Name: Brody Uttley
Bands: Rivers of Nihil
How and when was your interest in music sparked?
My earliest memories of music come from my father playing the acoustic guitar around the house. Then when around the age of 7-8 he showed me a VHS tape of the band Iron Butterfly where their guitarist was making all kinds of crazy noises with a bright red electric guitar while playing “In A Gadda Da Vida” and I was hooked.
Was playing guitar always your first and only choice or did it start with something else?
I originally wanted to be a drummer after seeing that previously mentioned Iron Butterfly performance. Their drummer did this super extended drum solo and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. My parents thought that drums were too loud so they instead got me a classical guitar (which after realizing you couldn’t just hit the strings and have music come out I gave up on.) So, between the ages of 8 and 12 I took piano and saxophone lessons. It wasn’t until I joined the junior high jazz band (while playing sax) that I got re-interested in guitar. The guitarist in the jazz band would always play Metallica and Green Day songs in between jazz tunes and get yelled at, and I just thought that was SO cool. So from there I began to pursue guitar full time.
Out of everything that comes with being in a band – writing, recording, jamming, touring, traveling (the list goes on)…what is your favorite part?
While I do love touring and getting to do everything that comes with that (travel, play live, see friends, etc.) I think that at my core I find myself the most “at home” during the creative and recording processes. When I’m working on songs I can get caught in a time warp and find that 6-8 hours have passed without me realizing it. To me that “time warp effect” shows me that I am completely swallowed up in the writing process since I am able to shut out the rest of the world completely. Getting to experiment with different sounds, arrangements, and sequences is where I really come to life. Being that I have a home studio it makes it very easy to do this for days on end until I feel like a song is complete. Also, as good as playing a packed show feels I don’t think that anything compares to the feeling that I get when I complete a song that I am happy with. One of my favorite things to do is to listen back to a song in my car before I show it to anyone else. It’s kind of like my own private screening of a tune before I send it out to the other guys in the band for feedback.
What does your personal writing spot or home studio look like in terms of gear?
My main recording rig is a custom built PC that Keith Merrow kindly put together for me. It’s packed with an i7 9700k, Gigabyte Designare z390 Thunderbolt 3 MB, all SSDs, and 64 gigs of DDR4 ram just to fire off a few specs. I am also using a Universal Audio Apollo x6 interface and a Kemper profiling amp going into Cubase Pro. For monitors I’m using the Yamaha HS7 set. Additionally, I use a MacBook for remote writing and mixing while on tour. My setup is pretty standard but I make the most out of it. I’ve recorded all of the guitars, bass, and keyboards for the last two Rivers of Nihil records at my home studio so it definitely gets the job done.
On that note, what’s your process like when composing for an upcoming record? Do you set aside dedicated “on the job” time to write or does it happen when it happens?
I have found that when I set out with the mindset of “okay I am going to write now” I almost never produce anything worthwhile. The times that I have created my best stuff are always when I’m not expecting it. I will usually be sitting down to mess around with a new plugin or guitar amp and end up coming up with an idea that will eventually grow into a song. The fact that I have a recording setup at my house is ideal for this kind of inspiration; I can simply hit “record” and start rolling. Usually what ends up happening after that is me spending several days (or weeks) working out an idea, then when I feel like it is at the point where it’s (almost) a song I will send it to our bassist/lyricist and he will give me additional ideas on how he feels that the structure can improve to better accommodate the vocal parts.
You are an avid Superior Drummer 3 user. How do you use the program in your work and how does it help your creative process?
The importance of Superior Drummer 3 to Rivers of Nihil’s process can’t be stressed enough. The most obvious reason for this is the fact that our drummer lives 2,000 miles away from me, so writing together in a room is absolutely impossible most of the time. I will usually end up programming drum parts for our songs and then have Jared tweak the parts to match his style once we enter the studio. Superior Drummer is also hugely inspirational to me while writing. A lot of the time I won’t really know how to start a song or complete a section, which the Toontrack MIDI packs are incredibly helpful for. In fact, a lot of the time I will end up using MIDI presets for entire songs (with tweaks to accompany the song of course) since there are so many different packs to accommodate different genres and styles. There are definitely several parts on our last two records that were completely inspired by some of the beats that I found in various MIDI packs. Additionally, Superior Drummer 3 sounds so good that I rarely end up using any additional plugins aside from the ones that are built into the SD3 mixer, so SD3 ends up saving me a ton of memory and keeps my sessions from overloading. We even ended up using an SD3 kick sample for our live trigger sound over the sample that was used on our record, that how sick SD3 is!
What other Toontrack products do you use?
EZkeys is probably my favorite Toontrack product aside from SD3 (and the MIDI packs.) I use it ALL the time. At the beginning of the writing process for “Where Owls Know My Name” I got a copy of the “Mellotoon” pack and it basically inspired the sonic direction of the entire record. I’ve also used the Cinematic Grand, Pipe Organ, Retro Electrics, Dream Machine, and Classic Electrics packs a whole bunch on past and current projects. Again, the EZkeys MIDI is SO helpful to me when I’m running short on ideas. I can always find inspiration in there somewhere. EZmix 2 is another product that I use a lot. I really enjoy a lot of the weird effects and super sick guitar tones that are hidden within some of the EZmix expansion packs. They’re super important to my process. As a matter of fact, if you listen to our song “Where Owls Know My Name” there is a drum intro on that track that features an EZmix preset. I forget what the preset is called but it’s this awesome sounding “backwards swooshing” sound that we couldn’t achieve without that specific EZmix preset.
If you weren’t a musician, what do you think you’d do for a career?
I would probably be a record producer or studio engineer. It’s the only other thing that I’ve got any kind of passion for besides playing and writing. Even from a very early age I’ve always been very fascinated with how records were made. My dad had some “behind the record” videos around the house when I was a kid and I was always learning about how records were made through interviews with guys like Alan Parsons, Bill Putnam, and George Massenburg. I got the chance to visit Abbey Road Studios the last time we were in London which was a real special moment for me. Studios and the equipment that they contain have always been a big fascination of mine.
Best studio or stage moment ever?
One of my favorite stage moments was when we played two sold out headlining shows in New York on our last headlining tour of the US. New York has kind of always been our second home and we played there a lot on the come up as a young band, so being able to come back and sell it out two nights in a row was a pretty big moment for us. Also, very recently we played a sold out show in London that was our biggest headlining show to date. Being able to go over to the UK on our first headlining tour and sell it out was huge for us, and it was in that moment that I really felt like we were doing something right (for once haha).
…and on the flip-side: Worst studio or stage moment ever?
One time very early on we were asked to play a Halloween show at this “haunted house” exhibition that was going on in our hometown. We were told that we would be playing inside of this big abandoned mental hospital where the event was going on and that people could come in and out of the concert room as they pleased (sounds cool right?) When we arrived we learned that we were instead going to be playing outside on the back of a tractor trailer flatbed in the freezing cold about 100 yards from where hundreds of families were lining up to get into the event. I’m sure you can imagine the look of horror when the 3-400 people waiting in line had to sit through a death metal band making a ton of noise on the back of a truck in the middle of a field. Oh, and the cherry on top was that our drummer fell through the floor of the flatbed at the end of our last song. I guess the families waiting were probably glad for that because they could finally talk to each other since it wasn’t so loud anymore.
FIVE QUICK QUESTIONS.
If you could only keep/play one guitar moving forward…which one in your collection would you pick and why?
I have a PRS Ce24 that was given to me by an old family friend in his will after he died. He purchased the guitar with hopes of learning how to play and he never got the chance before he passed. So, that guitar will always have a special meaning to me and I always make sure to include it on each record to thank him for the guitar and to put it to good use.
You could only bring one record to listen to during a massively long tour, which one would it be and why?
Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” would have to be it. It’s one of my favorite records ever and no matter how many times I listen to it I always find something new and inspiring.
Big festival or club show?
Club show for sure. Having people screaming in your face while playing is like nothing else on earth.
Name one piece of gear you can’t live without in your studio (and it can’t be the guitar or the computer!).
Probably my Kemper Profiling Amp. I use it every single time I sit down to write and it works without fail every time. It’s the ultimate tool for a recording guitarist.
Your all-time top five list of albums!
Pink Floyd “The Wall”
Explosions in the Sky “The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place”
Steven Wilson “Hand. Cannot. Erase.”
Decapitated “Organic Hallucinosis”
Meshuggah “Catch Thirtythree”
RIVERS OF NIHIL FEAT. THE DEATH & DARKNESS SDX.
Listen to “Hollow” by Rivers of Nihi featuring the Death & Darkness SDX. This version of the song was mixed using the original mix stems from the recording session. The drums were converted using Tracker, the drum audio to MIDI conversion tool in Superior Drummer 3, and then mixed using the built-in effects in Superior Drummer 3 and a custom kit made up solely from the drums available in the Death & Darkness SDX.
LEARN MORE ABOUT REPLACING DRUM AUDIO TO MIDI.
Here are a few videos on the subject of replacing drum audio to MIDI.