The Salt Lake City band, Chelsea Grin, has had a wide impact on the genre of deathcore. Their name has become a staple in the genre, and their guitarist, Stephen Rutishauser, is their longest-standing guitarist in the lineup. Though on the stage, Chelsea Grin provides their audience with the absolute chaos that has can only be expected of deathcore, Rutishauser’s guitar collection is quite the contrary: a neat collection of sparkly Ernie Ball Music Man JP’s.
In between tours, we had the opportunity to catch Rutishauser and ask him a couple of questions about his JP collection, his inspirations, and the Chelsea Grin pre-show routine: “hype time.”
EB: You’re just getting back from your latest tour with Chelsea Grin. How was it?
SR: This most recent one was in Austrailia and that was just a cool tour altogether because we haven’t been there many times. We went and there was such crazy positive energy; people were just so accepting and loving of us out there. We got to meet a lot of really cool people, and the shows were just chaos. I can’t recall any specific memories. I feel like — as lame as it sounds — it’s always good. Just being out there is a good time for me.
EB: Can you run us through your full roster of MM guitars?
SR: I’ve got four right now. They’re all JP13’s, except my most recent, which is a JP13 body with a JP15 neck — that roasted maple one. Since we play in three separate tunings, I use my EBMM guitars for drop A and drop G, and I have a main and backup guitar for both of those tunings. In drop A, I main with my gold sparkle JP13 and my backup is a pink sparkle. In drop G, lately, I’ve been maining on the baby blue silver JP13 I’ve got. My backup for that is the rootbeer with the maple neck. The reason I have all JP13’s is for that consistency in tone and feel, and it’s the JP model caters best to my hands. It sounds and feels the best in my hands.
EB: You definitely gravitate towards the JP13. What features on this guitar make it your go-to?
SR: For me, it’s a multitude of reasons. The neck profile is really the biggest thing about MM guitars in general. They’re all pretty astounding in what they get away with and the shapes they pull off — they’re just so comfortable. They feel so incredible; for a 7-string, I can’t believe what I’m playing every time I play it. Over the years, being that these are the only guitars I’ve used, I’ve really found my comfort zone with them.
The pickups — the Dimarzio Illuminators — are really just a badass pickup to come with the guitar out of the factory. It’s wild how good they sound. They’re extremely articulate, bright when I want them to be, but they’re controlled in the sense that I can color them however I want. They responsive to whatever I’m doing and they get just the right tone for me. I’ve tried other pickups, but I think the Illuminators in the JP13’s is just the best sounding combo I’ve ever heard.
Also, just the look of it! The body style has some variations on the JP12 style, and it’s just so sleek and comfortable. The weighting of it, the way it sits on me — it just stays exactly where I want it. I just feel like it is a guitar perfectly built for my needs. There’s a lot of reasons why I stick with it.
EB: Chelsea Grin can get pretty rowdy on stage. What’s going through your head when you perform?
SR: As far as the show goes, it’s always a blast. We obviously play some pretty extreme music, but we’re not a super “metal” band on a personal level. I love metal, I listen to death metal all of the time, but we’re just out there smiling and having a blast, looking at each other and laughing even if we mess up. It’s all fun up there. So, we’re constantly enjoying ourselves — every minute of it.
If I have a stressful part, I’m for sure focusing, but other than that — oh, man. I just watched the mailman fall outside my window. He’s up. He’s good.
As far as gear goes, though, I don’t ever worry about my guitars. I set them up myself, and we have guitar techs for the road, but on stage, I never have and issues. Sometimes I worry about strings if I get lazy and “forget” to change them for a little too long, then I start thinking about it. But, I play the Ernie Ball 7-String Cobalts, and they’re very durable, so that helps.
EB: What is the sound you’re going for as a part of Chelsea Grin?
SR: There’s a bite that I’m going for that no other guitar has had. It’s a supreme clarity across every note. I’ll play a chord over all seven strings and each note will sting individually. But, then, when I’m palm muting or even riffing in whatever sense, it has just such a sweet bite that cuts through anything. It’s so easy to work with for mixing at live shows. It has this remarkable, pissed off, throaty chomp to it. So, that’s the most unique sound to me.
EB: What was the first moment you knew you wanted to pursue music for a living?
SR: My dad is a classic musician, and he’s played for my whole life, so together we tried a bunch of instruments and none of them really stuck. But, I remember when I was younger, stumbling across a couple of DVDs — System of a Down being most noteworthy — and I got into some metal music. I thought to myself, “well, damn. This is a huge crowd, this is aggressive music, they’re going wild. I’m a pissed off little kid and so this just speaks to me.” It’s not an easy thing to make happen; it’s a lot of hard work and persistence, but I knew if I stuck with it I would eventually make it. I was probably 12 when I encountered my first metal festival videos and I knew that was, for sure, what I wanted to do.
EB: What other inspirations do you have — other than System of a Down — that you’re bringing to Chelsea Grin?
SR: For me, personally, my favorite bands are Dimmu Borgir, Behemoth — I’m really into the extreme side of metal. I love black metal and I’m a huge Black Dahlia Murder fan. Messugah is a huge influence. These are all bands that are well known for these genres, so it’s not like it’s anything too obscure, but those bands are probably my biggest influences. As far as writing breakdowns or rhythmic patterns, those are my core four.
EB: What are your pre-show rituals?
SR: I don’t have any weird quirky things, but our band always has “hype time” before shows. Maybe a half hour before we have to get into the venue, we’ll just listen to music pretty loud. It changes every day; sometimes it’s metal, some days it’s hip-hop, some days it’s techno just to dance around and get crazy. Whatever we can do to loosen up our bodies a little bit. Maybe take a shot, I don’t know. I usually don’t drink before I play, but if hype time hits just right, I’ll take one shot. Hype time is good, man. We get our whole crew together and have a good old time. I love it. Pablo, our drummer, started that one day and then one day it started to feel weird without it.
My main thing, though, is stretching. At this point in our live career, we’ve played the songs so damn much that I don’t feel the need to run through them before a show. I’ll warm up scalar knowledge, but that is more just to loosen up. Stretching out my arms, my hands, my forearms and massaging them, making sure my fingers are nimble. Even stretching my body — the way we play on stage is super physical, so stretching my legs, hips, and back, too. That’s the most important part of my routine.
EB: What’s coming up for you and Chelsea Grin? What do you want people to know about?
SR: Chelsea Grin is a band. We’ve got a lot of fun coming up. This summer, we’re doing some festivals, and then we’ve got a European tour with As I Lay Dying. We’re working up some other plans besides that; I’m working on writing for our new record. Our last record, Eternal Nightmare, came out almost exactly a year ago now. We’re still having a blast playing that, so if you haven’t heard it, check it out! Also, I am a humongous Ernie Ball Music Man fan, so anyone who doesn’t have their hands on one, but is interested, I will tell you ten times out of ten — a million times out of a million — to get your hands on one, give it a shot, and never look back.
Other than that, there’s always new stuff on the horizon, so keep your eyes open. We really appreciate all of the support. It’s been kind of a crazy couple of years for us, so we appreciate everybody sticking with us and helping us feel better than ever.
Guitars & Strings
For guitars, Rutishauser has four Ernie Ball Music Man JP’s, including a custom JP13 body with a JP15 neck. uses Ernie Ball Regular Slinky 7-String Cobalt Strings and Skinny Top Heavy Bottom 7-String Cobalt Strings.
Listen to Chelsea Grin