Botch's Dave Knudson on reunion shows, lost guitars, and the return of the Honeywell Rectifier
Botch live in France, 1999.
Photo c/o the band.
Photo c/o the band.
BY GREGORY ADAMS
When Botch re-emerged last summer with a surprise single called “One Twenty Two” — the first new music from the Tacoma technical hardcore juggernauts since their break-up in 2002 — I realized I might’ve flubbed a line of questioning the last time I’d spoken with their guitarist, Dave Knudson.
The Washington State virtuoso was just about to release his 2022 debut solo album, The Only Thing You Have To Change Is Everything, which features oodles of textured, DL4-modded guitar lines running alongside guest vocalists like the Coathangers’ Julia Kugel and Dave’s old Minus the Bear bandmate, Jake Snider. I probably should’ve asked if he’d called up Botch’s Dave Verellen for a similar collab, but the concept seemed wholly improbable at the time, the band long downplaying the idea of a reunion.
But tomorrow (February 17), at an all-ages venue in Tacoma, Dave will be joining Dave V., bassist Brian Cook, and drummer Tim Latona for their first full Botch concert in decades (though they preceded this last fall with a one-song performance at a private birthday party). There are also a couple sold out Seattle-area bar shows coming up at the end of the month, and now a handful of newly announced U.S. tour dates on the horizon.
While “One Twenty Two” — a groovy dust-up initially drafted for The Only Thing You Have To Change Is Everything before becoming a full-fledged Botch recording — will be getting its live debut alongside classic, complex favourites from 1998’s American Nervoso, 1999’s We Are the Romans, and 2002’s An Anthology of Dead Ends EP, Botch’s return may not yield much more in the way of new tunes.
“This is us just playing shows again,” Dave K. explains over Zoom. “‘One Twenty Two’ was a happy COVID accident that inadvertently started us hanging out, talking, playing, and being creative again. There’s no more music for Botch on the horizon; we’re doing these shows, and then it’s done. For me, personally, I'm always working on music, and I have another five or six songs that I’m working on for the next solo release. But the Botch stuff…it’s going to happen for a very finite amount of time.”
Speaking with Gut Feeling, Dave Knudson delves into old amp heads, long-stolen guitars, and what Botch songs may or may not make it into these next few setlists.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Were there any concerns about modernizing Botch’s sound for “One Twenty Two,” from a tech/gear standpoint?
DAVE KNUDSON: We loved the guitar sounds on Romans; Tim loved the drum sounds on Anthology of Dead Ends. We were very particular with Matt Bayles about making sure his mix — his sculpting of the recording — matched, so it felt like it belonged on the Romans repress. But, yeah, we were definitely worried.
You know, the song is really short, whereas a lot of our songs were longer than two minutes-and-twenty-seconds. I was more worried about people just thinking the song was shit. Like, I was totally expecting the internet to dismiss it, or crap all over it. Maybe that was me lowering my expectations so I wouldn’t be disappointed…[though] I thought it turned out really great. Dave’s voice has only gotten better; all the key pieces were there. It was awesome to see that people were legit stoked on it.
Going by some recent Instagram posts, it looks like you’re getting somewhat period accurate with the gear you’re breaking out for these shows. You put out the call online to help find your old Mesa Boogie head, and managed to find it surprisingly quick. How’d you end up tracking that down?
KNUDSON: I posted an old photo of the amp from the last show and was like, “Internet sleuths, help me find this thing that I really want back again.” Within the first 12 hours or so there were people [messaging me] that knew the guy that had the amp. “Hey, this guy lives in Belgium; he plays in this band…I haven’t seen him around town, he’s not on Instagram very often, but if you send him a message…” So, I did all that, and within a day he was like, “I heard you were looking for me!”
I’d just assumed that it was going to be lost, but this is the guy that bought it off Brian 15 years ago. After Botch broke up, I was moving on to Minus the Bear; I didn’t think I’d ever have the need for a high gain Dual Rectifier again. Brian was like, “I’ll buy it off you,” and I was like, “Sure!” He had it for a few years, and then he didn’t need it anymore. He sold it to this dude in Belgium, who ended up being an amp collector. He used it in a couple of his bands, but for the most part it’s been in his storage unit.
You call this head the “Honeywell Rectifier,” but I can’t find any information out there about this online other than a photo of your amp. How did this Mesa become the “Honeywell Rectifier?”
KNUDSON: Gear logos are just super annoying sometimes. Especially back when we were starting up and everything was d.i.y., it was like, “I don’t want this Mesa logo on my amp, or this Marshall logo on my speaker cabinet.” At the time, people would take the Marshall logo and break off a part of it so it would say “Mars,” or they’d move the letters around to spell out other funny things.
There was also a band called Honeywell in the mid-to-late ‘90s. We loved this record of theirs — it’s white with a big green image in the middle [ed. 1993’s Industry] — just super feedback-y and fucked. I ended up taking the Mesa badge [off the front of the amp], found this Honeywell logo, and just put that on the front. Like, “here’s my Honeywell amp!” It was just to do something funny, to customize it in some weird way.
How much of that original batch of Botch recordings features that amp?
KNUDSON: Pretty much on all the originals recording, and [I used it] every tour, except when we’d go to Europe
What were some of the things you learned about the head over the years, in order to hit the sweet spot. From a foundational tone standpoint, there’s a different sounding attack to your playing on, say, the Faction EP and the last EP.
KNUDSON: Well…Faction may have been on a different head. It may have started on American Nervoso with this head. Before then, it was a smaller Marshall— it wasn’t a 900; it was a cheaper, mid ’90s Marshall. The thing that I loved about the Dual Rectifier was, obviously, the high gain.
To go back to the original amp rig, I’m also borrowing this 5150 from a friend, which was the [other] amp I tracked and recorded with. This is a mid ‘90s Peavey 5150. If you have the gain on all the way, it just sounds like mush, so you have to find the sweet spot where the gain isn’t maxed out — maybe at one o’ clock, or something. So, I was looking at the settings on the 5150 at practice the other day, and we’d just gotten the Nervoso represses, and there’s a photo in there where you can see my amp settings. I compared what was in the photo to what my ear had gone to in the practice space. They were almost identical. It was like, “Your ears still got it, dude!”
What was it like to get back in a room with the Botch guys again?
KNUDSON: The first time was just Tim and I, because Brian was out with Russian Circles and we wanted to get a head start. We figured if Tim and I locked shit down before the others came in, then we’d have a really solid base fleshed out. The first practice we played “To Our Friends In the Great White North,” the first song off Romans, and there was so much muscle memory. We’d played that song so much live [in the past].
There was a lot of hesitation before hitting that first note — like, “Ok…are we really going to do this?” — but once we started it snowballed from there. It was pretty easy to get back into. We went through a lot of the Nervoso and Romans songs first, and then we started doing the Anthology EP. Those took a long time. Even though that’s technically the most recent material [outside of “One Twenty Two”], we never really played those songs live. There wasn’t the same amount of muscle memory; it didn’t come flooding back the same way as the Nervoso and Romans material. There are a few songs where I didn’t even remember what I’d played back then. I’ve got to say, though, those EP songs are some of my favourites to play live. They sound huge.
How about some of Botch’s earliest songs? Have you relearned anything like “Ebb”?
KNUDSON: We’re not going to do “Ebb.” We didn’t learn everything. I mean, the last time we played “Ebb” was probably ’98? That fell off the setlist as other material was written. We’re focusing on what our favourites are, and that’s mostly material from Romans and on…although there are a couple surprises from before then.
I’m guessing this isn’t a high priority thing for these reunion shows, but thinking about some of the outliers in the Botch songbook, did you ever play your cover of Black Sabbath’s “The Wizard” live back in the day?
KNUDSON: I don’t’ recall playing it live, except for that ending part that we tacked onto it — that big riff at the end isn’t actually from the Black Sabbath song. We definitely played that part live, and we definitely did those other [covers] like “O Fortuna” and “Rock Lobster.” Those aren’t getting resurrected [laughs].
Getting back to gear, what happened to your old Les Paul? I remember you posting sometime last year about how you were missing some of your old guitars.
KNUDSON: There was a black Les Paul Standard, and the first Les Paul dual cutaway I owned. This was maybe around ‘99 or ’00, but Matt Bayles and I were out at [Seattle’s] Cha Cha Lounge on Capitol Hill having some drinks with friends, and the guitars were in the trunk of my car. Then we went up to go dancing at this night club, Neighbors. I was dancing with this girl and having a great time — the music’s loud, it’s a great Thursday night, or whatever — and then Bayles came in running, saying, “Your car got broken into!” This ruined the night.
I ran out to my car and saw that they were gone, like…fuck. Those were two of my absolute favourite guitars. Ultimately, I bought another dual cutaway, and probably another Les Paul Standard at some point, but gear thieves are the worst.
What are the odds you’ll ever down track those guitars, the same as with the Mesa head?
KNUDSON: Well, the thing about the head is that we knew that it was sold to someone who was in the hardcore scene. The guitars…I don’t even know what the serial numbers are. Those are probably in some pawn shop, or some guy’s basement. I would love to have them back.
My favourite Botch guitar ever was the Les Paul dual cutaway Studio. That was just so fun to play. It sounded great. It’s not fancy; it doesn’t have the crazy Les Paul inlays; but it’s a dual cutaway, 24-frets, and super easy to throw around and abuse. I wanted to get another one of those to play for these shows.
I found a few online that I didn’t want — red flame tops — but I also found one that was just straight-up black in Shibuya, Japan. I found it on Reverb. It was like, “Well, if I’m getting the head from Belgium, I may as well get this guitar that I really want from Japan.” I’d never ordered a guitar from overseas before, [but] it showed up and it’s fucking phenomenal, exactly what I wanted.
So, in the spirit of the old rig, I have the heads, and I have the guitars. Going from Minus the Bear [to Botch], my pedalboard is tiny — at least to me. It’s got one DL4; one tiny DOD delay pedal for “Transitions from Persona to Object”; a whammy pedal; and the pedal I use to get the really-fucked up sound from the beginning of “Thank God for Worker Bees.” I’ve got to say, it’s really nice not having a whole lot of pedals down there [laughs].
You’ve got that dual cutaway in place for the shows, but tracing it back to the “One Twenty Two” video, you’re playing your Millimetric MGS3 on there. How has it been to play those old Botch riffs on a hyper-modern guitar?
KNUDSON: The Millimetric is such a beautiful guitar. I love [Millimetric founder] Florian [Bouyou]’s design for those. I’m using that for the last few songs of the set, and the Les Paul for the majority of it before then.
The Millimetric plays well, [but] the neck isn’t as fast as a Les Paul. Before I got that Les Paul, it was a little more of a struggle to play some of the parts where I’m going from down low to up high on the fretboard, to get that hand movement going. But it sounds incredible for the songs I’m using it on — I don’t really want to say which songs; I don’t want to give it away [laughs]. I’ve got a different gauge of strings on it [compared to the Les Paul], and it sounds brutal. It’s awesome.
Find out more about Botch's upcoming reunion shows here.
END HITS : Negative Blast
Photo by Becky DiGiglio.
Photo by Becky DiGiglio.
San Diego quartet Negative Blast’s debut LP, Echo Planet, arrived like…well…a megaton blast last week, positively cratering eardrums with its mix of contemporary, chromatic hardcore riffage, brutal-but-tuneful punk hooks, echo-lacerated howls, and intense drum pummeling from the great Mario Rubalcaba (Clikatat Ikatowi, Hot Snakes).
It’s all quite intense, but one song that caught my attention in particular was “The King in Vancouver,” a bittersweet bruiser hinting at grief and maintaining connections “in spite of severed timelines, unfinished plans.” So, I reached out to Negative Blast guitarist Alex Jacobelli for a little more background on the tune and the titular King, who, it turns out, was a good boy, through-and-through.
Who is The King in Vancouver?
ALEX JACOBELLI: I was initially hesitant to come flat out with the meaning behind the song, as I generally think lyrics shouldn't be overexplained to the point of possibly ruining a listening experience, but fuck it…the King is Dingus Drury. Calling him a dog, while accurate, feels reductive. The only being I’ve seen that can match [Baptists vocalist] Andrew [Drury]'s insanity.
Why did you want to tribute the King in song?
JACOBELLI: The king is dead. Long live the king.
How much time have you spent in Vancouver, whether on-or-offstage?
JACOBELLI: I’m fortunate to have met some supremely awesome Vancouver-ites through playing in bands. With various weekends of shows with my prior bands [Lewd Acts], I’ve probably spent a little over a week in Vancouver — though most of it was either at a venue, or by a bay/straight/sound drinking ciders. Vancouver has possibly the best Bahn Mis I’ve ever had.
You've obviously got a lot of love for the King, but are there any Vancouver-area bands you've dug over the years?
JACOBELLI: Oh yeah. I haven’t been up for a few years, but the ones off the top of my head would be Total Isolation, Erosion, Baptists, Breech Boys, and Chain Whip. Isn’t Nickelback from Vancouver? Them too.