In Search Of Tone: Micah Nix & Chad Barnwell Of Temptations Wings

Temptations Wings are a band that I first heard of through The Sleeping Shaman from a fan Aaron Ossont. I checked them out and loved what I heard. The artwork for their EP The Path caught my attention and Mirkwood still is one of my favorite songs. Their follow-up, Marauders Of The Killing Moon, took what I love about Mirkwood and expanded it.

Temptations Wings
Temptations Wings

When I found out they were local to me in Asheville, NC, I was stoked! I got to see them open for Howling Giant that was an incredible show. Over the years, Jason Gardner (drummer) and I have become friends but today we get to hear from the outstanding dueling guitarists Micah Nix and Chad Barnwell.

Thanks Micah and Chad for taking the time to answer my question and look forward to your insight on heavy metal! I typically start these with a rig rundown so would you both mind telling me what amps you’re using?

Micah: What I’m using right now is a rack mounted Kemper running through an Orange Pedal Baby as the power amp. For the specific amps sounds I’m using with the Kemper are a 59 Fender Twin for clean, and a Friedman Jerry Cantrell for my crunch, rhythm, and lead sounds. The Jerry Cantrell is the holy grail of amps, as far as I’m concerned!

Chad: I have to admit that I’ve recently switched to digital and so far I’m very happy with my decision. The amp models I have been running are the Mesa Boogie Mark IV and the EVH 5150. Prior to going digital, I only played 5150 amps and I’m a bit of an Ed Head, so making the switch wasn’t easy, but I’m happy I did. I ran into some issues on our last run of shows in which certain pedals were going out and causing issues, and having everything within the device, a Helix Stomp through a Seymour Duncan PowerStage 170 into a cab, has been very nice.

My moss green Kiesel SCB6. I love that guitar, it’s light and the fretboard feels like magic…

I have a handful of guitars but noticed that I use one 99% of the time. Do you both have an arsenal of guitars to alternate with or stick to one favorite?

Micah: I have three guitars that I keep in our tuning, but I really only use one. Old Number One I call it. My moss green Kiesel SCB6. I love that guitar, it’s light and the fretboard feels like magic.

Chad: The guitars I’m using are a Jackson Dinky that has an EMG 81 in the bridge and an EMG 85 in the neck. I also play an Epiphone Slash Signature model.

Do you both tune your guitars the same?

Micah: Yes, all our current songs are in drop c tuning.

Temptations Wings - Micah's Kiesel SCB6 Guitar
Micah’s Kiesel SCB6 Guitar

I’m always changing pedals and changing the order of what I have. What is currently on your pedalboard and do you switch things out?

Micah: One of the reasons I went with the Kemper is because I got tired of lugging my pedals around. I was always swapping things out and experimenting, which is fun, but I had certain pedals that had to use certain power supplies, and I had about three plugs to I need to use at gigs. With the Kemper I have all the effects setup to come on when I want them to, so I don’t have to do a lot of toe tapping while trying to sing and play. It’s very convenient! I mainly use Analog Delay, a subtle Phaser, and Reverb.

Chad: As far as pedals go, switching to the Helix was great! I typically don’t run many pedals but do use the 808 Screamer within the Helix in front of the amps in addition to a Noise Gate and EQ to get the tone just where I want it. For leads, I typically just run a Delay and a slight Reverb to bring out the tone along with a Phaser as an ode to the king. The only additional pedal I run outside of the helix is a Steve vai bad horsey. I try to write the solos so that it doesn’t rely on the wah too much, so frequently I may leave it out just for the quickness and ease of getting on and off the stage.

I typically just run a Delay and a slight Reverb to bring out the tone along with a Phaser as an ode to the king…

What was the first guitar, amp or pedal that you got and do you still have it?

Micah: I still have my very first acoustic guitar. My dad got it for me when I was 13. I sold the first guitar I bought with my own money and destroyed the first amp I ever bought. I tried to hook it up to a bigger amp and cooked it. I do still have the first tube amp I ever bought. A Crate Blue Voodoo 120. People hate on those amps, but they sounded great and were affordable!

Chad: One of the first guitars I owned is actually the black Jackson Dinky I mentioned earlier. It’s been through a few pickup changes, but I’ve always loved the feel of it. I think I purchased that when I was 17 and still love it to this day.

Moving on to songwriting, how do you approach writing songs for Temptations Wings?

Micah: I’m a visual guy. I try to come up with things that make me visualize a scene or event in my mind. It’s a lot easier to write lyrics when I can visualize what they’ll try to convey. I try to do a lot of storytelling with my lyrics, too, rather than social commentary, or things like that. As far as riffs go, I like to come up with a couple that I like, and then bounce them off the other guys to see where it should go next. I like to write as a whole band more often than not.

Chad: I think our best work comes when we are in the room together. I used to be a big ‘let me write the whole song and bring it in’ guy. I’ve found with these guys that our best work comes with showing up with zero ideas and just jamming. Occasionally one of us will show up with a full masterpiece (referencing Micah with Child Of The Mountain) but even with that one, we jam it and all have our ideas that we throw in or rearrange. I’m sure everyone does it different, but I like how organic most of our songs are with working together on them. I also come from being a fan of more thrash metal where as these guys were more into doom when I met them, so the outcome has been a cool combination of both of those.

Temptations Wings 'Marauders Of The Killing Moon' Artwork
Temptations Wings ‘Marauders Of The Killing Moon’ Artwork

I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman lately and specifically his Norse Mythology book. I hear Warlords, Mirkwood or Cosmos playing in my head when reading these stories of the Gods. Where do you draw your inspiration for the lyrics and music?

Micah: I’m a big fan of mythology as well. I like Greek and Norse especially. I would like to delve into some other ones as well, particularly the Eastern European folk lore that inspired the Witcher books/series/games. We’re also drawing some inspiration from Klingon lore for a new song we’re working on. So, there’s lots to work with between all those different lores!

Chad: I don’t do lyrics, so I play a lot of guitar all the time and just do my best to lay down good riffs to give Micah and Jason something to work with lyrically.

Is there a song that you are particularly proud of?

Micah: My favorite song that we’ve done is Child of the Mountain. It was a true labor of love. It was one of those rare times where one of us brought in a mostly finished song. I brought this twelve-minute thing in, we learnt it and honed it, but it wasn’t quite right. Anyway, I had to miss a band practice one day, and the guys completely rewrote the middle section, and it turned out great.

As far as recording goes, I have said only half-jokingly that it cost me a piece of my soul to lay down that song. It was tough to sing and I doubled all my vocal tracks, so I had to do it twice. It was a very personal song for me, so mentally it was a challenge too. I’m very proud of that one!

Chad: A song that sticks with me is actually before we were a four piece when I played bass for the band. That song is Dimensions off of the Path EP. It was part of two songs that were the first written after becoming a four piece and I really enjoy all parts of that song. For me, it is the definitive that is a blueprint for what our band is.

I have said only half-jokingly that it cost me a piece of my soul to lay down that song. It was tough to sing and I doubled all my vocal tracks, so I had to do it twice…

I often get discouraged when playing guitar and sometimes stop playing for a few days. If you’re having an off day, how do you get inspired to play again?

Micah: I recently went through a rough patch playing. I wasn’t coming up with anything I liked and I would get very frustrated whenever I played. The approach that finally worked was to put it down and let it rest for about a month. It was over the holidays, we weren’t practicing much, so I was able to just lay it down for a while and come back with a fresh perspective.

What do you listen to for enjoyment these days?

Micah: There are three albums that have been in heavy rotation for me lately. Two of them are Sumerlands two albums, and the third is Wytch Hazel’s III: Pentecost. It’s all trad metal, or hard rock, depending on how you look at it. Sumerlands chord game is unmatched, and Wytch Hazel has all the guitar harmonies anyone could ask for. I highly recommend both bands!

Chad: As far as what I’m listening to, it’s a bit of everything! I find that I write better metal when I’m not listening to metal if that makes any sense. I enjoyed Night Demons latest release and we shared the stage with those guys, so its always nice to keep up with anything they are doing. I’ve also become a fan of Howling Giant and Horse Burner after playing shows with them. Lastly, I’ve been listening to our buddy Mark Jackson’s band, Overlord, who are out of Louisville.

Thank you both for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share the inner workings of Temptations Wings! Your music is incredible and even had Howling Giant wanting a second guitarist to replicate your phenomenal harmonics! I appreciate your time and is there anything else you would like to add?

Micah: Thank you very much for allowing us to geek out over our gear and tunes! We hope to have more shows and some new material sooner than later!

Chad: Thank you for your time and questions!

Label: Electric Talon Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify | Instagram

Interviewed by: Josh Schneider