Hey folks! You have stumbled into the EarthQuaker Devices Roadie’s Corner. This is a place where anything can happen, but you will always learn something “useful”. This blog will be unpredictable, dangerous at times, and possibly annoying… Just like touring. We thought it would be fun for people to get a glimpse inside a world that they might not get a chance to experience. I don’t know what lies ahead, but I will always keep it real. Feel free to send your rants, raves, insults, and half-baked ideas to: email@example.com
Kicking off this thang, is an interview with Jonathan Nuñez of TORCHE. They have a new album out NOW called “Admission”, on Relapse Records. It’s a great spin, features EQD pedals big time, and you should check it out -as if you haven’t already! We had planned to do this in person, but shit-happens. The band was on their second day of tour. Understandably, the first few days/first week of any tour is usually a bit chaotic. It didn’t work out, but Jon was kind enough to later answer these questions via email. I rolled up to the club downtown Jacksonville and caught their live set, which I hadn’t seen in quite some time. They played several tunes from Admission before entering the back-catalog we all know and love. These new songs are great LIVE, and I strongly suggest you check their tour dates and catch them when you can. Big thanks to Jon, Torche, and Jamie Farkas of Oblique Artist Management for helping to make this happen.
Uri G: It has been 4 years without a new album from you guys, and then you blast us with this extremely explosive, yet melodic as fuck, and very much classic sounding Torche record. Was the hiatus due to life shit, did you guys intend to take a break, or did It take you 4 years to write this fucking record or what?
Jon Nuñez: The 4 years between Restarter and Admission was made up of a bunch of changes both band related, and in our personal lives. The first gap widener was the extensive touring in support of Restarter, there was some serious road time for this one. After the album release, we toured a bunch US, UK, Europe, extensive Canadian dates, and did our first Eastern European tour. We toured with so many different bands as well including Boris, Melt Banana, Gojira, Red Fang, Nothing, Hum, Failure, and a bunch of other bands. During the touring cycle I moved my studio to Gainesville, Florida for a year and a half, then to LA for about two and a half years. Steve later moved from SF to LA as well. Once I had set up my recording studio in LA, I also started Nuñez Amps with my good friend Gary Phillips. Meanwhile in Miami, Rick and his brother David opened their print shop Print Smith 305 which have done a bunch of killer work, including Torche merch for some time now. Everyone was becoming very busy establishing things outside of the band. Although we started writing Admission throughout the Restarter touring cycles while rehearsing, we really didn't feel a need to rush. The biggest push in wanting to continue writing the record was when the line-up changed and I started playing guitar, and Eric Hernandez took over bass duties. At this point there was an energy and excitement when we played live, which was something we really wanted to capture on the next record. This really solidified us wanting to complete the record. Creating a record that was a true representation of our current sound, dynamics, personalities, and that live energy which represented the band today suddenly became all we wanted to do. In the end, the record was written everywhere we could and had the chance to get together - Gainesville, LA, Miami, and even put a song together in Grand Junction Colorado before a tour.
UG: The overall song writing of the album reminds me of older Torche stuff, like the first record. Dare I say it kinda reminds me more of Floor than any other Torche record. Was this intentional or just the natural progression of the band?
JN: I think the songs on this record are as Torche as anything else, while bringing a bunch of new things to our sound. We've definitely created a signature sound that's tied to Steve's other band Floor, but quickly carved out our own sonic identity with our first record and really took on our path with In Return on, while continuing to build and expand both song-writing wise and with our musicianship since then. Admission contains an array of things we've been known for while being the most progressive effort yet, and we've been having a blast playing these new songs live that have really expanded the Torche sound. We as music fanatics listen to so many different types of music, and that along with being from such a unique place really comes through on all our records.
UG: What was the catalyst for you switching from bass to guitar in this band a couple years ago? How did, you switching from playing bass guitar to treble guitar, come into play with the songwriting of “Admission”?
JN: Switching from bass to guitar wasn't too big a deal, since I've played guitar on just about every record whether it was a lick, some texture, noise, and even the solo for Minions. To me the hardest part was getting a sound that I liked and felt comfortable with, along with the right instrument after having my bass and rig dialed in for years. Luckily Sacha Dunable had me swing by his shop in LA one day, and I was frustrated with one of the guitars I had been using. He kindly said try this and handed me one of his Cyclops models and I fell in love. It felt right, and immediately made any awkwardness a thing of the past. Once I put a Bill Lawrence L500L in there I couldn't wait to write and record. The actual ‘finding my sound’ part of the change was a fucking journey, and ultimately lead to what became Nuñez Amps. It was challenging, but I'm hardheaded when it comes to really wanting to achieve something, and don't settle or compromise much haha. All the gear from the heads to the cabs, and our pedals are the sound of Admission, which is just one sonic aspect of what they can do, and I couldn't be happier. We also didn't feel a need to double all the rhythm guitar tracks like we've always done...it's at least 90 percent one guitar on the left and right panned a bit.
UG: I know you used an Arpanoid on the solo for “Slide”. It sounds super huge. Can you share your settings for all the geeks at home please? It’s ok if you want to hurt their feelings and say no.
JN: Hell yeah, I used the Arpanoid!! I definitely use it in the most primitive and simple way, but it just nails exactly what other pedals I've wanted to use don’t do. To me it has a nice glaze with a tight slap back that octave pedals have sometimes, which is great for providing space in a mix. What I go for with it is some synth like lows to make solos sound fuller while also getting some shimmer in there, in a more natural way than a Whammy or POG sound, while getting some Mu-Tron type things going on. It gives me this futuristic electric driven organ sound! The title track was also built off a lead where the Arpanoid provided a synth like octave and space other pedals couldn't nail, it also lent a depth as well as the synth like quality to the last song on the record which is vital to the feeling I was searching for.
UG: How did any other EarthQuaker Devices pedals play a part in the writing and recording process for Admission?
JN: On the record I used a variety of pedals Jamie (Stillman) was kind enough to send to use on the record. Honestly, they really provided the tone and mood I was seeking when writing those songs. Each pedal really served in creating certain spaces, atmosphere, and warped dreamy sounds with their individual tones. The pedals that I used were: Avalanche Run, Disaster Transport SR, Space Spiral, and Afterneath. I feel there's more of a presence of specifically selected pedals and gear on this record that really connect with the music. I think it's safe to say that for my touring setup, the Arpanoid is staying on my board, and the Avalanche Run gives me what would usually take 2 or 3 pedals to do - so it really reduces the number of pedals on my board, which I like.
UG: The recording and production is really fucking great. I’m sure everyone can find this info in the liner notes of the album, but where did you record? Who engineered it? I know you guys usually have a lot of control over the production aspect of your recordings. Did you mix it?
JN: Ah, Thank you so much!! I recorded it as usual and also mixed it this time around. I had a very specific vision for the record, and it started to translate very quickly in the demoing phases. The guys all felt we should really stick to how we as a band had been sounding for some time, and not lose the movement and breathing our demos had - along with being heavy and retaining air. Due to scheduling and my studio not being ready yet, (having only moved back to Miami a couple months before we started tracking) options where tight. We had one spot to record, realistically. Once we began recording, it became clear the room we tracked in had some challenges acoustically for the drums, which made me work extra hard to preserve and create what was needed for the sound I had in my head. I ended up smoothing out the cymbals a bunch, which luckily in the end came out nice and have a silky shimmer (it was a lot of work!). I got some additional sustain from the shells by re-amping them through one of our pedals, the Tetra-Fet into a small combo and micing it with a ribbon mic. I felt these two specific things really helped tie the drums in with the guitars and bass. The guitars were very easy to capture, and the bass was actually re-amped in my then new control room and it turned out great. The vocals were tracked at the initial studio, and at my new spot Cabana East.
UG: Any rare or super sweet studio gear used on this record that you were stoked to use/drooling over?
JN: Yup, there was some sweet gear used in the mix down, or at least to me. I used a bunch of ribbon mics, which I'm super addicted to. Nothing gets me the depth and realism that solid ribbon mics can achieve, and they EQ so well. There's some killer mics by Ashman that are great for rooms called the SOM50s, they rule!!! My AEG mini tube mic which are made by Lomo techs out in Russia. The Solomon Mics LoFReQ, I love this thing so much, it's like a reverse wired woofer turn mic but it crushes with unparalleled clarity. It literally sounds like you have a super tweaked high-end signal chain patched in after it. It's the “never have a thin record again” tool! Gear by Overstayer was vital. Jeff is a sweetheart and a beast. His saturator, SFE, and 8776s modules are life! The 8776 are parked on my vocal inserts, but I really need another one for bass! A couple other things I feel were extremely important were my AMS RMX16, Otari 1/4" tape machine (this one has some mojo for sure), Burl B2 Bomber, and Adam S3As. Shit, there's so much more haha…
UG: How do you feel about all the kids calling the title track “the feel-good hit of the summer”?
JN: I'm fine with that! There's also some that say it's the feel-gloom hit of the summer. Both make sense to me. It has that uplifting yet sad kinda driving vibe which people have really been excited about. I'm also very proud of the music video we made with our cell phones, a minimal setup, footage I shot while in the Everglades with my girlfriend, using historic Miami footage, and Rick and I editing it all down with free software.
UG: What does the touring cycle look like for “Admission” in the upcoming year? Festivals? Abroad?
JN: Touring has already begun, as we've been on tour a few days before the record came out, and there's already West Coast dates for September. We are currently planning another US run to some festivals in November, hopefully UK in December, and a sweet Euro tour this coming March. There's a lot of excitement for the record in the EU, so hopefully we get to do a bunch of European festivals like we've done in the past. We also would like to tour Australia, New Zealand, and Japan again along with new places!
UG: Nuñez Amplification offers amps that appear to be built super well. I haven’t played one yet, but after looking at the Annex MKII gut-shot on the website, I noticed some noise reducing tricks and other layout tricks that intrigued me even more.
JN: Thanks for noticing! Yes, we strive to build low noise and versatile heads and pedals with new circuit designs based around our perspective as recording engineers and touring musicians. The cabs compliment the full range of our circuits with projection and spread players notice immediately. We really want to share full range products that allow our musician peers to choose what their true sound is. Revealing the sound of their instruments and playing style, increasing depth and clarity, whether it's clean or high gain.
UG: Gary Phillips really knows his shit, doesn’t he?
JN: Yup! Gary is a sweetheart, a true thinker, and all-around genius haha. He truly knows how to never put the players needs on a back burner. I couldn't be happier to work with him, he's really patient and is always up for a challenge. He's built a lot of secret boxes for some classic and renowned players, but we're totally the opposite - we want to share with everyone and try to make as many people as happy as we can.
UG: When is the Tetra-Fet Drive with the Admission artwork going to be available? I want one.
JN: People keep asking me that!! We're going to be selling limited quantities soon, so keep your eyes open!
UG: I know when you and I met about a decade ago, we spoke very briefly about you owning or working at a studio, can’t remember. What is your involvement in studio life, outside of Torche?
JN: I've been recording bands for a living for years. Up until the gear stuff, it was the only other thing I did besides Torche. I really enjoy it. Sure, there's challenges and I've had times where I feel I'm being tested, but that's where you step up to the plate and really do something special. As I get older, I'm having more and more fun capturing a bands true live sound. Picking up on what makes them unique and achieving a recording that they can be proud about as well as striking the target with listeners when they pick up the record after seeing them live.
UG: Difference in touring back then and now? Social commentary regarding touring with cell phones and social media promotion?
JN: Well, we are no longer using maps and early GPS devices. Things are faster and easier, which is really helpful at being efficient. It's also nice to capture your trip and share your travels, but on the flip-side it definitely can consume people... but it depends on the person. I always thought people would eventually have these pocket computers that would make beepers and earlier cellular technology very primitive. And shit, these devices have a complete influence or grip over our modern day lives.
UG: Tell me a crazy or danger ridden tour story from the past couple years please…
JN: About a couple years ago, we had someone step in to cover our usual front of house and were driving late after a show. We had a short drive after a Denver show, and the weather was not in our favor. It definitely took patience to remain at a safe speed, and the periodic swerves eventually weren't a big deal, until we unfortunately spun out on black ice in Laramie, WY. For a moment it seemed like one of the van's drifts ceased, but within a second, we were sliding violently all over the highway. Once we crashed into the ditch between the two highway lanes, we realized the trailer had flipped on its side and the hitch arm of the trailer had pierced through the back door right over where Steve's head was laying. It took the rest of the night and the morning to sort everything and make it to SLC to play the next day. Hell of a Bday for me haha. Luckily everyone was okay, and some extremely kind fans provided a rear van door, which they installed while we sound checked in Seattle a couple days later.
UG: What was your first band, musical adventure, etc?
JN: I started playing bass or guitar in a few bands when I was 12. Over time things progressed in different bands with the use of more melodic, dissonant, and lower tunings as well as experimenting with timing. There were shifts in groups of friends where the real music fanatics kept at it, and ultimately starting touring at the age of 18 and it hasn't stopped for some of us at 36 now.
UG: What is your other history in the Miami music scene?
JN: Basically, played in bands, some longer than others. Torche being the longest running along my other band with Rick Shitstorm. I've also recorded and mixed a bunch of bands locally as well as nationally and internationally. So, I guess I'm a resident sound nerd and gear enthusiast. It's a fun place that allows me to disconnect from the tour and band life and enjoy the outdoors, tropical weather, energetically funny people (with lots of character), tons of Latin and Hispanic food, and be a part of a music scene where music is the focus - not fashion… Where bands are all trying to project their own unique voices.
DEVICES MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE
Uri Garcia hails from Kent Ohio, plays guitar in Apeshit Biscotti, repairs/builds amps & guitars, and is a member of The Million Mile Club. He works for EarthQuaker Devices, proudly serving our social media community.