Rig Rundown: Descedents’ Stephen Egerton
It’s pretty astonishing that a sophomoric band of misfits and outcasts have chiseled a 40-plus-year legacy of punk rock, but that’s what the improbable Descendents have been doing since 1977. Their brand of snotty, snarling, snarky, succinct songs have endeared them to rock titans like Dave Grohl.
“[They have] this shameless, love-song aesthetic—none of the other bands had the balls to do that,” proclaimed Grohl in 2013’s documentary Filmage: The Story of Descendents/All. “Everyone was screaming about Reagan or whatever.”
Additionally, through their blending of hardcore, drag-strip tempos, and melodious harmonies, they designed a vehicle for the ’90s pop-punk explosion—paving the expressway for bands like Green Day and Blink-182 to crash into the mainstream. “They’re like the punk-rock Beach Boys,” said Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus in Filmage.
And don’t forget their iconic, line-drawn mascot Milo, patterned after lead singer Milo Aukerman. That nerdy caricature’s singular outline comically defines the Descendents’ simplicity, humor, subtle brilliance, and everyman appeal. It also reflects the persona of Aukerman, who stated in Filmage, “I have this dichotomy of desires. I wanna rock out. I wanna be a punk-rock guy, but I also have this really strong ambition to be a scientist.”
The band’s redlining riffer Stephen Egerton welcomed PG down to Birmingham, Alabama’s Avondale Brewing Company, where he blasted through his punk-rock-approved, simplistic-yet-seething setup.
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No Knobs, No Problem!
Descendents’ guitarist (since 1987) Stephen Egerton holds his only axe—an Ernie Ball Music Man signature StingRay, with no knobs or switches. In a 2016 PG interview, Egerton explained his pragmatic reason for removing everything from his namesake instrument: “Years ago, I just wired the pickup straight to the jack. It was really a practical matter, because I tend to play harder than I probably should and there was the issue of me slamming my hand into the volume knob or pickup selector switch when I played, and those electronics tended to rust out on me, so it was helpful to have them removed.”
Ready for Your Close-Up
Other appointments of the streamlined 6-string include an okoume body, a maple neck paired with a rosewood ‘board, 22 high-profile medium frets, a custom-wound Music Man humbucker, and a striking charcoal frost finish.
For strings, Egerton stays loyal and locks in Ernie Ball Power Slinkys (.011–.048), while he opts for custom-made Dunlop Celluloid Shell Heavy picks featuring a portrait of himself done by his young son.
Blasting Off With Blackstar
Stephen packs a punch with a pair of 100W Blackstar HT Stage 100 heads. (One is hot, while the other is a backup.) Each head has its own Blackstar HTV-412 cabinet that is stocked with a quartet of Celestion Seventy 80s.
As you can see, Egerton dials in a punk-rock platform that eases off the gain to retain note clarity for his furious right-hand hammering.
The Punk’s Preamp Pedal
Since the punk-rock papa doesn’t have any knobs on his guitar and relies on varied attack for dynamics, he enlists a MXR Echoplex Preamp Mini for the singing sustain he needs for soloing. And because punks still gotta tune, he’s trusted a Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner for keeping the StingRay in line.
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