Gear Review: Mile Marker Zero Guitarist John Tuohy on His Fractal Audio Axe-Fx II

- Mar 25, 2014 at 02:48PM
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Mile Marker Zero are a five-piece rock band from New Haven, Connecticut that are getting ready to drop their new slab of finely-crafted music on April 29th, 2014. Titled Young Rust the EP is the next offering and step forward for this progressive rock band and we're excited for everyone to hear it. Recently we were able to speak with guitarist John Tuohy who told us all about his Fractal Audio Axe-Fx II and how it was used on Young Rust. Check it out.

What one piece of gear do you use to obtain your signature sound?
Tuohy: The main piece of gear that I couldn’t be without nowadays is a Fractal Audio Axe-Fx II. This thing is amazing. It has virtually replaced all my amplifiers and fx pedals that I used to lug around. It is an extremely versatile piece of equipment (albeit pricey) that allows me to do so much, with a consistent sound from venue to venue.


What about it makes it so important to you?
Tuohy: There’s a multitude of reasons it’s important for me. For starters, I play with a decent variety of basic amplifier sounds. I like my cleans really clean, my dirty sounds dirty, and my lead tones in your face. With the Axe-Fx II, I can have different virtual models of many different types of amplifiers and speaker cabinets, on a song by song basis. For example, maybe a particular section of an MMZ song really needs a more Marshall-y flavor. I can dial it up in 2 seconds, and have a killer Marshall tone, just for that section, if I want. Maybe the next section needs a real crystal clean Fender-like sound. With the Axe-Fx II, I can make this happen with a flick of a dial. This versatility is unmatched by anything that’s currently on the market. “Digital” used to be a derogatory word, and up until recently, everything that was “digital” didn’t even come close to holding a candle to any good tube amp and speaker combo. However, as technology has progressed, the gap has gotten much, much closer, and things that weren’t possible even 6 years ago, are possible now. It’s fair to say that most people couldn’t tell the difference in a blind test. Another reason the Axe-Fx II is invaluable is for recording. The rise of the home studio has been growing in the last 5 years, since not only has the technology come down in price, but budgets for bands to record with has shrunken dramatically in today’s music economy. The Axe-Fx II makes it possible to get great studio quality guitar tones by plugging in direct. Recently, I’m even happier about my recorded Axe-Fx tone than a comparable sound I got at an expensive studio. Plus, I can program it in, save it, and tweak it more if I want to later. That’s almost impossible in a professional studio environment, where “time is money” and the engineer might not really care that my low-mids are a little woofy.

What are the major pros and cons?
Tuohy: The pros are pretty obvious. You can get rid of your giant pedalboard and amp configuration, save your back, and only lug a 15 pound box to your gigs and have the same consistent tone night after night. Also, the level of detail that you can get into is a tweaker’s paradise. The cons are all about the learning curve. Unless you’ve been a very studious tweaker of all things electronic for years, and really know the difference between serial routing and parallel routing (and TONS of other techy things), this box is very daunting. I had never really been that much of a tweaker in the past, I was very much a plug and play type of guitarist. When I first encountered the Axe-Fx, I pretty much went onto their online forum, and watched Youtube tutorial videos for 6 months straight every day, until I had a firmer grasp on all the intricacies of the machine. It’s entirely possible to do, but it can be very intimidating. My advice is to stick with it, because you will be rewarded in the end.


How long have you had it, how do you use it, and would you ever change it?
Tuohy: I’ve been playing with Fractal products for about 4 years now. I started with the Axe-Fx Ultra, and upgraded about a year ago to the Axe-Fx II. Recently, I started going direct to the front of house (no miking a cabinet at all), and have a personal monitor for me, so I can listen to my guitar at any volume I want on stage. (Hint…It’s loud). I have generally one preset per song, that contains all the amp sims and effects that I need to use in that song. I may change it someday, and I still like taking a small tube amp to acoustic-type gigs. However, I don’t see a need to switch my whole rig up, especially because Fractal Audio puts out free updates for the Axe-Fx regularly, and continues to refine and give more options to the player every month or so.

Any final thoughts or comments on the gear?
Tuohy: Fractal Audio is an excellent company, that does very well by its customers. I would not have the versatility I have now if it weren’t for the Axe-Fx, so I’m grateful for that. It may not be for everyone, especially for the dyed-in-the-wool old school tube amp enthusiast, but for me, guitars and amplifiers are just tools that shape and enhance the music you make. Music comes from the head, the heart, and the hands (the three “H’s”), and for me, the Axe-Fx II lets me realize that music in the best way possible.

Check out the song "Where I Want You" (Richard Mouser Mix)

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