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Gearheads: Brian Izzi from Trap Them

We talked to Trap Them guitarist Brian Izzi about his gear set-up and essentials. Take note.

Here's Trap Them's full set at St Vitus earlier this year.

Recently, there seems to be an endless sea of bands trading their Black Dahlia Murder shirts for Entombed and Napalm Death ones, plugging their guitars into Boss HM-2s to rock death metal-influenced hardcore. (Insert: "dark," "darkened," "blackened" or any number of random sub-genre modifiers synonymous with darkness in order to appear unique.) Long before the genre was absolutely saturated with band after band reproducing roughly the same sound, Brian Izzi was leading the movement in bands like Trap Them and latter-day Backstabbers Inc.


Many would credit Entombed with the Boss HM-2-assisted buzzsaw tone now a prominent feature in the death metal world. However, while Entombed have led the way for metal heads, the distinct tone was not nearly so prevalent in hardcore until relatively recently. This leads me to assume that bands like Trap Them have more influence on the hardcore world than people would like to admit. We see this all the time: Crust Warriors would rather claim allegiance to Hellbastard and Amebix than Tragedy, and the current onslaught of new-wave/darkwave revivalists have abandoned their American Nightmare shirts for Joy Division ones, when perhaps Cold Cave would be more appropriate.

I'm not saying it's impossible that people are more inspired by bands of earlier generations, but there's something to be said for the effect of current bands on the future generation of musicians. Brian Izzi represents the perfect pivot point between '90s death metal and the current hardcore and punk scene. While I would describe Trap Them's sound as closer to hardcore than metal, Izzi has always been a lifelong metal devotee, with a particular fondness for the guitar work of the genre.

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"I've been listening to metal for a long, long time, since I was young, probably eight or nine, and (playing guitar) just seemed like the cool thing to do," says Izzi, on the phone from his home in Salem, NH. "I always loved the riffs in metal more than anything else—even the vocals." Photo nabbed from Macyln Bean. Growing up, Izzi played what he could get his hands on: jamming on "half broken guitars" and "small practice amps, like gorillas," is how Izzi learned how to play guitar efficiently. He even goes as far as to advise new guitarists to practice unplugged because without gain and volume, you can hear every mistake, which should in turn, force improvement.


It was in his early twenties that Izzi began to purchase gear that would change how he viewed music. The first amp he remembers buying that sparked this change was the much sought after JCM800, which still remains a staple in the punk and metal world.

Despite the popularity of the 800, Izzi's second big purchase remains his most important: the Ampeg V4. Produced for only a short while, the Ampeg V4 is one of the most widely used and respected tube heads out there. With its huge versatility and extreme volume capabilities, the V4 has always been a go-to head for players in the extreme music scenes. The two pieces of gear that Izzi claims are essential to his tone, and the two that he hasn't been without for 13 years, remain the Ampeg V4 and the Boss HM-2.

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trap them

While he downplays his contribution to Backstabbers Inc, it was during this time that he would begin shaping a tone that would later go on to define Trap Them's sound. Izzi has an interesting take on the difference between his live and recording settings. (Interesting because while it makes perfect sense it is probably not as practiced as it should be.) While he uses the same gear at shows as on record, he relies less on gain in a live setting.

"Live, I try to keep the gain as clean as possible, even though it is nasty sounding, I try not to run it as loud," he says. "In the studio, because it is contained and I can control it more, I set it crazier. I think a lot of people boost their gain live because you can hide a lot of sloppiness: the more you turn down your gain, the more your mistakes pop out, that is the downside of it."


Despite his reliance on the gain-heavy HM-2, Izzi is far from a total fanboy of the pedal, and describes it as having the possibility of creating either the greatest or the worst sound. Mostly used incorrectly, the HM-2 creates a hard-to-control wall of noise and gain, which drowns out the individual notes played. Izzi's had his HM-2 altered, in order to reduce the gain without affecting the overall volume it outputs. This is why, despite the pedal's potential flaws, Trap Them's live sound is always crisp and decipherable. While Izzi's had reservations about his continual use of the HM-2, he decided to stick with it on Trap Them's forthcoming LP, which they are currently finishing up at Kurt Ballou's GodCity Studio.

As a final note, I'll leave you with Brian's advice to future players: "Don't buy great gear right away, worry about your playing first. When you feel comfortable with your playing and know what you are doing, then get the gear."

Photo by Alex Leat.

Brian Izzi's Essential Set-Up

Guitar: First Act Custom Shop Sheena & Delia models, Custom GCI (God City Instruments)

Amp(s): Ampeg V4 paired with an Orange T100 (most current setup)

Pedal: Boss-HM2

Cab(s): Two Vulse 6x12 cabinets loaded with 3 Celestion G12t75s and G12ts100s