RIGGED: GUITARIST JOSHUA LOZANO OF FAMILY
Brooklyn-based band Family — featuring MetalSucks writer Mr. Kip Wingerschmidt on the geetar — will release Portrait on October 30th via Robin Staps’ (The Ocean) Pelagic Records. But Family is a two-guitar attack, and today we’ve got a Rigged column from Steven’s partner in crime Joshua Lozano (also of Fashion Week and Man’s Gin). Josh is a real gear-hound and has plenty to say about his live setup — so, guitar nerds, strap yourselves in and prepare to dork out. Stream Family’s song “Bridge & Tunnel” as you read along. Here’s Josh:
I have a huge collection of guitars, amps, and pedals. I sometimes swap things out for variety — or when I can’t use my first choice I use whatever isn’t broken — but this is my current set-up with Family:
My main guitar is a Gibson RD Artist. It’s a rare guitar from the ’80s when Gibson was getting experimental. It came stock with active electronics and effects but the guy I bought it from (his name was eBay) gutted all that nonsense and put passive humbuckers in there. I’m proud to say I have been playing this guitar so much that the finish has begun to wear away! It’s got the two-volume, two-tone, three-way toggle set up I love so I can switch between two different sounds right on the guitar — mostly just on and off — but I can set the volume on one pickup low and the other all the way up for a fast change at the flick of my finger. The guitar itself is pretty nondescript and sounds like your average Gibson, no exceptional tone or anything like that, but with all the gain I use it makes no difference. I love it mostly for the body shape, sort of like an Explorer meets a Firebird, or even more like if you took a sander to an Explorer and rounded out those sharp edges. It is definitely my most comfortable guitar to play (except my ’64 Jazzmaster, nothing plays more like butter than that thing).
(not Josh’s actual guitar)
For a backup guitar I’ve been using my ’74 Fender Teledeluxe. It’s got that 25.5 inch scale I prefer and it’s got truly amazing tone. For years this was my main guitar but it needs a fret job badly, and the toggle switch (located above the strings as opposed to below or on the side) gets in the way of my palm when I do any right hand tapping parts, which is awkward and risks me turning off the guitar MID SOLO!!! I will probably do most of my recording on the next Family record with this guitar.
(also not Josh’s actual guitar)
I use D’addario .13 strings. After trying them all I settled on this set around 2007. To me they all mostly sound the same, but D’addario strings are consistently more reliable and they use the economical packaging which is very important to me. Why so heavy? They sound better! I like a heavy string. I don’t want guitar playing to be too easy. This is heavy music after all. I play other people’s guitars and it’s like, what is this, dental floss? I play hard and I need the heavy strings to hold up to it. In my opinion, bending a string is like making the guitar hurt, making a part scream or a note cry. I’m a fan of doing this but I don’t think it should be too easy.
On the floor, no fancy store bought pedal “bored” for me. A piece of wood and some velcro and I’m good to go. I move around too much on stage to be playing hopscotch with my pedals so I need ‘em all laid out in front of me, even if this means it’s four feet wide. I have a piece of half-inch birch I cut to fit into a gutted bass case. I made this thing way back in high school and the stickers on the case prove it.
The following is not really the signal chain in order, but more in order of importance. So first thing, THE MOST IMPORTANT PEDAL: the tuner! I use the standard Boss pedal tuner. I don’t care how good your ear is, no one wants to hear you tuning on stage. And you don’t borrow your bandmate’s tuner before the set, you have it in your pedal chain and fucking check your tuning after every song or whenever possible. I can’t get over how many “professional” musicians don’t understand this. This is especially crucial for Family as I use three different tunings in a set (standard, drop D, and DADGAD). I have mine plugged into the direct-out of my volume pedal so it’s always on and functioning. This is great because I also play upright bass in another band, and when the drummer is playing too loud for me to hear it I can make sure I’m playing the notes in key by checking the tuner.
I use the original Ernie Ball volume pedal, full-sized for my big foot. This item is crucial to my style. I have never liked the gain channel on any amp so I use the clean channel and crank it! This gives me a much more full and organic overdrive sound. I prefer a classic one channel amp, like my Green Matamp, an old Orange, a Hi-Watt (sigh), or even an old Marshall like what Hendrix used. He turned the thing up and got that saturated overdriven tone — he would pull down the volume knob on his guitar for clean sounds and then crank it back up before leading into his solos. If I played a Strat I might do this but on most of my guitars that volume knob is much further away from my hand so I use the volume pedal instead, giving me a wide variety of clean to overdrive, quiet to loud. It’s much more natural sounding to have a gradual volume swell than the sudden boost you get from changing channels.
Before the tuner pedal, I have an MXR Micro Amp. This is on at all times. It helps me drive the preamp tubes in that clean channel I like to use. No distortion, overdrive, fuzz, or anything else gain-wise on my pedal board. In line before that I used to have an Electro Harmonix micro pog. I could use it during all those full chord parts and set the higher octave to sort of glisten in with the true notes for a real rich, almost 12-string-like sound. Unfortunately that pedal was stolen with my friend’s car, so… welcome to Brooklyn! I’m looking for a used replacement. Also stolen was my friend’s real old silver burst Les Paul… maybe Mastodon took it.
In line after the volume pedal I have an EH Small Clone chorus pedal. It’s simple: one knob and a depth switch. I use it less as a chorus and more to add color. I’m not a big fan of clean guitars for the most part so when I’m playing clean I turn this on and have it set real slow so it adds a bit of flavor to the sound.
Next I have a Boss digital delay (DD-3) and a Boss digital pitchshifter/delay (PS-3). I have these right next to each other and I use ‘em together for all those crazy noisy parts you will catch me doing, or when I’m playing slow single note parts. I will use the delay by itself whenever I am doing something really dissonant or a single note tremolo picking type thing. It’s also good when I’m doing stuff like that first guitar part on the Jesus Lizard “Goat” record, or if I’m going for a washed out part like Mono or Mouth of the Architect might do.
Then I have a Dunlop Rotovibe pedal. It looks like a Crybaby wah, except it’s red. I keep it on the tremolo setting and I have the knob set almost all the way deep. The pedal itself controls the rate of the effect and I use it for noisy parts that usually have feedback going. Its great because you can let feedback ring and then make it warble faster and faster until you click it off at the top before slamming into the next riff.
I use a Morley “Bad Horsie” wah. This is Steve Vai’s signature model (who cares?), and it does the job as any wah wah pedal does. I guess it’s not as brilliant sounding as a Vox but I like that I just have to step on it to engage it, as opposed to clicking it on and off and having to start and end a part with the wah screaming. With this one it starts in the low position and doesn’t kick on until you’re in the middle, which I prefer.
Last pedal in the chain: an Akai Head Rush II. It’s a nice classic-sounding delay with a very useful tap tempo. I especially like setting a slow delay that can capture and repeat all the other effects I have going on in front of it. It also has a looping function, which I never use live, but it’s very useful when writing parts.
Coming to the end of this article… I absolutely love my Green Matamp, which I got right when they started making them again in the late ’90s. It has a great overdrive, fully saturated with lots of total harmonic distortion (whatever that means… sounds cool though). For playing slow parts, blues-based Eyehategod-type riffs, or anything with big chords ringing out, it’s perfect. When it comes to playing fast it all turns to mush, so it just won’t work for the stuff I’m playing with this band. In the live setting, I’ve had to venture outside of what I knew. I first went with a Mesa Triple Rectifier. It definitely did the job. I could hear everything I did, all my mistakes, crystal clear, and for playing by myself or with a bass player it was perfect. However, matched up against Steven’s (my Family partner in crime) Dual Rectifier, I felt like we were battling for a lot of the same sonic space. I found the answer with an old ’90s Peavey 5150! I was shocked! I always considered the 5150 a poor man’s Mesa Boogie, but I was way off. This amp is its own animal; it gives me the gain I need to rock these heavy riffs and the dynamics to sing the pretty parts. It has its own unique sound and allows mine and Steven’s guitars to be heard equally and with plenty of separation.
As far as guitar cabs I really like my old-ass Marshall 4×12 slant top. It’s from the ’60s and I found it! I took it home on the subway and painted it purple, ‘cause as J Mascis said, “purple amps just sound better”. It’s got 25 watt speakers in it so it breaks up real nice. Right now two of them are blown so I’m using my equally old Marshall bottom which I purchased for peanuts years ago from someone who was using it as a table to cut meat. I painted it green to match my Green head. The bottoms are deeper, and with its 75 watters it’s less bright and has much more low-end. Obviously they sound best together as a full stack.
– Joshua Lozano / Family