“Know Your Tone” is a feature that spotlights the intricacies and processes musicians go through, to develop their unique sounds.
Name/Instrument: Adrian / Guitar (2016 Fender American Standard Stratocaster)
What is your current amp setup? I play an early 90’s Fender Hot Rod Deville 212. Got it off Craigslist in 2013 for suuuuper cheap and was really pleasantly surprised with the sound. The thing is a workhorse and is just a great canvas for any style.
Describe your thought process and journey to find your unique sound: I love the glassy fender sound. I dunno if it’s because I listened to a lot of John Mayer in college or something, but when I think electric guitar I think fender glassy spank, with a little sizzle when you dig in. Also since I play rhythm(ish) guitar I scratched a ton of pedals that I didn’t think were necessary or would gel with three other guitars—fuzz and distortion specifically. I know Chris and Josh have heavier gain stages like that and they come from a hardcore background so I knew they’d want fuzz on their board. I pretty much just ruled that out right away, which freed up some real estate. With three guitarists you gotta always think big picture.
Tell us about your current pedalboard setup: From my guitar I run into a Deep Six compressor by Walrus Audio, to a Polytune, to a Soulfood by EHX that was modded by JHS with the clipping switch and bass roll off, to Timmy by Paul Cochrane, Moonshine by JHS, MXR Analog Chorus, to Gravitas Tremolo by Chasebliss Audio, to BOSS DD-20 with external tap tempo, to Seraphim Mono Shimmer by Neunaber, to Cathedral by EHX. I also soldered my own patch cables, which are Mogami; and my guitar cables are Mogami also.
Do you prefer a lot of pedals or a few? I think I go through phases. I used to play with just a tuner and reverb pedal. I currently have a ton of pedals, but I think I may pare down…one of these days.
What is your thought process behind your pedalboard and what does it do for your sound? Well the linchpin of my sound is the Timmy by Paul C. Without it, my amp gets ZERO sizzle. There’s just so much headroom and if I turned the amp volume enough to get breakup I’d be stupid loud. So the Timmy works as a preamp, but is transparent enough that it doesn’t color the sound of my guitar. A close second is my compressor pedal—it’s the best pedal I never thought I needed. It stretches and evens out my notes, and just makes my guitar come alive. Both of those pedals are pretty much always on. Everything else I have just colors that base sound. I also knew right out the gate I didn’t want to have a larger pedalboard than my PT-2. So every decision I’ve made was filtered by how much space I have. The only other decision I made out of necessity is my Neunaber Seraphim. I really wanted a shimmer pedal, to kind of pad out softer guitar parts, but couldn’t get myself to part with the Cathedral for like a Blue Sky or something. So instead I just added a shimmer pedal, and then I found out later that it doubles as the Neunaber WET which is one of the best sounding reverbs I’ve heard. Do I NEED two reverb pedals? Not at all. But it is what it is.
Is there anything you have gotten rid of that you regret parting with? I actually haven’t gotten rid of any pedal that I own. I’ve borrowed a ton of pedals in the beginning: POG 2, Empress Tremolo and Em Drive to be specific. I do a ton of research before I buy gear, so even if I one day don’t want a pedal on my pedalboard, I don’t think I’d get rid of it—just put it on the shelf and try and use it in the studio or something.
Who/what inspired your current sound? I love chill, glassy blues fender guitar sounds. But I also really love the rhythm sounds that Joey of From Indian Lakes dials in. It’s bitey but still really concise. He plays a tele or jaguar I think, which of course sounds really distinct from a strat. So I guess it’s just a strat’s spin on that sound.
If you could change one thing about your current set up, what would it be? If I could do it all again, instead of the MXR chorus I’d get the Analogman Mini Chorus…but it would definitely need to have a blend knob—that control makes all the difference to me when it comes to chorus. If I ever change my amp I think it’ll get a clean fender sounding amp but one that breaks up a little easier.
What is your favorite piece of gear that you own? My guitar is my baby. I saved up for almost a year and did research for even longer than that. I just went back and forth for so long as to the make and look and sound of the guitar that now that I’m finally able to play it, it just means that much more.
What is your favorite piece of gear that you don’t own yet? I want one more delay pedal. I’ve got my eyes set on the Tonal Recall by Chasebliss. It’s just such a beast and will be the holy grail of recording tools I think. I also am deciding on whether I want one more modulation pedal like an octave or something, or an overdrive pedal that models an amp—maybe the JHS Twin Twelve, Superbolt, or Walrus Audio 385…too many choices.
Name/Instrument: Chris Rosser / Guitar
What is your current amp setup? I’m using an Orange TH30 Head with an Orange open back 2×12 cabinet loaded with Celestion Vintage 30’s. That TH30 is LOUD even at the half power of 15 watts, and the Clean channel is non-master volume, so getting anywhere near the “close to breakup” sound is way too much volume for most places (and that’s only around 9 o’clock on the volume dial). To get just a little breakup and a usable volume I’m using a Weber Mass Lite 50W attenuator, which is also nice for practicing at home at a bedroom volume aka keeping my marriage intact.
Describe your thought process and journey to find your unique sound: I’m usually writing parts after we have a skeleton for the song, and I’m looking to flesh it out. My pastor’s brother Luke once described lead playing as the sauce to a good meal; you aren’t trying to overshadow what’s there, just enhance it and make it even better. That’s how I view writing guitar parts, and that’s helped guide my gear decisions. I’ve tried to create a palette of sounds and tones that I can use to complement the songs we write, and with 2 other guitarists in the band I need to cover a lot of bases. The journey to get there started with the Strymon Blue Sky. A friend had that pedal and at that time I was playing a Line 6 Pod XT Live (sidenote: those modeling things are great, and I loved being able to try out tons of different stuff without having to purchase new gear). That was the first time I was really envying a pedal, and that was when I mentally made the turn from modeling multi effects to amp+pedals. The first iteration was using a Gibson SG Faded and a Fender Blues Jr, which is a really great amp, and I started assembling pedals with that as the backbone. I had the aforementioned Blue Sky, a couple drives in the Timmy and Superbolt, and was finding that I was using delay more and more. I had the TC Electronic Flashback, but then I really wanted a few presets and got the Flashback X4. Then I wanted even more presets and snagged the Strymon Timeline. Now I pretty much have some sort of delay on most of what I play and that pedal is perfect. However, after some time I wanted a bit more in my amp, especially in the gain department. I really like high gain as I’m a big fan of metal and hardcore, and although our band doesn’t need that level of distortion I like having hints of that sound in my tone. Enter the Orange TH30. With two channels I can get everything I want: a clean channel that pedals can push nicely for an overdrive sound, and a fantastic gain channel I can use to sound huge on our bigger parts and leads. At this point I had most of my staple pedals and wanted to branch out with modulations and such. Those can add textures so I can make each song unique, and combine them in some fun ways. Like on our song Pocketknife I was just messing around with a hard tremolo trying to mimic some of the sounds in ambient electronic music, and after adding in the Rainbow Machine for some odd octaves and a reverse delay I was set for that riff. On the guitar front I’m using a Fender American Standard Telecaster, which is something I would not have foreseen just a few years ago. With my music tastes I leaned towards dual humbucker guitars, hence the SG, but I wanted to branch out and get something different for a second guitar. There’s something so simple and straightfoward about the Tele that I like; 2 single coils, 1 volume, 1 tone, and super expressive. At first it revealed a lot of my playing that I didn’t like, but now I love how sensitive it is to dynamic changes. So now that Tele is my #1 and I play it almost exclusively when we play live.
Tell us about your current pedalboard setup: Ok, down to the details of the mothership. I went with a bigger board so I could space pedals where I want them. I found that having them too close together made lots of changes more difficult during a set. That or my feet aren’t slim enough for the ballerina toes required to click some pedals in the back row. Either way I’ve set my most used pedals up front for easy access. Those include most of my drives, the channel selector for the amp, the Timeline Delay, and the Blue Sky reverb. Pretty much the staples that I’m always using in some capacity. Modulations, tuner, and compressor are towards the back. I had a Pedaltrain Pro but went with a custom Creation Pedalboard that has the 1/4 inch jacks on the side of the board as I’ve got a lot of cables running around, and that helps to organize the madness. Plus it means I don’t have to do any weird cable yoga to connect everything.
So the first thing in line is my volume pedal, a JHS modded Ernie Ball VP Jr, with a tuner on the tuner out. It has a buffer in it and to me it sounds good at the start of the chain. That moves into the Tone Press compressor, which I have ever so slightly boosting the volume with just a slight compression to even out the strings so you can hear the details. The Walrus Luminary octave pedal is next, before the drives so it doesn’t end up sounding too much like an organ at heavy settings. Also like that one as I can easily switch between presets while playing live. I’ve got my drives next, the JHS Superbolt, Paul Cochrane Timmy, J Rockett Archer, and the Earthquaker Cloven Hoof, and I use these on both the clean and dirty channels depending on what sound I need. The Timmy is on the most as it’s so transparent and good. I use the Superbolt for a different flavor drive on a couple songs, and the Archer is almost a third amp channel as it pushes the Dirty Channel and tightens it up. Really good with a lot of gain. The Cloven Hoof comes out when I need an over the top fuzz that sounds like it’s breaking apart. That signal goes out to the Orange TH30, and then the effects loop comes back to the modulation section. In that I’m running the Earthquaker Rainbow Machine set to a slightly detuned chorusy sound w/ slapback, the TC Electronic Gravy Vibrato, an original Boss CE-2 Chorus, and the Wampler Latitude Deluxe Tremolo. The Strymons are last in line, the Timeline and the Big Sky, and then the signal goes back to the effects send return.
Do you prefer a lot of pedals or a few? Ironically enough I think I prefer a few. Just having a drive, delay, and reverb would be plenty for me. But I also like having the options of a big board, and I do really need a lot of them to get the sound I want for our songs.
What is your thought process behind your pedalboard and what does it do for your sound? To me it’s a painter’s palette. I’ve got lots of different colors to add to the canvas that is our music, and keep it varied enough that I’m not just using the same ones over and over. This allows me a lot of creative freedom as I can swap between sounds a lot. For example, in Keepers I start off with a washy swelling reverb part, then into a fuzzy tremolo picking, back over to a lead line with delay and reverb, end strong on medium-high amp gain power chords, and outro with a spacey delay/reverb/chorus combo.
Is there anything you have gotten rid of that you regret parting with? I haven’t parted with too many things, but I did like the Mod Analog Delay on the TC Electronic Flashback. That sounded really good and I wouldn’t mind having that one back.
Who/what inspired your current sound? Heavier bands like ZAO and The Chariot gave me my love of all things high gain, but I really like the tones mewithoutYou, Mae, Jack’s Mannequin, and Bon Iver bring to the table and I’ve taken little elements of those to craft my tone. Also playing at churches has really influenced my sound. In those settings I’m using heaps of reverb and delay to fill up the sonic space and that’s definitely had an effect on what I play and what type of gear I’m using. Lastly I’ve been digging stuff like Tycho, and trying to emulate some of the moods and textures they create has been fun.
If you could change one thing about your current set up, what would it be? Can we say more guitars? Because that’s what I would like to have. I’m pretty happy with everything I have, but having a solid quiver of guitars is my next adventure.
What is your favorite piece of gear that you own? Just ask me which child is my favorite next. I think I have to go with my Tele. I really like playing that guitar. It’s incredibly versatile, which is why that guitar pops up in so many different genres, and each of the 3 spots on the pickup selector sounds so unique. The clear tone with just a hint of twang and spank is awesome. It’s a 2015 Swamp Ash American Standard, and it cured me of my bias against single coils.
What is your favorite piece of gear that you don’t own yet? Oh the possibilities! Above all I’d really like to have a top notch hollow body or semi-hollow body guitar. Maybe a Gretsch White Falcon or a Gibson 335 loaded with a vibrato bar. I’ve always liked them aesthetically and would love to have that in my quiver.