Guitarist John Lee Shannon and bassist Dan Horne explore the sonic space with a mix of vintage amps, DIY cabs, and plenty of pedals.
Founded by the late Neal Casal, this instrumental band of sonic explorers was born out of a request for set-break music during the Grateful Dead’s final run of shows in San Francisco and Chicago during 2015. Originally, CATS was going to be a one-off project, but fan feedback pushed Casal and company to release it as Interludes for the Dead. This wasn’t simply wordless Dead covers, but new creations formed in essence and spirt of the Dead.
In 2018, the group released their second double album, Let it Wander, and followed it up with a completely improvised EP featuring drummer Joe Russo. Sadly, a week after tracking their self-titled album Casal took his own life. Casal urged the group to carry on without him. The group recruited Eric Krasno and Scott Metzger for various tours before settling in with John Lee Shannon in July of 2021. Shortly before a gig at Brooklyn Bowl in Nashville, John Bohlinger caught up with Shannon and bassist Dan Horne to talk gear.
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The Lone Ranger
John Lee Shannon tours with a single guitar: a 2017 Fender Custom Shop 1969 Journeyman Relic Strat. It’s outfitted with handwound ’69 pickups in the neck and middle with a Texas Special in the bridge. “It’s really barky,” mentions Shannon. “It’s not a ‘tame’ Strat,” He puts D’Addario NYXL (.010–.046) strings on it and uses Pick Boy Vintage Celluloid Rainbow .75 mm picks.
Amp on the Run
Due to somewhat complicated logistics, Shannon had been looking online at various Nashville guitar shops for an amp he could pick up at the last minute and use on this run. After flying in from Brooklyn the morning of the show, he headed straight for Rumble Seat Music to check out this 1968 Sunn 100S and matching 2x15 cabinet. Shannon put down a deposit before getting to town hoping the amp would work for him. Obviously, it did. Later he found out this amp was on consignment from Nashville session king Tom Bukovac.
After experimenting with various pedals on the band’s West coast run, Shannon shifted some things around and even took inspiration from Casal’s board to form this mothership. The centerpiece is the Road Rage true bypass looper which allows Shannon to individually bring each pedal in and out of the signal flow. Right before the looper is a JAM Pedals Wahcko, which was custom ordered solely based on the finish. Other highlights include a Greer Amps Super Hornet, Strymon Lex, a trio of Catalinbread stomps (Belle Epoch, Echorec, and Topanga), a Walrus Audio Monument, Lovepedal Rubber Chicken and a pair of BearFoot FX (Pale Green and Honey Beest OD).
Circles Around the Sun take plenty of musical risks, but that fearlessness stretches over into their gear choices as bassist Dan Horne also takes a single bass on the road. This 1978 Alembic Series 1 has an unusual setup. Although you can power the active pickups with batteries, Horne uses an Alembic DS5 power supply to provide power via the cable. (The DS5 also has dual outputs, but Horne only uses the bass output.)
Tower of Doom
The Grateful Dead’s “Wall of Sound”-era speakers served as the inspiration for Horne’s triple-cabinet tower. The top cabinet was built by Bag End while the bottom two were DIY affairs created by a friend. All three cabinets feature a Weber speaker.
Under the Hood
The engine behind Horne’s sound is this rack, which includes an Alembic F-1X tube preamp—powered by a 12AX7—and a Crown XLS 1502 power amp. All of Horne’s effects are behind him on the pedal drawer and he controls them via a Voodoo Lab PX-8 Plus.
Horne's Tone Zone
Horne’s pedal rack includes a Sonic Research ST-300 tuner, Boss BF-2 Flanger, MXR Carbon Copy, MXR 10-Band EQ, a vintage Electro-Harmonix Small Stone Phase Shifter, MXR Bass Envelope Filter, and a BearFoot FX Pale Green compressor. He wrangles them all with a Voodoo Lab HEX loop switcher that’s controlled by a PX-8 Plus.
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Which one do you prefer?
Rhett and Zach unpack the big news for secondhand guitar sellers and buyers: Sweetwater has launched their new Gear Exchange. How does it compare to Reverb, Craigslist, and Marketplace? To find out, Zach takes the site for a spin and buys a pedal. He calls the process both “very easy” and “normal.” They discuss the pros and cons of the various used-gear outlets and share tips for not getting got when buying gear. Plus, Zach grew a mustache, Mythos Pedals is moving, and he talks about his forthcoming line of Strat pickups inspired by Hendrix’s reverse-stagger setup.
Sweetwater vs. Reverb
Get 10% off from StewMac when you visit stewmac.com/dippedintone
A highly versatile sonic tool, the pedal can deliver a broad range of tones – everything from mild, wonderfully organic overdrive to medium-gain crunch with a richly satisfying midrange kick.
The pedal is a collaboration between Shnobel Tone and guitarist, songwriter, composer, and record producer Frank Simes. Based in Hollywood, Simes‘ long list of credits includes work with A-list artists such as Don Henley, Stevie Nicks, Warren Zevon, RodStewart, Roger Waters, Roger Daltrey, and Martha Davis from The Motels. Additionally, Simes was the musical director for The Who for many years.
Its touch sensitivity makes it a perfect choice for guitarists who rely on precise right-hand technique, and it cleans up nicely when you roll back your guitar's volume knob.
Frank Simes Overdrive features include:
- Three knobs: Volume, Gain, and Tone controls
- True bypass foot switch
- Top mounted power and in/out jacks
- Hand-built with through-hole components
- Crinkle-coated diecast aluminum enclosure, dimensions 4.7 x 3.7 Inches
- Standard 9v center negative power – no battery compartment
Frank Simes Signature Overdrive
Shnobel Tone’s Frank Simes Overdrive has a suggested retail price and MAP of $249.
For more information, please visit shnobeltone.com.
The Reference II Series 112 and new 115 feature a new look, ceramic magnets, and Poplar ply shells.
With gigging musicians in mind, portability was paramount to the design of these cabinets, which still feature all of the power that you expect from Bergantino. Using a lightweight Poplarply shell and Baltic Birch baffles to encase the ceramic-based speakers, these cabinets are extremely easy to transport, while still packing all of the low-end presence and warmth that is required for professional bassists in any genre of music. Covered with rugged tolex finishes and cloth grills, these cabinets look as good as they sound and provide long-term durability that is required for the wear and tear of touring and gigging musicians.
The Reference II Series utilize ceramic magnets with vented pole pieces for the fullest and roundest low-end possible. Along with their high-power handling capability, the Reference II Series cabinets boast versatility fit for players who utilize fingerstyle, pick, slapping, and tapping techniques. Their presence and punch matches their low-end output and produce an accurate, full-bodied, and authentic representation of your bass guitar in both live and studio settings.
Reference II Series 112
The Reference II Series 112 is new and improved, featuring the tone that bass purists love, but in a lighter package without sacrificing any of the full-bodied, robust properties that have made this a favorite. The 112 can achieve any sonic palette you desire while faithfully reproducing the natural tone that comes directly from your bass and your fingers. Many bassists love the Reference II Series 112 because of the “blank canvas” it provides the player seeking a solid, no-frills bass tone, and this updated edition upholds that, but with noticeable improvements. Seamless, tight, quick, and responsive, this cabinet is the right choice for players of all levels.
Reference II Series 115
After receiving many requests to bring back our 115 cabinets, lovers of rumbling low-end can rejoice, as the latest edition to our lineup is here to maximize your bottom end with a responsiveness second to none. We’ve taken everything our players loved about our previous15” offering, shaved some weight, and updated its design to fit our high standards of the Reference II Series. With our proprietary speaker curves, it can be made to sound full and modern or vintage and rolled off, but never dry. The 115 cabinet provides a massive sound in a lightweight, easily transportable package that is ready for small venues, arenas, and everything in between.
Reference II Series 112: $1059.00
Reference II Series 115: $1099.00
These Cabinets Currently Shipping in the USA. For more information, please visit bergantino.com.
The Royale was designed to deliver loud and vivid clean tone with a responsive, tactile low end.
Designed to offer massive headroom, the 50-watt Royale Head lets you indulge in smooth clean tones at even higher volumes on stage without any breakup. Select between class A and class AB modes, with its variable mode switch, so you can choose between gushing Supro tone or a punchier, tight midrange response.
Introducing the Royale Head & Extension Cabinet | Supro
The Royale 1x12 Extension Cabinet features the custom Supro BD12 high-power driver, offering the same mid-range punch and clean articulation as the Royale combo but with additional stage volume. More info: suprousa.com.
Royale Head | $1,499.99
Royale Cab | $669.99