On April 27 of last year, American metalcore bruisers Miss May I found themselves victims of an all-too common crime facing the touring musicians of today: theft. It was an incident that affected lead guitarist B.J. Stead most out of the five members…
“We were in Baltimore and had already played our show, heading back to the hotel to take quick showers and naps,” begins the axeman.
“The next day we were playing Virginia so we were only in there for about six hours and when we left to get in the van, someone asked me, ‘Hey, did you bring your laptop stuff inside?’ And from that moment I knew it was gone…
“It was all my recording equipment, along with our video game rigs, our drummer’s passport and personal items, other random knick-knacks. My recording stuff was probably the most valuable as it was what we’d been using to write our new album…”
After posting online about the theft, a donation page was set up that eventually raised enough funds to cover the loss. They say you can’t keep a good band down - so onwards they marched to recording this year’s sixth full-length Shadows Inside…
“It kinda sucks that happened,” continues the guitarist, “but the GoFundMe thing helped bring enough money back to pay for a new laptop, interface and all that stuff. The only bad thing is that I had a bunch of project files for new songs I was working on and those hard drives got taken with everything else. A minor headache, but it wasn’t that bad, because I could still go back and redo it all from memory…
With this year’s offering, the band spent a lot more time cherry-picking through ideas - “digging and honing in to make the songs better, while before it was more like one month to prepare and record.”
Rather than spending countless hours persevering over the most boutique analogue tones with old mics and temperamental valve amps, all the attention was shifted towards songcraft, ensuring the group brainstormed all manner of twists and turns to their modern metal crunch.
As it turns out, digital equipment had everything B.J. and rhythm guitarist Justin Aufdemkampe needed for the recordings, alleviating the stress of capturing a good tone so they could focus on the very foundations of the album.
“We did most of the tracking using Ibanez guitars, who I recently switched to because they make brilliant instruments, going into a Kemper Profiler,” reveals Stead.
“And as for effects, we stuck to using all the ones that are built into Cubase. So, as you can imagine, there wasn’t really a whole lot of analogue involved… except for the drums, if they count, haha!
“For guitars, it was mainly just the Kemper, all digital and just straight in. The songwriting took ages and it did really suck not being on tour - but it was a blessing in the end when we heard the final product.”
Here, BJ Stead picks the 10 albums that changed his life…
Shadows Inside is out now, and available to order via Sharptone Records.
1. Iron Maiden - Brave New World (2000)
“Maiden could easily fill up all of these slots, but I have to say Brave New World was the one that came out when I was really getting into playing guitar. I would sit down and try to learn every song, riff by riff. It had The Wicker Man on it, The Mercenary and I’d say the title track is easily one of my favourite Maiden songs of all time.
“I had some friends that recently went to see them on their recent UK tour in Manchester… I was so jealous. I admire all the guitar players in Maiden, but I feel like Dave Murray could be my favourite. I’ve always loved his solos the most.
“He’s the man, always smiling and looking like he’s having a blast… I mean, they all do. Adrian Smith looks really fucking cool, with the whole mystique. It’s definitely a fair fight between the two, though technically Dave has been in the band longer!”
2. In Flames - Come Clarity (2006)
“This one’s a fucking ripper! I love In Flames to death, man. My favourite tracks are Take This Life, which is a given, and I like Leeches a lot, too. They were so inspirational to a whole generation of American bands.
“There are a lot of similarities with our music - whether it’s the riffing or solo playing, what comes out is usually what you’re inspired by. I listened to this album so much growing up, learning all the songs in my basement, and that naturally transcended into what I would write in general… rather than trying to get away with any direct rip-offs!
“I also loved A Sense Of Purpose, the next one in the cycle - which had Alias, Disconnected and The Mirror’s Truth on it. I was obviously on a huge In Flames kick for a good couple of years. I still am - even their latest album Battles could be on this list. They have more of an alternative kinda sound now, almost a bit like aggressive radio rock, but I listen to it all the time… I love it that much.”
3. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin (1969)
“This is the one with Good Times Bad Times, Dazed And Confused, Black Mountain Side… they were one of the first classic rock bands I got into.
“Mostly because my father was a guitar player as well, and he would listen to Zeppelin all the time. Late at night he would be downstairs in the kitchen, drinking a beer, listening to rock ’n’ roll - and a lot of the times, it was this record. I got hugely into it through that. He had the vinyl player and everything, so those memories are really sentimental for me.
“The way Jimmy Page inspired me was through his whole mystical lead guitar solos. Even though I don’t play that way much any more, I did a lot back then. It played a huge part and vital role in my learning process as a guitarist – it just doesn’t have as direct an impact on what I’m doing now...”
4. Andy James - Exodus (2017)
“I’m going to throw a new one in here - there’s a guy from the UK called Andy James. He’s absolutely insane. I found him on Instagram about a year-and-a-half ago and started following him pretty heavily. I got his latest album Exodus just recently and I’ve been jamming this one so much…
“He seems like a cool guy and, good god, can he play! It might not be in my top ten albums growing up, but it doesn’t need to be… it’s in my top ten albums right now, that’s for sure. He’s the king!
“I saw he was working on some really awesome Kemper profiles with STL Studios that sounded massive. He put some demos of those on Instagram and they were unbelievably sick!”
5. Minus The Bear - Menos el Oso (2005)
“This might not be from the metal world, by any means, so obviously it didn’t play a huge part in my metal playing - but fuck, on this album the band are just amazing. This must have been the first record of theirs that I got around the age of 15 or so...
“And they’ve been one of my favourite bands since, up until right now and I’m 27 years old. I still listen to them almost on a daily basis! I’m in love with Menos el Oso… it was and still is a total masterpiece!”
6. Incubus - Morning View (2001)
“I’ve always been a big fan and this is one of my favourites they’ve done. My sister was obsessed with them and was always playing this album. I would always hear it, thinking, ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool!’ Growing up, I would listen to this album twice over on the way to school.
“Mike Einziger is quite the guitar player. And I believe he suffers really badly from carpal tunnel syndrome - he had a lot of trouble from not warming up properly or getting his hands going before playing. I think it came from some injury while growing up that affected him later on.
“Either way, he’s so unique and different… Incubus are the only band that sound like that. Just A Phase is a great track.”
7. Joe Satriani - Surfing With The Alien (1987)
“My guitar teacher from back in the day introduced me to this. He said, ‘If you want to know how to play guitar, listen to this record!’ And it blew me away… I needed to figure out how to do all of that stuff. Joe Satriani is the man, no doubt about it.
“It was a huge album for guitar music. I don’t know if there’s much crossover with our music… there is a solo on our newest album on a song called Under Fire that has a lot of false harmonics - maybe it might be more of a Vai thing. But other than that, there’s not much. Those guys are more rockin’ than we are, with more crazy blues ideas than the stuff I play.”
8. Avenged Sevenfold - Hail To The King (2013)
“It’s more of a modern album, only a couple of years old, but there was a point in time where my band were going through a lot of tough things. When this came out, I wasn’t really the biggest Avenged Sevenfold fan in the world. I liked a bit of their stuff growing up, but they were always maybe a little clean or whatever the term may be.
“Then Hail To The King came out just before we went on tour with them on Mayhem Festival. We had a new album out, everything was going good, but it felt like going on tour was more of a grind than having fun with friends. Being fortunate enough to watch them and their crazy live show with fireworks and pyro every night really helped - that album was essentially a Metallica album; it was almost like being on tour with Metallica.
“And that’s why I really love this record, man. Even when we go on tour now, we sit in the dressing room and blast this to get pumped to go on stage. The experience got us stoked again, from being part of something that cool.”
9. Guns N’ Roses - Use Your Illusion 1 & 2 (1991)
“This is technically two albums, but let’s count it as one, haha! I listened to both of them a lot, trying to hone in on Slash’s pentatonic techniques, ripping through the scales as fast as he does. It was only a two-year period where I listened to them a lot… but they really did take over my existence for that time!
“I even started wearing bellbottoms and trying to dress like Slash, along with four or five of my other friends. We looked like that and listened to hardly anything else for those two years!”
10. Mastodon - Blood Mountain (2006)
“I need to put Mastodon in here, but picking one album is really, really tough. Crack The Skye is only seven songs and a total masterpiece, though I’d have to say maybe Blood Mountain is my favourite overall...
“Brent Hinds has some really cool country influences in his solos, and it’s very much his own sound, too. There’s this one bend and pull-off thing that he does all the time, and as soon as I hear it, I know exactly who I’m hearing. This band are just so good.”