Ever wonder what an Australian muscle car sounds like? Let party-punk guitarist Declan Martens provide the burning-rubber details.
Amyl and the Sniffers are pragmatic. They rock fast and write and record even faster. Legend has it they knocked out their debut EP, 2016’s Giddy Up, from start to finish in just 12 hours in the band’s shared home. And their Australian Recording Industry Award-winning (Best Rock Album) self-titled full-length debut is a sweltering, swaggering, scallywag’s set of 11 songs that clock in at 30 minutes. During Australia’s Covid shelter-in mandate, the frenzied foursome locked themselves in their home once again to pen 13 rambunctious-yet-buffed jams that combine blazers with slow burns. Regardless of tempo, danger lurks in their every note and word. With the disregard of Iggy, the venom of Lemmy, and power of Angus, their live performances are tornadic events. Lead singer Amy Taylor is the charismatic lightning, while guitarist Declan Martens, bassist Gus Romer, and drummer Bryce Wilson are the locomotive thunder.
Hours before Amyl and the Sniffers’ headlining set at Nashville’s Brooklyn Bowl, Martens invited PG’s Chris Kies stage right to chronicle his Hemi-like setup. In this episode, we meet his paired live instruments from Gibson, unwrap the story behind his “Excalibur” pedal, and understand Martens’ MO to work smarter, not harder.
Exploring the Explorer
For nearly every show with Amyl and the Sniffers, Declan Martens played a raggedy Strat that was loaded with a Seymour Duncan Hot Rails in the bridge. And on top of that, it’s been featured on all their recordings. That changed in April 2022 when Gibson approached Martens to test drive some of their models. He landed on a daring pair with roots in 1958 that includes this Gibson Explorer in antique natural. It has all-mahogany construction with a rosewood fretboard. The stock Burstbucker 2 (neck) and Burstbucker 3 (bridge) pickups are in place, but the neck humbucker has been disconnected so he can use the selector as a kill switch.
A V for D That’s in Slot B
The second gift from Gibson was this brand-new Flying V that employs the same recipe as the Explorer, with a mahogany body and neck in antique natural, a rosewood fretboard, and Burstbuckers 2 and 3. Martens notes in the Rundown that the Explorer has been seeing more stage time and the V has been reserved for backup duties, but admits that could change at any point.
He once went with coated Elixir strings for their longevity, but he’s been trialing .010–.046 sets from the D’Addario NYXL and Ernie Ball Paradigm families. Martens did mention that he played .010–.052s on the Strat, but found that Gibson’s compact scale length allowed him to reduce to standard .10s. They typically stay in half-step-down tuning, but do venture into drop C# for “Capital.”
M & M
That’s Martens and Marshall. He prefers plugging into JMPs for his love of ’70s rock and punk, but for this U.S. run he’s backlining with a pair of modern JCM800s. Each head is set to stun and firing through a deuce of Marshall 4x12s (1960AVs on top and 1960BVs on bottom) that are carrying Marshall G12 Vintage by Celestion speakers. Martens remarks that he’d ideally run the heads into Marshall 1960AX and BX 4x12s, because they come with 25W Celestion G12M-25 Greenbacks that are more “AC/DC than Guns N' Roses.”
Love At First Sight
Before the band’s first international performance, at The Great Escape festival in Brighton, UK, Martens told their tour manager he needed to find a volume boost/gain pedal. As luck would have it, at the end of the street they were staying on sat a pawnshop. In one of its window displays rested this nondescript home-build. A spontaneously serendipitous spark hit Martens and he purchased the stomp. He plugged it into his rig and was floored: “It wasn’t just something that I liked. I was like ‘holy shit, I love this.’”
Declan says he’s deduced from tinkering that this is a hybrid clone combo that sits between a MXR Distortion+ and DOD Overdrive Preamp 250. He describes it as being a “high midrange boost with hectic gain.” He claims it’s the secret sauce for the studio and values it too much to tour with. However, he did have it in a small case for this run and is tempted to put it into action because he’s missing it.
Declan Marten’s Pedalboard
Declan doesn’t need much to party—proven with this baby board that holds a MXR Carbon Copy Mini, an always-on Electro-Harmonix Soul Food, and a clone (built by Open Ear Audio) of his beloved booster/gain gooser. The TC Electronic PolyTune 2 Noir keeps his Gibbys in check and is actually third in line behind the clone and Soul Food. Everything hits the front of the amp, as he doesn’t use effects loops to keep his tech time at a minimum.