Thrice Band Bio
Dustin Kensrue - Vocals, Guitar
Teppei Teranishi - Guitar, Vocals
Ed Breckenridge - Bass, Vocals
Riley Breckenridge - Drums
Dustin Kensrue, front man for the American rock band Thrice, is not your typical "Rock Star" personality. A gracious and humble guy, led by his faith and a superhuman amount of musical creativity, he's not on the cover of the tabloids. But, he's certainly newsworthy.
Dustin is busy! It was a miracle he had the time to meet with Warmoth and give us a run down on what's swirling around his musical life, his live rig and of course...his Jagulars. So without further ado we give you Dustin Kensrue; song writer/arranger, worship director, band leader, pivotal hard rock front man and guitar tinkerer extraordinaire!
Warmoth: Do you remember your first guitar?
Kensrue: Ya, my first guitar was a Peavey Predator. A bright red Peavey Predator that I put a bunch of skate stickers on. And then I had an Ibanez Talman with the lipstick pickups. I didn't know what I was doing. I just thought it looked cool. That was the second guitar I had. And then I think I had a Samick 335 style. Then I started playing SGs for a super long time.
Warmoth: Why guitar? When you first got into music, what was so cool about guitar that you had to play?
Kensrue: I don't know man. I used to pride myself on being a really good air guitar player when I was 5 or something. I remember it always looked stupid on TV, but I was like, "I'm really good at doing this." (Laughs).
I really loved music from a young age. I was singing and guitar seemed like the coolest instrument I guess. My mom made me learn piano a little bit first, in 3rd and 4th grade. So before she'd get me guitar lessons, I had to take piano. Which I think was really smart of her, because I think it's a better foundational instrument. I'm not a great piano player at all, but the way that it's very visual is helpful for thinking through music stuff.
So I started playing guitar in junior high in the guitar class, with like 40 kids. I did a couple of private lessons. But I wasn't one to really practice, and I'm not very patient with that kind of stuff. So I'd just played whatever I wanted to play. A lot of it I learned "trial by fire" in the junior high group in my church, because nobody else played guitar. I knew a couple chords and just kind of went for it. Then I tried to play in high school. I got together with a couple guys, but nothing serious. And then, with Teppei (Teranishi, guitarist/keys for Thrice), decided we were going to start a real band. We were going to be serious about it and make it happen. That was the beginning of Thrice.
Warmoth: What got you into music? What made you say, at one point, "This is what I'm going to do for a living?"
Kensrue: I never thought I'd be doing it for a living. I just loved doing it, and Thrice had very small goals along the way. So it was like, "Alright, let's play a show. Let's record an EP. Let's do a full length." It was just these steps. Let's try to do some small tours. It kept going, and it got to the point where we got a couple offers to do real national tours that were longer.
So we were working and in school and it got to the point where we either stop or push forward and cut the anchor behind us. So we quit school and jobs and were on the road a bunch. We tried to work part-time stuff when we were home. But it got to the point where, early on, we were gone ten months out of the year. It slowly snowballed into being a full time gig. From there we were just doing that all the time.
Warmoth: So you had Thrice going at that point. You guys were obviously very influential, and a lot of bands look up to you. Somewhere in there you decided that you also wanted to pursue a solo career, and put a solo album out. What made you decide that you wanted to pursue that avenue as well, especially with the different sound?
Kensrue: That came about more of because I like playing acoustic and singing in that kind of context. I wrote a couple songs on the side that just didn't work for Thrice. People kept encouraging me, saying, "You gotta record that." I realized it was never going to happen unless I decided I was just going to do it. So I finished writing it, went on tour and ended up recording it pretty much while we (Thrice) were doing "Alchemy" I guess. I was doing it at night. We would write and record for Alchemy during the day, and I would record it at night at our studio with Teppei. So ya, it's been a long frickin' time since I've put anything else out other than my Christmas record. I never thought it would be this long between. I have a bunch of ideas and half songs here and there. But I hope to record another solo record in the summer. So I'll do this worship record and then I'll do another solo record.
Warmoth: Switching thoughts, the guitars that you have from Warmoth, they're not typical. What did you have done on them?
Kensrue: I really like how Jags look. But at that point I had been playing Teles for a while. So I liked the longer scale. I was used to that and we played with bigger strings. So I wanted to have something that looked like a Jag but had the longer scale. Then Seymour Duncan came out with the P-Rail pickups. I was thinking it would be really interesting to utilize the Jag controls to control the P-Rails. Because I think, for a lot of people, the standard Jag controls are not that useful and kind of funky. I dreamed up the idea of having this Jag looking guitar that was full scale and had the controls controlling the P-Rails.
I worked with Warmoth, and you had to rout some stuff differently to get the neck to work with the full scale on a Jag body. And then I had Nash (www.nashguitars.com) finish it and put the electronics in, which they hated me for because it was just a mess. But it ended up being really cool. One of the lower switches is a standard toggle for the pickups. And the other two work together to control whether the pickups are in P90, parallel or series humbuckers or the single coil. So it's a pretty versatile guitar. I call them Jagulars because they're a weird mess of a guitar but they're cool. I like having a lot of options. I sometimes have too many options. Before that I had been transplanting Variax electronics into Tele bodies that I had been buying from Warmoth. That was even more options. So I was simplifying from that.
Warmoth: We sell lots of Seymour Duncan pickups. P-Rails are one of the more popular styles. How did you use them with your Jagular electronics?
Kensrue: I basically used this schematic as a template, but instead of the push/pull pots, I used the Jag switches. Then I put a Gibson-style 3-way switch in the third spot on the small control plate. The lower control plate has the two volumes and the upper plate has the two tone pots on rollers, and an empty spot as of now.
These pick-ups seriously are awesome. The diversity and quality of tone in every setting is amazing. I trade out gear pretty quickly, and sometimes regret it later. Awhile back, I let go of a sweet Les Paul Special with P-90's, but using the P90 settings has taken away any seller's regret. I can't see myself buying a traditional pickup again at this point, knowing what I would be missing.
Warmoth: Do you still use those?
Kensrue: Ya. I think I had both my Jagulars wired up as baritones on tour. Teppei was actually using one of them, and I was using the other. We just had them strung up with big fat strings. But they were the same scale. They were great.
Warmoth: How many guitars do you have that have Warmoth necks or bodies?
Kensrue: I don't know. I think I have two of the Jagulars. I've got a Tele I've had for a while that's been through about five variations. It was one of the ones that I transplanted the Variax stuff into. I've had, I don't know how many pickups in it. Then I stripped it down and Nash refinished it. Now it's a normal guitar. Just a beat up blonde Tele with humbuckers. (Shows us the guitar) This is the Tele that was a Variax.
Warmoth: Is the neck Warmoth too?
Kensrue: I think it is because I ordered them both at the same time. I got three of these over time. One was a rosewood fingerboard, one was a deluxe. This one used to be black. I just stripped it one day and Nash refinished it. I don't like having anything that is pristine because then I worry about hurting it.
Warmoth: So what made you think of Warmoth the first time?
Kensrue: I think I just found it online a long time ago and got interested in building my guitar. I just kind of jumped into that.
Warmoth: Will you outline the rest of your main live rig for us?
Kensrue: I play through a POD HD500. I like having a lot of options. But what really got me into that pedal is how much you can customize your signal chain. When I'm performing with Thrice, or here, I don't want to be thinking about a bunch of pedals that I have to step on for transitions because I'm singing. Like for Thrice, every song had a different setting. So I could press on the expression pedal and bring the volume down, or reverb or whatever.
So now I have one movement to make and it would do what it needed to do, and I can concentrate on performing. I run through that into a Morgan AC20 Deluxe, which is essentially like a Vox AC30 but a couple more options. It's a pretty simple amp though. It's got a power attenuator which is cool. And then I'm also running into a Fender Pro Junior, which is awesome! They had one here and I started using it as a second amp in case one went out and just to get some different sound with when mixing those two amps. The clarity of the Fender is really great.
Warmoth: Did the Warmoth guitars show up on any of the Thrice albums.
Kensrue: Ya. "Major Minor" was all recorded with those Jagulars. The whole thing.
Warmoth: Tell us about your last album with The Modern Post.
Kensrue: That was a band from Orange County, from the Mars Hill Church down there that I put together with two guys from a great band call Pacific Hurt. I had known them for a long time and had already wanted to play music with them for a while. We just started jamming and that's the sound that happened. Everyone said, ‘It's like the Cure or Joy Division." We we're like, "OK, sure." It wasn't, "Let's have a retro 80's band." It's just kind of the sound that happened with the four guys.
The thing I really like about it is the way the instrumentation is spaced out in frequency range. Everything has its own spot. Low bass synth, then the bass sits in a mid-rangy spot. The guitar sits a little above that, and there's the keys stuff too. It has a lot of airiness and openness to it. It was recorded willy-nilly all over the place. I recorded the guitar and vocals in a hotel room on tour. The bass and drums were somewhere else. The keys were somewhere else. The producer made it sound way better than I thought it was going to sound. He mixed it all analog on the board.
Warmoth: You live and work in Washington State now. Previously, you were in California.
Kensrue: So, when I was down there I was still doing Thrice full time as well. We were recording "Major Minor" and touring on it. And then I was finishing that out and had been planning to take a break from that since January of last year. So I was down there doing that, kind of juggling that all that together, and I was the Worship Director down in Orange County, Mars Hill. Now I'm the Worship Director at Mars Hill in Bellevue, Washington. And I'll be recording. I did the EP, and I'm writing right now for a full length that I'll be recording in the new year.
Warmoth: Will that be a solo album or with The Modern Post?
Kensrue: It will probably be just under my name. It will be a fair amount of new material, and I'll put basically a band together to record it.
Warmoth: Aside from the current position with Mars Hill, what's next for you musically?
Kensrue: Man, there's a lot. I'm busy already, and then recording on top of that. Then I'm going to be doing the solo stuff. But I also have a very sketched out idea of a kind of Punk band that I want to do. Really on the side. Just do EPs and play in Seattle every once in a while. Every once in a while I'll have an idea that just sounds really fun that I want to jam. Really simple and grungy. I can't really describe it. We'll see what it ends up being if it ever happens.
Warmoth: Do you ever get out and play in Seattle?
Kensrue: I haven't had a chance yet, but I'd really like to. That's one of the reasons I want to do that band. Just to have something that I'm out engaging with what's happening musically in the city.
Warmoth: Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to share an interview with us. And, thank you for continuing to be a Warmoth customer.