It had been a fair while since Sevendust had last performed on UK soil – seven years, in fact – something that the band members attributed to bad luck whilst on the search for new management.
But, thankfully, despite the bumps in the road (and, in more recent times, having had to cancel tour dates), the Atlanta Georgia alt-metallers met with some good luck too… They would eventually sign up with the company who represent Alter Bridge and Mark Tremonti, inking a new deal with Rise Records for their twelfth full-length album All I See Is War, as well as landing a highly prestigious Grammy nomination on their prior album Kill The Flaw.
Meeting with the band at the end of 2018, it was clear they were making up for lost time. Shortly after the soundcheck on the second night of their Return To The Kingdom UK run, TG would find guitarists John Connolly and Clint Lowery reminiscing over the previous night’s comeback and eager to take us through the gear they were using to make a lasting impression...
John Connolly's rig
Dean John Connolly Z
“I have my JCZ signature prototype out with me again. I didn’t retire it but I did pull it off the road for a while, as it was a USA custom shop and first of its kind. It doesn’t even have the JCZ markings or any of that stuff. So this is what everything was modelled after… it’s a pretty straight shooter. I love those Explorer/Z shapes but I’ve always preferred the longer, Fender-style 25.5-inch scale length.
“It’s tough to find them made like that, though Jackson make the Kelly, which is a similar shape. Dean said go ahead and put whatever you want on it so naturally I love this guitar. I’ve had it for about eight years or so. It’s been quite lucky, there aren’t any major dings though it’s been heavily used – it’s my studio workhouse that’s been on every Sevendust and Projected record since Black Out The Sun.
“It’s in surprisingly good shape for its age… I’ll probably break it now I’ve said that! I knocked the binding off the back of the neck once, I was in a hotel and didn’t have a guitar stand so tried to balance it… obviously it went right into a table. I have other guitars that have way worse battle scars.”
Dean Custom Shop Thoroughbred
“Dean made me this custom shop Thoroughbred and I’ve had it for about seven months. These are Les Paul-shaped guitar with the 24.75-inch scale length. I’ve come to find that as much as I love the fight of the Fender scale, sometimes it’s cool to have something a bit more tucked-in and underneath you.
“I was missing the feel of Les Pauls, something smaller, tight and compact – and this covered that perfectly. I’m not a big guitar collector. I’ve got a ton of Dean stuff , a handful of Les Pauls and a 1991 Explorer in this ugly yellow colour, though it’s one of the best guitars I own.
“Mark Tremonti is a dear friend of mine and I’ve seen how far down that road he’s gone down… I respect that, but I prefer to stick to a simple few go-to things, out of laziness or comfort or both. Once I open that door, I’ll start spending all my money!”
“This is actually an import model I got, one of the earliest guitars I picked up from Dean. Any time you pick up these guitars, they’re always in tune and they always sound good. My fi rst Z was one of the Lost One Hundreds, then I got a custom shop Soltero and eventually ended up with all sorts of guitars.
“If you use a bunch of tunings, it’s better to have a few instruments… it’s less stressful for our techs. We don’t break strings a lot but it always happens when we’re less prepared! Sometimes if I really love a guitar sound one night, I’ll wave off my tech and just tune on the fly… I wouldn’t go a step and a half, but if it’s close enough, I’d rather just keep it.”
“I’ve been using the EVH Fender stuff since 2008, as soon as we got sent them. I don’t know what it is about that blue channel, but every time I go to it… I get more. I’ve used it on every record since. So the first thing I did when I got my first Kemper was profile all of my EVHs and I also own a Marshall 71 Super Lead… it’s one of the best-sounding amps I’ve heard.
“It’s getting older now, I have to warm it up for half an hour just in case. You say the blessing and hope everything’s good. I spent around 45 minutes refining the profiles, the more you play, the closer the gap gets and by the end I couldn’t tell the difference. Our clean channels are the EVH green channel with a bit of delay and chorus… the way I look at my Kemper is an expanded version of what the EVH can do.
“I stick to five channels varying in gain and delay, though I don’t use the red channel anymore. I did at first before realising the blue sounds better almost because it has less gain… nothing gets in the way of its clarity. I only tend to use chorus on my clean parts on the records.
“Our producer Michael ‘Elvis’ Baskette has a pedal closet that’s like a candy store… you never know what he’ll pull out of there, even if you’ve seen it all. It’s like Frankenstein’s lab. Sometimes we forget what we were hooking everything into! The only effect I’m adamant about having is delay, though I’m not bothered by what kind it is.”
Dunlop Cry Baby Wah
“I’m pretty specific about my wahs. I have a standard Cry Baby, which I’m using now, plus a Fulltone and a Fulltone Deluxe – and I prefer the regular version despite the extra features on the Deluxe – as well as a Dimebag wah. Some of them have too much, I don’t need all the extra voicings, boosts and gain stages.
“What’s more important than all those bells and whistles is a good sound and nice sweep. My Fulltone wahs stopped working for whatever reason, so I figured it would be nice to go back to the classic Cry Baby. I’ve tried the Hendrix ones, Slash models, Vox wahs, Jerry Cantrell’s signature… but I just like this one.”
DigiTech Whammy 20th Anniversary
“This is the silver anniversary model. We also have some of the newer ones with the toggle switch going from left to right… they drove me nuts! The sweep of the pedal is so awkward and weird, it’s almost late… everything happens in the top half of the sweep. We’ve tried them all, this one is modelled on the original, stocky and solid units and has that same sweet spot.
“At one point, I was using Mission controllers for wah and whammy stuff, but I found I didn’t like putting my foot on something and it switching on right away. I decided to stick with the real deal for these kinds of pedals!”
Clint Lowery's rig
PRS SE Clint Lowery
“I have two of these out with me, they’re my main guitars tuned to B. They’re made in flat black with my signature binding and have a 25.5-inch scale length. Instead of the birds that PRS use, I had them make me a custom inlay… which basically represents my initials.
“The body is a slight alteration for PRS, it was actually one of the things they were reluctant on. I think they’re very adamant about the shape of their guitars, I wanted a sharper edge and in the end we met in the middle on it. These are exactly the same as each other, though one is in an open B tuning that we like to use a lot: B, F#, B, E, F#, B. We’ve consolidated our setlist a bit so that we only need three guitars.”
“This P22 is one of my favourite guitars, it’s a really great example of the right pickups and wood. I use the piezo for acoustic sounds through a clean sound on Angel’s Son and it sounds amazing. I’d say PRS go that extra mile with their guitars, these things play themselves… after all these years, I just can’t play anything else.”
“We’re both using the same EVH profiles for a lot of the set. To be honest, I’ve been using this thing on a very one-dimensional level, sticking to just a few settings. But I’m going to start profiling the exact sounds for how these songs were recorded, trying to nail the sounds a bit more by setting up whatever I used on that album.
“I don’t want our engineers to have to deal with new sonics with every song, but I’ll definitely be going a bit more in depth with it. There’s also a PRS Archon profile I really love. I was really reluctant about those amps at first, because PRS are not known for high-gain amps, their stuff tends to be more bluesy sounding. But I went to the factory a few years ago and ended up trying one out and fell in love.
“I was actually thinking about going to Orange at the time, but ended up sticking with this. The mids are incredible! The Kemper effects are good and get close enough considering the efficiency they offer… as well as saving you the tap dance. I had a mad pedalboard back in the day. I love stomp boxes and we use all sorts in the studio.
“I’m a huge fan of the Phase 90 and EVH Flanger because of Eddie Van Halen’s tones on songs like Hear About It Later, which was off Fair Warning. Whenever I want that kind of modulation, that’s what I’m hearing in my head. I love my TC Electronic stuff , old Boss delays, the Big Muff , Micro-Synths and Uni-Vibes plus lesser known gear like the Captain Coconut germanium fuzz by Foxrox.
“At the moment I’m just using the whammy inside the Kemper, there’s a latency there that almost makes it more dirty and grimy. John hates that… But I actually like how it ends up sounding!”