Following the release of the mosh worthy, Metal Guitar Gods 3 EZmix Pack, we took a break from head-banging to ask the hugely talented metal media managing, tech savvy Keith Merrow and masterclass running, guitar shredding Ola Englund all about their involvement, and what to expect.
We also chat about Keith’s most recent EP release, and Ola’s work with Swedish metal band ‘The Haunted’. Read on to find out more!
Congratulations on the release of Metal Guitar Gods 3 EZmix-Pack.
How did you get involved in this project?
Keith Merrow: Thank you! I had been talking with Toontrack about doing a project with them for a couple of years. They asked if I would want to contribute to Metal Guitar Gods 3, and I gladly accepted. It’s an honor to be included among such amazing players and producers.
Ola Englund: My pleasure! Well I’ve always been a big fan of Toontrack products ever since first Drumkit From Hell and Superior Drummer 1. I’ve been using their products when I’ve made demos for my band, and also for the first couple of albums. And lately I’ve been doing tutorials and videos for their products, more because of the fact that I just like and use them so much. So this year they popped the question if I wanted to be a part of the Metal Guitar Gods and of course I wanted to!
Why should people purchase this pack? What makes it unique?
OE: Because this pack is made for the songwriter/recording metal head. It’s made to replicate a mixed ready base sound so you can concentrate on writing music rather than spend time mixing.
KM: I was told that the power of Rikk Currence’s beard is bequeathed upon you when you buy this pack! That’s all the reason you need 🙂 But really, when it comes to plugins, you can’t have too many. It just makes sense to have as many options as possible in the studio, and the presets in MGG3 are very diverse. You have everything from reverb-y cleans to face-ripping high gain rhythm sounds. The bass tones are insane as well. I’m not sure how the previous packs were made, but I can say that at least for my presets, a lot of them are modeled and/or EQ matched from actual guitar stems from albums I’ve done. So, right out of the box, you get a record-ready tone.
What features do you feel metal artists will really benefit from?
KM: Being able to call up a tone on your computer that is an exact replica of a studio engineered metal guitar rig is hugely beneficial. A lot of guys out there are just players and songwriters, and may not have the knowledge, desire, or time to engineer an amp rig themselves. Or maybe they do know how, but they live in an apartment or somewhere they can’t crank an amp. I personally use presets in EZMix when I’m writing or doing preproduction. To me, it’s beneficial for keeping my workflow completely unobstructed. If I’m writing, and I know I need a mid-gain clean tone or something, I can just pull up a preset and go for it, rather than taking the time to setup an amp and dial in that tone manually. It keeps me more productive.
OE: The fact that it’s so easy to just open up a plugin and get a good sound going in a matter of seconds. I use EZMix all the time because it’s so convenient and easy to just throw a plugin in the signal chain. Gets me up and running a lot quicker cause at the end of the day the songwriting momentum is what it’s all about.
Keith, where did your love of Toontrack stem from?
KM: Like many die hard Toontrack users, I started with the original Drumkit From Hell pack. At the time, there wasn’t anything like it really. It made it possible for me to write entire songs at home with realistic sounding drum tracks. That was huge for me. To be honest, if it weren’t for that, I might not be here talking with you today. Toontrack software is such a huge part of the music I’ve created over the years. I love them for just existing.
And Ola, we’ve seen you rave about EZdrummer 2 a lot, even creating a tutorial video on your YouTube channel. How did you become aware of the Toontrack brand?
OE: Early on I was using Cakewalk and general midi drums, and I heard a demo of Drumkit From Hell and I was blown away, no way those were software drums. It’s revolutionised my world.
Keith, in your ‘Morning Coffee with Keith Merrow’ video on YouTube, you show yourself using Superior Drummer, and talk about the Metal Machine kit. You also really rate Toontrack products as a good rig for home recording. How did you originally become introduced to the Toontrack brand?
KM: Well, I first saw Drumkit From Hell at a Sam Ash store a long time ago. I read the back of the box and bought it instantly. As for actually meeting the Toontrack team- I became acquainted with Toontrack a number of years ago through my friend and bandmate, Wes Hauch. He’s been friends with the guys over there for a long time, and he introduced me to Bill at Toontrack North America. We’ve been a happy family ever since.
Are there any other Toontrack products you’re interested in at the moment?
KM: I have them all 😉 But, I’m really digging the midi features in EZDrummer 2. I like how intuitive it is to create a beat within the interface, and I also love the way you can quickly find midi grooves in your library. You just tap out the first few notes of a beat, and it’ll narrow down the closest matches in your midi library. It saves so much time when you’re truing to get an idea out!
OE: A VERY underrated product is EZKeys. It’s such an inspirational product for me cause it opens up new options and dimensions to my song writing. I don’t play piano but now I can quickly write orchestral or piano parts using that software. I love it.
Ola, You play lead guitar for Swedish Metal band ‘The Haunted’. As the most recent band member, having joined forces in 2013, how are you finding it?
OE: Extremely awesome, I’m very fortunate to be able to play in this band. We have such an awesome time touring and I couldn’t be happier. I have big shoes to fill replacing Anders Björler but the fans have been really supportive and I have felt very welcome in the band.
Keith, We love your 8 song EP “Retrospecial”, and the way you’ve merged metal with a light hearted ‘fun’ factor. You also worked with fellow interviewee and Metal Guitar Gods 3 artist, Ola Englund! How was the process of working with other talented musicians, as opposed to your previous solo work?
KM: Thanks! Ola and I have been friends for a long time. Our “stories” are pretty similar. We often joke about the fact that we’re living each other’s lives in different countries. I’ve had Ola as a guest on quite a few songs and projects. It’s always a pleasure. He’s a great player and a lot of fun to work with. I typically prefer working with other musicians these days. To be honest, I haven’t done much solo work in the past couple years. Most of everything I’ve been a part of recently involved other musicians. I really enjoy collaborating with people.
And lastly, what do you most enjoy about metal music?
KM: Playing and writing it! 😉
OE: That even if the community might be harsh right now, there’s a sense of being a part of the biggest and most lovely family. You have an instant connection with someone who listens to metal and it’s uncompromised. It’s like a religion but without the downsides haha. Thanks for having me and stay metal!