Over the last 3 years ArcTanGent Festival has been responsible for uniting some of the most interesting guitar music being made. Technically there have probably been more effect pedals in one place over the ATG weekend than there are in a Boss Factory.
Following another amazing year of ATG I caught up with some of the most brilliant bands playing the festival and had a chat with them about their weird and wonderful gear.
AMTP make jagged, sugary, super-tight Math-Rock, filled with brilliantly subtle rhythm changes, clever little twists, and ridiculously catchy riffs. Over the last 2 years of ATG Festival the band have earned themselves one of the top podium spots for riff-masters of the festival, and rightly so.
At the heart of this riff making machine is guitarist, Tom Peters, and his reassuringly unusual, obscure and complicated set up. I hooked up with Tom and got him to write down how on earth he goes about making his guitar tone so completely unique... and his answers were anything but simple:
Hi Gear Nerds. You’ve caught me in a somewhat transitional phase of my guitar rig having recently just acquired a Hayden Mofo 100 to replace my faithful but now sadly very ill Groove Tubes prototype plexi head thing and I’m also awaiting delivery of a brand new Boss ES8 switcher/looper for my board. As such, I’ll do this run down as if they are already in my setup, OK?
Walk me through your pedal board. What goes into what?
The most obvious place to start with my board is the Boss ES8 looper. I’ve been using looper/switchers for a while now (I’ve had a Carl Martin Combinator for the last 4 years or so) and this forms the main control surface for my board. I have quite a large amount of pedals and I’ve always hated tap dancing so having the ability to hit one button and engage several pedals at once, especially given how much I enjoy throwing myself around on stage, is pretty indispensable to me now. I decided to upgrade my current looper in favour of the Boss ES8 as it offers a ton more functionality which further cuts down on tap dancing and I’ll be using it’s MIDI control features to change patches and settings on the MIDI equipped pedals I have.
I’ll talk through each loop, like I said above this is purely hypothetical as it’s not even on my board yet!:
GUITAR IN > BOSS ES8
LOOP 1> DIGITECH WHAMMY 5
LOOP 2> BOSS OC2>EHX MICROPOG
LOOP 3> HERMIDA AUDIO ZEN DRIVE
LOOP 4> PAUL COCHRANE TIM
LOOP 5> AMP TWEAKER TIGHT METAL
LOOP 6> MXR SMART GATE>MXR 6 BAND EQ
LOOP 7> STRYMON TIMELINE
LOOP 8> STRYMON BLUESKY
It’s all then split stereo out of a Lehle P-Split box to my two amps. The P-split has a transformer isolated output to get rid of ground loops and also has a very handy phase flip on it which is great for getting the phase relationship right between my two amps.
The ES8 has a tuner out which runs to my Korg Pitch Black tuner.
What would consider the most important pedal on your board? If not a defining pedal, the one that gives your sound that edge.
I’d say that, whilst I have a lot of pedals on my board, my favourite sounds are just the straight up drive tones I use. A lot of my board is dedicated to different flavours of drive but at the core of ‘my sound’ (horrible term) is the Paul Cochrane Tim OD pedal. It’s an absolute beaut and I implore anyone to have a crack at one if they get chance, it’s just the best. I use it in conjunction with my Zen Drive pedal as my main drive tone and it’s the sound of those two pedals together that you’ll here the most in an AMTP set.
Interesting tones are so often the result of stacking rather than a single stomp box. Is there a selection of pedals that you find stack especially well to create something unusual?
As above really, the blend of the two drive pedals is what defines my tone but I also use a lot of octave pedals too, the POG with dirt is a favourite of mine. I also use in certain parts to get a really massive, swelly reverb tone a combination of the Bluesky set to a large room with the Timeline on a really fast pattern delay, it just gives a ton of extra depth in certain sections. I’m pretty conservative with my use of weirder effects in general although this is subject to change in the very near future...
What is your choice of amplification, what led you to this choice, and how do you make it your own?
I’ve run two amps for as long as I can remember. The basic premise behind this started when I realised my 20 watt Laney combo that I used to have just wasn’t loud enough on it’s own so I bought a head and started running stereo to give the verbs and delays and bit of extra oomph. The principle behind the way I set things up is to have one amp providing lots of sparkle and definition and the other providing girth, this is mostly necessary due to the choice of guitar I have which I’ll explain later.
My rigs changed loads of late and I’m very happy to say that I’m now endorsed by Hayden so my current setup is a Hayden Mofo 100 head with matching 4x12 and a Soldano Astroverb 16 2x12 combo. The Hayden is a heft monster and the Soldano is sparkly and gritty, it’s the blend of the amps which give me the punch and definition I like to hear. I adore the Soldano, it’s the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought but I don’t regret it one single bit. It’s an EL84 driven amp which means it doesn’t extend quite as low as something more hefty like the Hayden so the combination is spot on.
The Hayden has a pretty unusual valve combination by modern standards which is something I was drawn to; it uses two EL34s and two 6l6 valves in the output section which gives the Hayden has a pretty unusual valve combination by modern standards which is something I was drawn to; it uses two EL34s and two 6l6 valves in the output section which gives the amp a really unique character.
What is your choice of guitar, how did you come to play that guitar, and what makes you stick with it?
I’m a very stubborn Telecaster man. I have a good few other guitars and only one Tele but it’s my favourite guitar and I use it on everything. It’s a 2004 Fender Highway One Telecaster in Daphne Blue. I love it like a family member. It’s a particularly bright Tele, I’m not overly sure why but I really love it that way, it’s got this incredibly unmistakable smack and crunch to it which I just need to hear whenever I play guitar now. I’ve not played another instrument that has the same whallop as it. I guess in a way, I just like it so much because it’s the sound I’ve become so used to hearing, I got it when I was 15 and have played it ever since and it just feels like home to me now.
I was drawn to the Telecaster in the first place largely out of bullishness; I kept hearing people say things like ‘you can’t play heavy music on Fender Telecasters’ and the more I heard that, the more I wanted to prove everyone wrong. Of course, it doesn’t have the same low mid thud of a Gibson or other humbuckery guitar but it’s got so much life and character that I don’t really care and I set my amps up to compensate for that. For me, it’s an absolute winner.