Polyphia’s Tim Henson Reveals ’Lazy’ Aspect of His Studio Work, Explains How They Recreate Weird Guitar Tones Live

While recently appearing in a new segment done by Reverb.com, Polyphia guitarists Tim Henson and Scott LePage shared a few secrets about how they approach writing and recording their music. Among other things, they were asked to share some of their “favorite techniques to make crazy guitar tones.” Tim commented (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“I like to layer the synths. So I’ll take the guitar part and it really works when you have something percussive and clean. And then I’ll take the exact notes and put them on, like, goofy ass fucking sins like shit you hear and rage beats and like hyper pop and like video game sounds.

“But I like to use sidechain plugins, where they’re linked together, and you put them in a group, and then you throw like a glue compressor on it. So they’re triggering each other. And so you get this hybrid between the guitar part and the goofiest synth. And they’re playing the same thing.

Tim Henson & Scottie LePage Signature Ibanez Guitars

“And so depending on which one has the more dominant transient, they’ll overtake. But they’ll switch, right? Because it’s side-chained. So you get this like a crazy fucking hybrid. And then when you put it in a group and then throw the glue compressor on it, and then a glue compresses it.”

Further on, Tim was asked to share his process for finding guitar tones. And, to no surprise, he revealed that his signature Archetype plugin is the go-to tool for this. Tim replied:

“Dude, I track everything on Archetype Tim Henson. It’s ‘The Worst Clean.’ That’s the preset. I track everything, I write everything. Because if it can sound cool on that tone, which is like the most basic dry tone, it’s going to sound fucking sick on anything else.

Archetype: Tim Henson

“The Worst” is Polyphia’s song from the 2017 EP “The Most Hated” so that’s where the preset name comes from. From what we know, the plugin has this preset spelled out as “W6RST Clean.” Tim continued:

“And then once I know that I have something sick, like, just from that tone, that’s when I kick back and relax, and just like put all the different things on it and just go through all the different presets and see what sounds the coolest.

One thing that Polyphia are famous for the use of odd effects. However, they often add a lot of stuff in the post-production process which often shapes the tone in a very unique way, making it completely different than the original track. But then you get to the obvious problem — how are you supposed to recreate it at your live shows? Well, according to Tim, this is no issue at all. He said:

“The cool thing about adding a bunch of shit post [production] is that you don’t know you’d be able to recreate live or with analog gear or whatever, is that we can. We can just have somebody make it. [Laughs]

Archetype Tim Henson | Neural DSP

“If there’s some crazy plugin that exists that we’re slapping on after the fact and we’re like, ‘Hey, we want this real life, let’s take it out of Minecraft and put it IRL,’ — somebody will make it for us. [Laughs] That’s the thing now.

Of course, one important aspect of Polyphia’s music is the guitar harmonies. And they’re not like your usual classic NWOBHM-style harmonies or the stuff we’ve heard with Thin Lizzy back in the day that’s still as relevant as ever. Tim and Scott take it one step further, creating intricate melodic games with two guitars.

Asked about how they approach writing them, Tim admitted that he’s incredibly lazy about double-tracking anything. He just relies on technology and creates everything from one track that he already recorded:

“Basically, when it comes to harmonies, Scott and I work in two different ways. I’m fucking lazy. I’m so lazy. I don’t like to track things twice. When I track I’m like, ‘That’s it.’ Yeah, even if it’s a Unison, if it’s a harmony, if it’s an octave — I’m not doing it.”

Polyphia - Playing God (Official Music Video)

“So the two ways that I found to work around that are to Vocode it, which is from my plug in the Multivoicer. What you’re able to do with that is MIDI control it so that you can pick a chord progression and it can be as complex or simple as you want… But honestly, the more complex ones really go.

“And so when you Vocode a guitar through those big chords, you get really lush, almost like angelic sounding parts. And so that’s what you’re hearing at the beginning of ‘Genesis,’ it’s that kind of, you know, Vocoded guitar part.

“The other thing that I do is… If a part needs backing up, what I’ll do is copy it into a new lane and then pitch it up and fuck up the forments real hard, and then spread it out wide, so that the main one is in the middle and then the high octave like chip monkey shitty sounding one with artifacts is like spread to each side [to left and right channels].”

POV Playing God Unplugged

“So it kind of gives you the effect of backup singers. And so that’s what I do, I’m the lazy man.

Photo: Delusion23 (Polyphia – Manchester, UK – 6 February 2019)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.