Alternating between quirkily sultry vocals, bouts of fuzzed-out mayhem, and jazzy lines,
Clark is always in control. Photo by Lori Paulson
So that’s pretty much your whole rig?
Live, I have this bonkers pedalboard that’s MIDI controlled—because I was spending so much time not even performing, just making sure I was hitting the right pedals at the right time. So I went to this guy named Mike Vegas, who has a pedalboard company called Nice Rack here in New York, and I had a pedalboard custom built that syncs up MIDI with my keyboard player—who’s running Ableton Live. I have to program it, but it sends MIDI commands to change my sonic parameters on different cues. I don’t even have to touch the pedalboard anymore—it’s amazing!
What’s on that ’board?
I have an Eventide Space, an Eventide PitchFactor, the Death by Audio Interstellar Overdriver Deluxe, the Boss Super Shifter, and a Z.Vex Mastotron fuzz.
Which MIDI interface are you using?
An RJM Mini Effect Gizmo and an RJM MasterMind.
What about other guitars and amps?
Right now I have the Harmony Bobkat and the Silvertone, and then I have a 1979 Hagstrom Super Swede—which plays really well. Those are my three touring guitars this time out. I’ve been playing through a Music Man bass amp from the ’80s that has a lot of really specific EQ controls—like, 1.6 kHz or 510 Hz—which I really like.
Are you using that in addition to the Princeton?
No, I use the Princeton in the studio, and I’ve been using the Music Man live. But I may switch that up. The Music Man has a limiter in it that you can turn on and off, but I feel like it’s on no matter what—which is not good. [Ed note: At press time, Clark had switched from the Music Man to two handwired TRVR amps for live playing. See the “Annie Clark’s Gearbox” sidebar below for details.]
We’re running this article in our annual pedal issue, so I wondered if you could talk a little about your philosophy on getting interesting sounds?
I think probably the best distortion still is overdriving a tube amp, or—in the studio—going straight into the console and getting board distortion. That’s a very satisfying distortion. But if you’re touring and you need to be practical and you have to have a lot of different colors in your guitar palette, you probably shouldn’t just bring, like, a Fender tweed amp for a great overdrive sound—that’s just not going to happen.
You mean because it’s too limited, tonally?
Just logistically. Even if it’s my ideal sound, in my current configuration I’d need a pedalboard that could switch between two amps on a dime. Y’know, it’s like, “Okay, here’s the distorted part, but the chorus is really clean, so I’ve got to go over here.” It’s just tricky.
So the main reason you’re using the Music Man is for clean headroom, and then you can use pedals for your distortion.
Exactly. As far as the effects philosophy … in my former years, I was traveling with a pedalboard that was huge. It had Moogerfoogers and I was controlling them with expression pedals, and I had two or three distortions, and this and that and the other, but I’ve come around to having a fuzz and a distortion, and then a lot of flexibility in a couple other pedals. The Eventide pedals are really great for that, in terms of how much space they take up versus what they can give you. I really like them because, if you’re not needing to travel with rack gear—like the Edge or something—you can get a whole lot of mileage out of these pedals that don’t take that much space on your pedalboard.