Meticulous metal axeman gives gear demos a be-spoke twist
Over the past few years, YouTube gear demos have become a bit of a big deal, regularly attracting thousands of views. But, while they’re a fantastic resource, these demos have a tendency to showcase the stifled creativity of the demonstrators – there are only so many blues licks one person can take. Enter Ryan Bruce, aka fluff191. Not only does he make high-quality demos of high-quality gear, but he writes all the demo material himself. It’s not written to sound like anyone else and it’s not endless noodling: this is all original.
On top of his demo work, Ryan also releases material under the guise of Black Metal Bicycle. His latest EP, Save For All Things, is a technically astounding riff-laden groove-fest of a metal EP thanks to his understanding of what makes a good metal track. “Primarily, I enjoy playing riff-oriented metal while trying to fuse some melody whenever possible,” he says. “You gotta have a melody!”
Ryan’s early guitar playing was based on the scene where he grew up, and when you find out where that was, his influences should come as no surprise. “I grew up in the early 90’s in the Seattle area, so naturally grunge and that whole thing is my foundation for everything I still do,” he says. “Nirvana and Alice In Chains were very important to me as a 12-year-old kid trying to learn guitar. Nirvana taught me the emotion of a song and Alice In Chains taught me that melody and songwriting is just as important as being able to shred a crazy solo.”
While 90s punk bands like Good Riddance, Pennywise and Bigwig – not to mention alt-rockers Thrice, Cave In and Himsa – have also left their mark on Ryan’s playing, his love of heavy music is rooted in his childhood. “I have always listened to some form of heavy, distorted music,” he explains, “possibly because my father was so into Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin and Van Halen. My mom liked great melodic bands like The Cars and Fleetwood Mac, so I really think those two things were a huge influence on me.”
But guitar-wise, it all goes back to Alice In Chains. “Hearing Jerry Cantrell was a life-changing thing for me,” Ryan recalls. “I used to sit for hours trying to nail the Them Bones solo [me too – Ed]. Man, he is just the total package. Other huge influences are Tom Petta from Bigwig and Teppei Teranishi from Thrice. The common thread here gear-wise is Mesa/Boogie amps. All my life, I wanted a Dual Rectifier to get that crunchy, saturated yet very tight guitar tone.”
Before we get to those amps, Ryan’s axe collection is well worth a look, with one brand resonating with him more than others, as you can see from the enviable rack of guitars below.
“I have been with Schecter for about a year now and absolutely love them,” he enthuses. “I currently play the newer SLS line of seven-string and six-string Baritone guitars. They really feel like Custom Shop guitars to me. For pickups, it’s Seymour Duncan or nothing at all. I get to try a lot of gear, and Schecter guitars with Seymour Duncan pickups are just a winning combination for me.”
When it comes to amps, Ryan’s obviously a big Mesa/Boogie fan, but he’s not afraid to branch out into other brands that can get him that tight distorted tone.
“Lately, I have been using an amp called the Triple6 from DV Mark out of Italy,” he tells us. “It’s basically a KT88-powered Dual Rectifier on steroids, but with a really great-sounding clean channel. For recording scratch tracks and overdubs, I use a Kemper Profiling Amp pretty extensively. That’s about it!”
From looking at his rig so far, it’s clear that once Ryan knows what he likes, he sticks with it. His pedalboard is no different – it’s simple, but it gets the job done.
“I am pretty minimal when it comes to effects,” he admits, “but from time to time I like a good delay. MXR’s Carbon Copy is fantastic, and I use that sometimes. I use a Maxon OD808 as a clean boost when things need to get really heavy, and an ISP Decimator to gate everything and keep the noise down. Other effects lying around are an [MXR] EVH Phase 90, Ernie Ball Wah and Grind Customs FX Chimaera overdrive.”
Of course, Ryan demos a lot of gear outside his regular rig on the fluff191 YouTube channel, and he has a specific process for writing riffs to showcase the equipment.
“Normally, I open a stock beat in [Toontrack] Superior Drummer and see what comes out riff-wise,” he reveals. “Then I build a song from there using that one central riff as a foundation. Other times I will be lying in bed playing with my phone and a riff idea will strike, and I’ll have to run upstairs to the studio and lay something down to capture the riff.”
While he’s now best known for the incendiary riffing on his YouTube channel, Ryan is no stranger to playing live, having performed on the main stage at the 2005 Taste Of Chaos tour with Killswitch Engage and The Used in front of 4,500 people. But with those highs also came the lows… “My worst gig was at this hole in the wall called the Java Jump in this s**thole of a town called Fife,” he recalls. “Anyways, I am playing the show and the song ends, and someone in the crowd tells me how terrible I am and then spits on me. Everyone laughs, including my band. So, the other guitarist then gave my share of the gig money to the guy who spat on me. Classy!”
Fortunately, nothing like that occurs in the YouTube world. The worst is a few dislikes, but by my count, Ryan hasn’t got many – and based on his playing in demos and with Black Metal Bicycle, no-one would dare tell him he’s anything less than incredible now, either.
Black Metal Bicycle’s new EP Save For All Things is available now on Bandcamp. For gear demos and riffs, check out fluff191 on YouTube, or follow Ryan on Twitter, Tumblr, SoundCloud and Facebook, not to mention his official website.