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1. Tell me about the stuff in your photos: How did you come to own these things? Makes/models/brands, etc.? Best parts? Worst parts? Anything a work in progress?
The red Stratocaster with all the stickers is “Big Red,” my main gal. She started life as a Squier Fat Strat. I’ve done quite a few mods over the past 15 years. I have replaced the neck with an unfinished Maple Warmoth Neck (with custom star inlays), Schaller Locking Tuners, a Graph Tech nut, Graph Tech saddles, a Seymour Duncan JB Humbucker in the bridge and wired up to have a single volume knob. I gutted all the stuff I don’t use. I ripped out the tone controls, pickup selector, neck and middle single coil pickups, and some of the pickguard haha. Big Red isn’t just a looker, she’s got immense playability with the smooth and snappy maple neck and has a great, solid, mid-focused tone. I’d say we’re both lookin’ a bit worse for wear these days… but we’re both still kicking!
The pink one is my Gibson Les Paul Junior. She has her share of mods as well. First the headstock broke off at a gig a few years back…which sucked. I’ve since got that repaired, put on Sperzel locking tuners, a custom cut bone nut, a Seymour Duncan Antiquity humbucker, and a Leo Quan Badass wrap-around bridge. My bassist, Kyle, stripped and repainted this guitar. It was originally TV Yellow. I told him I wanted a pink Gibson and he obliged. Now I think she’s sassy and unique, as pink Gibsons are few and far between.
The Black one is my Gibson Les Paul Classic. I changed out a few bits here too… picking up a theme here? I added Schaller locking tuners, a custom cut bone nut, Graph Tech saddles, and Seymour Duncan Jazz/JB humbuckers. This one’s got a thick sound that can get bass heavy without getting muddy.
The last one is a Fender American Reissue of a ’62 Jazzmaster and it’s the most stock guitar I own. The only thing I switched was the Jazzmaster bridge for a Mustang one. It has a tone that’s really unique. I’d say it’s kind of twangy like a Telecaster, somewhat beefy like a Les Paul, and it’s a bit biting like an SG. With both pickups on it’s unlike any guitar tone I’ve ever played before. It’s worth noting that I use the shit out of the trem bar whenever I play this live.
Both amps are Orange 2×12 combos. I’ve become an Orange fan boy quickly over the past year. I blame my buddy Sean Tolley (Nothing Sacred/ Short Stories) for that. We used to share a rehearsal space with his band. One night, my amp was on the fritz so I asked if I could play on his Orange AD30 that was left in the room. I plugged in and was blown away immediately. It was the sound I had been searching for out of my similar Vox AC30 but couldn’t quite dial in. I swiftly bought my own Orange AD30r and ditched the Vox. It’s a Vox-y style EL84 amp that has more “oomph” in comparison. I’d say it has a ton more mid focus and more preamp drive on tap. It’s a fairly simple one-channel amp without an FX loop.
In addition to the AD30, I wanted a backup amp. You gotta have a backup, right? I wanted an amp with some more bells and whistles. So that brings me to the Orange Rockerverb 50 MKII 2×12 combo. It’s a 50-watt amp with clean and dirty channels, spring reverb, and a tube-driven FX loop. The dirty channel is where the Rockerverb really shines. It can go from subtle crunch to insane saturation. With these two amps, I can cover a myriad of tones. I only use one at a time for shows. Which one depends solely on my mood.
Pedal chain goes Guitar > Dunlop Mini Volume > Dunlop Mini Wah > Mad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive > Fulltone Full Drive 2 w/ JHS boost mod > Black Cat Mini Tremolo > Boss DD-500 Delay > Catalinbread Talisman Plate Reverb > Amp.
I utilize different gain stages and the volume boost at key points of songs to bring dynamics to the band. I stack the drives and can use the clean boost independently. The reverb is on all the time. It really fills up some space, gives the guitar more impact, and doesn’t clutter anything up. The tremolo is used sparingly and is dialed in for a slight effect. The DD-500 is an incredible delay station. I can get tape slap, crisp dotted 8th delays, modulated patterned repeats, etc. all at the click of a switch. It has 200 editable presets… I’m only using 8 of them.
I’d say the pedalboard is the best/worst part of my rig. I’m happy with the flexibility and dynamics it brings to the band’s sound but it’s such a constant evolving thing. Let’s just say I change my board more than most people change their socks. Sometimes I want to scale it back. Then other times I’ll want to add more. I’m working on getting a midi pedal switcher system for my board so I won’t have to tap dance around as much. Hopefully I can get that squared away by the end of summer.
2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of the particular sound/style you’re after?
I’d say “Falling For You” off our upcoming full length album, Just Another Unsung Tragedy. Taken at face value, it’s a catchy, upbeat pop-punk song but if you dig deeper you’ll find it has some desperate lyrics hidden behind that forced optimism. Guitar-wise, it has some nods and winks to various rock ‘n roll and post-punk stylings strewn about. The main riffs and choruses have been dubbed with heavy gained guitars that blend into the verses that switch to guitars that have a lighter crunch tone. The bridge cleans up with strummed chords that have a touch of tremolo and slap delay. These tones are sort of a call back to a more retro ’60s feel. The lead “solo” guitar comes in with a lot of delay and reverb to give it a big ‘80s rock feel.
3. I noticed you use those big button things on some of your pedals. I’ve never seen anyone else use them, so I wanted to know why you do, and would you recommend them?
They are called “Barefoot Buttons” [www.barefootbuttons.com]. They are a newer company I found whilst browsing reddit. These buttons easily attach to pedal switches and make it easier to click on/off. They were made to also not hurt your feet if you play barefoot. I never play barefoot on stage but I do like the idea of having a bigger target to hit when clicking my various switches. I’m the lead singer and only guitarist in the trio. I have a lot of space to fill and need to switch sounds quickly and as seamlessly as possible. These buttons help me do so. Also the red boost switch and “A” delay (one on the right) on the DD-500 can be switched on at the same time if I get my foot stomping just right. I do that quite a lot to make solos stand out. Also these buttons look dope.
4. I’m sensing kind of a Billie Joe Armstrong vibe with the Strat, the LP Jr. and the Orange (I think he used an Orange at some point?) — is there something to that or no?
Bingo! Guilty as charged! Yes, I am very heavily inspired by Mr. Armstrong and Green Day. They were the first band I ever started listening to and I am still listening to Green Day albums to this day. I continue to find more and more things I enjoy about them. Whether it be the songs as a whole, his use of guitar tones/sounds, song structures, the album production, his lyrics, his live sound/gear… yikes I’m sounding like a creep, huh? As far as Orange amps, I know he’s more of a Marshall Plexi guy and has used JCM 800s & 900s in the early Kerplunk days but who knows, he might rock an Orange every now and then.
5. If money was no object, what’s the one ‘holy grail’ piece of gear you’d buy?
OK, so we’re back to the Green Day/Billie Joe thing. I’d buy a Marshall Plexi and get it modded with his same Dookie gain mod that cascades the front end and adds a preamp tube. I could finally have THAT tone. Maybe one day I’ll pull the trigger and get one.
6. What was the first piece of gear you bought and what are your thoughts on it now? Do you have still have it?
“Big Red”, the red stickerfied Strat, was my first guitar I ever bought. I was 12 and I really wanted to play guitar. My dad wouldn’t just buy me one because he said, “If you worked for it and bought one on your own, you’d appreciate it more.” Boy, was he right! As impatient as I was then, I truly appreciate that sentiment nowadays. So I did all the chores, mowed all the lawns, recycled all the cans I could until finally one day, I had enough cash to buy a guitar. I went to the local guitar store and the clerk asked me what I wanted and I just pointed to the red Squier Stratocaster that was on the display rack. The clerk was gone for a while then finally came back from the stockroom and said “I’m sorry but we don’t have anymore of these in red. Do you want the one on display? I can take some money off the price and give you a cable, some picks, etc.” I said OK and was out the door a happy boy. It was already dinged up and scratched a bit from being a display model but that didn’t bother me in the slightest. I threw some stickers on over the years, broken a piece here or there, swapped some bits and I am still playing it at live gigs. My USA Fenders and Gibsons are all quite nice in their own right but they could never replace this one. It’s special. It’s the guitar that started PWP.
7. What do you have coming up that we should know about?
We’re headed on a West Coast tour the first week on June (dates below). Our first show is on Thursday, June 2nd, at Soda Bar with Squarecrow opening for Toyguitar (Fat Wreck Chords). We are also releasing our full-length, Just Another Unsung Tragedy, this fall. The album is mixed/mastered and we are in the final stages for artwork. We’ll have a few more things to nail down before we can have a release date and corresponding tour. Keep an eye out for that. For everything else you can check us out at www.planewithoutapilot.com and your various social media sites. We out here… we grindin’.
“The Big Dirty Tour”
Thursday, June 2nd- Soda Bar (San Diego, CA) [INFO]
Friday, June 3rd- The Caravan (San Jose, CA)
Saturday, June 4th- Triangle Tavern (Salem, OR)
Sunday, June 5th- High Water Mark Lounge (Portland, OR)
Monday, June 6th- Le Voyeur (Olympia, WA)
Wednesday, June 8th- The Roxy (Vancouver, BC)
Thursday, June 9th- Johnny B’s (Medford, OR)
Friday, June 10th- Jub Jub’s (Reno, NV)