After sitting on the record through the pandemic, Tetrarch have just released their second album Unstable and are getting ready to hit the road with Atreyu for a full US tour.
We caught up with guitarist Diamond to talk about the new record, being part of the ESP family, and her love of the Digitech Whammy pedal.
Tell me about how Unstable differs from Freak – do you see it as a continuation or more of a progression?
We definitely see UNSTABLE as more of a continuation for the FREAK album at least stylistically.
When we were writing FREAK, it was the first time that we experimented as a band with a lot of new elements like weird guitar sounds, different tempos and feels, different vocal styles, etc. So after seeing that those things worked and people resonated with them, we were able to confidently jump all in with UNSTABLE and do what we wanted.
Were there any things you learned from the experience of writing/recording/touring Freak – in terms of things that didn’t work, or worked better than you expected – that had an influence on how you worked together on creating Unstable?
I think overall we just became better songwriters. We definitely learned the significance of writing big hooks and serving the songs well.
I had a really good time doing whatever I wanted as far as guitars were concerned. If the song needed a killer solo I could do that but if this song just needed weird textures or super solid rhythm playing I could do that as well.
I think most of what we learned from freak was super positive and that people were interested in what we wanted to do and the music that we wanted to write and it just gave us so much more confidence going into this record.
The band produced the record with Dave Otero, who people will know from his production on albums by bands like Cattle Decapitation, Archspire, Allegaeon, Khemmis… A lot of crazy heavy bands. How was it working with him, and what do you feel he brought to the record?
One major thing that we love about working with Dave is that he really understands our vision for Tetrarch and he’s very good at just helping us expand on that. He always makes the environment super comfortable to be creative in, which is very important to me because I like to feel very comfortable when writing and tracking records.
Also, because he does work with such heavy bands, sometimes it’s really cool to have him bring in that element to maybe the super hooky songs that we have to just add some extra filth and edge.
What a lot of people also don’t know about Dave because he does work with such heavy bands, is that he is very good at coming up with vocal arrangements and harmonies etc. He is such a well rounded producer and more than a one trick pony.
Did you have any reference records going into the studio in terms of how you wanted the finished product to sound?
Stylistically we definitely knew what kind of record we were going for. We wanted unstable to be very angsty, to be very relatable lyrically and to also have moments of extreme heaviness as well.
Sonically, we definitely had a few reference records. One main band who consistently has been perfect production is Gojira. They do such a great job of making everything sound so full and heavy but it all sounds natural and like they are actually PLAYING their instruments – which is an element that we have always taken pride in ourselves.
At the end of the day though, the production in unstable came out sounding very unique to our band and this record and it just slams.
How did the band deal with the lockdowns in 2020? Did the band end up spending more time on the record than you might otherwise have?
Actually, the record was already finished by the time the lockdowns happened! We started recording unstable in Oct. of 2019 and finished it in February of 2020. So it was literally finished up a month before everything shut down.
At first we were all very unsure of how we should move forward with the record but we quickly decided that we were just going to adapt to the situation and figure out the best way to start releasing singles and build anticipation for the record.
It really did end up being an amazing year for us with so much growth even without playing any shows which is crazy.
Were you guys at all slow to put out a record right now that you can’t immediately tour behind?
We definitely took our time and worked on getting as much out of the singles as possible.
We spent a lot of time on this record and we wanted to make sure we built as much anticipation and awareness of it as possible before dropping it. Because of this, we were able to kind of push the release far enough back to get us within a couple months of touring and that definitely all worked in our favor.
Now it’s time to tour on it for 2 years and we could not be any more excited to play these songs live.
So guitars! What did you both use on the new record in terms of guitars/amps/pedals?
So we both tracked rhythms on this record and we each used an LTD EC-1000 Evertune and an LTD TE-1000 Evertune. We ran those through a tube screamer to a 5150iii head and a Mesa 4×12 Cab. Minus the Digitech Whammy, for FX I used PODFARM.
How does that compare with your live rigs?
To be honest it’s basically exactly like our live rigs except we use EVH cabs live and instead of digital FX, I use all analog on my pedalboard.
I understand you are both playing ESP guitars at the moment – is that an endorsement? If so, how did that come about?
Yes! We have been a part of the ESP family now for about 4 years.
I remember we solidified that deal when we were on the Devildriver tour and it was great to finally be a part of the family after playing ESP for a few years prior to that. We both grew up huge Metallica fans so it was super cool to always see James and Kirk rock the ESP name and as we became more seasoned players we realized why.
They are such versatile guitars but they are also extremely reliable and consistent and when you tour as much as we do that is very important. So ESP was just a natural pick for us.
Are you a gear head at all? Any pieces of gear you’ve played recently that were a pleasant surprise? Anything you got to play that was disappointing?
I’m honestly not a HUGEE gear head but I do enjoy trying out new guitars a lot.
Fender just actually sent me their acoustasonic jazzmaster which I love. It’s basically an electric acoustic that plays and feels just like a straight electric. I love that because I get so much practicing done on it when I’m just sitting at home or lounging around and I also got to use it for our last acoustic performance that we did for Metalhammer and it sounded great.
Is there any one piece of gear that you couldn’t do without? Anything that’s integral to your sound?
I am very much a don’t fix what’s not broken type of player. I don’t tinker too much with my rig and if it’s working for me, I can have the same set up for years.
A huge part of my sound is obviously the EVH head. I LOVE super high gain tones, so to have a head that’s able to stand that and still keep clarity has been big for me.
Also, as of late, I probably could not play a tetrarch set without the digitech whammy – it’s become a pretty integral part of a lot of the songs which is so bizarre but here we are hahah.
A lot of guitarists are embracing modelling and profiling amps these days, especially due to making fly in gigs much easier. What’s your take on digital amps and effects?
I have nothing against digital amps, Kemper and Axe FX make some sick products but I personally just really love having an actual amp head. I love the feeling of the amp pressure when you hit a not on the guitar or a giant palm mute, and I’m all about keeping whatever elements in your rig that help keep the character of the player as present as possible.
That’s just my personal opinion though!
For someone who’s just discovering your band and wants to hear more music that sounds like you, what bands would you suggest they start with?
I hear us compared to a lot of your “gateway” metal bands a lot – bands that are heavy but have hooky choruses and are a little easier for a newbie to get into. For example, bands like Metallica, Slipknot, Korn, Linkin Park, Lamb of God, Linkin Park, Trivium, Bullet for my Valentine, etc!
If someone maybe wasn’t familiar with Tetrarch but wanted to learn to play one of your songs, where would you suggest they start? Any riffs/licks/passages in particular that are fun to play, or maybe challenging but rewarding for more advanced players?
I think I would point them in the direction of 2 songs.
One would be our song “Pull the Trigger” off of the freak album because it’s very off heavy, has cool leads and is just a fun one to play.
Second, I would probably pick “I’m Not Right” because while it’s not a very hard song, there are some really cool textures in there and little idiosyncrasies that’s just make that song stand out a bit.
What’s up next for the band? Any new material in the works? Any post-rona plans?
Now that the record is out, we are planning a solid 2 year touring cycle to support it. It’s going to be crazy but we’re looking forward to getting on the road in front of as many people around the world as possible and continuing to pursue our goals of being one of the biggest bands in the world in our genre.