INTERVIEW – KARL SANDERS
#1 – What is your level of experience with / interest in amp sims and plugins?
Well, I believe they are very useful tools for working in the present day . I would not call myself an “expert”, nor have I tried every last one ever made. But I have been playing guitar for quite awhile, and have seen amp sims come a LONG way in the last few years.
#2 – Can you recall the first amp sim you ever tried?
Probably an early version of the line 6. Totally hated it. The Tech 21 stuff was way nicer sounding. Then I wrote off digital amp modeling stuff for a few years, til I got an iPad for Christmas one year and of course had to get Amplitube. That was a whole new league, I thought, and so I started trying a few different ones I found online and at NAMM . Then I started using the Bias stuff; got fed up with that and tried more stuff, and now I am currently using the Fortin Nameless .
#3 – Many guitarists that are interested in plugins have that “WOW” moment that changes the game and sparks the interest. Which amp sim created that moment for you and can you name a few others that have impressed you over the years?
I thought the Darkglass and NTS by Fortin were just leaps and bounds better sounding than everything else. I used to really like the one by Lepou the one called “legion” and the Ignite stuff sounds pretty rad.
#4 – Your main amp is an Engl invader, have you tried any of the Engl inspired amp sims out there? If so, how did you feel they matched up?
I have the Brainworx ENGL and the Custom Shop Engl’s from IK Multimedia. I like them for lead tones , and clean to moderate gain sounds. But not for a death metal super hi gain rhythm tone. That’s where I really start to notice the digital transients.
#5 – With the way the technology is evolving, could you ever see yourself touring and gigging with a laptop driven rig?
Well, that would be the dream right there. Who knows, maybe one day. The technology has come a long way already; for some kinds of music its probably already a very viable option. For Nile specifically, I haven’t heard an amp sim in a laptop that tempted me to TOTALLY replace my live rig. However, I do use amp sims live- but its just to drive the FX. For live, I use an Axe-FX just for FX; my normal signal chain splits off before the amp, and the FX aren’t even in the Marshall heads , they go to a clean power amp that’s just the FX like a dry / stereo wet kind of thing. But I don’t fly with the Axe fx if I can help it, so overseas I replace the Axe FX with my laptop running an Engl Amp sim driving various VST effects. I have the normal guitar tone coming through the Marshalls- and the laptop / amp sim/ fx chain goes D.I. . It keeps every thing neat and orderly , and I still get to have the real amp AND the VST’s all at once. lol
#6 – In most two-guitarist bands, the guitarists work and shape their tones to compliment each other. What techniques or ideals tone wise have you used over the years in Nile to create the signature wall of guitar both live and in the studio?
Being in tune helps whenever possible. Honestly, that Nile Wall-of-Sound heavy tone is both awesome, and a worst enemy. For live, that Nile guitar tone is great for crushing brutal rhythms but TERRIBLE for leads. So Live I use two heads. One that’s pretty scooped for the rythms, and a second head with more mids and presence. In the studio , nowadays I try to make sure to use a completely different amp setup for leads. Just so that its possible to differentiate the different parts.
#7 – If you had to record an album tomorrow using only plugins for guitar, what plugins would you reach for?
#8 – The new Nile album is slated for 2019, is there a chance we could hear an amp sim or two on it or will it be similar to your tried and true live rig?
For Nile, The amp sims are for working with the D.I. tracks before reamping; and I firmly believe in that application. I honestly could not fathom ever just using only the amp sim and that’s it, on a Nile record. For music that’s less saturated, I have done it . I did a project with some local guys called Babylon . They are kind of a retro / surf / pop-punk meets Hendrix, meets the doors kind of trio. They have a lot of widely different guitar tones. I used the Bias 2, and was able to conjure a variety of convincing clean/ jangly/ moderate gain guitar tones. I think thats where amp sims really shine.
#9 – NAMM seems to involve more and more amp sim developers year after year, you are a regular attendee, did you happen to get to shred any amp sims at NAMM this year?
I HEARD a lot of shredding on amp sims this year at NAMM. Lol These days I don’t even like picking up a guitar at NAMM anymore. Its much too perilous. I would honestly rather just check out all the other great players, listen to what they are doing, hear them demo the cool new gear, maybe even learn a thing or two.
#10 – Any general advice for those looking for brutal guitar tones?
I would say, don’t be afraid to try different gear and see what works for you. No one rig is perfect for everybody. I spent a whole lotta years playing tube amps, so that’s what I am used to hearing and feeling. Undoubtedly, that probably keeps me from making the best use out a lot of newer digital stuff. For brutal tones, I keep cables to a minimum and have as few things in the signal chain as humanly possible. Also, a lot of tone just plain starts in your hands. How you hold the guitar, the way you touch the strings, the placement of your right hand, pick angle, how firmly you strike the strings ; there are a million little variables that affect the sound of the notes coming from a guitar. So I would start there – It has to be mean and convincing coming out of you and through the guitar . If you can do THAT , then the gear is secondary. But there is no amp, be it tube amp or amp sim , or amp modeler is ever going to make half hearted guitar playing magically transform into earth shattering, world crushing mountains of Doom and Destruction . Play it like you mean it, and the rest will fall in place.
Karl’s tone and Nile’s music have influenced many over the years and it was a pleasure to talk gear with one of death metal’s true legends! I have been a Nile fan since ’98 and I can say that this was a real fan boy moment for me. Whether you are a death metal fan, Nile fan or even none of the above, it’s impossible not to respect a band that has worked as hard as Nile has over the years. Great songwriting, phenomenal drumming and a lot of great guitar tones!!