Samick Motherlode

December 2014
more... ArtistsGuitaristsMinus the Bear

Interview: Minus the Bear's Dave Knudson

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Interview: Minus the Bear's Dave Knudson

Photo by Elise Shively

There’s a new Minus the Bear tab book coming out, right?
Yeah, we were hoping to have it ready for this fall tour, but it looks like it won’t be ready until next year.

Does the book reduce some of the guitar- and effects-intensive songs to more straightahead, strummed arrangements so fans that aren’t as proficient on guitar or don’t have looping equipment can still play the song in some capacity?
When we did Acoustics, where we reworked a lot of songs that were crazy into acoustic versions, that whole process was figuring out, “Okay, how am I going to play this crazy tapping, delayed-out, sampled riff on acoustic guitar?” The new songbook will be more technical than strum-along, but we do deconstruct the songs every once in a while—and we will be doing another acoustic record.

How will you explain parts that can’t be notated, like loops and the triggering of samples on your various Line 6 DL4s?
That’s one of the things we’re figuring out how to notate [laughs]. “Knights” is the first song that we’ve been working, and it requires two DL4s and a lot of re-triggering. It would be like, “Play this chord shape, sample it into the DL4, then play this chord shape into the other DL4, sample it, and then use this rhythm to play the riff.”

How many DL4s do you have on your pedalboard?
On my live board, I have four DL4s. One is strictly for delay, and the other three are for sampling/ delay—when we’re playing live, sometimes I’ll need to have a couple of samples ready to go.

Because you can’t save samples on the DL4, do you have to record them live at every gig?
Yeah—most of the time it’s done during the riff of a song. I have a Boss compressor at the end of my chain, so if a song needs to be sampled before the song starts, I’ll hit that compressor to lower the volume super low so that it doesn’t go out loud. I’ll sample before I turn the guitar up, and then go back to full volume.

Do you ever mess up live samples?
Oh, absolutely! [Laughs.] There’ll be times when I’ll be sampling “Knights” in the middle of a set, and I’ll think the tempo’s right for one of the samples and it will be either too fast or too slow. But, y’know, that’s just part of the live thing. I feel that it’s more real and authentic that way.


It’s not uncommon for Knudson to hover over and go to town on his Line 6 Delay Modelers. Photo by Amber Zbitnoff

How do you recover when that happens—do you stop the sample and try again at an inconspicuous spot?
If I can redo it and it’s not going to be, like, “Oh my god, where did the guitar go?” then I’ll do it. Otherwise, you just roll with the punches. There are other times when the DL4 will just lose power—like, if you’re playing at a super-hot club and it’s really sweaty and there’s condensation everywhere. Sometimes they just turn off and it’s, like, “There’s a big sampling part coming up and my pedal just turned off— what’s going to happen?”

Although the DL4 is an iconic pedal, some units are known to have reliability issues. In addition to what you just mentioned, have you encountered other issues with your units?
I’ve had a problem where, if I’m sampling something at soundcheck and then I leave them on for a couple of hours so I can just go out and start playing, it seems like the volume gets lower. I don’t do that anymore.

Have you thought about using a laptop to expand your live sampling capabilities?
You know, we talked about that before—Alex is super into that kind of stuff—but I really do love just pedals and playing guitar, and I don’t want to have to bring a computer with me. I just like all the classic guitar stuff, and if I can get my sounds within that context, great.

Although a laptop-based rig might be more precise than a DL4, there’s something cooler about doing a live sample and not knowing for sure if it’s going to be surgically precise.
Exactly. It adds to the coolness of the show and the urgency of the performance.


Photo by Elise Shively

What are your guitars of choice?
My main guitar is a goldtop PRS McCarty that I got about 12 years ago, a little before the band started. My second favorite is a PRS Custom 24. Those are the main guitars I used on the record. I also used Matt’s ’60s Epiphone Casino, which is just a gorgeous-sounding guitar. A lot of the overdubs were done with the Casino, and the main tracks were done with the PRS guitars.

How about amps?
I love Fender Twins—that’s my go-to amp. I love the headroom, the dynamics, and the brightness. The top end is just so sparkly and rich. I use a Vox AC30 every once in a while. I did some overdubs with an Orange head, and I used a Mesa/Boogie Lone Star Classic for some songs.

Did you use the Lone Star in 100-, 50-, or 10-watt mode?
I think I have it running on 50 watts. What I like to do on my rig now is play through a Twin and a Lone Star in stereo, with a little bit of reverb on the Twin and the Lone Star totally dry.

What do you use for your dirty tones?
A Tube Screamer’s been on my board for probably the past 10 years, but the pedal I love most is the Z.Vex Box of Rock—I just love the boost on that. It makes everything refreshing and wonderful sounding. Then I turn the fuzz on and it gets super nasty.


LEFT: Minus the Bear guitarist Dave Knudson plugs into a Mesa/ Boogie Lone Star Classic (left) and a Fender Twin Reverb. MIDDLE: His four Line 6 delays take up half of his pedalboard. RIGHT: Knudson sticks with his PRS goldtop (left) much of the time, or his PRS Custom 24 models.

How would you contrast the distortion from a raging stack versus that of a dirt pedal into a Twin?
When I was in Botch [Knudson’s previous hardcore band], I had a stereo rig that was a Peavey 5150 4x12 on one side and a Dual Rectifier 4x12 on the other. I loved that power and the stereo setup, but y’know, there’s just something about the Twin. It has more vibe—it has more emotion, depending on how hard you’re playing and the feel of the song. So I do prefer my current rig.

Dave Knudson's Gear

Guitars
PRS McCarty goldtop, PRS Custom 24

Amps
Fender Twin Reverb, Mesa/Boogie Lone Star Classic

Effects
Four Line 6 DL4 Delay Modelers, Line 6 M5, Electro-Harmonix HOG, Ibanez Tube Screamer, Z.Vex Box of Rock, Boss DD–20 Giga Delay, Strymon BlueSky Reverberator

Strings, Picks, and Accessories
Jim Dunlop .010–.046 sets, Dunlop Tortex .60 mm picks, Planet Waves American Stage cables

What other effects do you use?
One of those old-school Roland tape echoes, but I keep that in the studio. I also use a Boss Giga Delay. The Strymon BlueSky Reverberator is another pedal that is amazing. It made it on to a couple of overdubs. It’s not on all the time—I use it when I need a more extreme reverb sound.

How do you guys successfully meld such creative effects use and such seemingly incongruous styles into an accessible package? Do you consciously avoid not going too far in one direction—like, if it gets too prog-y, it might alienate a segment of your audience?
[Laughs.] It’s funny, y’know, we don’t really think about it. We just kind of write what comes naturally to us, and what we think is cool. Planet of Ice is definitely the most prog-y record, but it’s also one of our fans’ all-time favorites. For the most part, fans have been really supportive of any direction we go. That’s been one of the goals of the band for a long time, to create complex music that can be appreciated by more than just music nerds.

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