A buzz band
one which is on the verge of taking the music world by storm was a household term back in the 1990's. With most fads, the terminology isn't used quite as frequently, but that doesn't mean that the Black Veil Brides
aren't the epitome of one of those up-and-coming buzz bands.
The quintet, which delivers a distinct hybrid of the metalcore and emo genres, has indeed been all the talk within the industry. One could chalk it up to Black Veil Brides' striking appearance (with plenty of black hair dye, eyeliner, and nail polish to go around) but behind the mysterious faade are skilled composers that have already connected with a devoted audience.
The impeccable guitar team of Jake Pitts
is at the heart of Black Veil Brides' sound. While the two come from distinct backgrounds (Pitts being a Jack of all trades in the metal world, while Jinxx has roots in the classical genre), their collaborative efforts work together seamlessly on the major label debut We Stitch These Wounds. Pitts explained to Ultimate-Guitar.com recently that his work with Jinxx often works almost eerily well, to the point where they are able to finish each other's musical conundrums. And while some players might be concerned that image will overtake the music, Pitts embraces everything about Black Veil Brides' look. After all, Kiss
taught us that a stage spectacle can be a beautiful thing.
UG: How quickly did We Stitch These Wounds come together?
It was done very quickly. I was actually in a band with Jinxx before we were both in Black Veil. Basically we were doing a metal gig and we had been working together. So we were able to write together. I never had another guitar player that could do what I do. We feed off of each other. He actually got brought in to do the record, and then they ended up wanting me to do it, too. We went on tour in December, and I rewrote four songs and then learned four old ones. We went to do the tour in December and came back in January. Jinxx and I worked on it every single day. It was nonstop. We had Pro Tools and were doing the preproduction demos. We wrote the entire record in January. We had up until February 15 and went in the studio to record. The entire record was written in about a month and a half. There were a couple songs on there that I had actually written a long time ago, but I reworked them a little bit.
How would you compare Jinxx's approach to the guitar with your own?
Jinxx is definitely a lot more classical, I think. In his background he played violin, so he definitely has a more classical style. I like that kind of stuff, too. I am more into scales and then straight-up rock n' roll riffs and pentatonic and just playing really fast stuff. He's got the classical background, and I'm all over the place with all of it. When we write a song, like with Perfect Weapon for example, I wrote the chorus for that song. We came back and we ended up writing Perfect Weapon and Heavens Calling in about two hours. We got the basic idea of it and then we go back through. Every time we write a song, we'll go back through, listen to it, and say, Okay, how can we make the guitar part even better than this? We'll write a song, but then we go back through it and make it better. We try to not settle with whatever we first come up with.
Did you ever butt heads creatively during those sessions?
It depends. The song Heavens Calling, that intro riff was actually a riff that Jinxx had. We were working together, writing songs, and he pulled that riff out. We recorded that and we were trying to write the song, but it wasn't happening at that time. Once we got back in, we wrote Perfect Weapon and Heavens Calling, and he pulled that riff out again. I said, We should really use this. I went into producer mode and gave him the guitar while I was recording. I was giving him direction like, Go here, do this. I pulled it out of him and the song just happened really quickly. I got up for a second to take a phone call. When I came back I heard him trying to come up with something for the bridge. I said, Wait, wait, wait. I've already got that. I wrote that when I was home for Christmas. I played him the riff and he said, That's exactly what I was trying to do! It's really creepy the way we work together!
You mentioned going into producer mode. I understand that you're a certified recording engineer.
"I am more into scales and then straight-up rock n' roll riffs and pentatonic and just playing really fast stuff."
Yeah, in 2006 I went to the Los Angeles Recording School. I learned a lot there, but I think I learned a lot more just with hands-on experience. I worked with a producer here named Logan Mader. I learned a lot from him. I got a lot of experience of how he does things in the studio and how he uses Pro Tools. That helped me out a lot to become better at that.
For those interested in audio engineering, would you recommend an official school or just working for free as an intern?
I think whether you go to school for it or not, you pretty much nowadays have to go to school. You have to have that on your resume or a studio won't even really look at you. I've been offered tons of jobs from studios, and you have to intern first. The first three months you're going to work for free. I wasn't able to afford to do that at the time, and I was also pursuing music. I wanted to be out performing. I turned down five studio jobs because I wasn't ready to be in a studio all the time yet. I would definitely going to school for it.
Were you self-taught as a guitarist?
It's a funny story. My dad bought me an acoustic guitar for my 10th birthday. I messed around on it for a day and then it stayed in my closet. Later I don't know what happened, but it just hit me. I said, I'm going to play guitar and I'm going to be a rock star. I started playing it and he was seeing me playing it every day. He said, Are you serious about this? I said, Yeah, I want to learn how to play guitar. So he got me guitar lessons for Christmas that year. I only took them for about four months because I kept having different teachers and it wasn't helping me at all. They sort of showed me the basics and I just learned from there. I immediately started writing my own guitar riffs and writing my own songs. I was learning other people's stuff, too. I was really into Metallica and that kind of stuff. The biggest thing that helped me was my mother. She's a musical genius and she really helped me understand the musical theory.
Would you consider yourself pretty well-versed in musical theory? That's an area that some players often push aside. Do you feel confident about it?
Not really. I would say I definitely play more by ear and what sounds right. I know in the musical theory sense if something isn't right. Jinxx is actually a lot better with that stuff than I am. I can tell if something sounds right or wrong. I know how to write different harmony parts and all that. My mom helped me understand scales a little bit more. I never really got in-depth with it, but what she did teach me definitely did help me. If I wanted to write a dual lead guitar part and had the first part of it, I didn't know how to find the third the fourth, the fifth, or whatever to write a harmony. She showed me how to do that.
I read in a band bio that Paul Gilbert is one of your influences.
He's definitely one of my favorites. He's an exceptional guitar player.
Did you watch any of his instructional videos?
I never got his DVDs, but I looked through all of his stuff for techniques. I think my favorite thing that he does is the string-skipping arpeggios. They just sound really cool. You can tell that some of the styles I'm doing have Paul Gilbert in it and also Buckethead. I'm a big Synyster Gates fan, too.
Andy Six has been quoted as saying that his original idea was to create a band that could be the next Motley Crue or KISS. Were you on board for the band's image immediately or did you worry that it might overshadow the music?
Oh, not at all. I thought it was great. I've been in bands where they have an image, but it's not anything too extravagant. When I was first introduced to the band and they wanted me to be part of it, I was actually excited. There's got to be a little bit of danger to it. You've got to be more than a band in tee shirts and jeans. That's boring. I go and see my favorite bands play, and I would rather go home and listen to the album because there is nothing different. Whether we're playing in an arena or we're playing in front of five people, we're going to put on the same show. There is nothing like seeing your favorite band bring the show down just because they don't care because there are only a couple people there. It's really important for me. Obviously we're going to stand out from every other band. People either love us or hate us or don't know about us yet. I think everything we're doing is working. I love it.
The topic actually reminds me of the first few moments in your Knives and Pens video, which features a voice that discusses the supposed relation between black fingernails/black tee shirts/tattoos and the occult. Whose idea was it to include that speech?
"I never had another guitar player that could do what I do."
I believe that was Andy's idea to have that. I know that Patrick Fogarty did that video and our new video for Perfect Weapon. Andy and him were pretty much the ones that go over all of the ideas. On the Perfect Weapon video I was with Andy and Patrick going over what was going to happen. Andy knows exactly what he wants.
Did you follow a basic setup equipment-wise while recording We Stitch These Wounds?
I'm actually playing B.C. Rich guitars now, but I've had my black Schecter C-1 with the EMG 81 pickups in it. I've had that guitar for eight years. It's been in four music videos and recorded two albums. We actually used that guitar for most of the record. I think there was a lead that recorded with a Les Paul. Pretty much everything was done on the Schecter. For amps we used Marshall JCM 800s and a dual rectifier amp. We had a variety of gain pedals as well.
With your recording background, is it safe to assume that you had a great deal of input in the studio?
Unfortunately I didn't get as much as I wanted because we were basically in the studio the day before we left on tour. I really wish I could have been there every single day, but we had to tour. I did the preproduction demos with my Pro Tools. We stuck them on a hard drive and we pulled them up. Then we started recording over it. We went through and did the guitars, professional recorded all of the vocals on it. I feel really good about it. I'm hoping on the next one I can be there more for the studio side. That's what I've always wanted to do, be a good producer. I think I'm well on my way there.
Did you have songs left over from the last writing session that could be used for future albums?
I'm looking forward to sitting down and coming up with new stuff with Jinxx. If we wanted to, our second record could be done already. I'm always writing songs and always recording. When we're not on tour, that's all I do. Music is my life. I used to work a nine-to-five job every day. When I got off work, I would go straight home to do music. Having this is my job doesn't seem like a job at all.
What advice would you give to those players who would like to make a living in today's music industry?
I would just say practice, practice all the time. Get good at what you do and be something different. Don't be the same as other bands. Every band is a breakdown band now. Somehow we kind of get categorized as a screamo band, but we're really not and it's starting to show now that the record is actually out. Stick to your guns, play the music you want to play, and play it well.
Interview by Amy Kelly