In Search Of Tone: Alex & Erik Of 10,000 Years

10,000 Years have floated around my news feed for a while back when II was about to be released. I always meant to check them out but didn’t (stupid me). I finally listened to their EP when they gave out bandcamp codes (thanks guys) and wished I hadn’t wasted all that time procrastinating because what I heard was epic.

10,000 Years - Mission Control 2.1
10,000 Years – Mission Control 2.1

I was fortunate Alex Risberg (bassist, vocals) and Erik Palm (guitarist) were interested at being questions for our In Search Of Tone series, and having both perspectives of bass and guitar at once called for a unique interview. I’ve been struggling with coming up with riffs that sound good while my wife plays cool bass lines, so I took advantage of the situation. Alex and Erik are awesome guys from an equally awesome band, and I appreciate you both taking the time to educate me through my crazy questions.

Thank you both for your interest and taking the time to answer my questions and for the Bandcamp code for your EP a while back. I grabbed one and really enjoy it. Your full length II is also fantastic. I look forward to getting your insight into making this great music, so let’s jump right in.

Alex & Erik: Thanks for having us man, it’s our pleasure for sure. So happy you dig our stuff! We really appreciate that!

Let’s start with your rig, can you both tell me a little about the amps you’re using for both guitar and bass?

Alex: I’ve been using an Orange Terror Bass with an Ampeg 4×10 cab since we started 10,000 Years and I’m extremely happy with that setup. It gives me everything I need in terms of volume and tone, really. Erik’s been experimenting a bit more with amps and cabs.

10,000 Years - Alex's Bass Amp Rig
10,000 Years – Alex’s Bass Amp Rig

Erik: Yeah, I’ve used a few different amps since we started playing together. As you may know me and Alex played together a while back in Pike, and when we parted ways back then I, regrettably, got rid of all my gear and barely touched a guitar for almost a decade. So when we formed 10,000 Years I started from scratch again.

I’ve switched to an Orange TH30 which is my go to amp at the moment…

Regarding the EP I was going to record it with a Marshall JCM 2000 DSL that I bought used, but it broke down just before going into the studio so then in all haste I bought an Orange Crush 120 which I paired with an Orange 2×12. I mainly used the clean channel and a Green Russian for the fuzz.

For II I switched things up and got myself an Orange Dual Terror, which has a really nice gain, and you can get a gritty and nice clean tone, I had a brief stint with a Marshall Origin as well. Since we recorded II, I’ve switched to an Orange TH30 which is my go to amp at the moment that I’m very happy with.

10,000 Years - Eric's Guitar Amp Rig
10,000 Years – Eric’s Guitar Amp Rig

I sometimes have trouble picking out instruments in songs and at risk of sounding stupid, Alex, I assume that’s your bass tone on songs like Lee Van Cleef and Master of Oblivion that’s so heavy and perfectly fuzzed out. What pedals are you using to achieve that sound and what else is on your pedalboard?

Alex: Yeah, that’s me, hehe. I use an Electro Harmonix Nano Bass Big Muff on both records, as well as live. I’ve been trying different pedals and fuzzes but never really been satisfied. I always feel I loose too much bottom end with most pedals. But when I tried the Bass Muff I really came home, so to speak. It’s a really diverse and dynamic fuzz and it gives me that thick bottom end as well. For the occasional clean part I just use the amps own sound straight up.

Besides the Bass Muff I only have a Boss Chromatic Tuner and an Electro Harmonix Small Stone Phaser on my pedalboard. The Small Stone I added for II and I really dig the spaced out stuff you can do with that one. It comes in handy when you write records about weird space (and time) adventures!

I use an Electro Harmonix Nano Bass Big Muff on both records…

I play guitar myself a bit and I love distortion but what’s really grabbing my attention lately are the cleaner reverb tones. I particularly love the intro to Gargantuan Forest and Dark Side Of The Earth. Erik, can you tell me a little about how you get those perfect tones? Also what else is on your pedalboard?

Erik: The gritty clean tone in those parts are from the Orange Dual Terror, paired with a Mooer Ambient Reverb. As the name suggests you can get really nice ambient tones from that one, I however had some issues with it, function wise, so I recently switched it for the Walrus Fathom Reverb, which I really like and will be heard on III. In the intro to Gargantuan Forest there is also a phaser in there, the Electro Harmonix Small Stone.

The gritty clean tone in those parts are from the Orange Dual Terror, paired with a Mooer Ambient Reverb…

The pedal board is a work in progress, haha. For II I used two different sounds for the dirt, the first one pairing the dirty channel (I used the ‘fat channel’ as the dirty channel) with a Fortin Fuzz on top. It is a really nice sound, the Fortin Fuzz on its own is not my piece of cake, but it’s very transparent and suitable to stack with other dirt pedals, or in my case, the dirt from the amp. It is really gritty, and it gives me a fuzzy chug. This combination is used on, for example, Spinosaurus on II. I also used a Green Russian on the clean channel for some of the songs (for example Gargantuan Forest), paired with a TC Electronics Dark Matter Distortion, to give it some boost and make it cut more through the mix.

So, the effects used on II are: Polytune -> Fortin Fuzz -> EHX Green Russian -> TC Electronic Dark Matter Distortion -> EHX Small Stone -> Mooer Ambient Reverb -> EHX Memory Toy.

The pedalboard I use at the moment is not entirely different, but some stuff will be switched up for III.

10,000 Years - Eric's Guitar Pedalboard
10,000 Years – Eric’s Guitar Pedalboard

Do you guys have one or two go to basses/guitars or do you have an arsenal of instruments to choose from?

Alex: I use my Ibanez ATK300 for everything heavy, be it 10,000 Years or Pike before that, it’s been my main bass ever since I bought it back in 2008. It’s a really great instrument that’s got a bit of weight to it without being superheavy. It’s extremely playable with a kind of warm and big sound to it.

I have a couple of other basses as well, but they don’t get nearly the same amount of playing time. My Ibanez Iceman is meant to be the backup in 10,000 Years but it needs to get fixed up a bit first. I also have a Fender Precision Bass and a no name Jazz Bass. The Precision Bass I use at home sometimes and the Jazz I’ve only kept since it’s the first bass I ever owned.

I use my Ibanez ATK300 for everything heavy, be it 10,000 Years or Pike before that, it’s been my main bass ever since I bought it back in 2008…

Erik: Just one guitar for me. I have an Epiphone Les Paul Custom which I like, it plays really well, and I get a great sound from it. I have switched the pickups to a set of Lace Drop and Gain.

Is there a certain piece of gear that either of you have had for a long time and won’t get rid of?

Alex: I love my ATK and I’ll probably never get rid of that one.

Erik: One thing that’s been with me since the beginning is my betrusted Roland Micro Cube. I had it in a shed for a couple of years and it still works really well.

10,000 Years - Alex's Bass & Pedalboard
10,000 Years – Alex’s Bass & Pedalboard

What is your songwriting process like and did it change from the earlier EP to your current full length album?

Erik: It’s fairly straightforward really. I come up with a lot of riffs, often ideas for entire songs that I show to Alex and Espen [Karlsen – drums] and then we take it from there. We try it out together, work on the details and compare different riffs and see what works where. Alex writes the lyrics and vocal melodies and then we just go from there. The process itself hasn’t changed that much, but our chemistry has of course improved since we started out and it’s really easy going at the moment.

Alex: Yeah, usually it’s Erik who comes up with the riffs and then we jam on them all together and arrange what needs arranging and discuss, like, what the song is and where it should go. I have maybe one riff per record, haha. But we all share the same creative vision and trust each other to write and come up with stuff that fits the collective goals of the band.

it’s Erik who comes up with the riffs and then we jam on them all together…

I mentioned before I play a little guitar and my wife has started playing bass. When she comes up with a cool bass line, I have a hard time coming up with something to play on guitar besides the same riff and vice versa? How do you two go about creating riffs that sounds well together?

Alex: Like I said, Erik comes up with most of the riffs. I usually play the same as the guitar most of the time, and I try to add a little colour here and there. I try to keep it fairly simple, for my own sake, as I have to sing on top of the riffs while I play them.

I often get discouraged with my playing and take a few days off, or get stuck in a rut of playing the same songs over and over. What do you guys do to inspire yourselves to play again when in a rut?

Erik: I think we are all in that place from time to time. I think there is no easy answer, and that its very individual how to deal with it. For me, those moments are not as frequent nowadays, I don’t get many opportunities to pick up the guitar in-between taking care of my kids, working and all that, so whenever I do pick up the guitar, it’s like a release for me. Some days however, I can pick up the guitar and straight away feel very uninspired, then I just put it down. It shouldn’t feel like a burden to play. I think it’s better to do something else when that happens.

The problem I think is the times where you feel inspired, maybe I have been thinking of a riff in my head that I want to try on the guitar, but then it just doesn’t work, and I can’t come up with anything new at all. Then I try some different notes, chords, whatever on the guitar randomly to see how it sounds. Sometimes I then hear something that sounds new and interesting, and sometimes that leads to an idea for a new song.

Alex: For me it helps if we have a good rehearsal and maybe jam out a new song that we all love. Something to get that little spark back.

10,000 Years - Eric's Guitar & Amp Rig
10,000 Years – Eric’s Guitar & Amp Rig

A question for Alex, for someone just starting out on bass guitar, what advice would you have to offer to keep at it? Any songs to learn, pedals to try out, or anything of that helped you when you first started?

Alex: Oh shit, I don’t know to be honest. I’ve never really been one to practice on my own. I only really play when we rehearse, record or play live. I may doodle a bit with a new riff sometimes but that’s about it. For songs to learn I’d go with Ramones. A rich library of amazing music that’s pretty straight forward and easy to get the hang of. Or The Misfits! For pedals, I’d get an overdrive, a fuzz or something like that. It’s always more fun with distortion. Generally, I think it helps to be in a band with people that’s into the same stuff as you and at about the same level, to try out stuff and develop together.

I started playing in bands right away when I started playing guitar in my teens…

For Erik, this question maybe be more specific for me haha, I’m a beginner struggling to get over that intermediate hump. Did you struggle with that as well and if so, what helped you become a better more confident player?

Erik: I know how that feels! I started playing in bands right away when I started playing guitar in my teens. I started with old-school punk with three power chords over and over. For me the great push for becoming better was, and still is, playing with other people and having fun. I suck at sitting at home and learning stuff, simply because I don’t think it’s fun, but when I had a band, it was like a carrot to learn a song in order to be able to play it in the band, and on it went from there.

10, 000 Years 'II'
10,000 Years ‘II’ Artwork

Is there a key, set of chords or scale you guys like to use or do you mix it up?

Erik: We tend to mix it up. Neither Alex or I are any good at music theory, we just try stuff out. The only proper scale I learnt was the blues scale. At some point when I was younger, I had to try to play solos and it went like shit, so I figured I had to learn a scale. I guess you can hear some proper blues-references in the solos on the album and EP.

Alex: All our stuff is tuned down to C.

I’ve been heavily into The Band recently, such an amazing band on so many levels…

We’re all here because of our love of music. What music are you two listening to for enjoyment these days?

Alex: I’ve been heavily into The Band recently, such an amazing band on so many levels that you can rediscover again and again. A lot of The Who has been coming through my speakers as well. When it comes to the more heavy stuff, my recent heavy rotation includes Anguish, Lucifer’s Fall, Ufomammut, Monolord, Uncle Acid, Thronehammer and Deville to name a few. Also really loving the new Iron Maiden album!

Erik: All sorts of music really. Lately I have listened a lot to Torche and Kvelertak, but my go-to:s are Music From Big Pink by The Band and Naturally by J.J. Cale.

Thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions. I really appreciate it! Is there anything else you would like to add?

Alex & Erik: Thank you for having us! Check out our new album II and all hail the Green King!

Label: Interstellar Smoke Records | Death Valley Records | Ogo Rekords | Olde Magick Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Interviewed by: Josh Schneider