Act of Defiance's Chris Broderick Takes His Playing to New Levels on 'Old Scars, New Wounds'
Over the course of 20 years with Jag Panzer, Nevermore, Megadeth and Act of Defiance, Chris Broderick has developed quite the reputation for serious seven-string shredding—so it comes as something of a surprise to learn that he’d actually intended to “tone down” his solos for Old Scars, New Wounds, Act of Defiance’s second and latest album.
“I wanted to have absolute control over every aspect of my technique for this CD,” he explains, “so I initially thought it would be best if I didn’t push it too hard.”
Thankfully, for fans of Broderick’s dazzling playing, things didn’t quite work out that way. Old Scars, New Wounds features his most adventurous soloing yet, utilizing everything from dispersed-octave arpeggios and classically influenced counterpoint to locked tremolo bar accents and two-handed tapping runs.
“I had all these techniques that I’d always wanted to work into my playing,” he says, “and through the course of developing them, they organically—and kind of inadvertently—worked their way into my playing.”
Broderick cites the second solo in “M.I.A.,” the album’s lead-off track, as an example. “I do this octave-dispersed arpeggio technique in it where I use P.I.M.A., my classical right-hand fingering, and then I pair that up with sliding into melodic notes on the top and bottom end with my left hand. So, basically, I’m doing this kind of counterpoint between the upper melody and the lower melody, that develops between these octave-dispersed arpeggios. I thought it came out really well!”
Broderick used only two guitars on the album—both of them his signature Jackson seven-strings. “One was red, and one was transparent black,” he says.
“One had the action put up a little bit higher for the rhythms, and had slightly heavier gauge strings on it; and the other I used for my leads, which had the strings I normally play live. I like to play .010 through .046; when I record, I’ll typically go with a .065 on the seventh string and a .062 when I’m playing live.”
Rather than use amps for the recording sessions, Broderick played all his Old Scars, New Wounds guitar tracks through a Fractal Axe-Fx II XL+ preamp/effects processor, which he also uses onstage. “I love recording that way, because it makes experimentation with different amp models and effects so accessible,” he says. “I went with a more upper-midrange-focused cabinet for my rhythms on this CD—one that had a good punch on the bottom end, but sounded like it was going to tear your head off on the top end.”
For his lead tone, Broderick says he’d primarily used the Fractal’s Friedman HBE simulator in the past; this time, however, he made a last-minute decision to switch things up.
“I just went digging around one day and stumbled across the Diezel Herbert simulation,” he recalls. “Every note I played, no matter where it was on the fretboard, seemed to have a thunk to it on the bottom end, this punch that I just loved! I wound up using it for my lead tone, and I love the way it sits in the mix.”
Broderick formed Act of Defiance with drummer Shawn Drover in late 2014, shortly after the pair left Megadeth. While bassist (and former Shadows Fall guitarist) Matt Bachand and ex-Scar the Martyr vocalist Henry Derek joined too late to have any songwriting input on the first album, 2015’s Birth and the Burial, all four members contributed songs for Old Scars, New Wounds, and Broderick feels the album is much stronger for it.
“The first record was great,” he reflects, “but it was really Shawn and I going, ‘We need to get this out! We’ve gotta make this happen right now!’ With this CD, after all of the touring we had done, all the hanging out and living with each other, it was much more about, ‘What are we as a unit? How do we voice our musical ideas?’
“I’m in a band full of guitarists and songwriters,” he laughs. “But this band is all about being able to express ourselves, and I think the music really benefitted from our multiple voices.”
● GUITARS Jackson USA Signature Chris Broderick Soloist HT7
● AMPS Fractal Axe-Fx II XL+
● STRINGS Ernie Ball Slinkys .010–.046, with a .062 or .065 for the seventh string