Interview with Jamie Wolfert, the “Riff Master”, demo guy, and man behind PGS guitar sound.

Hey Jamie, my man! You’re the dude who always surprise me with your riff, tell me your music influence and your musical project, I would love to hear them?

Hey, Putro, thanks so much for asking me to do this interview, dude! I’m honored and stoked. Your pedals are amazing, and I think your demo videos are easily the most entertaining on Instagram.

I’m definitely a big fan of the riff. Repetitive, minimalist riff and drone based music, whether it’s The Meters, The Stooges, Shellac, electric-era Miles Davis, or Kyuss, has always held greater interest for me than conventional chord progression / melody based structures. My influences are pretty diverse, but punk has always been my musical and philosophical guiding light. Bad Brains was my first real show (other than seeing Steel Pulse at Reggae Sunsplash in the early nineties), and it was a life altering experience. I was converted from casual music hobbyist to rock n roll lifer in the first song. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life after that. The music of Bad Brains still holds a religious sort of significance for me. I’ve seen them a bunch of times since that first show, and they still got the same magic. Besides a wide variety of punk and hardcore, I also listen to tons of jazz, krautrock, dub reggae, stoner rock (the Kyuss album ‘Blues for the Red Sun’ was a major influence), and anything else that grabs my ear. The work of certain prolific musical “auteurs,” like Bill Laswell, James Brown, Bowie, Mike Patton, and others keeps me coming back again and again – people that are constantly exploring and pushing the envelope.  

I’ve been in a bunch of bands over the years, mostly that no one has ever heard of. I’m originally from St. Louis, Missouri, USA, and I was in some bands that were pretty active in the scene there in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. The longest running one was called Adam’s Off Ox. We put out a record on a small, now-defunct local label called Maplehood Rekkids. (I think Vintage Vinyl on Delmar might still have a copy left if anybody wants it! Haha!) We were kind of a punk/funk/hip-hop outfit, influenced by Fishbone, The Police, Fugazi, Firehose, and The Roots, among other things. Our record was kind of a mess, but in an interesting way, I think. I moved with my wife to Portland, Oregon in 2005, and have been in a couple noise rock/punk bands locally – Jethrine, and GALL. We put some DIY recordings out that you can find on Bandcamp, Spotify, and a few other places. Since I became a dad the bands have been few and far between, but I still jam with a gang of local Portland pedal dudes for fun. With my kids getting older I’m probably about ready to jump back in and get a regular band thing happening again, soon. I’m ready to rock!

Your tone is perfect, not too much gain, balance, and simple, just like Page Hamilton, what gear you using and how you record your demo?

Thanks! Page Hamilton and those early Helmet records were a HUGE influence on me, so I’ll take that as a heavy compliment. My video setup is the opposite of Page’s in many ways. His rig is a lot more “metal,” with hot pickups and a high gain amp. I typically favor lower output single-coil pickups, like P90 and gold foil types, and vintage amps. My regular demo rig is a 1968 Traynor YBA-1 Bassmaster that I typically use with a generic 4×12 cab loaded with Celestion G12H speakers. Lately I’ve been using a 2×12 with an Eminence Cannabis Rex speaker to keep the volume slightly more manageable. I generally mic that with a Cascade Fat Head ribbon mic, and blend it with a brighter dynamic mic or a DI/speaker sim like the GFI Cabzeus. The mix of the darker ribbon mic and the brighter mic or DI sound is perfect, to my ears. Gets the thump and the grind. I record into a Zoom R16 portable recorder that I keep in my garage studio, and basically use like a tape machine for tracking. Then I mix it all down on my PC, in Reaper. Pretty simple, reliable setup.

Why baritone guitar?

Baritone rules! I’ve always been into down-tuned sounds, mostly from listening to lots of Kyuss, Helmet, and Soundgarden, so the baritone guitar was instantly attractive to me. Also, I’m a big guy with long, gangly orangutan arms, so longer scale length instruments feel more comfortable. My current baritone is 29″ scale with a Warmoth conversion neck, tuned to Drop-B, and it feels perfect. I love playing bass as well, and I really like how the baritone fits right in between standard guitar and bass. I love creating arrangements with baritone thrown in the mix, and I love how it reacts to fuzz and distortion. I have a bright, low output gold foil pickup in my bari, which is a great balance with the low tunings and fuzz – still keeps thing clear and defined.

In your opinion, what dirt pedal which is best for baritone guitar?

My favorite dirt pedal ever is the ProCo Rat, and I think it is superb for baritone stuff. It’s very focused sounding in the mid-range to keep things from getting muddy, but still has plenty of low-end grunt. And it’s so versatile with minimal controls – depending on how you use it, it can do overdrive, crushing distortion, or fuzz type tones. I’ve had a bunch of vintage reissue Rats from the 90’s. They’re probably my favorite, though they can vary wildly in response, so it can take a few tries to find a really great one. Some of my friends, like Dan Adamson from Blammo! Electronics in Portland, and Kevin Leclerc from Soundslice FX in Quebec, make really excellent Rat-style pedals that are much more consistently awesome, so I mostly use their pedals these days. Plus I just love using stuff that my friends made. 

When I’m saying “Boss Metal zone”, what is on your mind, one word?