Interview: Pig Destroyer Guitarist Scott Hull Discusses ‘Book Burner,’ Gear and More
In a struggling economy, it becomes harder and harder for musicians of all calibers and genres to maintain successful careers as touring and recording artists. Raising a family — and maybe even working a day job — can work their way up the priority list and leave little room for flexibility.
Through trial and error, Pig Destroyer guitarist Scott Hull has found his balance.
The Alexandria, Virginia-based grindcore band is scheduled to release Book Burner, their first full-length album in five years, October 22 via Relapse Records. Between fatherhood, marriage, lineup changes, construction of the fully functioning Pig Destroyer studio and rehearsal space, and gearing up for the launch of Book Burner, Hull continues to spout energy for one of the things he loves most: ugly, fast, loud music.
We recently chatted about gear, the new album and life in general.
GUITAR WORLD: How and when did you originally take up an interest in guitar?
I was introduced to guitar very early on. I picked it up when I was 7, around 1978. My main interests for guitar were AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, a lot of the heavier rock at the time. I kind of learned by emulating those bands. I had lessons and whatnot, but I spent more time trying to figure out songs I liked from those bands, more than just music theory.
Book Burner is your fifth album and possibly your most refined. What spawned an album with 19 brief songs mirroring qualities of '80s hardcore?
Book Burner is more of a return to where we started. We started out as a super-ugly and fast grindcore band where all the songs were short and had a very flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, improvised feel. Book Burner is more of a return to Explosions in Ward 6. That’s probably because there was such a long period of time between albums, so we felt the need to sort of go back and revisit what we started the band for, and the stuff the originally inspired us to play in Pig Destroyer. Getting a new drummer — Adam Jarvis from Misery Index — inspired us to go back to a shorter, faster and louder demo that we prided ourselves in early on.
Why was there such a long gap — five years — between Phantom Limb and Book Burner?
A lot of things came into play. I had another child, and we had to get out of the practice place that we had been in since 1997. We actually had to build a studio that would also serve as our rehearsal space, and that sounds trivial, but it’s definitely not. We built it from the ground up, and it’s a fully functional soundproof studio with an acoustically treated live room and a control room.
We spent a lot of time building the studio, and then we had internal issues with our drummer that we had to go through. Once you’ve had somebody in your band for a long period of time — in our case, 13 years — it’s kind of hard to come to the realization that someone has to go. When Adam [Jarvis] joined the band, he had extensive touring commitments with Misery Index, so that lasted about a year. To add all of that stuff up, it’s not surprising it took us so long to come out with Book Burner.
How do you balance your family life with being a professional musician, especially since recording this new album?
There is definitely a lot of juggling that goes on, and there also has to be a lot of understanding and patience from my family to give me the time and space to do it. Then, of course, there's the sheer amount of energy you have to muster to maintain a career and your fans and to keep all of this stuff pushing forward.
Thankfully, I’ve got a lot of energy in me and a lot of fire to drive it forward. I’ve also got a great family, a family that affords me the flexibility to do all this stuff. It’s difficult, and that’s also why things take a little bit longer to get done. We don’t want stuff to be half-assed. We want to make sure we spend enough time to do things exactly the way we want. There is room and time for everything. You just might not be able to spend a whole week doing something you want to do.
What do you think of current metal trends? Bands seem to be fluctuating between pop hooks and dubstep, and then they'll throw in some deathcore elements. As someone who has been in the same band for 15 years, what's your take on the current state of the scene?
I understand that. There are examples of all these different forms of metal and extreme music that I think are good and that work, and there are some from the very same kinds of music I don’t like very much. I don’t like to rag on bands, because no matter what kind of band you are, you’re trying. And that’s better than not being in a band, you know?
I hate to disparage anybody from doing something that I might not typically like, but as long as things are moving forward and people keep doing things that are progressive and interesting, I like The Acacia Strain a lot. I think they’re very heavy and great, but I know a lot of people that probably wouldn’t like them because they’re metalcore-ish or whatever. I think people should be able to think what they want to think and not have to justify it.
Tell me about your gear and any endorsements you might have.
Yeah, I really owe my endorsement companies some props. I sort of renovated my signal flow for two reasons. First, because I wanted to change my sound, and second, because I wanted to be able to streamline my ability to travel with a minimal amount of backline required. That means I’d like to be able to travel with my own head, my own preamp and my own guitars. As you might imagine, if I were to take a typical guitar head or a big, heavy power block power amp, that stuff gets prohibitively expensive, especially with airline baggage fees.
Matrix Amplification is a company out of the UK that makes these very small but extremely powerful power amps, and I have one rack mount station called the GT800FX. It’s a 1,000-watt harness power amp that is about 10 pounds, but that means you can actually carry this thing onto the plane and travel anywhere in the world without having to check it. As any touring musician knows, once you check something, it gets destroyed. Not only is a fantastic sounding amp, it’s the one amp a lot of people use with the Fractal Audio guitar processor called the Axe-Fx, and it’s the one most regarded in the industry as an amp modeler. It’s purely preamp, but it’s the one processor that a lot of people hook up with the Matrix power amp to create their main rig.
I don’t use Fractal Audio yet, but I use the TightMetal pedal from Amptweaker. It’s a great pedal made by a guy named James Brown who worked for Peavey and helped them to develop the 5150 back in the '80s. I use Vader cabinets. I’ve been using them for about 10 years, close to when they started.
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