Vampires Everywhere! Guitarist Aaron Graves on His Background, Influences and Tone
Hello, everyone! This is the first time I've ever done a column for Guitar World, and I'm super-stoked on it.
For those of you who don't know me, my name is Aaron Graves, and I play guitar in Vampires Everywhere! If you have never listened to us, our sound is a little hard to explain. I tend to describe the band as a mix of rock and metal, with slight elements of dance, pop and electronica, but I'll leave that for you to decide.
Since this is my first column, I have decided to talk a little about my background, influences, gear and tone. I love reading about my favorite artists' gear, so I thought it would be awesome to share mine with all of you.
For me, it all started in 1999 with the great Slipknot. This was the first time I had ever heard music like this, and I was instantly in love. From then on, all I listened to was metal. I would spend my days reading music magazines and surfing the web, trying to discover new bands that intrigued me.
I picked up the guitar in the summer of 2002, and I have never put it down since then. I figured out how to read tabs, and all I did was learn riffs and songs. Atreyu's Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses was the album that really taught me how to play. I learned every song off that album; it had everything I needed to know.
In my junior year of high school, I started listening to heavier bands such as Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, Behemoth, Death and Dimmu Borgir, while still having a lot of love for the heavier melodic bands like As I Lay Dying, The Black Dahlia Murder, Children of Bodom, August Burns Red and Parkway Drive. As much as I love the technical, heavy stuff, I will always be a sucker for fast, melodic riffing; there's just something about it that gets me.
I've always been really into reading about new gear. There's still a lot that I don't know, but I definitely know enough to hold conversations about it. My current rig consists of a Mesa Triple Rectifier and a Krank Revolution cabinet. I don't have many things in my rack, just the essentials. I have a Furman Power Conditioner, a Korg DTR-1000, a Boss NS-2 and a Sennheiser EW-100 G2 wireless unit.
My line starts off with my wireless unit, which goes to my tuner, followed by my noise suppressor, which then goes straight into my head. I have never really been a fan of effect pedals, but lately I've been wanting to add a few to my rig. On the album, I used a few different Wah pedals, envelope filters, reverb pedals, and the Digitech Whammy pedal. I think it would be cool to bring those elements that are on the album to our live show, to add a little more atmosphere to the music.
As far as guitars go, I am endorsed by ESP and play them exclusively. My main live guitar is the LTD AL-600, which is the Alexi Laiho signature. I took out the EMG HZ pickup it came with, and I had an EMG 85 put in. I love how comfortable and fast this guitar is.
The Floyd Rose is my favorite part of this guitar. I definitely prefer low-profile bridges (Floyd Rose and Strat style) over Tune-O-Matic-style bridges. All of my guitars that have EMG's in them have an 85 in the bridge and an 81 in the neck. I prefer the beefyness of the 85 over the 81 in the bridge position. My backup guitars include the LTD Phoenix-1000, the LTD JD-600 and the LTD H-1001.
The Phoenix-1000 is my only guitar that has passive pickups in it, but I would love to swap the Seymour Duncans for EMG's because they just don't have enough balls for me. They're clear and punchy, but with my amp settings, they just don't cut it.
Speaking of amp settings, let me talk to you a little about my tone. Up until recently, I was a huge fan of high-gain amps, but I just couldn't get what I wanted out of my Mesa. I decided to try going the opposite way and get more of a classic rock tone with channel 2, and I can honestly say, I've never been happier with my tone. I used to use channel 3, but it always sounded muddy to me, and I had to use the solo boost for all of my solos. Since I started using channel 2, you can hear every note crystal clear.
I no longer have to use my solo boost because my solos cut through the mix loud and clear. The EMG's definitely help out and give that extra boost I need live. My tone by itself may sound a little thin to the naked ear, but in the mix of things, it's tight, punchy, clear and LOUD!
If I had to choose a "secret weapon," it would be my picks. I absolutely love the Dunlop Tortex Pitch Black Jazz III (1.14) picks. I remember exactly when I got my first one. I was at a Children of Bodom show, and Roope Latvala gave me one of his picks. I remember thinking to myself, "What the hell is this thing?!" After trying it out for the first time, I instantly fell in love with them, and I have never bought any other picks since. They're about half the size of a normal pick, which a lot of people hate, but they make riffing and shredding way easier. Since there's less surface area on the pick, I feel I can play a lot faster and tighter than with normal picks. If you're a riffer/shredder, I strongly recommend trying these bad boys out!
I could ramble on about music and gear all day, but I have to end this sooner or later. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it! I've never blogged or done any sort of column before, so being that this got to be my first, I absolutely loved it.
I'm definitely stoked to write my next one. I have a few ideas of what I want to talk about, but I'll leave it a surprise. Keep an eye out for it and stay evil!
Aaron Graves plays guitar for Vampires Everywhere!, whose debut album, KIss the Sun Goodbye, was released on May 17 through Century Media.