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Rigged: Wintersun

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Wintersun Rigged

To preview their upcoming MetalSucks-sponsored run with Arsis, Fleshgod Apocalypse and Starkill, we asked Wintersun guitarist Teemu Mäntysaari to put together a rundown of his live setup for our Rigged series. To use an American idom, boy did he knock it out of the park, delivering a Rigged in such detail the likes of which this site has never before seen! Teemu covers everything involved in putting on Wintersun’s epic live shows: the racks that house their amps, effects and patchbays (and descriptions of each of the components), monitoring systems, descriptions and close-up photos of all of the band’s guitars and basses, microphones, strings, picks and the computer and software that brings it all together. Sorry, drummers, no luck this time, but you might check out this extremely pornographic breakdown of Dream Theater drummer Mike Mangini’s gargantuan setup we posted a couple of years back.

Get dates for the forthcoming Wintersun tour right here

All photos were taken by J.Sjöblom and Teemu himself and can be clicked to enlarge. Without further ado, here’s Teemu:

When designing our current live setup we had a few main goals in mind: compact size, being able to get clear and consistent in-ear mixes every day, cutting the need for daily sound adjustments as much as possible and depending less on the local backline. We’ve had this setup for about a year now, with just small changes and tweaks happening every now and then.

RACKS

We’ve divided our rack gear into three rack cases (all under 32kg [~70 lbs.] because of airline weight regulations) that are connected with multi-channel XLR cable snakes. The racks were custom built by a Finnish company Kiertuetekniikka; they are shockmounted and sturdy and keep our gear safe on the road.

Wintersun Rigged

Rack #1 is the I/O system and consists of audio interfaces and patchbays. The main audio interface is an RME Fireface UFX with RME Fireface 800 as a slave ADAT unit. With this setup we get 20 inputs and 16 outputs.

Those inputs and outputs are connected to patchbays on the other side of the rack to make patching a lot easier.

The input patchbays are three Art S8-3-Ways that also work as splitters giving an extra direct output next to each input.

For outputs we have a custom made 16 channel patchbay but only use 14 of the outputs: five pairs of stereo in-ear mixes (four for the band + a separate mix for our stage tech), and to FOH one stereo pair of orchestrations/synths plus one stereo pair of backing vocals.

The I/O rack also houses the Tech21 SansAmp RPM bass preamp used direct (no cabinet) and conveniently sized at 1 rack unit.

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Rack #2 contains an IEM wireless setup and power distribution for our whole system. We are currently using four Sennheiser EW300 IEM G3 sets with AC-3 Antenna Combiner and A2003 antenna. The AC-3 links the four senders allowing sharing of just one power adapter and one antenna.

All senders are connected to the laptop via a 5-way ethernet switch, so we can control the wireless settings on laptop.

We’re using a Samson PB10 Pro as a main power unit and on the backside of this rack there’s a connection panel distributing power to the other racks.

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Rack #3 holds three Axe-Fx units. We’ve been using Axe-Fx since 2009 and while we’re still using our Mesa Boogie amps in the studio the Axe-Fx is currently the most convenient choice as a live amp because of the variety of sounds it can produce while also being very lightweight to travel with. All our guitar and bass signals are direct (no cabinets on stage).

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The top unit is an Axe-Fx 2 that we’re using as a backup. The middle one is Jari’s Axe-Fx Standard and on the bottom is my Ultra.

My and Jari’s units have thirty presents that are essentially identical that we’ve programmed together. Both run stereo and the presets have many different pannings, volume levels and effects in order to re-produce the album sounds more faithfully. For example when both guitars are playing the same riff they are at the same volume and hard-panned, one guitar heard only on the left speaker and the other one only on the right speaker. But when there’s a solo or melody part the lead guitar is usually in the center while the rhythm guitar is panned left or right and doubled on the other side with a 100% wet 17ms delay creating a stereo rhythm guitar sound. This way both guitar lines have their own space in the stereo image and the one rhythm guitar still sounds big and wide resembling two hard-panned separate guitars.

COMPUTER

The control center of the setup is a computer run by the stage tech during the show. A MacBook Pro laptop with SSD harddrive is running three main programs: Cubase, RME Totalmix FX and Sennheiser WSM.

Cubase version 6.5 is handling the playback of the backing tracks and changing our guitar sounds with midi.

Two midi tracks send program change messages on separate midi channels via the RME UFX to both Axe-Fxs.

The backing tracks consist of three stereo pairs of synths and orchestrations, a stereo pair of backing vocals (mixed in with the live vocals) and an audio click track. There are also album drum and bass tracks that stay muted in live situations but can be unmuted whenever we happen to rehearse without drums or bass.

An additional three vocal FX tracks are monitoring our vocals and send 100% wet stereo delay for our in-ear mixes.

We have different Cubase project files for different setlists and basically the idea is to have to push ‘play’ only once in the beginning of the show and let the project run by itself.

Wintersun Rigged

The Totalmix FX is RME’s software mixer that we use for controlling everyone’s in-ear mix on the laptop.

Wintersun Rigged

The Sennheiser WSM (Wireless System Manager) software controls the ew300 senders and makes daily frequency scans and adjustments easier.

Wintersun Rigged

GUITARS AND BASSES

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We are currently using two different tunings live – drop C and D standard. On our first album there are four songs recorded in E standard tuning but for live we’ve transposed them for D standard in order to avoid bringing four more instruments (two guitars + one backup and a bass) on the road. We also have one song originally recorded in drop-Bb tuning (“Land of Snow and Sorrow”) but we’re using the Axe-Fx pitch shifter to make the drop-C guitars sound two half steps lower.

All our guitar guitars have blocked out tremolo units for better tuning stability (except the PGM301 which has a fixed bridge). We prefer this over fixed bridges because of the feel and being able to use fine tuners.

Jari’s main guitars are a silver Ibanez LACS RGD Custom and a modified Ibanez Jem7V-WH from 2007.

The silver custom (drop-C tuning) has a unique, customized RGD-shaped body and the neck is based on Jari’s Jem. The guitar has EMG 81 and 60 pickups.

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The Jem (D standard) also has a white pair of the same EMG pickups. The original middle pickup and tone control have been removed and the original white plastic volume knob is changed to a chrome metal dome knob.

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My main guitars are a blue Ibanez LACS RGA Custom and a modified early ’90s graphic series USA Custom RG.

The blue custom (drop-C) has an RGA body with custom scoops on both sides. The neck is based on my 1987 Ibanez Jem LNG and is slightly rounder and thicker than most Jem necks. The pickups are an open calibrated set of Bare Knuckle Black Hawks with ceramic magnets and the guitar is also equipped with a piezo system (Ibanez Double Edge-Pro bridge) for more realistic acoustic guitar emulation.

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The USA Custom (D standard) has a thinner neck and older square style neck joint but is also a lot of fun to play with. I’ve had this guitar for many years but only recently decided to take it on the road after making a few modifications to it. I’ve sanded down the back of the neck to have the bare wood feel that I prefer, updated the bridge to a Lo-Pro Edge and replaced the original pickups with DiMarzio Crunch Lab (bridge) and DiMarzio Air Norton S (neck).

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The drop-C backup is Jari’s Ibanez PGM301 with a EMG81-X/60-X pickup set (middle pickup removed).

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The D standard backup is my Ibanez J-Custom RGR1700 with Bare Knuckle Aftermath pickups, upgraded hardware and sanded down back of the neck.

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Jukka’s basses are two basically identical Ibanez SR5005 Prestige models, one tuned in D standard and the other with drop-C.

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We recently installed Planet Waves NS Mini headstock tuners to all our main guitars. They hide nicely behind the headstock (attached with 3M Dual Lock) and become handy especially when warming up backstage or side of the stage where there might not always be other tuners available.

Wintersun Rigged

Both Jari and I are using Dunlop Ultex Sharp 1.0mm custom picks, Jukka plays with Ibanez picks.

Wintersun Rigged

Jari likes the lighter tension and the sound of DR strings (Dimebag 10-52 set, 52 replaced with 56 on drop-C tuning) while Jukka and I prefer D’Addarios (11-56 set on all my guitars and gauges .0145, .105, .085, .065, .045 on Jukka’s basses).

Wintersun Rigged

We’re using Line6 Relay G50 wireless systems with all guitars and basses. Our minimal pedalboards only have the wireless receivers and Boss tuners.

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During the last couple of year we’ve tried out many different in-ear monitors and currently everybody has a different favorite. We’ve found it hard to get a pair with a perfect fit and seal, good isolation and good sound.

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For all the vocals we use Shure SM58 microphones with Optogate PB-05s. The Optogate works with phantom power (from RME preamps) and has an optical sensor that can be adjusted to mute the microphone signal whenever the singer moves away from the mic. This helps keep unwanted stage noise out of the mics and makes our FOH engineer happy.

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