Interview with Greg Kubacki, Car Bomb
Listen up Metal Fans!
Ahead of a string of UK dates in March, we chatted to Greg Kubacki from New York’s Car Bomb about all things gear and guitar.
If you’re into your metal and have a slightly more than geeky love for equipment, then you’re going to love his approach. If you haven’t heard of Car Bomb before, then take a look through one of their latest tracks ‘Secrets Within’:
- 11 Mar – O2 Academy, Birmingham
- 12 Mar – O2 Forum Kentish Town, London
- 14 Mar – Manchester Academy, Manchester
- 16 Mar – O2 Academy, Leeds
- 18 Mar – O2 Academy, Bristol
Thanks for joining us! For those who don’t know, who are Car Bomb and what are you all about?
We are a four-piece band from New York that like to play polyrhythmic an odd metered heavy music in the vein of Meshuggah and the Dillinger Escape Plan. We also like to throw hints of our other influences into our music from shoegaze and space rock to EDM and jazz.
You’ve been going for about 16 years right? How has the band changed since then?
It hasn’t really changed much since we’ve had the same members pretty much the whole time. But I can tell you that we definitely don’t sweat the small stuff as much as we used to. We are all way more forgiving with each other are open to bringing other people into our tribe to help us out. As a result we are doing more of the stuff we love to do: creating, writing, recording and playing shows.
Am I right in thinking you guys build your own microphones? That’s pretty impressive!
Haha….you’re close! Elliot built his own microphone preamps and compressors in the past when we used to record stuff on our own. He’s made a few Neve 1073, Universal Audio 1176, and Pultec EQ clones that sound pretty dope. He was also involved in adding a mixing/mastering room to Gojira’s Silvercord Studios in Brooklyn. He spent three months with contractors and builders constructing the soundproofed room and it came out amazing. We’re all computer programmers and gear nerds so we’re very hands-on with anything that has knobs or switches on it.
When it comes to the guitar side of things, who are your influences?
James Hetfield’s rhythm playing was definitely my gateway drug into guitar. As soon as I heard the first riff of “Battery” I knew I wanted to play in a band. Besides him, I like guitarists who are songwriters but also try to create unique sounds with their instruments: Kevin Shields, Jonny Greenwood, Ken Andrews, Jimi Hendrix, Stephen Carpenter, Dimebag, and Tom Morello. Even Kurt Cobain’s playing was insane: he wrote these pop songs and then threw feedback in random places…awesome! (Listen to “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” and you’ll see what I’m talking about.) Electronic musicians like Aphex Twin and Autechre also heavily influence my writing and playing, which is probably why I use so many effects.
Talk us through your live guitar rig – what gear do you use, and how does it differ from the studio?
In the studio I use just about anything, but mostly I stick with Mesa Boogies with an Ibanez Tube Scream in the front through a Mesa Rectifier cab with Celestion V30 speakers. Live I’m currently using a Fractal Axe FX II XL with a Matrix Amplification GT 1000 power amp. I send the direct output from the AxeFX to front of house, but also run the Rectifier cabs on stage behind me. Sometimes I’ll add an ISP Technologies Vector SL powered sub to add low-end. I learned this trick from Deftones‘ Stephen Carpenter and it really gives palm mutes a ton of extra weight and throw, which gets my gut more into the performance. As far as effects I always have a Boss PS3 as my first pedal going into a few Lexicon effects processors. I also use the effects in the AxeFX.
What does your current guitar line-up look like, and do you have any favourites?
I’ve actually been getting rid of a bunch of guitars because about a year ago I purchased a rare baritone Gibson Explorer that I’m absolutely in love with. It’s a pretty simple guitar: 6 string, stock pickups and nothing else fancy but for some strange reason it just sounds perfect. We tune down to dropped Ab so the 28-inch scale neck makes the low notes sound huge, especially when you bend them. The whole guitar vibrates and sustains…it just sounds and feels right.
I also have a Fender baritone Telecaster and an old ’65 Baritone Jazzmaster that’s completely beat to shit. I really like both of these guitars for recording clean tone stuff. For acoustics I’ll play whatever is laying around in the studio.
Are there any guitars / equipment you’d love to own, but haven’t yet had the chance to?
More Gibson baritone explores…haha. Gibson only made like 200 of them and I actually contacted them to see if they could build another one in their custom shop. For some reason they said they’re not physically capable of doing it, which is bizarre (they were really nice and cool about it though and will let me know if that changes). Besides that a buddy of mine is really into modular synths, so my biggest fear is I’ll probably start wasting money on those things in the near future.
You’re going on tour with Gojira next month, are you looking forward to hitting the UK?
Absolutely. We were there when we toured with Meshuggah two years ago and had our best gig ever by far at the Roundhouse. Unfortunately then I didn’t get to see too much of London or any other part of the UK, but this time around we’ll be there for a full week. I’m making it a priority to experience way more of it this time around, and I’m sure the shows will be killer as well!
What would your advice be for someone looking to learn playing Metal? Anything they should focus on?
Do a warmup regiment to a metronome for 15 minutes everyday. Misha Mansoor from Periphery has a great tutorial on YouTube about warming up and it has completely changed my playing for the better. I just started doing this for the past two months and I’m amazed at how much easier it is to play guitar lately. My hands are way more relaxed but at the same time more focused and accurate. I wish I’d been doing this warmup for the past 20 years or so, but you can bet from now on I’ll never skip a day.