Pro Audio

Chatting experimental setups and layered guitars with DZ Deathrays

DZ Deathrays have been lords of Australian party-punk for closing in on a decade now, and it doesn’t look like they’ll be slowing down any time soon. Their latest single Total Meltdown dropped a few weeks back, heralding in a new album called Bloody Lovely, which is set to invade our earholes February 2018. With multiple ARIA charting (and ARIA-winning) compositions and bulk spots in several Hottest 100 countdowns, DZ Deathrays still find themselves on the up and up.

In true DZ Deathrays fashion, the track is viciously catchy and destined to be played loud. It also feels focused, darker, and more pure: stripped of the electro-tinged lashings that have streaked previous releases. Recorded once again with Burke Reid (Courtney Barnett, The Drones) at The Grove Studios, the track (coupled with a preceding single, Shred For Summer) is a blood-curdling indication of things to come.

We caught up with Shane from DZ Deathrays to break down his elaborate guitar rig, and what we can expect from the new album.DZ pedals

Chatting with Shane from DZ Deathrays about his elaborate guitar rig, the band’s vicious new single, Total Meltdown, and what we can expect from their new album.

HAPPY: Hey Shane. Can you run us through what’s on yours and Lachy’s pedalboards at the moment?

SHANE: Mine runs the rhythm guitar section and bass section. Essentially I split the signal a few times. It’s running though a Morley Tripler, BOSS AB2 foot switch, two BOSS DD-7s, POG2, Micro Pog, Pigtronix Mothership, Digitech Bass Synth Wah, JHS Muffelletta, SansAmp Paradriver, SansAmp Bass Driver VT, EHX Nano Metal Muff and a BOSS TU3.

Lachy has a Palmer FFX Loop switcher, EHX Mel9, Zvex LoFi Junkie, Digitech Bass Synth Wah, Mooer Orange 90, Micro POG, BOSS DD-7 and a Fredric Effects limited edition Future of the Left pedal, which is a fuzz and Muff in one.

HAPPY: Nice. How about guitars and amps?

SHANE: I use an Orange AD30 combo and Orange AD200B bass head through a 4×10 cab. Guitars I have at the moment are a Burns MR2 and a Fender Duo Sonic which I’ve got a Seymour Duncan JB in. Lachy usually runs a Fender Deville and plays a Mustang with a SD Mini-Humbucker in it.

HAPPY: I’m really digging Total Meltdown – there’s just so much fatness in those heavier parts. Can you tell me about some of the gear that shaped that tune?

SHANE: Well this time when we went to the studio I was unable to get an Orange AD200B bass head, so instead I tried out an Ampeg – I think it was one of the silver reissue ones. They sound cool in a room but when we tried recording it with an octave down guitar (like I usually do live and have done on the previous records) it sounded too honky for us. So we actually resorted to using a bass guitar on this.

I couldn’t tell you what the bass we used was but I think it was about $200 and the studio assistant brought it in from home. That plus guitars through a vintage Orange head that Burke Reid owns and it could have been paired on the other side with either the Ampeg or this custom built Brazilian amp. I think they are called Dr Zen. A friend of mine from Brazil lent it to me and it’s supposed to be a copy of a JTM45 and Bassman crossover.

HAPPY: It’s a little more stripped-back in terms of effects than we’re used to hearing from DZ Deathrays. Is this something we’ll notice when the new ​album drops next year?

SHANE: Kind of, to a degree. I tried to really work on locking in melodies that move throughout a phrase this time rather than covering it with a lot of effects. In saying that there are some moments throughout the album where we used the Mel9 to pull synth/string sounds. And using an E-Bow also really took it away from a classic guitar tone. I’ve really had fun writing two guitar parts since incorporating another guitarist live. It makes me write in a different way.

HAPPY: Did your setup change much ​when Lachy joined the band?

SHANE: Not too much, I’ve just added in the SansAmp as a ‘small’ sounding amp as there are a lot of moments in the new album where it cuts back to that sound and I need to be able to get there quickly. The addition of Lachy is purely because I wrote extra guitar melodies to lift choruses or make sections of songs more playful. These days he plays along to everything which really makes the riffs a lot heavier live!

HAPPY: What influenced this decision after so many years as a two-piece?​

SHANE: I wrote some extra parts on Black Rat where there were two guitars and I was going to be unable to play them live. Burke said to me that I had a choice, backing tracks or another person playing. The choice was pretty easy for me; I would always rather another human on stage performing than restricting ourselves to backing tracks. They’re too sterile for our band.

HAPPY: What was the first pedal you bought – is there a story behind it?

SHANE: Haha, a DS-1 from a pawn shop in Bundaberg where I grew up. No real story except that there’s not a lot of guitar shops up there, so you take what you can get when you see it. So that’s where I started. This was also pre-internet shopping!

HAPPY: What do you have in your rig that you feel really shapes your sound?

SHANE: In all honestly, my live rig is all about dynamic. So the AB-2 and Morely Tripler are integral. I’m considering getting a custom pedal made that will replace both those pedals in one. Essentially I have the ability to go from a small DI sound which I mimic off a Fender Champ, to the AD30, add the bass, then from there you can always add the Micro POG and it steps up again.

HAPPY: In your early days writing, was there ever​ any intention to add a bassist to the mix, or did you always feel you could cover it yourself?

SHANE: Not really, we had a band where Simon played guitar and we had the exact set up we run now live. Our drummer back then left the band which forced Simon onto drums and I just kept working with the bass/guitar switching combination. I find it fun to treat my guitar as the bass line, but I have the ability to drop that out when I need.

HAPPY: How exactly do you fill in that bottom-end?

SHANE: Well in a live situation there’s a POG2, which octaves down the guitar, then I run through a SansAmp VT [to] EQ the gross plucky sounds out and push the low end. This is a clean signal that goes to the desk. Then I run to the EHX Metal Muff Nano then to another DI, usually I use a Radial then to the amp which has a mic on it. As many signals as possible for the sound person to work with.

HAPPY: Wow, so much going on. How do you approach signal-chain/routing?

SHANE: On my board I run through the tuner which is also used as a kill switch, then to the AB-2 which splits to a DD-7 and SanAamp Paradriver as my kind of ‘thin clean’ amp. The other out of the AB-2 goes to the Morley Tripler which then splits again to the guitar line ending in the AD30, and the bass line ending in the AD200B, with the routing I described above. This is a simple way to let me go from really small to really big with just stepping on one pedal. Or alternatively, only running bass or only running guitar or both at the same time.

HAPPY: What are some brands or pedal builders that you really vibe on?

SHANE: EHX are always pushing the boundaries I think. Earthquaker Devices, Fulltone are both great for studio and in terms of powering up a board and switching, if you can afford it, The GigRig are amazing at what they do. There’s an ocean of guitar pedals out there now but I like nerding out every so often and finding the new products coming out, even if i have to sit through some pretty painful Youtube videos.

HAPPY: What’s your favourite cheap piece of gear that you feel you get the most out of?

SHANE: I think that Digitech Bass Synth Wah originally cost me about $60 and I have used it so much over the years for a nasty tone. Through a clean amp they suck, but if its through something like the AD30 gained up they become something similar to mid-2000’s electronica/house sounds, which I love. I tend not to use it too much now as i didn’t want to overdo it, but it’s alway nice to switch it on every so often.

HAPPY: Do your pedals influence what amp or guitars you use, or vice versa?

SHANE: Not really. I think I got into Orange a long time ago due to their ability to handle pedals like synth pedals, so well. There’s definitely certain combinations that work well. I used to be more a pickup person and really loved P90s but now have moved to humbuckers. They’re a bit quieter and the one on my Burns MR2 sounds pretty fat. I’m currently looking for something like that for my Duo Sonic – maybe a wide range HB?

HAPPY: And finally, do you have any pedal heroes or other artists​ who you feel really nail a sound through their rig?

SHANE: Over the years this always changes, but someone who has always been there as a great experimental guitarist with riffs to boot is Tom Morello. I forgot how much I loved his guitar style until I saw him performing with Bruce Springsteen a few years back and I got all teary over how good he was. It brought back a lot of teenage feelings.

There’s so many great guitarists out there to keep an eye on that are coming up. Alan Duggen from Irish band Girl Band is an amazing experimental guitarist, I also love the guitar work on Dilly Dally’s record Sore. I think where guitar music is going it’s important to try to fuck up the classic tones but also keep them sounding true to what they are as they’re loved for a reason. It’s finding the nice moments to bring in something wild to make people turn their heads in an increasingly digital-orientated music world.

Check out DZ Deathrays on Spotify.