FRANCIS ROBERTS / OLD MAN WIZARD

Old Man Wizard: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp

Ed. note: Ahead of Old Man Wizard’s two-week West Coast tour to promote their upcoming new 7″ single “Innocent Hands” (out digitally on Aug. 25 / check out the b-side “The Blind Prince” below), the band’s guitarist/vocalist, Francis Roberts, was awesome enough to share some of his fairly unique studio (and live) equipment with Gear and Loathing in San Diego. Enjoy. ~ Dustin

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1. The Wizcaster! My friend Connor (@highspiritguitars on Instagram) built this for me as a gift when he was launching his custom guitar brand. I think it was the first guitar he made for somebody other than himself. I think the design is based on an Epiphone Wilshire, but the neck feels more like a Fender. Really simple electronics, two P-90s. Really tough to beat.

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2. My High Spirit Strat! I helped Connor build a few of his Strat-style guitars, and took one home with me. This is basically exactly like a Strat, but the neck is nearly the width of a classical guitar. Featuring my wallpaper.

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3. The original Old Man Wizard live guitar/bass! These both ended up on the recordings [listen/download the band’s debut album here]. The bass is on both, I think that guitar is only on “Innocent Hands” (I know because took a video of myself recording with it on the LEEM amp). The guitar is a SonicF Z-7. It’s a one-of-a-kind thing that was built by a Seattle-based artist in 2009. He made a bunch of weird things (see for yourself). I tried a bunch of his guitars, and this was the one that was magical to me. It plays and sounds great, but the killswitch broke. I should get that fixed.

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4. Pedals and effects! I never use my live setup to record, and I never use a pedalboard. I do my own guitar tracking, and I go on binges of testing sounds and come back later to choose which takes to keep. I don’t actually know which pedals made it on to the record; I just chose the tracks that I thought sounded best. The only effects I know for a fact ended up on the record are the Univox Super Fuzz, a homemade Rangemaster, and the Echoplex in the photo. The guitar amps were all mic’d up with an SM57, nothing fancy in that realm.

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Here’s the live pedalboard. I’m experimenting with a SoloDallas storm pedal as part of my main live rig. It sounds huge but it only plays well with certain amps, so it’ll depend on the amp I bring along. I plan to bring my Ginormouse electronics delay/clean boost for leads (this was a custom build by a guy named Lewis Davis here in San Diego, and he makes really cool stuff. Worth checking out. He also built a rad phase shift that I use in my other band). I have a Catalinbread Belle Epoch “tape delay” that I pretty much always leave running these days. It seriously sounds almost as good as an Echoplex, but it’s better for live because it requires no maintenance and is nearly indestructible. And then I guess the last piece worth mentioning is the TC Helicon Mic Mechanic. It’s a killer inexpensive delay/reverb with XLR jacks for microphones, and it’s the best thing ever for vocals when you play a small venue that doesn’t have delay or reverb on the soundboard. The first time I used it at a show, I was asked if we had started using backing tracks. Sounds awesome, highly recommended.

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5. Frederick II: This is actually a Gibson Flying V from the early 2000s. I painted over the pickguard and Gibson logo years ago, and added a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece. The pickups are stock, but I’m planning to rout out some space to replace one of them with a P90 soon. That’s the Old Man Wizard sigil thing burned into the body. I used a soldering iron to do that.

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Update: And here’s the V with a P90 in it, getting set up and ready for tour. I’ll probably still take the Wizcaster or the Z7 with me just in case it doesn’t feel right after a few nights.

6. What do you got against Fender and Gibson?

I don’t like sporting logos of brands who aren’t giving me anything! [laughs]

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7. The recording amps! I used the LEEM one on “Innocent Hands” as an overlay. It sounds really bad, so if you turn it up all the way, it sounds even worse, which was exactly what I wanted for the black-metal inspired parts in the song. The other amp is my Valco. I used that on every other guitar track on both of these recordings. All the knobs were actually turned up to 10 the whole time.

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8. That’s the back of my little Valco amp with the snakes painted on top.

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9. The keyboards! We don’t have a keyboard player for shows (and we don’t run backing tracks), but I’m a huge fan of layering keyboards on parts of songs to get a little bit of extra energy in a studio recording. From the top left, that’s a ‘70s ARP Quartet, a modern reissue ARP Odyssey (the small version), and they’re sitting on top of a chopped Hammond M-3, which is sitting on top of a two-speed Leslie cabinet.

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If you’re in one of the cities listed below (or know someone in these cities), be sure to catch Old Man Wizard when they come through. “Innocent Hands” will be out digitally on Aug. 25th — before then, pick up the limited 7″ from them at these shows.

Aug. 11: Tijuana, BC – Mi Pueblito
Aug. 13: San Francisco, CA – Hemlock
Aug. 15: San Jose, CA – The Caravan
Aug. 18: Seattle, WA – The Victory Lounge
Aug. 19: Anacortes, WA – Kenelly Keys
Aug. 20: Tacoma, WA – The Valley
Aug. 22: Los Angeles, CA – The Lexington
Aug. 23: San Diego, CA – Soda Bar

IAN TRUMBULL / YPSITUCKY

Ypsitucky: FacebookBandcamp

1. Tell me about your current rig: My Fender Old Growth Redwood Tele is my baby, they only made about 200 in 2010. The wood comes from a 100-year-old Nor-Cal railway bridge, so it’s incredibly light (5.6 lbs) and rings like a sominobotch. Deluxe Reverb is just a great transparent clean amp, handles pedals well and really sings when the volume is about halfway up.

Pedal-wise, I use the OCD for just a hint of grit and the Mr. Echo for a dash of slapback. The Super Chili Picoso is a great clean boost, and I friggin’ love the SupaTrem for tremolo…sounds better than most built-in amp trems, with far more versatility. I only occasionally use the DVK Goldtop for a vibe effect. I don’t like to use more than 1 or 2 effects at a time, as it tends to sound too washy. Oh, and I have a weird distaste for pedalboards. They’re just too neat and fixed, like Velcro shoes.

I love my ’69 Vibro Champ for recording, as you can really drive that 8″ speaker; it sounds urgent, punchy and warm. I’ll usually either run my Fender Reverb Tank or original ‘60s Echoplex in front. Even if the delay or verb is low, both really help as tube pre-amps to butter up the tone. And the smell of those old tubes…ahhh.

Nothing else I really want right now, these are my tools.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style? Probably our song “Bruiser” is the most exemplary guitar tone-wise, it just seems to jump out of the speakers. I also like to overdub a smidge of acoustic for most songs, just for texture, and for that I have a Gibson J-45.

3. If money was no object, what’s the holy grail piece of gear you’d buy?  Hmmm, although I don’t really need another guitar, I’ve been eyeballing those Red Rocket Atomic Tele’s. They’re really well-made customs, have Gretsch Dynosonic pickups and rosewood fretboards. I think that or a similar custom shop Fender would be a good compliment to my current set up. Ideally though, I’d love a soundproof room in my house more than anything. Then I could do all kinds of stupid shit.

4. What was the first piece of gear you bought and what are your thoughts on it now? Probably my first real acquisition was my Marshall JCM 800 head sometime in the late ’80s. I used it exclusively up until a few years ago for rock and roll, and you just can’t get a bad tone out of it. Toured with that thing and wouldn’t trade it for the world, it’s like an old buddy that’s always there when I need it.

5. What do you have coming up that we should know about? Hope to have a second EP out mid-year, and then combine both EPs into a 12″ LP.

Ypsitucky play Soda Bar on Friday, May 13, with The Downs Family and Behind The Wagon. Don’t miss ‘em.