Sound Smiths: 12 shoegaze /dreampop artists on their favourite tools….
To celebrate the guitar & guitar-pedal/effect as the foundation for the magnificent sonic soundscapes created in Dreampop & Shoegaze, I asked 12 craftsmen / women about their favourite guitar and pedal:
Adam Franklin: Swervedriver
Purchased from Andy’s Guitars on Denmark St London in 1990 for £400, the day I bought this Fender Jazzmaster I left it in the shop to collect the next day. As I left and walked down the street Kevin Shields and Andy Bell from Ride were coming round the corner and asked what I was up to. When I told them I had just bought a Jazzmaster Kevin had to see it so we went back to Andy’s for him to have a play on it. He was just getting into buying Jgas and Jazzmasters himself at that point and he said “this is a nice one! Wanna sell it?”
Most people think it’s either a ’62 or ’63. The reason no-one knows is that the serial number on the neckplate doesn’t correspond to those years and it is assumed that it is a composite i.e the neck and body come from different original guitars.
With pedals I go through phases. Aside from always having a basic distortion, reverb and wah, I’ve gone through phases of phasers (excuse the pun), delays and things that make slightly whackier sounds. At the moment I’ve been playing around with these Catalinbread pedals, the Bicycle Delay and the CSIDMAN. The latter is based on a Sony Discman CD player that’s fucking up and so creates these crazy stuttering sounds while the Bicycle ring modulates some enchanting churchbell-like ringing tones.
Christoph Hochheim: Ablebody, Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Depreciation Guild
My most beloved guitar is either my 1973 Sunburst Fender Mustang or my black/black 2006(?) American Fender Stratocaster. I write everything on my Mustang because it’s so comfortable to play but the intonation is awful so I can’t use it outside of the bedroom. I like that it doesn’t sound too pretty because sometimes I can get lost in how something is sounding but I know that if a song is sounding nice on that guitar than it’ll sound great on my Stratocaster. My Strat has gone everywhere with me (every tour since 2009) and been featured on every recording we’ve done (Depreciation Guild/Pains/Ablebody etc). It’s taken so many beatings over the years but still performs well and feels more natural to me than any other guitar i’ve played.
I’m not much of a stickler for pedals but the DL4 delay has been a staple of my rig for years. I have a real love/hate relationship with it as they always seem to break on me at the worst possible moments but I always go back to it.
My fav pedal is my Afterneath Reverb pedal by EarthQuaker Devices. You can control the length of the reverb effect to make it really big and full. I like Telecasters, mine is actually a custom built one I got from this guitar shop in Oakland called Broken Guitars, which is owned by Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day.
Gregory Cole: Crescendo
I tend to get really consumed by my equipment. It’s very important to me to get the perfect tone and volume out especially for live performances as every knob and the slightest measurement will change everything. I won’t start the show until everything sounds perfect including my bands instruments and levels. My entire life I’ve worshipped artists, music, and music events as a whole from music festivals to house parties with live music, I think my guitar choices will show my obvious obsession for Johnny Marr of The Smiths. I studied him in so many different aspects without any intention of recording albums or performing live. It wasn’t until I got my Rickenbacker 330 that I actually took songwriting seriously, I strongly feel like when you get the instrument of your dreams, you’re convinced all that’s left to do is compose your heart out. I’d tell myself daily I have been blessed with such a beautiful instrument I should really focus on it. Then I got my Fender Jazzmaster and I was surely satisfied to write both lead a rhythms challenging each others tone song after song. It was a match made in heaven. I knew both guitars would make a team with the tones that brought to life the visions for our sound. A lifetime of planning. The Rickenbacker smothered reverb rhythm chord scapes endlessly for our dream pop & gaze portion, and the Jazzmaster provided the post punk leads with a classic fender crunch/bounce to achieve the vision of the sound.
I love playing the Jazzmaster live as it fits most of my parts, and it’s incredibly comfortable with the rib indentation behind the body fitting perfectly into your side even if it moves around with you on stage. The Rickenbacker is reserved for our lead guitarist Jess. I need all my pedals to really create the sound we need live, but two from my top 5 are the DD-20 & Ambient Reverb. The presence of these on the right settings are otherworldly…. I could go on about the kind of energy these instruments bring out of me, I feel like they honestly have a mind of their own…..
Robert Dillam: Adorable, The Zephyrs
Favourite guitar and pedal: Fender Jazzmaster. I like other guitars etc but they’re just right for me and they sound like what I want to sound like. Comparatively light ie not heavy like a les paul but still with great tonal qualities. Plus they look cool as and really good people play them. Plus the Tremolo etc gives us the glide thing which Kevin Shields/My Bloody Valentine sort of invented for us(to borrow/ copy etc) which creates the sound that ‘gaze has sort of become. I have the red one, the same as the one on the cover of loveless because I like MBV and am sonically influenced by them (as well as using other influences) and because it looks amazing. That one plays really nicely too. The Jazzmaster/ Jaguar iconography is quite something, used by Kevin Shields, J Mascis, Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore, Radiohead,Swervedriver etc. All bands I like. The guitar goes into a tuner, eh line driver, mxr compressor, boss overdrive, turbo rat and then my choice for the ‘one’ to discuss: Colorsound Tone Bender. It’s like a Big Muff style design (some sort of circuit etc) but for me just smoother but also really full and deep. No coarse like a fuzz or rat style pedal, which also sound great but the tone bender has something, esp with the lighter sounding Jazzmaster hitting this full on bass rich drive sound. Put it into some other stuff and Marshall and Roland Jazz Chorus 120. Fairly loud to very loud is about right.
Clint Sargent: The High Violets
I’ve been using a Fender Telecaster since I started. It has been my work horse and will always have it. I’ve used other guitars in the studio along with it. My most beloved pedal is my delay pedal. I’ve used a few over the years, but currently I’m using the Timeline by Strymon. I use delay in conjuncture with fuzz and wah wah at times. The delay provides an expansiveness and allows for sustained notes which are essential in achieving the desired sound.
Louise Trehy: Swallow, Strata Florida
My favourite guitar is a Fender Stratocaster my favourite effect is tremolo but I just use a setting on the amp now!
For me it has a more beefy sound I’m not so keen on jangly guitars, it has a bit of muscle. Im using tremolo more and more and sometimes adding chorus as well so it’s almost unsteady – a continuous soft shudder. We used it best on ‘Caroline‘ where it rises and falls under the melody
I like the 60s feel of it. Velvet Underground stuff!
Matt Etherton: Presents for Sally
My pedal of choice would have to be the Electro Harmonix Memory Man. We are pretty basic with everything we record so other than distortion pedals, this is all I really use.
When we toured this year it was pretty cool using it live as even though you are playing the same songs each night, the loops you create are never the same. Plus a couple of songs like ‘Perfume Boat’ from our last EP are pretty much just built around random loops made on it so at the moment at least, it’s the piece of equipment I can’t go without.
My main guitar is my Fender Jaguar but being left handed can be a pain to pick up others so I use a few random cheap guitars that I have set to certain tunings as a lot of our songs are all tuned differently.
Brian Hancheck: the Arctic Flow
Everyone seem to love the Fender Jazzmaster. And with good reason too. They’re just cool to look at and so versatile. They have certainly won the hearts of many a shoegazer. But, for me, my guitar of choice would have to be a Gretch Electromatic-the double cut away model. Oh, and it must be white. The Electromatic is an exquisitely beautiful instrument. It’s thick and warm. Play a C Major 7 on one and it’s like a warm knife through butter. And then there’s that vintage looking Bigsby Tremolo! Such a classic guitar, but sounds right at home plugged into a nice Fender Twin Reverb amp. I first saw Robert Smith play what looked to be an Electromatic on the Wish tour.Yes, it does have the very real potential for feedback, not necessarily a bad thing, right? That semi-hollow guitar can generate some massive sonic noise, and the Bigsby helps you manipulate it.
However, it’s gotta be plugged into the right pedal and for me, the DOD Icebox is THE pedal. It’s a shimmering, Northern’Lights chorus pedal. It’s unlike any other chorus pedal I’ve ever played. Unfortunately, someone stole it at a gig and I haven’t actually played one on over ten years.
Scott Cortez: Astrobrite, Loveliescrushing
So I use this old Wurlitzer guitar that I found in an attic of a giant music store. Been using the Wurlitzer since 92. Aside from that my fave was a 65 fender jaguar which I had to let go years ago, still miss it. I now use a Squier jazzmaster and a Squier bass six.
First effect that made an impression was the two second looper, little freshman in high school, playing around in a basement with that digitech pedal and a microphone, cutting up sound, making sound a material. my fave piece of gear are my loopers, the pds 8000, electro harmonix 2880 and the jamman, they are at the heart of my aesthetic. Take a small chord riff, loop it on top of itself at half speed and then again. Fragments, and snippets of sound all the discarded audial scraps are transformed with the loopers. The 2880 was the only looper pedal I found that helped me recreate the songs live. It was like lovesliescrushing in a box.
And then I discovered reverb, I found the midiverb 2 in 87, and it was magic. My friend had one and I was like this is some secret to the sound I’ve been trying to get, that Cocteau Twin sound. I loved reverb, the more gigantic the better so as to destroy the harmonic envelope of the tone. That reverberated echoes in the eterna for an hazy harmonic mist that sustains infinitely. The freeze pedal cause why not, anything that breaks down sound to its quantum state, slices of bliss. The verbzilla, it’s a kooky pedal but I like how much is going on with it, lots of knobs and such a digital dirt to it. Gritty polish. My fave pedals are the broken ones, and they don’t have to be pretty, the more beat up the better. They add character and accidental tones that you just can’t manufacture. I have two black custom pedals that sound like monsters, I don’t even know what they are doing but they sound like chaos. It’s all about taking something prosaic and quotidian like the guitar and wrangling all manner of tone with it, and the pedals and technique are one of the ways to get there.
Mat Flint: Revolver, Deep Cut
My favourite guitar is my American Fender Telecaster Plus, that I bought in 1991 with the first bit of money we got when Revolver signed our record deal. I’ve got “cooler” guitars, and probably nicer-looking ones, but this is my favourite for several reasons. It’s my oldest guitar – in terms of how long I’ve owned it – we go back 26 years! I played it on a lot of Revolver stuff, and it’s been used on all the Deep Cut records… I think I even played it at a couple of Death In Vegas gigs in one song where I played guitar instead of bass. So, there’s history. Sonically, it’s a really versatile guitar. You can get the angular, jagged sound that you associate with Telecasters, but you can also get a much richer, “fuller” sound, as it has Lace Sensor pick-ups, and a humbucker with a 3-way switch by the bridge. So it’s got a really great variety of sounds. Plus, it sounds amazing through a Rat or a Bigmuff, as it keeps loads of the bottom end. It’s lovely to play, neck-wise – and I’ve often come up with stuff on it when we’ve been recording, and we’ve been stuck for ideas. And, back in 1991, we had a song that we’d finished recording for a radio session, that we needed to give a title. I’d just bought this guitar, and it’s colour was listed as “crimson frost”, which I liked the sound of… so the song became “Crimson”.