Fans of BTA will recognize Clifton as the face of your ASG “Beard Skull” guitar, but for those who don’t know, how/when did Clifton become a part of the band?
Count Seth – Guitars & Keys Clifton’s origins are part of a cloudy history. It’s difficult to cut through the legend and myth that surround him and come out with a clear grasp on the truth of who Clifton is or where he comes from. His involvement with the band started during our “Bring Your Own Beard” Tour, for which he allowed himself to be on the poster. After that, we seemed to just get along and we’re very thankful he chose us to represent to the world.
Is there any fear that Clifton needs to settle down, that he may get a big head after all this exposure and go diva on the band?
CS Not at all. It’s inherent in beardskulls to maintain humility even in the most glaring of spotlights. Beardskulls are by nature hardworking, magical, humble and terrifying. Clifton couldn’t rebel against those elements of his nature even if he wanted to. That’s why he’s a perfect fit for us: he’s teaching us how to be what we should be. One could say that he has become the archetype, while we are still just Becoming The Archetype, haha.
In addition to your input on the design, what components did you select to go into this guitar and why were they important to you?
CS One of the big elements there was the ability to get the guitar with EMG pickups. I’ve played active EMGs for the vast majority of my time with BTA and I think they give a great sound for heavy music, especially through a 5150-style amp. A lot of the other elements are standard to ASG models. But part of the reason we agreed to do a model with ASG was their commitment to quality and style. I particularly like their headstock. At this point, creating a unique headstock that doesn’t look ridiculous is very difficult. But they did it and that impresses me.
Do you remember your first guitar-lust moment, when you saw the guitar you just had to have?
CS Haha, that’s happened a couple times. When I first started my other band, Anchors, I was jolted with a passion for hollowbodies. I remember walking through guitar stores on the road and picking up Gretsch after Gretsch and playing it. But those were always too expensive so I had to settle for an Ibanez artcore series, which are good hollowbodies for the price.
But even before that, I do remember having a love for Jackson guitars. The reversed headstock and EMG pickups and a Floyd Rose bridge w/ whammy bar. That was certainly guitar lust. But it’s now nothing but a memory because I’m not that fond of Jacksons anymore. BTA plays ESPs and they’re great, so I have no reason to want a Jackson. But I still love hollow bodies and I still pick one up sometimes and play with it and imagine the spirit of Brian Setzer oozing out of the f-holes and working it’s magic on my strings.
When in the studio, do you assemble the same menu of guitars that you use for live performances or expand everything to achieve various sounds?
CS We use a pretty vast array in the studio. We usually use Gibson Studios to record rhythm tracks. They’re just really beefy and solid. The the lead guitarist (whether it was Daniel or Jon or Alex) would use their favorite personal guitar for the solos. I used a couple different things for the parts I would play. On Breathing Light, I used a Telecaster. I enjoy those things as well. Loads of fun. Live, we use nothing but ESP and they’re great.
With the pursuit of the ever deepening sound in your genre in particular, what adjustments are you making in the equipment and writing process to keep the balance between heavy and crisp?
CS We always remind ourselves that the brain is the best tool you’ve got for achieving excellence and crafting beauty. So we rely on our mind a lot, but we also depend on our producers to give us good advice. That’s a big reason why Dichotomy and Celestial Completion sound so good: Devin Townsend and Matt Goldman were invaluable in knowing which amp to pair with which cab and microphone to get a great tone. Then we’d mess with string size and occasionally which delay pedals or whatever that we were using. Because we know what’s good on stage and we’re learning what sounds like us in the studio, but a good producer knows how to get the sound you’re looking for and we’ve been very fortunate to have those producers for our last two albums.
ASG is making custom guitars at an affordable price, do you have any words of wisdom for fans of yours that will grab the “Beard Skull” and lock themselves in the basement to try to become the next shred master?
CS Haha, yeah I believe I do. Mainly, every guitar player should remember that playing solidly is the most important thing. Anyone can play fast. If you don’t believe that, look up the thousands of youtube videos of 12 year old kids sweep picking their brains out. Playing steady and staying in the pocket is much more difficult because it requires discipline and not just frenetic energy and muscle spasms. Also, pay attention to tone. Don’t go onstage without understanding your amp and pedals. Make sure you’re getting the best possible tone out of your gear. And finally, BE CREATIVE! Yes, you can learn from others and follow in their footsteps. But then use what you’ve learned and make it your own. That’s where you can find fulfillment in music.
There seems to always to be a deeper meaning to everything you do as a band, with the recent release of the video for Magnetic Sky how happy were you with the finished product for your elaborate concept?
CS I’m extremely pleased with how everything turned out with Celestial Completion. Both the music, the lyrics, the production, the flow of the album, the photo shoot, the concepts of the two videos (The Magnetic Sky and Breathing Light) and all the interviews I did in support of it. It was a well-planned and coordinated effort to pull off an interesting and true image of ourselves. I began thinking about all those things while we were in the studio and as I saw how the lyrics were coming together and how we all felt as a band, I started crafting a concept of what we could wear, what theme we could do for our photo shoot and what concept we could pull of for our music video. It was a lot of fun and I think people saw that. We wanted our music to be heavy and intense but still retain the energy and fun that we had in making it. People seemed to feel that. We’re humorous people that don’t take ourselves too seriously and we wanted that to come across in everything related to Celestial Completion. That’s a big reason why Clifton has stuck with us for so long now.
Your latest release, Celestial Completion (Solidstate Records), overall is perhaps your most expansive as far as incorporating your diverse tastes in music, what feedback are you getting from fans as to how they are enjoying the diversity in sound?
CS Our fans understood the diversity for the most part. We had a couple people that kinda balked at the ska section in Cardiac Rebellion, but other than that, our instrumentation was accepted very well. We like to roll the dice sometimes and put bits of ourselves into the music that may not normally go into heavy music. We’ll always be an experimental and musically diverse band, but I think CC is about as crazy as we’ll get with world instruments. Our next album is going to be a lot of experimenting with sounds on guitar and keys. We’ve realized there’s a world right there in our traditional instruments that can be explored and we can discover some incredibly unique sounds right there without having to bring in a sitar and trombone. So look for that on the next album: interesting, fun sounds on the guitar and keys and vocals mixed with our progressive metal base. Oh yeah, and go buy “Beardskull!” right now!
ASG aka Artist Series Guitars is now taking reservations for the “Beardskull” guitar starting at $449.00 ASG has partnered with bands the likes of Becoming The Archetype, Demon Hunter, Bleeding Through, Asking Alexandria and more to provide guitar enthusiasts with excellent playability, custom features, unique designs at an affordable price. Click “Beardskull” now to get your Clifton inspired Becoming The Archetype Custom Guitar on reserve today!