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Featuring progressive bands of all styles and genres, from prog, post, psychedelic, art rock, metal and everything in between, PROGFEST is about showcasing bands that think for themselves; bands who rather than following the latest trends, have decided to challenge themselves musically and create music with depth and vision.
Before Progfest kicks off we caught up with Simon Mitchell of Chaos Divine to talk about his favorite guitars in his collection and favorite guitarists
Long running Perth progressive metal act, Chaos Divine, have a plethora of industry accolades and a touring pedigree a mile long. Leading audiences through a journey of uncompromising arrangements, crushing riffs and soaring melodies, these enigmatic musicians, have created a realm of sound and style matched by few and admired by many.
I currently only own two guitars but coincidentally I’ve only ever owned five guitars so let’s go through them.
My first guitar was an Abilene strat that I got for Christmas when I was maybe 12 or 13 years old. I remember it coming in its box so I can only assume it was brand new but my goodness, what a dog of a guitar. The pickup selector and tone and volume knobs were scratchy and barely functional from the start, and it had this strange bridge/trem system where it didn’t bother with springs, instead the idea was that you would use the trem arm to just physically bend the bridge away from the metal base. How I didn’t break that thing I’ll never know. As far as the sound goes…well the cheapest of the cheap entry level stratocasters…I’m sure you can imagine the sound.
My second guitar was an Ibanez RG270. I reckon I got this when I was about 14 or 15 years old, so that’s about ’98/’99. I was super stoked with this thing, that is until it became clear I may have made a slight error in choosing this rather than the Jackson Dinky that was the other option. This is because for some absurd reason Ibanez briefly used single locking tremelo systems where the nut locked, but the bridge saddles didn’t clamp, instead you would keep the ball ends of the strings that would sit in these little unlocked tube-like saddles on the back of the bridge. This meant that the guitar simply could not keep tune. If you dared touch the trem arm, heck, accidentally sneezed in the general direction of the trem, it would go horrifically out of tune. So I saved my pennies and had it replaced with a Gotoh trem that was nice and sturdy and allowed me to squeal and divebomb relentlessly. While it was in the shop I also had a Seymore Duncan Invader installed so that gave it a nice can o’ bees tone. A perfect match for my metalzone.
My third guitar, which is one of my current guitars, is a PRS Custom 24. You’ll see this at Progfest as it’s what I use for all of our 6-string songs. I love this thing. I got it on finance when I was maybe 19 or 20 years old, so that’s about ’03/’04. This is one of those ‘I will never sell this guitar’ type of guitars. I just love the way it plays and as far as the sound goes, it’s somewhere between a Les Paul and a Strat. Nice and meaty for high gain tones but wind the volume back a bit and hit the coil tap and you can get some nice stratty blues and rock tones.
My fourth guitar was an ESP Horizon. Not to blow my own horn or anything but I got this thing before ESP became a staple in all Perth music shops. I had to order it in because they were so rare at the time, particularly in dark brown sunburst with quilt maple top. I sold this thing about ten years ago and still regret it to this day. Oh well. The sound was similar to the PRS as it’s a similar build – mahogany neck and body, neck through. It had an ebony fretboard though, and Seymore Duncan JB & Jazz pickups so it had its unique characteristics compared to the PRS.
My fifth guitar and second current guitar is an Ibanez 7-string RG Prestige but I can’t for the life of me remember the exact model. It was one of those models that was discontinued after only a year or two of production. It’s a really nice guitar. I’ve played a lot of 7-string guitars and I still think this one probably feels the best to my hands. I had a Seymore Duncan JB installed in the bridge position for a bit more more spice. I also had each dotted fret on the side of the neck painted with a big white block (the part that you see when looking down at the neck while holding the guitar). I had this done because I need to see what I’m doing but the side dots on this guitar are so small that on dark stages I just couldn’t see what I was doing and that led to some absolute train wreck sets. It’s a great sounding guitar as you’d expect from a MIJ Ibanez with a hot pickup. Plenty of sizzle.
Favourite Guitarists in no particular order:
Steve Vai – What can I say that hasn’t already been said? He will be revered for generations to come I suspect. And for good reason. I’ll always remember seeing him at G3 playing Whispering A Prayer. It was a religious experience.
Per Nilsson – This guy’s solo’s in Scar Symmetry have so much life and melody it’s insane. They’re like songs within songs. In modern melodic heavy metal he is unparalleled in my opinion when it comes to emotive lead guitar work.
Mikael Akerfeldt – Such a virtuosic guitarist. I honestly don’t think any guitarist in the world can do what he does. Not only is he unbelievably versatile, but the standard to which he is capable of playing every single style in his arsenal is just staggering.
Devin Townsend – Similar to Mikael Akerfeldt, I just love his versatility. I love how on some albums he can create these lush and textural guitar driven environments that send the listener into a kind of hypnotic or tranquil state (Terria in particular), but then on other albums get his chest out and riff ultra hard and throw in blistering shred. The guy is elite level.
Fredrik Thordendal – Is there a tougher guitarist? I’ll wait. But it’s not just the crushing riffs that makes him and Meshuggah in general the outright leaders in the genre – the leaders that so many bands follow and try to emulate – it’s also the Holdsworth style alien lead work that sets him apart. What he does is just unfathomable because he doesn’t follow rules. While the rest of us are bogged down with our scales and modes etc, he’s literally taking alien communications from deep space and turning them into guitar solos.