Jake Bowen interviewed and photographed by Larry DiMarzio


LD: I really like your new guitar, the matte blue finish, the new pickup covers, the whole vibe. All the satin finished hardware pulls it together. 

I know you were looking for a single coil sound for the neck position to differentiate it from your guitar with the Titans. 

I think we started with a Cruiser and then we had to compensate for the finger board angle. 

Jake:  Yes. I think we started with a Cruiser and then we put a Chopper in there. I wanted a bit more of that saturated single coil sound, while still having the rails and a quiet pickup. We ended up tuning the pickup to be more on the single coil side of things rather than the humbucker side of things. 

LD: That brightness really carries through in a neck pickup and cuts through the mix with the other guitarists in the band. 

Jake:  There's a thought. It can't be too extreme or too compressed sounding, but that's not the priority. The priority is to have a pickup that feels right with the way that I pick now. And I don't pick too hard and I don't pick too light. I'm somewhere in this weird middle ground, and it takes a very specific pickup to kind of do that, and I think that's probably the biggest focus when dialing these things in. 

LD: During the development, you'd mentioned that you were recording the pickups and making adjustments based on the recordings. Were you comparing it to the Titans?

Mirage Neck (DP435)
Mirage Neck (DP435)

Jake:  Yeah, I was mostly comparing it to the Titans because the thing about the Titans is that I still use all of the guitars. The guitars that I have that have Titans in them, are always going to have Titans in them just because we nailed it with that pickup. The one thing I wanted to try is kind of sculpting the EQ a little bit differently and what ended up happening is, I think, we got a more focused pickup and we're going more in the direction of really dialing in the way that I pick and how it reacts with the pickup. And I think the Mirage is definitely more sensitive to that. 

LD: During COVID, I started playing guitar every day, only to realize that my callouses weren’t up to the task and my fingers started hurting, I felt like I was 12 again. 

Jake:  Yeah. What's your go-to pick? When you were picking up the guitar again to get to play more, what was the first pick you reached for? 

LD: I started with those old school Gibson small heavy picks that the jazz guys use. I got in the habit of using these back in the late 60’s because I can finger pick too. They’re okay for notes, but then when you play rhythms, the pick is too easy to drop. 

I switched over to a very thick Steve Vai Fender shape. 

Jake:  I used to use those. I thought they were great. It's just when you have a band with three guitar players in it, you know, you start to really, really notice the intonation between the three guitars. And we actually all switched to lighter picks because what we realized is that the intonation would get audibly better when we were using lighter picks, because we all pick “hard”, in the scope of guitar players out there. So, when we were using the heavier picks, we were sending the strings out of tune even further. Because whenever you hit the string, you are, essentially, detuning it a little bit - and it was audible. So, we went to the lighter picks and now it's more in tune. And now it's even more in tune because we use the EverTune bridges. So yeah, it's pretty weird how that works.

LD: I like guitars that are super in tune. The last two acoustic guitars that I built are J-45 bodies with a 25.5-inch scale and small Martin frets. I wanted to see if I could get that size guitar to be more in tune. 

Jake: Yeah.

...when you have a band with three guitar players in it, you know, you start to really, really notice the intonation between the three guitars. And we actually all switched to lighter picks because what we realized is that the intonation would get audibly better when we were using lighter picks, because we all pick “hard”, in the scope of guitar players out there.

LD: The other thing I forgot about guitar picks is that they sound different and it affected the way I played. I pulled out a metal pick from Phil Collen and it has a really different feel and sound. 

Jake:  Essentially, it's an extension of yourself, so you have to find the one that really works best with your playing style and your personality, if you will. 

LD: Richie Kotzen was here recently, just before you came, and I forgot he hasn’t used a pick for years. 

Jake:  Yeah, that's crazy. 

LD: And neither did Jeff Beck. 

Jake:  Yeah. Beck, I'm not sure when he stopped using picks or if he used pics for a while and then did both. But a lot of the later stuff, all the stuff on the Stratocaster is all pick-less. And I was like, "Oye," and tremolo arm, because he really had that touch, which was so different. But again, no pick. Yeah, I would recommend that everyone do exactly what you said. Namely, go start out with one guitar pick, try a bunch of them, and see what works. 

I used to be really, really militant about sticking with one pick and using it, even though it wasn't necessarily the best thing for my playing. I felt like, "Okay, if I stick with this and really learn how to play with it, then this will be the ultimate pick." And what I found is that's not always true, at least for me. I keep a little tin or a little bowl with a bunch of different picks, just different, everything under the sun, and I just grab them at random and I just switch them out anytime I'm not feeling it. I play them a little bit and I've been playing long enough to where I can adapt to the pick pretty fast. Even when it comes to recording, depending on what I'm recording, I'll use a heavy pick. I'll use a shark pick. I'll use really, really thin bendy picks. I realize that at this stage of my playing, I've been playing, God, for 30 years at this point. There's not a one size fits all for me so it's good to experiment and it's good to keep changing them out. 

LD: It’s all part of your interaction with the instrument and getting it to do what you want it to do. Your amplifier, your choice of strings, of everything in the signal chain.

I know you're still using Titans in the original JB guitar, and the Mirage is refined for the new guitar - and to work together with the original. I think it’s easier to say it is more focused, and is it brighter as well compared... It should be brighter than the previous pickup? 

Jake:  Yeah, I imagine it would be just by the nature of it being a hot rail. 

LD: When you use rails the shape of the magnetic field changes, and the section of the string affected is different. It’s like a cardioid vs a shotgun microphone, the pickup pattern is very different. The rail pickup has a different magnetic field shape. It picks up a more narrow or wider segment of the string. 

The wider the field, the more lower frequency information you're going to get in the signal. With a narrower field, like a with a Stratocaster pickup, it gets brighter, and narrower fields usually have less output. 

Jake:  So, obviously, with Periphery it's the high gain, mid-range tone sort of band, and, obviously, that's going to be the focus. So, when we were developing the Titan, we went totally full on. I remember sending Steve isolated guitar tracks of the album we were recording at the time. And when it came time to make this pickup, I didn't want to change that too much. I wanted to make it to where it was just an updated take on that same approach. And I think I remember using the DiMarzio EQ curves that you guys post on your site as kind of a visual illustrator of where I wanted to go. So, I tweaked some of the EQ. I'd actually have to look at what I sent Eric. I don't have it in front of me. Maybe I can search for it here and I can actually talk about specifics. 

LD: Yeah, definitely.

Jake:  Let's see here. I think I found it. 

So, I basically boosted the EQ curve by 0.5 in every category. So, the original Titan was five for bass, six for mid-range, and five for treble, and I just boosted everything by half, or 0.5. And then I have output at 420. So, we boosted the output too. The pickup is even slightly hotter than the Titan. 

LD: Yeah. 

Jake:  Yeah. I'm glad I found this email because this is... I've been trying to remember off the top of my head and I just couldn't. 

LD: I like giving people their money’s worth and it starts with being clear in the description. I like doing the best job we can do at every step; it keeps things authentic.  

Jake:  Yeah. 

LD: And I like working directly with all our artists and the DiMarzio team. 

Jake:  That's the main reason why I …. Larry, I feel like I can have easy conversations with you directly, Eric directly, and just like there's no bureaucracy. And it's just let's do fun stuff. Tell me what you like, and I really like that sort of casual nature about it because I don't think you get that at any other company, and you know, you can put that in the interview. That's why I love working with you guys. 

...when I was building the signature guitar, I knew that it was going to be this sort of like classic muscle car aesthetic. And when we were building the signature guitar and the pickup at the same time, I figured the pickup should also reflect some of the aesthetic choices that are on the guitar. And I thought it would be cool to have the pickup cover vented, much like a hood would be on a classic muscle car.

LD: I feel the same way. I want to work with people I care about, to help you get the guitar to sound the way you want it to sound. 

Did you get a chance to checkout the new photos? 

Jake:  Oh, they were wonderful. Everything came out great. I don't know how I feel about long hair still, but I thought the photos came out great. I thought you guys did a fantastic job. 

And yeah, it's tough. It's one of those things where I don't necessarily know who I am all the time. I mean, personality wise or aesthetically. My tastes change so rapidly. I have a beard; I don't have a beard. I have long hair; I have short hair. I get fed up with it all and just shave everything off, which I've done before. And it's just, the same thing with the clothes and even my guitars. I think the guitars are probably the most consistent thing of mine, everything's aesthetically related. I keep it pretty minimalist. But yeah, when it comes time to do photos, I struggle with getting out of my comfort zone and knowing what I want to look like. Because, obviously, I don't want to be rigid and I want to seem like I'm open and want to try new things, but then I feel like I get in my own head about it and then I kind of stick to what I know. 

LD: If I were to make a recommendation, it’s always a good idea to take pictures when you’re buying clothes, especially if you’re not sure. 

Jake:  Yeah, that's my problem. You can look in my closet, all black. 

LD: LOL, On the last trip to Los Angeles, I really branched out, I bought two gray t-shirts (no writing on them), and a gray zip up hoodie. LOL

Jake:  You're moving across the color spectrum. 

LD: Maybe gray is the new black. 

Tell me about the new guitar?

Jake:  Yeah. So, when I was building the signature guitar, I knew that it was going to be this sort of like classic muscle car aesthetic. And when we were building the signature guitar and the pickup at the same time, I figured the pickup should also reflect some of the aesthetic choices that are on the guitar. And I thought it would be cool to have the pickup cover vented, much like a hood would be on a classic muscle car. And I did like a pencil drawing in my sketchbook and sent it over. And then you guys, actually, made a real mock-up of it. A real mock-up, that's kind of a funny phrase. A mock-up of it. And we didn't really need to go back and forth too much other than on the actual shape of the vent holes, the little holes in it, because you sent me over several options, like some of them were circles, some of them were diamond shaped...

And, ultimately, I went with a diamond shaped one, because I felt like that was the most “hot rod” looking one, to go with the aesthetic of the guitar. And then having the brushed nickel finish on the pickups. It's much like what you would see accented on a muscle car, so it's kind of going along with this sort of car motif. Because if you look at my guitars, the history of my guitars, they all look kind of like they were made by people, or by someone, who enjoys fast cars. They look like fast cars, is what I'm saying.


Jake Bowen photographed by Larry DiMarzio in Bozeman, MT
Jake Bowen photographed by Larry DiMarzio in Bozeman, MT


LD: I liked the concept when you first suggested it. We just refined it to work within the cover, and it’s absolutely a racing car. 

Jake:  Oh yeah, the vents. The shape itself. It's like a vent and a racing stripe. 

Mirage Bridge (DP434F)
Mirage Bridge (DP434F)

LD: The first drawing you sent was a racing stripe. And then we thought, "Oh gee, what could we do with that?" Mike Mesker and I started putting some racing ideas together. Then we sent you back some drawings and variations on the cut-through pickup cover possibilities, with the vent style and the racing stripe combined. I'm looking at the photos now, and when the guitar's held parallel to the floor, it looks like a racing stripe and adds this nice feature to the guitar. 

Jake:  Oh, nice. Yeah, I think that might have been unintentional on my part, but now that you mention it, it's kind of a cool little thing. 

LD: When we were doing the Titans, it was your idea to use matte gold for the pickup covers. The minute that we did your prototypes, I felt it was a great look with the matte black body. 

Jake:  Yeah, I'm glad you guys went for it because pickup companies have done specialized covers before, but nothing like that. Nothing that was striking like that. And when you guys sent over that first prototype of the Titan with the matte gold, it was just like, "This is it. This is exactly what I wanted." Because for me, the guitar is important, but the pickups are just as important, and I feel that is true aesthetically and sonically. I feel like most people have the same looking pickups, and I didn't want that. I wanted mine to stick out as much as the guitar sticks out. It was an issue of balance and aesthetic. And the one thing that I'm still really, really grateful for is that you guys even did an 8-string version of those covers. I look at that guitar and I'm just like, damn. I was so lucky that you guys did that because it really makes my 8-string version of my signature my favorite part of it. 

LD: Well, thank you, and I'm glad that you're enjoying it. It's fun for me to try new things. I’ve been hot rodding guitars since the early seventies. One of my early guitar projects was building all the Super Strats for Earl Slick’s on David Bowie’s “Serious Moonlight” tour. I built three: a red neck/red body, blue neck/blue body, and a metallic white with a maple neck. They looked great on stage.  

I like moving the guitar into other directions. 

It’s also the 50th anniversary for the Super Distortion. I loved making the pickups DiMarzio cream. That became the DiMarzio look because you could tell it was a DiMarzio from 50 feet away in a smoky club. I've always liked the idea of integrating the cosmetics of the pickups with the guitar. It's a pleasure to work with you because you have that kind of feel and concept, naturally, of how you want the whole thing to look. And when I look at the guitar, I see a race car. It really is one. 

Jake:  Yeah. Totally. Totally is. 

LD: I know you like to wear black on stage, and the guitar pops. 

Jake:  Yeah. And that's kind of why I keep things... You know, you see a lot of players have these really beautiful, absolutely stunning tops for guitars. And I felt like even though I have guitars with amazing tops and stuff, I tend to prefer the solid colors just because I feel like they're pretty versatile, and it's definitely a hallmark of my style - striking, but simple. 

LD: And the matte blue works up against black t-shirts. 

Jake:  Yep, yep. Which is the official uniform of the heavy metal musician and I came to say that. 

LD: I always ask myself … would Bruce Lee wear this, and does it show soy sauce stains?  

Jake:  I remember working for Dream Theater and I was so green and I never got the memo that stage techs are supposed to wear black. And I was wearing those baseball ringer tees, and I had a bright red baseball cap that I used to wear. I remember Jordan, Dream Theater’s keyboard player, was having an issue with his keyboard that I needed to go up on stage and fix. And back then they were touring with these screens that would get a camera feed. And I remember the guys were making fun of me at the end of the show telling me that I had to wear black because they basically saw this dude dressed like he was about to go play a ball game. 

LD: Oh, that's funny. 

Jake:  Fixing the keyboard in front of 8,000 people. 

LD: I didn't know that you went out on the road with Dream Theater as a tech. 

Jake:  Yeah, I was Jordan's keyboard tech for probably three years. 

LD: He is a great guy and one of the best keyboard players I have ever heard, and now he’s playing guitar too. 

Jake:  Yeah, yeah, he's a great guy. He was really, really, really easy to work for, and fun to hang out with. And just kind of a musician on a level that, you know, you don't really see that often. So yeah, good memories there. 

LD: I remember being in Tokyo with John (Petrucci) and Dream Theater and going out for dinner after the show, and he was brave enough to try his first raw oyster. 

Jake:  Oh, wow. Yeah, that's advanced. I don't know if I could do it. 

LD: I noticed you changed your stage look. What do the fans think of your new look and longer hair?

Jake:  I like it because it's kind of like I get to have the best of both worlds. I can put it up, stays out of my face, but it kind of looks a little edgy and kind of cool with the beard and everything so I appreciate that. I'll keep it around for a lot longer. 

LD: I've always looked at what was going on in fashion, and the photos are great. It’s a fun combination of art and commerce, and a great way to distinguish yourself on stage. 

Jake:  Right you are. 

LD: I’ve noticed that Periphery likes short tours. 

Jake Bowen Mirage™ Wiring Diagram
The wiring diagram for Jake Bowen’s signature model Ibanez JBM9999 equipped with Mirage™ Neck and Mirage™ Bridge pickups.

Jake:  Yeah, three to four weeks. 

I think at this age, I can't imagine going out more than three weeks on a headliner. I don't know. There's kind of a stamina thing. I don't know how the Underoath guys do it, the guys we went out with, they're slightly older than us, and they're going out for four or five weeks at a time. And more power to them. I don't know, I just don't have that kind of stamina. It's just, once I get to this two-week point, I'm just like, "Damn, I'm tired. I got all this stuff to do at home. Let's wrap this up." And the thing is, it's not intended to stiff the fans, because we definitely cover the places we need to cover, it's just that we break up the tour. 

So, if we do a North American tour, we break it up into two halves, two weeks and two weeks. So, we'll do the East Coast, Canada, and maybe the southeast in the first half. And then the second half we work our way up to the Pacific Northwest, down into the West Coast, into the Southwest and finish up in Texas, or something like that. So that's definitely an approach that we found works best for all of us, because everyone else has stuff going on that orbits the band too. We need to have a way where we make time for everything. 

But that's not to say that this tour supporting Underoath wasn't fun. It was amazing. Those guys were amazing. The opening band, Loathe, they're one of my favorite bands right now. And it was just a very, very fun experience overall. And well, the other thing that's nice about it is that we hadn't toured in three years, so we didn't know what to expect coming back. We thought we would really have to work to get people to come to the shows, and we wondered if we still had it performance wise, and every night was better than the last. It was just nice to know that we're still in people's minds and hearts. It was definitely a good experience. 

LD: I find that stamina is really the underrated part of being out on the road. And especially after not being out for such a long time. 

Jake:  Yeah, it messes with your confidence. Totally. 

LD: Touring is different now, I'm seeing lots of people come through Montana now, and there are venues with amazing sound systems. Steve Vai played at the Elm (Bozeman) and I got a chance to see him there and it sounded great. 

There are a lot of people that just stay on the road. 

Jake:  Yeah. I mean that brings up a good point to make about touring in general. It's like if you want to go the distance like those guys go, then you know, take care of yourself and you know, you practice and you get better. And those guys, they sound great, they look great, and they have for a long time. And I guess, from my perspective, I'm not where they're at, but I think I want to preserve myself and my stamina to be able to do what they do. So that's a good point to make is that there are people out there that are older than us and are still crushing it, and crushing it harder than us, and we want to be there too someday. 

So, we spend a lot of time trying to make sure that the guitar tones are conveying the sort of identity of the song and we spend a lot of time doing that. And on some things, you'll hear actual amps and some things you'll hear plug-ins and some things you'll hear the modeler like the Axe-FX and stuff. So, unless you ask us directly what is on what song, it's anybody's guess on what we're using, and we kind of like that.

LD: During COVID, I got a text message from Phil (Collen) saying "I'm finally in the best shape I’ve ever been in”, he was training all the time. "Good God, you're amazing. I wish my abs looked like that." 

Jake:  Yep. You just can't do anything that I know you enjoy doing, because I enjoy it too, which is wine and Italian food. 

LD: Worse things could happen. I think that they've got spectacular crews around them, which I think having an amazing crew with you, you need to have something take the edge off, and- 

Jake:  Totally, I mean, Periphery couldn't do what we do without the crew that we have. And we're so lucky that the crew we have is all of our friends. Bands end up taking our crew on tour because we have the best guys. And I always thought that was kind of funny, because it verifies that we are surrounded by the right people that really make the band come to life. So much so that our peers and our friends are taking the same guys out when we're not on tour. It's nice to see. 

LD: Periphery has had great longevity and I think that the progression of the music is really good. And it's reaching the point now where I listen to everything. I'm not locked into any kind of music. What are you listening to now for enjoyment? 

Jake:  Oh, that's a good question. Well, I mentioned that band, Loathe, that we just went on tour with. They're probably my favorite heavy band right now. Let me look at my Spotify here. I've been going back to the classics a little bit. I've been listening to a lot of Type O Negative, Metallica, and Pantera, like the stuff I grew up with. Just because it's been so long since I've really dug into it. And it's kind of like this thing where if I don't listen to something long enough, the next time that I pick it up, it's almost like listening to it for the first time again, and I'm like, "Oh yeah, I remember. I love this. This is so good." 

And there's another sort of effect that I really like, which is... there's two bands that come to mind where I'll remember that I like them, and then I'll listen to the first album that comes to my mind, and then I'll realize that they have seven other albums that are amazing. And the two bands are ‘The Mars Volta’ and ‘Opeth’. And it's just this sort of, again, I don't listen to something for long enough, and then I go back to it and I have this realization of why am I not listening to this all the time? This is amazing stuff. 

LD: Right

Jake: ​​​​​​​ So yeah, those are just some of the things I'm listening to right now. 

LD: My daughters got me into Spotify by sending me their lists when it first went live.  

I like being able to choose what I want to hear. Before all the digital options, I made cassette tapes to play in the car. It made driving into Manhattan easier when you’re stuck in traffic… all the songs you love, and no commercials.  

Jake: ​​​​​​​ Yes, the progression, and it's such a short amount of time in the scope of things. It's pretty incredible. I got one for you right now. I have a metal playlist that I made recently. 

LD: When you are recording for the band, are you running through the Axe-FX still? Or are you using plug-ins as well as that on a lot of your stuff? 

Jake: ​​​​​​​ We use a little bit of everything. I know that might sound like a cop out, but I can explain. We’ll demo with Axe-FX and plug-ins, and stuff like that, but when it comes time to get the final guitar sound for the album, we take it on a song-by-song basis. So, we have a really nice re-amping setup in Misha's Studio. We have it set up to where we can A, B, C a bunch of different amps in real time, and kind of listen, and just re-amp in real time and pick the best amp or tone for the song, or the section. We'll just re-amp certain sections, and then leave the rest the same. And it's really this sort of mix and match sort of approach. The way that we have it set up makes it really easy, and you get a very... I always say a guitar tone is so powerful in the sense that it can give a song its identity. 

So, we spend a lot of time trying to make sure that the guitar tones are conveying the sort of identity of the song and we spend a lot of time doing that. And on some things, you'll hear actual amps and some things you'll hear plug-ins and some things you'll hear the modeler like the Axe-FX and stuff. So, unless you ask us directly what is on what song, it's anybody's guess on what we're using, and we kind of like that. 

LD: We can add whatever flavor you might want for the guitar now. 

I really enjoy recording and I’m always trying to improve how I can make it faster and better for my video projects. 

I read somewhere that a lot of the rough guitar tracks for Pyromania, I think, were recorded with Tom Scholz headphone preamp. You have Mutt Lang producing the band but the guitar roughs being recorded with a battery powered mini amp. 

Jake: ​​​​​​​ That wasn't that Rock-tron thing, was it? 

LD: LOL, a Rockman. 

Jake: ​​​​​​​ Rockman, yeah, Rockman, that's what it was. 

LD: Yeah. 

Jake: ​​​​​​​ I remember those things. Those are cool. 

LD: When I heard the recording, I was thinking Marshall amplifiers and microphones all over the room, but a lot of it was the initial tracks, which were laid down with the Rockman. I know they added to it sometimes, but I got that story directly from Phil. 

Jake: ​​​​​​​ Different era, and different products and stuff, but it's the same idea. The philosophy is the same. It's like, do what is best for the song, do what you're vibing on. Don't stay rigid in what you think sounds the best. Because, really, everything has a sound and there really is no best. It's about finding the right stuff. And I like that about this band. I like that about these guys. They're all down to experiment and just try to figure out what are the best pieces for the music. 

LD: For the final mix. And you've done great with all of that. And I like a lot of the ambient stuff on your solo projects. 

Jake: ​​​​​​​ Thank you. Yeah, that's further into the experimentation side of things, because I go in completely blind. I don't know what I'm going to use and I don't have any idea. I just start picking things up as I notice them in the room. And I kind of like that approach, because I don't know what I'm going to get. And I end up getting things... most of my own music, my solo music, is a surprise to me. 

LD: Well, keep on surprising us. Once again, great catching up and thanks for taking the time. 

Jake: ​​​​​​​ Yeah, likewise Larry. I'll talk to you soon.


Jake Bowen photographed by Larry DiMarzio
Jake Bowen photographed by Larry DiMarzio