Interview:Crossfade’s Ed Sloan
by Adam St. James
So many people talk about moving to the big city to pursue their dreams of stardom, that it sometimes seems the only way. But every now and then an act proves that relocation is totally unnecessary. And the hit single "Cold" from hard-rockin' quartet Crossfade is the latest evidence.
The band built their own home studio, then spent a few years learning how to lay down massive tracks, using little more than a Line 6 Pod and a Vetta amp. The results caught the attention of a well-connected manager far from their Columbia, South Carolina, home. Soon thereafter, Crossfade found themselves signed to a major label, and giving up their dumb day jobs for life on the rock and roll road.
In this exclusive interview, guitarist and frontman Ed Sloan talked to Guitar.com about his gear, his studio, and his adventures in Do-It-Yourself success.
Guitar.com: Hi Ed, it's Adam from Guitar.com.
Ed Sloan: Hey what's goin' on man?
Guitar.com: Checkin' in with you brother. I know you're on the tour bus on the way home right now. Where are you?
Sloan: We're in Georgia, headed home from Little Rock.
Guitar.com: And you're headin' home to Columbia, South Carolina, right?
Sloan: Yeah, we've got a couple shows there and then we have a week or two off.
Guitar.com: Cool. Your single, "Cold," is doing great.
Sloan: Yeah, man. It surprised us all this year.
Guitar.com: You wrote this tune a couple years ago, didn't you? How does it feel for a song to become a hit like this?
Sloan: It's incredible man. It's one of those songs that I wrote that's kind of close to my heart. It's a quirky little song that we didn't expect much from, but Columbia Records decided they wanted to pick it up as the single. We didn't know what to expect, but it's really humbling to know that so many people have found something in this song and are takin' a hold to it. It's just great man.
Guitar.com: Yeah, that is. How long have you been playing guitar?
Sloan: Since I was about 13, so 17 years.
Guitar.com: Crossfade is kind of a Do-It-Yourself success story. You did the whole home studio thing, and built the songs up that way.
Sloan: Yeah. We kind of opted out of playing live. We'd play out maybe once a month, and then for the past three years, instead of that, we just camped out at home and learned how to operate new gear, learned how to record. The 10 songs on the CD, Crossfade are what came out of that effort. Columbia took it and just had it remixed by Randy Staub (Metallica, P.O.D., 3 Doors Down). It was kind of bittersweet when they told us they were going to take the record and use it as it was. We made it as a demo so people would see what we were like. We hoped that one day we'd go into a studio and re-record it in a big, nice studio. But it's still cool to know that they picked it up and had enough faith in it on its own, too.
Guitar.com: Right. And with the single hitting, obviously you guys will get a chance to do the big studio album next time around.
Sloan: Well, we are, but we're kind of hoping that by the time we record the next record we'll have enough money to get some nice stuff in our studio and do the thing again, but do it right the next time. We're going to try to do it ourselves again.
Guitar.com: Why not? Hey, if you guys have the vision, and it worked out the first time…
Sloan: Yeah, and we've got the opportunity.
Guitar.com: Were you in the studio when Randy Staub did the remixes?
Sloan: No, and that's one of the things that I regret the most is not having the money to go up to Canada and sit with him while he remixed everything. That would have been a great learning experience for us. But we just did it all over the computer.
Guitar.com: Randy works up in Vancouver, right?
Guitar.com: Was he sending you mixes and asking for your input?
Sloan: Yeah, he was.
[Editor's Note: Our cell-phone conversation from the Crossfade tour bus, as it was rolling across Georgia to the band's hometown of Columbia, SC, was cut off. We picked up the interview a few days later. ]
Guitar.com: Hello again Ed. So, how were your homecoming shows this past weekend?
Sloan: It was a good time, man.
Guitar.com: You'd been gone awhile, out on the road with Alter Bridge and Shinedown, and appearing on Conan O'Brien and all that.
Sloan: Yeah, we'd been gone five or six months and hadn't been home once. It was kind of a string of three tours. Definitely our first major leg. We had to win over Creed fans most of the nights, but it was great.
Guitar.com: Weren't you involved with Taxi, the service that attempts to help songwriters and artists hook up with the record industry?
Sloan: Yes we were. We were involved with Taxi for a couple of years and they were responsible for us getting us our manager. He found us through them, and through our manager, Chris "Hot Rod" Long in L.A., he hooked us up with all the other connections that eventually wound up getting us signed. So Taxi wasn't primarily responsible for it, but without them we would have never met our manager.
Guitar.com: So you'd say Taxi was worthwhile then?
Sloan: Oh, absolutely.
Guitar.com: I've known Michael Laskow and others at Taxi for a long time and it's cool to speak with somebody who got good results out of using their service.
Sloan: Yeah, man. I'd definitely recommend it to any musician.
Guitar.com: Well, you guys took things into your own hands quite a bit, as far as your career is concerned.
Sloan: We did. But we really weren't a performing band. We were a recording band. In Columbia there's just no good place to play, and the fans around here don't get involved in bands that much. So we just decided to record and do whatever we could through outlets like Taxi.
Guitar.com: And you built the studio yourself, on your own property?
Sloan: Yeah, and I spent a lot of time in there by myself recording parts - guitar, bass, drums, vocals. And then the guys came in and did their parts to replace my parts.
Guitar.com: What kind of gear are you using in your studio?
Sloan: All we used was an old Digitech DSP50 Guitar Processor into a 12-channel Mackie board, and into a little $200 soundcard on the computer. I mixed it all in Cakewalk Pro Audio 9.
Guitar.com: Wow. Cool. How did you do the guitar tracks?
Sloan: All the guitar tracks were done through the Pod, or a Line 6 Vetta.
Guitar.com: So what kind of guitar gear are you using these days, when you play live?
Sloan: I started out the tour with two ESP 7-strings and a Line 6 Vetta, and I wound up - the last show I played here - I had an Engl Powerball, and a Marshall TSL100 and Mesa Triple Rectifier. And those three amps are run through a GCX switcher system, with a G-Force effects unit. And I'm playing all kinds of guitars, no guitars in particular. I've still got the 7-string ESPs, Schecter.
Guitar.com: What models are those?
Sloan: The ESP is an H307, and the Schecter is a Black Jack, the higher end model. And a baritone Schecter as well - same model. And I've got a Hamer Monaco, a hollow-body Hamer. I'm trying that one out right now. And that's really about it. I'm in the middle of trying out a bunch of guitars and trying to figure out which way I want to go.
Guitar.com: Are these all 7-string guitars?
Sloan: 7-string or baritone guitars.
Guitar.com: What kind of baritones do you have?
Sloan: I've got an ESP George Lynch flame model, and I've also got the Schecter Black Jack baritone. Oh, and the Hamer Monaco is a baritone too.
Guitar.com: And what gauge strings are you using on all these guitars?
Sloan: Live I'm using .012s, because we tune down a half step, Drop D tuning. The whole guitar is one half-step down, and then from there we drop the low strings another whole step.
Guitar.com: And what tone were you striving for here? Who had the sounds you really liked?
Sloan: Well, of course Metallica. I really always liked that really hard driving, crisp, clear, crunchy sound that they had. As a single guitarist in a band - that's why I've got three amps, to make it a little thicker. I want the biggest sound I can get from one guitar.
Guitar.com: Well, you got it man. Thanks for your time Ed.
Sloan: Thank you Adam, any time!
About the Author: Adam St. James joined Guitar.com shortly after the website launched in the summer of 1999 and has been the site's Editor for several years. Adam has worked as a guitar tech for Sammy Hagar, and is the author of several guitar and music instructional books, including "101 Guitar Tips: Stuff All the Pros Know and Use" (published by Hal Leonard). He fronts blues and rock bands in the Chicago area. See www.adamstjames.com and www.BluesLessons.com for info on all Adam's books, bands, and barstool banter.
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