I recently had the opportunity to speak with John LaRussa, guitarist for the metal/hardcore band Inhale Exhale. The group recently released their newest disc, Movement, and LaRussa spoke with me in short about the gear he relied on to obtain his signature sound found on the new album. Here’s how the conversation went.

Movement seems to be a bit heavier and more technical than your previous work. Is there one piece of gear you used to accomplish this sound?
John: Not sure how much a piece of gear can add to the heaviness of a record, but my sound or personal tone that I’ve come to rely on comes down to a Gibson guitar, a Splawn Pro Mod amplifier through a Maxon overdrive pedal, all projecting out of an Orange 4X12 with vintage 30’s in it. As I love all these pieces of gear and as a whole I think they all matter, I think the key gear in this would be the Splawn amp and the Maxon pedal I guess.

Splawn amps started by being a company that was known for modifying Marshall Amps, and at the time, I was going to have them modify an old Marshall 800, but I ended up playing with one of their Pro Mods and loved it. I called them up and they hooked me up with a custom head. I had them put KT88’s in it, and the thing is a tone beast. Running it with the Maxon pedal really brings it to another level though. Out of all the overdrives I’ve tried, the Maxon has seemed to be the most “real” I’ve used. It doesn’t seem to completely change your tone where you have to re-tweak everything constantly; it just gives it this overall analog warmness, or sheen I guess. I avoided most overdrives because of how much I like the Splawn’s tone, but this was the first OD pedal that just sat right from the moment I dialed it in. It’s like I brought together two pieces of gear that gave birth to a beautiful child.

What about it makes it so important to you?
John: It’s just clean, both of these pieces. That matters to me, I’m not trying to cover up bad playing with tons of gain or distortion, and I don’t need that. No one does if they know how to play professionally.

What are the major pros and cons?
John: No cons at this point honestly, I’ve been pretty anal about what I want to play through. The biggest pro is how every string can be heard in a bright way without being brittle.

How long have you had it, how do you use it, would you ever change it?
John: I’ve had the Splawn for about 6 years. And the Maxon for about 3 years. I can use other gear because ultimately it comes down to the player, but I don’t plan on changing it until some other combination blows me away. I run the Splawn at around 10 o’clock gain, and I run the Maxon at around 8 o’clock OD, and I set the Tone, and Level at a little more than 12 o’clock.

Any final thoughts or comments on the gear?
John: This is just what works for me, and there are guitar players out there that I’ve toured with that are just like me about it. They appreciate clean tone and solid tight playing. And most of the time they appreciate this set up, so I recommend it to those players. But at the same time, gear is preference, it all comes down to what you enjoy playing, no one way is the right way. But of course if you suck, you suck I guess.

Check out the song: “Aesthetics”