I’ve always had a philosophy that there should be as little distractions as possible when playing guitar. Huge pedal boards looks impressive but in most cases half the pedals are redundant. I’ve tried to keep my boards and setups to a minimum covering just the tones I need.
I started out with a Korg A4, which had some pretty nice tones but the internal memory kept erasing my presets so I eventually replaced it with a Boss GT3. I used the Boss for many years when we did the Floyd tribute thing. It was set up for mostly delays and I had a second board with stompboxes, which I routed through the GT3. When we started to record with Airbag around 2004, I ditched the Boss and settled with stompboxes.
The stage board
Updated May 24th 2015
My current stage board has been somewhat consistent for the past couple of years. It’s very basic, with just the pedals lined up. No multi switchers or elaborate midi systems. For some reason I feel more at ease with this kind of setup. I also do a lot of tweaking during a show so I don’t want things hidden away. The board is custom designed by custompedalboards.co.uk, with a flat mounting surface and a tier for the back row pedals.
One of my biggest influences tone-wise, is Zakk Wylde. I’ve always loved his use of effects going all the way back to those early days with Ozzy. The RotoVibe has always been an important part of his tone and personally I prefer this one over a UniVibe. My signal travel straight from the guitar to the Dunlop RotoVibe and then into a Wylde Wah, which is basically a Cry Baby with a slightly deeper sweep. This makes the filter effect more noticeable when using overdrive or distortion. From here, the signal goes into the pedalboard and a CostaLab Buffer (hidden underneath the tier).
The next pedal, the Composus by Gollmer, is a compressor that has the warmth and smoothness of the Boss CS2 and the twang of the Dynacomp. I love this one and it’s been on my board for over ten years. Sadly the Swedish company no longer exist.
The next one is a Pig Hoof from Electronic Orange. Like the violet Ram’s Head this one’s got a lot of gain, low-end and a crispy top. I don’t know how many Big Muffs I’ve owned over the years but none of them beats this one. I also got a Pig Hoof MkII that I was lucky enough to help design. It’s tailored for recording sessions, where you don’t want all that gain and low-end.
Next is a Shine Boost from TopTone. This is a clean volume booster, with up to 30dB boost. It also got a switch for engaging a hint of upper mids boost, much like the preamp of the old Echo Plex. I usually keep boosters after all the gain effects, but placing the Shine Boost, with the mids boost engaged, in front of the Tube Driver, adds a bit of gain boost for solos, rather than a volume boost. It’s placed after the Pig Hoof though, which seems to be the magic combo for Big Muffs.
The Tree of Life from Vick Audio is a newcomer on the board. I use this spot to try different overdrive pedals, like the OCD, OD808, BD2 etc. They’re basically a back up for the Tube Driver, for whenever I use an amp that has a bright tone or lack the mids but I also use the Tree of Life (or whatever is placed there) for the occasional heavy riffs.
The Tube Driver is my main overdrive for both rhythms and the bluesy stuff. This one is a 2006 model with a JJ 12AX7 tube in it. My main distortion lead tone is perhaps surprisingly not a Big Muff but a combo of the Tube Driver and the Shine Boost. The idea is to get that JCM800 tone only a little less aggressive and Marshally.
The Electric Mistress is perhaps my all time favourite pedal. It’s been on my board since I bought it new in 1999 and I use it as much as I can both live and on recordings. It adds an incredibly sweet watery feel tone the tones without sounding too much like a flanger.
The board also feature a Strymon Lex Leslie simulator. I rarely use it but it sounds really authentic and sometimes during a jam I will kick it it for some vintage tones.
The signal then travels to an Ernie Ball Jr volume pedal, which has a line out to a TC Electronics PolyTune Mini. From the volume pedal, the signal then travels to the delays.
I have two delays. The Boss DD2 and a Catalinbread Echorec. The DD2 is my main unit while the Echorec is usually used for creating soundscapes and effects although I sometimes blend the two using different time settings. The reason I prefer the DD2 is that it provide those pristine repeats without sounding too bright. I don’t really like having Boss buffers in the chain but this one seems to work well. From the DD2, the signal goes through a second buffer, this one’s from Pure Tone, and out to the amp.
The board is hooked up with Evidence Audio custom length Melody and Monorail patch cables and powered by two TRex Fuel Tanks.
The studio board
Updated May 24th 2015
This isn’t really a studio board for album recording but I keep it in my home studio for practice, demo recording and for trying out new pedals. It’s an ongoing project and I change things around all the time. I’ve tried to cover as much ground as possible but kept the board it self small, which forces me to keep the setup simple.
The board is custom designed by custompedalboards.co.uk, with a flat mounting surface and a fixed tier for the back row pedals. The signal is fed into a CostaLab Buffer for driving the signal through the board. Second is a TC Electronics PolyTune Mini.
The next pedal is a PC-2A from Effectrode. This tube compressor is based on the classic Teletronix LA-2A studio unit and it’s one of those pedals that you want to leave on all the time regardless of what guitar you’re using. The compression is very smooth so it’s more a tone enhancer than anything else.
I’ve placed the phasers before the dirt pedals. It just sounds more natural to me. The first one is a DryBell Machine Vibe UniVibe clone, which sounds amazingly authentic. The phaser is the MXR ’74 reissue Phase 90. I’ve always loved the way Eddie Van Halen uses his phasers, with that slow rate sweep and I’ve recorded a few solos inspired by his tone, including the title track on Lullabies in a Car Crash.
Next is a Vick Audio ’73 Ram’s Head with Bjorn’s Mods. I really liked the stock version but asked if they could tame the gain a tad and make is slightly brighter.
For those high gain distortion tones I’m using a Evolution from Buffalo FX. It works incredibly well on typical bedroom or practice setups, with the featured mids booster.
The PlexiDrive is a particular favourite and I use it both for clean boost and Tube Driver-ish overdrive.
Next is a Mooer ElecLady flanger. This was a really nice surprise and I honestly think it’s the best sounding Mistress clone out there.
Last one the board are the Flashback delay and Hall of Fame reverb from TC Electronic. The Flashback is either set for the 2290 digital delay or a Tone Print with a slightly modulated tape delay. I’m not a big fan of using reverb on guitars. Delay seems to blend better with the tones. Still, there’s something magical about a classic spring reverb and the Hall of Fame is mainly set for a Tone Print of a classic Fender spring.
The board is hooked up with George L’s patch cables and powered by a TRex Fuel Tank.
I don’t really care how I get a tone as long as it sounds good for the specific part I’m recording. In many cases I rely on digital processing mainly from using a Line 6 POD X3 that’s fed through an Universal Audio Solo/610 tube pre-amp. Most of the rhythm stuff and the heavier parts on our two last albums and my solo album was recorded with it. Part of the reason I’m recording with the POD is that I always do demos with it and in many cases I end up using the demo recordings on the finished songs. It’s also a much easier way to record heavier overdrives and distortions without having to play too loud and get too much noise.
Most of the lead guitars and some of the rhythms on All Rights Removed was recorded with a Gilmour inspired setup consisting of a split between my Reeves Custom 50 and a Leslie 760 solid state rotary cab. We had it set up in a very small studio and it sounded incredibly big and lush. For both Greatest Show on Earth and Lullabies in a Car Crash, I’ve mostly used a Laney Lionheart L20 and occasionally the Reeves Custom 50.
Although I do record leads using Big Muffs my main setup is usually an AnalogMan modified Boss DS1 (with a mids control) with a Boss RT20 mixed very low. I love that combo. It’s inspired by Steven Rothery’s setup and that slight 80s feel although I prefer a bit more top end and a generally more aggressive tone that him.
I rarely use the boards when I record. The setup usually just consists of two or three pedals and I swap things around for the different parts. One of my favourite combos that I’ve used both on The Greatest Show on Earth and Lullabies in a Car Crash is the RotoVibe into the Mistress and an overdrive set for a very mild crunch. It sounds super sweet! I do record with Strats but I prefer either P90s or Les Pauls. It’s just easier to get the tones I want and they sound better too when recording digitally.
Most of the time I mic the cabinet with a Shure SM57. You can always depend on it delivering the tones you need. For the high gain stuff I place it about 10” away from the cab and about the same length to either side of the centre. For overdrives and cleans I place it about 3” from the grille slightly angled pointing towards the centre. It rounds off the highs and adds a nice warmth to the tones. On Greatest Show on Earth I also used a Sennheiser e906 a lot. For cleans I often just use the POD or mic the cabinet with a condenser.