Twelve Foot Ninja Rig Interview: Riffing in an Ampless World

Periphery’s tour with Born Of Osiris, Twelve Foot Ninja, and Dead Letter Circus was been dubbed “This Tour It’s Personal” because Periphery are bad at naming things. Obviously they should have called it the “All Amps Are Bullshit” tour because across the mixing board there are almost no heads or speakers to be found. Three of the bands exclusively use the Axe-FX for all of their tones, but Australia’s Twelve Foot Ninja slightly buck that trend, at least for now. I had a chance to check in with the band’s guitarist Stevic about playing guitar in these futuristic times.

 JTV-1

First of all, could you guys give a quick breakdown of your live gear?

Russ (Drums): 6 Piece Pearl Reference Pure, JH Audio JH16 8 Driver Custom IEM
Damon (Bass): Ampeg SVT-4 & Sansamp VT BASS with Warwick 5 & 6 String Corvette Basses, Line 6 Relay G90 Wireless, Sennheiser G3 System
Ro (Guitar): Line 6 JTV89, Line 6 Pod HD500, Sennheiser G3 System
Kin (Vocals): Heil PR35, Sennheiser G3 System
Stevic (Guitar): Line 6 JTV89US, Line 6 Pod HD500X (currently), JH Audio JH16 8 Driver Custom IEM, Sennheiser G3 System.
Misc: Planet Waves Cables, D’Addario Strings, SKB cases, Line 6 M20d Mixer for IEM mix, PSP for live production playback (keys, percussion, sound design)

Sennheiser Transmitters & Combiner

 

I noticed that Twelve Foot Ninja is entirely ampless, lined straight into the mixing board at shows. Do you choose to go this route purely for practical reasons or do you also prefer the sound?

A combination. The versatility of modelling technology is unparalleled in my opinion. Practically speaking, the reduction in gear lugging is considerable, also having no on stage sound can be an advantage for your FOH mix.

Although a few bands like Periphery and The Faceless have similar setups, there’s still not many that go this route. Did you have to go through a lot of trial and error to get the bugs out of the system?

I guess any trial and error is proportionate to your understanding of what your using. I’ve always adopted a constant pursuit for improvement, along with this pursuit comes trial and error, I think the goal is minimising the error!

Were international tours a concern with the live setup? It’s not like it’s practical for you to ship your amps overseas.

It is probably more a beneficial byproduct of using modelling technology. With what Twelve Foot Ninja does, amps are not practical.

JH16 custom IEM

I’ve always been curious if an in-ear-only setup would feel too clinical. Do you sometimes wish you had more soundwaves blasting at your back so you can feel the rock?

Some times being on ears only can feel as though you are playing inside your own head a bit, but we’ve taken steps to negate this by adding an ambient mic into our ears mix so we can hear more ‘atmosphere’. I also get guitars in my fold back so I can always pull an ear out a little to tread the line between in ears and on stage.

iPad Control of m20

One of our writers just caught you guys live on your tour with Periphery, Born Of Osiris, and Dead Letter Circus, and noticed you dudes and DLC both make use of iPads in your live setup. How are you using it? I know some bands that use iPads or PCs for amp sims instead of dedicated Fractal/Line6/etc units, and other bands that just use them to mix in-ear monitors or trigger samples.

Yeah we use the iPads to manage our own in ear monitor mixes via the Line 6 M20d.

Is every band on your tour ampless? I know you guys and Periphery are. This is still a fairly new development in the live music world, and a lot of bands handle it in different ways. Did you notice something one of the other bands was doing and make a note of it, saying “hey, that’s a better way to do it than how we’re running our mix” or vice versa?

Our bassist Damon uses an amp live. He’s considering going direct for practical reasons and also to enable a more consistent in ear mix. To expand on that: when you have physical sound getting pushed on stage it influences the perception of your in ear mix even if you use noise cancelling moulds. Hence the iPad’s to fine tune the drums because they will sound different depending on your proximity to the physical kit, dynamics of the room etc.

Line 6 M20d Mixer2

Have you considered switching to a Kemper or a Fractal or are you sticking with Line6?

I have just signed an endorsement with Fractal Audio and will soon use the Axe FX II live with quite a unique custom CXGA7 Cilia 7 String. I’ve been recording demos for the next album with this gear on the tour bus and I can tell you with confidence it sounds massive.

What’s next for the band?

Finish this U.S tour, staying in New York with Jose Mangin for a bit, writing, recording, gigging, finishing our crowd funded clip and whatever else comes our way!

Thanks for your time guys. Anything else you want to say in closing?

No worries mate. Not really! ha ha ha cheers!

Twelve Foot Ninja’s record Silent Machine is out now.

Written by

Chris Alfano has written about music and toured in bands since print magazines and mp3.com were popular. Once in high-school he hacked a friend's QBasic stick figure fighting game to add a chiptune metal soundtrack. Random attractive people still give him high-fives about that.