Alexis Trépanier and Matt Kapuszczak are the guitar duo and half of Canadian skate punk band; MUTE!
#1 – I am fortunate to have experienced the 90s skate punk scene in Montreal when I lived there in ’98. How important and influential was that era and the bands that made it so strong to the members of Mute?
[Alex] Very important and influential. Those years were truly the golden years. I saw most of the classic Epi/Fat bands in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. There was also a large cult following for several Swedish bands like Adhesive and Randy. Bands like these were, and still are, a big influence on us. It’s amazing to remember how many people there was at those shows. Not only big bands, local bands would draw big crowds. Bands would come and do as many as 10 days’ worth of shows just in Québec. That was a fantastic era for sure. I knew I wanted to be in a band as soon as I started going to these shows.
[Matt] As the one Ontarian guy in the band, it was very obvious from early on that the punk scene in Quebec was always a lot stronger than the scene in Ontario. Because of that, it gave hope to a lot of Ontario bands to keep doing what they’re doing. Whenever my old band made trips to play in Montreal or Quebec City, the crowds were amazing and energetic. We would get bigger shows in the province of Quebec than we would get in Ontario!
#2 – Mute blends metal and skate punk together, who are some of your favorite metal-influenced punk bands from way back to the days when it was almost frowned upon to today?
[Alex] I can’t really remember if it was really “frowned upon”, maybe it was, it was so long ago. I can definitely remember that playing slow was absolutely forbidden for a while. I actually always thought that the “new school” late 90’s skate punk genre had a lot more in common with metal, especially power metal, than people realized, or cared to admit. The fast pace, melodic guitars hooks, vocal harmonies, etc. I recall hanging out on mIRC, on the #PunkMP3 channel, and a lot of people over there also liked bands like Edguy, Rhapsody, Helloween and stuff like that.
Anyway, to answer the question, I think the gold standard in that punk/metal hybrid from that time period is Strung Out. I particularly love Twisted By Design and Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues. As for more recent bands, Adrenalized from Spain are the ones who are doing in the best. I highly recommend everybody to check them out.
[Matt] I’m not sure I was influenced that much by metal-influenced punk bands as much as I was influenced by metal bands and punk bands independently. Though, I guess bands like Belvedere, Deville and Rufio had the right kind of metal influence to pique my interest!
#3 – Which players helped shaped who you are as a guitarists and songwriters?
[Alex] Kiko Loureiro, formerly of Angra, now in Megadeth is my absolute favorite guitar player. His work on the albums Rebirth and Temple of Shadows by Angra and his solo album No Gravity has been a huge influence on me for a long time. Sometimes, when I need to write a guitar solo, I think “WWKD?” What would Kiko do? Other guitarists I was inspired by are Michael Amott from Arch Enemy, Paul Gilbert, Vinnie Moore, Jason Becker and the list goes on. There are too many to name. As far as songwriters go, I think of it more in terms of albums than people. Often, I would not really know who wrote the songs I was listening to. One album that really defined how I write songs is Homecoming by Craig’s Brother. It’s such a fantastic album, every song is brilliant. Every melody is awesome. An exceptionally well written album.
[Matt] I don’t really idolize guitar players, but a lot of the metal soloists like Alexi Laiho, Paul Gilbert and Yngwie Malmsteen shaped my style. The guys from Belvedere helped shape my work ethic. Songwriters like Yotam Ben Horin (Useless ID) and Scott Sellers (Rufio) have always been a huge inspiration in terms of songwriting, and continue to inspire me even to this day. And Alex, of course. It’s an honour to share the stage with someone who has inspired my guitar playing and music writing from even before I played in Mute.
#4 – Mute’s newest album “Remember Death” (Bird Attack Records – 2016) has truly great guitar tone, what gear did the two of you use during the tracking for the album?
[Alex] If I recall correctly, we used a mix of Mesa Boogie dual rectifier and Peavy Triple X. Basically, most, if not all rhythm guitar were double tracked, meaning each player played his stuff twice and the two takes are blended together to create a bigger sound. Once everything was recorded, one of the two tracks was re-amped through the Mesa, and the other one through the Triple X. For the “Softer” tones, we also used a modified Marshall Plexi. For guitars, I used a ESP LTD Deluxe H-1000 with EMG 81/85 pickups. Marc, who was the other guitar player at the time, used a Schecter V-1 flying V.
#5 – Do you guys do anything specific to dial in and tailor your tones to work together?
[Alex] Live, we’ve always been a “plug and play” band. We just try to balance the volume of both guitar amps and that’s it. Just plug into the amp and play, no fancy effects or anything like that. For the longest time, the only pedal I had was the tuner.
A couple years ago, upon recommendations from Jef, our studio guy, I started using a Boss OD-2 overdrive pedal. I use it mainly to get rid of some of the nasty low-end frequencies you get when you play with a high gain amp. It just tightens the sound overall. When I play with my own amp, there’s enough distortion in it so I set the volume and the distortion pretty low and it’s very effective. It’s also very useful on tour, if we have to play on a different amp each day. It brings some consistency to the sound. It’s also a life saver if I get an old Marshall with dying tubes. In that case, I will turn the drive way up on the pedal and it really add more bite to the sound.
[Matt] We don’t really use a wide variety of tones, so we just try to get a smooth and tight distortion for both guitars. Since Alex is the main songwriter and veteran in the band, sometimes he will adjust my tone to fit better, but in general we keep it simple.
#6 – Mute continues to tour the world extensively, what’s all involved with the setups you guys are working with on tour?
[Alex] Whenever we fly somewhere, we’re not taking our own amps with us. For Europe tours, we rent the backline for the whole tour, since we drive everywhere. We do keep it simple as always, just two amps and two cabs and that’s it. In the last few tours, we’ve played with Engl and Blackstar amps. On the other hands, for South American tours for example, the gear is provided at every show, so we take whatever they give us. That’s when that little overdrive pedal I was talking about becomes very handy.
#7 – With so many bands switching to compact digital setups due to growing tired of lugging big gear around the world and the inconsistencies of rented stuff. Have you guys considered a switch to an Axefx or Kemper type set up?
[Alex] I’ve never really thought about it. I’m quite content with the way things are. Like I said in the previous answer, we don’t carry big pieces of gear overseas. The heaviest things we bring are drums stuff, which, unfortunately, we can’t get rid of 😐… Having a consistent sound day in day out would certainly be attractive, but I’ve never had enough problems to consider changing ways. Also, some of the venues we play are quite deprived in terms of monitors sometimes… So, we still would need cabs anyway.
[Matt] Yeah, totally! I’ve recently switched over to using smaller amp heads from Hughes & Kettner, and I’m quite surprised with the great tone that comes out of those tiny heads. The next thing will be to try out a setup like Axefx or Kemper. Amp sims (and the standalone unit counterparts) have really come a long way, so I’m excited to give those things a shot. I don’t know if I will ever to a full switch though, but I am definitely interested.
#8 – Have either of you guys had the chance to play around with any of the killer amp simulation software out there? If so, which plugins have you enjoyed?
[Alex] Not that much… At home, I still plug into an old Fender Princeton 112 that I bought more than 20 years ago. However, we did use some amp simulation plugins when we worked on the demos for Remember Death. We bought a bunch of recording equipment and set up in our rehearsal room. The guitar and bass plugin we installed was Waves GTR. It worked very well.
[Matt] I do a lot of music recording at my home studio, so I’ve used a lot of amp sim software. The first one I used was Line 6 Toneport, which was a USB interface that came with modelling software. It was convenient, but the tones weren’t amazing, so I tried some alternatives like amplitube and the free LePou amp sim VSTs. Those were awesome. I recently bought the Positive Grid Bias FX2 VST and I’m VERY happy with it!
#9 – On the spot, name three of your favorite recorded guitar tones of all-time.
Useless ID – Redemption
Sylosis – Dormant Heart
Carcass – Heartwork
[Matt] This is always such a tough question… I haven’t discovered the perfect guitar tone in any album, and I always find imperfections and stuff that I would change! Therefore, this list might just be fueled by nostalgia, as I haven’t listened back to these recordings to reaffirm what I think my opinions are, but here is a short list in no specific order:
In Flames- “Clayman”
Off The Record- “Remember When”
#10 – What is coming up for Mute over the next year or so? Are there any details you can share regarding the next album?
[Alex] We have a tour of Mexico coming up in September and we’re working on some more overseas touring, but nothing that can be shared now. As for a new album, we’re not really working on anything new at the moment.