Rig Tour: Mike Ven­nart

The for­mer Ocean­size master­mind and Biffy Clyro side­man goes it alone once more with a fully-stocked ped­al­board and no-non­sense gui­tar and amp arse­nal

Total Guitar - - CONTENTS - Words Michael Ast­ley Brown

Mike Ven­nart is a man of con­tra­dic­tions. His play­ing with UK prog he­roes Ocean-size es­tab­lished a keen ear for odd­ball riffs and off-kil­ter song struc­tures, yet when it comes to gear, he likes things sim­ple… or so com­pli­cated he can’t pre­dict what they’ll do next. “I like things that have got a mind of their own,” he en­thuses. “I think that’s what live per­for­mance should be.” In be­tween play­ing mega-venues with Biffy Clyro, Mike re­veals the rig that fu­els the tour for new solo al­bum, To cure a bliz­zard upon a plas­tic sea ...


Squier Stra­to­caster

1 “The old Squier, amaz­ingly, is still in one piece – it still feels like home, and it still sounds re­ally fat and stupid. I’m just de­lighted that I can take it out. It’s so worn-in – it’s like an old mate. It does a lot of stuff – the back pickup is re­ally fuck­ing big and re­ally loud and res­o­nant, and then the front neck is a re­ally Stratty, al­most a P-90 kind of sound. It just does ev­ery­thing, so I love us­ing it. It’s a Di­marzio Tone Zone in the back, and the front is from some Ibanez Road­ster II piece of shit from the 80s. I can’t get any sort of sin­gle-coil twang out the back; it’s just su­per-huge dis­tor­tion. It’s re­ally nasty.”

Fender Elite Stra­to­caster w/ Bur­gundy Mist re­fin­ish


“I took out all the noise­less pick­ups and switch­ing, be­cause I just don’t like the sound of that stuff. Matt Gleeson from Monty’s Pick­ups put in some nice vin­tage-wound stuff for the mid­dle and the front. I find that for the front pickup, I al­ways like a re­ally low out­put; it just gives it more clar­ity and more bell-like res­o­nance. And then for the back pickup, he does me a cus­tom-wound, so it’s like 17k, a re­ally su­per-hot sin­gle coil. Clean, it’s not so nice-sound­ing, but with dis­tor­tion it sounds huge. It just rips. The gui­tars are all in D stan­dard.

“Fender has al­ways been re­ally kind to me, but I’ve got so many Sun­burst Strats be­cause that’s all the com­pany gen­er­ally makes when they make left-handed Strats. I thought it was re­ally cool, but I feel like play­ing a Sun­burst Strat on­stage, no­body walks away go­ing, ‘Oh man, did you see that gui­tar?’ So I was like, ‘Fuck it, I’m go­ing to spend the money and get it re­fin­ished!’ And it’s come out great; it’s lovely. It’s polyurethane, so it will age re­ally sexy.”

Copeland Tele­mas­ter

3 “There’s a friend of mine called Matt Walker, who lives in Austin, Texas, and he built me this thing. It’s a Jazzmas­ter with a Tele­caster bridge pickup and a Tele­caster bridge, but it’s also got a Jazzmas­ter tremolo that’s just fucked. The Tele­caster pickup sin­gle coil is also a P-90, so when it’s clean, it’s re­ally twangy, like an old Tele, and then when you kick in the dis­tor­tion, it’s a big, ballsy dis­tor­tion. It’s fuck­ing rip­ping. Both pick­ups are Porter – the front pickup is a stan­dard vin­tage Jazzmas­ter wound thing. And again, it’s just got that re­ally lus­cious, wiry Jazzmas­ter sound. You can guar­an­tee, if it’s got that gui­tar sound, then I will en­joy it. I use it on Spi­der Bones and Im­mor­tal soldiers. When you kick in the dis­tor­tion with it, it’s just got so much punch.”


Or­ange Retro 50

4 “I still use it: it’s got a lot. For a five-knobs, no-ef­fects loop, no-bull­shit, it’s a whole lot of amp for me. And the thing is, I’m a to­tal lud­dite; any­thing that’s got scrolling menus or too many knobs, or any­thing like that, I will never learn how to work. I’ve had a Stry­mon Time­line in my drawer for about five years, and it’s the most in­tim­i­dat­ing thing that I’ve owned. I’m rub­bish at it, so I stick to what I know. If it’s got three knobs and a but­ton, I’m happy with that.”

PED­ALS Au­dio Kitchen The Small Trees

5 “I run the Or­ange pretty dirty; my clean sound is bro­ken up, so it’s quite a balanc­ing act, get­ting the Big Muff to pile through. To com­pen­sate for that, as an ini­tial gain stage, I’ve started us­ing an Au­dio Kitchen The Small Trees. Just a tube in a pedal, one but­ton, one knob, and it just adds as much push and preamp dis­tor­tion as you want. So that en­ables me to run the amp cleaner, get the Big Muff bleach­ing through it and yet still have that bro­ken-up sound with this preamp pedal. It’s cured a lot of my ills.”

Green Car­rot In­fat­u­a­tor


“My In­fat­u­a­tor is a ’78 IC Op Amp Big Muff – it’s the Pump­kins one; I’m not a Pump­kins fan, but that sound is a great Big Muff. It’s a re­ally raunchy sound. And the other side is a fa­mous Fuzz Face vari­ant that’s all splut­tery and nasty. I use it on the most hor­ri­ble Vel­cro set­ting. And I get to do a solo on one of the new songs called Di­a­mond­ball­gag, a solo with the worst gui­tar sound imag­in­able – I fuck­ing love do­ing it ev­ery night. It’s like, how ridicu­lous can I make this solo?”

Elec­tro-har­monix Pitch Fork


“I just use that for In­fat­u­ate, that’s all it’s there for. It’s set to a per­fect 5th.”

Ib anez Tube Sc reamer Mini


“I needed some­thing to just give it that midrange poke. The Tube Screamer is an old re­li­able, it’s a cliché, but for a rea­son: it’s great. I have it lit­er­ally set to zero, and it’s just dirty enough, but it cuts through.”

The Tone Guru Pure Ac id Driver


“This is a Rat clone made by my friend Rus­sell Sault. My old 90s Rat that I used to use with Ocean­size got nicked, so he made me a clone of that – it’s got the LM308 chip – it’s got a re­ally nice raunchy dis­tor­tion, but a lit­tle bit of fuzz on top of it. It’s that Pave­ment-y thing that I’m ob­sessed with. So when I put the Tube Screamer on top of that, I’ve learned that gives it the chug.”

Dan­elec­tro Fab Tone


“Gam­bler [Richard In­gram, now bass in Ven­nart] got one of those when we were in Ocean­size, and it’s a great card to be able to pull out of the back pocket when you ab­so­lutely, pos­i­tively have to de­stroy ev­ery fucker in the room. It’s more fa­mous for Mog­wai, re­ally. I don’t think enough peo­ple know about them. They’re cheap, plas­tic pieces of shit but, fuck, they sound good. I use it for the end of Duke­fame – that’s pretty bru­tal, and the end of Mu­sic­fora­nurse.”

Dwarfc raft Shiva


“That’s a re­ally volatile, nasty fuzz. It’s got two set­tings, and they’re both hor­ri­ble; no mat­ter what you do, it just re­acts badly. It’s great. There’s a but­ton on it that’s starve, which ba­si­cally robs the pedal of power,


so the more you starve it, the more fucked up it gets. It just os­cil­lates and feeds back all by it­self, so I use that for a solo on Duke­fame now. It doesn’t mat­ter what I play, be­cause it’s got a mind of its own; it’s fuck­ing bril­liant.”

Earthquaker De­vices Ac up­ulco Gold

12 “My drone-metal ob­ses­sion con­tin­ues, be­cause that’s meant to be em­u­lat­ing a sound of a Sunn Model T – it’s pretty good. It’s bet­ter than a Big Muff; it’s just got more full­ness and boom to it.”

Holo­gram In­fi­nite Jets

13 “Again, it’s got a mind of its own. I just use it for some re­ally splut­tery tex­tures that are just nice to have. I use that for segues at the end and be­gin­ning of Di­a­mond­ball­gag, and I use it in Don­keykong. I’ll in­vent some more pre­sets with it, be­cause at the mo­ment it’s just stuck on this weird, splut­tery, lush thing. It’s great – it’s so fuck­ing weird!”

Death By Au­dio Ec ho Dream 2

14“That’s re­placed my old Boss DM-2. It’s a great ana­logue de­lay. You get a lot of crazy re­peats out of it, and you can add as much hair and fuzz on it as you want, and it os­cil­lates like no other. When you do that stupid space­ship noise and wind it all the way back on an os­cil­la­tion, it’s just got a huge amount of fuzz and balls to it. It’s fuck­ing mad.”

Boss DD - 3 & DD -7 Dig­i­tal De­lays

15 “One of them’s set to stan­dard, bor­ing de­lay, and the other’s set per­ma­nently to back­wards, and that’s set for In­fat­u­ate, and I just fling it on when I want to an­noy ev­ery­one.”

Earthquaker Trans­misser

16 “That thing is an ab­so­lute god­send. I don’t even know what it is; I don’t know what it’s do­ing, but I think it’s like a re­verb with a load of dis­tor­tion on top of it. It’s been a game-changer for me. For me, ev­ery­thing is on, and the whole thing is set full: decay, rate, fre­quency.

“The new song Di­a­mond­ball­gag has got a wig-out at the end, so that’s when it’s go­ing crazy. But I also start the set with it; it’s the first thing you hear on the new al­bum. I use the vol­ume knob a lot to bow notes in, and it’s very, very sen­si­tive is the Trans­misser, so you can bow a note in and it will just flour­ish for five min­utes. It’s the dream pedal.”

TC Elec­tronic Hall Of Fame Re­verb

17 “There’s a song from the new al­bum called That’snot En­ter­tain­ment, and that’s got a re­ally old-school, Elvis -y re­verb, so that’s what that’s for.” Ven­nart tour the UK start­ing in Birm­ing­ham on 19 Novem­ber

Pho­tog­ra­phy Olly Cur­tis



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