Inside The Shredder’s Studio # 14: Skeletonwitch

Here at the shredder’s studio we usually have one chair in the virtual office. Today, we need to pull up two. Nate Garnette and Scott Hedrick agreed to spend some time with us and walk us through their many influences. Please welcome the dual shredders of Skeletonwitch to the shredder’s studio, our 14th episode!
Even better, you can witness the shredding in person this fall. Skeletonwitch has all the forthcoming tourdates on their Facebook page — do go check them out.

Sepultura – “Beneath The Remains” from Beneath The Remains

I was convinced that Max was the best guitar player ever and that a B.C. Rich Warlock was the coolest guitar ever. Fast-ass picking hand with quick and nimble fretting right from the get go! It has a sweet half-time headbanger part that wrecks my neck every time, a crazy little flanger soaked up-tempo rock part that I must have rewound a hundred times per listen, and Andreas’ solos range from weird to even weirder. I love cranking this album after about three months of not listening to it.

Massacre – “Dawn Of Eternity” from From Beyond

The beginning is this slow, doomy riff that they bring back later in groove form, which is a perfect idea, and he almost raps the lyric: “From beyond enters the horror, of a dark and hideous nature. The fall of man is now at hand.” That part kicks my ass all over the place. Chance and I always “slam” that part out when we crank it in the van. I love the speeding single note death metal riffs, and the groove is fucking top of the pops for me. Well done Massacre, well done!

Overkill- “Hello From The Gutter” from Under The Influence

Overkill still reigns as my favorite thrash band of all time. The riffs are either doing the New Jersey stomp on my skull, or tearing that skull from my already broken neck. They way this song starts is a big selling point. It’s not just a typical bar chorded intro (like I do all the time). It has this picked “country chord” as I would call it, and it’s tough as fuck. It has fast ass, killer runs on the tail end of the verse riffs and badass solo-age. The biggest influence is the audible level of bass guitar. If you don’t have killer bass presence and tone, you don’t have shit. Just ask D.D. Verni, I bet he’d agree.

Amon Amarth – “The Last With Pagan Blood” from The Avenger

My first taste of melodic, epic death metal. The interaction between the two guitars sends chills down my spine. These riffs create this feeling of “hell yeah, we kicked your ass” and then turn around and put you in the dirt because they sound so sorrowful.

Annihilator- “Alison Hell” from Alice In Hell

We have this “Hard N’ Heavy” VHS that has an Annihilator segment on it that we put on after practice. I am really into very quick and nimble, thrashy riffs. Even the little, weird breaks in the song do it for me. It has the ability to be super technical, yet still be able to breathe which shows some of that Canadian Class and tasteful songwriting. The solos are also outta this world. I’ll never be able to play one.


Since I’m running out of ways to tell everyone how much I love Tipton/Downing, Schuldiner, Jon Oliva, and Denner/Sherman, I’m going to take the pass less traveled and tell you guys about some of my non-metal influcnes. Besides, I’ve always been “the weird one” in Skeletonwitch. May as well embrace it. Haha! Here goes:

The Jesus Lizard – “Monkey Trick” from Goat

The first time I heard the Jesus Lizard was like my first kiss: disorienting, slightly scary, and so awesome it was all I thought about for weeks. This band changed my notion of what “heavy” is. Duane Dennison seems to have limitless creativity. Where in the fuck is he pulling these riffs from? Dissonance never sounded so catchy.

This track has all my favorite elements of The Lizard. You get two seconds of pummeling and then it’s cut abruptly to make room for a bass line that’s so heavy only the Melvins can pick it up. Dennison and McNeilly join in, doing what they do best; fucking ruling. Eventually David Yow escapes from the insane asylum and starts babbling and we’re off to the races. Bonus points for the best scream ever laid to tape. It occurs at 1:06. Trivia fact: That scream is not from any of the members of the band!

David Bowie -“Moonage Daydream” from Bowie At The Beeb

I’ve been a huge Bowie fan since my impressionable teenage years and I can’t listen to any Bowie without reminiscing. My sister and I would leave school in a *cough* Ford Contour and somehow it would take us two hours to get home when we only lived two miles from the school. Bowie, Alice Cooper, The Stooges, and The Stones were the core of our soundtrack.

However, as much as I love Bowie, this track is all about his guitarist, Mick Ronson. If you don’t know who that is….

1) Shame on you!
2.) Look at this picture

When is the last time you shredded a Les Paul while doing eight seconds on David Bowie? That’s what I thought. On to the song….

This version is from a live performance at the BBC studios. I can’t remember the exact year, but all the recordings are from ’68-’72, so it’s in the sweet spot. Every member of Bowie’s band is absolutely crushing it here. The sound of those drums is thunderous! The bass driving! Hurrah for a real budget! The BBC never skimps, but here, Ronson is the real star.

First of all, his tone is incredible. Check it out at 1:12 and 1:17. Is Brian May his fucking guitar tech? Did you catch the pick slide he did back at 1:02? Talk about swagger. It sounds like Ronson is barely able to contain himself, and then 3:37 hits and he is untethered.

There is a lot of talk about civilian space travel in the near future and it’s all fucking rubbish. It exists. Here, right before you, is evidence that Mick Ronson rode a Les Paul to Mars and came back. At 3:57 he officially left the earth’s atmosphere. By 4:10 he’s on the red planet. Absolutely incredible. You can just imagine Bowie and the other musicians in the Beeb just shaking their heads.

Television – “Elevation” from Marquee Moon

If you listen to Skeletonwitch on headphones on you may be a bit surprised by how often Nate and I do not play the same thing. We enjoy complementary guitar parts rather than doubling a single part. How does Nigel Tufnel put it? “Simple lines intertwining?” This is one of my favorite Television songs. The guitars are doing entirely different things at the beginning but the bass provides just enough glue to hold them together. Kudos on the excellent time keeping by Richard Lloyd’s picking hand. You have to have a steady hand for that. Not too much drinking the night before playing this song!

Television was one of several bands that pushed me to take this approach to guitar lines. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious choice. Funny enough, as I listen back to Elevation I now hear parallels between the guitar solo on this track and some of my own playing. What a mind fuck! Did I rip off Tom Verlaine? I suppose if we really think about that, who DIDN’T rip him off in some capacity?

Check out Verlaine’s solo at 3:02 and the opening of my solo on “Where the Light Has Failed” at 1:49. I also see some similarity between his solo at 3:06 and my solo “Cleaver of Souls” also at 3:06. Weird! Am I crazy guys? Can you hear the influence too?

I love the little “chordy” riff right before the chorus (1:02-1:06). Not sure what they’re doing there, but I’m glad they’re doing it. Next is the chorus. I love the quirkiness of the timing and shards of staccato chords mixed with the major sounding, epic string bends that follow it. It’s as if they knock you off balance and then steady you again.

The Hellacopters – “The Devil Stole the Beat from the Lord” from Grande Rock

They had the riffs, the solos, the motorcycle boots, and, oh yeah, they had the songs! Nicke Andersson is a massive influence on my playing and not just because he’s a fellow lefty, although I do fucking love that, too. And let’s not even go down that (lefthand) path about how influential he was to death metal, because we could write a thesis on that alone.

Somehow the ‘Copters started off sounding like Motorhead and ended their career sounding like Cheap Trick, without making it feel odd or contrived, at least to my ears. I picked “Devil Stole the Beat from the Lord” for all the newbies who may have never heard The Hellacopters before. It has all the classic elements: excellent riffs, super catchy chorus, those monster string bends that bookend the song, nice keyboard lines, a great solo, and plenty of spots where you can windmill strum your guitar like Pete Townsend on trucker speed!

Besides what I already mentioned, here are a couple moments that really blow my dress up:

-The way the second guitar joins in at :07 and the rest of the band joins at :10. They come in in the middle of the main riff before it even finishes its first cycle. Listen to KISS much, guys?

-Check it out at approximately 0:50. Notice how each guitarist, panned hard left and right, does palm mutes off-time from the other? I listened to this song for probably four fucking years before I noticed that. It’s the little things, guys.

-At 1:37 is a classic Hellacopters octave part. It’s added in there to spice up the verse riff. I believe it’s from the Keith Richards school of “never play the same thing twice” (but not because you’re so fucked up that you can’t remember how you played it the first time, which is Keith’s other school).

-At 3:13 they double-down on the chorus, add a couple extra chords, and some nice single note runs which sets up the outro perfectly!

These guys are going to make some serious bucks when they do the reunion thing on the Euro festival circuit.

MC5 – “Gotta Keep Movin” from High Times

A high energy rock and roll band that defined the wildest aspects of American counterculture. They were rock as fuck, punk as fuck, political as fuck and energetic as fuck. Probably my favorite rock band of all time. I was born 30 years too late, but that didn’t stop the MC5 from still having profound effect on me as a youth.

The guitar playing on “Gotta Keep Movin'” is shit-hot and singer Rob Tyner belts out “Atom bomb, Vietnam, Missles on the Moon, and they wonder why the kids are shootin’ up so soon.” I wonder what he would be singing about right now if he was still alive. America needs a band like this again, flaws and all.

John Fahey – “On the Sunny Side of the Ocean” from The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death

I’ve been obsessed with this guy for a couple years now and see no end to my obsession in sight. Check him out!

Read previous installments of Inside The Shredder’s Studio:

#1: Elizabeth Schall of Dreaming Dead
#2: Mike Hill of Tombs
#3: Jon Levasseur of Cryptopsy
#4: Alex Bouks of Incantation

#5: Kurt Ballou of Converge
#6: Mark Thomas Baker of Orchid
#7: Andre Foisy of Locrian
#8: Eric Daniels of GSBC and Asphyx
#9: Kevin Hufnagel of Gorguts
#10: Marissa Martinez-Hoadley of Cretin
#11: Eric Cutler of Autopsy
#12: Woody Weatherman of Corrosion of Conformity
#13: Carl Byers of Coffinworm