We previously introduced you to Ohio-based emotive rock band Silent Hearts with our recent premiere of their “Stranger” music video. The single dropped back in December and the group have been riding high ever since. Now, with a new single titled “Ghost” out, the five-piece group are ready to get out on the road and connect with their fans in the deepest way.
In support of the coming tour, and to offer you something a little bit different, we spoke with guitarist David Gast about his favourite gear to use while writing and recording, including the Ibanez RGD Iron Label, and the Gibraltar Standard II bridge. The band, who play what’s best described as a rock/metal mixture, have received a helping hand from the talents of both Nick Sampson and Andrew Bayliss (Sylar, We Came as Romans, Born of Osiris) and, when combined with the following gear, the resulting sound is just think.
What type of guitar do you use to obtain the sound that you and style that you are going for?
David Gast: For Silent Hearts I use an Ibanez RGD Iron Label. The 26.5″ scale length is one of the reasons I use this guitar. When we play live we play every song in drop A tuning. This longer scale helps with keeping the intonation in line at lower tunings. This helps with several aspects of the show such as the fact that we don’t have to change our guitars and prevents us from taking nine guitars on the road with us. I also like the fact that it has only one control for volume, a 3-way pickup toggle, and that’s it.
I like simple things when it comes to guitars, which is why this Ibanez is perfect for me. It has two active humbucker pickups that give it the edge that I need when we dig into a driving chorus or rip a breakdown. The tone of the guitar is nice and rumbly which matches well with my Mesa Triple Rec and my Jet City. No inlays on the neck which is kind of cool and keeps life interesting sometimes… Plus the thing is freaking beautiful and looks nothing like any other guitar you would see at a show we play.
Watch Silent Hearts’ music video for the serious and emotional “Love is War.”
What about this particular style of guitar makes it so important to you as a guitarist in a contemporary heavy rock band?
Gast: The high activity of the pickups and modern flat oval neck make this guitar perfect for our style. It is a double cutaway body so my hand doesn’t hit a roadblock, like it would on a single cutaway, when going up to play some lead riffs. The flatness of the neck gives me more fretting speed than a U or V neck like you would see in a Gibson or Strat.
How was this particular brand or style of guitar used in the recording of your debut EP Love || War?
Gast: I actually didn’t have this guitar when we recorded our EP Love || War in early 2017. We used a similar Ibanez that the studio provided because we decided to downtune and drop the keys of the songs on the EP at the studio with Matt Dalton. I got this guitar towards the end of ‘17 and now I use it for everything. In recording “Stranger” and “Ghost” as well as the next song we are releasing soon, we used a modular custom guitar built by Nick Sampson.
What would you say are the major pros and cons of this style or make of guitar?
Gast: A couple additional pros of the Ibanez are the locking tuners. This makes changing strings super easy. The bridge is a Gibraltar Standard II so I don’t have to mess with the tension of a floating bridge like I do with my other Ibanez RG. I can’t say there is a downfall for this guitar. Except when I forget to change the battery for the pickups.
The “Stranger” single dropped on December 4th, 2018.
Who were some of the guitarists, renowned or not who really got you interested in playing the guitar when you first started?
Gast: I’ve always enjoyed playing Ibanez guitars. In fact, the second guitar I ever owned was an Ibanez RG. I can’t really say that there was any guitarist that I was a fan of that played Ibanez. When I first started I was really into Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Green Day, A Day To Remember, Escape The Fate, kind of all over the place. There’s a lot of ESP in the music that I listen to. I’ve never really gotten into them though. I only played covers for a few years. I took some theory lessons right off the bat and once I learned how to write music that was pretty much the end of my cover song career. So, no musician really impacted my decision to use Ibanez guitars, I just fell in love with them on my own I guess.
If we wanted to look for the one track on Love || War that displays your best guitar work, what song would we want to skip to?
Gast: Going back to Love || War, I think the song with the most interesting guitar work would have to be “Sing.” When we were writing the EP we worked with Rod Pires (American Wolves, THRILLCHASER) as a co-writer. Rod really helped me better understand the structures and tendencies of rock music. “Sing” was kind of a different direction for us and when I sent Rod the first demo of the song, originally titled “Sing It,” we ended up ripping through the entire structure while keeping only a few of the riffs. If you listen closely to the bridge of “Sing” you’ll notice we actually have six guitars in the recording. Most of the song contains at least four guitar lines. Rod was a huge influence for me and some of his techniques stick with me to this day.
We’re not “Stranger” to this band, and you shouldn’t be either.
Silent Hearts is a fairly complex band, from a musical perspective, combining driving grooves, heavy breakdowns, and anthemic style hooks. How would you describe your guitar playing style in general?
Gast: I’m not sure how to describe my current guitar style, to be honest. If I were to start writing a song this second I probably would not start with picking up my guitar. When writing by myself, I usually start writing a song by looking at the big picture first. What feelings the song should portray, whether it needs empty space in areas or if every second of the song should be a banger. Then I might jump into piano for a melody or a chord structure for a chorus. My guitar style is mainly something that enhances the life of the song. I wouldn’t say guitar is my primary focus in general.
In our first EP, some of the songs like “Best of Me” and “Better Days” start off right away with guitar. So back in 2017 I was definitely more focused on guitar style and keeping the music super riff-based. In our latest stuff like “Stranger” and “Ghost,” we are getting more into other aspects of music and I think that is increasing the quality of our songs. I do love just cranking my rig sometimes and jamming on some riffs. However, with Silent Hearts, we take a very complicated, drawn-out approach to how we write songs versus just sitting in a room and jamming for hours and spitting out a song.
Dylan and Mike are great guitar players, quite more so than me I have to say. I wouldn’t compare myself to them in guitar skill level. When we are writing a song together I might not have a good idea for a riff until I hear something they have come up with. I think “Ghost” went through a dozen variations of guitar work before we were satisfied with just the demo. So I think to answer the question, my current guitar style derives from the feeling and life of the song, as well as the vibe that the rest of the band members give off.
A couple exclusive shots of David Gast and some of his herein-discussed gear:
Take us a little bit through the process of when you first started playing guitar. What age were you, what was the first guitar that you ever owned and how did you get it?
Gast: The first guitar that I ever owned was a black Stratocaster and was given to me by my dad. I think I was 11. I ended up trading it in for an Ibanez S series a couple of years later. Before that, I always messed around with my dad’s acoustic and electric guitars. I actually played the trumpet and trombone from 5th grade to the beginning of 8th grade. I think that having an early understanding of music really helped me pick up a deeper understanding of theory when I finally picked up a guitar.
Do you have any good “gear goes wrong” stories for us where your guitar happened to completely fail you in a certain performance situation?
Gast: (laughs) Oh boy. Well when I was in my early days playing covers, we played a small local show for our friends and as we were changing guitars one of my guitars fell off of its stand and the headstock broke completely off. I have a picture in my phone still of the headstock with the strings wrapped around it sitting in a bowl. I was able to get it fixed but it was never the same after that so I just sold it.
More recently at a show in Cleveland, I actually had a pedal die on my pedal board that completely cut out all signal to my amps. Luckily, I carry spare cables in my head case so I just threw a direct line into my Mesa and finished the song. Actually, that very same show my laptop was sitting on my Orange 4×12 cab and the vibrations of my rig actually triggered the space bar on the computer and we lost the click and light production mid-song.
Also from Love || War, watch the lyric video for “Take Away The Pain.”
Do you have any thoughts or plans to give any other brands or styles of guitars in the future or do you think you’ll be sticking with what you’re presently happy with?
Gast: I am pretty happy with Ibanez right now! I might mess around in the future with PRS or maybe look into something custom like with Nick Sampson’s modular guitars. For the next project, we are working on it will be a mix of Ibanez and Nick’s guitar. After that, the options remain open.
Finally, in your opinion, who’s a great guitar player out there that we should be looking out for?
Gast: One person that I think is still under the radar and has a great amount of unnoticed talent is our lead guitarist Dylan Kendrick. Dylan started with us after the Love || War EP was finished and has only had a few opportunities on recent songs to really show what he’s got. I remember when I was younger, about 16, going to see my cousins’ band play and Dylan was their lead guitarist. Dylan actually jumped on my table I was sitting at and started shredding some disgusting solo. I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
It would have been crazy for me to think at the time that down the road we would be playing in the same band together. He has been a major component in sculpting our particular sound after Love || War and I’m really looking forward to see what Dylan has in store for the rest of this upcoming material we are working on. When the guitar is in his hands, the standards get a rocketship attached to them.