haha, naw it never really hit to me to look at his gear. i think maybe cos i was too busy trying out all the METAL! lead presets in the sims and thinking one of them would surely get me that tone. a lot of them came close, but they were either too muddy or too ratty. looking at his gear now tho, sure enough there's that ibanez screamer and a classy tube amp! this was my first time ever trying to do this type of sound so i assumed the presets would know better than i about what !!METAL!!! leads sound like. goes back to knowing where the sound comes from and moving with purpose instead doing so much empiric guesswork.
i'm also finding that, mixwise, i need to modify the tones depending on how busy the section is. the thicker lead tone that sits well near the beginning is only going to mud things up and get buried when the energy is near full blast on a second chorus. but instead of eq'ing it to thin out a bit, i'm just readjusting the tone through the amp. surely beats stabbing an abusive limiter on the main stereo bus as a last minute attempt to take care of the problem(which is exactly what i did).
it's amazing that the pvm45 and an m-audio box is all that is! haha damn, my lesson today: know yourself and know your sound. it's like that idea that there's 20% of an overall effort that gets 80% of the overall result. thanks for the chat, you've given me a lot to think about. :D