There won’t ever be enough words to describe John Petrucci’s musicianship. But aside from his mindblowing guitar skills, the Dream Theater axeman has now officially launched his new company Tonemission. After some teasing, the first products have been launched — impulse responses, dubbed John Petrucci IR Collection: Vol. 1, which you can now find at this location. We here at Killer Guitar Rigs got the privilege to talk to John and he explains in more detail what his mission with Tonemission is all about.
You started Tonemission, and recently, you shared a teaser on your social media and people kind of freaked out, like, “What’s happening?” Can you take us to the beginning of this idea, how this came to be? When did this idea start?
“Well, the actual idea of Tonemission in the name came a while back, many, many years ago. Because I’m just like… Most people probably listening to us or watching us just obsessed by tone and guitar sound. And the whole journey or mission that I’ve been on, it’s just very… Everybody has their own story and their own version of that.”
“But it’s very common amongst guitar players, especially in our community, where we get so passionate about what we like, and so opinionated about what kind of guitar sound that we like, what kind of amps and gear and guitars and things we like to use. So the idea of a ‘tone mission’ and that word kind of came to mind many years ago.”
“And I sort of always imagined it in sort of a twofold way. One was a more generalized kind of community way where I’d like to sort of establish a place where people could share their own Tonemission stories the way that I have done my whole career. Just kind of have a place for people to do that. And obviously, these places exist all over the internet, of course. But I wanted to foster that with, with Tonemission someday.”
“And the second part — I wanted to create a brand that I could branch out with my own products and that carried that Tonemission brand and logo that would kind of equate to just being really high-quality products in this domain. They could be electronic products, they could be guitar products, hardware, software, whatever. But it was kind of more of an open term that I use for a company that I wanted to build.”
“So this was a while back. And it’s taken many, many years. And I sort of finally found the first thing that I thought would be worthy of actually launching the company and everything that goes along with that. Like the website and the socials and everything else. So that’s what this is all about. But the idea came up a while back.”
You’re introducing the John Petrucci IR collection, the impulse responses, and it includes three packs. There’s Terminal, Liquid Dreamworld — for all of your bands and projects. Can you walk us through what these are like and what gear they’re based on?
“The thing that’s interesting about this whole thing is — I was never really into digital products, admittedly. I’ve always been an amp guy and cabinet guy, I’ve always used them in the studio and on tour. Of course, there’s been incredible technology that has come forth with a lot of the hardware with the [Fractal Audio] Axe-FX and Neural’s [DSP] Quad Cortex and things like that.”
“But it was only until I actually did the Archetype Petrucci with Neural where I really dove into something to present a digital version of my gear and my sound in such a way that I thought was so incredibly convincing and done so well. And those guys just have it nailed better than anybody, right?”
“So that kind of launched me into this whole world. But meanwhile, in the background, while I’ve been in the studio over the last couple of years, me and my engineer Jimmy T. have been capturing IRs, just from my albums. Not really with any intent to release them or anything — just to have them basically, in case we wanted to use them in any sort of application ourselves. Reamp something… We wanted to capture those moments.”
“So, as you said, we actually did that for ‘Terminal Velocity,’ my latest solo album, ‘Liquid Tension Experiment 3,’ and Dream Theater’s ‘A View from the Top of the World.’ I could be wrong — but I think so I’m going to say it — this may be the first time that anybody has released specific IRs specific to certain records that were recorded.”
“Usually, IRs are released in a general fashion. You know, this is this cabinet and this microphone. In this case, not only is it this cabinet, which, in this case, most of the times is a Mesa Boogie 4×12 Recto cab. And not only is it these microphones, which varies depending on the records — they’re all sort of bit different combinations. But this was the actual setup that I used to record those records.”
“And I thought that there was something really special about that, you know? If I can go back in time somehow and… Sure, you might be able to get a certain cabinet and microphone that AC/DC used on ‘Back in Black,’ right? Like, there’s tons of IRs of that combination. But if you can say, ‘Hey, this is the actual IR from that studio session — here, it is.’ Like, that would be crazy. So I just thought there was a lot of value in that. And that’s what I’m super excited about.”
That’s really great to hear. We live at a time where there’s an abundance of great guitar plugins, software, some of which you mentioned. As far as home recording goes, people usually use the actual thing. From my experience, some of the home enthusiasts who are recording at home may not use impulse responses all the time. But how important do you think it is to have like these quality impulse responses? And how much can they change your tone for an average guy recording at home?
“Here’s the best way for me to describe it. I think that the technology in the digital world has really advanced to the point where the ability to model an amplifier and what it does as far as its components and its gain staging and everything — it’s getting really, really good. Even just apps on the phone, there’s companies that do this stuff.”
“I mean, they sound great, right? But the thing that really makes the difference is the IR. And it makes a difference to the player. In other words, as you’re playing, one of the things that guitar players feed off of is the way an amp feels. You’ll always hear that word, ‘feel.’ You know, ‘How it feels.'”
“And usually, they’re referring to the way that the amplifier is reacting in real-time in its environment. Which is very random. When a guitar head is plugged into a speaker cabinet and it’s in a room, you can play the same chord 10 different times and the way that it moves through the air is going to be different every time.”
“So it’s like that feel thing. Whether or not it feels like you’re pushing air out of a speaker. It feels like you can feel sort of give of the strings and the woodiness of the cabinet and all that stuff that we love, all that nerdy geeky stuff. When that’s not there, sometimes it’s hard to play on a digital sound like that. It doesn’t sound personal. It sounds all sorts of compress-y and one-dimensional. And what that what the IR does is it gives it life and personality and lets you control the dynamics much like you would if you were actually playing out of a guitar cabinet.”
“So to me, the IRs, what I found, is you could really hear a major difference if you just load in different IRs into the same amp model that you might be using. And you will hear an incredible difference.”
“And again, it does come down to taste. People might like hearing their guitar out of a 2×12 [cabinet], people might like a 4×12 by this company or that company. Or they might really prefer this type of microphone over another, or think it’s horrible to use that microphone. ‘Why would you ever use that,’ you know? And so all of that comes down to taste as well.”
“So, in the case of my IR pack, we are presenting you my tastes, our tastes. This is the decision we settled on when we were in the studio. This was the ultimate sound to us. But also, in addition to that, we did also include the individual microphones.”
“So the IRs, you can load them in as a blend, in other words. This is what we recorded the guitar through, these microphones blended in this way EQ’d this way. Or, you just want to use one of the microphones, you want to use the 301, you can have that one too. And you can hear what that sounds like. So it’s a really complete pack in that way too. And you get an idea of how different the microphones are.”
“The other thing about this too is where they’re placed. That’s another taste thing as well. Where the microphone is placed on the speaker cabinet, how close to the speaker, how close to the center of the cone, or away. And these are all decisions we made. So they’re done for you. You just load it in, and boom — you have this great sounding IR. [Laughs] It’s really important for the home recording enthusiast, for sure.”
Awesome. The official press release says that you have the IR collection. But if you can talk about it — if you can’t that’s alright — But do you have anything else planned in the future or should we wait a bit longer for this to be revealed?
“We do have a lot of really exciting ideas for the future. This is our debut product. So all has sort of led up to this. And there’s a lot of work to get to this point, of course. But once this has been established and the infrastructure is all done, then the ability to move on to other ideas and projects is going to be a lot smoother for us.”
“So we haven’t announced any of those future products yet, but we have a long list of things we’re really excited about. And we’re gonna see where this takes us. The cool thing about the Tonemission — that is a word or a slogan or a brand — is that it really is open to so many different things. And that’s what I like about it. In this case, it happens to be IRs. But in another case, it might be something totally different. It might be a physical product. It might be something that involves another artist, possibly. I think the possibilities are really open up with this company.”
Photo: Andreas Lawen, Fotandi (Dreamtheater – Wacken Open Air 2015-1619 (cropped)), Tonemission.com