Talent is everywhere. There are so few well-known musicians and an infinite amount of underground music. But with anything worth your time, there has to be some effort in finding it. Manic Abraxas was a fantastic discovery last year having the opportunity to review Foreign Winds and later getting the opportunity to talk with Dallas Seger.
Dallas is incredibly talented as a musician and to take it a step further, he founded Seger Guitars where he builds his own stunning axes from scratch and notable guitarists who play them include Matt Pike of Sleep and High On Fire and Tim Sult of Clutch.
I learned a lot of valuable information in the short time we spoke and I look forward to our paths crossing again in the future, but for now, it’s on with the interview…
Thank you for taking the time to discuss how you create the music in Manic Abraxas with me. I usually start these interviews with a rig rundown. If you would like to start with amps and then run through the rest of your gear that would be awesome.
Thanks for having me as a part of your series! I’m actually trying to figure out what my new live setup is going to consist of. I’m pretty sure but I’m thinking my favorite amp is the Matamp GT, it’s exactly what I want. I went through dozens and dozens of all awesome amps, but this just does it for me. I like the power scaling of 30, 50, 70 or 100 too. Most of the time I leave it on 50. That’s plenty. I got these old Peavey Butcher 4×12s. They’re my favorite cabinets and they’re loaded with Greenback speakers. Greenbacks are really important for what I’m going for. They tame the amp a little bit because you have a lower decibel speaker.
my favorite amp is the Matamp GT, it’s exactly what I want…
For pedals, I have tons [laughs]. I’ve been doing a bunch of experimenting lately. Let’s see, I have a Boss Waza Craft Chorus and I love it. I leave it on all the time. I also have a Fuzz Lord Doom Screamer, which I think is his take on either a tube screamer or 855 drive, but they’re kind of the same. I use it subtly to add some mids but it sounds really great. Another one of my favorite pedals is Deja Vibe by Fulltone. I’m a big Robin Trower fan and I love the sound of that pedal. It’s a unique sound that I lover and that’s a rough rundown of my set up.
Are you getting the core sound from the Matamp including distortion and using pedals to shape it?
Yes, it’s a little bit of a cooperative thing. If I just have the straight gain from the Matamp, I’m more than happy. But lately, I’ve been in the mood to shape my board a little bit. I start with a good dirty sound from the Matamp and I push it with the Doom Screamer. And then if I want a lead tone, I stomp on something else. Give it some some dB and make the signal hotter to get louder. Right now its multiple stages of distortion but it’s always changing.
Oh yeah, always changing, I stopped ‘securing’ the pedals to my board.
It’s fun and it’s kind of like a puzzle where you’re trying to accomplish something specific. Having the pedals as pieces and trying them in different places to see how they all work together.
I start with a good dirty sound from the Matamp and I push it with the Doom Screamer…
I’m interested in the chorus pedal. It’s not something I’ve ever really played around with. It’s a piece to the puzzle that I have never tried or had any interest in but I’m hearing more and more about them. How do you use it?
This might be a little weird for some people, but it’s actually the first thing in my line. Its subtle and widens things to give a little shimmer. It’s not a crazy in your face chorus and it’s not so crazy or wet that it really messes with anything, just a little shimmer.
That’s pretty cool. I did an interview with Mike from Russian Circles. He mentioned using a tremolo pedal in similar way that you said you use the chorus pedal. I have a tremolo pedal and it works great but I may want to try it with a chorus instead now.
Yeah, you can use it for all kinds of stuff. Also, tons of people used them in the 80s. There is so much that can done with a chorus pedal and I like using it when recording to make some interesting subtle effects, and when people listen back, they think how the fuck did they do that? [laughs].
That’s cool. I always want new gear after interviews and there is no exception today [laughs]. Moving on to guitars, I know you own Seger Guitar Company. I was looking at some of your guitars, they’re really nice and I like the YG model with the carved body.
Thanks, man. I just wanted to make something that looks fucking crazy under stage lights and that’s what the carved body does.
Oh, that’s interesting. Are you building these guitars entirely from scratch?
Yes, I start with raw wood that I usually pick out or sometimes order. I make the neck from scratch, but I don’t make the truss rods. I have a really good source of truss rods from LMI. I do all the woodwork but I don’t do electronics. I don’t have an interest in making those as there’s no shortage of talented people who do amazing work so I’d rather work with them. But the guitar design is all done by me, I make them with my own templates or by hand.
the guitar design is all done by me, I make them with my own templates or by hand…
Wow, that’s impressive. One time tried to rebuild a guitar. I had a cheap Squire. I have it here actually, and I tried to refinish it, but I got frustrated and I just beat the hell out of it, so what you’re doing is pretty awesome.
I’ve built a lot of guitars and I’ve become faster at many aspects of building from repetition. I remember the first time I thought ‘Holy shit, this is crazy, how are there this many guitars out there’ [laughs].
Exactly! But now that you have built so many, I’m assuming you use guitars that you built?
Strictly, yes and I make the other dudes play them but they’re not complaining [laughs].
That’s awesome. I noticed that the guitars on the site have a variety of different pickups but is there a certain type of pickup that’s your favorite or do you use a variety depending on the sound you want?
I like everything. I’m not trying to give you a cop-out, but recently my favorite pickups are the Lawrence L500 XL or the L500 L, which are pretty similar. They’re amazingly clear, they’re hot without having too much bottom, like a lot of hot pickups have, and they stay dynamic. They’re not overly compressed either. That said, I’m working with Lollar, they make some top-notch stuff, especially if you want to get into variations on PAF’s. They have some original pickups too and their P90’s are great.
my favorite pickups are the Lawrence L500 XL or the L500 L, which are pretty similar. They’re amazingly clear, they’re hot without having too much bottom..
I’ve heard great things about their P90’s and one day I’m going to pick up a pair.
They are a great company. I’m also using Avedissian Pickups. He’s doing some awesome work and creating some unique pickups. I hate to pigeonhole things but, if you’re more into metal and crunchy sounds, he has some really good pickups for that. He makes my favorite bass pickups as well. I’m always trying new things but I think these two companies create amazing pickups that offer a wide range of sounds.
That’s really interesting and I could spend hours talking about gear but I’m also interested in how you create songs. What is your songwriting process like for Manic Abraxas?
It changes sometimes but mostly I’ll write a riff and then almost immediately come up with a second, maybe third, sometimes a fourth. And when you think about it, you have a song. It’s just a matter of arranging it. And then I’d take it and bounce it off my dudes. My good friend, Tom Bennett, who drums on the album, he’s just incredible. I love working with him. And we’ve written a lot of stuff over the years, it’s very quick for us, we communicate really well. Tom’s a big, big part of it. Like I said, if you have three riffs you pretty much have a song. Then I think of an intro and/or outro, a bridge and I also think of the big picture trying not to repeat anything on the album and make sure it all flows. I don’t know if I’m answering your question [laughs].
Yeah you are [laughs]. I’m not in the band or anything but I’ve been trying to write some my own stuff. I’ll get a riff here and there, then I have real hard time coming up with a second or third riff and putting it all together. I can’t get anything to flow without out sounding choppy.
It might be a matter of finding the right person to bounce ideas off of, especially a drummer because then you got some structure. There are so many ways of approaching writing. I like trying to write riffs most of the time, but I will also go back to old riffs and rework them into something. I think you just go for it, you know?
Yeah, that’s cool. I usually get discouraged when I don’t like something I’m playing. How do you handle having an off day if you have one?
I can never go wrong practicing with a metronome. I go through phases where I’ll only play with a metronome, and really, really, really focus on the rhythm, that’s been a huge help for me. If I can’t be productive writing, then I can definitely get better at playing. The guitar is endless, you can’t be stagnant with it, it’s all relative. The amount of stuff out there is unbelievable. It goes on and on and on, so pick a thing, even if you think you’d hate it, and look into it a little bit and you’d be surprised.
Recording yourself is one of the most important things you can do as a guitar player…
That’s interesting and good advice. When I play, I listened back and I say ‘that sucked’, then I get discouraged and put my guitar down, probably because I need to learn more.
You’re doing everything right. Recording yourself is one of the most important things you can do as a guitar player because I remember how horrified I was the first time I listened back when I had a four track, I was like ‘there’s something wrong with this fucking thing dude’. So yeah, recording yourself is fucking great and that’s how you really get a style. That’s how you develop phrasing, you know, rhythm, and all the little nuances that matter.
** Dallas continues to help me with my recording process and how to improve it in this lengthy tangent – Thanks a lot Dallas **
Since we discussed the off days at length and how to improve upon them, are there any particular songs, or maybe even just part of a song, that you’re proud of? Or maybe something that was difficult to tie together, and you were able to do it?
We’re all really proud of our album Foreign Winds that came out September 30th. That was a little challenging to put together. It wasn’t like arduous or anything, but we definitely put more time and thought into it. And definitely spent more time with production so I’m really proud of it. I think it sounds great, I think the material is great and I think it shows the new direction of the band in a good way.
It’s a great album and recently I’ve been really into post-rock with long drawn out droning intros, but I get more of a punk rock in your face influence from Foreign Winds and that was refreshing for me to listen to.
Thank you, glad you like it man. We’re big into Disfear and Tragedy and obviously Motörhead, Celtic Frost so it was kind of a combination of all that I guess.
Well, it translates nicely. That actually kind of goes into my next question of what do you listen to for enjoyment?
Right now I’m really into this electronic artist Qual, I listened to it all the time. Another band I’m listening to lately is Sumerlands, they remind me of Blind Guardian. That’s about it lately. I’m all over the place in music, I like everything. I just went on a huge Aura Noir kick a while ago and couldn’t get enough of them, I’m always changing and there’s always something new to check out.
Right now I’m really into this electronic artist Qual, I listened to it all the time…
Exactly, you find one thing and then you have to go down the rabbit hole and listen to every possible thing you can related to it.
Absolutely. Rope Sect has been my favorite band for over a year, I can’t recommend them enough. Awesome melodic music, great guitar work, great vocals and they kind of play it close to their chest. There’s not a lot of info about them, so they’re mysterious but they’re fucking great.
I haven’t heard of them, so I’ll definitely go and check them out.
It’s awesome stuff.
I believe we have made it through all the questions, I appreciate you answering them in detail and taking the time to help me with my own recording issues.
Anytime, thanks for inviting me to do this and it was nice meeting you.
Foreign Winds, the current album from Manic Abraxas is out now, available on compact disc and digital download that can be grabbed over on Bandcamp.