MusicMan Sub Ray 5 – basswood body, rosewood fretboard, active preamp
Darkglass Microtubes 900 – 900W bass amp head
Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner Mooer Pure Octave Boss LS-2 Line Selector Ibanez Mini Tube Screamer Boss ODB-3 Bass Overdrive Fowl Sounds The Lifer Electroharmonix Key9 Mooer Shimverb Boss DD-3 Digital Delay Boss RC-1 Loop Station
Finally we come to the end of our current run of gear posts, and we turn to the pedals currently on Nick’s board and how they came to be used on Ellipsism. Oh, and which ones he broke, obviously.
(Note from Richard:Please ignore the bit where he says he’s not good at guitar solos – he’s lying.)
Nordell Audio Power Core
Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner
Electro-Harmonix Micro Pog
Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive
Electro-Harmonix Small Stone
Dunlop Crybaby Wah
Boss DD-500 Delay
Pro Co Rat
Those of you who read my entry in our amp episodes will already be aware of my tendency to break my equipment, and pedals are no different.
Starting with tuners, I’d been using a Behringer pedal which was a clone of the reliable old Boss TU series, and it was serviceable, if flimsy, contraption. So flimsy in fact, that it fully disintegrated in my hand, moments before our set at a gig in Manchester, purely under the stress of my superhuman strength and the Velcro with which it was attached to my board. Naturally, it was now an unsalvageable handful of detritus, so I replaced it with an aforementioned Boss TU-3, which has been reliable ever since. Nice shade of white too.
Next in my chain is the Elecro-Harmonix Micro-Pog. I remember in the early days of Ba’al, our old guitarist Craig found one of these in our old practice room (I think he actually claimed it and may still have it) and the sound blew me away. I’ve always loved that lower octave sound, it adds so much girth to big, monophonic, bottom string riffs and I’ve never heard a pedal do it this well. Over time I’ve come to appreciate the upper octave setting more and more as well, especially as a little organ simulator. In truth, I actually barely used this on Ellipsism, mostly just as a means of adding ‘umph’ to some of the muddiest riffs. Nice shade of red too.
So, the majority of my distortion sounds come from the overdrive channel of my JCM which is, by all accounts, excellent. I use the SD-1 (which I bought off Tom for the price of a bus ticket) as more of a tube screamer, adding a little more frostbite to my tone which allows it to cut to through a little more. I rarely have the drive setting higher than 1, so the effect is subtle but definitely audible. It’s also great to use as a drive by itself to give clean chordy passages some grungy emo vibes as well, there are a couple of moments on the album that I made use of this, but not many. Nice shade of yellow too.
Now then, there’s a running joke between myself and Richard – the only remaining member who remembers the early days of Ba’al in which I would use a Joyo phase pedal on basically every track. Often more than once. Since replacing the Joyo (which obviously broke) with the EHX Small Stone, I’ve toned that tendency down somewhat. That being said, I simply cannot understate the satisfaction I get out of whacking this baby on during the second rotation of a beatdown style passage to give it some wub. You can hear it in action in particular towards the end of ‘Jouska’. Nice shade of orange too.
The crybaby wah is actually the first pedal I ever got, as a present from my dad. This was in my secondary school days when I wanted to do shredding guitar solos with the wind blowing my long hair through the air, like a milkmaid’s frock on a washing line. Those days are behind me though. I have short hair now, and guitar solos have lost a lot of appeal to me (mostly because I’m not that good at them). Nevertheless this pedal has a short feature in one short section in ‘Rosalia’, which is the closest thing you’ll get to a guitar solo you’ll get from me from now on. Nice shade of black too.
Now we’re talking. I bought the Boss DD-500 only a short time before we recorded Ellipsism, so my knowledge of the pedal’s capacities were sadly somewhat limited. In the time since however, I’ve spent a lot of time exploring this pedal and I have to say it’s my favourite that I own. The sheer scope for effects you can get out of this thing are bewildering. I bought it off a guy in France who’s saved effects banks are just mind boggling and I’m enjoying getting some bonkers, and beautiful, sounds out of the thing. Expect a lot more trippy delay weirdness on whatever we record next. Nice shade of cream too.
Ah yes, the Maxverb was an emergency purchase before a gig in which I was using a backup amp which didn’t have a built in reverb (yeah my usual amp broke, who saw that coming?). This thing has 3 settings; plate, spring, and hall. I’ve only ever used the hall setting because I simply don’t like the other 2, but for big washy reverb, it does the trick very nicely. As an added level of nonsense, the LED works approximately 4% of the time, so I have to constantly remember if it’s on or not, which is more difficult that you might think. I should really just buy another, better reverb pedal really. Regardless, I use reverb and delay an awful lot on this album. Most clean sections have one or both, all my lead parts use one or both, and I often use them to give the washy blackgaze sections more g a z e. Nice shade of blue too.
The Rat doesn’t normally sit on my board that much anymore since I started using the amp gain, but I do often like to use it in the studio for some of the bigger and more shrieky doom sections where there doesn’t need to be that much precision. It’s a raucous little thing, which I may use more in the future. Nice shade of black too.
And that’s my board. I used a few pedals that belong to Joe Clayton to add some little inflections to the album, but I largely stick to a fairly limited pool of sounds on this album.
To wrap up our gear chat for the time being, before we release our debut album next week, we thought we’d talk through Richard and Nick’s pedal set ups that were used for the writing and recording of the record. First up it’s Richard’s fairly chaotic, multi-purpose board used for the bass and even some of the viola…
Caline 5 Power Supply
Mooer Pure Octave
Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini
Starting at the start of the chain… I actually picked up the TU-3 very recently, as my old Behringer tuner has always been a bit hit-and-miss with actually picking up my lowest string first time. We used Nick’s TU-3 in the studio and it had no trouble, so I grabbed one second hand post-haste.
The little brown Pure Octave pedal has a lot packed into such a small unit. You can go 1 or 2 octaves in each direction, and a little knob lets you pick any combination of -1, -2, +1 and +2 at the same time. On Ellipsism I just use the standard -1 setting on one of my higher bass lines at the end of ‘Long Live’, but I’ve been messing around with getting some weirder sounds out of the other settings more recently.
I should say at this point that despite the dusty, tangled mess that my board often is, it’s laid out the way that it is for the purely practical reason that I play bass in Ba’al and guitar in another band, and I don’t want to have to keep switching things around every week for practice. This board serves both purposes, and as such some of the pedals were obtained primarily for one band/instrument or the other. However, in many cases I’ve found that something I bought for one ends up getting used extensively for both.
The LS-2 line selector is up next, which has two loops of other pedals hooked into it, which I can switch between, making transitions between sounds a hell of a lot easier on the fly, and meaning that I can switch some things on or off in advance of needing them, without the sound being affected until necessary.
Loop A continues along the chain to the bottom left corner with my overdrives and distortion. As you might expect, the Tubescreamer was bought with guitar in mind, and the ODB-3 for bass. The ODB is the basis of my main heavy sound in Ba’al, and is on almost all of the loud parts of the album. This particular one I’ve actually had since I was a teenager first learning bass. I will sometimes throw the Tubescreamer on top of it to boost the frosty high end and cut through a blasting section, particularly if I’m playing in a higher register. This happens a few times on ‘Long Live’ and also ‘An Orchestra of Flies’.
The big orange pedal is a guitar distortion pedal by Vox – the Trike – which I did actually buy second hand in the early days of Ba’al specifically for bass. It has a + and – octave option, but mainly it just causes absolute filth to happen. It’s got an incredibly nasty, buzzing drone quality to it (particularly with the octave up layered subtly in the mix), and when combined with the ODB it can rumble and disgust people for miles around until you tell it to stop. I tend to deploy this secret weapon only in the slowest, most crushing riffs, as well as if I want to get some nasty feedback going. It’s used on the most funereal of the riffs on ‘Jouska’, the intro and outro drones of ‘Father, the Sea, the Moon’, and the noisy outro of ‘Tarred and Feathered’.
Loop B coming from the line selector contains just one pedal: the Electro-Harmonix Key9. This is part of EHX’s stunning range of organ/keyboard emulating pedals, along with the likes of the B9 and the C9. The Key9 focuses on making your instrument sound like one of various keyboards and electric pianos, like the Wurlitzer and Rhodes, plus some other organs and some wildcards, like a pretty hilarious steel drum setting. This was a prize purchase made for my other band, but some of the more textural settings have found their way onto each of the main Ba’al releases thus far. On Ellipsism, the section in the middle of ‘Long Live’ with the odd time signature has me impersonating an organ. It’s in it’s own loop partially so that I can switch from it straight to my overdrives, but also because it creates it’s very own special brand of weird digital noise when not in use. The scrap of yellow tape in the corner reminds my dumb brain that it is in loop B, which has a yellowish LED on the line selector.
Coming out of the line selector entirely, my chain ends with a Mooer Shimverb reverb pedal and a Boss delay, which are used quite sparingly in this band, pretty much just in the drone/ambient parts. The DD3 is there very sparingly on some of the clean sections throughout the album, and Tom also used it some of his cleans when he needed something more simple than his massive arsenal of more complicated delays would allow. The ‘shimmer’ setting on the Shimverb adds an eerie 7th above the note you’re playing (as well as the reverb), and this feature gets its moment during the drone section of ‘Long Live’.
Speaking of that section, you may or may not be able to pick up a few viola lines layered in there. Those were also run through my pedal board, specifically into the Vox Trike, for a scratchy and unnerving sound.
My power supply is a very cheap one that was recommended by my other band, and it does the job with almost enough supplies for all my pedals; technically I’m one short, but thankfully the Boss LS-2 has an extra power output that I use to supply the Shimverb.
You’ll also notice a few extra loose bits and bobs in the top right of the board. These are my emergency gig supplies: spare patch cables for when things go suddenly dead onstage (let’s be honest, I usually keep them on hand for Nick rather than myself); a pair of shitty rubber earplugs in case I forget my normal, fancy ones; a small pack of hairbands in case I forget to bring one and I need to get my sweaty hair out of my face after a set so I can see where I’m loading my gear to. All essential.
Just to balance out Tom’s encyclopedic knowledge of all things gear-related, now it’s our resident tall man’s turn to talk about his string baby, despite openly acknowledging that gear is not his forte…
When I joined Ba’al, I’d been wedded to 5-string basses for about 5 years already; I was invited to join a Meshuggah-esque math metal band in 2012, which prompted me to find the cheapest 5-string I could find, which was a second-hand Stagg for £50 on eBay, which was posted to my student halls without a case and wrapped in about 5 inches of bubble wrap. Said band never came to be, but I really enjoyed the extended range that the instrument made available to me, so I continued to use it for all bass purposes anyway and got used to writing and playing across 5 strings.
That purple Stagg enjoyed heavy use for the first year of Ba’al, including all our early shows and a demo recording that never saw the light of day. To be honest, it sounded pretty good and I was continually impressed by the tones I got out of something that cost me £50. However, when it came time to think about our first EP proper (In Gallows by Mass), I thought I should probably step it up a bit so started shopping around. After trying it out in a music shop, I was pretty set on getting an Ibanez SR505, mostly because it was such an easy play and felt great. However, our singer at the time then pointed me towards local Sheffield legend Niall Kingdom (of Santiago Kings, Deltanaut and more), who was selling off a small portion of his large bass family, specifically his Music Man Sub Ray 5. I tried it out in his kitchen, and then he let me borrow it for the initial guide tracking for the EP, and although it was a close-run thing between it and the Ibanez (I even briefly considered buying both), the Music Man won me over and I made the purchase on the strength of its recording quality – and the fact that I’ve always secretly wished I was John Myung.
Although it’s the affordable ‘little brother’ of Music Man’s flagship Ray series, the Sub Ray 5 really packs a punch. It’s got a beefy solid hardwood body and all the warm low end that I’m always looking for in a bass tone; I hate it when metal bassists run the mids on their tone to the extent that it just sounds like another guitarist making noise. It also really takes well to the myriad distortions and other effects I subject it to without losing that gut punching power. It’s a pretty hefty beast, too, so it survives a lot of assault both intentional and accidental (though I have thrown it about sufficiently for one of the tone knobs to have fallen off and been lost to the void). Its also a really lovely colour, and I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a reasonable factor.
Strings-wise I’ve tried a few, but I’ve been using D’Addario XLs for a while and they’ve served me well. I used to use heavy gauge just because I thought that was what I should do when we’re tuned to either B or drop A, but in the past year or so I’ve been using lighter gauge (.045-.130) and it’s actually been much more comfortable. And let’s face it, I could still tie you up with with the bottom string even with those.
It doesn’t take a long time speaking to me to realise that I’m the absolute opposite of a gear nerd (especially compared to a certain someone in this band whose name rhymes with ‘bomb’). I know next to nothing about the workings of basses, amps or pedals, and will often glaze over when people talk circuitry, valves or even guitar models. I had to search my Amazon orders to even find out what string gauge I use. But I know what I like when I hear or see it, which does often make my decision process pretty long and aruduous and based very much on trying things out. However, the Sub Ray 5 was a pretty easy decision and I’ve not regretted it for one moment. It’s versatile enough to hit all the right spots live as well as in the studio and the practice room, even when the guitars are flying above, below and all around me in terms of frequencies and sounds. I’ve got no complaints and I think it’s really pushed me to improve my playing and writing to match it’s tone and range.
We continue our dive into our guitar collections with Nick’s mystery antique…
My main guitar at the moment is an Ibanez PF155 which is a Les Paul shape from 1978 or 1979. I actually took a chance on this guitar after seeing it in an antique shop in Buxton. I’d seen it several months prior and couldn’t afford it at the time, then after a while I came back and checked to see if it was still for sale out of curiosity more than anything, and it was, and I had some money. I did a bit of research on the spot but I found next to nothing about the model and the seller had no information either. I had a little play on it in the shop and it played very nicely; and on advice from Tom, we thought it was worth the punt as it would retain its value if I fell out with it, so I took the plunge.
I still know very little about it to be honest, other than it being the best guitar that I own. I know it comes from that era when Japanese companies were making budget versions of American guitars, in this case a Gibson Les Paul. That being said it doesn’t play like a ‘budget’ guitar. It feels very comfortable and there is a much fuller sound to it than anything else I’m currently playing. As far as I’m aware it still has the same humbuckers it had when it was built and there is a real vibrancy and life to them which I haven’t experienced with the more modern guitars I’m used to. As for what it’s made of, I can only assume it’s some sort of wood and the hardware is metal of some kind (I don’t have a clue about either, nor what difference the materials would make if I did). It is a nice shade of orange though, which is something I can tell you.
I’ve been using D’Addario EXL 110-7 XL strings, which is actually a 7 string set, for a while now. We’re generally tuned to a variation of B standard or Drop A so having strings that can handle low tunings is ideal. It also means that the G string (or D string in this case) is wound so I don’t have to worry about it being difficult. They sound the fullest and last the longest of all the strings I’ve ever used in lower tunings so I definitely recommend. At some point I will give baritone strings a try but for now I’m happy with just having lots of spare high E strings knocking about at home.
I really like this guitar, and unless a white Flying V crops up at a reasonable price, this will likely be my main guitar for a while.
As the first entry in the ‘gear’ category of our blog, and the first in a mini-series on our guitars, we thought it made sense to let our resident gear nerd run wild to set the tone…
So begins the diary of a gear nerd.
My current main is a violin burst 1984 Greco EG600 (it could also be a 68-80… Trying to pin model numbers down is difficult. The serial number says its an ’84 and the month but no more detail), made in Japan at the Fugi-Gen factory.
When I first joined Ba’al I was playing an old Gibson RD Custom from 1978 which was all maple with the moog active boards in it. It sounded great and the longer scale was great for the low tuning we use. However, it being old and the electronics being something of voodoo and hard to repair or get parts for, it got retired from use before I broke it.
Photo by 9barsofgold
For a while I had another Gibson (a Firebrand ES-335s which was, again, all maple) but that was replaced with the Greco, as the mahogany-maple combo sounds darker than the all maple construction of the Gibsons I had been using until then. Plus I’ve always had a soft spot for the Les Paul shape, especially the Custom, but the real thing is way beyond my bank balance and the Grecos more than do the job, along with destroying my shoulder.
The stock pickups are long long gone (before I got it). Currently in there are Seymour Duncans: an SH-5 Custom in the bridge and a ’59 in the neck. The Custom being ceramic has more bite and punch than the more mellow ’59 in the neck, which gives a nice balance and means flicking from the neck to the bridge I can go from warm and mellower to something with more bite and cut easily.
The neck was refretted and the radius changed before I got it, with the fingerboard now being slightly flatter than normal and fitted with jumbo frets. I don’t like thin shred style necks and this has more of a big vintage Gibson profile to it, so it suits me to the ground. The bridge has been swapped for a Gotoh Tune-o-matic and the pots are all CTS. The tuners I believe are the stock still (not much is on this otherwise these days), and the straplocks are DiMarzio clip locks.
String gauge wise this is currently strung with D’Addario Baritone Lights 13-62, and tuned to B (or A) E A D F# A. I’ve used D’Addario for best part of 15 years and they just seem to work best for me. They settle well, are stable, last a long time and are not excessively bright when new – which is good because I’m terrible for leaving strings on for ages until they start to flatspot. These take all the punishment (I’m very heavy handed and dig in hard) with no issues.
Lastly, the sparkling green basset hound sticker…. The tone is in the hound.