Welcome to BUYABLES, a new series that will show you how to upgrade your life and the things you need to buy to do it.
Multi-instrumentalist Kemble Walters is an in-demand professional musician living in Los Angeles. In his storied career he’s traveled the world a few times over, has recorded with Dave Grohl, written songs for (and played guitar in) Juliette Lewis’ band The Licks, was the Animal-like drummer of the thrash/techno/metal/WTF band The Rise, and once had a shred-off with Aerosmith’s Joe Perry. He’s currently in the riff-tastic Aeges (see their video for the song "Weightless" below), where he serves as front man and lead guitarist, and on tour playing bass with The New Regime, a project of Nine Inch Nails and Angels and Airwaves drummer Ilan Rubin. We caught up with Walters after a recent New Regime gig at Playstation Theater in New York City’s Times Square, and asked for his guitar gear recommendations that—like him—could cover all the bases: from crushing big riffs and noisy feedback, to cleaner, jangly vibes. Here's what he had.
It might be obvious, but if you're going to play guitar, the guitar itself is the most valuable tool in your kit. (“Aside,” Walters says, “from your nimble, shredtastic fingers.”) He’s a collector and owns too many to choose from, but his “desert island” guitar is the Reverend Baritone RA. “It’s a short scale Baritone which means it is similar in length to a Fender Jazzmaster,” he says. Given its odd length you can throw Baritone strings (72 gauge set) on it for heavier riffs or a set of standard 10-52s (more on those soon) if you’re not trying to write Meshuggah-heavy riffs. But that’s not all! “The Reverend RA also features a ‘bass contour’ knob,” says Walters, which is a game changer in terms of the range it allows. Whether your aim is trying to “make that next killer riff record, or even some Wilco jangle, you need to have different guitar tones to add depth,” says Walters. “With only one guitar and the contour knob, you've now got two very different and distinct guitar tones.” No word on where he'd plug it on that desert island.
Walters currently plays out of the Fender Bassbreaker 45. It’s the first Fender, he says, to have EL34 tubes in it (just like the Marshall blues breaker does). “It also has the girth and weight of the Fender bassman—hence Bassbreaker. It’s a 2 x 12 (two 12-inch speakers) combo—”no frills, just pure beefy tone,” that's capable of clean sounds and can handle pushes from the heaviest of pedals. Speaking of...
Walters believes there’s no one pedal that does it all. “I feel everyone needs at least five,” he says not joking. Aside from the obvious tuner (Walters recommends the Polytune 2 Noir for ease of use) he ran through a few that have served him well over the years.
• Overdrive - “For your overdrive you want something that plays well with others. My favs of late are the Way Huge Green Rhino and the Lovepedal Kalamazoo which both are incredible for Alt Country, pop, and even some serious jangly riffage." Walters also digs the Zvex Double Rock. Originally designed for guitar titan J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr, this overdrive/boost is two pedals in one. "Sound fun? It is!"
• Fuzz/Distortion - "This one is an ever revolving for me, but I do have my staples which are: Caroline Wave Cannon V2 (Marshall 800 on steroids), Fuzzrocious Cat Tail dbl dist mod (think Rat pedal with an insane amount of options), and the Stacks FX StarGazer."
• Delay - "There are two always on my board together. The MXR Carbon Copy which is a no frills, perfect delay for every application. The other is the Caroline Killobyte. The Kilobyte is the most musical of delays."
• Reverb - "The MXR is hands down my ride or die."
Strings and Cables
It may be easy to overlook strings and cables, but Walters warns against the mistake. “They affect your tone very much,” he says. Not to mention it doesn’t make much sense to put in the money and effort to get all the top-shelf gear above only to skimp on crappy strings and cheap cables. (“That’s just dumb!”) On the string front, Walters loves all things Jim Dunlop, and his strings of choice are generally the 10-52 Super Brights. As for cables? “MXR cables all the way, baby,” he says before heading to the tour bus.
For more gear recs and guitar geek-outs follow Kemble Walters on Instagram.
VICE Media makes a small commission on products linked in this article.