Boutique Thrash: Cancer Bats’ Scott Middleton


Boutique Thrash: Cancer Bats’ Scott Middleton


Cancer Bats are a hardcore thrash-metal band from Toronto. The focal point of their all-out aural assault is the riff-heavy, pick-squealing, low-tuned playing of sole guitarist Scott Middleton. But for all the Cancer Bats’ unrestrained energy and audience mayhem, Middleton is no guitar-smashing punk. He travels the world with an arsenal of high-end gear and a seemingly endless supply of boutique effects. And his tone is righteous.



Middleton started playing guitar at 11. “I bought Metallica’s Black Album and just loved every song,” he recalls. “I decided, ‘I need to buy a guitar.’” He convinced his father to get him a cheap SG knockoff a neighbor was selling. “The guy threw in a Rolling Stones songbook, and that was the clincher,” says Middleton. “My dad is a Stones fan.”


Middleton and lead singer Liam Cormier started Cancer Bats in 2004. They toured North America nonstop and settled on their current lineup (with Mike Peters on drums and Jaye Schwarzer on bass) after recording their second album, Hail Destroyer, in 2008. It was a watershed album, earning top reviews in the metal press, millions of YouTube views, and a 2009 Juno nomination for New Group of the Year.


But Cancer Bats don’t rest on their laurels. After recording four albums with the production team of Kenny Luong and Eric Ratz, last summer they tried something new and hired legendary nü metal producer Ross Robinson (Korn, Limp Bizkit) to record their fifth album, Searching for Zero. The album continues in the heavy tradition, but breaks new ground, thanks in part to the influence of the band’s alter-ego: Bat Sabbath, a Black Sabbath cover band. “We did a double headlining tour playing an hour of Cancer Bats and then an hour of Black Sabbath covers,” says Middleton. “We co-headlined with ourselves.”


Middleton is also a gear fiend. He loves to tinker with new equipment and spends days in the studio sculpting sounds and nerding out with gear. He has close relationships with various guitar, amp, and stompbox manufacturers. Just don’t ask him to play a 7-string. “Guitars have six strings,” he states. “Anything more than six strings is a harp as far as I’m concerned.”


PG caught up with Middleton to discuss working with Ross Robinson, the quest for the ultimate guitar, studying lutherie in Spain, and Middleton’s globe-trotting search for cool boutique gear.