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Kurt Ballou takes tone very seriously. He’s been on the leading edge of aggressive guitar sounds since 1990 and Converge’s fourth album, 2001’s Jane Doe, is still seen as a game-changing release with its ferocious performance and masterful production. His sonic temple God City Studio is the destination for artists looking to make their rawest, heaviest, brutalist work. Ballou has even developed a gear brand (God City Instruments) that includes guitars, pedals, and pickups all in the pursuit of turning ideas into art.
During our conversation before Converge’s sold-out performance at Nashville’s Basement East on May 22nd, Ballou dove into his Line 6 Helix spice rack and shared how 30 plus years as a guitarist and in-demand producer have informed his guitar-design philosophy. Plus, he detailed why his goal is to get to a place where “gear doesn’t matter.” And then longtime bassist Nate Newton joined the fun by showing off his “Riffblaster” setup and how a special P bass helps him honor a dear friend.
00:00 - D’Addario String Finder
00:15 - Kurt Ballou Playing Intro
00:45 - Kurt Ballou & Chris Kies Intro
01:14 - God City Instruments Constructivist & GCI Soap Jammer Humbuckers
04:19 - Kurt Ballou's String and Pick Preferences
05:10 - Kurt Ballou's Guitar Gear Design Philosophy
07:05 - God City Instruments Craftsman
09:40 - Kurt Ballou on Using a Line 6 Helix
12:26 - Kurt Ballou on Organizing Helix Workflow
14:19 - Breaking Down Kurt Ballou's Converge "Kvrt Preset V6"
18:26 - Kurt Ballou's Line 6 Helix Amp Models & Quilter Overdrive 202 heads
19:57 - Getting to a Point Where "Gear Doesn't Matter"
21:40 - Bad Cat 4x12s & Speakers
24:19 - Kurt Ballou's Helix Channel 2 Settings
26:00 - Kurt Ballou's Pet Peeves on the Helix
28:05 - More of Kurt Ballou's Helix Channel 2 Settings
29:13 - Kurt Ballou's In-Ear Monitor Blend
30:18 - Nate Newton's Fender P Bass & Signature Lace Riffblaster Pickups
32:30 - Why Nate Newton Chose P over J Bass & Joining Converge
35:25 - Nate Newton on Touring with Cave In
36:31 - Nate Newton's Orange AD 200 Bass MK3
37:55 - Nate Newton's Pedalboard
44:45 - Playing Caleb Scofield's P Bass in Cave In
46:00 - Converge Performs "Axe to Fall" & "You Fail Me"