Dredg - An Interview with Mike Engles
While many bands cling to their “signature sound” like a baby to a warm blanket, it takes a band like Dredg to embrace to idea of sonic experimentation and still somehow make something worth listening to. Dredg has, for the most part, evaded the mainstream, and critics often despise a band they cannot pin down with some worn out old cliché. But for fans of music, rather than fans of critical musical snobbery, Dredg is a triumph to the creative spirit. The guitar playing is technically brilliant and often effect driven. Dredg guitarist Mark Engles pays tribute to the vast canvas of sound that can come from a guitar and its effects.
Guitar.com: Let’s talk about your gear, what does your setup look like?
Mark Engles: I’ve had the same heads for the past 15 or 16 years I use 2 JCM 900s because of their versatility. I run the heads stereo so I have a cabinet on each side of the stage. It’s not my dream setup; I use the JCM 900s partly because of endorsements. I try to dial in the amps to make them sound more like JCM 800s. Going from a clean channel to an overdriven channel very quickly is something that I’ve always really needed so I’ve stuck with the 900s by default.
For guitars I have 2 Fender Telecasters; one is a 1968 with all original parts except for a re-fret which is obviously necessary. The other telecaster is a newer American Deluxe which is a brown sunburst. Gavin and I share a Gibson SG Standard. And I just recently received a custom guitar from a smaller company out of Salt Lake City called KSM. It was one of those things where one of the reps was a fan of ours and started asking me about trying one of their guitars. This will be the first tour that we’ve used that guitar extensively. It’s really beautiful instrument. It’s like a hybrid between PRS and Gibson. It’s got a Seymour Duncan mini humbucker at the neck position and a regular humbucker at the bridge.
My pedal board I run stereo and as long as I end up with the pedals going stereo into both of my amp heads, that’s the most important thing. I like to mess around with mixing analog and digital delays. The analog pedals are mono and then I split it into a digital delay signal to give it the width of sound. The analog gives it a nice gritty sound. So, I use a lot of different delays and I do use some gain boosts and some EQ boosts and dips for dynamics. That’s the most of it. I’ve had this pedal board I’m using now for 4 or 5 years and certain pedals will come and go depending on the songs we’re doing on a tour. I haven’t gone to a MIDI setup because I like to tweak the tone but I’ve got to memorize a lot of dial and knob positions but I’ve settled into it now.
Guitar.com: You mentioned a dream rig, what would that be?
Engles: Well when I’m in the studio I don’t touch my JCM 900s; Sorry Marshall. Live they are very versatile but in the studio, I love using small old combos. In the studio you have time to tweak and blend amps. I’d really like to have three different types of combos on each side of the stage and be able to blend between the types of amps. But that would be a big bunch of gear to take on tour and I can’t do that right now.
Guitar.com: I can sense a vintage tone to the guitars on the Pariah, the Parrot, and the Delusion.
Engles: Pariah album, I fell in love with the old Magnatone amps. We had two different in the studio. They just break up in such a cool way and it doesn’t sound like anything else. It sounds dirty but it doesn’t sound like any pedal, it doesn’t sound like any digital plug in, it’s just so unique. Then we would blend it with another amp like a VOX or something like that. We were just trying to get a sound that you haven’t heard before.
I have a friend who has been collecting guitars for about 40 years and I was lucky enough that he let me in to his whole collection and I was able to use a lot of his guitars. For instance, he had an old Silvertone that I fell in love with. He had an old Sears called an Old Craftsman and that thing is all over the Pariah album. It’s like this light balsa wood type guitar. I think if you dropped it, it would shatter but it sounds huge. There was some old Jazzmasters on that album. I had never used those before, that was all part of trying to get a sound we hadn’t heard before and I think we succeeded. I used analog tape delays and ran them into stereo delays – I’m a big fan of doing that. It gives you such a nice warble and an imperfect sound. I used some plate reverb with actual plates.
Guitar.com: You guys left Interscope Records, this will be your second release since leaving that label, is there a feeling of liberation at all now that you’re doing things on your own again? Did Interscope ever try to control what you were doing in the studio?
Engles: No more than we have now. At Interscope, we had an A&R rep, but he was pretty cool. And I think they knew what they were getting into when they signed us. They know we weren’t the type of band that would bend to whatever they wanted us to do. It was a different atmosphere but we never really felt any pressure from them.
Guitar.com: How have you pushed your guitar playing recently? Did you practice anything special for the new album?
Engles: Not really, I mean this album happened a lot faster and having Dan the Automator (a hip hop producer) producing it, he’s not really a rock producer. The biggest difference on this new album was that I wrote a lot more and some of the guitar parts ended up as melodies on different instruments like a piano part. I think the Pariah record was our biggest leap because the was so much time between that and the Catch Without Arms record that we had alot of time to grow as musicians. Our goal with the Chuckles album was to not think about it as much, just go in and record. It’s not a guitar rock record. But we challenged ourselves and it turned out different than our previous work.
Guitar.com: Are there any parts that you’re particularly proud of on Chuckles and Mr. Squeezy?
Engles: “Upon Returning” has a strange open tuning. That’s a DADAAE tuning so you have two droning “A” strings at the top and it gives you a very cool sound. If you voice a minor chord anywhere on the low 4th and 5th strings, it will give you the tone from that song. But this album went fast so I didn’t over analyze everything like I normally do.
Guitar.com: Mike, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. For more information on Dredg, tours, music, videos, etc - visit: Dredg.com