Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Merging with the machines

I've been updating both my studio and my live/rehearsal gear the last month or so and it always feels pretty dam good when another one of those rounds is done and you're that one step closer to perfection, (hopefully) ending up with even more reliable up-to-date equipment that feels comfortable and runs the way you want, that integrates with you after hours and hours of sweating and swearing. So I thought I'll throw in a couple of lines about my machinery.

Since most of my guitars and my other equipment aren't the ordinary stock stuff that you can find down at your local music store (here in Stockholm, Sweden, at least) but stuff I'll have to hunt down, it's usually pretty tricky for me to get it. Most of my gear aren't available in Europe at all and it all gets pretty complicated due to the export-, custom- and tax-laws and rules between continents and different markets and by now I've gotten pretty used to very long delivery times, often like half a year or so - A price I have to pay for being so picky and only satisfied with the very gear I'm going for (and at least it improves my patience, not exactly one of my strengths).

When it comes to my world of recording and mixing I go software-based, both Logic and Pro Tools, and also some Waves and Oxygen plugins. When it comes to the hardware I nowadays go exclusively Apogee's awesome interfaces and consoles, Röde microphones, Lacie hard drives and, off course, Apple computers since many, many years now. Not much to add here.

I've finally finished updating all my main guitars, my workhorses (I use the same guitars live and in the studio) - Saari customized them, which basically means: Loading them all with two humbuckers of my choice, either various Seymour Duncan or DiMarzio (in the ones going for dirtier sound): Norton Air or PAF in neck position and Norton at the bridge - So amazed by the Norton, what a great sounding pickup! Put that in the bridge position in a Gibson, especially a V, and you'll guaranteed be blown away. I always pull all the electronics out when I get a new guitar, get it rewired and replace all the ports and switches with more durable ones so that they'll endure my really rough treatment. I always have a 3-way toggle switch and two volume ports, one for each pickup, the closest one (the easiest to reach) always for the bridge pickup, and no tone-control at all (the tone is always set to max hi). A very important thing for me is the hanging of the guitar, which I also customize as soon as I get a new guitar - It's very important for me to have the guitar in the exact correct position. I wear my guitar pretty far down so it's important that it's in the right spot sideways.

I'm in the mid of experimenting with running my guitar through a Line 6 POD into a Rocktron Velocity 300 power amp and that into a 4x12" 1960 Marshall speaker cabinet, real exited about this rig. I've been testing it a bit by now at rehearsals and I believe that this might be something I'll be going for in the future, we'll see. Often live I run a POD straight into the PA with great results or, my absolute favorite so far, running a POD into the return of the effect loop of an Marshall JCM 800, preferably from the early/mid 1980s, only using its power amp - or pretty often even: one channel of the POD into the PA and the other into the return of a guitar tube amp. The holy secret with the POD lays in tuning in the sound manually whilst listening thoroughly, letting it take it's time, and keeping it all simple and clean, as little effects as possible, as clean as you dare. For me the essence of tuning in a great guitar sound is mainly about two things: as much mid as possible (pretty low hi:s and lo:s that is) and as clean, undirty, sound as possible - the last one very scary when you're a metal/hard rock guitarist, but according to me the meanness and attitude should come out of your hands and not from overdrive or distortion.

...while I'm at it, I use GHS and Dean Markley strings on my electric guitars: .010 .013 .017 .026 .036 .046 regardless the tuning, DiMarzio guitar cables, K&M stands and my PM Saari custom picks which are very hard but not that thick and has the classic shape I believe is called "Fender: 351".

When reading this back now I see what gear-head, tech-nerdy post this turned out to be, but the thing is that lately I've more and more started to realize the importance of my equipment for me, that I even get somewhat inspired by the tools themselves - realizing the significance of my tools that I need to create my music and art. I mean at the end of the day it's the tools that take the art out of our flesh and into the outside world to be shared. 

/ PM