Live and Studio Setups - FURR Part 2: Jack (Guitar/Vocals)
First up is my own setup. It's varied a little over the years, but it started with the purchase of one of my first valve amplifiers.
Amp: 1969 Selmer Treble n Bass (Mark 3)
Not long after the first jams that led to creation of FURR I started to look online for a cheap amplifier so that I didn't have to keep borrowing awful Crate amps. Some years before I had attended a masterclass with Dave Eringa (Manic Street Preachers, Engerica, Idlewild) where I'd heard his Selmer Treble n Bass (a Mark 2 if memory serves) and I thought they sounded amazing.
By luck I managed to find one listed as 'customised' along with a 4x10 cabinet. In retrospect I probably should have been a little more wary that it was as cheap as it was. The original owner had bought the amp as a combo chassis, flipped it upside down, then built his own enclosure around it, sprayed a frankly awful brown colour. He'd also built the cab, which contains unmarked speakers and was ported (the physics of which I'm fairly certain doesn't stack up). He had asked his tech to remove the Treble channel, which he did.
It also had iffy grounding that shocked me a couple of times before I figured out the issue. Luckily my amp tech was able to repair that issue and clean up the majority of the problems with the remaining channel, though he admits that it's the best of a poor job. However the Bass channel I'm left with does everything that I need from an amp. It's plenty loud, with more than enough headroom to deal with the amount of fuzz that I like to use without getting mushy, and it has low-end for days. When I first turned the amp on and cranked it up, I was absolutely hooked. Modern amps just don't squish up in quite the same way as older non-Master Volume amps. Looks awful, should be awful, but I make it work. Sort of.
Guitar: 1997 Squier Stratocaster
I've had this guitar for years. It had been stored in a large metal barn for a while so the neck is a bit warped, but I've come to learn how to force what I want out of it. I replaced the stock pickups with Bare Knuckle Irish Tours (Bridge and Neck) and a Slow Hand (Neck). The Neck and Middle are wired in RWRP series when you roll off the second tone knob so that I have access to a very wide humbucker tone if needed. I use this on a few tracks to try to recreate the fat punch of the SG that we sometimes use when we need a chunky rhythm tone on songs such as 'Think Sharp Kid', and for the odd moment that I need a little extra sustain in my 'clean' tone. I try to avoid using this with too much fuzz though, as I find things get a little too mushy for my taste when not using single coils.
Pedals: Guitar > TC Electronic Polytune > Klon Buffer Stage > Nerd Knuckle Effects Ill Omen > DIY Acapulco Gold > Boss FZ-2 Hyper Fuzz > Euthymia ICBM Fuzz > Dr Tone DLY101 Analog Delay > Electro Harmonix Neo Clone > Amp
I'm not sure where I first got the idea to use pedals to drive a clean amp, but I've come to prefer it over 'pure' amp gain. I find that it allows me far more tone shaping options than if I was running into a driven amp. I was introduced to Brad Macomber of Nerd Knuckle Effects through a collection of techs and builders on Facebook and bought his 18v Ill Omen Overdrive Pedal as a replacement for the Crowther Audio Hotcake/Durham Electronics Sex Drive combination I had been using as my 'drive' channel.
The Omen's EQ is a tilted Baxandall curve which allows me to massively sculpt my tone. The Bass and Treble controls are totally independent, which allows me to tweak the mids up or down by adjusting both at the same time. This is amazingly useful if I'm ever borrowing an unknown cab and need to make a quick change. The controls are very interactive, so adjustments to EQ (as I've done here to boost my mids slightly) often require and adjustment to gain or volume. I typically set the Omen to around unity, to give the rest of my pedals some headroom to work with.
Originally I used the Omen in the same way as the Hotcake, acting as the last gain stage before my amp. After a while I found that I still had the same bottleneck issue, even with the increased headroom from the 18v tap. I decided to try putting the Omen up front, a la J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr. Instead of all my pedals becoming a part of the overall tone set by the Omen, each now had it's own distinct tone, The downside to this is that the prominent mid scoop of the Big Muff tone stack became even more noticeable.
While I can boost the mids on my ICMB, this detracts slightly from the reason to own a Big Muff. They're scooped. It's what they do. Op Amp Muffs are scooped even more (at stock this one has a 20dB cut at 1Khz, basically all the guitar). I compensated by maxing the ICBM volume, dropping the sustain and boosting it with the Omen. Boosted Muffs tend to be slightly flatter and smoother, and while I drop out of the mix slightly, I also get a MASSIVE increase in lows and highs when I kick it in. I love this circuit!
Next up is the first guitar pedal that I ever built, a clone of the Earthquaker Devices Acapulco Gold. Don't do what I did. Buy theirs, they're a spectacular company. I just wanted an easy circuit to try for myself. I asked Tommings (Frontman/Bassist of Humble Scoundrel) to paint the enclosure, and I reckon he did an amazing job.
I built a modded version, adding a second control for input volume (it acts like the volume knob on your guitar). I keep this at minimum, and balance the output with the rest of the band. I want things to get louder, but not obnoxiously so. This thing has a silly amount of volume on tap. Despite being a high gain pedal, it has incredible clarity while also being thick and chewy. I tend to use this for the majority of my 'big' tones, saving the ICMB for the more stupid, painful stuff.
My final distortion is a Boss Hyper Fuzz. This is another pedal that I heard while on session with Dave Eringa. Discontinued in the late 90s, this is a copy of the the Univox Super Fuzz, with additional EQ and multiple modes. Mode 1 is a mid forward, biting, octave-ing fuzz tone that pretty much can't handle chords. Mode 2 is a completely unusable mid-scooped juggernaut that's more or less useless, unless you're in Electric Wizard. There's also a spectacular clean boost that gets a bit of studio use on Mode 3.
The pedal is a bit of a three trick pony, but I quite like the tricks. I use this pedal in a few places to recreate the tone we use on record, such as the super compressed octave riff during the pre-chorus on Padlocks. I also use a cheap analog delay (which is actually pretty good for £25) that I use in a few spots for a little extra slapback depth, and an Electro Harmonix Neo Clone that is currently only used if we decide to make everything far too loud onstage at the end of a tiny show. The majority of modulation/time effects are use by Sam for FURR's material so as to avoid washing out the soundstage too much.
That's more or less my rig, as it currently stands. I make adjustments here and there as I try out new toys, and sometimes use different amps in the studio, but it's basically the same principle: single coil pickups, pedal drive, clean amp with enough headroom for a Big Muff.
Stay tuned for updates from Sam, Guy and John.