Robert M talks guitar and drum machines
Inspired by early nineties goth rock and in love with 12 string guitars, Rob not only provides the axe-wielding grit to the band’s sound, but also has a passion for vintage drum machines.
My original guitar hero was a guy called Porl King from an early 90s goth band called Rosetta Stone. He used this ultra wet 12 string sound that provided my starting point sound wise. I quickly found that everything just sounded weak compared to my favourite records and just slamming effects on top of effects couldn’t get me that holy grail guitar tone. I started looking to guitarists like James Williamson and Mick Ronson - these guys had super aggressive, dramatic guitars sounds well before you could just DIY it with a pedal board. They got me interested in the way that pick ups, amps and effects all combined together to produce the whole sound.
Adam Mark Bennet
“My 12 string is my baby”
Rob is passionate about the 12 string guitar that he uses for recording and some live shows. It’s a Hofner Custom XII with a Telecaster body.
My 12 string is my baby. It’s not unique, but so rare it might as well be. It’s a stupid guitar - it does nothing that a 6 string electric or a 12 string acoustic can’t do better, but I love it. It’s my dream guitar. I’ve recorded 75% of all our lead guitar parts on it. It worked best on Wheels Of Love I think. I use a 6 string for most of the tracks live, but Wheels HAS to be played on the 12 really.
Gordon Young, the mastering engineer on Machine Beat Messiah used to own a Hofner 12 string. His old band, Dream Disciples, are a personal favourite of mine. They did a track called Room 57 which is in my all time top dance floor tunes ever.
The 6 string Rob for live is a Burns Cobra.
Live drum machine sounds
He’s a passionate explorer of drum machine sounds and has spent ages perfecting the bands’s “Machine beat rock and roll”, which includes a sampler for live.
I got the idea for separate drum sample channels from Ulterior. They always sounded inexplicably better than every other band with a drum machine and this is why.
This method also means that electronic percussion will have a different mix in every venue - meaning every show sounds different .
Key kit on stage is an Akai sampler.
The Akai S3000XL is a gritty, robust, powerful rack mounted sampler that allows me to take out a real drum machine on the road without risking a priceless bit of vintage kit. It sounds great and gives the engineer up to 8 separate channels to mix. I think we’re one of the few contemporary rock bands to get away with a live drum machine, and partly this is because we haven’t fallen into the trap of a stereo backing track.
Gritty, robust, powerful, sounds great
Top drum machines in rock and roll
Rob talked us through his drum machine philosophy and gave us his list of drum machine favourites on classic tracks.
I pretty much love all drum machines in rock and roll music pre-1995. Using a drum machine before the advent of home computing was real commitment to a sound. It was actually HARDER than just having a drummer. After software drum machines came about it became a bit of a cop out - the easy option for recording without a drummer.
Yamaha RX5 Drum Machine
Versatile and in-depth drum machine from the eighties.
My top drum machines in rock and roll:
Oberheim DMX on Blue Monday by New Order
Boss DR-55 on Body Electric by The Sisters Of Mercy
The Linn Drum on Blah Blah Blah by Iggy Pop
Whatever nightmarish pre-midi looping machine Martin Rev uses on the first two Suicide albums.
Whatever The Jesus and Mary Chain used to make Automatic.
Adam Mark Bennet
Amps - and wicked advice
His guitar amp has suffered a bit under all the pressure!
I just burned out the board connected to the power tubes on my Peavey Classic 50 4x10 combo. Thanks to David from Dressmaker’s wicked advice - “just have the master at max all the time for power and use the normal volume to control it”. Fuck off David, fuck off!
Peavey Classic 50
A gritty yet versatile amp, suited for rock and blues.
He’s thinking of buying a different amp for his sound though.
50 watts is too much headroom and in order to get the sound I like out of it I have to basically set it on fire. Which I just did.
Overdrive on everything
Robert has some unusual pedals on his board, like the Earthquaker Devices Crimson Drive.
This is by far the most expensive pedal I own. I use overdrive on everything, so wanted a good overdrive. Not only is this a lush, velocity sensitive, hard rock distortion that reacts differently with different pick up configurations, Earthquaker devices produce some of the most beautiful looking pedals on the market right now.
Earthquaker Devices Crimson Drive
Lush, velocity sensitive, hard rock distortion
Cold Life features his Boss CS-3 pedal.
I have this set to mid attack and super high sustain. I only really use this pedal for turning the tail of sustained notes into harmonic feedback. This is really a live effect, although you can really hear this in the verse sections of Cold Life.
Boss Compression Sustainer CS-3
I have this set to mid attack and super high sustain
Rob is a big fan of the Electro-Harmonix Memory Toy.
Excellent quality, reliable delay pedal. Not too many stupid parameters - just does the job. A nice, lush doubling effect provides a subtle boost to the signal as well giving it a good 80s rock wetness. It does a lot more than that, but I use it as a one purpose device really.
Electro-Harmonix Memory Toy
Lush doubling effect
He also has a fuzz: “Snakedriver” . It’s a handmade zvex fuzz factory clone, in a khaki snakeskin metal housing, he finds the pedal easier to control than other ones and it doesn’t “squeal like a stuck pig”.
I’ve always been an overdrive man. I came into fuzz later and wanted something really different from a standard drive. Mine was dirt cheap and looks like a cold war era soviet landmine.
Rob’s chorus pedal is simple but effective - a Mooer Ensemble King.
Tiny box, pretty cheap, sounds fine. All you need from a chorus. Especially when running a 12 string through it.
Mooer Audio Ensemble King
All you need from a chorus