Artist Spotlight: Devin Holt (Pallbearer)

The phone signal was a bit spotty when we caught up with Devin Holt of Pallbearer. He apologized in advance if our call got dropped, since the band was currently between tour dates, and traveling through the middle of the desert. Where, exactly? Devin wanted to know too. “Where are we?” he asked a bandmate. “About 100 miles from Tucson,” was the answer, so we had plenty of time to chat, and the call never did drop.

What was your first experience with ESP?
I’ve always been a Megadeth fan, and around a decade ago, I started collecting the (former Dave Mustaine ESP signature model) DV8. I have every color variation except the weird orange one, that I would still love to track down. But I’ve been aware of ESP going back to when I was a teenager. They have always been great guitars.

What model are you playing currently?
The LTD V-401B guitar is my favorite stage guitar, but I've been loving my E-II series Viper as well. I’ve been playing the baritone V since I hopped on the ESP team about a year and a half ago.

What do you like about the V-401B?
Particularly the fact that it’s a baritone. Pallbearer plays a lot in “drop A” tuning. Before I had the baritone, I’d have to hotrod guitars just to get them to stay in tune. Pallbearer often performs songs that are over 10 minutes long, and if you go out of tune, you either have to correct it immediately or sound terrible for a long time. Being onstage is about performing your craft well, not anxiously worrying when something bad might happen.

How’s the V-401B feel, playing-wise?
I really like the neck. It’s without a doubt one of the best necks I’ve ever played in my life. People sometimes scoff at the pointy guitar, but when they pick it up and play it, it’s like, “Whoa!” It speaks for itself.

When you’re looking at a new guitar, what’s important to you?
Consistency and reliability. For years, the whole band seemed like we were cursed by a techno ghost. We’ve all had gear fail at the most inopportune times. But I’ve never had anything like that happen with my ESP guitars.

What about the doom metal genre appeals to you?
I remember the first time I saw a funeral doom band play. I was in high school, and it was a band from Nashville called Loss. Before that, I’d been purely into hyper-fast thrash stuff, but this "new" discovery absolutely changed my life, second only to the first time I heard Black Sabbath. I started experimenting with slow, crushing music after that, and I’ve been doing it for about ten years now.

I was impressed from the beginning with doom metal. It was “so much more, with a lot less”.

Is there anything about the sound of the V-401B that works especially well for that genre?
It’s important to be able to have a guitar that gives you plenty of sustain, and also works really well with the drop tunings. We sometimes play four- or five-note chords with a lot of distortion, and the music suffers when clarity is lost in the mix. The 401B has a great sound for doom, and it’s consistent every single night.

What’s the band up to right now, other than making your way to Tucson for tonight’s show?
Right now we’re halfway through a tour with Baroness. We’ve been out for three weeks so far. We’re also about to put out a new EP. The digital version just dropped, and the physical one is coming soon. We also just finished our third full length album. It still needs to be mastered, and the artwork needs to be finished, but other than that, it’s ready to go.

Any idea about a release date?
Not sure, but probably sometime early next year. And then there will be more touring after that.

How have you progressed as a player, once you got past learning the basics?
Learning theory is, by far, the most important thing for a guitarist that wants to grow everyday. I’ve spent the last two or three years focusing on jazz music. Now, I’m terrible at playing it. I would never call myself a jazz musician. But learning those central ideas, like the Joe Pass guitar method, has allowed me to start being able to do a lot of new things in my own style of music from wherever I’m at on the neck. Learning about theory is always time well spent.

Learn more about Pallbearer here.