Zero Tolerance

Those of you familiar with the band ‘Death’ know what ‘Zero Tolerance’ means. I’ll go straight to the point and let Rainer Nygård tell the story of his unique Chuck Schuldiner tribute guitar.

I donʼt think Diablo would exist – at least in itʼs current line-up – without the lifework of Chuck Schuldiner and his band Death. My “Zero Tolerance” tribute guitar was built to honor Chuckʼs memory and his influence to my playing and personal philosophy.

Surely the early Death albums such as ʻHumanʼ and Individual Thought Patternsʼ had given me nice goosebumps too, but not until I heard the album ʻSymbolicʼ in itʼs release year 1995 I did experience the true enlightenment!

At that time studies and the move to a new city took over my time, and my interest to play guitar was waning. This was the “after-grunge” period, the metal boom was yet to arrive and it was difficult to find the right kind of band to settle in.

However – after hearing the ʻSymbolicʼ I decided this ainʼt the time to give up! I recall it was that same autumn Marko Utriainen (Diablo, solo guitar) and I started to gather up a band, headquarters located at Tampere. This was the beginning of Diablo.

The Death had such a strong impact on me, that in 1998 I spent my student loan to go see them live at Dynamo Open Air festival together with Virtanen (Diablo, bass) and Utriainen. When the first notes of ʻZero Toleranceʼ filled the air, I was in the first row, tears in my eyes. I was literally in flames.
Soon after this Chuck was struck ill and the second chance to see Death in Europe never came. After Chuckʼs death we have arranged from time to time charity concerts donating the profit to support the Pirkanmaan Syöpäyhdistys (Pirkanmaa Cancer Association) youth activities. In this way we can forward some of the good weʼve gotten to our lives from Chuckʼs music.

Me being Chuckʼs fan is not only about his playing. I appreciate greatly his lyrical input and the massive amount of work he did for the band. The musical legacy of Chuck Schuldiner can be heard in Diabloʼs production in many different ways – now and in the future. Some similiar harmonies here and there, little hints in lyrics or song titles etc. You know what I mean don’t you, ha ha ?
So – the “Zero Tolerance” guitar – first it was supposed to be satin black, stripped down basic tool. But then the aesthetic side of it kind of got out of hand, when Tomi (Nivala, Ruokangas Guitars) and I started brainstorming a bit.

I have to admit Iʼm not too surprised this happened (again). Somebody asks of course why didnʼt we make the tribute guitar the same as Chuckʼs own ʻStealthʼ -model. I have an explanation for this. That particular model simply doesnʼt fit me personally. I wanted the starting point to be ʻLes Paulʼ with fixed bridge, and so we ended up customizing my guitar from the Ruokangas ʻUnicornʼ model.

Weʼve played on albums using three different tunings over the years. When rehearsing, changing tuning from one to another goes very quickly with a fixed bridge guitar, as compared to the kind with locking trem. No more stuffed blocks of wood, cigarette lighters etc. between the trem and the body… I donʼt even use a trem, but Iʼm so used to the feel of the trem against my right hand when playing – thatʼs the reason my other guitars have a trem! So this time I finally figured out to ask if it would be possible to have the same fretboard radius with the tune-o-matic as I have in the trem guitars. And it worked out fine.

We chose naturally – and partly out of curiosity – the same pickup the master himself used – the DiMarzio X2N. Itʼs a helluva pickup. Tons of gain anyhow. Maybe even too much, but Iʼm fine dealing with that cos’ I can always cut down the gain from preamp.

Up until now Iʼve thought that locking trem keeps the tuning better and doesnʼt break strings as much – and if/when the string breaks at the bridge, you can still make things work in an emergency even without changing the whole string. Now I have to say, however, that the strings I use nowadays (014-068) donʼt really break no matter what I do! And I canʼt really complain about the new guitar tuning either.

The tone of the Zero Tolerance guitar is unbelievably strong and thereʼs more than plenty of sustain. And it fits to my hands like a glove! At the moment I’m just wondering if I am good enough for this guitar, ha ha!

December 13, 2011 will be the 10-year anniversary of Chuckʼs death. I hope that via this very special guitar project both new youngsters and oldies get interested to know something about Chuck’s lifework – emptywords.org is a good place to start.

Like Chuck used to say: “Keep the metal faith alive”.

– Rainer Nygård / Diablo