Bringing you the fire and the spirit of the boogie-woogie is The Midnight Devils. Previous to the pandemic, the Omaha/Chicago band were tearing it up on tour, with the likes of UK sleaze rockers The London Quireboys. The band’s music is unique, unpredictable, and harkens back to the glam days of high octane ‘80s rock. Featuring lead guitarist Chris “Sniper” Hineline, bassist and singer Sam Spade, and drummer extraordinaire Jimmy Mess, their sound is down, dirty, and heavy, combining the look and feel of Motley Crue and Alice Cooper, along with the boogie of early rock n’ roll.
The dudes are currently working on their sophomore release, the follow-up to 2018’s Something Bigger, in Chicago, and will soon be hooking up with none other than the incomparable Chip Z’Nuff who will be assisting with producing and recording the album.
One listen to The Midnight Devils and you won’t be able to avoid noticing the band’s mature and refined musicianship. For our latest Geared Up interview, we spoke with Sniper to get the lowdown on his instrument of choice, his 2004 Custom Shop Charvel Star guitar.
What one piece of gear do you use to obtain your signature sound?
Chris “Sniper” Hineline: “My 2004 yellow Custom Shop Charvel Star. It has a Single Humbucker with a Floyd Rose with a D Tuna and with the FU big Brass Block, Dimarzio Tone Zone rewrapped and an EVH low friction Volume pot, Maple fingerboard and Alder body.”
How did you come to possess the Charvel Star? Vintage shop, regular shop, borrowed money, gifted… Give us the details…
“I found it on eBay and traded one or two guitars to get it. I traded with a guy and then a couple of weeks later he wanted to trade back. It was a mess. I kept it and never looked back. When I finally got it I knew it was a perfect fit for me, tone-wise and play-ability-wise. The look, the feel, the tone, it was all there in this perfect Charvel Star.”
What made you chose the Charvel Star and were there any close seconds or alternates?
“I have always loved the star shape. The first time I saw Eddie (Van Halen) play one and Akira (Takasaki) from Loudness I knew I had to have one and it had to be a Charvel!
The neck is so ridiculous and it plays so effortlessly and the tone is freaking epic! Plus the way it looks on stage under the lights is killer! I usually bring two guitars on the road when we tour so I have a backup that I have complete faith and trust in. My second guitar is also a star and it was made by Michael and Wayne Charvel from Wayne Guitars in Paradise, California. Unfortunately, they lost the shop and everything they own in the wildfires in California a couple of years ago. I am going to be the first in line to get a new star from them when they reopen. The specs are the same but it’s not yellow it’s white with blood-red splatter. I have used these two guitars at every gig for the past ten years.”
What about the Charvel Star makes it so important to you?
“The feel of the neck and the tone and how much confidence I have in it and myself when I am playing it. The way it looks on stage and in pictures. It fits me and my personality perfectly. Plus it’s bright yellow!”
Did you use the Charvel during the recording of Something Bigger?
“I used it on every single song and solo on Something Bigger and I used it on all the new songs we recorded. I used a Fender Strat on the clean parts on Bleed Betty Bleed and doubled the rhythms with a Charvel Custom shop flat Black Strat with a Seymour Duncan TB14. I doubled some of the solos with the Wayne blood splatter star.”
Do you have a special way that you recreate your album tones in a live setting, or is it more just plug-and-play?
“We are a dirty three-piece rock band. No tracks, no flown-in vocals, no tapes, no nothing. We record the same way we play live just plug in and go for it. We do a lot of multi-band gigs where it’s throw and go so we don t get to soundcheck or get any level checks. It’s just go and rock. It’s not the best situation but it is what it is. We have a great chemistry on stage and play pretty loose, we can feel it out and follow each other. No song list, we just call them out and have a blast playing.”
We know you love the Charvel, but are there any major cons? (Ok, now you can also list the pros.)
“If there was a con about this guitar and it’s a big if, it would be no neck pickup but that’s not a big deal to me. Hell, I don’t even use them on the guitars that have them. The tone is unreal on this guitar! The feel of the neck is epic! The look of the neon yellow star is killer! There are no cons on this guitar!”
If you could, or wanted to (maybe you don’t at all, and that’s cool), what would you tweak or mod on the Charvel?
“The only thing I would consider modding on this guitar is adding a sustainer like EVH had on his Wolfgangs. Other than that nothing. But I am too scared modding it would change the tone and ruin it. I just had a star made with a sustainer in it for recording and maybe for some live shows. It’s really cool but not worth the risk of ruining my Charvel Star.”
How easy is it for you to tweak the Charvel and get the tone/sounds you need?
“I literally just plug in and play. No tweaking or fussing or messing with the settings on my amp. I have had guitars that I had to do that with and I hate doing that. Those guitars stay home and I bring out the two stars that are not so temperamental and sound and play amazing. They are literally my comfort zone when I am out on tour. I never have to worry about them.”
How does the Charvel hold up with regular touring and gigging?
“At first I was having problems with it staying in tune. The neck would shift when I jumped off the drum riser and it would be out of tune. I took the neck plate off and added two additional screws underneath the plate to make the neck more stable and it worked! Plus they are hidden under the plate so they don’t show. It really did the trick! I have replaced the Floyd Rose two times now and the lock nut three times. The Floyds get really rusty and start to get sticky and make it hard to use the fine tuners. I never clean the necks or the bodies. I feel it adds to the tone of the guitar as well as the character. Other than strings that’s all I have done to this guitar.”
Do you have a backup for your Charvel?
“My backup guitar is a 2006 Wayne Star made by Michael and Wayne Charvel. It’s white with Red Splatter Single Humbucker, Dimarzio Tone Zone that was rewrapped Floyd Rose with D tuna and FU big Brass Block, Maple fingerboard, alder body EVH, low friction volume pot. It’s basically the same as the Charvel Star. Maybe a little lighter.”
Time for some fun. Give us your best “gear goes wrong” story.
“We were playing The Viper Room on the Sunset Strip and we were not allowed to bring in our own cabinets. We had to use their back line but I did bring in my pedalboard and 5150 III 100 watt amp. It was a typical throw and go. Everyone is ready waiting on me and I’m getting a high pitch squeal out of my stuff. I have two minutes to figure out what the issue is. Can’t figure it out so I use a straight cord. No pedals, no tuner, no channel switcher for my amp. It was brutal for me but I made it through the set.
As I was tearing down my stuff all upset and self-conscious about my sound and lack of pedalboard I noticed the sound man had plugged two speaker cables in the back of my head but only one was actually plugged into a cabinet. Ugh! The other cable was touching a metal light truss and when the drummer would play it was moving back and forth. Sometimes touching the metal sometimes just dangling there. It was not my gear at all it was the soundman!”
Any final thoughts or comments on your Charvel?
“I can’t say enough good things about this guitar! I wish I had four to five of them so I could rotate through them at a gig. I know Charvel/Jackson was bought by Fender and they are making changes but the older stuff is still amazing and epic! Thank you for listening to me ramble on about my gear!”