Axe-Fx User Inside



Metallica backstage by Jon Symons

pinkpop tHi everybody!

Yesterday was a great day!
Metallica headlined the dutch Pinkpop festival and I was there.
A while ago I got in touch with Chad, James Hetfield's guitar tech through the Fractal Audio forums.
Both him and Justin really liked the tonematches and patches I made and the effort I put in them.
They are also really thankfull to Fractal Audio for delivering amazing products and service so this was also a way for them to give something back to this community.
Being a huge Metallica and Fractal Audio fan I also don't mind spreading the love for those 2 entities!
So I will try to keep this story brief and fun!

jons girlAfter a long drive to the south of Holland my girlfriend and I arrived at the Pinkpop terrain.
It was a very hot day and the sun was doing it's thing quite well LOL!
We watched a couple of bands like Rob Zombie but it was hard to get my mind of something else that was about to happen.
I know that Chad invited me to come backstage to check out the gear but I didn't have an idea of what I would be able to see, hear and do backstage.
I can try and act cool like it was everyday business as usual, but I'm not going to lie.
I've been a huge Metallica fan since I was about 11 years old, I've seen them play multiple times, own all the albums and dvd's etc.
Groing up as a musician this band has had a huge influence on me in many ways.
What greater band can there be to learn from and to be inspired by?
Well, you know what I mean.
It's safe to say I was very excited about getting a glimpse into their guitar world and maybe even a little nervous .

So we met up with Chad and he instantly came across as the nicest guy!
He gave us a warm welcome and we walked up to the stage where at that point Rob Zombie was still playing.
We waited for the show to end so we could have a bit more quiet time in the Metallica 'zone' under the risers/walkways.
Metallica usually install the walkways at the back of the stage early in the day.
Under the walkways are Chad, Justin and Zach's 'offices' where the guitars and racks also reside.
Because of the early arrival of all the gear these guys have enough time to prepare for the show, you know, change strings, tweak the rigs etc.


We started off in James and Chad's little cave.
Chad gave me an extensive tour of the entire rig and answered all of my questions.
Most of the technical details were already shared by both Chad and Justin over in this thread Metallica using Axe Fx's on stage!

kirks rig tIf you have any more questions I'll see if I can answer them for you.
Keep in mind that it was a lot of info that they gave me so I hope I can remember all the details.
Chad said that James was aware of my tonematches wich made me smile.
It's kind of crazy to know that even in the slightest and smallest way I somehow had influence in the world of Metallica.
James wanted to see if they could blend the current live tones with some more older classic sounds from the old albums for the live shows.
Chad had my patches loaded in one of the Axe FX's to try this.
They didn't try this through the PA obviously but they recorded a show with some additional tracks with James playing my matches to check out if it worked.
It turns out mixed, hyped and mastered guitar tones don't work out very well in a live setting wich I completely understand.
james rig tThe current live tones work so well and sit in the mix just perfectly! 
Nevertheless I thought this was very cool!

One of the coolest things was that I played on one of James's guitars through the rig (the black Truckster to be exact).
Chad switched on the Matrix power amp that leads to the 2 4x12 Traditional V30's loaded Mesa Boogie cabs.

Well, let me tell you the sound was HUGE!
I was a bit shy to play a shitload of riffs but I played for a couple of minutes and it was just great.
The combination of the 2 amp models (MKII C+ and Diezel VH4) works out so well.
The clean tone that Chad had dialed in was also really nice.
A quite surreal experience to say the least!
The action of James's guitars is a bit higher than I expected but he likes to really dig in so it works better that way.
The guitar played great, the sounds were amazing, just WOW!

Robs bass rig t

Chad called Justin over to say hello and we talked some more.
Justin also is the nicest guy and was very cool in answering all my guitar nerd questions.
We took a couple of pictures before walking over to Rob's rig.

Rob also has a Rig with 3 fractal units in it.
Chad and Justin said that they were a bit sceptical about the Axe's ability to reproduce Rob's live tones.
After all, Rob's ampeg sound was quite huge.
After building the patches everybody (including the soundguys) were really surprised at how well the Fractal tones work on stage.
The front of house, monitor and livemetallica guys are all very happy with the tones they have been getting from the Fractal units.
The consistency has greatly improved everybody's workflow in many ways.
Everybody including the band is very happy with Fractal Audio's products.

Another great benefit from the Axe FX Chad spoke of is the fact that they are not limited in any way to keep improving and building on the live tones.
Because the sounds are now in the digital world who knows what they will be able to accomplish in the future.
This product can lead them to even better tones because of the options and ease of workflow.
Chad had also though of maybe sending one of James's Diezels over to Fractal to model because it has it's special thing going on soundwise.
I think he was pretty contempt with the tonematches he made of the amps though so I don't know if that will ever happen.


Anyway so we also walked over to Justin and Kirk's spot under the walkways.
Justin showed me around and answered all of my questions.
Then all of the sudden he handed me the famous Mummy ESP guitar!
I held it in my hands for a while, what an experience!
As stated earlier in interviews this guitar has a very special sound but Justin stated that the more recent 'Zombie ESP' guitar may be even better!
We also took a couple of pictures before heading back to the festival terrain.
Justin and Chad had some more work to finish before the show.

Chad had arranged for us to have a place in the 'Snakepit' right in front of the stage!
This was the best place in the house I can tell you!
Right when the soundcheck was about done a really nasty storm flew over us and gave the audience hell for about an hour.
So the boys had to start an hour late.
No problem, us Dutchies can handle a bit of rain!
The show was amazing once again!
The setlist was great, they played great, the vibes are great and ofcourse the tones sounded CRUSHING!!!

jon justin chadI probably left some info out so feel free to ask any questions here!

I just want to give a big thank you to Chad and Justin for letting me backstage.
Like I said, they gave us a warm welcome and were very kind to us!
Thanks to Metallica for giving a great show yesterday and last but not least a big THANK YOU to Fractal Audio for giving us and the pro's these amazing products that help fuel our creativity and make our lives so much cooler and easier!
I feel so lucky and priveleged to have had this experience!
I'm still a bit in a dream state, also only slept a couple of hours but I will be back here for your questions and more tones soon!

In the meantime check out some cool pictures I made:
(I'm sorry if the quality isn't great in some of these pics, I just didn't want to focus too much on making pics, I wanted to enjoy the moment!)

Jon Symons' (Guitarjon) Library | Photobucket

Jon Symons
Forum Thread

jon symonsraptor


Guitarist and Vocalist for the rock-band Valhella.

For more info go here
Buy the Raptor album in lossless format or mp3 for only 7 euros here

All guitars and basses were recorded with the Axe Fx II.

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