Oecist is a band that the vast majority of you haven’t heard of before today. Not your fault though, the post-metal solo project is quite underground and only the true savants know of Oecist. At least, until now. Founded by San Antonio, Texas-based multinstrumentalist BJ Dierkes, Oecist is a solo project of epic proportions. Read on below to see what gear BJ uses and to learn more about the pending September 1, 2014 release of the debut album XVIII LIII (Crowquill Records).
What one piece of gear do you use to obtain your signature sound?
Dierkes: A lot of gear comes and goes. Some sits in a closet for years until one day I decide I need it for one thing or another. I’ve never really been that big on effects, but have recently started to incorporate that into my writing more. I’m definitely particular about guitars, and love my Jackson with EMG 81/85’s… but the one thing I suppose has always been the staple of my sound and heart of the tone that I go for would be the amp, which is a Peavey 5150 II along with Marshall cabinets.
What about it makes it so important to you?
Dierkes: When I was 16 I purchased the Marshall 1960A 4×12 slant cab, over 16 years ago. I lived in the small town of Sebastian, FL at the time which had zero music stores, so my father drove me 45 minutes north to Melbourne where I had just the cabinet on some kind of lay-away plan. My father was a big supporter of my music, even when he didn’t fully understand it (literally, with the screaming and everything), and both my parents supported me financially the best they could, but $650 for a box with speakers in it (not including an amp to power it), was just not something they could pay for. I worked really hard as a kid to support myself and buy the right gear.
Spending all my money on the cabinet, I didn’t have anything left for an amp. My friends and I practiced at their church, which had a really old 1×12 keyboard amp they would let me barrow, and I would unplug the speaker from that, and jack it into the Marshall. I had no clue about Ohm rating and such back then so I’m sure this was less than stellar, but I just turned that guy all the way up and it was loud as fuck! Looking back on it now, it must have sounded like complete shit… haha. Metal Zone pedal, through a 1×12 keyboard amp at 100% volume, powering a Marshall 4×12? Yeah, I would never want to listen to that noise ever again. God bless my parents.
I’ve gone through a number of amps now, but eventually landed on the 5150 II that I bought from a good friend of mine. There is a lot of history in both pieces, and I have fond memories of cramming that cabinet into the back of my mom’s Nissan Sentra to play shows around Florida when I was barely old enough to drive.
Do you have a backup for this gear, if so, what?
Dierkes: The back-up for the 5150 II is the amp that I used for many years before it, which is an Ampeg VH-140C Solid State. It was originally a 2×12 combo, but the speakers were completely blown out when I bought it. It’s got a really great distortion and massive low-end on the lead channel, and it’s just as powerful as the 5150.
How long have you had it, how do you use it, would you ever change it?
Dierkes: I’ve had the 5150 II for several years now, and the Ampeg VH-140C for over 13 years or so. When I got the 5150 II, I immediately re-tubed everything with Mullard 12AX7 pre-amp, and TAD 6L6 power-amp tubes. Other than that, I am completely happy with it and have no plans to change or modify it.
As I mentioned, the Ampeg VH-140C was originally a 2×12 combo, and it was stupid heavy. A long time ago I built a custom head unit for it to house just the amp. It was a pretty shoddy job to be honest. The wood work was fine, but I had covered it with this horrible material, almost like a rug, and the glue didn’t hold so I ended up stapling the entire thing top to bottom. I’ve cut my finger on that shit too many times to count. I’ve recently started to refinish it, ripping that old covering off and resanding all the wood. I’ve got the list of materials to complete it, just need to order everything and do it. Going to go with proper Tolex this time, and all new hardware (handle, corners, feet, etc.). Should look pretty nice when I’m done.
In writing, I like to use both amps with an A/B switch along with a Digitech Jam Man stereo sampler pedal. I’ll switch to the A channel (5150), write/record a sample of something, then switch to the B channel (Ampeg) and write/record something else to layer it. I hate sampling and overdubbing on the same amp as it tends to squash to sound and just isn’t realistic. I never write anything for a single guitar, so it makes sense to write across two tonally different amps and build layers that way.
How was this gear used during the recording of your latest album?
Dierkes: I actually did not use any of this gear in recording my latest album, other than the guitars. The primary reason was that my wife was pregnant with our first child and I wanted to be home as much as possible with her. Recording a 100 Watt tube-amp in a home office for several hours at a time, while your pregnant wife is in the next room just doesn’t work out as well as you might think it would. I didn’t want to do that to her, and so I decided I was going to write and record this entire album “inside the box”.
To do that, I used a Zoom 9.2tt Amp Modeler/Effects Processor direct, and for the drums I did everything with Superior Drummer 2. I love analog gear, and wasn’t happy doing everything digital/direct, but I think it came out really well and I’m happy with it. That said I look forward to recording the next album with analog gear, as I do feel like there is a lot of tonal character missing in it.
Give us your best “gear goes wrong” story.
Dierkes: Back in early 2000’s the hardcore band I was in played a show in Vero Beach, FL with Zao. That was probably the worst show gear-wise, but one of the best shows I’ve ever played at the same time. I had been having issues with the Marshall cutting in and out randomly, but this show it had become completely un-usable early on it the set. I had to have a friend stand behind the amp to put tension on the speaker cable to keep it taught, and that seemed to work OK but she had to keep adjusting it every time it would cut out. On top of that, our drummer hit one of his cymbals so hard that the stand fell over and the cymbal landed directly on top of my guitar cable, severing it completely in two. It was, of course, at the best part of the song and the gear issues just completely killed it. All in all, playing with Zao made the whole thing worthwhile.
Check out the album ‘XVIII LIII’