Emmure Guitarist Josh Travis Talks Meshuggah Polyrhythms
Rock ‘n’ roll has a long tradition of building on the work of previous stars and reinterpreting their influences. The Beatles graced the Isley Brothers, Elvis took over Little Richard… to contemporaries like the Black Keys celebrating hill blues luminaries RL Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, and Greta Van Fleet echoing Led Zeppelin and Motown. Dirty Honey reinvigorates 1970s hard rock sound and sleazy 1980s Sunset swagger with their amalgamation of heroes ranging from Prince and Queen to AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses.
Before Dirty Honey’s headlining gig at Marathon Music Works in Nashville, PGChris Kies took to the stage to witness the might and power of guitarist John Notto Appetite-ish aggression. Notto shows off a pair of old-soul Les Pauls, explains his intermittent two-amp approach (and where he stole it), and we enjoy a treat encounter with a very special “burst.”
[Brought to you by D’Addario XS Electric Strings]
It’s a Jimmy thing
John Notto is an avid fan of Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin. (Watch his Hooked video, where he explains how Pagey’s narrative riffs still impact his playing.) And while it’s clearly documented that Pagey often played Teles and low-power amps in the studio, when came time to get on stage, he brought out the big guns. Continuing the Les Paul-into-a-Marshall legacy, Notto brings a pair of both to the road. His longtime number 1 is a 2003 Gibson Custom Shop Historic Collection ’58 Les Paul Standard that he purchased in 2011. It features both relic work by Tom Murphy and natural wear applied by Notto himself. . The only change he has made to this burst is to swap out the stock pickups for a set of RAF Righteous Sound which deliver a low output rumble, allowing the amp to do the heavy lifting. All of its 6 strings take D’Addario NYXL (.010–.052).
Although Notto has owned the ’58 reissue for longer and has been on more Dirty Honey recordings than any other guitar, he admits that in live playing this 2019 Gibson Les Paul Standard ’50s won the first price. It was upgraded with RAF-2s from Righteous Sound. (Notto says these pickups are a little warmer, providing more stench, and they peak in the 1-3k range.)
Let’s be clear: this is not John Notto’s guitar. This genuine 1959 Gibson Les Paul (Gemini 9 2204) is owned by Gibson brand president Cesar Gueikian. It was loaned to Notto for the Nashville gig, and we’re sure Gueikian had private security monitoring Notto’s every move while it was in his possession. As well as being an iconic instrument of the legendary year, this Gemini started life on the workbenches of Kalamazoo alongside Peter Green’s famous “Greenie” because it’s sequential serial numbers. (If we split hairs, this Gemini was built before Green’s axe. Right here you can see a cool shot of current Greenie owner Kirk Hammett of Metallica and Gueikian posing with their treasures.) Notto mentions that the gaming experience with this burst is like controlling an “electric eel”, because it’s such alive and responsive to whatever he feeds her. Another takeaway from his time on the guitar is how “the notes reverberate but remain soft and desirable”.
The real deal
No relic master can match 63 years of aging.
Imagine the stories this doll could tell if she could talk…. And, in a way, it is possible.
Notto packs a punch when he hits the road. He travels with a mighty pair of Marshalls. On the left he has an original 1987 50W Marshall Silver Jubilee 2550, and on the right he has a 2018 Marshall 1987X which is basically a 50W plexiglass reissue. The 2018 carries the load for most of of the show (including taking all of his pedals), but whenever he’s solo, Notto engages (via an ABY Radial BigShot) the Silver Jubilee. He took the amp round for solos from current Black Crowes lead guitarist and Earthless frontman Isaiah Mitchell, who he saw using this setup when Dirty Honey opened for them in 2021. Both heads hit their own Marshall 1960BX 4×12, loaded with Celestion G12M Greenbacks (25W).
Here is how he composes his reissue in plexi.
And here’s how the Silver Jubilee complements the plexi when Notto hits the gas and steps into the spotlight.
Pedals for fun
True to the tradition of rock royalty, Notto spins with the bare essentials (aside from his Electro-Harmonix Nano POG which has been dropped down the octave a bit and is only used on the band’s cover of “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince). Most of the night is colored by four sound customization tools: an MXR Uni-Vibe, an MXR Echoplex, an MXR Reverb and an Xotic SP Compressor. The Dunlop 535Q Cry Baby Q Mini Wah is sprinkled throughout the set. The Radial BigShot ABY selector controls the amps, while the TC Electronic PolyTune 2 Black controls its guitars.