The amps, the guitars, even the picks mean something.
"I grew up in a small town in North Mississippi, so there wasn't really a whole lot to do. I could wander around in the woods, but I always wanted to do what no one else in town was doing and I think music gave me an outlet for that. So I started with guitar, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me as far as my musical journey goes. It led to a lot of places and a lot of new experiences," began Brad Boatright as he recounted for me the beginning of his musical career.
Most people will know Brad from either his time spent in From Ashes Rise, or from his most recent role as engineer and founder of Audiosiege. A lot can be said about both endeavors, but it is almost inescapable to recognize the attentiveness to musicality that is present on both ends of the spectrum, whether that be through writing and performing or mixing and mastering. Brad recalls the memory of his first guitar, which he received on his 15th birthday, a no-name Chinese or Korean guitar, which lacked a bridge pickup. "It could never stay in tune… I played that through a little carpeted no-name practice amp. I couldn't even tell what chords I was playing. It was just distortion… everything just sounded blown out and weird and I remember thinking, 'this isn't how this is supposed to sound.'" It wasn't long, however, until Brad traded up for a better guitar. From there, he went through a series of improvements until he found solace in a 70s Ibanez Artists Series. "I believe in trying everything until you find the right instrument…find the thing that fits you." Having previously seen the guitar in an advertisement within a guitar magazine, Brad was already familiar with the series when he walked into a Murfreesboro, TN pawnshop and saw one for sale on the wall. Haggling the price down from $200 to $190, Brad walked out with a guitar that he keeps with him to this day. Brad's approach to gear, like many players, is extremely sentimental, "I keep gear that has a story. I keep gear that is important to me; that I'm passionate about. If it has a story, I'm never getting rid of it. If I get something cheap, I'm keeping it. If I luck into something, I'm keeping it. If something is with me through rough times I'm keeping it. I love that gear can tell a story."
Considering himself late in the tube amp game, Brad purchased his first tube amp only shortly after From Ashes Rise's formation. His first tube amp, a Lee Jackson Amp from St. Louis Music, he purchased for $200 in 1997. Here is where Brad's story may stray from the average player. The next amp he remembers purchasing that had a long term effect on his overall career was the Ampeg V4, and while he still own the V4 and used it throughout From Ashes Rise, in recent years (and this is where I will argue it differs) he has decided to turn away from it, "I kind of retired it, I love the V4, it's the amp that I am really close to and I'll never get rid of it. When From Ashes started playing again, I wasn't really happy with the high coming out of the V4, but I love the low end that comes out." Turning away from what most people consider one of the Holy Grail of Rock amps, Brad had his hand in experimenting with a few different heads, including the Mesa Mark iii (which he found, to his dismay, too similar to the Marshall sound). He eventually discovered his match with the Mesa DC 10. Of many things, he notes the gain structure and the ability to play without the use of a distortion pedal to be two of the major factors in choosing the amp. In addition, he is now the owner of two DC 10s, which have consecutive serial numbers, appealing to his love of equipment that can tell a story. There exists a certain form of almost superstition, or sentimentality in musicians, and this can be seen through Brad's love of storyteller amps, for him gear can stand for more than just the tangible realities, they contain pieces of our lives. We can use amps to better understand ourselves, better remember our past.One interesting fact that arose during our interview was Brad's choice in picks. Often this is a factor that is completely overlooked by most musicians. Clearly, musicians tend to prefer a thickness to another, but to be completely honest when choosing picks, I even generally forget the size and remember it solely by color. I also come from a world where if you give me a pick I will play with it. Hearing Brad's insight about picks was fascinating. Brad has been strictly using metal picks for 16 years now, and remembers initially coming around to them because of their ability to generate resonating pick slides, "I was playing Tortex picks and they were so rounded on the edges that when I did a pick slide it would kind of just drop out. Then someone gave me an aluminum, or steel, pick and when I played it I felt like I was getting so much aggression out of my guitar. And then I did a pick slide, and it sound like a laser beam, BAM [laughs], and that was it. I've been playing metal picks ever since."
In recent years, Brad has begun to utilize Lace Pickups in all his guitars. Favoring their Drop and Gains pickup, produced specifically for drop-tuned guitars playing punk and metal. Lace has become a favorite amongst many punk and metal guitarists in recent years; rising from a small and relatively unknown company to one of the most respected sources for alternative pickups out there.
From this point, I turned the subject towards Brad's role as engineer. Starting Audiosiege in 2009, Brad has successfully transformed the project from a side gig to generate extra income and practice his passion to a full time position. He has had the opportunity to master records from Sleep, High on Fire, and SUNN 0)) amongst many others. In regards to gear, Brad stresses the importance of monitors and most essentially his room. "I master on a pair of JBL LSR6332s, and I know them so well. You gotta trust your monitors and you gotta trust what you're hearing…you can give me different processing chains, and the same monitors and room and you're going to get similar results. If you give me the same processing chain on different monitors in a different room, you're probably going to get something that is a little bit different." Whether he's playing live or transforming your rough demo into something bigger and better than ever (and trust me I know from experience) Brad is out there consistently proving himself to be an expert in the world of audio.
Joseph Yannick likes the green picks because they purrrty. Follow him on Twitter - @JoeYanick