The Devil Wears Prada's Jeremy DePoyster talks Jazzmasters, rhythm guitar glory
When it was announced that the title of The Devil Wears Prada's upcoming album was 8:18., a fair number of people assumed that the disc was coming out last month. But as rhythm guitarist and co-vocalist Jeremy DePoyster explains it, the name comes from a specific passage in the sixth book of the New Testament.
"[Co-vocalist] Mike [Hranica] came up with that," he explains. "It's a reference to Romans 8:18, which speaks about present suffering and future hope to come, a light at the end of the tunnel. In the past, Mike had always written about dark, sorrowful and miserable existences. This time, it's more of a 'Yes, that is still out there, but hope is near.' So it's depressing and uplifting at the same time."
As they did on 2011's Dead Throne, the Christian metalcore quintet (which also includes guitarist Chris Rubey, bassist Andy Trick and drummer Daniel Williams; keyboardist James Baney left the band last year) worked with Killswitch Engage's Adam Dutkiewicz, who executive produced the multi-layered sonic thrill ride. Although lead axeman Rubey's epic riffs and richly melodic lead lines dominate the band's sound, DePoyster's gasket-blowing rhythms are solid engine drivers. We talked to the guitarist recently about the art of rhythm playing and why he chooses to use the decidedly un-metallic Fender Jazzmaster as his weapon of choice.
Do you feel as though playing rhythm is something of an underrated art, especially in metal?
"I guess it kind of always has, really. Playing rhythm is great. I don't see it as uncool or unchallenging at all. My role in the band has changed a bit over the years, though. I see myself as a singer who plays guitar; I do all of the clean singing in the band. That's what takes the most effort and energy from me, and that's what changes night to night in how it comes across. If I were just a guitar player, my job would be 10 times easier because I could just muscle through. But the voice is this horrible, challenging thing that you really have to work on – that's what I view as my major contribution to the band.
"There's a lot of different songs that feature more of my vibe, the more melodic and jammy-type stuff. I try to take a bit of a production role on a lot of things, where I can help harness what we have. It all depends. We contribute where it's needed, when it's needed – there's no one way it all goes down."
You've been a big Jazzmaster player in the past. Are you still using them?
"Oh, yeah. I used a Jazzmaster on a couple of parts, and then I used a Mustang and a Les Paul, too. Actually, the Jazzmaster is my thing. I have one that's tuned to a drop-B, and I use it in the set as much as possible every day. We have a bunch of guitars tuned up, but that's my baby."
Jazzmasters aren't really thought of as metal guitars. What do you like about them so much?
"I guess I just wear too much plaid, and my hair's too greasy. [Laughs] No, you know, I love Sonic Youth and The Cure, all of these alt-rock guys and grunge guys and indie guys; I love goth and so much of it. I always had Mustangs at home, but I wanted a Jazzmaster so bad. It was weird, though – I was always like, 'Hey, bud, I'm in a metal band, so I can't go with a Jazzmaster.'
"Finally, one day I just got so tired of it, and I decided to do it. I knew that I'd have to bump up the gain, so I put a [Seymour Duncan] JB in this Jazzmaster I got; I also put a JB in my Mustang. I tried them, and man, they sounded so awesome – more resonance, way more than any of the guitars than I was using before.
"I love to break with convention. I love to play what I want to play, and I don't want to sound like other guys. Chris likes the more metal stuff, the Ibanez and the Peavey guys, and I like the rocky stuff. I just crank up the gain until it sounds right, and that's what I do. I probably am one of the few guys in a metal band who plays a Jazzmaster."
While on tour, have you turned guitarists in other bands on to Jazzmasters?
"I think so. I think there have been a few guys I talked to who started to think about what they were doing. It's not like I challenge their notions or anything – they should use what they want – but it's cool when you can expand people's ideas. I'm never like, 'Here, try this!' I'm never pushing things on people.
"You know, I just love the guitar. I think every guitar player has their own identity as far as how they play, what they play, what they sound like, and it's a very personal connection. That connection is tighter and closer than it is with any other instrument. Knowing that, why would you choose to play something, like I did in my youth, because it's part of a sponsorship, or it's free, or because somebody gave it to you or whatever?
"I did that for a long time, and I really got turned off by the whole thing. When I started to really get in touch with the instrument and develop a true personal connection to it, it became the happiest period of my life – and I'm still in it. The bottom line is this: Don't look at what anybody else is doing. Play what you want. Establish your connection with your guitar, because it's really, really different from any other instrument in the world."
Has there been a particular amp that you like to pair the Jazzmaster with?
"I play an Orange Rockerverb through an Orange 4 x 12 live. That combination takes to the JBs quite nicely, but it still lets the tone of the guitar shine through. I use the Rockerverb 100s because, by the time the 50s start breaking up, they're a little too 'roar-y' for me. I need more of the high gain, so the 100s do it for me. Those amps are so cool and easy to use; I can pretty much put all of the controls at one o'clock, and then I work my tones with the gain knob. Those are my go-to amps. Basically, anything I put into them sounds different and sounds really good.
"On record, though, for every part, whether rhythm or lead, I used either a Peavey 6534, a Sovtek, a Marshall JCM 800, a Soldano 100, a Vox or a few others that [co-producer/engineer] Matt [Goldman] had around – and the Rockerverb. We just played it by ear. The 6534, the Soldano and Marshall made up most of the dirty tones."
On the song Gloom, are you syncing up the guitars with a sequencer or other electronics? How was the song built up and layered?
"Everything was played to the click, so the parts are 'synced' in that regard, but I believe there are two rhythms on every part and some leads that I played up on the high frets. There's even 'fake' fretting up above the fretboard over the neck pickup, and it's soaked in delay. The Whammy makes it sound even bigger. A lot of what gives it the depth is the keyboards. Chris dialed up a pretty ridiculous bass tone as well with a lot of drive."
The song Martyrs has some pretty fascinating rhythmic work. How do you work to find the right patterns with your right hand?
[Laughs] "Most of those are the work of Chris; most of my contributions are melodic, a few leads here and there. The majority of the technical hand magic comes from Chris."