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Mahoney recorded his guitar parts in the home studio of bandmate SA Martinez. The members of 311 transplanted from Omaha, Nebraska, to Van Nuys, California, in the early ’90s.
What is going on during the opening of “Sand Dollar” that gives the song such a video-game buoyancy vibe?
That’s my Mu-Tron III paired with a PCM-42 dialed in with a fairly long delay time. The Mu-Tron III is great by itself, but in that instance the PCM-42 gives those repeated notes such life instead of sounding sterile or repeated.
The Mu-Tron is a special beast that not many people mess with. How’d you fall in love with it?
I love Jerry Garcia so being a deadhead opened the door to the Mu-Tron. I remember tripping on acid and hearing songs like "Delta Dawn," "Estimated Prophet," and “Run for the Roses,” and being just blown away [laughs]. I started playing music on a trombone and the envelope filter can dial in some horn-like tones and sounds. I just totally dig the expressiveness you can get with it depending on your picking style or attack. You can get it to quack or mellow and fade into the mix. When I realized Jerry used the Mu-Tron III I knew it was my holy grail.
Are you using a different envelope filter on “Boom Shanka?”
I’m using a vintage MXR Envelope Filter on that song. I track with that as my go-to dirty envelope filter effect since it’s really warm and almost lends itself to being overdriven. The Mu-Tron works fine through a dirty amp, but I prefer to leave that one pristine because it’s that classic sound. I set the MXR so the effect is more exaggerated, but the length of each pulse isn’t nearly as long as the Mu-Tron.
Is that why you have so many duplicates of pedal types on your board?
Yeah, I pretty much run three different signal paths on my pedalboard. One goes through my clean amp. The second goes through my dirty amp. And the third goes through my “party board”—which can go through either head—that has fun effects like ambient ’verbs, long delays, and a looper. Thanks to Dave Phillips at L.A. Sound Design who rigged this up for me so I could go from a tone with my clean amp, the Mu-Tron III and a long delay like my Maxon AD-9 to a sound with my dirty amp, Boss OC-2, and TC Electronic Nova Delay—on a short delay time—by hitting one button … otherwise I’d need a lot more feet onstage.
I prefer to set and use pedals so they can sound the best for what I feel they can do. Like, with my phasers, I think the MXR Phase 90 is great for either clean or dirty so I start it on the dirty side set to a quicker setting, and the EHX Small Stone is at its best through a clean amp so I use that for a watery, almost-Leslie-ish vibe and for a reggae tone. But some pedals sound killer and they can go to both amps like the XTS Pegasus Boost—good for a level boost and giving me more clarity depending on the room—and my MXR Phase 90, but it’s currently only going into the dirty amp so I can have a subtle or luscious phase effect.
Both heads have Lexicon PCM-42 delays in their effects loops so I can have the purest sound when I just want an amp and delay. Plus, putting those digital rackmounts after the preamp gives you the cleanest, straightest-sounding delay. It’s more important for the dirty amp because I’m using it on solos so I’m delaying the preamp signal and it thickens it up a bit, too. I’ve heard you’re supposed to jumper the effects loop if you’re not using it to engage the preamp tube that governs the master volume for a bigger, fuller sound.
What are you using during the swirling, creeping riff that blooms before the first verse of “Revelation of the Year?”
We put that song together on the demo and when we tried recreating it in the studio, I couldn’t remember what I was using when I came up with the riff originally, jamming by myself. So I ended up playing that part through the Small Stone, Mega Vibe, and the Ibanez CS-7 chorus. And then for some of it, I squish it with the TS9.
Does that happen a lot?
Many times, I’ll take a picture of my pedalboard with the pedals lit up so I know what I’m using when I record something into my phone or my computer and I queue it up a few months later. And then when we record, I’ll take detailed notes along with photos so I can dial in my rig before the tour or rehearsals. It’s like a crazy science experiment [laughs].
Honestly, do you have too much stuff?
I don’t see it like that at all … probably not enough. Currently, everything I bring on the road gets used at every show—all the effects, guitars, and amps. I’m streamlined!
I don’t think I could trust anyone else to do it. I enjoy being able to screw with things on the fly, even if it’s just bending down or using my foot to max out a delay so it starts oscillating [makes spaceship landing noise] and sounds like its powering down.