Mike Pellegrino has been playing in NYHC band Enrage for 30 years. Pretty much a lifetime. He’s a super talented musician and seriously the nicest guy you could ever meet. I was psyched when Mike said he would answer some questions for my Gear Nerd series. So, read on and enjoy!
Please introduce yourself and tell us what you do.
Hello, I’m Mike Pellegrino. I have been playing guitar in Enrage for as long as I can remember. I also in recent years have put together a pretty solid recording studio in my house. I have been tracking and mixing all the recent Enrage material and am starting to branch out to work with different bands/musicians as well.
You and Jeff (Altieri) have been doing Enrage for as long as I’ve known you. Is that the only band you’ve ever done? Are there any other projects we should know about?
Enrage is the main band I have been in for the past 30 years. That’s the band that I focus the overwhelming majority of my time on. I did play in a garage rock band with some friends from New York City about 15 years ago. It was called Soap Opera Villain [laughs]. I also still write a lot of music in different genres that I am hoping to release… but Enrage is priority one.
After three decades in the band, how do you find coming up with material that still encompasses the sound without rehashing old shit or feeling bored?
For me, I basically play every day for a few hours at night just working on riffs. I wouldn’t say I practice per se (which is why I’m not very good at ripping solos or finger tapping) but I do work on riffs a lot. I can go weeks with music and ideas that I hate, and then all of a sudden I’ll have a couple of riffs, songs and ideas that seem fresh and just work well. Also, with Enrage I do feel like if you listen to all the songs, every song for the most part has a little bit different sound or tempo or arrangement. We definitely work at not making it sound like after three songs you feel like you’re listening to the same song over and over. Now, I’m not saying you might like all the songs but they will sound a little different.
OK let’s get down to it and talk about your gear. Want to run through your arsenal for us?
For guitars I use my Gibson SG 90% of the time. It has a DiMarzio Super Distortion pick up and it’s great. As a spare for live gigs, I bring a Reverend Shade Balderose Guitar. It has Railhammer pickups and I love it. Sometimes I play that as well but the SG is my main axe. At home I have a few Charvels. I love those guitars and will do some tracking with them but I don’t play them as much anymore. Recently I just purchased, from my friend Adam, a Mayones guitar. It is a boutique guitar from a company from Poland and it has Bareknuckle pickups. It’s the best guitar I have ever played. It might be too nice to bring to a live gig but it will certainly be all over the next Enrage release.
As for amps and pedals, I’m pretty basic. Live I been using a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier. Not much really needed to add with that head. But lately I have been using a modded Marshall JCM900 and it rips. I feel like the sound is still heavy as hell but it gives more note clarity than the Mesa. I hated Marshalls for a while but they reeled me back in. Now I’m sure there are players that can get the Rectifier clearer than me, but for me, I think I will be rolling with this Marshall for the future.
My pedal board consists of a Boss Tuner, a FullTone OCD and a Green Rhino overdrive pedal. I rarely used the overdrives with the Mesa but with the Marshall I use them both throughout the set and they add some extra balls to the sound. Then, of course, I have my trusty Boss Noise Suppressor. I also have a Mini Pog and TC Electronics Flashback delay pedal, but I do not really do many leads so they don’t have a lot of mileage on them. Maybe if played like Mike Gibbons (Leeway), Rob Castoria, or a Mike De Lorenzo I would shred more leads [I hate playing leads and you were always a better lead player than I was!—Mike]. As for speaker cabinets, I have an ENGL 4x12 with Celestions.
Do you use the same setup for home and away shows? Do you have any specific backline requests for when you travel?
Yes, I use the same set up home or away. Now for many gigs I use whatever speaker cabinets the venue may have. If I don’t have to lug the ENGL I’m fine with that. I have never really had a problem dialing in a solid live sound for Enrage. Obviously I prefer a 4x12 with Celestions but I’m easy going. We are a hardcore/metal crossover band and I’m a solid rhythm player. It’s not like I’m Eric Johnson or Robert Fripp [laughs].
How about when you record, do you tend to set up the same way you would live?
For recording I do a lot of experimenting. I will track with one of my heads—either the Mesa Dual Rectifier or my Peavey 6505 and now the Marshall JCM900. I will also mix that with some direct line guitar tracks. I run these DI signals through Mike Fortin Neural DSP Nameless One, Positive Grid BIAS 2, EZ MIX, Scuffham Amps, and/or TH3. Sometimes it can be overwhelming with all the options, so I saved many presets and now can get a really good sound from these amp sims without going crazy. I then run the amp sims through Wall of Sound Speaker Simulation or I load up some impulses I own from OwnHammer or Andy Sneap.
When just starting one could get lost with literally thousands of options and tweaks that are available but I tend to stick with some favs and then try not to go down a rabbit hole of switching through countless impulses that in the end all sound somewhat the same. I then blend the DI guitar with live amp and have been getting solid results. I double-track or quad track depending on the song, the riff or a particular part.
Tell us about your home studio setup.
Sure, I use Cubase 10. I been using CuBase forever and I love it. I always update Cubase as well whenever a new version is released. I have an Apollo Thunderbolt audio card with 8 inputs. I don’t have the specs handy but my computer is a monster. I believe NASA could monitor spaceships with this thing. It was built by Jim Roseberry from Purrfect Audio. I would recommend him to anyone.
As for plugins, I just have too many [laughs]. I use some of the stock Cubase plugins—which are very underrated. I also subscribe to Slate so I have all of their plugins. I have many from Waves and a few from Universal Audio. They are really all solid, it’s just a matter of finding ones you like and sticking with them. Oh and of course I love all the Soundtoys plugins. I use the Decapitator on almost every track/mix.
For drums I have Addictive Drums which is good but honestly I recently purchased Superior Drummer 3 and there is no turning back..It’s amazing. I also have an array of Virtual Instruments. Although I do not use them as often as I would like I am prepared if need be. Offhand Omnisphere is unbelievable, it’s a bit expensive but if you do synth or electronic music or just want a shit ton of sounds that you can further mangle... it’s ridiculous.
What influenced you to get into recording?
I’m not sure completely but I would say Josh Silver from Type O and Noah Evans from Icemen really influenced me to get into recording. We recorded with both of them and I just remember being fascinated with the whole recording process and how those guys worked. I know some people don’t like it but I really love mixing and recording as much as playing. As for gear, I just bought CuBase way back and just stuck with it. Now it took years to get to the level that I’m at now but I love working at it. I’m still learning and improving my skills with each release. It’s a great hobby that can be fucking frustrating at times but on the flipside I can also sit in my studio for literally hours and not even worry about a thing.
Are there any people, or places in particular that inspired you to choose your gear and your studio?
Strangely enough, Ron Thal, aka Bumblefoot, spoke to me on the phone once and gave me some tips on recording and I became hooked (by the way, he would never remember me or that conversation). I really started with Cubase because at the time I did not have a Mac so Pro Tools was out. Fortunately now with the YouTube and the web, I follow many popular recording engineers like Glenn Fricker, URM Academy, and Jordan Valeriote, so I get a lot of gear and recording ideas from those sources and then just add my ow stink to it.
Is there any piece of gear that is like a Holy Grail or dream piece of gear that you'd like to get your hands on?
Hmm…probably many items. Offhand I would love a Manley VoxBox or Manley Massive Passive—the actual outboard gear. I predominantly use software but these pieces of hardware are legendary. They would be really cool to have, however they are uber expensive so I think I’m good for now [laughs].
Thanks again for taking time out to do this, Mike!
No thank you… I really appreciate it.