With a bold, arena rock-ready sound, Black Satellite is ready to blast into the rock n’ roll stratosphere with their upcoming new album, Aftermath. The duo revealed the first taste of the recording last month with the heavy-hitting new single, “Void,” a full-on dark alternative rock jam that shines a light on lead singer Larissa Vale’s exceptional vocal capabilities.
Aftermath is the follow-up to the pair’s 2017 self-released debut, Endless, an epic-sounding collection of tracks that really started to put Black Satellite on the musical map. From New York City, Vale is joined by her partner in crime Kyle Hawken, with the two forging a songwriting relationship several years ago that has blossomed into the duo becoming one of the most buzz-worthy bands amongst the alternative rock press.
We recently caught up with Hawken for another edition of Geared Up in which we discussed his preference for the Fractal Audio Systems Axe-FX II.
What one piece of gear do you use to obtain your signature sound?
Kyle Hawken: “The Fractal Axe-FX II XL+.”
How did you come to possess this Fractal? Vintage shop, regular shop, borrowed money, gifted. Give us the details.
“It was sold out everywhere at the time, so I purchased it new on Reverb.”
What made you choose the Fractal and were there any close seconds or alternates?
“I primarily picked this piece of gear because I saw a couple of my favourite artists using it and thought I would give it a try. We almost went with the Kemper but the interface wasn’t as smooth for me.”
What about the Fractal makes it so important to you?
“The Fractal has been with me from the start. It’s always been reliable and has helped me with the more experimental textures and sounds.”
Did you use the Fractal during the recording of your latest song or album?
“So, fun fact, all of the guitar sounds and most of the ambient sounds on our first record were all recorded using the Fractal. It was also used to track all the leads on our new song ‘Void’ from our upcoming album Aftermath.”
Do you have a special way that you recreate your album tones in a live setting, or is it more just plug-and-play?
“Well, live sound is pretty fun for us. I use the Fractal live with the exact same patches that were used to track the record. I can send them directly to FOH so I don’t even need a cab on the stage. Since we used real amps on our second record, it’s helped tremendously to lighten our backline and to not have to lug around heavy amps.”
We know you love the Fractal, but are there any major cons? (Ok, now you can also list the pros.)
“Obviously, at this point, we all know I love this thing. However, its major downfall is that it can never replace a real amplifier. I miss the feeling of having a loud amp behind me blasting the air.”
If you could, or wanted to, what would you tweak or mod on the Fractal?
“There isn’t much I would tweak.”
How easy is it for you to tweak the Fractal and get the tone/sounds you need?
“It’s actually a lot easier than most people think. You can connect the Fractal to your laptop, and by using their software you get a digital rig, where you can change literally anything.”
How does the Fractal hold up with regular touring and gigging?
“I haven’t had any problems with it yet. It’s definitely been through hell and back.”
Do you have a backup for the Fractal?
“Well, I’m really original when it comes to backups…I just have a second Fractal. If one breaks mid-tour I can always use my secondary one until it’s fixed.”
Time for some fun. Give us your best “gear goes wrong” story.
“(laughs) This is always a traumatic question. This isn’t the worst I’ve experienced, but definitely the most nerve-wracking. It was right before a big show. I just got done plugging in my control pedal and looked away for a moment when a stagehand tripped over the power cord, completely breaking the connector. I ended up figuring out that if I bent the cable while it was touching the connector it would power on. So the whole show I had to have the pedal shoved against my wedge with the wire perfectly balanced, making sure not to hit the buttons too hard so that it wouldn’t move and power off. It ended up surviving the show, but the connector completely fell off as soon as we were done. Definitely a close call!”
Any final thoughts or comments on the Fractal?
“I would just like to thank you guys for the awesome interview. Also, ‘Void’ from our upcoming album Aftermath is now available on all platforms.”