Aidy talks guitars and pedals
You The Living @ Number 3 London
Fender, humbuckers, and thick strings
My main guitar that I use is my Fender Jaguar Special HH. It’s a Japanese model. For my sound it’s really important that I have something with humbuckers and something that’s going to hold its tuning very well. So it was perfect for me in that it’s got dual humbuckers and the stock tail piece as well rather than vibrato, even though I’d love to have the Jaguar vibrato it’s perfect the way it is.
I put really thick strings on there as well, I’ve got twelves on there at the moment, but I’m thinking I’ll put a set of elevens on there and it’ll go down a little bit because they don’t really fit in the string slots that well and bending’s a little difficult! For the very bassy stuff it sounds fuller and thicker and in general it’s got a more piano-esque ring to it.
Aidy has a very unusual guitar technique and he gave us a demo.
My guitar technique - I’m kind of a failed pianist. I wouldn’t want to be a pianist so I tune my low E down to D so I can play in a root fifth of the octave with one finger, it’s a power chord. On the lower three strings I form the left hand, the piano, and play melodies on the upper three strings with the other three fingers and just strum it across like that so it forms something like the right hand of a piano. so my technique’s become very much like a piano.
So I put those strings on there to get a piano like tone and just so it sounds thicker on the lower strings like a piano does. I love how it’s got the bass kind of circuit. It’s a rhythm circuit. So if you’re playing a song like ‘Precipice’ using the Blue Box or a lot of low-octave stuff I can cut pretty much all the high end out and pretty much mimic the bass with the octave stuff going on with the Whammy. And it has what’s called a choke switch as well, makes it sound very trebly, so on the contrary if you want something that’s very cutting for one of the solos, I can switch that on.
Fender Jaguar Special Edition HH
Perfect for me, dual humbuckers
It’s got to a point now where these features, I can’t see myself playing anything else other than a Jaguar even though I would love to get another guitar, I’d like a Rickenbacker or some kind of hollow body, it’ll have to have those features on it, it’ll have to have the choke switch, it’ll have to have the rhythm circuit. I’ve kind of got myself stuck with that. And it’s black of course.
Vintage Aria Guitar
Aidy also has a guitar that looks like nothing else!
My other guitar I’ve got is a 1970s Japanese Aria Hi-Flier copy, same factory as the Univox that Kurt Cobain played. It’s been modified loads, originally it had two pickups on it as well but I ripped one of them out to make it really basic. So as you can see the guy’s added a sawn off Fender Mustang tailpiece to it that he’s bolted down so it can’t move, and a Mustang bridge here as well which is really haphazardly put on with a couple of broken screws.
You can’t adjust it at all. And it used to have a Floyd Rose or something that you can see the riveting there. And the paint job is auto paint. You can see the primer coming through where the paint’s worn off: I think that looks really cool. It’s got the most amazing flamed maple neck that’s been rubbed down and oiled - it feels and looks incredible.
I bonded with it straight away, it’s got these massive jumbo frets on it and it feels effortless to play. But because it’s got this weird combination of hardware it feels very different to anything else and I used to use a cello bow a lot. It’s just a joke carting around a cello bow!
Aria Guitars Diamond
Massive jumbo frets, feels effortless to play
It didn’t sound like anything else, as well. It’s always sounded huge it’s got this Di Marzio Super 3 bridge pick up. I’ve got another one that I took out of the neck. It’s so reliable live, it looks like crap, it looks like a mass of duct tape and wood and metal but it’s just so reliable. I love how unique it is. I just love that it looks like it’s had so many owners and it’s been so well loved. And yet so abused as well. It looks and sounds like nothing else. It’s fantastic.
Fender Bassman 70 Silverface
Vintage Fender Bassman Silverface
Aidy’s favourite amp is his vintage Fender Bassman 70 Silverface.
I don’t usually take the bass amp to gigs. I used to a lot - I’ve had this Fender Bassman 70 head, a Silverface, since I was 19 just turning 20. I tried one out in the studio in Nottingham at Crash Factory, Mark Elmore he’s an amazing engineer. And he makes pickups now, the Crash transducers.
Anyway I always loved how it sounded amazing with pedals, they have this percussive attack and then they just sound so big on the decay and they’re so clean too because ultimately the transformer just made every pedal that I put through it sound huge so I had to get it. I found it on eBay for £320 and I had to go and get it within the next few hours because the guy was leaving the country. That’s how I got a good deal, so I jumped on a train from Cambridge to Southampton and I was changing at Waterloo Station and I got mugged and he just nicked my iPod but not my money so I didn’t care, I just got on the train and got the amp and went home. I haven’t changed the valves in it or anything in the past six years. It’s always been perfect.
I’ve bridged the two channels over the bass and normal channels so it’s almost like I’ve got a massive EQ that covers the bass aspects of my sound and the guitar side of things. I sometimes turn the deep switch on and the bright switch so I get massive bass sounds and I get really crystalline highs as well. And unlike a lot of Bassmans it’s got a master volume too, so I can turn the bass side up and the treble side down for some songs and vice versa, but keep more reined in on the master volume. I just haven’t found an amp head that does it for me like that. I’ve tried so many but none of them sound like a Bassman to me. So that’s what I’ve used forever.
Fender Bassman 70 Silverface
I get massive bass sounds and I get really crystalline highs as well
Marshall 1936 Cabinet
Aidy is a fan of the sound and dimensions of the Marshall 1936 Cabinet - it comes in standard and Vintage and he has the Vintage version, with Celestion G12 speakers which he thinks beats many other cabs.
It has a bit more focus and a bit more mid-range which is important for bass because it doesn’t have any mid-range control. So it adds a bit more of that and it’s always been absolutely perfect.
Marshall 1936 Cabinet
Always been absolutely perfect
No overdubs - but looping
Aidy has a mighty pedal board and some clear principles when it comes to getting his sound recorded, including no overdubs. His TC Electronic Ditto Looper helps him achieve what he wants.
In ‘Naked’ and ‘Precipice’ I used the looper to play over the chorus, but it’s very important to me that for the most part aside from the looping bits there’s no overdubs, that it’s all just one part. It is partly because it’s a challenge for me, partly because I want to be able to play it live, and I don’t want to go over the top with overdubs because overdubs always sound really synthetic and fake to me. If it’s all one big guitar part it all melds together and that was always important to me, I sussed that out straight away.
Sometimes at the end of a gig, making loads of noise, I’ll loop the noise, from any of the pedals and make things go over each other and it’s great for that. It’s good for writing songs too. If I like a guitar part a fair bit I’ll record it onto a looper and get the drum machine out and write a song to it. Great compositional tool. It’s really cool.
TC Electronic Ditto Looper
I used the looper to play over the chorus. Great compositional tool
“I change my pedal board more than I change my underwear!”
Aidy loves experimenting with pedals and rotates things regularly.
I change my pedal board more than I change my underwear! At the moment, starting at the front of my signal chain, I’ve got a Zvex Fuzz Factory because I’ve always been a massive fan. It’s one of the original hand painted ones too, which is great.
I love how I can go mental and make weird sort of oscillating noises and I’ve always loved really fuzzy guitar sounds like Muse Origin of Symmetry, which got me into Fuzz Factory when I was like 11 or 12 and I loved Queen Adreena’s first album, Taxidermy. The fuzzy guitar sounds on that were amazing and again it’s that velcro fuzz sound which is still absolutely massive.
Zvex Fuzz Factory
I can go mental and make weird sort of oscillating noises
Getting bass sounds on guitar
Getting bass sounds on a guitar required some crafting, and the Digitech Whammy is a key part of that.
I’ve got the Digitech Whammy 5, the latest model, which is polyphonic, which is great. That is the bread and butter of our sound. It gives us our bass sound for guitar, it allows me to not have to pick one side in my eternal war between the guitarist and the bass player in me. It gives me both, and it gives me crystally upper-octave stuff which is a huge part of our sound too.
It’s my favourite pedal. Always has been, always will be, I’ve had a few of the older Whammys and I kept selling them for stupid reasons and buying them again. The 5 I bought forever, because it’s such a huge part of our sound. And when we went to Canada it wouldn’t work because power is different there, it’s only 120 volts. And because it wouldn’t work we couldn’t record in Canada. No Whammy? No You The Living. It’s as simple as that.
Digitech Whammy Pedal
My favourite pedal. It gives us our bass sound for guitar
Aidy also customises pedals if he feels the need.
I’ve got the MXR Blue Box and I got that in Canada because I love Roland S Howard and Blixa Bargeld’s guitar sounds. I’ve modified it inside as well, I ripped out the 11th capacitor and it opened it up a bit more. I put my Hot Tubes on with it all the time, I use that in ‘Precipice’ because it puts a sound which is two octaves below your normal sound, with the octave sound and the regular fuzz sound. It just sounds massive, very kind of synthy and gloopy.
I have these covers on so I can control it with my foot, they’re just like tread grips. They’re mostly on the blend knobs so I can have more of a fuzzy sound. If I put it that way. And more of the octave if I do it that way. They’re just out of the way so my pointy shoes can get in!
MXR Blue Box
It just sounds massive.
Electro-Harmonix Hot Tubes
Next in line is the Electro-Harmonix Hot Tubes.
This is a pedal I wanted for ages before Electro-Harmonix reissued it. It was like the Placebo pedal - it’s got that slightly breaky-uppy fuzzy overdrive sound. Because I like my overdrive to be a bit rough round the edges, I don’t like it to be very amp-like or smooth like a lot of guitarists do. And what this does, it sounds like a cross between a fuzz and an overdrive while still being very low gain.
So it sounds very trebly and cutting but it’s got just enough grit to make it sound big which is a big thing for us, it’s just fantastic, it sounds huge. I use it on ‘31’ a lot when I don’t want the guitar sound to be too gritty but to have just enough edge. But it’s got a special kind of edge to it which is really nice. Electro-Harmonix pedals seem to be very individual and inimitable and that’s why I like that one.
Electro-Harmonix Hot Tubes
It’s just fantastic, it sounds huge, very trebly and cutting but it’s got just enough grit to make it sound big
Distortion and delay
Aidy uses Mooer pedals for distortion and delay, including a Black Secret, as well as other delay pedals.
It’s my favourite distortion pedal of all time. So it’s got the original LM308 chip which was in the White Face Rats that made them so amazing, apparently. I’ve got the Vintage mode on all the time, and there’s a Turbo which turns on LED clipping if I ever fancy it. It sounds a lot louder and slightly cleaner.
Mooer Audio Black Secret Distortion
My favourite distortion pedal of all time
The Mooer Ana Echo is their copy of the Boss DM-2 which is an analogue delay. I’ve tried loads of analogue delays but this just blew them out of the water. It’s fantastic, tiny, and it does all the mad oscillate-y stuff too, which is great.
Mooer Audio Ana Echo Delay
Fantastic, tiny and does all the mad oscillate-y stuff
Zapping new sounds in - TC Electronic TonePrint
A further selection of TC Electronic pedals are on rotation, and Aidy is a big fan of their TonePrint system that means he can add custom sounds to pedals like his Hall of Fame Reverb.
TC Electronic sent me a load of stuff a few years ago, all the Tone Print range and I love it all to bits. I use the flanger sometimes, I use the chorus sometimes, but this is my reverb and the advantage of the Tone Print pedals is that using an iPhone app I can just zap new sounds into them from my pickups.
I’ve got a really spacious reverb sound at the moment that Harry McVeigh from White Lies made and it sounds huge, so a lot of our sound involves reverb and space. Reverb’s on everything in our sound. I mean it’s got to have reverb but not so much that it becomes one big pile of mush. There’s a blend control and a decay control, I can control how long the reverb is. And I can control how much of it there is and these two together have a great synergy. And the tone control as well can make it really cutting or really backwards in the mix. Which is great - I haven’t found another reverb that has that kind of flexibility, and it makes it all easy to rein in.
TC Electronic Hall of Fame Reverb
The advantage of the TonePrint pedals is that using an iPhone app I can just zap new sounds into them
My long delay, is my TC Electronic Flashback. I’ve got a kind of tape echo at the moment as my TonePrint, another Harry McVeigh one which is called Unfinished Business. It’s just a fantastic-sounding delay in every single one of these settings. It’s great in the mix.
TC Electronic Flashback Delay
Aidy also uses the TC Electronic Polytune and was one of the testers for Drop D mode.
It’s one of the other pedals that TC Electronic sent me when they first released the TonePrint range and I was one of the testers for Drop D mode that they released - I said to them, I play everything in Drop D. It’s served me well, and it’s a mute switch sometimes so if I need to mute a loop I just go boom and everything stops!
TC Electronic Polytune
Keeps me in tune. I was one of the testers for Drop D mode
Aidy’s birthday present - Akai Phase Shifter
Aidy got a special pedal for his birthday from Natasha.
The Akai Analog Custom Shop Phase Shifter was my birthday present last year - thank you Natasha. This one’s got a few different settings that are really cool and go between phase 90 and 180, 270 and 360 degrees of phasing, they sound very different. I use it in very obvious modes, 360 because I put it before my dirt pedals so the peaks and troughs end up getting grittier as they get more obvious. But I can turn it to a more subtle one for my clean sounds like a phase 90. Or I can make it go completely mental. I try my modulations before my distortions, that’s what changes.
Akai Analog Custom Shop Phase Shifter
Different settings that are really cool
iRig replacing amps
Aidy loves his vintage Bassman, but the iRig and iRig Stomp have become crucial for both recording and live.
So the iRig has replaced amps in our live setup. I use it with my phone - we recorded our entire album with this iRig which is my original one.
It just allowed me to plug my guitar into into my phone and that goes out into my iPad or headphones or a PA system. And it was great, it was simple, it worked for the first few gigs.
IK Multimedia iRig
We recorded our entire album with this. The iRig replaced amps in our live setup
Recently I bought the iRig Stomp, and that allows me to control the volume from my pedal board. I can plug into two amps out of the iRig and it will have the sounds from my phone and I can turn it on and off from the pedal board too. It’s just given me so much more flexibility because I can now use the amp and the iRig with the phone, and the amp can be from GarageBand and I can go out to both PA and amp.
It’s just been night and day with the new one, it’s incredible. The few gigs we’ve played with it have just been so much better. The amps I use with it are the same ones I use on the record, the exact same settings, so the guitar sound you hear live is exactly the same as it was on the record to the tiniest little detail.
IK Multimedia iRig Stomp
Incredible. I can plug into two amps out of the iRig and it will have the sounds from my phone. I can turn it on and off from the pedal board
Sometimes I’ll lay a different amp simulation on the Bassman and there’s a Hiwatt that I use live and a Marshall simulator and an Orange. Mostly it’s the Hiwatt, it’s just brilliant.
Recently Aidy has been trying out the iRig 2 and says it’s a key to a whole new world of sounds.
IK Multimedia iRig2
Key to a whole new world of sounds