Photo Credit – Shyann Weeks
Lee McKinney is best known for being the mastermind behind progressive metal behemoths Born Of Osiris but there’s far more to him than just heavy riffing and blistering guitar solos. As well as composing, he also produces, records and engineers out of Osiris Studios which is where his solo effort ‘Infinite Mind’ was created. Following the completion of Born of Osiris’ latest album ‘Simulation’, Lee found himself with some time on his hands to record the solo album he’d always wanted to do since hearing Satriani’s ‘Surfing with the Alien’ and Vai’s ‘Passion and Warfare’.
The heavy guitars that are the foundation of Born of Osiris’ sound are present and accounted for on ‘Infinite Mind’ but the album is so much more than that. Beautiful clean passages marry with textured synth sounds with freedom and experimentation being the main themes of the album. Adrián Terrazas-González of The Mars Volta fame features on several songs, making the overall sound of the album a far cry from what we’ve come to expect of the Born of Osiris guitar maestro. Fresh off a tour alongside fellow guitar hero Tosin Abasi’s Animals as Leaders we caught up with Lee to get the low down his recording and live setups.
Hi Lee, thanks for doing this Q&A with us, how are you doing today?
Lee – I’m doing great, thanks for asking. I just got home from my summer touring. I started off with a solo tour with Animals as Leaders and Car Bomb in Europe, then went to Australia with Born of Osiris, then Born of Osiris did our B market headliner in the states, and lastly, we finished our summer in South Korea performing at Gangwon Rock Festival. Hectic.
Your solo album Infinite Mind is quite different to the music you normally make in Born of Osiris, where did the concept for the album come from and what was the thinking behind it?
Lee – I knew I wanted to make a solo album in my early teens. Picking up the guitar at age 10 and listening to Vai, Satriani, Johnson, SRV, and Hendrix made it obvious that a solo step is crucial to a guitar player’s career. The concept on guitar was to express myself and all emotions with the guitar. The song titles and art were inspired by various books I read or cool movies/games I experienced along the way.
You recently got a stunning signature Kiesel (congratulations by the way!) is it all Kiesel guitars on the album or did you use anything else during the recording?
Lee – All Kiesel! I was in the middle of a transition between my LPM models and my new headless LMX models. So both are featured on the album. Not to mislead to sell guitars, but the LMX sound way better for a number of reasons, one being my new signature bridge pickup The Illusionist.
A Clock Without A Craftsman
You play six and seven-string guitars, what string gauges do you use and which brand of strings do you prefer?
Lee – 8 string as well. There is everything on Infinite Mind. I use Dunlop 10 gauge strings.
The Axe-Fx is a highly rated unit, our own guitar maestro Tom Quayle uses one as well for his videos. Did you use the unit exclusively to record the album and is it a part of your live setup?
Lee – I did use the unit exclusively and I use it exclusively live as well. Fractal makes a product I’m so used to and comfortable with at this point. That being said, Nick Sampson mixed the album for me and he might have re-amped through a variety of different things. You’d have to ask him. I approve the final sounds in the end and get them where I want, and as long as we get there I don’t ask what he’s using.
The instrumentation on Infinite Mind is crazy good and you tracked the bass, drums and keyboard parts yourself, which bass guitars did you use during recording?
Lee – The bass guitar was a light blue Kiesel Vader bass, which was stolen in a robbery of my studio shortly after the album was finished. Kiesel replaced it with a JB5 model that I’m currently using to track all new Born of Osiris and my second solo album. I’m getting better tones out of it even though I was completely happy with my Vader. I’d recommend both but I lean towards the JB.
Synth sounds feature quite heavily on the album and you add some really nice textures to the tracks with them. What was your keyboard set up during the recording and what plugins/VSTs did you use to create the sounds?
Lee – Thank you! I used a Novation Impulse 49. I would say I have most popular and even unpopular synths, but if I had to give one an honorable mention it would be Omnisphere 2.
Are the drums all sequenced or did you play them on an electronic kit? What samples/VSTs did you use to create the drum tracks?
Lee – That’s actually a great question. At the time I was using GGD for sample replacement/beefing up of my drums. I believe Nick Sampson used some of his own line of products SAMPSOUND SLAMDRUM as well as others in the final mix. Again, you’d have to ask him. At the moment I am actually converted to Superior Drummer 3. It’s my favorite by a long shot out of any software I’ve ever used.
The recording quality of the album is phenomenal, was everything recorded in your home studio?
Lee – It was. Through years of tracking Born of Osiris albums with some of the best producers in the world, I made sure to be a sponge and pick up every detail. Nick Sampson taught me the most about tight guitar tracking and editing, and he is the biggest reason I am now at the level I am to make recording not just an important part of the Born of Osiris and solo album process, but also a career for me outside of touring. I tracked Born of Osiris The Simulation and Infinite Mind myself. Before I had done guitars and bass on Soul Sphere. I even started editing guitars back on The Discovery. It’s been a long process, but I’m happy to have ended up where I am today.
Which DAW were you using to track everything?
Lee – Cubase. I believe it’s the best. I’ve done BOO records in ProTools, Logic, and even messed around in Ableton. Everyone says all DAWS do the same thing in different ways, and while that’s true, I do believe that Cubase is the best. FYI I pay full price for their products, I just mean this from the bottom of my heart and I hope to inspire other musicians to pick up Cubase so they make better music easier.
You recently took the album live as part of the Animals As Leaders 10 Year Anniversary Tour, how different was it playing your own stuff compared to playing with Born of Osiris? Did you have to change your approach in any way?
Lee – It was extremely fulfilling. I’d say I was a bit more sober since the guitar parts are harder haha If there was any shock to my live system, it would be the fact that I didn’t realize I was now the frontman and had to talk to the crowd myself. That’s something I don’t do in Born of Osiris. That being my first tour and with a language barrier in some countries, there was some interesting evenings on the microphone!
When’s the McKinney x Abasi album dropping?
Lee – That would be so fun. Ask him! I’m free now ; )
When are you back on the road with Born of Osiris?
Lee – I’m going to be setting up a headlining solo tour in the US in November. Then Born of Osiris has a couple of weeks in December. We’re trying to wrap up the new Born of Osiris and I’m continuing writing and recording the second solo album. My band In Motive is also releasing a song next month! We’ve been working extremely hard behind the scenes and it can be exhausting at times, but things are coming.
Thanks so much for answering these questions, to round it off would you fancy popping in to see us next time you’re in the UK?
Lee – I’d absolutely love to. Let’s make it happen. Maybe I could do a clinic or signing. Thanks for the interview and best of luck to you guys!
Lee McKinney – A Neverending Explosion
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Matt is a multi-instrumentalist, music geek and current Content Creator at Dawsons Music. He composes, records and produces out of his home studio in Manchester as well as playing in two bands, China Moon and Sawbones.