Crown Lands’ doubleneck devotee Kevin Comeau on his fearless guitar/bass multitasking, recording with Alex Lifeson’s acoustic and why Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream is a tonal benchmark

Crown Lands’ doubleneck devotee Kevin Comeau on his fearless guitar/bass multitasking, recording with Alex Lifeson’s acoustic and why Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream is a tonal benchmark
Kevin Comeau

(Picture credit score: Jag Gundu)

The previous 20 years have witnessed the rise of some impossibly thunderous two-piece bands, from the lo-fi classic crackle of The White Stripes and The Black Keys to the modern-voiced heaviness of Dying From Above 1979 and Royal Blood – all of whom have in some way been capable of defy the legal guidelines of physics in phrases of sheer dimension and unfold.

Now you can add Canadian duo Crown Lands to that record, given how singer/drummer Cody Bowles’ melodies and rhythms are elevated far into the cosmic past by multi-instrumentalist Kevin Comeau, who – a lot like a mad professor – beavers away behind a fortress of kit with a view to carry their sci-fi prog orchestrations to life.

As an alternative of sign splitting as per bands of the previous, he switches between Rickenbacker guitar/bass double necks, classic Gibson SGs, cheap Strats, 12-string acoustics, Moog Taurus pedals and synths to create a world of sound that really must be seen with a view to be believed.

“Once we began out, I used to be actually influenced by all these two-piece bands,” Kevin says, talking from his residence in Oshawa, Ontario. “I used to be doing that twin mono setup the place you cut up your sign, sending your dry to 1 amp and an octave down to a different. 

“However I discovered it was muddying up what I used to be doing with the Taurus pedals. A number of these different bands are inclined to play only one half and cut up. My bass pedals have their very own strains. I do quite a lot of counterpoint. If I’m staying static on my guitar, I’ll play the melody on my Taurus and vice versa. I want to let my guitar play a conventional function – it offers me extra low-end area for bass pedals.”

Being a progressive rock band from Canada, Crown Lands are following within the footsteps of legendary trio Rush. And for Kevin, having initially fallen in love with punk rock throughout his early teenagers, it was the music Xanadu – the 11-minute epic from Rush’s 1977 album A Farewell To Kings – that impressed his personal grandiose and elaborate musical experimentations.

He says he owes “every part to listening to Rush on the proper time in life”, which led to him going again to find “the older, weirder aspect of prog like Sure, King Crimson, Genesis, Van Der Graaf Generator and Tangerine Dream as an alternative of Dream Theater and extra trendy stuff.” 

The opening monitor on Crown Lands’ new album Fearless is an 18-minute epic titled Starlifter: Fearless Pt. II. So far as opening gambits go, this one takes the listener proper into the deep finish. “Most of that was written over a few weeks,” Kevin says, “apart from the tip half which was going to be its personal 15-minute music about black holes. We discovered a Ted Speak by Stephen Hawking, so we sampled him into this instrumental ’90s Floyd-esque piece which ended up going nowhere, apart from that one part we moved over.”

If this all sounds just like the sort of factor Rush would do, properly, that’s as a result of it’s. When Kevin talks in regards to the first a part of Starlifter – what he calls “the opening overture”, which he says “represents a combat between good and evil” – he likens it to a different traditional Rush music from the ’70s, By-Tor And The Snow Canine.

He additionally acknowledges the affect of Rush in how he primarily works in DADGAD and open C tunings to assist emulate keyboard voicings. “I like utilizing texture and timbre to inform a narrative as successfully as lyrics. It’s all very hopeful with the massive suspended chords after which we do that chromatic shift into B flat, which abruptly makes you are feeling like we’re in D minor.

“We stay in a Mixolydian world of all the time having that flat seven, and that’s the sound of Rush, to the purpose the place I’d say 90 per cent of Rush’s music is in E Mixolydian. Xanadu is an ideal instance, although the refrain might be extra like D Mixolydian. Whereas quite a lot of classical musicians would frown upon that, we love these refined modulations. Starlifter primarily sits on this modal D space which shifts between main and minor. Yeah, it’s a little bit of a gauntlet to play by means of all of it!”

If you happen to’ve seen any footage of Crown Lands stay, you’ll most certainly have already marvelled on the sheer magnitude of Kevin’s rig. He agrees that his considerably unconventional function does current its justifiable share of challenges, particularly given he has to pay nice consideration to the bodily limitations of getting just one pair of fingers and toes for stay performances. 

He additionally admits his resolution to trace guitar and bass individually for elements of the brand new album grew to become “an enormous level of competition” for the duo, although stands by his resolution. “We’d organized earlier recordings on my doubleneck,” he explains. “This time I stated ‘Fuck it! I’m monitoring bass and guitar individually.’ 

“I needed the music to sound timeless… It is going to stay longer than we are going to. I needed to verify the recorded model sounded extra like how I heard it in my head. Cody was like, ‘How are you going to tug that off stay?’ I’ve organized the stay variations considering, ‘Who’s the hero right here, the guitar or the bass?’ – and that’s how I’ll change between the 2 on stage.”

All the rhythms on the album have been recorded with Kevin’s two Gibson SGs – a 1969 transition mannequin with ’68 pots and a more moderen SG Traditional fitted with P-90s, though he doesn’t tour with them for worry of neck breakage.

“I like these late-’60s Gibsons,” he says. “I discover the necks are so attention-grabbing. You have the thin nut and the neck is slim however by the seventh fret it turns into a baseball ball C-shape and fills your hand so properly. The T-High pickups in that ’68/’69 SG has this readability and sparkle you don’t get from some other humbucker.”

He describes the tone as “barely scooped”, particularly when in comparison with the Traditional, which carries extra mid-range grunt and maintain. These guitars have been doubled and panned laborious left and proper, along with his Rickenbacker 12-string tracked lifeless centre to assist thicken out varied elements.

“I like that sort of sound,” he continues. “Siamese Dream by The Smashing Pumpkins is a enormous benchmark for me when it comes to guitar tone. I like how Billy Corgan layered soiled guitars with clear guitars to create a guitar orchestra.” 

Kevin Comeau

(Picture credit score: Jag Gundu)

Then there’s the black Mexican Strat he used for lots of the leads, which he “purchased for $200, retuned to CGCGCE and by no means seemed again”. Not like Alnico single-coils, he explains, the ceramics in that guitar have a darker thump that sits nearer to humbuckers.

Its white pickguard was finally swapped out for a black one in tribute to David Gilmour (“it needed to be achieved!” he grins). One other instrument of observe is the classic Okay. Yairi-made Alvarez acoustic heard on Penny.

“The brass nut and bridge buzzes in a sure manner whereas the mahogany again and sides make it sound very darkish and folky,” he says. After which, after all, there’s the Alvarez doubleneck given to the band by none aside from Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson…

“We did a charity gig with Alex a couple of years in the past, he was the nicest man,” Kevin recollects. “We performed Led Zeppelin’s The Battle Of Evermore after which went into Stairway To Heaven. Alex lent me his white Gibson EDS-1275 to do the 12-string half whereas he ripped the solo. I had the guitar for a bit then he requested for it again when he did that charity public sale. He felt dangerous, so ended up giving me this outdated Alvarez double-neck he wasn’t enjoying a lot. I used it for many of the acoustic elements on the document.”

The remainder of Kevin’s tone comes from combining Hiwatt with Fender amps, a mix which the guitarist attests to being “the principle secret of my sound”. There’s one thing magical that occurs whenever you marry the mid-presence from the EL34s in a British-style amp with the scooped punch you get from American-voiced 6L6s, he says – demystifying how one individual alone can cowl a lot floor in an influence duo. 

“I ended up getting a cope with Hiwatt as a result of all my favorite guitarists sounded their finest once they used these amps. It’s that hi-fi sound which exhibits each mistake, making you a greater participant in the long term! Alex Lifeson used them from Hemispheres in 1978 by means of to Transferring Photos in 1981, my favorite period of his tone. 

“Pete Townshend had them for The Who’s Dwell At Leeds. One other favorite is Adam Granduciel from The Conflict On Medicine – their Dwell Medicine document is the top of tone. It captures the uncooked ferocity of Neil Younger with the phrasing and magic of David Gilmour, who sometimes used single-coil guitars by means of a shit ton of clear boosts, a few Hiwatts and a Leslie.”

Kevin Comeau

(Picture credit score: Jag Gundu)

Talking of pedals, there’s no scarcity of shimmering modulations heard on the newest recordings, primarily courtesy of the Boss CE-1 refrain that Kevin describes as his “favorite stompbox ever”, because of its triangle wave LFO as an alternative of the sine wave often discovered on different items. 

There’s an unevenness to it, he explains, that provides even higher dimension to the layers of noise. “I used my Eventide TimeFactor and MXR Micro Flanger loads, too,” he provides. “I additionally love my Diamond Compressor when utilizing single coils. I don’t squish an excessive amount of, however I like the additional push. And I like my Xotic EP Booster, it’s a traditional for a cause. Everybody says whenever you get that pedal, you’ll by no means flip it off and that’s so true… it’s the final word ‘always-on’!”

  • Fearless (opens in new tab) is out now through Spinefarm.

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Amit has been writing for titles like Complete GuitarMusicRadar and Guitar World for over a decade and counts Richie Kotzen, Guthrie Govan and Jeff Beck amongst his main influences. He is interviewed everybody from Ozzy Osbourne and Lemmy to Slash and Jimmy Web page, and as soon as even traded solos with a member of Slayer on a monitor launched internationally. As a session guitarist, he is performed alongside members of Judas Priest and Uriah Heep in London ensemble Metalworks, in addition to dealing with lead guitars for legends like Glen Matlock (Intercourse Pistols, The Faces) and Stu Hamm (Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, G3).

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