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Rut busting and reconstructing has probably been happening since the discovery of fire and advent of the wheel. Guitarists confront it each time they pick up a new instrument to avoid predictable patterns and tones. Premier Guitar contributor (and recent Rig Rundown subject) Pete Thorn has addressed this by suggesting several practices to approach our beloved 6 strings in a fresh perspective. And recently John Bohlinger recommended playing a different instrument to fertilize musical crops. But what does a guitar-playing producer and multi-instrumentalist do to shake things up for his band’s fourth album? Well, for Puscifer’s Mat Mitchell and the band’s 2020 release, Existential Reckoning, you go back in time 40 years to 8-bit synth sounds and the archaic sampling lurking inside the proto-digital Fairlight CMI.
“Part of [the appeal],” Mitchell told PG in a 2021 interview, “is the flow—the way that you work when you’re using these tools. It forces you to do things differently. They are very limited, and being creative within very set boundaries is really good.” And being the creative force he is, Mitchell found gold in the antiquated sounds and tech.
“They sound very unique,” he explains. “Of course, you can sample one and put it in a laptop, but it’s different. All the voices are separate hardware. When you hit a note, it is bouncing around between [processor] cards, so you can hit a note five times and it may sound different all five times. There are all these little things that affect the way it sounds when you’re performing, which is a very different sound from what you get when you sample.”
But he would never tour with this digital dino, so how does Mitchell recreate 8-bit tones in a performance setting? Thankfully, moments ahead of the audience filling the pews of Nashville’s iconic Ryman Auditorium, Puscifer’s aural architect welcomed PG’s Chris Kies for a chat about how Existential Reckoning’s inspiration took him back to the future, and how his live rig has metamorphized and been miniaturized with contemporary gear to realistically represent those superannuated sounds.