A slew of top-notch vintage and custom Strats, a 1960 Les Paul, and a wall of Dumbles keep the blues-rocker rolling.
It’s been 11 years since Kenny Wayne Shepherd filmed his previous Rig Rundown. PG’s John Bohlinger caught up with the blues-rocker before his recent sold-out show at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium to hear some killer playing and see some untouchable—by anyone but Kenny and his tech—gear.
The tour stop was supporting the December 2022 release of Trouble Is … 25, a re-recording of his 1997 breakthrough album, which had four top 10 hits when it was originally issued: “Slow Ride,” “Somehow, Somewhere, Someway,” “Everything is Broken,” and “Blue on Black.” There have been seven other studio recordings since then, and while he’s still mostly a Strat player, some other instruments have joined his armada, too. And Dumbles … he has lots of Dumbles.
Brought to you by D’Addario XS Strings.
This 1961 Fender Stratocaster has been Shepherd’s No. 1 since he bought it right as his career began to take off. Like all of his electrics, it stays strung with Ernie Balls—.011, .014, .018, .038, .048, and .058.—and is played with Dunlop heavy picks.
Fender built Shepherda nearly identical version of his 1961 to save wear and tear on the original. Pretty exacting custom relic work!
Here’s a Fender Jimi Hendrix Monterey Strat. The Fullerton giant made just more than 200 replicas of the guitar that Jimi played and burned onstage at the Monterey Pop Festival, in 1967. When Shepherd got the guitar he immediately had Fender make him a custom neck with jumbo frets and a backwards headstock. Graph Tech saddles were also added to this work of art.
Down to the Crossroads
Inspired by the famed Mississippi Delta intersection where Robert Johnson, by fable, cut his deal with the devil, this Strat with the Highway 61 and Highway 49 signs was created by Shepherd and Fender Custom Shop master builder Todd Krause over two years, and completed in 2015. This distinctive relic’d instrument has an alder body, a rosewood fretboard, Graph Tech saddles, and black knobs and pickup covers.
Sunny ’60 Shop
The only thing that’s been changed on this 1960 sunburst Gibson Les Paul is the jack plate and toggle surround. The rest is all original, including the frets.
Shut the Front Door (Or the Cows Will Get Out)
This limited edition reclaimed pinewood Strat’s body came from a barn built in the 1800s in Lake Odessa, Michigan. It has a rosewood neck with a hand-rubbed oil finish and a comfortable, modern C neck profile. Other features include a 9.5"-radius, 25.5" scale rosewood fretboard with 22 medium jumbo frets, three Fender Custom Shop Fat ’50s single-coil Stratocaster pickups with 5-way switching, an unbuffed single-ply black pickguard, a two-point synchronized tremolo bridge with vintage-style stamped steel saddles, Micro-Tilt neck adjustment, and a laser-etched headstock logo.
Sig to Dig
This new Kenny Wayne Shepherd Signature Stratocaster features a chambered ash body, a translucent faded sonic blue lacquer finish, an early ’60s inspired C-shaped maple neck, and a bound rosewood fretboard with a 7.25" radius and block inlay. The neck is “the ultimate copy of the neck on my ’61 Strat,” Shepherd says.
Here’s Shepherd’s Martin acoustic signature model JC-16KWS. It’s got a maple back and sides, a Sitka spruce top, Martin’s A-frame X scalloped bracing, and a mahogany neck with a low oval profile.
Billy Gibbons Wants This Guitar
The good Rev. Gibbons’ eyes popped out when Shepherd unveiled this one on an earlier Ryman gig, and BFG named it “Copperboy.” It’s another Fender Custom Shop Masterbuilt Stratocaster by Todd Krause, with lipstick pickup covers and a reverse position for the bridge pickup.
Old Tones, New Tools
Except for that genuine Roger Mayer Octavia, KWS gets his blues-rock tones using some contemporary tools. There’s a modded Venus Witch Wah by Steve Monk, a Sir Henry Vibe by Tinsley Audio, a Boss TU-3, an Analog Man King of Tone and Bi-Chorus, a gen II Klon KTR, and a Free The Tone Future Factory and Ambi Space Digital Reverb. All pedals are routed through a Voodoo Labs PX-8 Plus programable switcher. A Radial JD7 routes the signal to his three amps, and two Voodoo Lab Pedal Power X4s supply the juice.
Rumbles with Dumbles
For this tour, Shepherd uses a trio of white Fender amps and cabs hot-rodded by the late Alexander “Howard” Dumble—just a few of the 11 Dumbles in his collection. These are a Pro Reverb (called the Ultra/Rockphonix), a Bassman (called the Slidewinder), and a Band Master (called the AC763).
Dialing in Dumbles
Here are close-ups of the settings Shepherd applies to his three Dumble-built amps.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd talks Strats and demos of all of his effects.
We caught up with blues rocker Kenny Wayne Shepherd to check out his rig in Des Moines, Iowa. Watch our extensive video interview, including demos of all of his effects:
Shepherd is known for using Strats, and brings a number of them on the road. He relies heavily on his Fender signature models, but employs different variations on the Strat for different songs. Shepherd uses Ernie Ball strings and varies between .10s to .12s, depending upon how much he's been playing.
Left to Right: stock Fender Kenny Wayne Shepherd Signature Strat, Fender Kenny Wayne Shepherd Signature Strat prototype, Fender Kenny Wayne Shepherd Signature Strat with GraphTech Ghost pickup system (used for the "Blue on Black"), Fender Jimi Hendrix Monterrey Pop Limited Edition.
Left to Right: Martin Kenny Wayne Shepherd Signature Acoustic prototype, Fender Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature Strat with GraphTech saddles and a custom neck (used heavily on his first album), National Resophonic Dobro Electric (used for "Aberdeen"), Guy Guitars Strat-style with lipstick pickups, built-in Roger Mayer overdrive boost, and Drop D lever.
When we caught up with Shepherd, he was experimenting with different amp setups and trying to use lower wattage amps to lower the stage volume. That night, he was using a 1964 Fender Blackface Vibroverb Reissue, a new Fender Super-Sonic Twin set on the Bassman setting, and a Fender Deluxe Reissue that's been rebuilt by Alexander Dumble called the Tweedledee Deluxe. He runs all three amps and brings the Deluxe into the mix as "icing on the cake."
Shepherd was using an in-between pedalboard while a custom board was being built when we caught up with him. The signal chain was a Dunlop Uni-Vibe, Electro-Harmonix POG 2, MXR CAE wah, Chicago Iron Tycobrahe Octavia (modern), Analog Man King of Tone (newest version), Ibanez Hand-Wired TS808 Tube Screamer, Analog Man Bi-Chorus, JAM Pedals Delay Llama, and Boss TU-3.His main tone comes from the combination of the King of Tone and Tube Screamer. His new board adds an additional MXRCAE Wah circuit mounted in the board and a BK Butler Tube Driver. The board is powered by Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus and his new board uses a Voodoo Lab Ground Control System.
We recently combed through all the pedalboards we’ve seen in the last year of Rig Rundown video shoots to bring you the 10 most stacked rigs we’ve encountered across a range of genres.
We recently combed through all the pedalboards we’ve seen in the last year of Rig Rundown video shoots to bring you the 10 most stacked rigs we’ve encountered across a range of genres. When you’re done here, be sure to head over to our Facebook page, where we’re offering you a chance to win half of the ’boards detailed in this feature (the ones marked with a “Win It!” icon). Here’s the link: facebook.com/premierguitar
Dream Theater's John Petrucci
Signal Chain: Dunlop Cry Baby Rackmount > Keeley-modded Ibanez TS-9 > Boss PH-3 Phase Shifter > MXR EVH Flanger > Carl Martin Compressor/ Limiter. Powered by a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 with an Axess GRX4 loop system. Photo by Luke Viertel
Petrucci’s satellite pedalboard may seem the least stacked on the surface, but that’s because most of his firepower is packed in the Fractal Audio Axe-Fx II that resides in the effects loop of his Mesa/Boogie Mark V amps. His guitar signal is split at a Framptone A/B box into either a Fishman Aura 16 into a DI (for acoustic) or into a Dunlop Cry Baby Rackmount wah before hitting the pictured satellite pedalboard on top of his rack.
“When we first built this rig, we did everything in the Axe-Fx, and he missed having pedals he could mess around with,” explained tech Matt “Maddi” Schieferstein.
The board is ever changing— particularly in the overdrive spot that was inhabited by a Keeley-modded Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer when we caught up with Dream Theater. “He’ll actually have me change it during the show sometimes,” Schieferstein told us. The Carl Martin Compressor/Limiter earned a place on Petrucci’s board after a big compressor shootout prior to the band’s “A Dramatic Tour of Events” fall 2011 tour. Schieferstein explained that in the end, the Carl Martin was chosen because Petrucci liked its compression and attack, without it being overpowering.
From the board, the signal goes into an interface that connects to Petrucci’s floor controller (an Axess Electronics FX-1), which controls the satellite board and the Axe-Fx II. Petrucci’s Axe- FX II is set with one preset that has a chorus, three delays, and a harmonizer set to his preferences. Also on the floor are a wah pedal, which controls the rackmount Cry Baby, an Ernie Ball Volume Pedal, and a Boss TU-2 tuner.
Watch the Rig Rundown:
Maroon 5's James Valentine
Signal Chain: Keeley Looper (sent to Providence Anadime Chorus > Electro-Harmonix Micro POG 2 > Keeley Katana Clean Boost) > Fulltone Octafuzz > Z.Vex Octane 3 > Dunlop Zakk Wylde signature wah > Fulltone Fulldrive 2 > Fulltone OCD > Menatone Blue Collar Overdrive > Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor > Axess BS-2 Buffer/Splitter (split out to Korg Pitchblack tuner) > Dunlop Rotovibe > Boss FV-500H volume pedal > Keeley-modded Line 6 DL4. Photo by Chris Kies
Though his board has perhaps the most effects of any that we saw on the road this year, Maroon 5 lead guitarist James Valentine uses many of them for single songs—or even just parts of a song. When we caught up with Valentine during Maroon 5’s summer 2011 Hands All Over tour, his more heavily used effects include a Fulltone OCD for leads and the Line 6 DL4 set with a slight delay and a more dramatic delay that he taps into the tempo of the songs, “for that Police-y sort of thing we do a lot.”
Valentine has three flavors of overdrive on his board—a Menatone Blue Collar, Fulltone OCD, and Fulltone Full- Drive—but usually gravitates back to the OCD. However, his pedal usage is not set in stone. “I kind of change it up because we play so many shows that sometimes I’ll solo on the [Fulltone] Octave Fuzz because you’ll find that that will inspire different sort of ideas. My sound guy would probably prefer if I played the same thing every night, [laughs] but it’s a little more fun to experiment.”
The Dunlop Rotovibe, which he calls his “favorite swirly-type of effect,” is his go-to for chorus tones, and after trying out a number of wahs, Valentine settled on the seemingly uncharacteristic Zakk Wylde wah. “I love Zakk Wylde’s playing, but I don’t really play anything like him,” he told us. “Every wah has a different sort of range it sweeps from, and this one had a particularly good range and just works for the type of stuff I use it for.” The wah can be heard heavily on the band’s hit, “Sunday Morning.”
Some of his less used pedals include the Z.Vex Octane 3, which is only used for about four bars on “Never See Your Face Again,” which he says “really breaks up,” and the Electro-Harmonix Micro POG which made its way to Valentine’s board for the single, “Give a Little More.” He uses the pedal in conjunction with the Providence Anadime Chorus for the intro section of the song, but has been inspired to find more ways to use it since adding it to the board. The POG and Chorus are run through the Keeley Looper to keep the chain clean. “As soon as you add anything else to your signal chain, you start to see your signal degrading,” he explains. Valentine and his tech, Mike Buffa, took great care to make sure the chain has as little signal degradation as possible.
Valentine controls volume with his Boss FV-500H, smoothes things out with a Keeley Katana, tunes with a Korg Pitchblack tuner, and powers the board with a trio of Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus units. One of his secret weapons is the Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor. “We have a lot of dramatic pauses,” he explains, “so if there’s that extra in between that, it’s annoying.”
Valentine also uses his pedalboard to control his two-amp setup. His Divided by 13 Switchazel and Matchless footswitch sit side-by-side so he can switch both amps from clean to dirty at the same time or set one clean and one dirty. Valentine told us, “If you see me during the show, I’m kind of tap dancing a lot—I probably should switch to some sort of MIDI system [laughs].”
Watch the Rig Rundown:
Wilco's Nels Cline
Top Signal Chain: Boss TU-2 tuner > Z.Vex Fuzz Factory> Fulltone DejáVibe> DigiTech Whammy > Boss CS-3 Compression Sustainer > Boss VB-2 Vibrato > Bigfoot FX Magnavibe > Klon Centaur > Crazy Tube Circuits Starlight Overdrive > Crowther Hotcake > Fulltone ‘69 > Electro-Harmonix Pulsar > Crazy Tube Circuits Viagra Boost > Boss FV-500H volume pedal > Boss DD-3 delay > MXR Phase 45 > Boss DD-7 delay
“Sadly, happily, strangely, I seem to be known for using a lot of effects pedals,” Nels Cline told us. “For me, they’re like colors on a palette, and they’re not a gimmick.” Though the talented guitarist plays in a number of projects, we checked out his expansive setup for his most high-profile gig—lead guitarist for alt-rock band Wilco.
The keys to Cline’s sound are overdrive, compression, volume, and delay: “This is the exploded version of those parameters,” he explains. The volume pedal is particularly important for Cline, who was introduced to its usefulness in the ’70s through guys like Steve Howe and Robert Fripp. In addition to using it for violin sounds and bringing volume up and down, Cline—always the single-coil lover—also employs the volume pedal to defeat 60-cycle hum. “I just always have my foot on it,” he says. He uses a Boss FV-500H because it doesn’t break easily and is transparent.
The other key to his tone is the elusive Klon Centaur, which he relies on for lead work like the solos on “Impossible Germany” and “Ashes of American Flags.” The latter also employs his Boss VB-2 Vibrato and Electro- Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb.
Other favorites of Cline include the Fuzz Factory, which he describes as, “really strange and intense and uncontrollable,” and the Magnavibe, which he says is the only pedal that replicates the tone of an old Magnatone amp he records with. He pairs the Fuzz Factory with his DigiTech Whammy (set to two octaves down) and punishes the strings with a spring for end-of-the-world tones. Setting the Whammy between settings, resting his battered Jazzmaster on his amp, and working his Korg Kaoss Pad 2—generally used for tape delay effects—unlocks out-of-tune clusters and further wackiness.
Bottom Signal Chain: Signal Chain: Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man > Electro-Harmonix 16 Second Delay > Electro-Harmonix Ring Thing > Korg Kaoss Pad 2 > Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Plus. Photos by Rebecca Dirks
Cline pairs his Fulltone DejáVibe and Boss DD-7 for Band of Gypsies-style Hendrix tones (“Doesn’t come in that handy with Wilco,” he jokes), employs the Fulltone ’69 for germanium fuzz tones, and calls the Crazy Tube Starlight into action when old-school RAT tones are in order. His vintage Electro-Harmonix 16-Second Delay has been part of his sound for more than 25 years after Bill Frisell turned him onto it, and it’s always recording, used for looping on the fly.
Cline’s guitar tech, Eric Baecht, calls Cline’s second board—the collection of noisemakers situated on a table—the “science project,” and the description is apt for Cline’s approach to effects. He’s constantly playing and experimenting. “I have fun everywhere I go,” Cline told us.
The pedals are straight in line, no loops. When we asked Cline about it he explained, “It does degrade my sound … degradation is my sound. I’m not a purist about anything, so why would I be a purist about guitar tone?”
Watch the Rig Rundown:
Mastodon's Brent Hinds
Signal Chain: Boss TU-3 Tuner (split off), Ernie Ball volume pedal > Morley Bad Horsie wah > Boss GE-7 Graphic EQ > Morpheus DropTune > VMan Overdrive (custom) > Ibanez TS-808 > Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor > Boss DD-6 Digital Delay > Stereo Split Left (Boss RE-20 > Line 6 DL4 > Lee Jackson 4-Way Split > EbTech Hum Eliminator > Amps) OR Stereo Split Right (Boss RE-20 > Line 6 DL4 > Amp). Photo by Ken Settle
Hinds’ setup has been fairly constant, with the Line 6 DL4, Boss GE-7 Graphic EQ, Ibanez Tube Screamer, Boss DD-6 Digital Delay, and Boss RE-20 Space Echo comprising the band’s live tone for years. In 2009, Hinds added the Morpheus DropTune.
Hinds favors a TS-808 Tube Screamer with a JRC4558 chip for overdrive. He has a signature Monster Effects Mastortion pedal based on this version of the TS-808, but with more volume and low end. When we caught up with Hinds during the band’s tour in support of The Hunter, however, it was the trusty TS-808 on the board.
Photo by Chris Kies
Hinds described his approach to effects as simple: “Anything other than those effects or something with a lot of knobs and switches [laughs], I don’t know how to work! I want to be like Omar Rodr’guez-L—pez [guitarist of The Mars Volta and At the Drive-In] with tons of effects and pedals, but I don’t have the most patience in the world and I only have one foot to control my pedalboard.”
But he’s on his way. One newer addition to this board is the Morley Bad Horsie wah, used on the song “Dry Bone Valley.” Hinds joked, “Essentially, to be considered a bonafide guitarist you need to record one wah wah song … ‘Dry Bone Valley’ has this perfect swaggering, galloping vibe to the chorus and verses that leads right up the wah-solo perfectly.”
Of course, despite adding a pedal here and there, Hinds will likely never dive into a more complex setup and still prefers to get his chorus sounds a bit more naturally: with his 9- and 12-string guitars. He explains, “The octave strings create this ringing, atonal chorus effect unmatched by any chorus pedal. A 6-string and a pedal sounds stale in comparison.”
Primus' Ler Lalonde
Signal Chain: Maxon PH-350 Rotary Phaser, Strymon Ola dBucket Chorus and Vibrato, MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay, Fulltone Ultimate Octave, Dunlop UV1 Uni-Vibe, and Custom Dunlop Wah (half Slash signature, half Dimebag signature).
Primus guitarist Ler LaLonde’s creative use of effects has helped define the band’s unconventional sound since the beginning. And while the effects are called into action to recreate album tones, a big part of their duty is to aid the spacey jams that happen live.
Two of the keys to Primus’ sound include the Maxon Phaser and EBS OctaBass—both have been staples of his board for decades. “Basically, it’s whenever you want to sound like Gilmour, that’s the pedal,” says LaLonde of the Phaser, which is used on open jams, while the OctaBass is geared more toward old-school, Jimmy Page octave tones. Why a bass pedal? “I didn’t know any better,” he admits.
Top Board: Empress Tap Tremolo, TC Electronic Nova Delay, Haz Mu-Tron III+ (replica), and EBS OctaBass. Bottom Board: Electro-Harmonix Ring Thing and Radial Bones Twin-City ABY switcher. Photos by Jeremy Hauskins
LaLonde’s board has three delays—two MXR Carbon Copy pedals and a TC Electronic Nova Delay—each set for different uses. The first Carbon Copy is set for short delays like those in “Jilly’s on Smack,” and the second is set for soloing and tweaking out into wild, spacey jams. The Nova Delay is set for longer, swell-type delays suited to a cleaner digital sound.
Other song-specific pedals include the Strymon Ola Chorus used throughout “Moron TV” and a custom Dunlop Cry Baby used for the intro to “Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers.” LaLonde had chased that tone live for some time. “I don’t know what I was using at the time,” he explained, “so we went through and tried all these pedals [at Dunlop] and they put together a custom one.” The wah is half Dunlop’s Slash signature model and half the company’s Dimebag signature model, and can be switched between the two.
This board also marks LaLonde’s first foray into distortion boxes with the Fulltone Ultimate Octave, used on “Hoinfodaman” for Neil Young-style breakup. The Mu-Tron III+ is a reproduction—“Sounds just like Garcia!” he enthused —and the Electro-Harmonix Ring Thing is on the board because, “Everybody has to have robot sounds.”
It’s not just tone he’s after, however. Quite the abusive stomper, LaLonde is always swapping pedals for more durable ones. The Ultimate Octave replaced an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, while the Nova Delay and Electro-Harmonix Ring Thing are routinely rotated with a Strymon Brigadier and Way Huge Ring Worm, respectively. Another crucial feature for LaLonde is tap tempo in time-based effects, due to the band’s jamming tendencies. “So many songs where we’re opening up, we’re jamming, tempos are changing,” he explains, “so it’s great to just tap it in and sort of get The Smiths sort of tremolo sound but in time.”
But what’s with the arrows? LaLonde’s approach to marking his settings is idiot-proof: set the knobs, then mark with an arrow that should always point straight up. However, he adds with a laugh, “As you can see, everything is usually pretty much maxed out and drastic, we’re not very subtle with the effects.”
Watch the Rig Rundown:
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Signal Chain: MXR CAE wah > Boss TU-3 > Switcher Loop 1: Dunlop Uni-Vibe > Switcher Loop 2: MXR CAE wah circuit mounted inside board > Switcher Loop 3: Chicago Iron Tycobrahe Octavia (modern) > Switcher Loop 4: MXR Blue Box Fuzz > Switcher Loop 5: Analog Man King of Tone (newest version) > Switcher Loop 6: Ibanez Hand-Wired TS808 Tube Screamer > Switcher Loop 7: Analog Man Bi-Chorus > Switcher Loop 8: BK Butler Tube Driver (new model with Bias knob) > JAM Pedals Delay Llama. Photo by Michael Helweg
Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s board—recently rebuilt by custom builder Helweg Custom Pedalboards—is packed with all the bluesy goodness any Stevieand Jimi-inspired player could ask for. But the heart of his tone lies in the combination of a recentissue Analog Man King of Tone and stock Ibanez TS-808HW Tube Screamer. “It’s basically the sound of the amps and this King of Tone pedal and the Tube Screamer,” explains Shepherd. “Everything else is just for one or two songs here or there.”
Photo by Chris Kies
The King of Tone—which he called “one of the greatest overdrive pedals ever built”— has its low (red) and high (yellow) gain sides set similarly, but the real magic happens when you combine the two. “It’s over-the-top awesome,” he enthused. Shepherd adds in the TS-808HW for even thicker tones. “When you use the two together, it’s got everything to it,” he told us. “It’s got the fat low end, and the nice, sparkly, high ends, and it’s got a really nice midrange capability. I don’t really know of a better combination to be honest with you.”
Beyond this combination, which he says comprises 90 percent of his tone, Shepherd uses the Dunlop Uni-Vibe for the rhythm tone on “Blue On Black” and Hendrix songs, Electro- Harmonix POG 2 (with the King of Tone) for “Your Blues,” and the Analog Man Bi-Chorus (one side set slow for Leslie tones, the other slightly faster) for the band’s slow version of “Voodoo Chile Blues.” Shepherd, who has an original Tycobrahe Octavia for studio use, uses the Chicago Iron Octavia reissue for Hendrix songs as well, and calls it, “as accurate of a reissue as anything I’ve ever seen.” He gets his favorite tones by rolling off the tone slightly, stacking on a Tube Screamer, and hitting his Strat’s neck pickup.
Shepherd’s board actually contains two of his preferred Dunlop CAE Cry Baby wahs— one on the board, and one circuit set to a specific pot setting and mounted under the board for the song “Show Me the Way Back Home.” Shepherd prefers the CAE wah for its sweep and vocal qualities, and tends to stay on the yellow setting without the built-in overdrive.
The board is rounded out with a recent issue BK Butler Tube Driver, a JAM Pedals Delay Llama+ modified with an on/off instead of hold switch and tap tempo, and a Boss TU-3, which he also uses as a mute switch when switching guitars. Michael Helweg wired Shepherd’s board with two Voodoo Lab switchers and a Voodoo Lab Commander set with loop presets for controlling his pedal combinations.
Watch the Rig Rundown:
The Mars Volta's Juan Alderete
TC Electronic PolyTune > Boss CS-2 Compression Sustainer > Boss VB-2 Vibrato > Boss OC-2 Octave > DOD FX32 Meatbox SubOctave > Wren And Cuff Pickle Pie B > Earth- Quaker Devices Ghost Disaster Delay and Reverb > DigiTech PDS 20/20 > Boss PN-2 Tremolo/Pan > Pigtronix EP2 Envelope Phaser > (not pictured) Dwarfcraft Eau Claire Thunder > WMD Geiger Counter. Photo by Chris Kies
The Mars Volta guitarist Omar Rodr’guez-L—pez and bassist Juan Alderete have long been known for having expansive pedalboard setups that border on extreme. Alderete admits that he once had a multi-station setup with one “standard” board, one dedicated to ring modulators and whammy effects, one stocked with micro-synths, and one with an array of delay pedals and flangers for tweaking on the fly. Alderete had slimmed down to this “economy version”— as had Rodr’guez- L—pez who had replaced many of his effects with a Line 6 M9—for their summer tour with Soundgarden.
Part of the reason for slimming down, he explained, was because the band was playing shorter sets and weren’t employing lengthy soundscape breaks between songs, during which he would tweak away at his effects. In fact, he says, “All these are pretty stationary.” His Earthquaker Devices Ghost Disaster Delay and Reverb is one of the few pedals that still gets hefty tweaking during a set. Alderete appreciates the two-in- one quality when it comes to pedalboard space, but also praises the effect for its tone. “It’s a great sounding delay, but the reverb is really cool, too,” he says. “I love a dub bass line with the flatwounds.”
Alderete’s vast pedal collection came in handy when he surrounded himself with three pedalboards. Photo by Juan Alderete
Because he’s using flatwounds, he’s also more selective about which effects he employs—not all effects come through the same. The Pigtronix Envelope Phaser is one of his preferred effects with flatwounds, and he often pairs it with the discontinued Boss VB-2 Vibrato.
Always in use on the board is Alderete’s trusty Boss CS-2 Compression Sustainer. This pedal has been a staple since his days with Racer X in 1986 and is almost always on. Alderete says that it’s the most musical compressor he’s tried and he uses it for adding high end and harmonics. Musicality is high on Alderete’s list of demands when it comes to choosing pedals for his board—he also lauded the Envelope Phaser and Boss OC-2 Octaver for that same quality.
Of course, some pedals are just plain fun as well. Alderete achieves literal earth-shaking levels with his DOD FX32 Meat Box. “It’s just a speaker popper! When it hits those subs out there, it vibrates everything onstage,” he told us.
Though he’s simplified his rig already, Alderete still may go the route of Rodr’guez- L—pez. He told us, “I have an M9 with all of this stuff in it, but I haven’t gotten my learning curve in there yet. I should discipline myself and I probably will.”
Watch the Rig Rundown:
Signal Chain: Vox Big Bad Wah > Voodoo Lab Proctavia > Roger Mayer Voodoo-Vibe Jr > Boss CH-1 Super Chorus > Vox Satchurator > Vox Ice 9 Overdrive > DigiTech Whammy > Radial JDI > Amp (Effects Loop) > Custom True Bypass Switch > DigiTech 33B (rackmount, not pictured) > Vox Time Machine > Vox Time Machine. Photo by Jason Shadrick
Joe Satriani pulls double duty with Chickenfoot and solo work these days, but when we caught up with him he was touring solo in support of Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards. “Besides the wah wah pedal and the delays, pretty much everything is used maybe for one song,” Satriani told us. “They take up a lot of real estate, but they’re little ear-candy pedals.”
Though his board is packed with signature pedals, he leans most heavily on the Vox Big Bad Wah and dual Vox Time Machine delays, which are always on. He gets his dirt from his prototype Marshall JVM410 heads—which he was tweaking nightly at the time, hence the handwritten, taped notes on the amp footswitch—but keeps his signature Vox Satchurator and Vox Ice 9 Overdrive on the board, “in case I change my mind on how I want to work with my gain levels.”
Photo by David Izquierdo
The specific-use pedals include a Voodoo Lab Proctavia, which is used for a solo in “Crystal Planet,” a Boss CE-5 Chorus used on “Crystal Planet” and on the outro for “Wind in the Trees,” a Roger Mayer Voodoo-Vibe used for the solo in “Pyrrhic Victoria,” and the DigiTech Whammy used for the outro on “Revelation.”
The black unmarked box is a true-bypass box built by Ben Fargen, which places Satriani’s secret weapon in the chain: a DigiTech 33B Super Harmony Machine. The rack effect (not pictured) is only used for the song “Why.” “It’s one of those rack effects you don’t really want to be sending your guitar through unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Satriani explained. “For the song ‘Why’ it gives me this unusual E minor harmony.”
The board is powered by three Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus units and is wired with cables built by Satch’s tech, Mike Manning, using Planet Waves cable kits. “I keep changing things and he’s got to react very quickly to pedals being moved around,” Satriani said.
Watch the Rig Rundown:
Signal Chain: Drawer 1: Demeter COMP-1 Compulator, Wampler Ego Compressor, Analog Man Juicer, Wampler Paisley Drive, and two Boss GE-7 Graphic EQ. Drawer 2: MXR Distortion III, T-Rex Alberta Overdrive, B.K. Butler Tube Driver, and two Klon Centaurs. Drawer 3: Early ’80s Pro Co Rat, MXR GT-OD, XTS Custom Pedals Precision Overdrive, and Boss CE-2 Chorus. Floor: Custom Audio Electronics RS-10 MIDI Foot Controller and RS-10 Expander Module, Boss FV-500H, Ernie Ball volume pedal, and Boss FS-5U Momentary Switch. Photo by Andy Ellis
For his ripping brand of arena-filling country, Keith Urban sets up with three rack drawers full of pedals that range from pedestrian to the stuff of legend. The heart of his effects setup—not surprisingly—is compression. Urban uses a few different compressors, which guitar tech Chris Miller likens to different flavors. “Is there a bad flavor of ice cream? No.” he says, pointing out that they often mix the compressors as well. “There’s no wrong way to do it—if it sounds cool, it’s right.”
The compression mainstay in Urban’s rack is the Wampler Ego Compressor, which Miller says is set to be a bit brighter and is occasionally run in conjunction with a Demeter COMP-1 Compulator, set warmer. When we caught up with Urban in Nashville, he rounded out his setup with an Analog Man Juicer—a replica of the old Dan Armstrong Orange Squeezer.
Other permanent fixtures in Urban’s ever-changing setup include the MXR Distortion III and MXR GT-OD, which Miller says sound great at all settings, though they are some of the more affordable pedals in the setup. But Urban makes up for any savings with his duo of Klon Centaurs. “I’ve yet to hear an amp they sound bad with,” reports Miller of the venerable overdrives.
Other members of Urban’s collection of overdrives include a Wampler Paisley Drive, T-Rex Alberta Overdrive (which Miller describes as a more refined Tube Screamer tone), B.K. Butler Tube Driver, XTS Custom Pedals Precision Overdrive, and an early ‘80s Pro Co Rat— “Noisy, but boy does it sound good,” notes Miller.
The racks are rounded out by a Boss CE-2 that wasn’t in use at the time, and a duo of Boss EQ pedals that Miller says are an underrated part of the signal chain. “Nobody ever thinks about them, but they’ll do so much for you.”
The pedals are powered by a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus in each drawer and routed through loops in an RJM Effects Gizmo, which sits in the effects loop of Urban’s Radial JX44 signal manager so they can be sent to any of his amps. The pedals are controlled on the ground by a Custom Audio Electronics RS-10 MIDI Foot Controller with RS-10 Expander Module, Boss FV-500H, and Ernie Ball Volume Pedal. Urban has this setup at his feet, but Miller has an additional RS-10 to handle effects switching since Urban spends a lot of time at mics on opposite sides of the stage.
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Steely Dan's Walter Becker
Signal Chain: Sonic Research ST-200 Turbo Tuner > Barber Electronics Tone Press > Eventide PitchFactor > Eventide Space > Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor > Lehle 1@3 Switcher. Photo by Joe Coffey
Walter Becker is a bonafide pedal freak. “We have every pedal ever made by every manufacturer,” boasts guitar tech Bob “Nitebob” Czaykowski. Because of this, Becker’s board is constantly changing—even which pedals are being used on a given board. Case in point, not everything was plugged in on this board when we caught up with Steely Dan in summer 2011. “We had everything plugged in at one time and realized he was losing a little bit of signal,” explains Becker’s other tech, David Rule.
Photo by Cees van de Ven
One of the pedals that never changes, however is the Sonic Research ST-200 Turbo Tuner. A stickler for intonation, Becker settled on the Sonic Research because of its clarity and speed. The Eventide PitchFactor is set with two presets, while the Eventide Space is used only on the Spring Reverb setting. The Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor is on the board to combat building-specific noise. From there, the signal heads into a Lehle switcher that splits out to Becker’s multiple-amp setup. At the time we saw the board, the Moog MF-105 Moogerfooger MuRF, Pigtronix Envelope Phaser, and MXR Carbon Copy Delay weren’t connected. Many of Becker’s pedals are connected and disconnected for soundcheck, and he has additional pedalboards in his dressing room and hotel room with completely different effects. “We have a big box [motions with his hands at about 5-feet high] with five drawers full of pedals that we didn’t even bring,” says Rule.
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