Bay of Plenty resident, composer and guitar-aficionado Sean Bodley has released a steady flow of six albums since 1999. The consistent central focus of this laudable output has been him sounding big on the guitar – clearly inspired by the greats of his genre – guitarists’ guitarists like Steve Vai and John Petrucci. Displaying all the requisite fingering acrobatics Sean manages to lure a plethora of sounds out of his guitars. His June 2019 release, ‘I Am Human’, finds him drifting away from rock basics towards a notably more electronic sound. NZM asked this Tauranga tone specialist to run us through some of the gear used to create his own unique guitar sound.
For my new ‘I Am Human’ album I wanted to move away from an organic guitar sound, realistic drums etc., and basically wipe the slate clean. No worries about what feels natural and what is ‘musical’, but focus instead on letting the guitar tone just ‘become’. I know, sounds kind of ‘new age’, but there is a lot of pressure taken off when you can just go with whatever sound you create, and no longer worry about what conforms to what is expected from a guitar.
On this album, I tried lots of things that are considered ‘don’ts’ in the world of guitar. Distortion on an acoustic guitar? Why not! Using auto-tune on a guitar track? Hell yeah! Cutting and pasting your track round so it no longer resembles anything that can be played by a human being? Yes, please!
Here are four key pieces of gear I used to get the ‘I Am Human’ job done:
What better way to get an old school guitar sound than with a piece of old gear. As a kid I’d always wanted one of these, I mean, it does kind’a scream ’80s right? I picked one up from Cash Converters for a bargain $110, and this became the central hub of my tones on the album. I did, however, turn the reverbs and delays off on the unit and went with the reverbs and delays in Logic and onboard my Axe FX II.
This ART SGX unit gives such a wide array of sounds, everything from shimmering clean choruses, to searing ’80s rock leads and everything in-between.
While this piece of gear has been around for years in various forms, it’s still cutting edge stuff. I’ve owned three of these Fractal units now, using them on four albums, and can honestly say I couldn’t have done them without this piece of gear. I use it on a daily basis teaching, but as a recording tool it is truly amazing. We all know the tones are great, but it’s the flexibility of this unit that is the real pay off. Creating effects loops, inserting outboard gear like pedals, rack effects, even using the line out of your own amp and utilising the IR cabinets inside the Axe FX if you choose. I’ve used it live, and can totally see why bands are turning to this unit for portability and reliability. If you haven’t played through one yet, put it on your ‘must do’ list!
I have never used fuzz/octave pedals before. There, I said it! I guess I just never really understood how to use them effectively, but in running with the theme of this album, it was time to give one a go! This pedal (along with a couple of other octal-fuzzes) was used on two or three tracks of ‘I AM Human’.
I remember on one track running it directly into the ART unit and getting this crazy tone which I just had to use. It’s really hard to describe, but it’s almost ‘synth-like’ in sound. Anyway, I now have a new found love for all things octave and fuzz:
Honourable mention here also to the humble wah pedal: The wah is a must have for me. From subtle throaty droning tones to full-on trebly assaults, I can’t live without a wah… on this album, I’m using several that I programmed into the Axe FX and my trusty Vox Big Bad Wah.
Big thanks to MusicWorks for this one. I hounded them for months before this particular model came out to get one in for me, and it ended up being the first one off the production line… cheers!
This Ibanez is loaded with a Sustainiac pickup. For those who haven’t experienced one before, it’s a powered pickup (9V battery in the back) that allows the note you play to be sustained until, basically, the battery dies – roughly nine hours if you so choose! There is a small toggle switch that lets you select to sustain the actual note, a harmonic note (think squealing feedback) or a combination of the two.
You can mimic the sound of the feedback you get from standing in front of an amp at high volume – but at the flick of a switch! There’s one track on the album where I use this sustaining feature quite a bit.
So those are four key pieces of gear that are all over my new album. Hopefully, this might inspire you to experiment with some new sonic choices, maybe browse through auction sites or second-hand stores for something a little different to help you be creative on the cheap!