Hardcore G.A.S (Gear And Style) is back with Pete Koller from NYHC legends Sick Of It All. In this series hatched from the brain of Andrew Monserrate we track down musicians to pick their brains about the particular gear they use. Sick Of It All has been a staple in the hardcore scene for decades and we were very happy to have Pete give us some inside info on how the SOIA machine works! Pete answered these questions in early January, 2024. Lead photo by Danielle Dombrowski. Questions by Andrew Monserrate and CW. Hardcore G.A.S. artwork by Andrew Monserrate.
IE: So how old were you when you picked up the guitar and what kind of guitars did you start off with?
Pete: So I don't exactly know what age and all that stuff. I remember one Christmas my parents got me an acoustic guitar and to show me how to play the guitar they got me a Roy Clark Big Note song book. At that time I hated school and learning from a book. I felt like it was school so I didn't really care too much about it but I was always super into music… all kinds and always leaning towards the heavier and faster stuff. I always wanted to learn and always wanted to be in a band. About my first electric guitar… I bought a Hondo Flying V. It was such a piece of crap and never stayed in tune but later on I think in my first year of high school I got a Gibson SG Special and I started seriously trying to learn. And what I learned then and I still use today is a bar chord. So around that same time I started going to shows at CBGB’s. Going there I realized that I could do this too. So with my bar chord I started not learning other bands songs but writing my own songs. Such as “My Life” and “Friends Like You which we still play today in the set.
IE: Has the way Sick Of It All puts together songs changed over the years and if so how? You obviously have these very long tours throughout the year and there is a lot of downtime traveling between cities but then again you just might be more comfortable just writing when you are at home…
Pete: Basically I just learned how to play a little bit better since then, not much but a little bit. I'm writing on the road but I write better when I'm at home and when I start writing it just keeps coming. For instance during the pandemic I wrote a whole bunch of songs… at least twenty. So once I open up the flood gates it all keeps coming out. So I recorded most of these songs, and demo’d them. I did drums, bass, guitar and I actually did vocals too (which none of you will ever be hearing! Haha!)
PETE KOLLER ATWORK BY: ALEX RODRIGUEZ @KUBINECA
IE: What gear (guitar, amp, gauge of strings, pick, peddles) did you use in the early days, and how much has it changed?
Pete: The gear I used back in the day was whatever I could get my hands on and what was cheap and what made the guitar sound more metal. I think I had a Carvin Head and I used a TC Distortion Box on boost and a Metal Zone from Boss. Nowadays my guitars are ESP Vipers with Fishman Pickups in them. Absolutely great sound out of those pickups and I love the Vipers. The amps I use are an S6505 or 5150 from Peavey. Also from TC Electronics, they make a new pedal that you have to run with a power amp. It is the 550 TC Electronics Amp Worx and it actually sounds just like the 5150. I always use it with a Boss Noise Gate. The strings I use are Ernie Ball Twelve Gauge and I get my picks from a company called In Tune. They are great people and they hook up bands all the time. Right now I'm pretty happy and satisfied with my sound and I’m sticking with it. The simpler and less chords the better.
IE: Are there any companies that endorse you and the gear you use? If so is there any obligation to use what they may send to try out?
Pete: Yes, there are companies that endorse me but I am not obligated to use anything but I do use it and appreciate everything that they hook me up with. ESP guitars, Fishman pickups, Ernie Ball strings, In Tune guitar picks, TC Electronics. I also get some really cool shoes and sneakers from TUK.
SICK OF IT ALL @ IRVING PLAZA, NYC JUNE 8, 2019. PHOTO BY: DANIELLE DOMBROWSKI
IE: I read when Rush was down between albums and touring, Geddy Lee wouldn’t touch his bass for a year, and just have nothing to do with writing or playing, while Alex Lifeson would play in a small pub every weekend and never stops playing. When Sick Of It All, are down, not recording or touring, do you give it all a rest, or are you always playing and creating? Are there any other hobbies or creative outlets you do during down times that you would like to share?
Pete: Well after touring or down time I always pick up the guitar every once in a while. Or I'll get a big spurt of ideas and riffs… or even full songs. Yeah I basically just play any time I feel like it. When we're not touring I like to exercise and I like to stay in shape so I can keep playing and touring and be around a long time to take care of my family.
IE: To you at this very moment what would you say is the most complete Sick Of It All release and even though you say it is the most complete do you still see any wrinkles within it or things you wish you could change?
Pete: That's a tough question because some records have great songs on them but don't sound as good as they should. Some records sound raped and some of the songs on them are not that good. So I know that doesn't answer the question but that's my answer and I'm sticking to it!
PHOTO BY: STEVEN J. MESSINA
IE: Do you have any live show gear related nightmares that you want to share?
Pete: One specific onstage gear nightmare? I don't know about one. It always happens when we don't bring road crew that actually know our stuff and how we like things if we're cutting corners to save a little money. There was one time that you can watch on YouTube!! It was at the Dynamo Festival in Holland back in the 90’s. It was one of the first big festivals we played. 100,000 people. Our intro goes on and the place starts going nuts and we come out… everyone is getting riled up. A total goose bumps moment… and then the guitar does not work even though it just worked in the line check!? So anyway, it was the stage power that blew out on my side on the stage but they got it all working and it was an amazing show after that.
IE: Do you have any kind of pre-show ritual or routine that helps you get ready or amped up before a show?
Pete: Before a show I stretch and warm up for about an hour, more or less.
IE: What advice would you give to the young hardcore musician about gear, sound or writing songs?
Pete: Always remember to put punk in your hardcore and I'm not talking about the stuff on the radio. I'm talking about Discharge, The Exploited… GBH… stuff like that… or at least give it a listen. Play what makes you want to stage dive and get in the pit.