Failure’s Unconventional Speaker Choices Belie a Rig that’s Hella Well Planned

I caught Failure’s reunion tour when it rolled through god-forsaken Asbury Park, New Jersey a month or so back. There was no opening band so Failure’s setup was immediately visible on stage when I walked into the Stone Pony. A couple oddities caught my eye at once. The first was the enormous and awesome-looking Sunn Model 15 speakers on both sides of the stage.

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You see, like an increasing number of modern bands, Failure go direct to the mixing board with Fractal Audio’s Axe-FX. But unlike a slew of those bands integrating modeling rigs, Failure understand the importance of stage volume. Hence, the Sunn Model 15 PA speakers. Vocalist/guitarist/bassist Ken Andrews (who alternates between four and six strings with bandmate Greg Edwards, depending on the song) fully admits that those Sunn speakers don’t sound great, or are even particularly reliable. Hell, they’re from the ’80s. But the sight of them, wrapped in lights? It’s a fantastic looking set dressing on a minimal budget, and chock full of practical benefits to boot. They even double as guitar stands (and pull triple-duty as drink holders).

The rest of Premier Guitar’s Rig Rundown is similarly enlightening. Ken Andrews, an audio engineer by trade, has thoroughly planned out the functionality of Failure’s live sound rig. Can’t hear the crowd because your isolating in-ear monitors just isolate too damn well? Mic the crowd up. Don’t want to look at your pedalboard while you’re playing guitar and singing? Use a preset step button to scroll through patches sequentially. Even his reasons for choosing to use the Axe-FX were manifold. Besides the usual cost and weight advantage, and the ability to cover a wide breadth of tones (and yet he smartly avoided falling down the rabbit hole of chasing every sonic nuance between albums, at the expense of live tonal cohesion), having identical PA speakers and amp modelers, with matching presets, on each side of the stage means Ken and Greg can swap bass and guitar roles while remaining stationary on the stage. I’m pretty sure they used to have to exchange sides back on the Fantastic Planet tour, but my memory is a big foggy on that point. It was… god, was that really 17 or 18 years ago?

There’s plenty more I could rant about, like the sweet aluminum guitar from Electrical Guitar Co, but why not just get your info straight from Ken Andrews’ low-key mouth. The entire Rig Rundown is below.

 

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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.