South Florida gets a bad rap as a barren wasteland when it comes to guitar music and guitar culture. However, lurking in the shadows strewn by the area's neon festooned dance clubs thrives a community of inspiring guitarists, all with their own unique philosophies and approaches to the instrument and the passion of true artists. After all, isolation breeds innovation.
In our time covering music in South Florida, we've been fortunate enough to bask in the crushing chords, fleet fingered riffs, and swirling atmospheres of so many interesting and varied players that we here at County Grind have decided to give some of the area's unsung heroes their due -- complete with uncensored gear pornography, discussions about history and influences, and all of the minutia that proper guitar dorks (such as your author) get all hot and bothered about.
To kick off the series, we've profiled experimental metal troupe, Orbweaver. The band has been most accurately characterized as "mind-erasers" and features former members of Florida death-metal greats Hate Eternal and Gigan. Boasting a trio of esteemed string-stranglers, Orbweaver has massaged the intensity of black-metal into an altogether horrifying blend of extreme metal and adventurous psychedelia. A bad trip by any other name, harsh noise, dissonance, and a Zappa-esque thirst for outlandish anti-harmony come together to make the band's entirely singular sound.
Read on for the first part of our series in which we cover the gear and influences of Orbweaver guitarist, vocalist, and sound manipulator Randy Piro.
New Times: How did you get into playing music?
Randy Piro: My parents and grandparents on my father's side played music, and I was always surrounded with it. And I loved music a lot, but I turned down the opportunity to learn an instrument when I was really, really young. And then, one day I got into metal. I got into Metallica. I was like, "That's it, man," and I wanted to play guitar, so I had my dad start teaching me to play guitar.
Could you name your top 5 influences as a guitarist?
James Hetfield, Brian May, and Toni Iommi collectively made me want to play guitar. So, that was the impetus, that was the origin. I would say from there, it comes down to Trey Azagthoth from Morbid Angel and Frank Zappa. Zappa both as a guitar player and a composer and human being, but, guitar-playing specifically, I was like, "This is some killer shit!"
What sets you apart as a guitarist?
The only thing that I could objectively say that I try to go for is that I try to utilize -- especially in the constraints of extreme metal -- I try to utilize as much of th guitar's tonal abilities as I can. Everything from different pickups to using the volume and tone knobs to the crazy array of pedals I have, I think I try to hear a little bit more than a lot of death metal guitar players.
What's the most inspiring piece of gear in your rig?
Honestly, at the end of the day -- and I'd hate to sound stupid and cliche -- but it's my hands, because it's not like I sit at home and play through all my fuckin' pedals. When I come up with riffs specifically for Orbweaver, it always starts like on the couch or something like that.
Even with all that sound manipulation...
...But, I hear the effects in my head as it's happening. I come up with and I know what going to be called for.
What gear do you still get excited to plug in?
Dude, everything! I love my 800 to death, I love my Explorer, I love my Sovtek, I love each and every single one of my pedals! If I had to narrow it down to one stupid little piece of gear that no matter what, always surprises me, it would be my Electro Harmonix Frequency Analyzer. We were talking about ring modulators earlier, and the fact that it doesn't have a constant oscillation like the Moog does, or the Ringworm does, works better for what I want to do. I want ring mods to totally change the sound of the guitar. In a controlled, but chaotic way. Every day I find something new that I love.
Could you tell me a bit about your Marshall because I know it's been tweaked a bit.
That was my first real amp ever. It's a JCM 800, I always forget the numbers, I think it's a 2210. It's a hundred watt with two channels and reverb. It was a full stack when I got it. I've literally had that head and that cab since I was 14 years old, so, I've had that head for... Oh, my God... 20 fuckin' years! So, that's what I grew up with. That's my sound, I've tried other amps, but that's it. It's been Scholzified (IE: Modified by local amp guru George Scholz), but, I wanted it exactly like it was. When I brought it to him, it was in its original state, it had just been played hard.
So George restored it, essentially?
I think in the capacitors he put in a higher rating. He definitely sprinkled some pixie dust on it. The thing with George is that he always puts top grade components in, and he realizes that you're going to play this piece of equipment under the worst circumstances possible. George is so good at what he does that he can literally say "No, I don't want to work on that because I don't like it," he's great at what he does.
Tell me about your main Gibson Explorer.
Like I said earlier, I've always loved James Hetfield, and I've always loved Trey and Morbid Angel, and the second time I saw Morbid Angel, both Trey and Eric (whom I would later be in a band with) were both playing Explorers. So, I've always had a fascination with that guitar. As far as a metalhead's concerned, it's like, the perfect shape. But, I took a road to get here, man. My original favorite guitar was my Dad's Les Paul, and from there -- because it wasn't metal enough -- I got into flying vees, and I had a vee forever. And then I got this Explorer from an old bandmate of mine. Do you remember Mars music? This was a special edition for Mars Music called the Millennium Explorer, it's a 2001.
Why is it your number one?
It's special because it's mine. Also, my lady painted the pick guard for me, so that makes it extra special. It's got a killswitch in here that I have a lot of fun with.
Orbweaver is heading out on a three week tour with Shroud Eater, which they kicked off with a hypnotic set at Churchill's Pub last night. Here are the remaining dates:
2/19/14 - Will's Pub, Orlando, FL
2/20/14 - The Shark Tank, Tallahassee, FL
2/21/14 - The Handlebar, Pensacola, FL
2/22/14 - Siberia, New Orleans, LA
2/23/14 - Beerland, Austin, TX
2/25/14 - Kim's Sports Bar, Riverside, CA
2/26/14 - Eli's Mile High Club, Oakland, CA
2/27/14 - Frankie Teardrops, San Luis Obispo, CA
2/28/14 - The Complex, Los Angeles, CA
3/1/14 - The Yucca Tap Room, Tempe, AZ
3/2/14 - The Trainyard, Las Cruces, NM
3/3/14 - Taquerias Pedritos, Dallas, TX
3/4/14 - Vino's Pizza Pub & Brewery, Little Rock, AK
3/5/14 - The End, Nashville, TN
3/6/14 - Chapel Hill Underground, Chapel Hill, NC
3/7/14 - The Maywood, Raleigh, NC
3/8/14 - 529, Atlanta, GA
3/9/14 - Burro Bar, Jacksonville, FL
3/10/11 - Fubar, St Petersburg, FL