Duo Tones, Guitar Player, February '98

Blasting your guitar to a sea of 60,000 people has got to be a thrill, even for hardened arena vets like the Stones' Keith Richards and U2's The Edge. But for their opening acts, it must be downright bizarre. Just a year ago, Third Eye Blind was one of a thousand guitar bands slugging it out in San Francisco bars such as Kilowatt and Bottom of the Hill. Now, after scoring a #1 hit in "Semi-Charmed Life"-an uptempo blend of punky acoustic zing and funk groovesmanship-they find themselves supporting the Rolling Stones and U2 in concert, selling out their own gigs, wartching their eponymous Elektra debut approach platinum, and even getting their personal lives plundered in the pages of USA Today.
But, for guitarist Kevin Cadogan and singer/guitarist Stephan Jenkins, the moments of epiphany began well before the chart success and the arena tours. WHile crafting their album's thick, multi-layered guitar tones, the band-which also features bassist Arion Salazar and drummer Brad Hargreaves-took their Voxes and Marshalls up to Skywalker Rancg, film producer George Lucas' Marin County production facility, and recorded the gigantic ambient guitars of "God of WIne" in the facility's massive scoring theater.
"I looked out into this enormous space and though, 'My God, this is amazing,'" says Cadogan, a Bay Area native who took lessons for several years from Joe Satriani. "There have been lots of moments of triumph, where I've felt I reached my own personal goals before we even sold a record. I figured I'd just be happy knowing that I finally got to make a real record. So we worked very hard on it because we wanted to really add something to what's going on in music right now, and not just throw something out that sounds like the same old stuff." With their blend of artfully textured, heavy guitars, post-punk energy, and bittersweet, eagle-eye lyrics, Third Eye Blind is laying claim to rock and roll turf they can call their own.


It sounds like you spent a lot of time crafting the album's tones.

Jenkins: The album was a journey in guitars. We lined up a whole bunch of different amp and cuitar combinations, and for each of the parts of the songs, we would just waltz through the various options. Through this process I really got to know the nuances of the different guitars and amps.
Cadogan: The recording I'd done in the past was always on a tight budget, where you didn't have time to do the things you wanted, and you knew that you weren't quite getting the right tones. Making this record, I was able to sit down and listen to 20 or 30 amps and guitars to find the right combinations, and get tones that we were completely satisfield with. It was a lot of fun and it was great to spend that kind of time.
What amps were mainstays of the sessions?
Cadogan: We had two Marshalls: one JCM-800 and an old '69 Plexi. We had two Vox AC30s, a Fender Hoy Rod DeVille with four 10" speakers, and a little Magnatone with one 12" speaker, which had the most amazing tremolo. The Magnatone produces a sort of pitch bend, and when you combine it with an AC30 you get a very spread-out sound. We alwats gad about four amps running at the same time, so every sound is a blend of the different amps. "London" is a combination of the Marshalls and DeVilles. We also had a '59 Bassman-that's the most ironic name for that amp, because it had no bass at all. It was all nice, crystalline highs. We used that for a lot of the clean sounds. We used a Peavey 5150 a little bit to add smooth saturation to "Losing A Whole Year."
Jenkins: For cabs, in the studio, we've been using 4x12 Marshalls with 25-watt Greenbacks, but live we've switched to Mesa Heartbreaker 100-watt heads through Mesa cabs with 30-watt Celestions.
Your dark, rich guitar sound of the album is not the bright tone I normally associate with 25-watt speakers.
Well, the good thing about the Greenbacks is you can really make the paper just fly-pop! Actually, I think the 25s are very warm-sounding cans. I have a 2x10 Mesa Heartbreaker combo for gigs, but we don't record much with combos. It's really about the sound of a 4x12 cabinet. If you put an AC30 combo through a 4x12, then you get the bottom end out of the amp.
A lot of people argue thar the secret to "big amp" tone in the studio is actually using small amps cranked up all the way.
You could do that, but you can't get the lower frequencies out of a small cabinet that you can from a 4x12. On "Semi-Charmed Life," you're hearing a Matchless 30 through a Mesa 4x12, which is where it gets that extra bottom end. Also, there are several different guitar treacks layered on that song. There's an Epiphone Casino going through a Heartbreaker head. There's a 12-string Hamer electic and a '59 Gibson J-200 supplied to us by a guy named Artie Smith. There's a Gretsch Country Gentleman on there too that Kevin's playing through a combination of Vox and Plexi Marshall.
Cadogan: It's a Gretsch Country Gentleman with a mute bar. That's how we got that muted string sound on the verses that sounds like there's tape on the strings.
In general, how many tracks were guitars taking up?
Cadogan: A lot, because we had twelve channels running into the board-either twelve separate amps or a couple of pairs running in stero-we would submix that down to about four tracks. Then I would start overdubbing. On "The Background" there are probably about 16 guitar tracks. our co-producar and engineer Eric Valentine is great at getting tones. For "The Background" he placed a giant Leslie cabinet in the center of the room, along with the Magnatone an AC30, and one of my Marshalls. I was sitting in the center of the room, and the sound was so huge and so beautiful. Unbelievable. You'd hit an open D cord and it was like, "That's great-we're done."
What are your favorite guitars?
Cadogan: Up until I was about 19, I had a Fender Mustang that I used on every demo. For the Third Eye Blind record I started using Music Man Sabres. They were pretty cheap and they were the first guitars with active pickups that I thought sounded pretty good. But they have enormous gain, so I ended up getting more and more Sabres just so I didn't have to deal with level problems from switching to guitars with less fain. I was using petals to boost my other guitars and turning down the volume pot on the Sabres which would compromise the tone. For the most part, the album is a Sabre combined with a Gibson RD, another active-pickup guitar. The tone of the RD is really shrill when you have the pickups on active. When you have them off, it has a nice bright tone, and it worked very well with the Sabres, which are very fat and bass-heavy. I read an interview recently with Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, and he likes Gibson RDs as well, but he calls them "muddy and cruddy." We couldn't see it more differently. Maybe we have different necks. I have a maple neck on mine, which may make it a little brighter.
Live, I'm using the PRMS McCartys, but I'm also getting a PRS Standard. The McCarty has a fat Les Paul-style neck. I like it, but for somethings, especially for leads, I find it easier to negotiate around a thinner neck. But I like the wider body of a McCarty; it feels more natural to me. It's more like the guitars I'm used to playing. I never liked Parker Flys and other modern guitars. I lean more toward traditional design. I'm also using a couple Hamer guitars, including the Duo-Tone which is closest acoustic/electric from the same output.[Normally, the Duo-Tone has two separate outputs for the double-coils and the bridge loaded piezos.] I love combining the piezo and electric sounds. I love sounding bigger than I am. It's funny-I'm not a short guy. I'm six feet tall. I just want my guitar sound to be big.
Jenkins: I'm also using the PRS McCarty always thought PRS were these esoteric pro guitars, something you didn't really need to play. I always had been a Les Paul player. For me it's always been about the big fat Gibson sound-a big chunk of wood. I like the ES series, the hollowbodies, and the Les Pauls. Live I'll still use an Epiphone Casino and Les Paul Jrs. with P-90s. But the main guitar now is the McCarty. The wood on it is so amazing, and the bottom end is really fat. I'm also using a new semi-hollow body Washburn, a Hamer 12-string electic, and a Hamer Duo-Tone on "Motorcycle Drive By."
My sound and my approach to guitar is very percussive, whereas Kevin's thing is really an orchestral sound. I started as a drummer, so I play guitar like a drummer. My right hand is about playing drums. My left hand is really sort of a stump. But people always say, "You're so tight. You're such a good guitar player." I have them fooled. It's just that I lock with the drums because that's what I listen to. Even on songs like "Motorcycle Drive By," where I'm doing this elaborate picking part, it's really the guitar as hi-hat. For me guitar is a rythmic event. I'm the gravy, the thickener. Riffs that I write such as "Semi-Charmed Life" are really syncopated. The advice I would give to young rhythm guitar players is to listen to the drums and lock with them. Make sure your bottom string is with the kick, and that when you come up to the top strings, you're with the snare, and learn to wait for that snare to come down. As soon as you realize that snare is coming down, that's when you're going to have a groove. If you're shooting for a rushed feeling, listen to the hi-hat--you're eighth-notes should really lock with the hi-hat. That's the really simple secret to it.
Kevin, you use alternate tunings well, yet you don't necessarily telegraph that you're using them.
Cadogan: Open tunings aren't a way of life for me. I don't sit around searching for alternate tunings. But sometimes I'll find a chord I want to play in standard tuning, and then find an easier way to play it so I can play around with a melody on top. It isn't just a matter of tuning the guitar so all I have to do is a one-finger barre. For instance, "Losing A Whole Year" is F#, A, C#, F#, G#, E, so it doesn't sound that great when you strum it openly, but you can create some pretty cool fingerings and melodies. I'm able to really play around with my first and index finger to get a funky feel that you wouldn't be able to get with a standard tuning.
You use wah a lot for lead breaks and signature licks. Do you have a favorite brand?
Cadogan: Right now I'm using a Morley switchless wah. It's goes on as soon as you put your foot on it, regardless of what position you've got it in. I hated having to push downon other wah pedals to turn them on-it goes on in the extreme open position, just screaming high end. With the Morley I can control it better, the sweep is not as drastic, and there's more of a boost. Actually, on the session for "Good For You" I used a Dunlop Crybaby wah to get a wide filter sweep, but for live it seemed to strip some of the gain away and make things too nasally. The Morley is more subtle. Dunlip's been really cool to me, though. I use the Uni-Vibe-type setting on a Rotovibe that has little pressure pads on the pedal itself, one of the heel and one on the toe, so when you step on it, it'll turn on at any position you want. Again, I hated having to push down all the way forward so that it went on in the most extreme position. The drawback is that when you take your foot off it, you're out of Rotovibe mode, so you're kind of planted there. But for what I do with it-swirly atmospheric stuff-it's not something I'd want throughout the whole song anyway.
What else is on your effects board?
It's pretty simple, especially compared to The Edge! I use some Boss pedals-the RV-3 reverb and the Heavy Metal Pedal. We used the RV-3 on a lot of the record; it created a real cool effect with the ambient slide stuff on "The Background." I've really streamlined things, though, with the help of our guitar tech, Tony DeLeonardo, who's the da Vinci of guitar techs. I have the Boss GX-700 rack effects unit. Boss doesn't advertise having seamless patch switching, but there's no gap when you switch patches. In most rack units, when you're going from one effect to another, there's always a little dropout. That drives me nuts.
My philosophy on effects is that if you spend a lot of time working on effects, that's exactly what you'll be doing with all your time. I want through a period where I was heavy into effects, and my musical ideas were suffering because I was spending so much time finding the right patch. You have these multi-effect units now that have 300 patches; you could spend your whole day A/B'ing between patch 102 and 105. It's good to learn your way around those things, but at some point you've got to turn the thing off and work on coming up with a good melody and cool-sounding chords with good voicings. Then later, throw some simple effects on it, or just really tweak your amp right. That's where I'm leaning now. I feel like I was going overboard, pulling my hair out because I had too many choices. That's why I switched to the RV-3 pedal reverb, because I only had a set amount of choices. I didn't want all those programming choices of a more "sophisticated" unit. Just give me something that sounds good and I'll work with that. In the end, you need to decide how much you want to be an engineer and how much you want to be a musician.

(c) Guitar Player, February '98