Looking more into the “old school” side of guitar-based music, we also have Mr. John Scoffield on this list. And this is yet another of these “unexpected” mentions.
Nonetheless, this, once again, proves how Pro Co Rat can be versatile. In many cases, this depends on the other pieces of gear, but Rat is capable of creating very unique tones in almost any setting. And having such flexibility is what makes one pedal so great.
So whenever you hear John Scoffield play with distortion on, there’s a high chance he’s using the almighty Rat.
And if you still haven’t gotten the chance to listen to Scoffield’s music, then you’re missing out a lot.
The 1990’s were the time of significant changes in rock and metal music. The rise of grunge and alternative rock movement opened up new horizons and completely changed the game for the coming generation of musicians.
One of the bands that made a huge breakthrough later during the decade was Blur.
Fitting into the alternative rock category, while also keeping some of those Britpop and indie rock traits, they paved their own way to success.
The biggest breakthrough came with their somewhat unusual but really catchy “Song 2” that, by now, everyone knows as one of the most influential rock anthems.
But the band wouldn’t have the reputation that it has today if it wasn’t for guitarist Graham Coxon.
Now, he is not your typical guitar hero rock star, the kind that spawned from the 1980s after Van Halen blew everyone’s heads off. Pretty much a reaction to it.
Since he began his music career in the late 1980s and the early 1990’s, Coxon is more in the vein of grunge guitar players, with just a hint of other elements in there.
But above all, he’s a very versatile musician, multi-instrumentalist, and – above all – a great songwriter, having written a ton of songs with Blur and also a lot of cool solo stuff.
In his teens, Graham was already well acquainted with a few different instruments. Aside from the guitar, he also played the flute, drums, and saxophone. There were a few bands he was a member of, but it was only in Blur (originally called Seymour) that he found success and fame.
However, as you may know, we’re all huge guitar gear nuts over here. So what we’re really interested in is tone and how he got it.
Coxon has a pretty exciting and – dare we say it – somewhat unconventional collection of guitars, pedals, and amplifiers.
There’s some stuff in his arsenal that’s pretty unique. But it’s not like you’d expect anything less from a musician like Coxon. So get ready and let’s dig into it.
Like we said, his guitar collection over the years has been pretty interesting, and we can even find some unusual stuff in here.
So let’s start with his Fender Telecasters that he’s so well-known for. The one that’s been with him for so many years is his 1952 Tele.
Even if we ignore Blur’s greatness, this is a very valuable instrument with all the original parts and original cream finish from its production back in 1952. Graham used this one all throughout his career.
Here’s Graham talking about his experiences with Tele’s.
There are a few other very valuable Fender Teles worth mentioning here. For instance, there’s this one that Graham is referring to as being made back in 1969, although some sources claim that it’s 1968.
This is not unusual for guitars from the ’50s and the ’60s. Either way, this is yet another wonderful cream-colored instrument.
But what makes it interesting is the ash body, rosewood fingerboard on maple neck, and Gibson’s vintage PAF humbucker on the neck position. The bridge features a regular Fender single-coil.
Among other Teles, we can also find his 1972 Deluxe, which is the guitar he used extensively during the band’s 2009 reunion.
Also worth mentioning is midnight blue Tele, but not much is known about this instrument.
Now, since he’s become known for these guitars, it was only a matter of time he’d make his signature Tele with Fender. This instrument is based on a classic ’69 Telecaster.
Visually-wise, the only significant difference is in the pickguard. What’s a little unusual is the fact that it has a humbucker pickup in the neck position, Seymore Duncan’s SH-1.
Meanwhile, the bridge position is the classic vintage-styled single-coil by Fender.
As for Fenders in general, Graham is also a huge fan of Jaguars and Jazzmasters. He also owns a few of these instruments.
There are also plenty of other interesting electric guitars we should mention here. There’s a small collection of Gibson Les Pauls that Coxon has been using over the years.
One of his earliest LPs is the black Custom one. This guitar has been used both live and in the studio, most notably on Blur’s 1997 self-titled album.
Graham also owns a ’56 Goldtop ’56 reissue with two P-90 pickups.
We can also find a tobacco sunburst one, but not much is known about this instrument, except that it had a black pickguard that has since been removed.
While we’re at Gibson guitars, there’s also an SG that dates back to 1962, back when these were called Les Pauls.
To make things more interesting, we decided to cover some of his unusual guitars here. One of the examples comes with his Fender Coronado 12-string.
It’s not a type of instrument you’d see that often, and it looks like a mutated Gibson 335 with a twisted Fender headstock.
There’s also stuff like Rickenbacker 330, Burns London Sonic, and a few others, although he rarely uses these instruments.
As for acoustic guitars, he has one great custom piece built by Ralph Bown, his OM model.
Graham used this guitar both live and in the studio for quite a while now. It’s a very unique instrument and includes an L.R. Baggs M1 pickup.
There’s also an inevitable Gibson acoustic guitar in there, a piece like J-160E. He also owns a Martin OM-28V.
When it comes to guitar amps, Graham Coxon’s setup has never been really that exciting.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s only a handful of amps that are worth mentioning here.
For instance, his main amplifier is his Marshall 1959 SLP.
You can usually see him using two of these on the stage, paired up with the ’69 Marshall cabinets, each bearing four 12-inch speakers.
In this setup, however, Graham quite often used an attenuator for each of the amps.
The one he’s fond of is Marshall PB100 Power Brake, and it goes between the amp head and the cabinet. This way, he reduces (or “soaks”) the power from the amp before it goes into a cabinet.
As we said, nothing else is really that exciting, or at least we don’t know enough to share all the details.
It is known, however, that he has used plenty of combo amps. Some claim that he has used Orange rocker 30 and a classic Marshall 1962 Bluesbreaker.
As you can see, he’s pretty much a classic straightforward Marshall guy. Nothing really exciting, but it gets the job done.
Pedals and effects
But contrary to his amp setup, Graham’s pedalboard has always been really exciting.
He is, after all, a bit of a pedal junkie, and has relied more on effects rather than amps in shaping his tone. There’s a lot, so we don’t know where to begin.
Let’s go with distortion pedals first. And what a better way to start than with the legendary ProCo Rat 2.
He’s been using this one quite a lot, and you can sometimes even find more than just one of these in his live setup. It’s a simple yet really effective distortion.
In addition, he’s also used another version of the ProCo Rat pedal, the company’s well-known Turbo Rat.
This one is a little harsher-sounding compared to the standard ProCo Rat, although it features pretty much the same control configuration.
Since Blur is so-well known for their “Song 2,” we can’t help but mention the DOD FX76 Punkifier pedal. And this is a rather unusual one.
The Punkifier is both an overdrive and a fuzz, which is really weird as overdrive features soft clipping and fuzz has an extremely harsh clipping process. All in all, you’ll never be able to find a pedal like this one.
Another unusual one is the old Shin-Ei FY-2 Companion Fuzz. Produced back in the 1970s in Japan, these are pretty rare to find these days.
Back then, they were pretty innovative. However, these are pretty straightforward and feature only two simple controls for volume and gain.
It’s not completely certain what he used FY-2 for, but it clearly shows his great interest in vintage-oriented stuff.
Of course, it’s literally impossible for a guy like Graham to go without the classic Boss DS-1.
This simple piece can be found on many pedalboards even to this day, both with amateurs and professionals. Just a classic piece.
T-Rex Mudhoney Distortion is another one we could see and hear Graham use over the years.
While not exactly the “mainstream” choice here, the pedal is as creamy-sounding as its name would suggest.
There’s also the Mudhoney II version, although Graham has been using the original model for quite some time now.
With so many different distortion pedals in there, it’s only obvious that there’s supposed to be a noise gate somewhere.
Of course, it’s not like Coxon is a hard-hitting heavy metal player, but fuzz and classic distortion pedals can get a little “messy” here and there.
For this purpose, Coxon’s choice is Boss NS-2. It’s a fairly versatile and useful example of a noise suppressor.
While we’re at it, Graham is a huge Boss pedal fan. Aside from the aforementioned pedals by the legendary company, there are a few worth mentioning as well.
For instance, he uses the classic DD-3 Digital Delay. It’s the classic choice among Boss lovers, even though it has a shorter maximum delay time.
Speaking of Boss delay pedals, there’s a rather interesting old unit somewhere to be found in his pedalboard.
The one we’re talking about is the DM-2, which is the company’s famous analog delay from the 1980s.
These kinds of delay pedals relied on the so-called “bucket brigade devices” to store the signal and repeat it. This results in somewhat of a saturated and even slightly muffled repeated tones.
Again, another example showing how Coxon is into older stuff.
Going over to other Boss pedals in his inventory, we can also find the VB-2 Vibrato, PN-2 Tremolo and Pan, BF-2 Flanger, TR-2 Tremolo, and even the RV-5 Digital Reverb.
The PN-2 is a rather interesting one.
Despite having only a handful of controls, there’s so much stuff that you can do with it.
As you might have suggested, it’s capable of delivering stereo output that shifts the signal from one channel to another according to set speed and depth. Otherwise, you can use it as a regular tremolo.
Then we have some pretty exciting stuff by Line 6. Most notably the FM4 Filter Modeller.
There’s actually a lot of stuff that you can do with a filter pedal, but this thing brings it to a whole new level.
The FM4 is practically closer to a synth pedal as it replicates some classic old synths. It comes with mindblowing 20 factory presets, as well as 4 user presets.
All in all, it’s really fun to use. Not really surprised to see this one in Graham’s collection.
Another one of those complex series of Line 6 pedals is DL4 Delay Modeller.
There’s just so much stuff that you can do with it, anything from standard delays and echoes, up to wacky bouncy stuff.
What’s more, it can also replicate some analog and lo-fi stuff. Who could have thought that a delay pedal would offer you so much creative freedom?
But from all the delays in his collection over the years, nothing can really beat his Akai E2 Headrush. It’s not an easy one to find, which is really a shame.
This pedal does so much stuff, anything from simple delay up to very complex looping. With it, you can also replicate some of those vintage tape-based echoes.
However, its biggest strength lies in all the looping features and overdubbing.
Talking of weird delay pedals, he also used Carl Martin’s EchoTone pedal.
Released in the late 2000s, it’s kind of similar to DeLayla XL, although EchoTone is a little bit more versatile.
It operates with an additional switch for two different delay times and another one for tempo of repeats.
We may as well stop there, since Graham’s bag of guitar pedal tricks does run very deep. From album to album, he’s a bit of a kid in a candy store, trying out various things on various tracks.
This is made all the more exciting by the fact that he’s not afraid of layering guitars on top of one another, to get exactly the effect he wants for any given song.
This is why we love Graham, as he was and is, to a large extent, the sonic architect of Blur, although everyone involved in that band brings their own brand of genius to the mix.
If you aren’t your typical shredding rock guitar hero type of guitar player, but love sheer inventiveness when it comes to guitar playing and especially songwriting, Graham Coxon is definitely someone to check out.
He’s played on some of the world’s biggest stages, delivering quirky riffs that are both melodic and mosh-able to tons of fans around the world, which is a big reason Blur is so beloved.
In other words, he’s just your regular affable brit, but with a huge knowledge of guitars, guitar history, pedals, and so on. So definitely worth diving into to see what he’s up to at any given time.
Have you given him a listen, or used any of the gear he uses? Drop us a line below.
BONUS: Some great video interviews with Graham Coxon
The world of electric guitars opens up new horizons of expression in music. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that it’s one of the most popular instruments out there. After all, there are so many different things that you can do with an electric guitar, making it a very potent musical tool for almost all of the genres that we can think of today.
The fact that it’s an electric instrument that sends a signal to an amplifier opens up new ways for further altering and improving its tone. With the development of guitar effects, guitarists worldwide were given a new tool that would help them to more easily convey their artistic message.
So it’s not unusual to know that many guitar players have dedicated their time and effort in building elaborate pedalboards. Some of them even feature very complex loops and even external controllers to create different combinations of sounds.
If you’re new to guitar pedals, some things might get a bit confusing. Well, you’re definitely not alone in this, and even the most experienced guitar players have been there. After all, with so many different pedals and effects, it does get difficult to keep up with how things work.
With all this said, we figured we could help clear things up for beginners and do a detailed guide on guitar pedals. We sorted them out by categories, explaining what these effects do, and how adjusting their parameters affects your tone. At the end of this guide, you’ll have a better understanding of guitar pedals and enough knowledge to start building your pedalboard.
Tuner pedals are not effects, but we still need to include them in this guide. Essentially, they are like regular guitar tuners, only in the form of guitar pedals that you can put in your signal chain.
What’s important to note here is that they have a display or an array of LED lights along with a display so that you can easily see when the open string hits the desired note.
They’re nothing fancy, but they serve their purpose for live settings. You just hit the footswitch, mute the tone, and tune your guitar. That’s it!
However, tuner pedals usually have buffered bypass, which can serve its purpose in the signal chain. Essentially, they can balance the signal and sort things out, but that’s a whole other discussion that we’ll touch upon some other time.
Up next, we have filter pedals that serve the purpose of filtering out certain frequencies in your tone. This means they can also pronounce certain frequency ranges of the audible spectrum by filtering out everything else. One of the examples of filter pedals is the wah-wah.
Wahs can change the peak frequency, pronounce it, while everything else stays the same or gets filtered out. By moving its rocking part, wah pedal sweeps over the spectrum. We also have automatic wah pedals that change these frequencies according to the input signal, or the dynamics of your playing.
Other types of filter pedals are “static” and keep the tone according to your parameters. As a result, they can emulate some quirky synth tones. An example would be Line 6 FM4. However, these are usually more advanced “toys” that you don’t exactly need as a beginner.
Just like your guitar amp has a 3-band equalizer with bass, middle, and treble controls, there are standalone pedals that can further shape your tone.
The simplest form of an EQ is a tone control on your guitar, and the most complex examples would be things like 30-band EQs or parametric EQs.
EQ pedals for guitar usually have anywhere between 5 and 10 frequency ranges that you can control using sliders. By turning the pedal on, you change the tone according to the set parameters, and then go back to the original tone when it’s turned off.
This is pretty useful if you need to change the tone for a certain section of a song, like pronouncing mids for a solo. MXR’s M108S is a good example of a 10-band EQ pedal.
We could say that these are the simplest types of pedals out there. All they do is boosting the guitar signal without creating distortion in their circuit. If you need a slight volume boost without changing your tone, they come in handy.
However, they are also very useful with tube amplifiers or other tube pedals and devices in your signal chain. Tube amps tend to “break” their tone and cause that “natural” or “organic” distortion when reaching their limits.
A simple booster can help you achieve that vintage-sounding distortion with a tube amp or another tube-driven pedal.
Compressors often get overlooked, which is quite a shame as they are pretty useful. The proper name for them would be dynamic range compressors as they turn up the volume of quiet parts and keep the louder parts quieter.
Of course, you’re able to set parameters and intensity of this compression. They can also boost the signal when needed, but the main purpose is to keep everything in check and prevent anything from popping up in the mix.
This is why they’re very useful for bassists and rhythm guitarists.
Expanders, aka noise gates
An expander is the opposite of a compressor – quiet parts get quieter, and louder parts get louder or just stay at the same volume.
This effect is perfect for dealing with high gain distortions that tend to add that hissing sound when you’re not playing. While it can’t filter out the hissing during your playing, it does keep things quiet in between the notes.
They usually have just one control that sets the threshold at which the effect is activated. They’re simple to use but still require some experience to implement properly without soaking up your tone.
This is where the fun stuff begins. Pitch shifters can alter the pitch of your whole output or add one or more intervals to what you’re playing.
For instance, the famous example here is the Digitech Whammy that can alter the pitch of your tone as you rock the moving part of the pedal back and forth.
Kind of like a wah pedal, but it changes the pitch. You can hear this one in Rage Against the Machine’s famous song “Killing in the Name.”
Octaver pedals are also pretty common on pedalboards, and they usually have settings to add two additional tones to what you’re playing, one and two octaves below.
They can find uses in lead sections or anything that doesn’t involve playing more than one note at a time. Boss has some great Octaver pedals, like the OC-3.
We also have harmonizers that add the desired interval above or below notes that you’re playing. These can either work chromatically by adding a fixed interval (i.e. major third) or diatonically where they work “smart” and accommodate the intervals according to the scale that you’re playing.
To use these “smart” versions of harmonizers, you need some basic music theory knowledge. Examples of harmonizer pedals include Boss VE-2, Boss VE-8, TC Helicon Harmony, and many others.
Now we get to the most important part of every pedalboard – distortion pedals. In the world of guitar, the distortion effect is divided into three categories, which are overdrive, classic distortion, and fuzz.
They create this effect by intentional boosting and clipping of the signal. Different types of clipping create different types of distortion.
There’s something for everyone’s taste these days, and the most attention is usually dedicated to finding proper distortion pedals for certain styles of music and playing.
Some of the famous examples include Ibanez Tube Screamer with all of its variants, Boss DS-1, Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, MXR M75, the legendary Klon Centaur, Pro Co Rat, and many others.
Modulation effects include everything that adds the copy of your signal, alters it a little, and blends it in with the unprocessed signal.
The most famous modulation effect is the chorus that adds a very short delay and alters the pitch up and down according to the set amplitude and speed.
We also have flanging and phasing, which are in some technical ways similar, but in practice produce completely different effects.
Most of the modulation pedals have a “mix” or “blend” control that determines the ratio between unprocessed and processed signals.
There are also depth and speed controls, along with a few other things. Strymon has a great chorus pedal called Ola. MXR has the M134 stereo chorus that’s pretty great too.
Atmospheric effects: delays and reverbs
To keep your tone more interesting, you should think of different “atmospheric” effects. After all, you can’t keep it “dry” all the time. For this purpose, we have delay and reverb pedals. Both of these add repeated copies of your tone to create an illusion of a bigger or smaller room.
Delays add simple repeats according to set parameters. You can control the time distance between these repeats, the number of repeats, and the mix between the original and repeated signal.
It’s the classic echo effect. In some cases, pedals also have separate EQ controls for shaping the tone of the repeated signal. There’s anything from the simple stuff like the MXR carbon copy, up to very complex pieces like the Empress Echosystem.
Reverbs also repeat the signal, but in a more “shimmering” manner, giving the impression of one prolonged atmospheric continued repeat. It’s as if you’re playing in a large hall or a cathedral.
They also include blend or mix controls, just like delays. Strymon’s Big Sky is a great example of a very spacious-sounding reverb.
While they could be the most boring part of one pedalboard, volume pedals should be an essential part of every signal chain, especially if you’re playing in a bigger band or an orchestra.
They’re pretty simple – you use them to control your output volume. They have a rocking part that you use to turn the volume up or down. There’s usually the “minimum volume” switch that sets the volume when the pedal is at its minimum position.
There’s a common misconception with beginners thinking that the volume pedal can do the same thing as the booster pedal. The thing with volume pedals is that you’re reducing the volume to the desired level. You use it when you’re supposed to keep quiet in the mix.
There are high impedance and low impedance volume pedals, but we’re not going to get too much into technical details about this. Low impedance pedals are more common and they go at the very end or near the end of the signal chain. Ernie Ball has its MVP volume pedal that’s very reliable.
Expression pedals, tap pedals, and sequencers
Some of the effects we mentioned usually support connectivity with external control sources. For this, we have expression pedals, which are just multi-purpose potentiometers in the form of a pedal.
Automatic wah-wah, certain modulation pedals, or even delays can work with an expression pedal, but only if they have a separate input jack for it.
On their own, expression pedals do nothing, although many volume pedals also have the expression pedal functionality.
Tap switches work the same way, it’s just that they have one control switch that sets the tempo of the effect. For instance, you connect it to a delay, and when your delay pedal is turned on, tap the switch pedal twice and the tempo of your repeated tones will be set according to the tempo that you tapped.
Sequencer pedals are a bit more complicated, and they’re definitely not something that a beginner would use. It’s a complex controller that has a sequence of adjustable steps.
It controls any effect with the expression pedal connectivity feature, but it does nothing on its own. An example here would be the well-known Electro-Harmonix 8-Step Program Analog Expression Sequencer.
What’s the correct order of pedals in the signal chain?
First off, there’s no such thing as the “correct” order of pedals. There are, however, some standards in arranging your pedalboard that may help you get the clearest tone without any unwanted noises or hisses.
This is the usual order, but you’re free to experiment. The whole thing is open for discussion.
From guitar to the amp, it goes like this: tuner – filter – EQ – compressor – boost – pitch altering – distortion – modulation – volume pedals – delay – reverb. Volume pedal can also come after the delay and reverb.
There’s hardly any musician out there that’s as influential to metal music as Mr. Tony Iommi.
Widely considered to be the one individual who created the entire genre on his own, it was his riffs and songs he wrote with Black Sabbath in the late 1960s and the early 1970s that brought him the fame he has today.
While it is somewhat debatable on who started heavy metal, it is a fact that without Iommi the modern rock music wouldn’t be as big as it is today.
What’s more, the style he developed can also be heard in many other music genres today, with even mainstream pop sometimes including metal-sounding riffs.
His main strength lied in his writing abilities, implementing elements like tritone the way no one did before him. The riffs were so great that they sounded heavy even played on an average acoustic guitar.
However, in order to achieve their true potential, Iommi had to find the perfect guitar tone. Not the easiest task back in the old days when standard guitar pedals weren’t a thing and achieving distorted tone was extremely difficult.
Nonetheless, Iommi managed to make his tone huge. You can hear this tone back in the early Sabbath days during their blistering early sets like this one.
While most of the people remember Black Sabbath for the Ozzy era, Tony Iommi kept the band’s legacy over the years, being the sole original member.
Over the years, his music and tone evolved, but you could still hear that it’s Tony. The 1980s and the first half of the 1990s were a bit weird for Sabbath, but there was some great material, featuring his amazing guitar tone.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, with the original Sabbath reunion and his solo albums, his tone was more in the vein of the older Sabbath stuff.
With all this in mind, we figured it would be a great idea to explore Tony Iommi’s setup over the years and find out more about the secrets behind his tone.
There’s a lot of stuff involved and many of the things are still unknown to this day. So we’ll try to focus on the equipment we know he used, but there will be a few mentions of the unconfirmed guitars and gear. So let’s dig into it!
Of course, by now, everyone is aware of his extensive use of Gibson SGs, with these guitars becoming a part of his sonic and visual identity.
However, what many don’t know is that Iommi started his career playing a classic Fender Stratocaster.
He used this particular guitar in his pre-Sabbath bands and he also entered the studio to record Sabbath’s self-titled debut with the guitar, but only managed to record one song with it, the “Wicked World.” After the session, the electronics on this Strat died.
Interestingly enough, the famous red 1965 Gibson SG Special was his spare instrument. After using it on the record, the guitar quickly became his number one weapon on choice, with Iommi recording most of the material on Sabbath’s first six albums on it.
The guitar bares two P-90 single-coil pickups, as well as the “Monkey” nickname due to an unusual sticker. The guitar is currently located in New York City’s Hard Rock Café over at Times Square. A legendary piece.
The next famous early SG is the white 1960s Gibson Les Paul, which was actually an SG before the official use of the SG name. It bears three humbuckers and a Bigsby tremolo. It’s not completely certain whether he used this guitar on any of the recordings, but he’s been seen using this guitar on a few occasions in the early days. Its whereabouts are currently unknown.
In 1975, Iommi got his first custom-built SG by John Birch, a guy who previously modded the old “Monkey” SG. This is a completely black guitar with a steel pickguard, 24 frets, and the well-known famous cross inlays Iommi is now known for. The guitar was used on the recordings between 1976 and 1981.
But the most notable of his SGs is his legendary “Old Boy,” made by luthier John Diggins. The story behind this one is kind of odd and long, with one part of the building process being done on a kitchen counter. As a result, the guitar has that recognizable “rotten” paint job.
Again, the guitar has 24 frets and recognizable Iommi’s cross inlays on the fretboard. The pickups are custom ones made by Diggins himself, while the bridge is a classic Schaller with fine tuners, something that was pretty innovative for the era. Sometime in the early 1980s, it became his No. 1 guitar.
A lot of other SGs went through his arsenal over the years. There were some Gibsons, including some with Floyd Rose bridges. At one point in the late 1990s, Gibson even made a special guitar for him, but that one got stolen in 2010. The whereabouts of this instrument are unknown at the moment.
But aside from many SG guitars, Iommi also had quite a few different models, some of which were pretty unusual. One of the examples is the B.C. Rich Ironbird Pro, which can be seen in the “Star Licks” instructional video where Iommi shows a few Sabbath solos from the early 1980s.
It’s not certain why the collaboration stopped or whether he used this instrument on any of the recordings. But it is known that he had another B.C. Rich in his collection, the standard Mockingbird.
Iommi also partnered up with Patrick Eggle for a few guitars, one of them being the Tony Iommi Artist Model ñ a double-cutaway guitar with somewhat of a Super Strat-style shape. He also had a few SGs made by Eggle, but he sold them later on to private collectors.
In the 2000s and 2010s, Iommi used his signature Epiphone SG Custom.
There were a few other odd or unexpected models here and there. He was seen a few times using a Les Paul, quite an unusual sight for Iommi.
At one point, Iommi also revealed that he used a certain Les Paul for some songs on the “Paranoid” album. Other guitars also include Steinberger GM4T, Guild Bluesbird Custom, Washburn EC29, Hamer Phantom, Gibson Barney Kessel, Gibson ES-175, and others.
It has been reported that Iommi played a Burns Trisonic and a Watkins Rapier – both of which are very old and pretty obscure at this point. But these have not been confirmed as there are no photos to prove it.
Now going over to his acoustics, there have been a few notable models in his collection. The latest ones we’re certain of are Taylor 815L and Taylor T5s.
He also had a Washburn EA30 at some point, which he sold to private collections. There were some reports about him using Gibson J-45 back in the early days, probably on “Vol. 4” and “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” albums.
Aside from his SGs and a few other guitars he used over the years, there were many amps that sculpted his tone.
Unfortunately, there are no official records on what he used in the earliest days of his career, but it is known that he had a certain Marshall 50-watt amp in the pre-Sabbath and early Sabbath era.
When the band went into the studio, Tony switched over to a Laney amp, a brand he stuck with for most of his career.
The reason behind this switch is that Laney was a new Birmingham-based company that started around the same time as the band and offered Iommi to use some of their stuff.
While it has not been confirmed, it is suspected that Laney LA 100 BL is the amp he played on the first two albums. Then came the third record with this huge bass-heavy tone.
While it’s not certain, some are suspecting he played through a Laney Klipp. This is a fairly rare amp and can go well-over $2,000 if you happen to stumble upon one that’s in good condition.
However, it is known that Laney Supergroup amp has been a part of his setup up until the very end of the 1980s. But over the years, he liked to experiment here and there, and it’s known that he used the classic Vox AC30 during the “Technical Ecstasy” sessions in 1976. It is also assumed that he went with a Marshall Super Lead 1959 for the “Heaven and Hell” album.
During a certain period in the 1980s, Iommi went on to collaborate with Sunn for an endorsement. This didn’t last for a long time, but there is one photo of him circulating online, holding the Ironbird signature guitar and sitting in front of a Sunn amp.
So he stuck with his reliable Laney amps and the company eventually made a special model GH 100 TI for him, featuring the classic “British” EL34 tubes. In 2012, they came out with the final Tony Iommi signature model, Laney TI100 with 6L6 tubes in the power amp.
It has also been rumored that he used other amps during certain periods, like the Mesa Boogie Mark IIB in the early 1980s, as well as the ENGL Powerball during the Heaven and Hell band back in 2009.
Effects and pedals
Just like any professional guitar player, Tony Iommi also had some interesting pedal and effect setups over the years.
However, only a few pieces are widely known. It seems that Iommi was pretty much secretive about his pedals and other effects units, or that interviewers never really dug deep enough.
Going back to his earliest days, there is one particular device that made his tone stand out. Going back to his pre-Sabbath days, Iommi was a member of a blues-rock band called Mythology.
As the era is known for guitarists not being able to find a proper distorted tone, Tony was one of the guys who resorted to using the Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster.
An unknown friend or an acquaintance of his modded the device, ultimately turning it into somewhat of a full-range booster.
As Iommi explains, he’s not sure what the guy actually did, but it sounded great. This way, Iommi was able to use the clean signal boost and drive tube amps over their limitations and let them create distortion in a more “natural” way.
He used it until 1979 when, apparently, one of his tech guys threw it away, mistaking it for a random broken old device.
Another famous pedal in his arsenal is the very rare and peculiar-sounding wah called Parapedal, made by a short-lasting company called Tycobrahe.
It’s a really obscure piece, but if you actually manage to find one of the original pedals, it can go up to $1,000. There have been some replicas, but Tony Iommi used some of the original old models.
This is what you can hear on any of his solos where he’s using a wah, or in songs like “Electric Funeral” where he used it for the main riff.
As for any other effects, it’s been really hard to confirm anything else. Again, it seems that he’s been pretty secretive about his setup.
Of course, it was Tony Iommi’s rumbling tone that helped shape metal music. Even to this day, you’re rarely find anything as heavy as the guitar tone on “Master of Reality.”
While he was inclined to experiment, like with the Vox AC30 in the mid-1970s, Tony was still a fan of huge guitar tones, especially on live shows.
After all, he was the only guitar player in Black Sabbath, so it was up to him to make the sound as big and as harmonically rich as possible.
As a result, he’s still being praised by almost all of the metal musicians today. His legacy can be heard in all of the metal music, none of which would be possible without Iommi’s innovative approach in the earliest days of Black Sabbath.
So it doesn’t come as a surprise that he’s known as the “Riff Lord.”
When the gods made heavy metal, as per the gospel of Manowar, one of their first and only tenets, were to play it as loud and wild as (in)humanly possible. Since those early days, cunning minds and champions heavy music have been finding new ways to make their guitar sound louder, meaner and nastier.
And let’s be honest here – very few things in life feel better than when you plug in your guitar, strike that first evil chord and feel the very foundations of earth shake and scream at the tips of your fingers, or when you start laying down a deep, wicked gallop and an evil grin starts creeping up your lips as you something raw and animalistic stirring deep in your belly, and you’re lusting to burst into a full sonic charge, no quarter to be given.
Well, distortion pedals are one of the things that make all this possible.
Although we’ll be referring to the equipment in question as distortion pedals in the rest of this article, there are a few differences in ways various pedals dirty up your sound, and, technically, distortion is just one of the three effects from the unholy trinity of overdrive, distortion, and fuzz.
In short, overdrive enhances your fundamental guitar signal without drastic changes, distortion clips the hell out of it, and fuzz clips it so hard that it’s barely recognizable (although when speaking specifically of metal, this one isn’t used that often as it produces a warm, wooly grumble more characteristic of stoner rock for instance).
Of course, there are overlapping areas between the three, but here we’ll focus mostly on distortion and pedals suited the most for aspiring metal ax-wielders. Without further ado, here are some of the best guitar pedals to use for heavy metal…
Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff
The metal successor to Harmonix’ Big Muff Pi has been around for a while now and has proven to be a simple, yet effective solution for metal distortion, all wrapped up in a gorgeous design that just screams metal.
In addition to its name written in spike-y chrome script, you’ll see several knobs that might seem intimidating at first glance, but all are very straight-forwardly arranged and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding your way around it.
The Metal Muff sports a three-band EQ that helps you manage the gain, as well as a boost mode that really cranks up your signal.
It’s suitable both for gentler distortion as well as producing sounds that might have come from Satan’s own BDSM dungeon, and you’ll find that it works great both with passive and active pickups.
However, if you’re looking for a pedal capable of extreme amounts of distortion, look no further.
KHDK Dark Blood
Is there a more metal thing than Kirk Hammett’s signature distortion pedal?
This angry beast is perfect for both fans of Metallica as well as anyone who might be looking to hopefully stand toe to toe to Hammett when it comes to producing killer distorted tunes on your instrument.
The pedal itself looks gorgeous, with a red and black interface with a human heart painted on it. It is perfect for cutting off background noise with an onboard noise gate, but the real treat here is the Doom knob that really brings up that bottom end that Metallica’s sound is known for, letting you wield the powers of metal gods Hammett and Hetfield themselves.
There’s also a Hi/Lo switch which lets you play with two distinct modes – a gruff one for laying the foundation riffs (Lo), and a shrieking one that makes you soar through lead breaks with boosted top-end and sustain (Hi).
A surprisingly versatile treble control is the icing on the cake here. This thing comes with a fairly reasonable price too and is perfect for beginners and veterans alike.
Wampler Triple Wreck
This one may not be a looker like the previous two, but let me tell you, it packs a brutal punch. Straight off the bat, you’re looking at ungodly amounts of gain, which is complemented by – you guessed it – even more gain.
This blasphemous thing was made possible by Wampler’s efficient three-band EQ and dedication to providing smoothly-nuanced gain curves.
Once you plug it in, you’ll realize that, although you’ll have command over more gain than you’ll ever need, the pedal is very easy to temper and lets you play with a tremendous specter of distortion. It’s all about them gainz bro.
Blackstar HT-Metal Guitar Effects Pedal
Coming from the company with a hefty reputation of making top-notch amplifiers for headbangers around the globe, the HT-Metal Guitar Effects Pedal is a product of extreme quality and reliability.
This pedal’s cascading tube gain stages and the tube amp response are revered by amateurs and professional musicians alike.
It will provide you with a sound as gritty as Clint Eastwood’s spit, with organic qualities of the excrement to boot – you won’t hear anybody complaining about your sound sounding “too digital“ despite buckets of gain and distortion.
Its vacuum tube circuitry is powered by a 300V DC connection, and the pedal’s numerous features include 3-band EQ, Clean/Overdrive switch, and a tone shape knob, really letting you play with various effects as much as you want.
The Blackstar HT-Metal Guitar Effects Pedal is an all-in-one toolbox, perfect for both garage, studio and stage.
MXRM116 Fullbore Metal
MRX has been around for ages, and in their case, ‘age’ most certainly equals quality and reliability.
This one gives you an incredible amount of bang for your buck, and really lays down the foundation of your metal sound. In addition to pure distortion, loads of features let you tweak your sound even further.
Although it is (arguably) the least pretty of the bunch, the MXRM116 Fullbore Metal pedal simply emanates with no-bullshit-just-metal big dick energy.
True to its meat-and-potatoes pedal nature, it is fully analog, with a built-in noise gate as well as true-bypass.
Also, this pedal gets the job done with underpowered single-coil guitars as well. If you’re looking for a really heavy, industrial metal sound, this is as good as it gets.
Distortion pedals are essential tools for any musician intent on wreaking some heavy metal havoc. And after all, there’s no reason not to use one – they’re tremendous fun, and you’ll be able to experiment with your sound like you never could without one.
Besides, not only will having a reliable pedal be a must-have if you ever decide to take your music to the stage, but it will also encourage you to take a stroll down that path as you realize how easy and fun it is to produce sounds that the gods of metal themselves would be envious of.
Each of these five is more than a solid pick, and any musician is bound to find one that suits his taste and budget the most. I hope that you do too.
Have you ever had a moment where you listened to a guitar player, and you’re thoroughly mesmerized not just by prodigious amounts of skill and musicality, but by the graceful ease they work wonders on their guitars?
Some of these musicians play so incredibly, yet so naturally that you never feel even a hint of envy – you’re just grateful that such a being exists and you simply take the moment in.
However, due to their usually quiet natures, a lot of them go by unsung, or at least without receiving credit equal to their prodigious talent.
One such guitar player is John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. We almost said formerly but John just yesterday rejoined the band for the second time, after ten years absence!
In addition to his own unobtrusive nature, the reason that John Frusciante doesn’t spring up in everybody’s minds when talking about great guitar players is that emotional response to the whole package rather than pure skill was always the driving force behind the Chili Peppers’ success, and the latter was more often than not overshadowed by the former.
However, it is undeniable that the lasting beauty of the Chili Peppers’ music was in significant part due to John’s playing, and that John always was and remains a majestic musician.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at what gear John used to create his iconic sound, and as you’ll see, there’s quite a bit.
But first, a bit of backstory…
History with the RHCP
We’ll be taking a quick trip down the memory lane and talk about how John came to be an integral part of the Chili Peppers, his path to becoming the musician he is today, and how he evolved alongside the iconic band.
John Frusciante joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers back in 1988 when he was only 18 years old. In addition to his young age, he was a peculiar choice for the band that mostly focused on funk at the time, and John had no prior experience with the genre.
Of all his early influences, John said that Frank Zappa was the greatest, stating: “By the time I was 15 I owned all of the records and was spending about 70% of my musical life studying and learning his music. For me, striving for the perfection he was known for demanding from his bands was a powerful motivation and force behind the huge amount of practicing I was doing back then.”
However, back in those early days he was still pretty much just a replacement to the original guitarist Hillel Slovak and was stuck with trying to emulate his sound.
During the recording of “Mother’s Milk”, John still had very little creative freedom to speak of, as he was pressured by the producer Michael Beinhorn to play with a driving heavy metal tone, which is evident in songs like “Higher Ground”, “Knock Me Down”, which were a clear step away from the Chili Peppers’ previous sound.
By the time “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” was released, not only did John find his genuine place within the band and come into his own as a musician, but it was this iteration of Chili Peppers that introduced the band to the mainstream audiences.
In 1993, John left the band due to it becoming “too popular” as well as personal issues and came back in 1998 after Dave Navarro’s departure.
He had matured during that time since he sounded much more articulated and in control on songs like “Scar Tissue”, “Otherside” and “Around the World” when compared to his former aloofness in playing.
On “By the Way” and “Stadium Arcadium”, John Frusciante arguably reached his full potential within the band, resulting in his tasteful and original experimentation within those albums, despite them being much more pop-oriented than the previous ones.
During his time with the Chili Peppers, John evolved into a guitarist extraordinaire – but one who emphasizes the melody and the organic quality of his playing.
Despite his vast knowledge of music theory and enviable virtuosity, John’s prodigious qualities as a musician often went unnoticed due to his lack of interest in showing off and always putting the melody first.
However, John achieved his seemingly simple sound with no small amount of both gear and skill. John is known to have used a staggering amount of instruments, amps, and mods, most of which aren’t officially recorded.
What follows is a rundown of gear that John confirmed to have used in various instances, and that was integral to achieving his signature elegant sound.
Throughout his two bouts with the RHCP, John has used a plethora of guitars, and putting down a definite list would be nearly impossible to put down –some sources state that there over 40 guitars that he had used during those years.
Here, we’ll take a look at a few that he’s the best known for using, and that made the biggest impact on his sound, playing style and appearance.
A 1962 Tobacco Sunburst Fender Stratocaster with a rosewood fretboard, with the body scratched-up marrow-deep above the pickguard is perhaps the most famous of John’s guitars and the one that he’s associated with the most often.
More than once, John himself has stated that this is the guitar that he is sentimental about the most, and the one that was the “most important” to him.
It was this guitar’s mellow, bright, single-coil sound that was responsible for songs such as “Scar Tissue” and “Can’t Stop”, and especially his early works with the RHCP like “Mother’s Milk”.
In fact, you’ll hear this guitar in instances of the vast majority of the songs that John played for the band.
Initially, he used stock pickups but later swapped them for Duncans which were almost the same. John also used a ’55 Strat nearly identical to this one, except for the ’55 having a maple fretboard.
Although John is known for his love for the Stratocaster, in an interview with Vintage Guitar Magazine (you’ll notice that John has a strong preference for vintage instruments), he stated that “Around ‘By The Way’, I played Teles more than a Strat.
A telecaster he’s most widely known for using is a stock 1963 model with a rosewood fretboard.
If you listen to the songs from “By The Way” closely, you’ll notice that they resonate with the signature Telecaster twang.
Given that he almost never modifies his instruments, John is a living testament that you don’t need crazy mods to sound great.
Gretsch 1955 White Falcon
This is the guitar that John is seen playing during the iconic “Californication” live concert at Slane Castle from 2003.
While talking to Vintage Guitar, John said that the Gretch White Falcons are among his favorite guitars from his collection (as we’ve already mentioned, he has quite a few).
In fact, he revealed that he stumbled upon the Falcon purely by accident during a period in which he was guitar-shopping intensely because he thought his playing would change from guitar to guitar.
He said: With the white Strat, it was a neat experience because it made me play different, and made the band sound different.
If I hadn’t gone through a phase of buying, I never would have come upon the White Falcon…” The Falcon’s hollow body and Filtertron pickups give it a distinctive, rich-yet-resonant sound that clearly stands out from the Strats and Teles, and you can hear it in action on the album’s title track, as well as on “Otherside”.
Like with his guitars, John seems to like to keep things straightforward, yet elegant. However, when it comes to amps that John has been using all these years, there is even less reliable info available than for his numerous guitars.
With that in mind, we’ll take a look at the three main amplifiers that he’s been known to have used the most: Marshall Silver Jubilee, Fender Dual Showman, and The Marshall Major.
Marshall Silver Jubilee
Among guitar aficionados around the world, the Marshall Silver Jubilee amplifier is famous for its incredibly short, one-year production run and has since become tremendously difficult to obtain.
This dauntingly pricy 100-Watt amplifier is a reincarnation of the 1962 Marshall Head of sorts, and it is the obvious choice for John’s sonic output given his preference for vintage sound and instruments.
In addition to being expensive, the Marshall Silver Jubilee is known for its reliable, balanced frequency response and is powered by EL34 valves which give it a clear, ringing overall sound with a smooth top end.
Fender Dual Showman
Now this one is a strange beast in regards to the other two, as John explicitly uses it only in combination with his Gretsch 1955 White Falcon.
The classic Fender reverb it produces complements the White Falcon’s ringing hollow-body sound perfectly. Furthermore, the only effect that John used with this combo was a BOSS DS1 distortion pedal.
Essentially, what we’re looking at here is the essence of JCM 800 in a different package and 200 Watts of power.
The power amp stage boasts KT88 valves, whereas the preamp contains two ECC83 and one ECC82 which pour out that creamy, controlled distortion which makes this amp so well-loved.
His on-stage combo is wrapped up by two 4×12 Marshall cabs for each of these three, making the sound of his guitar powerful enough not to be engulfed by the rest of the band.
Whether you listen to John’s gentler guitar contributions or the more hectic, funkier ones from early on, the first impression you’d get is that the man uses virtually no added effect (and that he needs none, but that’s beside the point).
However, it is now known that John actually used a wide variety of devices to further tweak his sound.
For instance, during the “Stadium Arcadium” era, he used whopping 20 different pedals for his live performances, including six Moog Moogerfooger units in addition to multiple delays, distortions, modulation, filters, and wah.
However, apart from the BOSS DS1 distortion pedal reserved exclusively for the Gretsch 1955 White Falcon, he really didn’t have a mainstay of devices that he used throughout his time with the Chili Peppers, but instead relied on intuition, current mood and desire for experimentation when deciding which effect he would keep using, and which ones he’d discard.
If one had to find a pattern behind his utilization of various effects, it would be that he had preferred effect for each of the Chili Peppers’ epochs, with both him influencing the band’s sound and vice versa.
With that said, let’s take a look at some of John’s favorite effects.
First off, we have the humble MXR Micro Amp a pedal used for boosting your main signal for solos or as a buffer for other guitars.
John’s grittier tones are mostly owed to the tried and true combination of BOSS DS-2 Turbo Distortion and EHX Big Muff Pi.
The BOSS DS-2 is perhaps the few mods that he used since his first day with the RHCP and continued using ever since.
In fact, this little gadget’s clipping effect is the one that can be recognized in almost every Chili Peppers’ song where John does the guitar duties.
The fuzz provided by the EHX Big Muff Pi is especially characteristic of the “By The Way” era, which replaced John’s previous fuzz device, BOSS’ FZ-3, that he used more around the time “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” came out.
As far as John’s modulation is concerned, there is the BOSS CE-1 Chorus Ensemble, a simple yet reliable chorus with normal and vibrato modes.
This is the other pedal that remained ever-present in his setup in addition to the DS-2.
Despite its straightforward nature (or perhaps exactly due to it), the CE-1 remains ever popular due to its ability to maintain the qualities of the original signal while complementing it with an organic sound.
The EHX Deluxe Electric Mistress is another mod that saw steady use throughout John’s career.
Its classic analog Flanger with its unique Filter Matrix mode disengages the auto sweep and lets you position the filter manually, and is very prominent in “By The Way”, for example.
He also uses a Line 6 FM4 Filter Modeller that comes with programmable filters and monophonic synth sounds (which replaced the Electro-Harmonix synthesizer he used during the “Californication” era).
John’s choice of time-based effects was also led by a philosophy of reliability and straightforwardness.
There’s the EHX Holy Grail Reverb, a digital reverb that like a spring one, which he used until he replaced it with Fender’s vintage tube reverb unit.
Another delay unit that John used was the LINE 6 DL4 Delay Modeller, which yields more control over delay effects than a standard digital delay, or an analog one.
Interestingly, John tends to supplement the DL4 with two DigiTech PDS 1002, which give him even more control over delay effects.
As we’ve seen, although simplicity seemingly is the key to John’s distinctive sound, there is a whole lot of thought, experimentation, and gear behind the unique and elegant sound of his guitar playing.
As such, John Frusciante truly is a living testament to the wonders that a meticulous, yet sincere love for the instrument and the simple joy of playing can bring to life.
Thanks for reading! If you have and comments or questions, leave them below!
Heavy metal music has come a long way since its inception back in the late 1960s. From the bluesy, yet really doomy, songs by Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, it began going into multiple different directions.
As a result, we got some unexpected subgenres, that even led to some more extreme territories. But, at the end of the day, the classic elements of the genre remained, and some bands keep this legacy alive even to the present era.
One of these bands is Avenged Sevenfold, where the lead guitar duties are taken by Brian Haner, also known by his unique stage name Synyster Gates.
Forming back at the very end of the 1990s, Synyster Gates joined the band sometime before the release of their debut album. It was an unusual time for heavy metal, and new movements were emerging all around.
Avenged Sevenfold started off as a metalcore band, but they slowly moved into the classic metal and hard rock lane. This was a rather exciting turn of events as they added some modern metal elements and twists to the old genre.
These days, they’re even experimenting with some progressive elements. And that’s all thanks to Syn Gates and his approach to songwriting and playing.
Another vital component in this story is Syn Gates’ tone.
With this in mind, we thought we could dive deeper into the topic and explore all the gear A7X’s axeman has been using over the years. There’s an abundance of great instruments, pedals, and amps, and we just can’t afford to skip over this guitar master. So let us begin.
The most recognizable part of his whole setup and the one that became his personal stamp is the Schecter Synyster Gates signature model.
Almost all of the studio recordings and the live performances were recorded using some of these guitars. The band blew up early on in their career, so it wasn’t hard for Syn to land a deal with Schecter for his one-of-a-kind model.
As the years went by, this guitar evolved, and there have been many iterations, finishes, designs, and different hardware and pickup combinations. There are even some exclusive models that were sold as limited series.
As for Syn’s guitars, there are a few notable models. For instance, the one that he often today uses is the Custom-S. This is one of the newest iterations and has a few variants.
It’s a prestigious and expensive instrument and an all-round versatile instrument capable of delivering different styles.
The Custom-S has a mahogany body and a three-piece mahogany neck that’s enforced with strong carbon rods. The guitar features a 25.5-inch scale neck with a 24-fret ebony fretboard.
The neck profile proves that the Custom-S model is made for real shredders. It’s the so-called “thin C” neck, the same as the classic “C” profile, only thinner. Seeing that the guitar also has a Floyd Rose 1500 Series bridge, it’s a pure heavy metal mean machine.
One of its strongest points is the addition of the Sustainiac pickup on the neck position.
There have been plenty of other versions of this guitar over the years. Some of those include the Bat Country Avenger model that has a classic tune-o-matic bridge with strings going through the body.
These other Syn Gates signature models are pretty similar in construction, although they have a few different features here and there. Custom-S still stands as his No. 1 weapon in the arsenal.
But he’s also used a few other guitars over the years. In the band’s earliest days, Syn could be seen holding a Parker Fly Deluxe model. It’s a classic instrument, used by many guitar players of countless different genres.
What some may not know is that Syn Gates is also deeply rooted in old school stuff like blues and jazz. So it doesn’t come as a surprise to see that he has a Gibson ES-335 in his possession. The guitar was used for studio sessions over the years.
Of course, it’s not unusual to find a Gibson Les Paul in his collection. He owns one LP Custom, and you can see him rocking it out in the “Unholy Confessions” video. However, this guitar hasn’t seen that many live shows.
Another electric worth mentioning is his Schecter Blackjack PT that he used earlier in the band’s career.
It’s a two-humbucker Telecaster-shaped guitar with the strings going through the body. The Blackjack is a very playable piece and a great solution for all the heavy tones that Syn certainly needed over his career.
As for acoustics, there are a few exciting pieces worth mentioning in his arsenal. Since he’s been a partner of Schecter for so long, they also made signature acoustic guitars for him – the Synyster Gates 3701. It’s a single-cutaway guitar with a slightly peculiar twist on its design.
Just like the electric Custom-S, it features the easily recognizable Avenged Sevenfold logo on the fretboard’s inlay. It also includes a Fishman pickup and a preamp, along with a 3-band EQ. It’s a very versatile acoustic guitar and an overall quality instrument.
Then there’s a surprising addition of Godin ACS-SA that he began using since 2016’s “The Stage” album. This thin profile nylon-string guitar is often used by jazz players.
But since Avenged Sevenfold began diving into some unexpected proggy territories, it comes as a great addition to Syn’s collection.
Generally speaking, the Custom-S still remains his primary weapon and his main workhorse. It’s really easy to play, it has good access to higher frets, and certainly delivers the classic metal punch, kind of in the vein of standard Gibson guitars, although it had a bit of a sharper edge to the tone.
Quite a few different amps came through Synyster Gates’ setup over the years. Unlike his choice of guitars, he wasn’t stuck with one particular brand of amps. If we were to look at all of his choices, the picture is pretty clear ñ he likes heavy sound with an in-your-face mid-range punch.
So let’s start with his Schecter amp. Yes, the company is not that well-known for their guitar amplifier line, but the Hellwin model is a powerful 100-watt all-tube amp in the style of classic Marshalls.
This can be seen with the implementation of EL34 valves. He always used it in pair with the Hellwing SYN412 cabinet. For some reason, Synyster Gates stopped playing it after a while.
While we’re at Marshall amps, he’s also known for using the JVM205H 50-watt head. These are pretty versatile amps, and cranking up a 50-watt amp is a great idea for larger gigs.
Since it can be miked up for live shows, he’s able to get that authentic “organic” drive out of them by pushing the volume all the way up. It features the classic configuration of two channels – clean and drive.
He also owns that real beast of an amp, the Mesa Boogie JP-2C. Yes, the John Petrucci signature model, based on the good old Mark IIC+ amp. It’s an extremely versatile piece of gear and can create anything from smooth jazz up to big crushing tones for riffs and screaming leads.
While we’re at it, Syn’s also known for using the legendary Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier amp. Another great example of the company’s rich and tight-sounding guitar amps.
Now, Bogner Uberschall is a really delicate piece. A real jewel in his collection, it’s a 120-watt amp head with some of the most mindblowing tones you’ll ever get the chance to hear.
However, a real change came when Synyster began using the Fractal Audio’s Axe-FX III. Just like Kemper and a few other examples, it caused quite a stir in the guitar community.
Since Syn himself is all about modern technology, the addition of such a piece to his rig was inevitable. Needless to say, this powerful amp modeler successfully replicates any of the most advanced tube amps we’ve ever heard.
We wouldn’t be surprised to see his entire rigs replaced with one or two of these.
His love of modelling amps came some years ago when he began using the Axe-FX II. However, he used it only for some features and effects and not actual amp models. The story goes that he really likes the harmonizer in this digital processor.
When it comes to pedals and other effects, he never really had too much of a complex layout. There have been a few compressors here and there, delays, boosters, wahs, and a few other occasional pedals.
His choice of wah is pretty interesting. Steering away from conventional pedals, he has Dunlop’s rack module Cry Baby DCR-2SR.
It’s a potent piece that allows you to shape your own wah and to determine what kind of sweep will it add to your tone. This is as pro as it gets with wahs.
He’s known for using a few different compressors over the years. There’s the classic choice of Boss SC-3 here, which is a continuation of the old CS-2 pedal. Then we have another piece like the very simple MXR CSP202.
Among modulations, delays, and other effects, there’s one rather interesting piece in his signal chain that Syn uses even today. It’s called Visual Sound H2O, and it’s a chorus and echo pedal in one.
This unconventionally shaped 2-in-1 pedal gives delays between 10 and 800 milliseconds and allows you to use a chorus or delay individually.
As for the aforementioned clean boost pedals, he uses a very simple yet effective MXR MC401. This little piece can do wonders when paired with the kind of tube amps that he’s using.
And just to throw in another one in here, Syn’s been seen using Electro-Harmonix POG, or the so-called “Polyphonic Octave Generator.” It’s a very intricate pedal, although we’re not sure how much he’s been using it in actual songs.
There have been a few other pedals here and there, but the ones described above are worth mentioning. Like we already said – Syn Gates has always kept it simple when it comes to the signal chain.
Accessories and other gear
Being a professional player that he is, it’s only expected to see a whole bunch of different accessories in Syn Gates’ setup. For instance, there’s Ebtech HE-2 Hum Eliminator in his setup.
This one allows the elimination of unwanted noise from AC adapters and other electrical interferences. Although small, it’s a very complex piece that does magic to your tone.
Since he has a few different pedals and devices, there’s got to be a reliable power supply in there somewhere. For this purpose, Syn uses the classic Dunlop DC-Brick – a 1-amper device that can power up to 10 pedals and effects at the same time.
Avenged Sevenfold are the classic arena metal band, so it’s only expected to see them using wireless systems. Synyster Gates’ choice for this is Audio Technica AEW-5111a.
It’s a very advanced and expensive rack-mounted wireless unit that provides stable operation in these large venue settings.
From looking at this brief guitar setup and rig rundown, it’s pretty evident that Synyster Gates has evolved over these past two decades, along with his band. It’s always welcome to see this kind of an approach.
A great surprise came when Syn revealed that he’s interested in jazz music and that he plans on recording a full-blown jazz album. There are a few videos of him online playing some swing jazz.
With this being said, it’s highly likely that we’ll see his setup evolve even further. And this is already taking place with his use of Fractal Audio Axe-FX III. His overall tone and setup will depend on the direction that Avenged Sevenfold as a band will be taking in the future.
Hearing “The Stage” that they launched back in 2016, we’re pretty excited about what they’ll do in the future.
After all, now that all the old metal bands are retiring one by one, they’ll be the one to continue carrying the torch of the genre, and they’ll be free to take it into any direction they want.
This particular amp became somewhat famous among metal tone lovers after Adam Jones of Tool began using it. Although he uses the “Blueface” version of the VH4, the ones you can buy today are pretty similar. Of course, these are all really expensive amps, but what you get is worth it.
Featuring a peculiar looking front panel, this is an amp with four channels with individual controls and includes four 12AX7 tubes in the preamp section, as well as four JJ KT77 tubes in the power amp section.
Aside from a presence knob that can often be found on other amps, the VH4 also has a “Deep” feature that allows more shaping in the low-end spectrum.
Here’s a video demo of the Diezel VH4 100W 4-channel Tube Head by Sweetwater Sound.
Up next…the Randall Thrasher.
Randall is a company known for its high gain metal amps, and the Thrasher 120-watt head is most certainly one of their best products. With its two channels and different parameters, you have solid control over the high gain tones. The addition of the gain boost switch is also very welcome.
Overall, as its name suggests, the Thrasher is designed for the classic thrash metal tones and can achieve both mid-range-heavy and scooped tones. Although its drive works well, Thrasher’s clean channel has some great potential if you want to use specific distortion pedals.
Of course, there’s no way to avoid Peavey on a list like this one. Within the huge arsenal they built over the years, we would like to single out 6505 Plus amp head with its 120 watts of power, “Rhythm” and “Lead” channels, and separate detailed controls for both of these.
What’s interesting here is that you have pre and post gain controls for specific tone shaping as well as presence and resonance knobs for each of the individual channels.
The “Rhythm” channel also features “Bright” and “Crunch” modes that allow some sparkling clean and specifically overdriven tones. With these, you can even do more than just metal, making it a bit of a diverse product.
Here’s a video demo of the Peavey 6505+ 112 Combo by Peavey themselves.
Up next…the Friedman Amplification BE-100.
Friedman Amplification BE-100
Looking at this amp, it’s pretty clear that the model is inspired by some of those vintage British hard rock and metal amps from the 1970s and the 1980s. With the configuration of four 12AX7 and four EL34 tubes, you can expect some of the classic rock and classic metal tones and can even dive into some serious high gain territories.
While the amp is designed for some older metal, it can also satisfy some modern tone tastes. In addition to standard knobs, there are a few switches on it that can further help you define lead and clean tones. There are even different voicing options and the “bright” feature for those sparkling tones.
While we’re at it, Marshall deserves a mention on the list of the best amps for heavy metal. The company’s JVM410H is an interesting piece since it adds the functionality and tonal spectrum to the classic British vibe that these amps are known for.
All of the four channels ñ Clean, Crunch, OD1, and OD2 – have detailed controls for some serious tone shaping. Whatever is the guitar that you’re playing, you can get anything from sparkling cleans to crunchy bluesy tones, all the way to screaming metal leads.
However, despite its versatility, the JVM410H is specifically designed for some seriously heavy tones.
Speaking about metal, there’s one pretty interesting piece done in cooperation between Orange Amplification and the modern guitar champion, Mastodon’s Brent Hinds. Nicknamed Terror, this 15-watt amp head certainly justifies its name.
However, Orange amps are usually designed for those with specific tastes as the high gain tones often get a bit fuzzy. Of course, this is in no way a bad thing, but it should be noted that they’re designated for those who like stoner metal or the early Sabbath vibes.
Aside from its simple layout, this little tube-driven monster has power attenuation. The full power of 15 watts will be enough for gigs and rehearsals, but 7-watt, 1-watt, and 0.5-watt options come in handy for practice sessions and home use.
Aside from the signature guitars with the company, Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge has a signature Paul Reed Smith amp called MT 15. Featuring relatively lower power output, there’s an abundance of tones that you can get with the MT 15 and its clean and lead channels.
But what’s so great about this one is that it can deliver quality tones even in the highest gain settings. You won’t have any issues with those blurry or muddy tones and even some chords will manage to sound good played through the MT 15. Also, there’s a power soak option that delivers 7 watts.
Many would argue that Mesa Boogie is the best amp brand for metal. While this is open for discussion, we’re most certainly aware of why this is the case. After all, Mesa Boogie made the famous Triple Rectifier, known for some of the most brutal tones of all time.
While there’s an abundance of things that you can do with its three channels and all the knobs and switches, it became famous for its use in heavy metal music. The 150 watts of sheer power will simply blow you away, no matter the specific tones you’re trying to dial in.
Here’s a video demo of the MESA/Boogie Rectifier by Ola Englund.
Heavy metal is more than just a guitar tone – it’s a state of mind. But if you happen to have both going for you, plus some lightning-fast fingers, you’ll be unstoppable. Let us know if there’s some amps you know of that belong on this list that we missed, we always enjoy hearing from you!
After all these years, tube amps are still generally regarded as the best amps for pretty much any genre. However, some prefer to use solid-state amps, not only because of their lower prices but also due to their distinct tones. And that’s especially the case with rock music.
Boss introduced the new series of products in 2016, solid-state amps called Katana. Among the few variations, all of which are great, Katana 100 stands out. This 100-watt amplifier can deliver some seriously tight tones with pretty surprising quality for a solid-state piece.
There are five different amp models on it, a 3-band EQ, additional effects, two channels, one 12-inch speaker, FX loop, and power attenuation for 50 watts and 0.5 watts. The inclusion of power attenuation is kind of unusual for a solid-state amp, but it certainly gives some versatile options here.
Peavey Bandit amps are another cheaper alternative that still manages to deliver some solid tones. Although solid-state, the Bandit 112 implements the so-called TransTube technology that manages to imitate the tone quality and dynamic response of classic tube amps.
The overall output power is 80 watts and the amp features one 12-inch speaker. There are two channels – one clean and one lead – both of which work with two separate outputs ñ high gain and low gain. This way, you’re able to use the amp normally if your guitar has high output pickups.
The lead channel gets pretty interesting with different voicing options and separate controls for pre and post gain. Despite its relatively lower price, this amp works great for some solid rock tones.
Here’s a video demo of the Peavy Bandit 112 by Willy Booger.
Up next…the Orange Rocker 15 Terror.
Orange Rocker 15 Terror
If you’re looking to buy a tube amp, know that 15 watts can be more than enough if the amp is good. This is the case with Rocker 15 Terror by Orange.
The company has built its reputation over the years for building some of the best amps for rock and metal tones over the years. With Rocker 15 Terror amp head, we realize why there’s all the praise for Orange as it is a two-channel amp with a simple layout and loads of possibilities that can deliver some serious rock and metal tones.
It features three 12AX7 tubes and one 12AT7 tube in the preamp, while the power section holds two EL84s.
At full potential, you can feel its sheer power and that raw high gain that still manages not to sound too muddy even at higher settings. There’s also power attenuation for 7 watts, 1 watt, and even 0.5 watts for some late-night bedroom practice sessions.
It’s a straightforward rock tube amp and worth every penny.
There’s barely any other amp model out there that as famous as the good old Vox AC30. First introduced way back in 1958, the model is still being made to this day, with the tone staying pretty much close to the original but delivering some new modern features.
This 30-watt amplifier has two channels, two Celestion G12M Greenback 12-inch speakers, and four different inputs ñ high and low gain both for normal and top boost modes. As for the tubes, there are three 12AX7s in the preamp and 4 EL84s in the power section, the standard configuration for British-style amps.
Overall, this amp delivers a lot of solid tones but is largely popular for classic rock and hard rock tones. It can get bright and a bit heavy on the high-end spectrum, but that’s something that a lot of guitar players are looking for. Also, it rocks that beautiful classic Vox design.
German-based amp manufacturers Hughes & Kettner are well-known for making solid amps and other products with some of the fullest, thickest, and most powerful tones. But just when we thought they can’t surprise us after great amp series like Switchblade or Tubemeister, we get the Black Spirit 200 amp head.
This extremely powerful 200-watt amp has four channels on it ñ clean, crunch, lead, and ultra ñ all of which can be tweaked in countless different ways to suit player’s needs.
Being a tube amp, it’s surprising to know that you can get those full tones even with the master volume even on the lower settings. Besides, there’s power attenuation for 20-watt and even 2-watt modes.
As if this wasn’t enough, it has an abundance of amp models and a DI output to go straight into the mix.
Here’s a demo of the Hughes & Kettner Black Spirit 200 by Ola Englund.
Up next…the MESA/Boogie Mark V.
MESA/Boogie Mark V
Mesa Boogie is pretty much a standard go-to brand for rock musicians. On their Mark V model, they further developed what they did on their old amps, like the legendary IIC+.
Bear in mind that it’s not cheap and that it’s designed for professionals. But the abundance of options and the mind-blowing tone is worth it.
Three channels with separate EQ’s and voicing controls, 90 watts with 10- and 45-watt options, and even an additional independent switchable 5-band graphic EQ to add more flavor for special lead or rhythm sections.
This amp is a pure beast and something that you should check out.
Here’s a demo of the Mesa Boogie Mark V by MESA/Boogie.
Up next…some experts give their take on the question at hand.
Guitar Shop Picks
We spoke to Jim Deitzel from Cottonwood Music Emporium in Costa Mesa, California, to see if he had any favourite amps for rock he wanted to recommend.
Jim says: “The Divided by13 BTR23 is a great amp for rock. It sports KT88 which rock, has a push/pull volume for extra gain.It works perfectly with pedals and just kills.”
If you are a musician and your goal is to play rock music, these are each amplifiers that you should at least take into consideration, before deciding what amp you really want to go with.
Amps like these may sound great out of the gate, but there’s always new tricks to learn. Let us know what you consider to be the best amp for rock music in the comments below.
As a fan of Twin Peaks, and specifically the music the show has produced over the years, Season 3 had me wondering, like many fans, about some of the musical acts that were featured at the Bang Bang Bar (commonly referred to as the Roadhouse). Many of these performers were indie acts, with a few exceptions.
The full list of musical performers who performed at the Bang Bang Bar during Season 3 include: Chromatics, The Cactus Blossoms, Au Revoir Simone, Trouble, Sharon Van Etten, Nine Inch Nails, Hudson Mohawke, Rebekah del Rio, Moby, Lissie, The Veils, Eddie Vedder, and Julee Cruise.
The Twin Peaks Season 3 Soundtrack expands on the above list with many other tracks from the show, with the overall musical effect of the entire track list being that of a tour de force.
The music of Twin Peaks has always been exceptional, with the main theme song written by Angelo Badalamenti even winning a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance back in 1991.
The music of Twin Peaks remains unique. In this article, I had the chance to interview one of the members of Au Revoir Simone, Heather D’Angelo, now a Bang Bang Bar band alum, and ask her about her own personal Twin Peaks experience. (skip to the interview)
But first, a bit of context…
About The Bang Bang Bar (The Roadhouse)
In Twin Peaks Seasons 1 and 2, the Roadhouse was established as a location on the show that fit into the nuanced plot written by David Lynch and Mark Frost, and would tie into the overall arc of the show sporadically, with drama between the shows’ characters playing out there from time to time.
The concept of the “Bang Bang Bar”, as it was referred to as more so in Season 3, was also the show’s musical center in seasons 1 and 2. However, Julee Cruise and her band were the only act we see play there during the first two seasons.
As viewers, we can only assume that Julee Cruise was only one act of many to pass through there, but we never get to see any other acts play. Perhaps this is something Lynch sought to correct in this latest season of Twin Peaks.
During the first two seasons, Julee appears there several times throughout the entire run of the show (including the movie prequel, “Fire Walk With Me”), playing her soft, angelic music juxtaposed against some dark, depraved drama taking place in the plot, creating a juxtaposition of both tranquility mixed with violence – an unsettling combination to be sure.
With the Roadhouse being such a seedy juncture in the Twin Peaks world, the idea of such a pure and unfettered sound of one such as Julee Cruise performing in such a dark place was and still is an unlikely proposition.
Fast forward 25 years…
Enter: Twin Peaks, Season 3
Enter Twin Peaks: Season 3 (The Return), aired in 2017. The plot picks up almost literally 25 years after the finale of Season 2, where Cooper becomes possessed by Bob and delivers his famous line: “How’s Annie?”
This final episode (called “Beyond Life and Death”) to a beloved TV series was not the ending many fans were hoping for, but that’s the way director David Lynch chose to end the show, when this final episode of Season 2 first aired on June 10, 1991.
The reasons for this ending to Season 2 were perplexing to fans, but no less perplexing than the entire run of the show itself up until that point, really.
Still, while hardcore Lynch fans always appreciate a good Lynch-ian twist, more casual (and probably less fanatical for absurdist cinema) fans of the show were left with mild cases of PTSD from watching their beloved Cooper become possessed by the ultimate evil, and then: roll credits.
Perhaps it had something to do with David Lynch not directing the majority of Season 2, and walking away from the show until the final episode, where he comes back with the express purpose to, in his own special way, put an end to the show he started.
As has been reported by various sources (ie. Vanity Fair), David Lynch hates Season 2 more than anyone else could, with the tousle-haired cinematic maverick having been quoted publicly as saying it flat out “sucked”.
Fans would have to wait until 2017 when Season 3 of Twin Peaks finally reached airwaves to see how things would get resolved, and many were likely hopeful that such a gut-wrenching finale would indeed see some sort of satisfying resolution, once Season 3 finally concluded.
Fans of Twin Peaks might have thought a positive outcome to be particularly imminent, considering this was David’s chance to right any directorial and plot-related wrongs done to the show throughout Season 2.
Well, did he? To answer this question would take us well beyond the scope of this article, and so at this time, let’s now return to the topic of…The Bang Bang Bar, and the music we hear there throughout Season 3.
Back To The Bang Bang
One thing that seemingly had not changed much in the world of Twin Peaks was the Bang Bang Bar.
In the world of Twin Peaks: Season 3, it was still the place in Twin Peaks where various seedy drama and nefarious subplots play out. But this time around, we’re treated to a variety of diverse musical acts.
It was as if the Bang Bang Bar was perhaps doing better business these days, busily booking more bands, and becoming an increasingly hipper place to be, which we, the viewers, we privy to seeing who would turn up week to week. For nostalgic fans, Julee Cruise and James Hurley both come back to the Bang Bang Bar to perform.
Otherwise, we were treated to some fresh faces at the good old Twin Peaks Roadhouse.
Cue: Au Revoir Simone, playing their tune, “A Violent Yet Flammable World”, from Season 3: Episode 9.
Au Revoir Simone
Some of the choices for bands who performed at the Bang Bang Bar during the run of Season 3 seemed to be more in line with the world of Twin Peaks that fans know, while other performers were more unexpected.
Au Revoir Simone, who perform on two episodes of the entire Season 3 run of the show , were at once a fitting, and yet somewhat unusual, choice.
Why fitting? Well, here we have, not 1, but 3 silky-voiced chanteuses playing ethereal, melancholic music in a slow, pulsating manner. This is enough, perhaps, to qualify them as a good fit for the rather happening, and yet fictional, venue.
Why unusual? It seems that in the intervening years between Seasons 2 and 3 of Twin Peaks, the always and forever-to-be stuck-in-the-past environs of the show have been forced to admit that yes, even in a seemingly timeless setting, time is passing.
Hence, Au Revoir Simone have their synths in tow, and there is no particular attention drawn to their synthpop nature. Perhaps now Twin Peaks is a world that has caught up to as far as the 1980’s, rather than being a throwback to the ’50’s or ’60’s.
(The interview begins…)
Interview with Heather D’Angelo of Au Revoir Simone
It seems that curiosity got the better of me. I felt the need to reach out to the bands who played at the Bang Bang Bar during the run of Twin Peaks: Season 3, in order to satisfy my fan-boyish urge to know more about these bands, and how they managed to appear on the show.
And so, here is my conversation with Heather D’Angelo, who is one third of Au Revoir Simone, discussing the bands’ appearance on the show and how it all came to pass. Enjoy!
When did you start writing music?
Au Revoir Simone started out as a cover band, actually, working on covers of 80’s and 90’s songs from different genres.We were just doing this for fun, as friends getting together and seeing how it went.
Back in the early 2000’s, we (Annie Hart, Erika Forster, and I) used to jam together, when we were all living in Brooklyn, and decided to form an all-girl keyboard band, since all of us played keyboards and we thought that all of us playing synths would be pretty entertaining. Eventually, each of us was armed with multiple synths – sometimes we’d have 9 going at once!
As far as our covers went, it turned out that our covers were too idiosyncratic to be just covers – they had their own sound – so that gave us the notion to start doing our own songs.And it all began there!
Eventually, we got enough material together for a little EP called Verses of Comfort, Assurance & Salvation.
Weirdly enough, a Japanese label and a British label picked up the EP, but we didn’t get any attention in the US – no one cared.
Funny thing was that the Japanese label had an english name – Rallye, and the English label had a Japanese-sounding name – Moshi Moshi.
Moshi Moshi already were a well known indie label in England at this point, with bands like Hot Chip on their roster.They were the ones that kind of operate on a new level, by saying “Ok, you guys are going to work with this PR company, etc.”, giving us tips on how to be a bit more professional.
So how did these labels come across your music, which then lead to your encounter with David Lynch?
They became aware of us through an indie music blog from the early days of the internet.
My good friend, Matthew Perpetua, is like the godfather of the music blogs.I think he actually had the very first music blog out there on the web in the late 90’s, called Fluxblog. There may have been one other one at the time, as these things tend to pop up in the zeitgeist at around the same time, but he was definitely one of the first.
Fluxblog was very popular for indie music and Moshi Moshi used to read his blog. Matthew used to write about our band when we first started, as he was a big fan of synthpop, and indie acts, and so Moshi Moshi read one of his features on us.
Steven Bass and Michael McClatchey then got a hold of our EP, which, at the time, was something we were screen printing ourselves in Annie’s bedroom and trying to distribute ourselves.
By the time we got to our first actual mature album, The Bird of Music, that was put out by both Rallye and Moshi Moshi, which had proper artwork and distribution.
The Bird of Music is what eventually ended up in the hands of David Lynch in 2007.
How did that come about?
There was a really cool event going on at Barnes & Noble in New York for some time, where they’d promote an author and then pair that author up with a band.
A music supervisor for Barnes & Noble would seek out a band that they felt would match the author, and the author would do a reading from their new book, and a band would play during the reading, or between chapters.It was pretty cool.
The music supervisor at Barnes & Nobles was trying to get us to do one of these events for some time, but it wasn’t working out, as we were always on tour, or the timing just wasn’t right.
But one day the music supervisor called and told us that David Lynch was promoting a new book, at the time, called Catching the Big Fish, and she thought that our music would pair really well with his work.
The book was about meditation, and she thought we could play some of our more dreamy material.
So we said “yeah”, because this time it worked with our schedules, and plus, it sounded really cool, so we did it!
But it wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for David’s sound supervisor, Dean Hurley, hadn’t heard our music, liked it, and passed it on to David, who also liked it.
So, we then met David at the actual Barnes and Noble event, where we played, and he read from his book.
(cue: a short clip from that show in 2007)
This was the beginning of your collaboration…which would have been about 10 years before Twin Peaks: Season 3 aired.
Yes. Back in 2007.
That’s pretty cool that you encountered him that way. His output is very varied, so to connect with him on a book reading is very cool. Were you aware of all of these things that he does at the time? For example, the books, the albums, the artwork, and so forth.
We were aware of him, generally speaking, but we didn’t know just how many things he was involved with.
The event at Barnes & Noble was amazing. That particular location of Barnes & Noble was something else – it was huge, like 4 or 5 storeys, and jam packed with people. Just a massive, massive, MASSIVE building.
And when he was there, it was unbelievable – every floor, just shoulder to shoulder people, all trying to catch a glimpse of him.
For those who weren’t on the top floor, there was kind of a play-by-play being piped through their sound system, like one big listening party, and everyone was there just soaking it up. It was then that we clued in to just how huge his fanbase actually is.
Were you into his stuff prior to this show?
Yeah, I really liked Blue Velvet, and his movies in general, but I wasn’t really a fanatic. Same with Annie and Erika – we just knew of him, as most people do. I had not watched Twin Peaks, though. It just never crossed my radar. I guess I was just too young.
I didn’t catch the show when it came out either, but a friend of mine recommended I watch Twin Peaks when I was in high school, so around ’95, as he thought it would be up my alley, and it was. Had you seen any of his other movies?
Some of them. I saw Mulholland Drive, which I enjoyed, and I was going to watch Inland Empire, but a friend of mine saw it and he was so traumatized by it, I didn’t really feel like watching it.
Yeah, Lynch seems to be very good at making very unsettling films that confuse and disturb people, as well as anticipating peoples’ expectations (especially fans) and then defying them. I couldn’t make it through Inland Empire either! That’s why I was wondering how Season 3 of Twin Peaks was going to turn out, considering his work seemed to be getting progressively more abstract.
Well, we have had the opportunity to collaborate with David several times over the years, since 2007, and so we were getting comfortable trusting his creative and aesthetic choices. For instance, we worked with him on a retrospective he did for his work in Paris at the Foundation Cartier.
(cue: video clip from that exhibition)
(interview…continued) He had rebuilt a setting from Eraserhead at the gallery, and we were to perform in this setting. So, he managed to incorporate our music into this production, and we were like, “Hell yeah!” and so we did it, and it was great!
Another time he invited us to play at Silencio, his private club in Paris. Again, this is a beautiful club with a red-draped stage, and he was gracious enough to invite us into his world, which we have always been more than happy to do.
(cue: Llorando scene, from Mullholand Drive, filmed at Silencio)
(back to the interview…)
Over the years, we’ve remained friends, and would visit him in L.A., checking in from time to time. He’s been very encouraging, incredibly sweet, and a great mentor to us.
Prior to the return of Twin Peaks, he was mentioning it would be good to work on something together, and we thought that would be great, although we weren’t counting on it.
We knew that historically, David has worked with Julee Cruise, Angelo Badalamenti, and so we weren’t really expecting to work on any major projects with him, per se. He seemed to have his inner circle of collaborators, and so we thought it was nice of him to suggest a collaboration, but, again, we weren’t expecting anything.
But then, we got the call from Dean Hurley, David’s longtime musical collaborator, who informed us that David was going to re-launch Twin Peaks, and was seeking out bands to be part of the show, and he was hoping we’d take part. Before we knew it, we’d said “yes” and we were part of the production.
We’d never really worked with David before in terms of being part of one of his movies, and so we didn’t really know what we were in for.
None of Au Revoir Simone were actors, but we flew to L.A., and we arrived at this house, that looked like a community center from the outside, and we found that they had recreated, in minute detail, the Bang Bang Bar. It was like, “Oh my god, I’m in the Roadhouse!” Even though, outside it was hot and sweaty, this set made you believe you were in the Pacific north west, like Washington state. It was insane!
There were extras everywhere, and everyone was dressed up like it was the ’90’s. There were a few other bands there, like the Chromatics, and the Cactus Blossoms, who were playing that day.
We had no idea what was going on. We didn’t know who was playing, or when, or how to dress. We had no guidance of what to wear, which was particularly odd because the fashion of Twin Peaks is so particular. We didn’t know which decade we were supposed to appear to be from. ’80’s? ’90’s? Now? Rock stars, or not? We didn’t know. We decided to just go with a “classic” look.
We knew he was going to ask us to do two of our songs, which we did. It was lip synched. This wasn’t like Saturday Night Live. We performed our songs, it didn’t take too long, and then we left. Time passed, we didn’t hear anything at first. Eventually, we heard from David, and he said “Great job!”, so we thought “Great!”
We were still very confused as to how this would all play out. We still didn’t know if he was going to be using the footage of us playing, or just use our recordings on the soundtrack. Would it be both songs, one song? Just a snippet?
We didn’t see how any of it turned out until the show aired. Eventually, we were told to keep our eyes open for Episodes 4 and 9. We saw it on TV like everyone else.
(cue: band playing their song, “Lark”, from their album, “The Bird of Music”, during Season 3: Episode 4 of Twin Peaks.
(back to the interview…)
For both episodes, I had Twin Peaks’ parties in San Francisco, but I told my friends that if I didn’t show up on screen, not to be surprised. We weren’t promised anything, so then when we did appear, and we had a fair bit of screen time, I was shocked!
Both songs were edited, but that made sense, for the purpose of the episode sequencing. Still, it was entirely a surprise that we even made it on the show at all!
I guess you didn’t get to sit down and watch the “dailies”, huh?
No, we are not from the film industry, so that didn’t even occur to us. There wasn’t even hair and make-up, so how we presented ourselves was completely up to us. Had there been a hair dangling in the wrong spot, I don’t know if David would have brought it up or not. It all happened so fast.
We had been on photo shoots before, where people fussed over our appearance a lot more than this instance. So that’s surprising, that we were now committed to tape for an iconic show like Twin Peaks, which will be seen by our children and children’s children, and we weren’t really prepped in any way for this. I just knew that we were performing, and David was there, behind the camera, capturing every bead of sweat.
Was the lip synching difficult? What kind of direction did he give you?
We weren’t given any direction, so we just tried to channel our best collective Julee Cruise vibe. We had basic instructions as to when to start lip synching, and that was about it.
You were saying there were other bands there at that point?
We saw some of the other bands, but we didn’t really see too many other bands. For the most part, we were just in and out. We heard there was a shoot for the other bands on another day, but we weren’t there for that.
Are any of you particularly influenced by Julee Cruise, what with the hushed, angelic vocals, and all that? Were you told to emulate her in any way for the show?
No, not at all. We are fans of hers, for sure – especially Erika – but there was no mention of us sounding like her, or us trying to sound like her.
Our influences are Stereolab, Bjork, Pavement, Air…Broadcast is a huge influence. I personally am very into Air and Stereolab.
Definitely, I love Pavement.
Are you guys formally trained musically in any way?
No, we’re all self-taught.
How do you come up with your songs, as a band?
We all have input in each others songs, although usually, someone writes a song, initially, and brings it in. That’s when we begin to shape the songs to fit Au Revoir Simone. Nothing is really off limits for discussion, and it ends up being an equal process in the end. No one has more representation in the band – it’s equal parts all three of us.
No creative differences? Wow, nice.
There are differences, but as a trio, there can always be a critical voice if someone is strongly against something, and we like it that way. We can push and pull the songs until we are all happy with the result, but it’s not always easy to come to a consensus. For instance, if someone doesn’t like a bassline, or some other musical element, we talk about it, until we can all agree on something.
How do you feel now that you are on the Lynch fan radar? Do you consider yourself to be on that radar?
Yes, we are aware that his fans are now paying more attention to us, with many of them being very passionate. It’s cool.
And how has that balanced out with your entire fanbase overall?
Well, our old school fans are the best! Like, if ever there’s any sort of hardcore Twin Peaks fans who don’t approve of us for some reason, our old school fans will jump to our defence. It doesn’t happen much, and besides, that’s just how it is on Youtube. People debate all the time. For instance, why did we get picked for the soundtrack and not some other “dreamy” sounding pop band? Maybe someone more like Julee Cruise should have been picked, some might say. All in all, everyone has their own opinion. We encourage discussion, and we appreciate different views.
Fair enough. Did you bump into any other cast members at all while you were there filming? I happened to watch some interview with Kyle MacLachlan, where he said that he didn’t even see any of the show until it was on the air, or really knew what was going to happen overall? Kind of amazing, since he was basically the show’s star.
It doesn’t surprise me. There’s an element of secrecy to all of this. Plus, I think that everything was shot individually. We didn’t really interact with the cast very much.
Did you talk to Mark Frost (Twin Peaks co-creator) at all?
No, I didn’t.
So you never read any of this Twin Peaks books – The Final Dossier or The Secret History of Twin Peaks?
No, I’ve just heard of them. Haven’t read them yet.
They’re interesting, if you are into the sort of “bigger picture” of Twin Peaks, and the mythology and sort of subterfuge that goes into the show. They act as companion pieces, and they’re really cool if a fan wants to dive deeper into that world, as they let you in on some of the more secretive elements. For any fans out there, I’d totally recommend them! But anyway, what happened after Season 3 wrapped up. What changed for Au Revoir Simone?
I have seen David twice since the show aired. One at the Festival of Disruption in Brooklyn, and another time back in L.A., after Season 3 had aired. When I saw him last, I had just watched all of the episodes of Season 3 and I had a million questions that I wanted to ask him. So it was hard to not geek out on Twin Peaks and ask him lots of questions. I did get a few things out of him, but generally, we didn’t talk about that much.
I did, however, mention to him how much I loved Episode 8, as it was so groundbreaking and probably the best thing to be aired on television ever. I had a chance to dork out with Dean Hurley, but he really doesn’t have the inside scoop on Twin Peaks either. No one but David and Mark know the whole story. It’s always fun to speculate, though.
How did you feel about the ending of Season 3?
I liked it. I am a fan of cliffhangers, though. Besides, if you expect anything by David to wrap up with a neat little bow, you’ll probably be disappointed. So I didn’t expect the show to end in any neat and tidy way. Which it didn’t.