Yoshinaga’s musical menu is based on Fenders and Gibsons, but she adds lots of effects-based spice. “I wanted to play weirdly like Devo and entertainingly and fun like Rick Nielsen,” she says. Photo by Yoshika Horita

suGar Yoshinaga’s Widescreen Strategy

suGar Yoshinaga’s Gear

Fender Road Worn ’50s Stratocaster
Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster
Gibson Les Paul Custom
Gibson SG

Marshall JTM45 (mid-’60s)
Supro 1624T Dual-Tone

DigiTech Whammy WH-1
Line 6 DL4 Delay Stompbox Modeling Pedal
Dunlop CBM95 Cry Baby Mini Wah
EarthQuaker Devices Hoof Reaper dual fuzz
EarthQuaker Devices Night Wire harmonic tremolo
EarthQuaker Devices Spatial Delivery envelope filter
EarthQuaker Devices Hummingbird V3 Repeat Percussions Tremolo
EarthQuaker Devices Speaker Cranker drive
EarthQuaker Devices Avalanche Run stereo delay and reverb
Keeley Compressor
Electro-Harmonix Big Muff (Russian)
Klon KTR overdrive/boost
Xotic RC Booster V2
Moog MF ring modulator
Strymon TimeLine Delay
Strymon El Capistan dTape Echo
Strymon Mobius modulator
Eventide H9 Harmonizer
TC-Helicon VoiceLive 2 vocal processor
Boss RC-3 Loop Station
Boss FV-30L volume pedal
Moog EP-3 Expression Pedal
Yamaha Reface CS synthesizer
Mission Engineering MEXP-MINI Expressionator

Strings, Picks, Accessories
GHS Boomers GB10 1/2 (.0105–.048)
Fender Triangle medium picks
Mono Vertigo bass cases

suGar Yoshinaga may not be a household name yet, but she’s well on her way to establishing herself, with a broad skill set that also includes composing and mixing. Her work in those fields is an important component of the sonic tapestry that is Halo Orbit.

Yoshinaga grew up taking classical piano lessons from the time she was 4 years old, but gravitated to the guitar simply because she loved rock music and wanted to play in a band. She started playing acoustic when she was 10, and bought an electric by the time she was 12. Devo and Cheap Trick were her biggest influences at that time.

“I wanted to play weirdly like Devo and entertainingly and fun like Rick Nielsen,” she confides. “Jean-Jacques Burnel of the Stranglers was a big influence, too, even though he was a bass player.” She cites the late ’70s to early ’80s post-punk/no wave scene as her biggest overall influence. “I listened to all those bands on the radio, recorded them on cassette tapes, and listened over and over again.”

Since the early stages of her career, suGar’s interest in multi-track recording evolved alongside her development as a guitarist. In the beginning, she used a 4-track cassette recorder. In the ’80s it was an ADAT. In the ’90s, she gravitated towards Macintosh with Logic, which is the configuration she still uses today (albeit updated). “My first paid job as a professional musician was to make computer game music,” she recalls. “There were only three melody mono tracks plus one noise track at that time. That’s where I learned to compose.” Today, she composes soundtracks for TV, films, and commercials when not playing in the band. “I do mixing sometimes, too. We used my mix of ‘Warped Descent’ on this record.”

Halo Orbit features Lisa Papineau (Big Sir) on a few tunes, and since she’s not performing with them, suGar handles these vocal parts live, using a vocoder-like approach through TC-Helicon’s VoiceLive 2. “It was a new challenge, but it also created some interesting sounds and opportunities. I think it went very well. I'd like to explore more of it on the next album.”