Gear Talk: Pedals – Nick’s Pedalboard

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

X-Vive Maxverb

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.

-Nick

Gear Talk: Pedals – Richard’s Pedalboard

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

Boss TU-3

Mooer Pure Octave

Boss LS-2

Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini

Vox Trike

Boss ODB-3

EHX Key9

Mooer Shimverb

Boss DD3

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.

-Richard

Gear Talk: Amps – Nick’s Marshall

Returning to our ‘Gear Talk’ series, it’s now time for Nick to share his potted history with amp breakage, and spill the secrets of his Marshall head, used extensively on Ellipsism.

Anyone who knows me personally in a musical capacity will be aware of my magnetism towards things that break. In my 4 years a member of Ba’al I have had exploding valves, melted transistors and disintegrated pedal chassis on a regular enough basis that it became a running joke and a recurring source of gig related anxiety. You name it, I’ve broken it, and often just by looking at it.

Before I joined Ba’al I had been using an old, and funnily enough broken, Marshall combo amp. The thing was so decrepit I could hear the poor thing wheezing with each turn off a knob. With that I mind I bought a reasonably priced Bugera head and cab. I forget the exact model but it was a 5150 clone and it cost me about £300, needless to say this 19 year old student was beyond thrilled with the acquisition. The wise amongst you will probably have already guessed that this amp’s life expectancy was relatively short and, true to form, it broke several times and eventually found itself sent to the amplifier knackers yard, aka Tom’s spare parts cabinet.

And so the heavens (well, eBay) saw fit to bless me with a Marshall JCM 2000 DSL and since the day I bought it, it has performed admirably. At 100 watts it carries plenty of punch but leaves plenty of headroom for more delicate clean parts. I’m a huge fan of bands like Alcest and Deafheaven and the versatility of this amp means I can switch from sweet shoegazey passages to full on Primitive Man level filth with just a couple of stompboxes. It’s beautifully clear and the built in spring reverb sounds quite excellent too. Owen from Hundred Year Old Man also uses one and if you’ve heard HYOM you’ll understand why that alone is enough reason to want to buy one (although his is green and looks marginally cuter than mine). The amp has been around the block a bit but neither I nor the previous owner have ever encountered a problem with it (or so he says) which is a relief given my past tendencies. Again I acquired this amp for the paltry sum of 300 imperial credits of the realm and I can’t imagine myself looking for anything else for a while. Reliable, versatile and a direct line to the TONE ZONE, this amp is basically everything I’ve ever really wanted.

-Nick

Gear Talk: Amps – Richard’s Darkglass

Continuing our gear talk series, we now turn to some of the amp heads used on the upcoming album Ellipsism, starting with Richard’s Darkglass Microtubes 900, which is still pretty new to the Ba’al family.

As I mentioned in my blog about my bass, I’m the absolute opposite of a gear nerd and know next to nothing about anything technical unless guided by copious online research and advice from knowledgeable friends. So if you’re looking for a spec sheet, this isn’t the place to come I’m afraid…

When I joined Ba’al in 2016, I hadn’t been regularly playing bass for several years (I play guitar in another band), and all I had amp-wise was a Laney RB3 combo. After one practice it was abundantly clear that this was not anywhere close to cutting the mustard in this band, and our then-guitarist helped me out in finding some good deals on something better.

This led me to getting a very cheap 300W Behringer Ultrabass head, which is about the dimensions of a small VCR and about a quarter of the weight. It was incredibly convenient, sounded surprisingly decent, and was so light that we could literally throw it to eachother during loading. Unfortunately, this also meant it was very likely to vibrate it’s way onto the floor during live shows…

As our sound evolved, I found that the beloved Ultrabass was once again not quite providing enough heft, so I next I borrowed an old Ampeg head (I forget the model) from our ex-guitarist Tom, which was definitely a step up in sound. I used this for a good few years (both the Behringer and the Ampeg feature in combination on our first EP), until eventually it developed a fatal fault which was never identified and I went back to the Ultrabass for a while – including our last gig to date in January 2020.

As is often the way I do things, the imminent studio time for the Ellipsism sessions kicked me into gear and got me thinking I should probably up my game again, so I started researching online and taking suggestions from nearby gear heads for a new head. Having tried out a Gallian-Krueger that belongs to the bassist in my other band, their MB500 fusion model was in the running, as was the EBS Reidmar 502. However, with the reputation that Darkglass have been gaining in recent times, and the sound I’d heard coming from them at other bands’ shows (Archelon and Wren being two examples that come to mind), I was mainly drawn to their Microtubes 500 model. Then I was alerted to an alarmingly good second hand deal on Facebook for it’s older brother, the Microtubes 900, and one very awkward trip to the post office later I was sorted.

After my favourable experience with the lighter-than-Nick’s-entire-body Ultrabass, I was keen to stick with something easily portable, and the Microtubes definitely fits that bill, coming in a handy small carry case which also fits all the cables inside. The main thing, though, is that upon switching it on and plugging in, I was immediately about 500% happier with my sound than I had ever been before. The extra headroom and power that I get with 900W immediately fixed niggling issues I’d always had with getting my tone to stay consistent and beefy at the high volumes needed to keep up in this band. I don’t think I’ve needed to go above about 10 o’clock on the master volume yet, and that’s given me a lot more space to play with sounds.

It takes unbelievably well to the various overdrives, distortions and other weird effects I throw at it and, as if that’s not enough, it’s got two of Darkglass’ very own overdrive units (the B3K and the VMT) built into it, with a footswitch to control them, as well as an inbuilt preamp that lots of people have in pedal form. I’ve honestly barely scratched the surface of all the sound possibilities in this little unit.

As you can see from all the knobs, you can really get into the nitty gritty of EQing different frequencies, which I find really helpful in such a bottom-heavy, low tuned environment as Ba’al; cutting through whilst still keeping the aggressive low-end is really important for me, and at long last I have no problems doing so.

Having only got this amp this year (sadly after the one gig we played pre-COVID), it’s only seen use thus far in the practice room – writing and rehearsing the album tracks – and then in the studio, where it truly shone and made my tracking at No Studio an absolute dream. The bass on the album sounds infinitely bigger, clearer and heavier than on any of our other releases, and this amp really carries it. I truly cannot wait to vibrate people with its power when we can finally play live again.

-Richard

Gear Talk: Drums – Luke’s Kit

It’s been a while since we wrote a gear blog (see the other entries in the series so far here), so in the run up to the release of our debut album Ellipsism, we thought it was about time we shone a light on the beast of a kit that Luke sat behind for the writing, recording and performing of it. Luke’s been in the band since the very tail end of 2019, and his incredibly accomplished style is all over the album. Get to know his tools of the trade below.

This is the drum setup used for the recording of Ba’al’s Ellipsism with Joe Clayton, our lovely mixing engineer, for scale. Unfortunately I do not have access to the drum kit while writing this as it’s in storage through lockdown, so I will provide as much information as I can be confident about!

The drum kit is a 6-piece Mapex M-birch Kit which I’ve had for at least 10 years. The sizes are:
● 22″ Bass Drum
● 10″ Rack Tom
● 12″ Rack Tom
● 13″ Rack Tom
● 16″ Floor Tom
● 14″ x 5.5″ Snare

The toms use 2Ply clear heads, the snare has 2Ply coated head and the bass drum uses some sort of heavy duty clear head with a kick port on the resonant head.

Photo by Marek Payne

For tuning, I generally have the batter heads quite tight (especially on the snare), with the resonant heads tuned lower. This achieves a fast attack with a nice beefy tone from the reso’s. Also I generally have my snare wires super tight.

I use Pearl Demon Drive (direct drive) pedals in the long board configuration for my feet, and Vic Firth extreme 5B drum sticks for my hands.

Cymbal-wise, my setup has evolved a lot as I’ve broken them and have had to find replacements from whatever the local shops have in stock. Going left to right:

● Zildjian Avedis Hi-Hats (13″?) with a drop clutch (not enough people know about drop clutches!)
● Dream Energy Crash (17″?)
● Istanbul Xist Crash (16″?)
● Dream Bliss 10″ China
● Sabian AAX 10″ Splash
● Sabian AAX Crash (19″?)
● Sabian AA Metal Ride (20″?)
● Istanbul Mehmet Session China (20″?)

My cymbal setup started out with a Zildjian ZXT starter pack. I then got obsessed with Mike Portnoy which led to me replacing the crash cymbals with Sabian AAX’s as the ZXT’s broke. Also thanks to Portnoy, I started getting a silly amount of Splash and FX cymbals. Now most of my AAX cymbals have been broken and replaced with other brands found in local shops. The Istanbul China cymbal was a particularly nice find as I have never found a China cymbal that better suits my sound. I also love the Dream 10″ china FX even though it’s got a large crack in it.

You’ll also see I have a Pearl drum rack which I managed to pick up Second hand at a very affordable rate. This has made mounting silly amounts of cymbals substantially easier. Besides that my hardware is all sorts of brands. But generally for gigging I have a set of lightweight Tama stands and quick release cymbal toppers.

Photo by Wemmy Ogunyankin

Back at the practice space I do have a lot more toys that I have purchased through the years. My YouTube channel has old drum videos where you can see how much of a drum hoarder I am (bless my parents for putting up with all this!). But some of my early drummer influences were Jimmy (the Rev) Sullivan, Mike Portnoy, & Joey Jordison who led me down a path of huge drum kits and small bank balances. You can probably still hear their influences in my playing today.

To finish, I have a Yamaha E-kit for practice at home. I acquired an electric kit when I started uni so I could practice in student accommodation – although the poor girl who lived below me still wasn’t best pleased. The E-kit is great for practice, and enabled us to get demos done for the Ellipsism album at a rapid rate, which made the entire demoing and recording process a lot smoother. But as great as E-kits are, they just are not as fun as sitting behind a big acoustic kit which I can barely see out of. I just fucking love it.

-Luke

Gear Talk: Guitars – Nick’s Ibanez

We continue our dive into our guitar collections with Nick’s mystery antique…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

-Nick

Gear Talk: Guitars – Tom’s Greco

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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

Head

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.

-Tom