Rigged: Devin Townsend’s Massive Live Rig, Piece By Piece
(photo credit: Mark Holmes for Metal Discovery)
Devin Townsend has gone above and beyond for MetalSucks, and for YOU, oh devoted MetalSucks reader, Devin Townsend superfan and guitar player. Not only has Devin put together one of the most detailed Rigged entries to date, not only has he provided an incredibly in-depth description of his live signal chain setup, not only has he provided photos of his EQ settings… but he’s actually provided us with the very custom-made patch files he uses live. For you to download. Completely for free. If you like Devin Townsend and you’re a big nerd (which we’re guessing is everyone who likes Devin Townsend) you’re going to love this edition of Rigged.
Unlike most of our Rigged musicians who say, “As you can see, it’s quite simple!” Devin is honest about his rig: “What a freaking nightmare.” And with that, here’s Devin himself:
Hey guys, Dev here. So after a few tours and lots of refinements, I’ve kind of got my rig together for the next little while.
The heart of it is a Fractal AxeFx II… and yeah, while there may not be a lot of romance in the ‘black box’ for some people, it solves a lot of problems for me. Before we go any further, here’s my heavy patch for the Ultra: (right-click; download) and the Axe II: (right-click; download). I do some global EQ as well. Here’s the photo of the Axe II global EQ:
And here’s a photo of the global EQ on the Ultra:
… and here’s the cab patch for the Ultra that I made: (right-click; download).
Basically, the way the workflow is designed is a ‘matrix’ inside the Fractal. It’s set up such that you can add or insert any combination of great sounding amps, cabs, and FX to realistically (in my case) represent a number of different sounds.
I recorded Deconstruction direct with the Ultra. A few things to consider: I’ve found that each guitar reacts a bit differently in the Axe, so getting a good tone takes some time. I have been programming for a while and have gotten in the ballpark with what I want. It’s all still a work in progress, and the sound I use may or may not work for you. The Axe gives you the option to “build your own rig,” but the trick is knowing what you’re looking for while wading through seemingly endless (but useful) options.
The interface for the Axe is called “Axe Edit” and is a program I run on my Mac laptop and attach to the Axe through a USB 2 cable. I keep it on top of my rack and continuously futz with it while I’m jamming. Again, the options and fine tuning are specific and almost endless, so for me it’s not a “set it and forget it” kind of deal. At the end of every jam, I back up my sounds via the function in Axe Edit called “synch”.
For the past three years I’ve been playing Peavey, and I am currently as well. I was with ESP for 15 years and they made me some of my favorite guitars ever, but Peavey offered a signature model, so I went with them. After three years, they have decided to put out a ‘heavy metal guitar’ with me, and although the heavy sound is only a fraction of what I do, it’s a cool guitar for that purpose. It’s a 7-string baritone flying V, hilariously metal, IMO. It was supposed to come out a while ago, but I think it’s still being worked on. It’s taken a long time but has been a good learning process.
I have 3 V’s on tour, 1) a black one in C (with a low G) Tuning: G C G C G C E, 2) a white prototype with a homemade bridge as a backup, and 3) a grey one that is a semitone lower. I made some stainless steel tips for the wings as well, because it’s almost impossible to be careful with gear on tour, and those tips are the first things to go. Also, I have a tele they made for me in B (B F# B F# B D#) and a strat type guitar in open C. For what I’m doing live as of right now, they all have EMG 81 pickups in them. I prefer passive pickups (and low output ones at that…) for clean sounds, but right now there’s not a lot of that happening live (that will change as it grows though).
I use Alvarez Yairi acoustics for the VIP shows and for Ghost, and they are sweet. I use a patch in the Axe for acoustic too, split into one dry and two wet signals that the front-of-house guy can mix.
In all cases I use D’addario .10-.52 strings (with a .60 gauge for the 7th string) and .88 InTune guitar picks. For my acoustics I use coated .12’s. Planet Waves has been kind enough to provide me with great cables and straps.
So, the rack goes like this. I’ve cooked my brain trying to make this as simple as it can be, and it’s still a pain in the ass.
For local shows I use a 10-space shock-mount rack, while for flying or distant gigs, I split it into two 4-space racks and omit some pieces. Shipping gear costs a goddamm fortune, so you have to be careful. I think just one case exceeds 50 pounds, you pay mega overage, and you’d be surprised how little gear totals 50 pounds.
The first space is a Furman power conditioner. Most places you play have shit power, so as I’m running a ton of computers — which is the most efficient solution for where I’m at currently — I need to make sure I get protection for the devices from power spikes and fluctuations.
The second space is two Shure wireless systems, which take up a half-rack space each. Two is good in case one fails, but also, there are very fast guitar changes onstage, and having two separate units means the tech can flip between each unit without having to change belt-packs. The Shures have a one-space antenna that sticks out the back of the rack; on bigger stages, having the antenna prevents dropouts of signal.
The third space is a Radial JX44, which is essentially a complicated but very sturdy guitar splitter (or distributer if you’re fancy). It has several switchable inputs and outputs as well as reamp capabilities. I run the two wireless units into Inputs A and B, and the tech switches inputs with a footswitch when he hands me the guitar. In the past, fast changes meant the tech would have to manually switch the beltpack on and off when I put the guitar on, but here, he just presses a button before handing it to me. If my main guitar amp goes down, he presses another button and it sends the signal to my backup rig as well. If both wirelesses go down, Input C is a long guitar cable.
The fourth and fifth space are taken up by my main Fractal AxeFX II. It sends the dry guitar sound out of Output 1, and it sends the effects out of Output 2, separated into two stereo outputs. It also runs a midi-out to slave into my old Roland GP 100 for some of the echos. The Fractal footpedal is connected to the Axe by a Cat5 cable, which can be much longer than midi and powers the pedalboard remotely.
The sixth space is the old Roland GP-100. I’m working on replicating the sound in the Axe, but I haven’t had time to “nail it” just yet. It’s got just gnarly old echos.
The seventh and eighth space are an Axe FX Ultra, which I use as a backup in case the first one shits the bed (which hasn’t happened yet). It is fed the same signals from the JX44 for input, but if we DO have to swap rigs, I would have to manually switch the three output cables from the II to the Ultra. Not a big deal. It also runs a midi into a backup GP-100.
Space nine is the backup GP-100
The tenth space is a Radial ProD8 which is a rack-mounted, super-sturdy, 8-channel passive (not powered) DI. Because I run direct, that means every night some 60-year old yahoo at the club we inevitably play slams XLR cables in and out of the Fractal. This always brings two things: 1) some jaded bullshit rhetoric about direct sounds, and 2) they always break shit. So with this Radial DI, it’s open to the front, it’s made out of steel, and is clearly labeled. Plus, I made my own cable snakes for the project, so I just hand the guy a snake loom and he can stfu.
In the back of the rack, everything is labeled and organized (for now). The GP-100 as well as the FX outputs of the Fractal are merged into a small Mackie mixing board before being sent to the DI. This way I can do some small EQ things to the GP-100 and they both come out of the same outputs.
From the DIs, the signal goes to our in-ear monitoring system so we can mix our on-stage sound ourselves. For the board there, we use a Mackie 1640i, a 16-channel mixer.
Then, the mixer sends a stereo line to Mackie HD 1221 monitors to give us a clear representation on-stage of what we hear in our ears. This is cool for the front rows (in theory).
My footpedal is a Fractal MFC101 which displays all the info about the Fractal presets as well as having a great visual tuner. It’s programmable and can take abuse. I run three mission control expression pedals that are programmable as well, and they have several functions, but mostly they are an auto-on replica of a Bad Horsie wah, a Whammy pedal, and a Volume pedal.
So there ya go. What a freaking nightmare. :) It works and sounds bad-ass though, so it’s worth the effort for me.
At home, I use a Blues Jr. and a delay pedal. :)
– Devin Townsend