Rus­sian Circ les

We find Mike Sul­li­van with a new amp approach and a plethora of ped­als on the in­stru­men­tal­ists UK tour

Total Guitar - - RIG TOUR -

As the gui­tarist in an in­stru­men­tal three­piece, Mike Sul­li­van’s tone has to de­liver a huge but nu­anced sound to be his voice in Rus­sian Cir­cles. His quest to re­fine his heavy tones while re­tain­ing the cleaner chime and lay­ers of loop­ing re­quired to pro­duce the band’s in­tri­cate and emo­tive com­po­si­tions has meant a rig al­ways up for re­vi­sion with three amps and a meaty ped­al­board plat­ter in play. But his on­go­ing re­cov­ery from a car ac­ci­dent last year also brought about some nec­es­sary changes in terms of gui­tar choices too…

gui­tars 2007 Gib­son SG Stan­dard Sil­ver­burst

1 “I’m kind of in­be­tween gui­tars at the mo­ment. A car ac­ci­dent caused an up­per-back in­jury and put me in search of lighter-weight gui­tars. I tried sev­eral dif­fer­ent SG Cus­toms and some just didn’t feel right and the SG neck is not my favourite pro­file. But I’ve tracked this one down with a rounder neck pro­file, ebony ’board and ma­hogany body.

I’m al­ways check­ing out gui­tars and this was a re­ally good deal. It was a Ro­bot Gui­tar [a model with au­to­mated self tun­ing] and I knew right away I’d be strip­ping all that mech­a­nism out, but at the core of it I knew this was a great gui­tar.

“In the last few years I’ve be­come ac­cus­tomed to us­ing lower out­put pick­ups and I put a Lol­lar Im­pe­rial in the neck and then a higher wound one in the bridge. And I’m sold – they’re re­ally good. Great for dis­tor­tion and hav­ing ar­tic­u­la­tion. I think lower out­put pick­ups re­flect the gui­tar more; every­thing is more ex­posed in a cool way.

“I’ve had SGs that are the worst things to play live but this one felt great. Sacha Dun­able from Dun­able Gui­tars helped me set it up with a new bridge and tuners. On this tour it’s usu­ally in C# G# DG A C# and oc­ca­sion­ally the lower G# will go up to an A . I’ll use the Drop pedal to take that a whole step down too.”

1971 Gib­son SG Stan­dard

2 “I picked this up at a cool gui­tar store called Rock ’N’ Roll Vin­tage in Chicago. It’s a gui­tar I’d al­ways see but I tried to stay away from it and not touch it. But I fell in love with it and I’ve had it for years now – and for cer­tain songs live it has its place where no other gui­tar feels quite as right. There are things I would change about it, like the pickup in the bridge doesn’t quite have the tonal qual­ity. I can’t say for cer­tain if it is the orig­i­nal. This is al­ways in the same tun­ing: BBEABE.”

Amps Fen­der Twins

3 “It’s for clar­ity’s sake. I’ve al­ways been a fan of head­room and I tried the Twin out and it was more pleas­ing tak­ing ped­als well. On stage right side I used to have one bass head pow­er­ing both the 8 x 10 and the 4 x 12 but it just got too muddy and I couldn’t con­trol vol­ume with­out ad­just­ing the 8 x 10 si­mul­ta­ne­ously. Now we’ve added a sec­ond Twin in place of the 4 x 12 just to give it a lot more free­dom and vol­ume.

“The idea of the Twins is that stage right, Brian [Cook, bass], is di­alled in brighter and it uses Dave’s [Turn­cratz, drums] mon­i­tor. Be­cause I like it re­ally bassy on stage left, so that’s al­ways a lit­tle brighter for Brian and for Dave. They pre­fer dif­fer­ent EQs so they

don’t fight each other in the mix. The Twin on my side is based in the low end with the bright switch off and just a hint of re­verb. Then on Brian’s side it’s a sim­i­lar vol­ume set­ting, but the bright switch im­me­di­ately jacks up the vol­ume. His side has a lit­tle less bass di­alled in and a lit­tle more treble. It’s all mono sig­nal but any dif­fer­ence we can get in there be­tween them is al­ways com­ple­men­tary to the front of house mix. This tour is the first time we’ve had this and it seems to be work­ing out.”

Fen­der Bass­man

4 “I’ve been go­ing back and forth with it. I still love the Verellen Meatsmoke, that’s a killer amp. Th­ese amps are all rental so they’re re­cent is­sues. At home I’m still re­ally happy with the Meatsmoke. I might pick up a Bass­man be­cause I’m re­ally happy with it on this tour. I got this a few days ago and it sounds great. It’s not as woofy in the low end, not as dom­i­nat­ing [as the Meatsmoke]. It plays well with the Twins.”

Lehle 1aT3 and P-Split split­ters

5 “Be­cause I’m us­ing three amps, I got this switcher just be­fore we came out on tour. The fact that it’s a but­ton switch means you can kick in the third or sec­ond amp and I think that this will be very prac­ti­cal in the fu­ture tours with new songs in the mix.

“This P-Split has a phase switch, which for some rea­son the 1AT3 doesn’t, so it’s es­sen­tially just to keep the Bass­man in phase.”

Ped­al­board MXR EVH Phase 90

6 “It might be a weird spot to have it in the chain but I’m re­ally happy with it. With the Phase 90 there’s not a lot of room for ad­just­ment, well, other than speed, so I usu­ally have a fair amount of de­lay and re­verb with it to give it a sweep­ing tex­ture. It works well on big chord parts to thicken them up. And I’m a big Van Halen fan!”

Abom­inable Eff ects Throne Torc her

7 “Right there we have a burn­ing church [de­sign]. It’s like a [Boss] HM-2 clone. So it’s got that gnarly midrange Swedish death metal sound. It does that ex­cep­tion­ally well. I used it so much on the last record it found its way onto the board.”

MXR Micr o Amp

8 “I’ve had that since day one. Sim­ple and easy to use live. Less is more with this and I use it for cer­tain parts as a boost. I use the con­trol with my foot quite of­ten – this whole board be­comes a dif­fer­ent beast when it’s dark!”

Sourc e Au­dio Neme­sis

9 “That’s a re­ally cool de­lay. You can save eight pre­sets and for

some of the songs the de­lay pat­terns need to be on ex­actly the right BPM. It’s very ver­sa­tile.”

Bogner Wes­sex over­drive and Burn­ley dis­tor­tion ped­als

10 “The main dis­tor­tion comes from th­ese. I usu­ally have them go­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously and I use a lit­tle Kee­ley looper to turn those on and off. Oc­ca­sion­ally, I’ll turn off the Wes­sex and just have the Burn­ley dis­tor­tion. Usu­ally in the stu­dio you ditch your con­ven­tional [live] setup but I found those very use­ful. There’s a warmth with them that I haven’t found with other ped­als.”

DigiTech JamMan looper

11 “It can call up the be­tween­song loops and there are drones in songs that help fill out the sound. I have a mix­ture of a pre-recorded loop and then throw another live loop on top of it.”

Akai E2 Head­rush looper and Saturn­works mixer

12 “This has got be my most es­sen­tial pedal. It just works for me live, with all the loop­ing that I do. The only thing is the loop vol­ume drops maybe five or 10 per­cent com­pared to the live sig­nal, so I throw that into a mixer [sil­ver pedal above] and it’s a wet and a dry to bump up the vol­ume of the looped sig­nal, so it sounds the same.”

Out­law Eff ects Vig­i­lante cho­rus

13 “It’s a cheap lit­tle pedal and I don’t use cho­rus that of­ten but I picked it up for next to noth­ing and it sounds al­right.”

ZVex Fuzz Fac­tory

14 “That’s cool, but I don’t use fuzz that much; usu­ally when I want to cut through the mix in a noisy chaotic part. I don’t re­ally find it use­ful for stan­dard riff­ing, more let­ting the notes sus­tain through de­lays. I’m us­ing it for 1/20th of the po­ten­tial it could be used for!”

Stry­mon Flint re­verb and tremolo

15 “The re­verbs are very use­ful and the two in one combo is nice with the tremolo. I use the 60s re­verb mode but the 80s is also cool for long, drawn-out de­lays with ethe­real drones.”

Stry­mon Dig de­lay and Favourite switch

16 “I’ve found Stry­mon ped­als to be well made and ver­sa­tile. I like dig­i­tal de­lay and you can change the dot­ted eighth notes and dif­fer­ent sub­di­vi­sions that are re­ally use­ful live. There’s a lot of re­verb through the twins and here so I like to have a re­ally clean de­lay on­stage. You can use a lit­tle Stry­mon aux­il­iary switch [above left] with it – a favourite switch.”

Xotic Eff ects AC Booster

17 “That’s close to the start of the chain. It’s more of a dy­namic boost and I can get a lit­tle more grit than with the Micro Amp. This one I use a lit­tle more as an over­drive or preamp per se.”

Jim Dun­lop vol­ume pedal

18 “I used to use the Ernie Ball Vol­ume Jnr but ev­ery­one goes through them right and left. On tour you def­i­nitely need some­thing re­li­able.”

digitech drop

19 “I use this for chang­ing tun­ings or oc­tave use. It can drop the gui­tar a full step and then with some songs if you do that live it can give you two more frets some­times. The oc­tave func­tion is re­ally cool and I use that on some of the newer songs. It saves time be­cause I go through six tun­ings a set, and it saves bring­ing another gui­tar on the road.”

“I tried to stay away from [the 1971 gib­son sg stan­dard] and not touch it, But I fell in love with it”

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