The intro riff to Iceberg was all I needed to become a fan of REZN. As I continued to listen to the album, 2018s Calm Black Water, I started to hear how amazing REZN is. The album weaves through the songs seamlessly. Not only that but they’ve mastered the art of mixing heavy and calm to perfection.
Rob McWilliams has quickly become an inspiration of mine. The tones he creates invoke a feeling and something I’m striving to capture in the tones I create (with plenty of frustration). Not only that but he has inspired me to finally put p90s in my guitar after years of it collecting dust. I’m inspired to play guitar after every spin of their records.
There is a lot that goes into making a perfect tone. For the most part I’ve been talking about a fuzz tone. I feel you guys definitely nailed that with songs like High Tide. However, you also weave in some amazing clean tones with delay that feel just as heavy to me. To achieve this which amps are you currently using and do they differ from studio to live?
I’ve been hooked on a Music Man HD-130 from the 70s I found on craigslist a while back. Such a loud, warm, and sparkly clean amp…
I prefer to use powerhouse clean amps as a vessel for my pedals, and I’ve been hooked on a Music Man HD-130 from the 70s I found on craigslist a while back. Such a loud, warm, and sparkly clean amp with a toasty drive to it when the gain is up a bit. We used that almost exclusively when recording/touring tracks for Calm Black Water. Just before we recorded Chaotic Divine I got a DCA Templates amp made by our space brother Dean Costello, and since then that has been essential for creating smooth clean tones with an insane amount of headroom to smash the fuzz pedal with. So I’ve just been splitting time between those two amps for studio and live shows. Throughout all of that my go-to fuzz has been the Dunwich Fuzz Throne. Nice and loud with a disgusting amount of midrange that scratches my eardrums just right.
I’ve noticed your pedalboard is constantly being updated with either new gear or replacing broken pedals. Which pedals have made it to your pedalboard and are any of them custom made for you?
Good observation! Some new additions have been the Old Blood Procession Reverb, EQD Westwood, and a Boss Giga Delay paired with an MXR Echoplex Delay. I don’t know why but it seems I always find a limitation with my setup every year, so I try not to get too attached to any pedals in case I have to sacrifice them. I also squeeze my vocal fx all on the same board, and I’ve been stoked on the Revival Electric Synapse V2 which is perfect for integrating everything with the smallest footprint imaginable.
I try not to get too attached to any pedals in case I have to sacrifice them…
Last but not least are the guitars. What guitars are you using and do you have a preference in single coil, Humbucker, P90 or active pickups?
I built a Warmoth Baritone Telecaster for the Chaotic Divine sessions which has its own fun custom factor, but I’ve mainly been using a 1980 Gibson Firebrand ‘The SG’ for shows and practicing. I recently put together an aluminum neck Jazzmaster as well, so I’m still learning how to tame that beast. For pickups, I’m obsessed with P90s – so much that I injected Fralin P90s into both the SG and the Telecaster. I used an SG Classic with P90s when recording Let It Burn, and I’m pretty sure that started the obsession.
Do you have a guitar, amp or pedal that you have had for a long time and will never part with?
I think the Fuzz Throne is here to stay, and I definitely won’t get rid of the Music Man HD-130. Everything else should be sweating bullets right now.
I’ve noticed a variety of unique sounds in your songs and with a little research discovered you guys play a variety of unusual instruments such as an Oud, Saxophone, Flute and even a Rainstick. How do you decide to incorporate these instruments and do you find it helps inspire new songs?
We choose the instruments based on the sonic landscape we’re trying to create. Spencer [Ouellette] already rips on saxophone and flute, so those are going to be incorporated whenever he feels it’s appropriate. But otherwise we mainly use a variety of string instruments to give songs a color or flavor that transports you to where you need to be. Like a memory that hasn’t happened yet. They definitely inspire new songs! There are so many artists using unique instruments around the world that can devastate you with just a note, and that power has inspired all of us to seek out inspiring musical cultures to learn from and inevitably guide our own sonic journey.
Spencer [Ouellette] already rips on saxophone and flute, so those are going to be incorporated whenever he feels it’s appropriate…
REZN has some very heavy riffs mixed in with gentile quiet moments. The overall feel I get is very calming. I can put on one of your albums and just relax. Is this the feel you’re going for and what is your writing process like?
That is absolutely what we’re going for. We never intend on this during the writing process, but ‘heavy’ and ‘calm’ are both relative ends of the spectrum so we try to balance them accordingly. Even the heaviest song can still be more tranquil and hypnotizing than a blissed out ethereal jam, so we try to use both elements uniquely depending on the natural flow of the song.
Often I find I play a cool sounding riff only to listen back and hear how terrible it was and get discouraged. I’ll then just continue playing what I already know. What do you do for inspiration if you’re having an off day or to keep from playing the same things over and over?
I think new scales are good tools to break you out of writing rut. They stretch the mind in a way that you wouldn’t expect, which creates fresh sparks of creativity in the most peculiar way. And listening! Don’t force it – if you’re having an off day, just put down the guitar and open your ears. There are new sources of inspiration in every ounce of sound, writing, and film, so just absorb what you can in those mental droughts and let it influence you. Dry spells are part of the creative process and sometimes they force you to look for a new source of mental hydration.
On Chaotic Divine, I’m really happy with The Still Center – I love the power of restraint to help create space and distance…
Do you have a song or even part of a song you a particularly proud of writing?
On Chaotic Divine, I’m really happy with The Still Center – I love the power of restraint to help create space and distance, especially when placed at the end of the album. HI and LO off of our split with Lume were also big milestones in improvisation and collaboration for us. Otherwise, some of my favorite REZN riffs seemed to appear out of thin air, and there’s something about those that makes you appreciate the effect of the subconscious creative mind. It’s funny how the main riff in Rezurrection [from Let It Burn] foreshadowed a lot of the musical themes that we explored in our most recent album. I guess we’ll just have to see which of our songs predict the direction for the next one.
Thanks Rob for answering my questions and be sure to keep an eye on REZN and check out their heavy doom psych by following the links below.
Interviewed by: Josh Schneider