Know Your Tone: Owen Wuerker of BIG HUSH

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“Know Your Tone” is a feature that spotlights the intricacies and processes musicians go through, to develop their unique sounds.



 

Name/Instrument:
Owen Wuerker / guitar


What is your current amp setup? 
I usually play out of two amps at shows these days. I use a Fender Twin Reverb and a Marshall JCM 800 with an Orange 2 x 12 cab.

Describe your thought process and journey to find your unique sound: We’ve always recorded ourselves, and we put a lot of energy into overdubs and mixing. I have no qualms about playing our songs the way they sound before we go to work doing all the studio stuff–we have no interest in using backing tracks or anything like that–but I have been thinking a lot about how to imbue our live sound with the affect of our recordings. Since we’ve only got two guitarists, I started trying to make my guitar sound wider and more diffuse by using two contrasting amps and setting them far apart, on opposite sides of the drums and the bass amp. I liked the idea of my guitar wrapping around the rest of the band the way I would typically have it doubled and panned in a recording. I also like it when our instruments blur into each other, in the sense that they sound like amorphous parts of one organism. Sometimes, when we get it right, Chris will hit the distortion pedal on his bass and it will sound instead like the guitars added a layer of fuzz.

Tell us about your current pedalboard setup: 

I change my pedalboard all the time, but these days I’m using about 8 pedals. I have a Bear Foot Honey Bee overdrive, a Roger Mayer Kuro Kage distortion, a Fairfield Circuitry Unpleasant Surprise fuzz, an MXR delay and an MXR chorus. Those are my main ones.

Do you prefer a lot of pedals or a few?

I used to think it was really lame and unnecessary to have a giant pedalboard at a show. I still don’t think it makes you look very cool, but I guess now I’m that person. Oh well. :0

What is your thought process behind your pedalboard and what does it do for your sound? My pedalboard is mostly a bunch of gain stages–overdrives, distortions, boosts–that I try to keep toned down so that almost all of them can be on at the same time without sounding like trash. At some point in the chain I split the signal so that certain pedals only affect one of the two amps. I really like delegating certain effects to one amp or the other. The only reverb I use right now is in my Twin, the cleaner, brighter amp. I keep the Marshall a little louder and more overdriven, and it never has any reverb. 

Is there anything you have gotten rid of that you regret parting with?

I barely ever sell anything. I really should start doing that.

Who/what inspired your current sound? My Bloody Valentine is probably my biggest influence in this band, especially their tremolo style and the kind of compression they use on a lot of their recordings. I never worry about ripping them off. To be honest I go through phases where my main goal is to sound as much like them as possible. It’s pretty hard to pull off.

If you could change one thing about your current set up, what would it be? 

A lot of our recordings use sidechain compression, where the guitars all duck in volume whenever  the kick drum hits. I’ve been trying to think of a way of doing that live that wouldn’t be too annoying to set up before a show, but I’m kinda stumped.

What is your favorite piece of gear that you own?Probably the Fairfield Circuitry Unpleasant Surprise. It’s a super disgusting sounding gated fuzz by this company in Quebec that’s just controllable enough. Whereas with all my other pedals I do my best to keep things kinda tasteful, this thing just completely squashes everything paper thin, like all of my stuff is breaking. 

Most wanted piece of gear that you don’t own yet?

The chase bliss warped vinyl. Or a jazzmaster.

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