Between playing festivals in Barcelona with the legendary Riot to opening up for Dillinger Escape Plan with his band Moon Tooth, one could say Nick Lee is more than just an “up and coming” guitar player. While one would never know Lee’s talents from looking at the quiet Long Island native, there is definitely an “it factor” in his presence. Lee gives us insights on playing with both bands, his gear and future plans.
How did you get involved with Riot in the first place?
I got involved with Riot because my guitar teacher growing up was Mike Flyntz He’s played in Riot since 1988 or 1989. Right after Thundersteel, they wanted another guitar player to fill the harmonized leads. He taught me guitar when I was 18 and when they wanted to get this version of Riot together (a.k.a. Riot V), he asked me to play his parts and he switched over to Mark Rhiele’s parts.
Any specific songs you enjoy playing?
I enjoy “Altar of the King”, which is on Fire Down Under and I love playing the song “Thundersteel.” The solo in the song “Angel Eyes” on the Inishmore album is one of the hardest things I’ve ever been expected to play live, but when it goes well It’s my favorite thing to play.
Any songs that are NOT in the setlist that you’d like to play live?
The song “Riot” off of Immortal Soul was one that we were going to do, but never got around to. Anything off of Fire Down Under. That ones my favorite. More of the stuff from the new album Unleash The Fire I’d like to see. I like “Fight, Fight, Fight” and “Bring the Hammer Down.” Pretty much any of those songs.
What gear do you use with Riot?
Guitar wise I use a 1989 Les Paul Custom. It’s not a Gibson, techically. It’s an Orville, which was a Japanese lawsuit Gibson. They had to start calling them something else. I forget the exact story but it says Orville on the headstock. I just use a Tube Screamer, a tuner and for clean parts I use a Holy Grail Reverb. We play and tour mostly overseas and they’re usually quick runs so we usually have to rent or borrow stuff, but the amp that we always ask for is a Marshall JCM 800.
How much different is that from what you use with Moon Tooth?
For Moon Tooth I use at least 10 more pedals, a lot more octave things. I have a fuzz and a boost and a compressor. It’s much more dialed in. I get to use my own head that I get to use which is a Hiwatt from 1974. I get a lot more control. Riot is a Les Paul a Marshall and a Tube Screamer, it’s about as classic as you can get. Moon Tooth is very meticulously planned out and I’m still building a pedal board over time. The guitars I’m using are different too. I’m using a Reverend – they’re their own company. It’s a Les Paul style guitar but it takes a beating a little bit more than a Les Paul and it doesn’t snap the headstock off as easily, which I did that four times on my Les Paul and it’s very expensive to fix and I didn’t want to do that anymore.
How are you able to juggle both bands so often?
I’m actually in a third band called Rice Cultivation Society. So far it’s just kind of been working out by chance. I’ve had to miss a couple of Moon Tooth shows for Riot, but they weren’t big name shows they were just local gigs. Riot lives all over the country so we don’t rehearse every week, just a few days before we leave for things. Moon Tooth rehearses every week and we usually gig every weekend, if not a few times a week. Also I have to make time for the other band, so when I do have free time I like to catch up on my reading (if you know what I mean).
What are your plans for each band?
Moon Tooth’s my baby. I have very high hopes for where that band can go. I’m just going to try both for as long as I can, and hopefully find a balance. I love playing with Riot and it’s been a wonderful oportunity, but I can’t not do Moon Tooth. My drummer Ray (Marte) and I have been playing together for 12 years and we have a mission that we’ve always held on to. My goal is to make both work so I don’t exactly have a good answer for that. The one things that works is that the guys in Riot aren’t necessarily interested in doing super long tours because they all have jobs and careers and families. I guess finding a balance eventually.
How far are you with the studio albums for each band?
For Moon Tooth we just got our final mixes. We’re waiting to hear back from this artist for the artwork. We just have to get artwork in and then get a game plan together so it’s almost there. For Riot we’re going to Japan in September and Colorado in October and after that we’re thinking of taking a break to begin writing the next album.