Dave Knudson - rig tour
Seattle rockers Minus The Bear have built a reputation Stateside for the inventive way guitarist Dave Knudson uses loopers, delays and guitar synths to make his guitar sound like something else altogether.
We caught up with Dave just after soundcheck when the band supported Jimmy Eat World at Bristol's O2 Academy on 14 November 2010, where he was kind enough to take us around his stripped-down rig.
“I’m touring without a tech in Europe,” Dave notes as he takes us around the rig. “It’s fine though, we’re used to it – it’s only recently we’ve gotten techs and so on back in the States. When we go overseas it’s always a stripped-down production, it seems a bit unnecessary to take a whole crew on a tour like this.”
Guitars - PRS McCarty Goldtop
What better place to start than with Dave's guitars?
“I’ve only got two guitars with me on this tour because it’s mainly opening slots.” He observes as he picks up his pride and joy, a goldtop PRS McCarty. “This is the PRS I’ve had since before the band, actually I bought that for the band when it started. I bought it in 2002 from a guitar shop in Seattle, used – I think it might be a ’99 model. The McCarty is one of the only PRS guitars that comes in goldtop. When I walked into the shop they had five or six PRS guitars there, but I saw this one, picked it out, and it just played the best of all of them.”
Guitars - PRS McCarty Goldtop
Despite his McCarty sporting the much-lauded PRS tremolo, you don’t see Dave using it much onstage, but that doesn’t mean he van't use it now and then, in a particularly unusual way…
“On The Game Needed Me [From 2005’s Menos El Oso], the main sample is literally like – have the bar all the way down, hold the chord, start the sample, hit the chord, bring the bar up, then stop the sample [hear the effect in the song’s intro here]. I don’t do any weird divebombs and pinched harmonics on it. [Laughs]”
Guitars Fender Jaguar Baritone Special
The other guitar on the tour is an unusual but truly gorgeous Fender Jaguar Baritone Special.
“This I only play on one song, Secret Country, but it’s… fucking awesome,” he enthuses. “I’ve never had a baritone before, but I got this about three years ago at a shop in Santa Cruz. Immediately that day I wrote the licks for Secret Country [laughs]. It was one of those things where you get a new toy and you’re like, Shit, I’ve got to make something awesome out of this! It’s a Japanese one, and it’s totally standard, with Fender humbuckers – it sounds awesome.
Amps - Mesa/Boogie Lonestar
Amp-wise, Dave is relying on rented gear for this tour, so he’s left his trusty white Tolex-covered Mesa/Boogie Lonestar behind and is using a standard model.
“Normally in the States I use a Mesa (Lonestar) and a (Fender) Twin,” Dave explains. “Which I really like, because the Twin has all that dynamic top-end that’s really sparkly and awesome, especially for the clean tapping stuff. But the Mesa is nice and beefy, it’s the only one I’m using in Europe, because it’s a support tour and bringing out another amp would be a bit strange.”
Pedalboard - Line 6 DL-4s
You can’t see Minus The Bear without being blown away by Dave’s massive pedalboard, which he dubs “The Monstrosity”. And where else can we start but that bank of four Line 6 DL-4s?
“This is my main delay pedal,” Dave says, pointing at the top right DL-4. “The other three are the sample pedals, which I use for songs that have two or three different samples in them. I prefer to do it live and make it sound more human and genuine, and have that live quality to it.
“The thing that I really love about these is the one-shot thing [Check out the intro to Knights to see what he means] – a lot of pedals don’t have that re-triggering aspect. Plus you can play samples in double-time and half-time, stuff like that. Now that we have so many songs that incorporate the one-shot thing, I need to have a pedal that has that function.”
Pedalboard - More loops and some distortion
How much more looping can a man need? Well a bit more, as Dave also has a BOSS RC-2 Loop Station on the board.
“With the Line 6 pedals you can’t store samples” Dave observes. “But the Loop Station makes it a lot easier on, for example, Into The Mirror or Ice Monster – that sort of stuff would be almost impossible to record live. But in terms of guitar samples, it’s still totally live, I only use the BOSS in extreme cases.”
An important new addition to the board is the Zvex Box Of Rock line boost and distortion pedal (to the left of the Tube Screamer).
“It’s my favourite pedal I’ve got over the last few years,” Dave elaborates. “I’m not into fuzz, I like liveliness. That’s what’s so cool about the Box Of Rock, it makes everything seem more lively and gives it more attitude.”
Pedalboard - E-HX HOG and Crybaby
Just when you thought the board couldn’t get bigger, Dave went and got a satellite…
“It’s funny, at first I had this small pedalboard,” he chuckles pointing at an area half the size of the current board. “Then I got this one made [points to the other half], and that was perfect… for a while. And then it was like, Uh oh, now I have this [E-HX] HOG, and the volume pedal and a few others… so I had to break out and have this satellite pedalboard, which is kind of ridiculous.”
One of those new pedals is a Crybaby wah – a first for Minus The Bear.
“I never had a wah until [current album] Omni,” Dave explains. “But it seemed like a lot of the songs, such as the solo on Summer Angel, really suited the wah stuff. I really enjoy playing the bridge part of Into The Mirror with the wah on too.”
Pedalboard - Barber Tone Press and CS-3
It’s easy to overlook the humble compressor, but Dave has two of them on his board – the Barber Tone Press and the BOSS CS-3.
“The Barber is an awesome compressor,” says Dave. “You can blend your compressed signal and the dry signal so it’s not just completely compressed the whole time.
But what about the humble CS-3?
“This thing I don’t actually really ever use during a song,” he says sheepishly. “I use it between songs when I want to sample something. I turn this on to lower the signal so that it’s not going through the front-of-house at full volume. I don’t ever use that in a song because it’s just… [makes a disgusted-looking face]… y’know? [Laughs] Actually I think I should just paint this another colour or something to hide it!”
Minus The Bear's latest album, Omni, is available now on Dangerbird Records. The band are currently on tour in the UK supporting Jimmy Eat World, for more details visit minusthebear.com