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Studio Series - Kurt Ballou (GodCity Studio, Converge)

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Studio Series - Kurt Ballou (GodCity Studio, Converge)

Aaron Rogers

Kurt Ballou's GodCity Studio is the central hub for crushing, oppressively awesome sounding heavy metal records by the likes of High On Fire, Helms Alee, Skeletonwitch, the Dillinger Escape Plan, and Torche. As if that weren't impressive enough, Ballou is also the guitarist in hardcore trailblazers Converge. And he has the greatest business card of all time. And the hits just keep comin' - Ballou recently launched a new drum sample library. We were surprised to learn that for all this heaviness, he leaned most heavily on reverbs and delays from the Dispatch Master and Afterneath! We spoke with Kurt via email, and his complete responses are posted below.

Do you use EQD pedals during tracking, mixing, or both? If both, roughly what ratio?

Just during tracking. I don't typically use pedals at the mix stage. But I'm also usually doing all of the "creative" stuff on the front end. Mixing for me is usually more technical than creative. I should mess around with pedals more during mixing, though. It's been a while.

What are your favorite EQD drive/fuzz pedal combos when tracking guitars? Which dirt pedals do you feel pair well with particular guitar/amp combos or certain styles of music?

The only EQD drive pedal I own right now is the Tone Reaper. I dig that with single coil pickups into amps that are relatively clean. Some fuzzes seem to need headroom from the amp for their character to shine, while others benefit from some amp saturation. I recently tracked a band who owned Acapulco Gold and Park Fuzz, both of which really came to life into the high gain amps or stacked with other fuzzes and/or distortions.

Photo: Aaron Jones

Photo: Aaron Jones

What other electric/electronic instruments or sources do you use EQD pedals with, and what are your favorite applications?

So far just guitar, but I've been looking for an excuse to try the Rainbow Machine, Bit Commander, and Arpanoid on drums and saxophone.

What has been your favorite standard "bread and butter" sound you've gotten from an EQD pedal? Are there any that have retired or semi-retired old favorites for the same application?

Dispatch Master has become my go-to pedal for guitar ambience. It works 90% of the time and when it doesn't, then there's the Afterneath. The Afterneath has been seeing a lot of action around GodCity lately. I love the crashy, splashy sound it has, particularly when working on music with a grand, cinematic feel.

What has been your favorite crazy sound you've gotten from EQD pedal? Are there any that have made their way into well-known releases that you can share links to?

I'm still fairly new to EQD, but there's some great sounds from Russian Circles, Helms Alee, Code Orange, Pygmy Lush coming soon!  

Photo: Aaron Jones

Photo: Aaron Jones

Which 2 EQD pedals do you use the most overall, and what would you typically use them on?

Dispatch Master and Afterneath for guitar ambience.

What do you think is the most overlooked or underrated EQD pedal, and what do you like to use it on?

Lately I've really been digging the Bit Commander on DI guitar. Plug it straight into a tube mic pre, smash it, then roll off some of the high end. Instant NIN sound!

How do EQD pedals facilitate getting finished sound earlier in the recording process?

I always try to get things right on the way in. A lot of times musicians get impatient and want to get tracking right away suggesting that I can "fix it in the mix."  But I always encourage them to get things right on the way in. Not just because that's the right thing to do, but because all future decisions in the recording process are based on what we hear coming out of the speakers. If the track we're working on doesn't sound right, then how do we know what the next part should sound like? EQD helps get things sounding awesome the first time. When that happens, mixing is easy.

Photo: Aaron Jones

Photo: Aaron Jones

Just for fun, here's a video of Kurt Ballou playing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" through the Rainbow Machine and a Korg Miku Stomp.