretty comprehensive collection of Gibsons between the two of you.
Hale: I gravitated toward Gibsons because they are such big hunks of wood to hang onto—and then stayed for the sound. My Les Paul Custom isn’t chambered, so if I have back problems when I’m older I’ll know why. My Explorer has become my go-to guitar because I can flip to any pickup position and count on the warm tone, clean or crunchy. I have a Joan Jett Melody Maker that the guys bought me as a gift when we finished the record. It’s small, but it can sing. Then there’s the Firebird V, the Tribal V, and a Reverse Flying V, which looks kind of silly, but it plays well. I do have a Fender baritone and a BC Rich Bich, but I can’t get away from the Gibsons. The only mods both Joe and I ever made to the Gibsons was to install Tone- Pros bridges for lasting sustain. I would take them all on the road, but there just isn’t enough room! I don’t like to let guitars sit. I play and exercise them all consistently.
Hottinger: I play the Flying V’s and the Explorers, but I also use an SG. They’re all from 2007, when Gibson did a thing called “guitar of the week,” where they’d only make a short run of a custom guitar. It could be a limited edition paint job, or special electronics, like an SG Special with EMG pickups. I like the idea of having something that you can’t just walk into a music store and get.
How would you describe yourself stylistically?
Hottinger: My early heroes were Jeff Buckley and Kurt Cobain so I was minimalist— serve the song, serve the melody. I shunned guitar solos for some time but now I’ve totally changed my approach. I got to know Eric Friedman of Daughters of Mara, who just screams on guitar, and he turned me on to different ways to warm up, metal riffs, and playing more leads. You know how they say you don’t know what you don’t know? I never got that until I started jamming with Eric. He taught me—and Lzzy, too—how to play all over again.