The bass lord morphs and mutates between rhythm and lead parts with a hearty Wal 4-string, Gallien-Krueger crushers, and a pedalboard that could make Adam Jones jealous.
“Will the next Tool album take more than 10,000 days?”
That was an ongoing (and agonizing) joke for Tool fans that awaited the band’s fifth album following the release of 2006’s 10,000 Days. (A cruel clairvoyance of a title.) For those counting, when Fear Inoculum was finally delivered on August 30, 2019, it was just 4,868 days from their previous album. All crummy jokes aside, the anticipation of the album was real for a reason: the music. And the rhythmic cog of their constant contorting of depth and darkness is bassist Justin Chancellor.
Sure, drummer Danny Carey is a living legend bashing everything his large frame can smash and crash. Adam Jones transforms his guitar into a Hans Zimmer production with varied textures, temperaments, and traits his tone expresses. During shows, singer and lyricist Maynard James Keenan prowls in the shadows adding to the band’s musical mysticism. This triumvirate core dished out the punishing EP Opiate in 1992, and their 1993 debut full-length Undertow was more complex and calculated in its rage. But in 1995, when Justin Chancellor replaced Paul D’Amour on bass, Tool immediately expanded their dimensionality. The original three continued to dazzle and dumbfound listeners, but the addition of Chancellor and his pocket-minded role unlocked a collective vocabulary previously unspoken. Simply put, if Tool was an octopus, Chancellor was the head. The others could be momentarily independent tentacles exploring the melodic murkiness of their respective reaches, but when they needed to propel forward, Chancellor was steering. His lines are the base for the band’s groove and attitude that became a focal point on subsequent releases with 1996’s Ænima, 2001’s Lateralus, 2006’s 10,000 Days, and eventually 2019’s Fear Inoculum. The former three went triple-platinum, while the latter three were No. 1 on the Billboard 200. (Ænima landed in the No. 2 spot.)
If you ever catch yourself playing air guitar to Tool, you’re probably mimicking Chancellor’s parts. “Schism,” “The Pot,” “Forty Six & 2,” “H.,” “Fear Inoculum,” “Descending,” “The Grudge,” and plenty of others feature his buoyant bass riffs.
Chancellor’s tone has had a longstanding relationship with Wal basses, Gallien-Krueger amps, and Mesa/Boogie cabs. The evolving part of his rig has been his pedalboard. At this juncture of the band’s run supporting Fear Inoculum, Chancellor’s board is larger than his guitar-playing counterparts. Yet everything has a place and purpose. Some of it is duplicity, some of it is to avoid any required knob-turning during the show, and as we find out in the Rundown, some of it is just for fun. Grab a seat and get comfortable as Chancellor and his tech Pete Lewis walk PG’s elated Chris Kies through his live setup.
Like a Glove
While recording Ænima, Chancelor borrowed a friend’s Wal bass that was originally fretless, but his pal did the dirty work of embedding frets into it. “That original bass’ tone immediately fit in with the band and covered the right area of sound,” remembers Chancellor. He promptly ordered his own replica of that build, and this is the second edition of it. The above 4-string has been his main bass for the last 15 years. It has a mahogany core, bird’s-eye maple caps, a neck incorporating mahogany, maple and rosewood, and a rosewood fretboard. Some minor changes to improve comfort and playability include lighter hardware and Luminlay fret markers. Chancellor’s basses take a custom set of Ernie Ball Hybrid Slinky Bass strings that have the standard .045-.065-.85, but because they tune down to drop-D for most songs, he swaps in a .110 from the Power Slinky pack. And when they go to drop-C for their oldest material, he’ll put on a .135 string. He hammers on the strings with a custom Dunlop (1 mm) Tortex Tri pick. All his instrument cables come from Mogami.
Chancellor recalls auditioning for Tool with an Ernie Ball StingRay, but it just didn’t work with the band’s sound at the time. Fast forward two decades and the StingRay has found a cozy place in the Tool setlist. The 2018 Music Man StingRay Special is used on “Descending” from Fear Inoculum. Anyone keen on details will notice the high-tech solution of duct tape and marker that allows Justin to incrementally notch up the volume during the song’s blossoming midsection.
Pretty Practice P
Justin scooped this beautiful 1963 Fender P bass from Norm’s Rare Guitars. He does have a small collection of old instruments, but they have to meet two requirements before he makes the buy: They have to sound amazing and they have to be players so he can “bang away on them” without remorse. He doesn’t play it onstage (the vintage P’s output doesn’t have enough horsepower for Tool), but he does bring it on tour because he finds it inspirational to play, so it’s often with him backstage, on the bus, or in the hotel room.
Welcome to the Thunderdome!
This configuration of Demeter preamps and Gallien-Krueger power amps has been the nucleus of power for Justin’s studio and stage sound for years. The Gallien-Krueger 2001RB heads each hit their own cabinet. The “clean” RB runs into a Mesa/Boogie RoadReady 8x10. The middle RB head in the rack is the “dirty” amp that goes into a prototype Mesa/Boogie 4x12 that is EQ’d gnarlier and takes all of Chancellor’s pedals. He feels the 10" speakers retain the integral low-end bass tone better than the 12s, while the larger speakers are better suited for offering his distorted or effected tones an overall warmth that can disappear in the 10s. (The bottom 2001RB is on deck in case either head fails.)
Above the G-Ks are the Demeter Bass Tube Preamplifiers that give FOH a pure sound to mix in as needed. (The second Demeter unit is a backup.)
And up to the Radial JD7 Injectors are amp switchers that also help remove noise, signal loss, or hum and buzz.
Here are the two Mesa/Boogie cabs—the 8x10 on the left and the custom prototype 4x12 on the right.
Justin Chancellor's Pedalboard
This setup is either a bass player’s dream or nightmare, but for someone as adventurous as Chancellor, this is where the party starts. At a glance, you’ll notice many of his pedals are available at your favorite guitar store, including six Boss boxes, an Ernie Ball Volume Pedal, and MXR Micro Amp. Crucial foot-operated pedals are in blue with the Dunlop JCT95 Justin Chancellor Cry Baby Wah with a Tone Bender-style fuzz circuit (far left) and DigiTech Bass Whammy (middle). He really likes using the Tech 21 SansAmp GT2 for distortion and feedback when the Whammy is engaged or he’s playing up the neck. Covering delays are three pedals—he has the pink Providence DLY-4 Chrono Delay for “Pneuma” that is programmed to match Danny’s BPMs, which slightly increase during the song from 113 ms to 115 ms. The Boss DD-3s are set for different speeds with the one labeled “Faster” handling “The Grudge” and the other one doing more steady repeats. There’s a pair of vintage Guyatone pedals—the Guyatone VT-X Vintage Tremolo Pedal (Flip Series) and Guyatone BR2 Bottom Wah Rocker (a gift from Adam Jones). The Gamechanger Audio Plus pedal is used to freeze moments and allow Justin to grab onto feedback or play over something. The Boss GEB-7 Bass Equalizer and Pro Co Turbo Rat help reinforce his resounding, beefy backbone of bass tone. The MXR Micro Amp helps goose his grimy rumbles. The Boss LS-2 Line Selector is a one-kick escape hatch out of the complicated signal chain for parts of “Schism.” The Wal and Music Man stay in check with the TU-3S tuner, a pair of Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Pluses help bring things to life, and everything is wired up with EBS patch cables.
Shop Justin Chancellor's Rig
Music Man StingRay Special HH
Dunlop JCT95 Justin Chancellor Cry Baby Wah
Gamechanger Audio Plus Pedal
Boss DD-3 Digital Delay
Boss BF-2 Flanger
Boss CE-5 Chorus Ensemble
Boss GEB-7 Bass Equalizer
ProCo Turbo Rat
Tech 21 SansAmp GT2
DigiTech Bass Whammy
MXR Micro Amp
Boss LS-2 Line Selector
Ernie Ball VP Junior 250K
Boss TU-3S Tuner
JHS Switchback A/B Effects Loop Switcher
Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus
Radial JD7 Injector
The silky-smooth R&B artist and in-demand sideman gives us the low-down on his economical road rig.
Guitarist and singer-songwriter David Ryan Harris rose to prominence as a key part of John Mayer’s band between 2004 and 2012, and he’s backed everyone from Santana to Dave Matthews to Nick Jonas. But as a solo artist and bandleader, Harris has been spinning gorgeous R&B, blues, and funk for decades. Harris took PG's John Bohlinger through his current touring rig before a stop with Scary Pockets at Nashville’s Brooklyn Bowl on October 5.
Brought to you by the D'Addario XPND.
Pale Blue Axe
Harris travels light, with just one guitar: his Frank Brothers Ultra Light in Pelham blue. It features a mahogany body, maple top, and Mullinax “Oh, Salvation” P-90 pickups. It stays strung with D’Addario XL Chromes (.012-.052), with a plain .020 G-string.
Harris packs a compact, two-tier pedal board, with his Strymon Zuma and Strymon Iridium hidden beneath the top level. He runs his Ultra Light into a TC Electronic PolyTune, and from there the signal whips through the rest of his board in order: a Jackson Audio PRISM, Cooper FX Outward, custom Browne Amplification “Dual Blue,” JHS Artificial Blonde, Strymon Flint and Iridium, TC Electronic Ditto, and a BOSS OC-3 Super Octave.
On a normal day, Harris cranks up either his Two-Rock Studio Signature or his Two-Rock Burnside combo, with a 1x12 cab. But for his Brooklyn Bowl gig, Harris settled for the backline: a Fender '68 Custom Deluxe Reverb.
The rockabilly icon struts onstage with a trio of Gretsch 6120s, a pair of early ’60s Fender Bassmans, and a silky Roland 301 Chorus-Echo.
Two-time Grammy Award-winning rockabilly hero Brian Setzer recently played a sold-out show at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium in support of his new solo album, The Devil Always Collects. Tyler Sweet, who has teched for Setzer for 17 years, took PG’s John Bohlinger through the rig that rocked this town, and just about every other town in the world over Setzer’s 40 years of twanging and sanging.
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With his recognizable arsenal of plucky semi-hollows, Setzer has probably done more for the Gretsch brand than any other player in the last half-century. On this tour, Setzer brought out some old friends, like this 1959 Gretsch G6120 with gold hardware, rebuilt and restored by TV Jones. Jones treated it to a total overhaul, including a neck reset, a refret with a new radius, new inlays in the upper register, fresh binding side dots on the bass side and lacquer on the neck, a new bridge, reversed toggle switches, and an upgraded Wilkinson Delrin nut—plus, he removed the zero and fret-fill behind the nut. Like all of Setzer’s guitars, this supercharged swing machine stays strung with D’Addario EXL 110s (.010-.046), which Setzer strikes with medium celluloid picks.
In a 2014 interview with Setzer, PG featured had a sidebar with guitar guru TV Jones who detailed what he did to Brian’s guitars and how he created his signature pickup: “TV Jones mastermind Tom Jones—who’s been rehabilitating old pickups and winding new ones for Brian Setzer for 20+ years—explains the process behind the Stray Cat’s new signature pickups.
“It’s my job to ensure that all of Brian’s guitars play and sound the absolute best they can possibly be,” says Jones, who debuted the pickups at the March 2014 Musikmesse gear show in Frankfurt, Germany. “A few years back, I found that a few of Brian’s new Hot Rod signature guitars—which were sent to me by Gretsch to set up for his upcoming tours—sounded slightly brighter acoustically. So I decided to design a new pickup to bring out the best in these guitars—higher fidelity on top, with a slight punch in the bottom end—by using sonically unmatched coils and custom steel-alloy pole screws. The results were beyond my expectations.”
Jones also reworked this 1960 Gretsch G6120, which bears nickel hardware. He scraped a new shape in the neck, then refinished the lacquered neck and face cap. Like his work on the ’59, Jones also removed the zero fret and filled behind the nut (another Wilkoloid Delrin), manipulated the pickups, replaced the fretboard binding and inlays with side dots, fit a new bridge, turned around the toggle switches, and gave it a refret and new conical fretboard radius.
For a more modern accent, Setzer plays his 2004 Gretsch G6120T-HR Brian Setzer Signature Hot Rod in magenta sparkle. This guitar is all stock.
Setzer tours with two blonde Bassmans—one from 1962 and the other from ’63, but both with a 6G6-B circuit. They run into matching Bassman 2x12 cabs, which run 12" Oxford speakers. Setzer usually uses one amp and has the other as a backup, but has been known to run both when it makes sense for the venue.
Setzer has a Boss TR-2 Tremolo in his line for the occasional tremolo, and brings as many as six of the stompboxes on the road with him, just in case. Ditto his Roland 301 Chorus-Echos, which range between 1983 and 1986. The units are old and fragile, so in case one taps out, there’s another to take its place. Setzer wires his set up with Mogami cables, with Amphenol silent ends.