The frontman and sole remaining founding member of Baroness, John Baizley, discussed his musicianship and explained what he calls his “limitations as a guitar player.”
Although characterized as a metal band, Baroness have their distinct style. This also includes a lot of guitar-focused exploration with Baizley and his bandmate Gina Gleason, who’s been in the lineup since 2017. This is especially prominent on the band’s newest record “Stone” which came out on September 15 earlier this year.
Discussing his approach to this new record during his chat with Ghost Cult Magazine, Baizley addressed where his strong points are as a musician and how they helped him make this new music (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):
“Vocally and lyrically is where I, as a musician, have grown the most through our music. With guitar, my limitations are easier to bump up against. And when I bump up against my limitations as a guitar player, I try to push beyond them a little bit.”
Nonetheless, despite feeling “limited” as a guitar player, Baizley keeps working on his craft, which is what we can hear on the new album. At the same time, he’s aware of his advantages as a musician, and these lie in his ability to write songs.
“But it’s a very slow process, that of getting better,” Baizley added. “And I actually don’t think it’s that important that I technically get better as a guitar player because it has nothing to do with composition. It has nothing to do with songwriting.”
As far as flashy stuff goes, Baizley has full support from his bandmate Gina Gleason. And she’s there to handle more impressive lead parts. He continued:
“I need technical fireworks out of the guitar. It’s not me you guys are gonna be listening to. It’s Gina — she has the skillset.”
However, it’s not so straightforward. A band is a very compact yet complex unit, especially in the case of Baroness, where having two guitars is crucial. It’s not like Gina and John are just doubling everything — quite the contrary. And understanding and learning more about how different components work together in a band is what helps them grow. John added:
“So again, an important part of our growth has been in everybody understanding their separate roles, and what I do can elevate what my bandmates do better than I do, so they don’t have to prop themselves up because here we are.”
Coming out in September 2023, “Stone” is Baroness’ sixth studio album and the second one with Gina Gleason in the band. The record came with a total of ten songs, and it got mostly positive reactions from both critics and fans.
Part of Baroness’ sound is also their extended use of Fender guitars and vintage amps. In an interview with Ultimate Guitar from earlier this year, Gina discussed the band’s gear habits and how it makes them sound the way they do. Asked if she considers her and John to be “Fender people,” Gleason replied:
“I think that’s definitely fair to say, and we’ve had a great relationship with Fender through the years, which is awesome. I think the way we play their guitars gives us the spread and the space for our parts to not step on one another, if that makes sense.”
“The spread of the single-coil sound with what we play and the density of chord voicings that we play together, it’s hard to find tones that are interesting that we’re inspired by that aren’t being muddied up by the pickups themselves.”
“So there’s just something about the Fenders that we’ve gravitated towards. It just really works for the way that we harmonize and the way we have to create complimentary chord voicings with one another.”
“We’re rarely ever playing the same thing, even if John is playing whatever power chord down here, I’ll probably take a harmony and just make it an octave-type power chord somewhere else on the neck and just get a little bit more of a spread that way.”
Asked whether there’s any specific piece of gear that is “essential” to her tone, she offered:
“For me, it’s a combination. I think because we’re using Fender guitars, Fender amps, or maybe less traditional amps, we’re using amps that don’t have built-in like gain stages. I like to use clean amps all the way, and then the distortion is coming from the front end, from the pedal board.”
“To me, I feel like I can dig in a lot more, it’s a less saturated tone, so I feel like I can really get in there. I hope you can hear it on the recordings too, like the pick actually hitting the strings and scraping and whatever. Then the distortion comes from the pedal board.”
“So all of that kind of affects your touch, your interaction with your tone. So it’s kind of a combination of like amp tone sculpting and pedal sculpting, that’s something that has become really important. For me, one sound I’m really excited about that I use live and a lot on this record is just I have a compressor before a fuzz pedal, and I’m just compressing the crap out of the signal going into the fuzz.”
“You end up getting this really wild fuzz sound that’s super compressed, so it’s really smooth in a way. But also, the wave is occupying as much possible space within those parameters, and it’s just got a really cool, wild feel to it. So that’s been a big thing for me since I’ve been in Baroness. I like that type of fuzz tone, and that’s kind of how I do it. Just compress the shit out of it.”