Premier Guitar met with famed producer and musician Daniel Lanois before his show at City Winery in Nashville. Lanois, known primarily for making lush-sounding records with cavernous reverb and moody delay, reveals his surprisingly simple guitar rig.

Guitars

It’s incredibly surprising that Lanois tours with just two instruments: an early ’70s Sho-Bud LDG 10-string pedal steel guitar and a 1953 Gibson Les Paul goldtop. To help with the inherent buzz that comes with single-coil pickups, Lanois replaced the original pickup in the Sho-Bud with a George L E-66 humbucker. Lanois uses a slightly altered version of the standard E9 setup and tweaks the tuning of the top strings for specific songs.

The ’53 Les Paul features a few modifications: a mini-humbucker from an old Gibson Firebird in the bridge, a Bigsby tailpiece, Tune-o-matic bridge, and some Gretsch knobs. Lanois doesn’t prefer a particular brand of string, just as long as they’re heavy. Currently, his gauges go from .011–.056 with a wound 3rd string.

Amps

Lanois plugs both his guitar and pedal steel through the same setup. From the output of his Korg SDD-3000 digital delay (more on that in a bit), he goes into two classic amps: a ’60s Vox AC30 and a 1958 Fender tweed Deluxe. The AC30 sees a totally dry signal while the Deluxe handles the wet signal.

Lanois just got the Deluxe back from Peter Gabriel (it had been in his studio since the recording of the Us album).

Effects

After a humble Boss TU-3 tuner, Lanois prefers a Morley Optical Volume pedal because of its very quiet optical cell and the fact that it runs on batteries “for ages.”

From there it goes to a vintage Korg SDD-3000 that he first learned about from U2’s guitarist, the Edge. Lanois has been using the digital delay since the early ’80s, and this unit can be heard on albums such as The Joshua Tree, The Unforgettable Fire, and Achtung Baby. The top of the SDD-3000 is covered with tempo reminders from his tour with Emmylou Harris when they performed the entire Wrecking Ball album live.

Dub-Studio Rig

Lanois brings studio magic to the stage with his dub-studio rig, playing tracks like an instrument and manipulating them in real time. The setup consists of a Pro Tools rig that uses an Antelope Orion 32 converter out of an Apple MacBook Air.

The multi-track recordings feed a Mackie 1604 mixer that ultimately feeds a stereo mix to the house and an Ampeg SVT-CL onstage. Lanois pulls in and out tracks as he feels and runs them through a TC Electronic D-Two and a Lexicon Prime Time to add real-time finesse to the sound.

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