1. Tell me about your current rig. How does the individual parts help you achieve the sound you’re after? Best parts? Worst parts? Anything still a work in progress?
From the beginning to the end of my chain I have:
Line 6 Constrictor -> DigiTech Bad Monkey -> Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh Fuzz -> Ernie Ball VP Jr. -> MXR 10 Band EQ -> Boss DD-7 -> Van Amps Sole Mate Reverb
On the VP bypass output I’ve got the Boss TU-2 Tuner.
The Constrictor has served me well for about 7 or 8 years now. I don’t even touch the dials at this point. The mellow setting really keeps the tone smooth and contained without eating away too much of the tone.
I’ve had the Bad Monkey for about as long and it sat on the shelf for the first few years, but I found a way to get some nice edge out of it with a high boost.
I picked up the Pharaoh Fuzz from a neighbor who was selling off a bunch of gear. I hadn’t heard of it, so I just took it home for a test run and immediately ran back to pay him for it. This thing can scream. It has a 3-way Germanium/Silicon switch that gives you two completely different fuzz tones. I keep it right in the middle to get the best of both worlds. I also keep the tone and high knobs cranked up at about 3 o’clock to preserve some clarity. If you push the Fuzz knob too far it can really get out of control, so I’ve got it around 9 o’clock most of the time.
The VP Jr. is a VP Jr… Not much to say except it’s reliable and does exactly what you’d want a volume pedal to do. I had issues with the sweep when I first got it and realized it was having difficulty with the patch cable I was sending in. Note to self (and others experiencing similar issues), some boutique cables just don’t work the same as the run-of-the-mill Livewire patches.
The 10 Band EQ is pretty nice for rounding out the rough edges of a bright tone or adding some punch to a weak signal. It has a volume and a gain in addition to the 10 frequencies you can dial in, so you can actually get some additional grit, if that’s what you’re after.
The DD-7 is my favorite stomper. I’ve tried other delays and they’re either too quirky, finicky or simply don’t give me the tone I’m after. I’ve been meaning to get the bypass switch for years but just haven’t managed to remember. Hopefully soon… I almost exclusively use the tap delay, rather than turning the time knob. I bounce between the 200ms and 800ms settings. The 200ms is square, giving you double the beats that you tap. The 800ms gives you a dotted 1/4 notes, which can really add a nice touch. Everyone says it’s dotted 1/8 notes, but from my experience they’re dotted 1/4.
Lastly, the Sole Mate Reverb. This is another pedal I picked up from that neighbor who was unloading some of his gear. It’s a pretty tame spring reverb, with an on/off switch, an output knob and a dwell knob. I usually keep the dials pretty low for some extra breath on the tail of the delay, but it can open up quite a bit if you want to crank it.
I also use Voodoo Power and a Monster Power Conditioner. It really does make a difference having strong, clean power.
It all runs to a Vox AC15, the best plug-and-play amp on the planet. Monkeys could dial this thing in and get great tones out of it.
2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style/gear?
This is one of our older tracks, from about 5 years ago. It’s called “You’re The Riot.” I’m not crazy about how the parts of the arrangement turned out on the record, but I liked the tone I was able to get for the solo in the middle of the track. I was actually using an Epiphone Casino for that recording, and I’d like to get my hands on one of my own at some point. In any case, the tone was warm and bright, crunchy and crisp. If I could nail down that tone at every live show, I’d be thrilled.
3. What’s the one “holy grail” piece of equipment you’d buy if money was no object?
Eventide Space Reverb. Good reverb really stands out from the cheap stuff. That pedal has SO much versatility. It can pretty much replicate any reverb imaginable. Not to mention it also has delay, modulation, etc, etc. My birthday is coming up if anyone is feeling extra generous…
4. I noticed you’re using a Telecaster with two humbuckers instead of the standard single coils. Any particular reason? Can you still get those classic Telecaster sounds out of it or is it an entirely different sound altogether?
I used to be a diehard Strat player, but I realized that I was always cutting my highs because they were so overwhelming. So, I figured a Telecaster would bring me closer to the center. On top of that, I wanted a smoother, warmer tone, and the single coils just sounded so twangy, which I really can’t stand. The tonal range is narrower with this setup, but with the 3-way switch, I really like the amount of variety I can get out of each position. I usually keep it in the middle or down on the bridge pickup. I think it still sounds like a Tele with the humbuckers, but less twangy, which is wonderful.
5. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise?
Trey Anastasio from Phish. It may seem like an odd choice, given the obvious difference in the genres we play. But in the mid ’90s, he had an absolutely killer tone. I think he used and still uses two custom Languedoc guitars, which I’m sure was the biggest contributor to his tone, but whatever else he had going on in his effects chain was perfectly dialed in… except when it wasn’t, which was probably like 1 out of 5 shows, most likely because he was too spaced out to realize it. Anyhow, when I first started learning to play, I tried to model my tone after his and ended up learning a lot about playing in general.
6. What was the first piece of gear you bought and what are your thoughts on it now? Do you have still have it?
It was an Ibanez acoustic guitar. I still have it, and I hate it more each day. This was when I was in my first year of playing. Someone told me, “Hey man, it’s got Fishman Pickups, it’s totally worth it.” Nah, not even a little. The truss rod (something I was completely unaware of at the time of purchase or the next year thereafter) was broken. And, the tone just generally sucked. I actually try to be as inconspicuously careless as possible with it, hoping it breaks so I have a fully legitimate reason to find a replacement.
7. What do you have coming up that we should know about?
We’re playing this Saturday, June 18th at the Casbah, possibly July 18th at Soda Bar, and there will likely be another Casbah show in the next month or so. No other dates at this point. We’re really trying to focus on new material since we just got the band back together this year after a 3-year hiatus. Luckily, someone heard us at either House of Blues or Casbah when we played recently and it sounds like they’re going to fund an 8 or 9-song EP and try to get our publishing off the ground. Fingers crossed!