INTERVIEW – JASON FRANKHOUSER
#1 – Have likely tried the what’s what of amp sims over your career but which one was the first?
I want to to say Amplitube way back in the day. Pretty sure that was the first one. It was pretty rudimentary and I did not dig it much so I kind if did not pay attention to amp sim plug ins for a long time.
#2 –Could you give us some of your all time favorite amp sims or plugins from the road so far?
My favorite amp sims are definitely from Neural DSP. The Fortin Nameless and NTS suite are very hard to beat for high gain. The Nameless is even great for straight up rock tones. I also like the Toontrack EZMix presets by Mark Lewis. Super simple and good sounding amp sims. Those are plug in and go pretty much and that can be helpful when just sitting down to sketch out a songwriting idea.
#3 – Being a Fortin artist, how much time have you had the chance to spend with the Fortin plugins by NeuralDSP and what your thoughts overall?
I was a beta tester for both the Nameless and the NTS Suites. They are easily the most amp-like sims I have ever used. I have been using them quite a lot to track Dis with ands in some cases I have even printed guitar tracks with them. They pretty much changed my thinking as far as amp plug ins goes. Before, I always thought the ones available were ok for quickly getting ideas down but now I have full confidence I could produce guitar tracks that no one ever knew were from a plug in.
#4 – You have made a name for yourself by pulling great tones out of every amp you demo. What is your overall approach to tone from amp to amp or sim to sim?
First off, I always try to have material that is well written. No one wants to hear or see a video with crappy riffs. The tone I like for high gain is extremely tight and fast tracking with plenty of mid muscle and a smooth top end. I try to get in that ballpark for my demos. When using real amps and cabs, 99% of the time I add no post EQ or any kind of processing and only use a single 57 for the demo tone. Good and honest guitar tones are what I am after on my channel, not super polished and produced sounds. It is not possible to get a real idea of what an amp sounds like doing all that stuff in post.
#5 – Pickups are important but would you say they are even more important with amp sims given the added digital artifacts in the signal?
I would say that how you record your DIs is more important than anything. Recording them cleanly with no added coloration and no clipping is extremely important. That goes for using amp sims or for re-amping to real amps. Next, the way you re-amp is incredibly important. I use the Radial JCR Re-Amp box invented by John Cuniberti. It works extremely well and I have been very satisfied with the results that I have gotten from it. I also use the Two-Notes Torpedo Reload as a DI interface and as a Re-Amp box. It works amazingly well also. To get extremely picky about it, you need to also pay attention to what kind of conversion you are using. That is where aliasing and artifacts come into play. I use the UA Apollo 8 which has really nice studio grade conversion. I have been very happy with it. Pickups matter in the same way they always do. I have not found that a certain pickup works better than any other for tracking DIs other than the normal stylistic preferences you would have when using real amps.
#6 – You’ve had the chance to demo some of the best amps on planet earth, name a few amps that you would love to see done right in plugin form.
Well, I am hoping to have a plug in of my amp, the Fortin Evil Pumpkin as it has been affectionately named, at some point. That is my favorite high gain amp of all time. Hopefully that will happen at some point. It would be cool to see a VHT/Fryette Pitbull Ultra Lead plug in. That is a cool amp that I don’t think has been represented digitally yet. Also, the ENGL Blackmore, which is my favorite ENGL would be cool.
#7 – Can you share some info on your current live and studio setups?
Live I am using the Fortin Evil Pumpkin into 2 Randall USA cabs loaded with V30s. I also use my Fortin Killer Kali ++ sometimes. I have also been known to use an old Rev F Triple Rectifier with the Fortin Grind pedal boosting it. Same cabs. That is deadly.
Studio wise, I just try and listen to the track and go for what I like. It’s usually my Fortin amps, old Rectifiers, or old Marshall JCM800s. The classics never go out of style and they deliver punishing tones that don’t take hours of tweaking.
Amp sims in the studio are always the Nameless or NTS. There is a ton of flexibility between those two and they sound great. They are also super easy to use and to dial in.
#8 – If you had to do an album with only plugins for your guitar tone, what would you reach for first and how would you build your tone / signal chain?
Most likely it would be Nameless or NTS for guitar tones. I would print stereo guitar tracks using either one of those and then do any post stuff to that track. That is my work flow in the studio. I almost always end up using Waves H-EQ and Waves Renaissance Axx in the post processing chain. I also really like the UA Neve 1081 EQ. That ends up getting a lot of use as well.
#9 – Have you tried many of the freeware offerings out there? If so, which products stand out the most for you?
Can’t say much about this as I have not used that stuff. I need to look into it more!
#10 – What would your primary advice to modern players as a good first step to great tone ?
Develop your right hand. Especially for metal players. At least half of my results in getting good guitar tone come from that. Knowing how to palm mute with your right hand and dampen strings with your left is a technique that is just as important as soling. Maybe even more so. Also, have your guitar setup correctly. Setups have an impact on your guitar tone in a major way. A proper setup can often times eliminate tonal challenges and allow you to concentrate on writing and performing which, ultimately, is what it’s all about.
It was great sitting down with Jason to talk about gear because he is very well known for having some of the best tone in the game. One doesn’t become known as “Killertone” without having just that. If you aren’t familiar with his demos and other activity, please do check out his links below!! Also check out Jason’s artist pages on the Fortin and Randall sites!