Rigged: Closet Disco Queen

Since exiting The Ocean (having played on the band’s two finest albums, Pelagial and Heliocentric), guitarist Jonathan Nido and drummer Luc Hess have been honing their rock chops in Closet Disco Queen. The duo is about to release a new EP, phenomenally titled Sexy Audio Deviance for Punk Bums, which you can pre-order here.

We reached out to Jona to see if he’d be interested in doing a rigged – especially interesting given he creates a huge and varied sound by himself – and he sent over the Mother lode. I’m gonna stop here and let him take over…

INTRODUCTION

Closet Disco Queen is a very young band. We played our first show in June 2014 to fill up a twenty minutes’ slot at a DIY festival. Since then we’ve been on the road constantly and I’ve been trying many different setups to find the sound I needed for this band. In the end, I’m not sure if this is the sound I wanted or was needed but the result is what came out naturally through rehearsals, shows and recording sessions.

The riffing in CDQ finds its roots a couple of years ago when I first plugged a ‘71 Les Paul Deluxe straight into a ‘73 Orange OR80 combo.  For the amp to drive, I had to crank it up extremely loud. Once you get there you will have with this warm crunchy Orange “nasal” sound. I played an E and A major and was completely ecstatic of the richness of the sound. This is when I started jamming some more classic rock blues infused licks. This happened right when I left a full time touring band I was in for the last seven years and needed to approach music a different way. No more playing in front of a computer with headphones or jamming any riffs through any random sounding amps. I basically wanted the sound of the amp to inspire me rather than “forcing” a riff through it. A whole new world opened.

From then on, I would always write rock songs playing on my setup at stage volume. I reckon this is what helped me the most to get the best out of my rig. Composing this way made me play stuff I’d have never written otherwise. Playing through a certain amp, with a certain guitar to a certain volume will make some riffs or notes sound awesome when if played on your couch quietly or through some computer plug-ins on headphones wouldn’t. Writing music in a live venue, on stage, with a full PA on, is also quite an experience. If you have the chance to do it once, you’ll realize you don’t write the same music once you have eight sub-woofers on and that every kick drum sounds like a punch in the stomach.

I believe that what makes a band sound good is the balance of their stage sound. This is something that saves you a lot of hassle at sound/line check and that will help any good sound guy to quickly do a great mix. All these live shows pre-productions shouldn’t be neglected, especially if you play in a small to mid-size band, hence playing everything from basements to big festival stages. Matching your volume to how hard your drummer hits, the position of your gear on stage so that you both are happy with the minimum volume you decided on. With this in mind, you can play a bar show with no PA or a huge stage with monitors, you will always position yourselves the same way, ear yourself the same. This will make you feel comfortable in any environment and will help your live performances to be consistent.

Regarding volume, I would advise to turn up enough that you don’t need to use monitors. Why would you carry all these awesome vintage cabs with you to end up listening to your guitar through some boring monitors? This is another good reason to work out the position of your amps on stage. Crank up an old tube amp and it will sound completely different than at low volume. I’d rather be too loud on stage (if Luc and I are happy with it) and not have any of the guitar running through the PA than having to compromise, then have a shit show, hence not delivering properly to the kind people that showed up. Of course, you can use power breakers, but in my dinosaur mind, nah.

To finish this long introduction, you need to know that this band was never meant to be and started as a complete accident. We did not want to be a band, neither wanted to be a two piece. If you go through reading all of this, you’ll realize that through my different setups, the further we go in time, the more I’m trying to sound like 2-3 string players instead of keeping it raw. Both approaches are totally legit. I went for the first option because our songwriting could benefit a lot from a bass player but also that the band would quickly become full time. Problem is; being in a full time touring band whom does not make good money isn’t appealing to people and if a lot of them would have loved to join us, when asked whether they can take off from a week to another for a 3 weeks’ tour, the answer is always the same: “NOPE”. Luc and I are sticking together now for almost 15 years through different bands and we know we can rely on each other. We decided to write songs we could perform the two of us no matter what but still wanted to sound like a full band. And see, this is again another factor completely out of any artistic considerations that I had to deal with when both finding my sound and writing songs. 

THE ESSENTIALS

CROWTHER AUDIO – HOT CAKE

This is my favorite pedal in the world since 2010. It’s been my main O.D. in literally every band every band I’ve played or recorded with. I bought in Manhattan at Rivington Guitars. When I asked the shop manager whether he had a v1 OCD Full Tone he gave me the Hot Cake saying this was the same thing. I had no idea. Well, thank you sir, you made my sound.

 

EHX – MEMORY BOY

I initially tried a Nano Memory Boy. I’m a total fail when it comes to use delays and that one sounded nice and only had one or two knobs. When I came back to the store to buy it, they had the regular Memory Boy. It was bigger with more knobs and it was on sale so I bought it. I was never able make it sound like a delay and I still don’t understand how I’m using it but this is a pedal I feel naked without. I’m basically using it as boost and/or to do weird shit.

 

LINE6 M5 – PARTICLE REVERB

The particle reverb is the only reason I ever bought LINE6 stomp boxes. This is truly one of my main weapon. The effect is one thing, what you do with it is another. If anyone knows one other pedal that does THE EXACT SAME THING, please let me know and I will instantly kick out both my M5’s. I went through all possible issues you can imagine for the last 7 years using a big pedalboard and I was always able to fix them. With these Line6 shit, you never know what’s wrong. I’ve had it reboot several times, asking for some stupid updates (what??) right before a show. Panicking, turning it on and off like 10 times until it was working again by some sort of miracle. Sometimes, it would make the whole sound disappear for no reason and with a subtle tap dance move it’ll come back…for no reason. I also read online that the screws holding the chassis – which are painted black – can create short circuit. I changed the screws and it did solve the problem for a while, but then no it did not. Sometimes I would use it, record a loop and take the power off (it’s true bypass) and turn it back on when I must use it again. I wouldn’t advise anyone to buy this shit if it wasn’t for this amazing reverb and all the cool synth and modulation effects.

 

BOSS TU-2

The only and true one. I hate the TU-3. Don’t even ask why, I hate it. Every time I stumble onto a second-hand TU-2 I just buy it.

 

 

 

BRIGHT ONION ABY

They’re cheap, solid and for less than a hundred bux you have an extremely reliable ABY with a ground lift and a phase switch. Having three amps in my setup, this last option made a huge difference sound wise. I would totally recommend these to everyone.

 

MONO CASES

When I had to do my first fly-in show with this band and this pedalboard I had to find a way bring it without having to pay extra for overweight and still have it protected enough so that I could check it in. MONO appeared to be the solution. They won several awards for the conception of these cases and this is truly deserved. I paid about 300$ (in Europe) for the M80 pedalboard case. To this day, after more than 150 shows in all conditions (planes, trains, vans, etc.) only the carry-on strap is slowly breaking on one side. I added an extra layer of bubble foil on the inside of the case. It only weights 2.9Kg. The board plus effects weights about 20kg and nothing has ever moved while travelling. Must have.

I’m also carrying my LES PAUL CUSTOM SHOP in a soft –yes SOFT- MONO case as check-in luggage and never had any trouble. I always pack up the headstock in bubble foil just to make sure it’s 100% safe. I usually carry it in the DUAL ELECTRIC GUITAR CASE from the M80 series which can hold two guitars. Since we are a total bum band, when we go on tour on a fly-in we cannot afford the extra weight so instead of a second guitar, I pack 25 vinyl, 30cds and shirts on the other half of the bag, making it very heavy and very tight. The guitar was being thrown around the same through planes and trains and never had any marks. I LOVE MONO cases. We’re also using them for cymbals, snare, kick pedal, backpacks, laptop cases…

ROLF PEDALBOARDS

Christophe Macquat – Rolf Pedalboards’ founder – has been my friend for a very long time and he was the one whom already wired the first huge pedalboard I used in my other band Coilguns. This is 6 years ago. He only started his business officially about a year and a half ago but he’s been building, wiring and routing my boards since the very beginning. I believe we’ve been through all possible issues together. His boards have an extremely minimalistic design, two well placed holes used as handles on the side, discrete thin die-cuts strips on the board to run the power cables underneath to the power blocks, everything fixed with some huge ass Velcro strip, meaning it holds power blocks in any rough conditions but you can still take them off whenever you need to. Wiring is up to Swiss watchmaking standard, tight as a hamster’s butthole and on top of that he will help you out with your routing if you have any questions or doubts. He is extremely reactive as well as reliable. No surprise the likes of Cult Of Luna, Nate Newton, Conan or Bongripper are using his boards. I’m not sure whether meeting him was a coincidence, but hey, if it was not for him, I’m not sure I would have been able to make all this sound extravaganza a reality. Moreover, he is playing in a cool ass band call ØLTENI have a Dendragapus which is the biggest serie board he is producing. Size is 75cm x 45cm (about 30 x 18 inches) and can hold up to twenty pedals.

#1 First ever show – june 21st 2014

Guitar // 71’ Gibson Les Paul Deluxe

1st Amp // 73’ Orange OR80 (combo)

2nd Amp // 79’ Twin Reverb Silverface (JBL speakers)

Pedals // Morley ABY, Crowther Audio Hot Cake, EHX PoG, Tc Electronics Hall of Fame, Love Pedal English Woman, EHX LPB1

Nothing crazy here: two amps, one Morley ABY, one EHX POG and two boosts. First one was an EHX LPB-1 (pretty clean) and the second one was a Love Pedal English Woman. Although it’s a drive pedal I was using it as a booster. Since I don’t understand shit about shit when it comes to gear I just figured that turning the knobs all the way to the right should give it more volume. 

#2 2nd & 3rd ever show – october 9th / November 8th 2014

Guitar // 93’ Fender Jazzmaster (MIJ)

1st Amp // 80’s Peavey Mark III + Emperor 2×12

2nd Amp // 78’ Fender Bassman 135

Pedals // Morley ABY, Crowther Audio Hot Cake, EHX PoG, Tc Electronics Hall of Fame, Love Pedal English Woman, EHX LPB1, Line6 M9, EHX Memory Boy, Roland Boss RC-3, Mesa Flux-Drive

For the next 3 shows we played in 2014 I played an early 90’s Japanese Fender Jazzmaster. I had never played one neither can I say I had been successful trying to do something out of a Fender Strat-plus I owned as a kid. What I knew about Jazzmasters was that indie-noise-nihilistic bands were using them a lot and although I knew we were heading towards a more classic rock type of sound, I wanted to try and get away from the “Les Paul in a Marshall” setup. My first idea was to play this Fender with the less gain possible and get the heaviness from the amp volume and hard playing.

At this point we only had one song which was more like a long jam. Back then the working title was “Camels aren’t funny” and became the first four songs of our debut album (Hey Sunshine!, What’s Your 20?, Caposhi, Catch You On The Flip side)

If you go to 3’48’’on the video above, all noises you can hear are coming from a Line6 M9. This is an important turning point in the band’s sound and songwriting. A friend of mine introduced me to that one reverb called “Particle Reverb”. This one effect is only available through the Line6 M5, M9 and M13. My first reaction was to ask him why the fuck he would go for some cheap processed multi-effects stomp box but immediately remembered that even with the cheapest shit, it’s all about what you do with it. I started using it a lot, added a looper to my setup and started experimenting. The fun thing with the M9 is that you can combine up to three effects simultaneously. I only focused on the modular and weird synth effects and a whole new world opened to me. Running my signal through an octaver, then through that reverb, sampling it, then going for some weird fuckin combination to play over, I was totally convinced and it quickly became one of the effect I could not gig without anymore.

#3 Hummus Sessions – first recording

Guitar // 93’ Fender Jazzmaster (MIJ)

1st Amp // Orange/Matamp OR100 + two 6×12 Emperor cabinets

2nd Amp // Ampeg SVT Classic + Ampeg 8×10

Pedals // Morley ABY, Crowther Audio Hot Cake, EHX PoG, Tc Electronics Hall of Fame, Love Pedal English Woman

Not much to say about the Ampeg SVT-Classic and its 8×10 cab. We all know it’s an awesome rig. The main amp I’m using here is an Orange/Matamp OR100. This is the first vintage amp I ever bought. These models were amongst the first Orange amps assembled before the company was officially funded (you can read about it here https://orangeamps.com/uncategorized/legendary-orange-the-story-behind-the-first-orange-matamp/). It’s number 83 and to this day it’s still one of my favorite and I’ve played it on many tours and recordings.

It’s going here through two Custom made 6×12 Emperor cabs both mounted with Weber speakers and both having the two top speakers open back. These cabs are amazing but way too aggressive for Closet Disco Queen. I initially bought them for Coilguns. Back then I wrote Kurt Ballou, I don’t know him at all but I knew he is always keen on chatting up about gear. He advised me to get 2×12’s as considering my setup 6×12’s would not be the greatest fit together with the bass rig. I still went for the 6×12’s and now I can tell you; he was –obviously– totally right. Although if you use them only for one guitar, they’re very “in your face”. Sharp, crispy and not as defined as you would expect them to be, which is great if you like it a bit dirty. Nevertheless, I really recommend those for very aggressive music. 

This session was our first time recording anything and when I first listened to it I found the guitar tone to be too thin and not doing justice to the riffs. At this point I was using the second amp only on few parts to make it louder and adding the octaver at the real end of the song only. “Alpha Cuillère” version of what became the single of our debut album; “The Shag Wag”.

#4 5th show – march 15th 2015

Guitar // Gibson Les Paul Custom Shop

1st Amp // 80’s Peavey Mark III + Emperor 2×12

2nd Amp // Musique Industrie MI915 + 4×12 oversized cab

Pedals // Morley ABY, OCD Full Tone, EHX PoG, Tc Electronics Hall of Fame, Love Pedal English Woman, , Line6 M9, EHX Memory Boy, Roland Boss RC-30, Mesa Flux-Drive, some random boost

Even though I really enjoyed playing that Fender guitar, I had to admit that the direction we were taking would not make it a good fit anymore. Going back to a Gibson Les Paul seemed to be the right thing to do. Since I was going a bit more “hard rock”, the mini humbuckers from the Les Paul Deluxe did not do it; too muddy, lack of definition… I wanted something sharper and fatter. I had this Gibson my dad won and gave me something like 16 years ago. It appeared to be one of the 59’ historic re-issue Les Paul Custom Shop. This was my 3rd guitar as a kid. I hadn’t played it since 2008 when I broke the headstock on tour with The Ocean. Shit man, this guitar is the best thing I’ve ever owned. We’re a perfect match and it just renders my playing exactly how I want.

Amps wise I was recently getting into late 70’s-80’s transistor amps. I collect gear and transistor amps are going for real cheap. They are loud, generally only have few knobs, easy to carry (size and weight) and indestructible. I’m sure everybody is familiar with the Peavey Mark series. You can really get them for cheap and they work fine for both bass and guitar.

The second amp here was a Musique Industrie. The guy who founded the company was the first Marshall distributor in France back in the 70’s. I was using the MI915, 2 inputs, one with a 5 bands EQ. I like its matching cab which is an oversized 4×12. I’m not sure what the speakers are but the bandwidth is huge so you can go extremely low. People were usually running Rhodes through it.

 

#5 first album – live recording

Guitar // Gibson Les Paul Custom Shop

1st Amp // Orange/Matamp OR100

2nd Amp // Musique Industrie MI915 + 4×12 oversized cab

Pedals // Morley ABY, Radial Tone Bone ABY, Crowther Audio Hot Cake, Tc Electronics Hall of Fame, Line6 M9, EHX Memory Boy, Mesa Flux-Drive, random boost

The recording of our debut album happened exactly 10 days after our 5th show… I still was not sure of what to use and how to sound. We still hadn’t enough songs to record and we only had two days to do everything. Composing on day one and recording everything live in one take on day two. Since I did not have a “bas” sound I was happy with, we went for a DI signal straight out of my effect chain and Raphael Bovey who mixed the album used weird and unorthodox pro-tools plug-ins to create the bass sound. After that we all agreed I needed to have a proper bass sound for live shows. I’m very proud of the work we’ve accomplished in such a short time though now I can say, this is not how we sound live at all. Even the songs themselves are different due to few parts being played on cue and some partially improvised.

 

#6 First pedalboard

Pedals // Morley ABY, Radial Tone Bone ABY, Crowther Audio Hot Cake, Tc Electronics Hall of Fame, Line6 M9, EHX LPB-1, EHX Memory Boy, Mesa Flux-Drive, Roland Boss RC-30, Boss RC-3 MXR Modified O.D., Suhr Riot

Now that the album was recorded it was time to build that pedalboard! The first one I did put together myself overnight on a shitty aluminum board from an IKEA wall board.

I finally decided to split the signal between bass and guitar, allowing me to add a second RC-3 that I placed on the guitar chain after effects. I added a Suhr Riot to the bass line as well as a POG2. Kept the reverb on both chains and shifted the memory boy and the EHX LPB-1 to the guitar one.

With this I was getting closer to a setup which sounded bigger and with more reliefs. I now had two distinct sounds coming from both amps with a new range of dynamics.

#7 first European tours

Guitar // Gibson Les Paul Custom Shop

1st Amp // 73’ Hiwatt Custom 100 + 73’ 4×12 Orange+ 70’s 4×12 Sound City

2nd Amp // Sunn Concert Bass + 2×15 Sunn 215B

Pedals // Rolf Pedalboards protype #1 // Bright onion ABY, Bright onion switcher, JHS boost (Model), Zvex Supper Dupper, 3 x Boss RC-3, 2 x Line6 M5, Crowther Audio Hot Cake, PoG2, Tc Electronics Hall of Fame, Love Pedal English woman, EHX Memory Boy, Mesa Flux drive, Boss HM-2, Suhr Riot, MXR 5eq, MXR modified O.D., EHX Freeze

The first Rolf Pedalboards’ prototype was based on a pedal train. I had twenty-one pedals on the wooden board, three power blocks underneath and a random steel frame to hold it together. One power input and 2 instruments outputs mounted on the side of the board.

I first went for two Full Tank T-Rex and one Voodoo Lab Power 2 power units. Christophe from Rolf advised me to get better ones but I could not afford it at the time. The Full Tanks quickly appeared to be a problem. With that many pedals, you want to make sure to plug them into single isolated outputs. Full Tanks outputs aren’t and on top of that, certain combination of pedals (despite power calculation and compatibility) won’t work together on the same power block. I only did one tour with these and then switched to Decibel Eleven Hot Stone Deluxe power blocks. They are twice as expensive, but every output is isolated as other cool features like certain outputs going from 5V, 9V, 12V, 100 to 400mA…

I went from one M9 to two M5’s to have one unit per effect chain. I also added a third RC-3, this time on both the guitar and bass chains (before effects), an EHX Freeze on the bass one and a ZVEX Super Dupper going to the guitar chain only. Two boosts in one. One of them has two knobs, I have no idea why and I don’t care. What I do care, is that when I hit switch one it’s louder, and when I hit the second one it’s louder-louder.

The Memory Boy I use as a boost as well (only on the guitar chain). I basically set all knobs to 11 o’clock and it gives it more volume, depth and only few modulation.

Then I have a JHS Mini Bomb boost on the bass chain so that once I reached the max level 4 of violence on the guitar chain, I still have that small guy to smash shit up.

If you want your loud sounds to be and feel very loud when they kick in, you should be able to go down as well. In that purpose, I’m using a Mesa Flux Drive. Right on top of the Bright Onion ABY there’s a switcher from the same brand. It’s placed right before the effects of the guitar chain and afterwards it’s bringing in either the Hot Cake or the Flux Drive. I use the later one as a light crunch sound. Both the ABY and the switcher are placed in a way that I can hit both at the same time. I can then go from the full wall of sound to one single crunch guitar, back and forth.

If you listen to the end of the song Black Saber on our debut album, you’ll realize that I overdubbed some guitar lines. I still wanted to play them live and after re-arranging a bit the different lines, I had to deal with different sound issues. Once I started recording the main riff through the RC-3 (going to all amps), playing over it would generate compression, resulting in Luc not hearing the riff, hence not playing tight on it (we don’t play to a click, NEVER) so I had to find a way to have one effect to make the whole sound thinner on both amp. Now, if I record a loop through the RC-3 located before both effects chains, it means every effect I add on my guitar or bass chain will affect the sound of the loop. Therefore, I place an Mxr OD AFTER that RC-3 so it would act on the sound of what I’m currently playing on BOTH chains without affecting the loop itself. What I do is that I use the tone and frequency knobs of the Mxr to get a lo-fi-screamy sound and then I control its clarity with the gain and its presence in the mix through the volume. This is a complete misuse of this overdrive pedal, and who cares. For that sound and song, if we can’t properly hear the loop at line check, we simply don’t play it.

 

Although I know my settings (roughly) I still double check all sounds at line check every day and tweak all effects and amps knobs a bit. Every room has a different sound and it does affect your setup.

I had recently traded an Orange OR80 I owned for a ’73 Hiwatt Custom 100 DR103 (the 4 inputs version). It instantly became one of my favorite. This thing can take effects better than any other amp, goes extremely loud and is real dark sounding. I used it on most of the tours we’ve done.

To run the bass sound, I had just acquired a Sunn rig (Sunn concert bass + its 2×15 matching cab.) Transistor = simplicity, (this one has 4 knobs) and the 2×15 cabs is extremely light to carry yet still heavy sounding. For the time I used it, I was going for a low-medium guitar sound rather than a proper bass sound. The reason was that on decent sized stages, the sound guy could handle the low ends through a DI when for me it was easier to hear the low-mids coming from the cab on stage.

#8 “Black Sorbet” – recording

Guitars // Gibson Les Paul Custom Shop + 2005 Gibson Firebird

Bass // ’72 Rickenbacker 4001

1st Amp (guitar) // ’78 Fender Bassman 135 + 2×12 Fender oversize

2nd Amp (guitar) // ’78 Marshall JMP + 4×12 Orange

3rd Amp (bass) // Orange/Matamp OR100 + 2×12 Emperor

Pedals // Guitars – Crowther Audio Hot Cake + Mesa Flux Drive // Bass – Boss SD-1

To record this song, we tracked the drums and one guitar (through one amp) live in the same room. Then I came up with very simple bass lines, recorded them and overdubbed a second guitar playing the exact same thing as the first one. Keeping the overdub simple means when we play the song on stage as a two piece, nothing feels like it’s missing.

Recording isn’t funny in the context of such a band, it’s boring. We usually won’t do more than four or five entire takes. Then we choose one of them and that’s it; it’s ready to mix. We always go for the one take that has the balls and attitude rather than the one with no mistakes. I reckon that it would be ideal to record once you come back from tour when everything is flawless. Sounds, intentions and attitude evolve and develop throughout your band’s carrier and after every show. I’m not saying recording is pointless, only that you have different approaches to record your songs and you should put some thinking in it before doing it and find what’s best for the project.

“Black Sorbet” was recorded in our rehearsal space and the one recording room we used is quite small and very dry sounding. There was no reason in trying to make it sound roomy. Instead, we sent Magnus Lindberg dry sounding audio sources he could work with rather than shitty “wannabe” roomy sounds. Playing in a small and dry room like this one makes most of everything sounds good (on recording) and easy to mix. But playing in such a room is a pain in the ass as it kills all dynamics and no matter what you do it all sounds the same to your ears. We know our room and we do not have fun playing in it. Then it’s up to us to put some balls and attitude in it as we know the result will be good. It’s all about knowing what you want and doing the best with what you have. I think this song’s mix is the closest we got to how we sound live.

#9 Residency

In December 2015, we had the chance to setup and work in a live venue for 10 days. The purpose was to write new songs, arrange a new set-list for all 2016 upcoming shows and fine tune the general setup.

Coilguns required the same kind of setup so I thought about using the same pedalboard for both. Since with Coilguns I was using three amps I added one Bright Onion ABY to split the guitar signal to two amps.

Using now two guitar amps, a good solution to create a bit of stereo is to put a Boss DDR-3 after the B output of the ABY splitting the guitar signal. Tweaking a bit around (as you like) and you’ll def. open and wider your sound. That was a total game changer for my live setup. I think now you can buy devices that are built to do the job, but since I’m a dinosaur, nah.

After this residency, I had come to the point where I knew exactly what I needed and what not. I was ready for the v2.0 of my pedalboard which would be a bit smaller with the addition of the DDR-3 and a couple less pedals.

#10 European tour supporting Baroness

Guitar // Gibson Les Paul Custom Shop

1st Amp (guitar) // ‘73 Hiwatt Custom 100 + two 70’s 4×12 Sound City

2nd Amp (guitar) // ’69 Orange/Matamp OR 100 + + ‘73 4×12 Orange + ’79 4×12 Marshall

3rd Amp (bass) // ’78 Fender Bassman 135 + 90’s US made Ampeg 8×10

Pedals // Rolf Pedalboards Dendragapus w/ aluminum frame // two Bright onion ABY, Bright onion switcher, JHS boost (Model), Zvex Supper Dupper, 3 x Boss RC-3, 2 x Line6 M5, Crowther Audio Hot Cake, PoG2, Tc Electronics Hall of Fame, EHX Memory Boy, Mesa Flux drive, Suhr Riot, MXR modified O.D, EHX Freeze.

We’re now at the beginning of 2016 and I’m finally ready to have my pedalboard properly built and wired. Christophe from Rolf Peadlboards had then officially started his company and it was time for me to get rid of the prototype and get an official Dendragapus.

First thing we did was to re-wire everything with Sommer Cable and Hi-Con connectors. The only mistake we did was to go for an aluminum frame. It’s a tad lighter, but after a hundred shows being thrown around in planes, trains and tour vans, the frame started looking like it was not having a good time. The aluminum was too flexible. If I was playing only a couple of shows a year, or If the baggage allowance on a plane was 35kg, then I could have carried it in a proper flight case and maybe keep it out of danger. Since my reality is being in a full time touring bum band, we had to change to a steel frame. Christophe switched to steel frames for all his boards since then.

Since I was now using three amps I had the pleasure to bring back the OR100 in the setup. I decided to go back to something with tubes rather than transistor for the bass sound. The real reason is that as we were going on this big tour with Baroness I wanted everything to be in flight cases and one of the few I owned back then could fit either a Marshall head or a Fender Bassman 135. I tried on the later one and that was it. What makes this amp outstanding are the crushing mids and totally non-aggressive trebles. Bridge both inputs, play with the volume and master and it’s a win. This was a very powerful setup with proper distinctive sounds coming from each amp which made it very comfortable on stage.

I knew that we were going to play only big rooms. I thought this was a great opportunity to bring along two guitar full stacks. The main reason is because I’m a 14 y.o. stuck in the body of a 30 y.o. and more amps and cabs make me happier. You don’t need this but shit, it sounds and looks awesome. I was running the Hiwatt head through two early 70’s Sound City cabs (one with original Fanes, the second with original eminence), the Orange OR100 through a ‘73 orange cab and one ‘79 Marshall cab mounted with black backs. With this guitar setup and an extra early 90’s US 8×10 Ampeg connected to a a late 70’s Bassman 135, let me tell you I was set and happy. I played a couple more shows with this setup when the stage size would allow it but I knew it wouldn’t work in most of the clubs we usually play in. But hey, fuck it, at least I did it for one tour.

 


#11 Russian tour – EQ modification

At this point I was set. My sound was very ample, the heavily processed bass sound had the right amount of latency and the second guitar as well (due to the DDR-3) creating a real three ways sounding rig. Playing music being an endless learning process, as we were playing the city of Krasnodar in Russia, this great sound guy – Evgeny Poluyantsev – told me that I should probably get rid of most of the basses on both the guitar amps. This was the last fine tuning I needed. I always had this tendency to make every single amp of my setup sound huge. But for the bass to truly kick in when I hit it on, the guitars needed to be a tad thinner, more “hard-rock” so to speak. That was a drastic change for me but it really improved the quality of my overall guitar sound. Now I have real guitar sounds perfectly matching the low-tuned bass tone and this intensifies the feeling of listening to several string players at the same time.

 

#12 Last couple of tours

Guitar // Gibson Les Paul Custom Shop

1st Amp // 73’ Orange OR80 (combo)

2nd Amp // 79’ Twin Reverb Silverface (JBL speakers)

3rd Amp (bass) // ’78 Fender Bassman 135 + 90’s US made Ampeg 8×10

Pedals // Rolf Pedalboards Dendragapus w/ steel frame // two Bright onion ABY, Bright onion switcher, JHS boost (Model), Zvex Supper Dupper, 3 x Boss RC-3, 2 x Line6 M5, Crowther Audio Hot Cake, PoG2, Tc Electronics Hall of Fame, EHX Memory Boy, Mesa Flux drive, Suhr Riot, MXR modified O.D, EHX Freeze.

Back in the fall of 2016, we toured Asia (China, Taiwan) and Russia. After these two months flying around and travelling by trains, we were going home for twelve hours only to sleep, wake up and jump in the van for fifteen more shows in Europe. I knew we were going to play small clubs (or basements or houses) and I made the decision to go back to a combo setup. The exact same guitar setup I had on the very first show we’ve ever played; the exact same amp that made me want to write music that way because it sounded like it does. All these changes and tryouts to end up with the same setup. Ha! Still, at this point I had learn so much about my own sound, that I can pretty much plug my pedalboard in anything and I’ll always be able to work it out.

The very last change I had to do was to switch the Voodoo Lab power block to a third Decibel Eleven Hot Stone Deluxe. Not only it looks cool from the back of the pedalboard, but the Decibel Eleven has a switch between 110V and 220V. When we played in Taiwan, I did not know their power was 110v ((like in the US). We got on stage straight from the airport and nothing was working. This is when I found out about the 110V/220V switch. The Voodoo Lab do not have it so I had to leave behind some pedals and reroute a couple things to make it through the show.

 

#13 “Sexy Audio Deviance For Punk Bums” – recording

Guitars // Gibson Les Paul Custom Shop

Bass // ’72 Rickenbacker 4001

1st Amp (guitar) // ’ 79’ Twin Reverb Silverface (JBL speakers)

2nd Amp (guitar) // 73’ Orange OR80 (combo)

3rd Amp (bass) // Traynor TBS-50 + 4×10 Sunn

Pedals // Guitars – Crowther Audio Hot Cake + Mesa Flux Drive

Not much to say here. These early 70’s RICKENBACKER 4001 are the best sounding basses for heavy-classic rock music no doubt. I wish the one we used for both Black Sorbet and Sexy Audio Deviance For Punk Bums was mine… This time I was running it through a 50 watts’ transistor amp. A 50 watts TRAYNOR TBS-50. This is the amp that made the bass sound of Shellac. It’s an amp to noise with. I did not use any pedal, straight from the bass to the amp. Amp settings? No kidding: All knobs turned all the way to the right EXCEPT the bass one which I had to keep to 2-3 o’clock. Epic.

MY OPINION ON GEAR

Ultimately, I don’t understand anything about gear. I can play, use my ears, tell whether I like something or not and if it fits the purpose of the song/band/project. That’s it. I collect gear because I like the way they look and sound. I can’t even do a setup on my own guitar after more than fifteen years of playing can you believe it? Don’t ask me to change my tubes or even to repair a jack cable. However, I’ve tried a billion things on stage, in the studio, at rehearsals and I hope this LONG ASS description on the process of finding the right sound for this band will help some of you (if you need it) to get there as well and feel like your balls are the biggest in the room when you play a note. AMEN

Written by

Max is a senior editor and producer of Gear Gods.