Rigs of Doom: Garrett Morris of Windhand

Windhand’s popularity in the doom metal scene has been on the steady rise since the band’s inception in Richmond, VA roughly a decade ago.  The quartet has worked diligently, both in the studio and on the road, to deliver their unique, hypnotic, and massively heavy brand of doom to the masses. 

Just prior to Windhand embarking on a short East Coast tour in support of their latest release, Eternal Return, I had the opportunity to chat with their guitarist and founding member Garrett Morris about the history and evolution of his rig.

You’ve been using that white Gibson SG for some time now, and before that you played a red one, could you give us some info on those guitars?

My white Gibson SG is a 2007; it’s kind of an odd one.  I used to play a red ‘61 Reissue from 1995, but the headstock broke on tour in 2012.  When that happened, I bought the white one on eBay.  It’s basically an SG Standard with a larger headstock.  It was apparently a limited edition run of 400 as a Gibson Guitar of the Week or something.  At the time they weren’t making SG Standards in white with the smaller pick guard, so I think it was a bit rare even then.  The white SG actually broke at the neck joint at a gig in 2013, with the neck breaking off the guitar completely at the pickup cavity, and I just glued it back together with Titebond.  Knock on wood, but it’s still holding up!

You seem to have swapped bridge pickups a few times over the years.  What have you got in there these days?

The white SG as well as my red 1995 SG both came with Gibson ’57 Classic pickups, but I swapped out the bridge pickup in both of those guitars for a DiMarzio Super Distortion.  About 5 years ago, I swapped the pickups out in both of those guitars for a set of regular Gibson 490r (Neck) / 498t (Bridge) pickups.  That’s what I’m still using currently, and that’s also what’s in my black backup SG right now.  Bridge volume and tone are on 10, neck pickup tone is on 10, and I roll the volume on the neck back for clean stuff and drone feedback.  I play mostly on the bridge but I do flip to the neck for a couple parts in some songs.  I never roll the tone knobs back.

What dirt pedals are you running at the moment?  I know you used a ProCo Rat 2 early on, and then switched to a 70’s Little Big Muff as some point.  Do you mind sharing your settings?

I haven’t used a Rat in about 5 years or so, but the settings I used back then were distortion around 1 or 2 o’clock, with filter and volume all the way to the right (5 o’clock). After mine broke, I bought a 70’s Little Big Muff Pi [op-amp version] in a second hand guitar store; it just has a volume knob on it, which I set all the way up. There’s this little switch that toggles between bass and treble on the side too, I just set it to the bass side.  So it’s like a Big Muff with the tone rolled all the way back.  I used that up until just recently.  Right after we recorded the most recent LP, Eternal Return, I switched to one of those Sovtek “Green Russian” Big Muffs from the 90’s.  I just had one sitting around and thought it sounded ok; it was originally green, but I painted it black and white.  It seemed crunchy like my Rat but had the bottom end of my Little Big Muff.  I’m not sure if it means anything, but I think it’s an early green one, as the input and output aren’t reversed like they are on most of the green ones I’ve seen.  Settings on the Sovtek Big Muff are volume and distortion all the way up, and tone knob rolled all the way back to the left.  I pretty much roll the tone all the way to the bass side on any distortion I use.  I’ve really only ever used the Rat and the Big Muffs; I started using them in the 90’s and just stuck with them.  I’m really not into the whole boutique pedal thing, as I prefer stuff that you can get—or at least used to be able to get—anywhere as it makes things easier to replace.

I’m also currently using a Dunlop Cry Baby Wah, a Boss DD-3 Digital Delay, and an Electro Harmonix Small Stone Phaser.  I have a Dunlop Q Zone that I use for a treble boost on a few things and an MXR Dyna Comp that I use on one song as a volume reduction so I can get a bit of a clean sound out of my bridge pickup.  I basically have to bring all this extra stuff now just to play one thing here and there, which is kind of a pain.  I’m considering bringing a separate combo amp just for cleans instead of having all these extra pedals. 

I have a tendency to swap things out as well, so sometimes there might be pics floating around with stuff that I just threw on for the hell of it that day.  For example, sometimes I use a Boss Overdrive for the treble booster—I just turn all the overdrive off and just use the volume and tone knob on it.

Photo Credit: Morgan Hays

What are you currently using for strings and picks?

I use Dunlop Tortex .73 picks, the yellow ones. 

In Windhand we tune to C-Standard and I use Ernie Ball Beefy Slinky strings, the ones in the yellow pack, which run 11-54 (11, 15, 22p, 30, 42, 54).  As far as strings are concerned, I don’t really like super heavy gauges, so the Beefy Slinkys seem to be a good compromise: they stay in tune well in C and don’t have the wound G, which I can’t bend. But on my guitars at home that are tuned to E-Standard, I just use 9’s.

When Windhand is on tour here in the states, we’ve typically seen you running a 70’s Matamp GT120 head.  Can you give us some specifics on that amp?

My Matamp is an original one; I believe it’s from 1978, but definitely late 70’s.  My friend Nathan Hilbish, who played bass on our 1st record, made me a clone of it that I use as a backup.  He has an amp company now called Hilbish Design.  I’ve been using that head for about 10 or so years I think.  Back when I was running the Rat I used to just run all the controls on the amp at max, but now with the Big Muff I have to run everything at about 3 o’clock, and I’m also using a few pedals for different effects now so I run it slightly cleaner.  But yeah, Bass Boost and Drive still maxed, but everything else at 3 o’clock.  Also, now that we’re a one guitar band, I run a second stack as well.  That set up is an 80’s Laney AOR Pro-Tube Lead 100.  I’ve been running it on stage right but for this next run I may just run it on my side as a half stack next to my Matamp stack.

Photo Credit: Steve Reis

Those Laney AOR’s are killer amps that can still be found at a great price! Do you run your pedals in front of it?  Do you engage the AOR channel or any of the boosts?

Yeah, I run all my pedals into the Laney too, without the AOR engaged though.  I think it complements the Matamp.  I just run the Laney pretty standard, no boosts engaged: Presence-4, Bass-10, Mid-6, Treble-6, Master Volume-10, Preamp 2 Volume-7, and Preamp 1 Volume-7.  With master volume heads I always turn the master to 10 and use the preamp as the overall volume, so it’s like not having a master volume.  I generally don’t like master volumes as they oftentimes seem too saturated and mushy to me.  In Europe I usually have to rent Marshall JCM800s because they’re easy to get, and often end up using the master volume because of the strict decibel laws over there.  For one-offs, fly-ins, and in Europe I just ask for 100 watt Marshall JCM800s because they’re abundant.  I’ve gotten myself into trouble before asking for super specific things.  Some weird shit inevitably turns up instead of what I asked for, so I just stick to Marshalls for that stuff.  Once in a while I’ll fly my head over, but it’s expensive.   Typically I just do that for recording.

With the JCM800’s I run into the high gain/bright channel with the Master on 10. I tweak the preamp volume and tone controls until it sounds close to my Matamp. Bass is always on 10, while mid, treble, and presence typically end up around 3-4, depending on the room. Sometimes I run the presence at 0–it all really depends on what my ears are telling me. I don’t run a lot of preamp gain as it always sounds fizzy, flat, and over saturated to me. Hitting it with the Big Muff is what really makes the sound.

Thanks so much for taking the time to share all of this awesome info with us.  I’m really looking forward to seeing you guys live here in a couple weeks!

I want to thank Garrett for sharing all of this incredibly detailed information about his gear with us!  Here at Does It Doom? I’m going to be spending the next few weeks breaking down a couple of my favorite Windhand songs and demoing the same ProCo Rat 2 and 70’s Little Big Muff Pi pedals that Garrett discussed in the above interview.  Stay tuned!

For additional information about the band, up-to-date tour dates, and other info, you can visit Windhand’s website: www.windhand.com

Follow the band on Instagram: @windhand and Twitter: @windhandva

Don’t miss Windhand on their upcoming 2019 tour, with currently scheduled dates as follows:

MAR 07 Vienna, Italy at Arena

MAR 08 Munchen, Germany at Feierwerk / Hansa 39

MAR 09 Lausanne, Switzerland, at Le Romandie

MAR 10 Paris, France at La Boule Noire

MAR 12 Bristol, United Kingdom at Exchage

MAR 13 Greater Manchester, United Kingdom at The Deaf Institute

MAR 14 Glasgow City, United Kingdom at Audio Glasgow

MAR 15 Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom at The Bodega Nottingham

MAR 16 London, United Kingdom at Underworld

MAR 17 Brussels, Belgium at AB

MAR 19 Haarlem, Netherlands at Patronaat

MAR 20 Eindhoven, Netherlands at Effenaar

MAR 21 Koln, Germany at MTC Club

MAR 22 Hamburg, Germany at Molotow Musikclub

MAR 23 Berlin, Germany at Musik & Frieden

MAR 24 Leipzig, Germany at WERK 2 – Kulturfabrik Leipzig e.V.

APR 26 Brooklyn, NY at The Well

APR 27 Brooklyn, NY at The Well

APR 28 Brooklyn, NY at The Well

MAY 03 Mexico City, Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez

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–Steve Reis

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17 thoughts on “Rigs of Doom: Garrett Morris of Windhand”

  1. I’m hoping you can answer something for me if you don’t mind. I just picked up an electric guitar from a friend who owed me. I don’t have an amp for it though and I also don’t have too much money. Do have a favorite budget combo amp that has good sound quality? Thanks in advance for your reply!

  2. I came to find out which reverb pedal Garrett uses, but that was the only pedal he didn’t mention. LOL : (

    1. I’m not sure what he’s using currently, but I’ve definitely seen him with the Mr. Black Supermoon.

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