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Tim Mahoney runs three signal paths through his pedalboard, and often uses multiple brands of the same effects for different flavors through different amps. Still, he says he uses everything on his board.
Why are you a big user of the two-amp (or more) setup for recording clean and then two more for dirty?
I really enjoy the complement meshing and a fatter, wider spread the two amps give a recorded guitar track. Each head is routed through its own 4x12 and our producer Scott Ralston mics each cabinet with two mics—and all four mics are different—so when we’re mixing we have an entire collection of choices that we can queue up, dial back, isolate, and mix to best suit the overall song.
Are the similar output tubes a concern? Both amps use EL34s.
I’ve found that even if you have two of the same exact amps, they produce a distinct tone all their own. So with the Spitfire and Uberschall having the same tube layout, they still produce unique sounds because the brand of tubes is different, and the wiring, transformers, and capacitors are all different, too.
What about your live rig?
We pretty much used my live rig to record my parts. The only thing we indulged on was adding amps to thicken the sound and provide more options in post. I used my live pedalboard and my go-to guitars that I still take on the road. For amps, I’ll just be using a Spitfire II for clean and probably the Uberschall for dirty, which will be her first time on the road so I’ll have to extra nice to her [laughs].
Did you track predominantly with “Ol Blue”—your early ’90s PRS Standard 24?
Oh yeah, Blue was the main dog again [laughs]. I got the Paul Reed Smith Signature Limited last year and it has these pickups (the bridge is oversized and the neck is a tad undersized) that make it sound monstrous like a Les Paul so I used that a bit on the heavier parts. For the clean parts, I primarily used my Fender David Gilmour Stratocaster.
Last time we talked you were using modern humbuckers, but looking to dive into the world of PAF-style ’buckers. Has that happened yet?
I tried out and really liked Seymour Duncan’s Antiquity humbuckers designed after the Seth Lover pickups from the ’50s. I actually put PRS 57/08s in all of my main PRS guitars and I love them. Everything I try to go after when it comes to guitars and pickups is based on what I love in my ’76 Gibson Explorer that has its original PAF pickups. Another guitar I use as a benchmark for tone is my early ’70s Fender Telecaster Deluxe with the Lover-designed Wide Range humbuckers.
You seem to prefer using older, mahogany-based guitars with lower-output pickups. Why is that?
Typically, guys might think they want high-output pickups through a high-gain amp for the best, most aggressive sound, but I need to balance between very, crystal-clean chill parts and heavy-rocking jams. The lower-output pickups have clarity and leave an open, dynamic range—especially with the high-gain stuff—that you lose if you push everything to the max. I think it gives you more room to use overdrives and boosts because if you’re using active or high-output humbuckers, you’re eating up a lot of frequency space just from their power. It takes the tone out of the wood, amp, and effects.
What are you using on the solo of “First Dimension” to get that nasally, pitch-shifting, phased-out quality?
There were no time constraints like when you rent studio time so we procrastinated and the solo on “First Dimension” was the spontaneous last take I did after about 100 other solos. I didn’t realize until I listened back that the delay time on the PCM-42 was cranked so it starts to wash out a bit, which is something I didn’t intend to do at all, but it was a happy accident. The pitch shifting you’re hearing is my Boss OC-2 pedal running through the dirty Uberschall/Spitfire II setup.
Watch 311’s entire set from the 2011 KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas show to fully appreciate Mahoney’s chameleonic range, from ska to funk to metal.
“Friday Afternoon” starts out real tranquil and ends up like a raging ’80s rocker from the strip. How did that song come to be?
That is a song Nick wrote before rehearsals and it’s funny because he’s a very relaxed, centered dude. So for him to exhibit this hard side—which I love because I’m a metalhead from Omaha—was interesting and funny because he’s not really into that scene as a music fan. It gave me a chance to work out some scales and brush up on my pinch-harmonic squeals [laughs].
Another song with heavier vibes is “The Great Divide”—you really flex your metal muscle.
I love pinch harmonics and I try to incorporate them in the live setting, but this album I was able to put some in that felt timely and appropriate with the overall song. Whether it’s spacey interludes or more aggressive tones, we’re a bit more reserved when we record and push things to the extreme live. But “The Great Divide” was a riff I’ve had worked up for years and we implemented an old, unused drumbeat from Chad [Sexton] to salvage our two separate, incoherent ideas into a complete song. It was a fun challenge working that into shape with the basis of a cool riff and fresh beat.
How do you feel collaborating with Scott Ralston again shaped Stereolithic?
It was a comfort thing. He’s been around us the longest and he’s been our live sound guy forever, so he knew how to craft things and push us in a new direction or further in a familiar area to deliver an album that is polished but represents our dynamic range showcased when we perform live.
One thing I’ve noticed on this album that hasn’t been felt since the ’90s is the power of the songs. I can envision them energizing crowds to get down. Was that a specific goal with the heavier tracks on Stereolithic?
I hope so—we really try to keep the liveliness of certain songs in mind when we write, record, and come up with setlists because we want our fans to get off their feet to jump, dance, and have a good time—that’s our main goal as a band. [Laughs] It’s not as easy to go there anymore now that we’re older dudes, but I think this new batch of songs should really capture and excite our fans like the early stuff.