Milan, Italy is home to the metal/rock quintet Destrage who are slated to release their highly-anticipated new album Are You Kidding Me? No. on March 4th via Metal Blade Records. As one can imagine, the band is pushing hard to promote their slick new release and as such we were fortunate enough to grab some time with the band. Guitarist Ralph Salati spoke to us at length about his key gear and how it molds the group’s sound.
What one piece of gear do you use to obtain your signature sound?
Salati: All you hear in our sound, in both live and studio situations, comes from a great one-box machine, the Axe Fx Ultra from Fractal Audio Systems. The guitars and pick-ups of course are hugely important to create our own tones, but without that machine wouldn’t be the same!
What about it makes it so important to you?
Salati: First of all the fact that I can take the exact same tones I made in the studio, for every single part of a song, and replicate them on a live situation. Then, feeling that those tones are almost as good as if they were made by an huge chain of the great tube heads and sophisticated FX machines, is even better when you realize that you can have them just with a 2 rack unit!
How was this gear used during the recording of your latest album?
Salati: Starting from my Ibanez Premium RG 920 with maple fingerboard and Mat’s Cort Guitar, both equipped with two DiMarzio D-Activator Bridge/Neck, we went straight into the Axe Fx Ultra. Then from its output we went into a couple of MC 77 Compressors by Purple Audio (mostly to get a richer and colorful tone rather than actually compress the signal) and just before entering Pro Tools, we passed the whole thing into an Avalon AD 2055 to get a brighter sound. As you can see it is a very short and effective chain! 🙂
How do you recreate your album (guitar/vocal/bass) tones in your live set?
Salati: We use a classic Shure SM 58 (or Beta 58 depending on the acoustics) for the voice, which has a dedicated Dbx 286S tube channel strip. Guitars go directly through the Axe Fx Ultra to the mixer, and bass has a Sans Amp amplifier into the pedalboard. Everything then goes to the mixer where a couple of TC Electronic external outboard are used for all the effects (reverbs, delays etc…).
Do you have a backup for this gear, if so, what?
Salati: Yes, we do have a backup, you never know! We bring always with us a third rack with an Axe Fx Standard. We load on the Standard both mine and Mat’s presets in the same locations of the Ultras, but of course onto different banks, in order to easily and quickly switch to the backup still using the same 2 midi pedalboards.
How long have you had it, how do you use it, would you ever change it?
Salati: We first heard of the Axe-Fx in 2010 or so and it had definitely caught our attention, but we started using it only by the end of 2011 for “This Tour Is Fat ‘n’ Old”. It was love at first test! 🙂 Since then we never used a different gear. We only improved the stage use of it going from stage monitors to an In Ear Monitor system, which allows us in case of small clubs venues to turn all of the stage monitors toward the audience. Since we don’t use any cab on stage, we needed to fill the listening gap regarding the closest lines of the audience, which may not perceive the actual mix but almost only the drum sound. This solution seemed to work good with us!
Give us your best “gear goes wrong” story.
Salati: This story isn’t “that wrong” but what I remember so clear was the experience of the Japanese tour in the early 2011, which was the first very big thing for us. Of course we were not equipped with our gear (heads and stuff) but we were using every night a different head from a different club and we were able to discover the brand or the model only few hours before the show. I had with me a Boss GT-10 multi-fxs pedalboard, to provide any need for the FXs or channel switch or whatever you may need on stage.
I still remember like a nightmare those hours right before each one of the shows programming FX chains for all the varieties of cases with my GT-10 and praying that everything went smoothly. Well, in Tokyo, during the biggest show of the tour, I was using a Marshall JCM 900 which is a very cool amp, but not the best for our kind of tone. Everything seemed to work well, since in the middle of the show, during my solo over the song “Panda Vs Koala”, my guitar suddenly and incredibly disappeared with no reason! I was like scarified! A couple of guys came to check out my gear, cables and stuff. Of course I felt totally lost, so that solo was gone and no one understood what happened to my gear but then looking at my pedalboard I found that the volume pedal was simply off!
Paolo fucking jumped on it and muted me by accident! I know it sounds stupid, but when you have gear that you actually know frame by frame, situations like that would never be so disastrous! If I had it that day, I wouldn’t have felt like my show was going to end, right in the middle of the song! 🙂
Check out the song “My Green Neighbour”