Gear Up! : Dan Beesley, Guitarist of Cleft

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    Gear Up! : Dan Beesley, Guitarist of Cleft

    It is no secret that myself and John of Cleft are gear heads. We do our own recordings in our rehearsal room and I think being solely in charge of all of our own sonic output, having to figure out the best way to fill all the gaps that are left in the frequency spectrum as a two piece, has heightened our level of geekery.


    Being the sole melodic instrument in a duo means that I have had to experiment considerably with various ways of both occupying a broader range of frequencies with a single instrument and maintain enough tonal variation throughout a set to keep people interested. This applies as much to my actual approach to guitar playing as well as use of effects pedals. In short, I do a great deal of things in terms of technique and gear that would be utterly inappropriate for any “normal” band.


    Guitars

    Fender Telecaster Blackout HH

    Fender Telecaster Blackout HH (Korean made)


    I use this guitar for the vast majority of the Cleft set. It is my baby. It is very VERY black. It is the most tonally flexible (without being covered in confusing knobs and switches), stable (in terms of tuning) and black guitar I have ever played. I actually bought it without having ever played it, or indeed any guitars similar to it, long before I knew anything about guitars. I knew I wanted a telecaster shaped guitar, and I knew I wanted a black guitar, so that is exactly what I bought.


    In a way, this guitar has totally shaped the way I play. My first band (called Inarchy) used to play in drop C tuning (CGCFAD) so I always had it strung with heavier gauge strings. After this band sadly called it a day, I started playing in standard tuning again, but was too cheap to buy new lighter gauge strings. This took some getting used to. My fingers got quite shredded up and I used to get quite a lot of arm aches when doing any string bends, but after a while I started to really like what the heavy strings did for my guitar tone. The higher strings still had body to them, and the lower strings seemed to resonate more consistently at lower frequencies, allowing me to roll of the low end of my old Marshall to maintain clarity without losing the guts of the sound. I still use the heavier strings (Ernie Ball Beefy Slinky 11 – 54). I also drop this guitar into DADGAD (for Chin and Flexuous) and even AADGAD for a new track called Drop a Bastard, it still copes really well in terms of tuning stability and string tension.


    The guitar is a set neck (which definitely helps with sustain), solid basswood body, has 22 jumbo frets, a hardtail bridge (as I’ve never been very good with tremelo arms), has a master volume and single tone control. Pickups wise, it has a Seymour Duncan SH-1 (reverse polarity) in the neck and a Seymour Duncan pearly gates in the bridge. I love the neck pick up and use it almost exclusively. I find it has great deal of top end to still get that twangy telecaster flavour but with a lot more meat to the tone. I have the bridge pickup set pretty far away from the strings, intentionally causing it to have a far quieter output than the neck position. This allows me to drop down to a much cleaner, thinner sound at the flick of a switch without having to mess with the volume control (listen to the first riff in Pallette from the Utter EP to hear this tone).


    Fender American Series Stratocaster

    Fender American Series Stratocaster


    This is a new guitar that I added to my arsenal mid last year. I actually traded it at Entertainment Exchange for a Gibson Les Paul Studio that I won in a competition years ago. I’ve never been much of a fan of Gibsons, and I felt guilty leaving it sat at home doing nothing (these things are built to be played!), so I decided to accept my fate as a lifelong Fender devotee and got myself the strat of my dreams.


    I had wanted a strat for a long time, since doing what a lot of guitar players end up doing and obsessing over Jimi Hendrix, mainly the live Band of Gypsies record. Through listening to Jimi Hendrix, I also was introduced to Stevie Ray Vaughn, who I am a massive fan of. The amount of power and vicious attack and vibrato he gets out of every note on that battered strat is so inspiring. Although clearly my own music isn’t directly influenced by traditional blues, that level of expression using a guitar is something I always strive towards. I think there’s something about the honesty and articulation of a single coil pick up that you simply cannot achieve with a humbucker.


    I decided I wanted a white strat with a maple neck simply because they are utterly beautiful, and Jimi Hendrix played one at Woodstock. All guitar players should allow themselves some shallow gestures from time to time!


    My strat is a 2006 model, with stock Fender strat pick ups. I have set the tremelo system up so that it is locked to the body to stabilise tuning and as I mentioned I am not a big hair metal dive-bomb kind of guy. I use it on Trapdoor, Tamed Beests and a couple of as of yet unnamed new tunes that will be on our new album.


    Amplifier

    Hayden Mofo 30 & Harley Benton G212 2X12 cab


    Hayden Mofo 30 & Harley Benton G212 2X12 cab

    My amp of choice is the Hayden Mofo 30. It is a 30 watt, handwired in the UK, class A valve amp head. It looks like an angry toaster, but thankfully sounds glorious! Before I saw the light, I had a 100W Marshall DSL100 with matching 1960a 4X12 cab. Having never played a stadium gig that would allow me to use the full potential of the buttock-clenching volume produced by a 100W Marshall, I decided to move down in power and up in tonal quality. The Mofo was exactly what I was looking for. I run it at full volume in every scenario I use it for, which means the 4 EL34 valves are cooking at optimum tonal juiciness at all times. It does that wonderful valve compression without loosening people’s fillings.


    The main feature of the amp that I now entirely rely upon, is the individually voiced UK and US inputs. The UK input is a lot brighter with more headroom and less woofy bass, perhaps reminiscent of a VOX AC30. The US input has a lot more low end grunt and is quicker to break up into overdrive. When changing between by tele and my strat, I also change the input of the amplifier over to suite the guitar. I use the UK input for the telecaster, as the humbuckers throw out quite a lot of low end beef and are higher output than the strat. I thusly use the US input for the strat as the single coil pick ups are a lot thinner sounding than the Seymour Duncans on my tele. This allows me keep my guitar tone very consistent throughout a gig while still getting the different flavours of my two very different sounding instruments. If you are in the market for a pocket sized, super flexible, utterly awesome amplifier, go and try one of these out!


    I run this into a Harley Benton G212 vintage 2X12 cabinet, which is loaded with 2 celestion V30 speakers. Having read a lot about the honky mid range of the V30s (I’m all about the mid range) I knew I wanted to find a cabinet with them. I also knew that I didn’t want anymore of the hassle of lugging a 4X12 up and down stairs. At the time of me purchasing it, this cabinet was cheaper to buy and ship from Germany than it was to buy the Celestion V30s by themselves without a cabinet! It was a no brainer. The cabinet sounds fantastic with the Mofo, and fits snugly into the back of John’s car with plenty of room to spare. Hooray!


    Pedals


    I really like effects pedals. I’d like to think that I would be alright to play a whole gig without my pedalboard and be absolutely fine. This is probably the case, but it simply would not be as much fun! As mentioned previously, in Cleft I have a lot of sonic space to fill. Effects pedals are essential tools that help me to fill that space. There is inevitably a degree tone loss running this many pedals without using an effects loop of any kind, but it is considerably less than you might imagine.


    My effects chain is: Guitar>homemade DOD 440 envelope filter clone>Fulltone Ultimate Octave>Digitech CM-2 Tube Overdrive>Electro Harmonix Micro Pog>Boss OC-2>Electo Harmonix Ring Thing>Boss V-Wah>Boss TU-2>Line 6 Echo Park>Line 6 DL4> stereo split to amplifer >Behringer BDI21


    So, in order of apperance:

    Homemade DOD 440 envelope filter clone

    This is the most recent addition to my pedalboard and was in fact a Build Your Own Clone kit given to me as a Christmas present from my wonderful girlfriend Jessica. This was my first attempt at building my own guitar pedal, obviously I can’t claim to have designed the circuit or anything, but it works and sounds awesome, so there! It makes some great funky, pissed off duck noises that sound so great and searingly treble heavy. It’s currently being used in a new track called 12 second panda.


    Fulltone Ultimate Octave

    I definitely bought this entirely because of the aforementioned Band of Gypsies album. It’s a duel fuzz / fuzz octave pedal, but I exclusively use the octave up feature on it. It’s a very loud and unpredictable sound which I utterly love. While throwing out enormous amounts of near square wave gain, the circuit somehow creates the octave up by using a clever form of phase cancellation which also makes the pedals operation near silent cancelling out any nasty hiss you’d expect from such an aggressive pedal. I use this along with the Micro Pog for the main riff on Gulch, and occasionally step on it at crucial moments throughout the set to see what happens.


    Digitech CM-2 Tube Overdrive

    This is my main drive sound I use on any distorted riffs in Cleft. I used to swear by my old Ibanez tubescreamer (as many of us guitar geeks do), but its tone didn’t really suit what I was trying to do with Cleft. The CM-2 has independent treble and bass controls (very useful as I was keen to maintain as much low end as possible), is true bypass (again very useful when running this many pedals), and has a very VERY high output. I use this pedal as much as a boost as I do an overdrive, meaning that the volume boost of the pedal pushes my amp into overdrive, so the overdrive tone comes more from the valves of the amplifier than of the clipping circuit of the pedal. I use this pedal in conjunction with the EHX micropog the vast majority of the time to add some sub-octave meat when we slam into a big riffy section, which I think works really well.


    Electro Harmonix Micro Pog

    This pedal is where 90% of my sub octave tone comes from. The micro pog is fully polyphonic, so you don’t get the warbly sound of poor tracking from older style octave pedals. I leave the micro pog on for a great deal of the Cleft tunes to try to simulate the sound of a bass playing along with me. It also has an octave up which sounds great, I use that on External Complications. It is an absolutely awesome pedal, and probably my most important piece of gear after my guitars and amp.


    Boss OC-2

    The OC-2 is very much a non polyphonic sub octave pedal. It offers 1 and 2 octaves below your original signal and throws out HEAPS of low end, it sounds so good through a decent PA (we’ll come to that later). It’s tracking of notes is really quite poor, and therefore is utterly incapable of doing what I do with the micro pog (chords, harmonics etc). However, it has a certain tone that I have not heard another octave pedal produce and sounds just evil with my overdrive pedal in front of it. It sounds so good for single notes. It probably only gets used briefly 3 times in an average Cleft set, but this little brown beauty is staying on my pedalboard permanently.


    Electro Harmonix Ring Thing

    This is a relatively new addition to the pedalboard. In essence it is a ring modulator, but does so much more than that. Firstly, the ring modulation is tuneable to the root note of what you’re playing therefore giving you all the strange robotic harmonics added to the guitar signal that you’d expect, but with a much more melodious tone than any other ring modulator I’ve played with before. By some extremely clever feat of engineering far beyond my comprehension, the ring thing is also capable of most types of modulation effects (tremelo, phasing, vibrato, chorus etc) and polyphonic pitch shifting up and down two octaves – MENTAL! It can store up to 8 presets as well, so no knob twiddling (haha!) between tunes required. I use a fifth harmony setting to simulate the acoustic guitar part on Trapdoor, a leslie speaker type sound for new track Drop A Bastard and a crazy (but in tune) robotic ring modulation sound for Tamed Beests.


    Boss V-Wah

    I use the V-Wah on its most extreme settings, which give it a really exaggerated sweep, closer to the sound of a filter on a synth. I use it on the middle 90s trance section of Flail, and on the very end of Gulch.


    Boss TU-2

    This is a tuner. It is very useful for tuning guitars. I am still surprised by how many bands you see tuning by ear to one another on stage, it is a small bugbear of mine. GET A TUNER!


    Line 6 Echo Park

    This is the first delay pedal I ever owned, and still sounds awesome. You can get the vast majority of delay tones from this pedal, although I mainly use the analog setting with the ping pong set up as I run my guitar signal in stereo (see below). I actually bought the DL4 to replace this pedal as I wanted a delay with some presets on it to minimise knob tweaking between tunes at gigs (haha!), but the DL4 doesn’t offer the same type of ducking delay that I use on Trapdoor, nor does the modulation on the delay sound as good to my ear, so I now have 2 delay pedals on my board. Woopsy!


    Line 6 DL4

    All guitar geeks will probably be quite familiar with the DL4. It is a massively flexible delay with 3 customisable presets and 14 second looper. I use quite a lot of differently voiced delays in Cleft, and was previously using Line 6’s echo park for all of these (as previously explained). Having 3 very different delay presets at the tap of a switch is invaluable. I have also started dabbling with the looper function of this pedal, which I have previously shied away from due to fears of live monitoring causing huge issues with staying in time with loops. However, there will be tracks on the new album with looping on them. Cross your fingers for me!


    I use the stereo output of the DL4 to split my guitar signal, the left side goes to my guitar amplifier and the right goes to my bass DI. This means that I can run stereo ping pong delays, which gives a really nice spatial sound at gigs.


    Behringer BDI21

    This is my way of cheating at not needing to lug a bass amp to every gig we play. The BDI21 is a bass amplifier modeller and DI in one convenient little plastic box. For a very cheap piece of gear, it actually sounds pretty great. I run the signal from the pedal directly to the front of house, and in the majority of venues with half decent PA systems adds a huge amount of low end presence to my tone that I could never get from a 2X12 cabinet. The bass amp/cab modelling also compresses the signal in much the same way a valve amplifier would, allowing me to run my very loud overdrive signals without being overly dynamic and annoying FOH engineers and blowing people’s heads off. If we’re playing a gig at a place that has a really small vocal PA, or indeed no PA at all, I usually borrow a bass amp from one of the other bands in exchange for beer.


    Marshall channel select

    Those keen eyed guitar geeks out there will also have spotted a Marshall footswitch on my pedalboard. This controls the Hayden’s “Mofo” mode, which essentially massively boosts the signal, pushing the amplifier into a very saturated overdrive sound. I use this tone fairly rarely, it features on Tight as a Witch’s and External Complications. I generally prefer the sound of an overdrive pedal before the amplifier, as I have a lot more tonal control and also seems to introduce less noise to the signal.


    So that’s everything. If you have made it this far, well done! You must be as much of a gear head as I am. If you’d like to hear what all this stuff sounds like, you can download our previous 2 EPs for free at cleft.bandcamp.com or come along to a gig if we’re playing nearby, I’m always up for talking with fellow guitar geeks!



    Tags: Gear Up!, Dan Beesley, Cleft

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