Dan And, the amiable guitarist-vocalist for Vancouver’s reigning thrash metal kings Bison BC, was more than happy to welcome us into their jam space and show off the instruments and gear that mean so much to his band. “As nerdy as it is, I love my gear,” And said. “I think it’s probably just the fact that we’re poor as fuck and we work our asses off to buy our own gear.”
If you’ve seen Bison BC play in the last year, you’ve likely noticed (and had your face melted by) And’s distinctive Gibson Flying V guitar. “I have a [Gibson] SG that’s the same colour and I kept breaking the headstock and I had to get it repaired a bunch of times. Actually that’s where it is right now, getting repaired. So I went to rent something, and I saw this, and I said, ‘That’s fucking hilarious, a cream-coloured Flying V? Totally.’ So I rented it, and these are the original pickups that come with it and they’re these super high-output pickups. But they sound fucking great.”
And gestured towards a battered brown guitar leaning against a massive amp in the corner of the room. It’s the one played by his fellow vocalist-guitarist in Bison, James Farwell. “The only two Gibsons that have these pickups are [the Flying V] and the Explorer … We both started with SGs, with pickups that we swapped out ourselves and then, uh, we decided to get some funny metal guitars.”
Both And and Farwell are having custom guitars built for them by First Act, a Boston-based company started by a couple of former Gibson employees. Bison’s bass player, Masa Anzai is already playing a First Act bass, which he has further customized by taking off the bottom string. “He always plays with three strings,” And explained. “When we were recording the first album, Masa busted the nut on his other bass and the string wouldn’t work, and he realized, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t use that string anyway.’ So since the first few months that we started jamming, he’s used three strings.”
And has also customized his Flying V in his own way—with four small bars of black tape, lined up parallel to each other on the body of his guitar in a rough replication of the famous Black Flag logo. “I gotta let the kids know what’s up,” he said, referring to his own punk roots. “There’s this generation of metal kids who grew up with Korn and Slipknot, and they don’t know about punk. I can’t relate to them.”
When asked about his favourite piece of gear, though, And didn’t point to a guitar, but to his speaker cabinets (“Fucking huge shout out to Emperor Cabs. Super righteous dudes.”) and his amp head (“The fucking raddest thing I’ve ever bought.”). When And saw the head, a 100-Watt Soldano Avenger, he knew it had to be his for two reasons: first, “It has my fucking name on it” (he’s used black tape to cover up the “SOL”of Soldano, leaving “DANO” in big white letters on the amp). Second, in a Spinal Tap-worthy moment of heavy metal fantasy, all the knobs turn up to 11. For real.
“It actually goes one louder!” And laughed, “it’s good to know that I could go all the way to 11 if I wanted to.”
Bison BC is currently working on their third album, recording this winter at the Hive in Burnaby, for a planned 2010 release.