Wyves Guitarist Nick Sterling Shares the Secrets to His Sound | Phoenix New Times

Wyves Guitarist Nick Sterling Shares The Ins and Outs of His Sound

In Pound for the Sound, we talk to local guitarists about their gear.
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In Pound For The Sound, we get technical with local musicians about what gear they use to create their signature tones.

Guitarist Nick Sterling of Phoenix band Wyves certainly knows what kind of sound he is looking for when it comes to the axe. Since he was a teenager, Nick has been doing paid gigs and saving up his money to buy gear. He is an old-school kind of guy, infatuated with the sound of tube amps and vintage gear. He even has a 1973 Gibson Les Paul custom currently on loan from a good friend he met as a teenager playing out locally. At age 20, he was touring the world with Sebastian Bach as his lead guitarist, a position he held down for three years.

His first gig with Sebastian Bach was opening for Phoenix's own Alice Cooper in Helsinki, Finland — no big deal.

If that's not enough to instantly qualify him as a pure shredder, he is also extremely technically sound in his playing, makes the guitar wail like a Humpback in deep waters, and has made YouTube demos for pedal manufacturer Atomic Amplifiers. Currently, he can be seen rocking out locally with Wyves and The Song Remains the Same - Led Zeppelin Tribute. This Phoenix-based player unquestionably has the credentials and knowledge of what makes his guitar sound awesome night in and night out. Luckily, this New Times writer got to spend some with Nick to find out some of the secrets behind his unique tones.

New Times: What's the secret weapon of your sound? And how did that help find your "signature" tone?
Nick Sterling: The main tool in my live sound is a product called Amplifire. It is a digital modeler of studio grade quality. Typically I use a Fender Deluxe Reverb amplifier model within the amplifier pedal. Using these products really keeps me at a constant pro level. I have consistency in knowing that I will have the exact same tone that I'm trying to create night after night without having to worry.

What's your favorite piece of gear in your collection and why?
Right now my favorite instrument is a Telecaster made by a guy named Nash. It is a ... copy of a 1963 Fender Telecaster Custom with Lollar pickups in it. It has a huge neck that is extremely comfortable, and it plays and sounds great! Some people think the idea of having a new-ish guitar that's been beat up to look old is goofy. I think it's awesome. Having all that extra wear on the body and neck really makes the guitar feel extremely comfortable and homey. I will never ever sell that guitar; I love it.

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Henri Benard

Any special pieces of gear acquired over the years? Any special story, or stories, behind your collection?
I have a couple really special pieces of gear. One key element to my sound is a pedal that has been on my board for a very long time. It is a handmade custom fuzz pedal made by Shawn at Lovepedal. It is a basic fuzz with a volume and gain control, but there is a third knob that blends between a classic Hendrix-style fuzz face circuit to the right and a Rangemaster treble booster circuit a la [Queen guitarist] Brian May to the left. It is very versatile, being able to bend down and simply turn the knob for a totally different style fuzz in between songs. Shawn only made 10 of these particular fuzz pedals, and I found out that the one he built before mine he sent out to Jeff Beck to use. He's one of my favorite players, so that is very cool to me.

My dad is a guitar player, as well as a meticulous craftsman, and he helps me a lot with my rig. It's special to me that the pedalboard I use is a Jim Sterling creation. All cables are cut to exact lengths, pedal power supplies routed cleanly, absolutely no issues at all.

On Spoils of War, the 2016 Wyves album, how did you go achieve that tone on the song “Bad Reputation”?
The tone for the solo on “Bad Reputation” comes from a pedal called Disnortion made by Pigtronix. I've owned it for a very long time, and I've used it on every record I've been involved in. It has three foot-switches on it that control an Octavia effect, a fuzz, and a distortion. For “Bad Reputation,” I used the Octavia and fuzz. It took quite a few takes to get the right field for that solo.

Jimmy Page or Jack White? Why?
I am a huge fan of Jimmy page. Most guitarists are, but if you think you like Jimmy page more than me then we might have to arm wrestle over it. For me, Jimmy's creativity and presence in the studio around the time of Physical Graffiti is the pinnacle of guitar layering and orchestration.

If you could have any guitar on the planet (assuming money is not an issue), what would it be and why?
I would love to someday own a real vintage pre-CBS era Fender Telecaster. It's such an iconic guitar,  no frills about it. It's a workhorse.
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