Over the last few days I have been working long hours in rehearsals, learning my parts and honing in on the fine details within the music. As a band we have done the same. We have taken it a step further though. Because we have a new drummer, Ryan Brown, we have developed a new playing vocabulary within the band and it's like traveling through a worm hole and returning to the other side with a brilliant new understanding of the universe. Also many of the things I have picked up from Dweezilla are starting to creep into my playing and I feel like I have added several new colors to my harmonic and tonal palette.
The rehearsals have been heavily focused and we have learned a lot of new material that we are all really excited to play. We have also made a few changes to some of the arrangements of songs we have previously played, in the same way that Frank would have altered the songs to fit different tours. While this kind of prep work can be tedious at times it is completely necessary and at the end of the day there is a great sense of accomplishment for us.
I have been simultaneously rebuilding my guitar rig for the 2013-14 tour as well. Learning the music is always a challenge and finding the right combination of gear for proper sound design to be most evocative of the record is another huge challenge. Doing them together at the same time is even tougher!
It's integral to the project to have the right sounds for authenticity. Beyond that it's integral to my improvisational inspiration to have sounds that will help generate new ideas. This new guitar rig has the most flexibility of any of my previous guitar rigs.
Without using crrazy tech talk jargon I would like to attempt to share with you what makes this set up so special. First, guitar tone is subjective but I like to have access to traditional sounds and completely cutting edge sounds all at once. At the core your hands are the tone generators and amps and effects are the conduit that delivers your sound and expression to the audience. Through complicated and clever programming of software this guitar rig gives me total control over my gear in a way I have not experienced before plus I have complete control over the stereo field, left - center - right. I have discrete control over those areas and can "paint" autonomously in different colors in all of those areas. I have a flexible signal route that allows me to use different external fuzz textures and blend them with internal textures from rough to smooth, heavily viscous to creamy and light and airy.
The dynamics of the rig are the best they have ever been. The Roxy SG guitar is so responsive to the gear in this set up that it makes natural feedback along the lines of "Filthy Habits' and "Zoot Allures" totally achievable with reliability. That makes playing so much fun, everything feels likes it's alive!
One of the best features is the ability to play different sounds at the same time and have it sound like 2 guitarists playing rhythm parts. I can blend distorted parts with clean parts and modulate them in any way I want. Even better than that, there are specialized presets and parameters that I am calling "wildcards" that become totally interactive. They are like surprise sounds that I can use at any moment to punctuate something or to react to. That ultimately is the best frame of mind for improv, being able to listen to your environment and react in the moment. I am really excited to see where all these sounds will take me.
In any case, I was working on trying to get the rig up and running up until the very last second before it had to be packed on to the truck last night to ship out for tour. Thanks to Pete Jones and Kurt Morgan for staying late and the guys at Mates too!
I had some amazing help from some true friends who put in the extra time on the phone and in person, even with their own busy schedules. I want to be sure to thank James Santiago and Matt Picone for all of their assistance and expertise, you both helped elevate this guitar rig to a new level.
There are some other people who contributed to making this version of the rig special as well. I want to thank Angelo Mazzocco, Brian Wampler, Tom from Cog Effects UK and Alan Chaput, Thanks Guys!
I've included a few photos of the rig as it was just barley completed. I have not even had time to label things properly or tidy it up yet! That will happen though. I will also make a more in depth schematic to share how it's all working as well.
See you on tour!
2 Fractal Axe Effects II - Set up with 6 discrete switchable loops per unit before the input.
RJM Switcher. This board features the pedals that sit on top of the RJM switcher that controls the discrete loops before the inputs. Several of these pedals are custom made or prototypes. The Tarkin was custom made by Cog Effects. It's 2 discrete fuzzes in one box. There are 2 Wampler Velvet Fuzzes (that work well in a buffered situation), 2 custom made "Dynamo Flangers" for special modulation and phase/flange, a Pigtronix Quantum for modulation, a TC Shaker for some vibrato, a Greenhouse Gold Channel for a nice mid boost overdrive, and a prototype Triskelion - Systech Harmonic Energizer EQ/Drive used for feedback generation.
Fractal MFC foot controller board with mono pedal chain that is also pre- input to fractals.
These pedals go to both Fractals simultaneously where as the other small pedal board goes to the Fractals individually, for specialized stereo sounds.
The unique configuration of this rig allows me to use the top Fractal for left side only and the bottom Fractal for right side only with individual pedals in front of both units. I can also use them as dual stereo units or create patches that have for example, a rich harmonic distortion in stereo on the top Fractal and a sweetly compressed crystal clean sound panned to the center from the bottom Fractal. I can blend between them with the expression pedals at will. FUN!