Norman's's Guitars

Epiphone double-neck 6/12 string.

I've had this one for a little while, from time to time, I think about selling it - it's big, we don't play enough concerts to justify having it, the doubleneck I really want is either a Rickenbacker 362/12 or an Ibanez 2670 or the Daisy Rock Retro-H double neck they made for Nancy Wilson from Heart. Also, to be honest, it's not that well-made. The body does not appear to be made out of a single piece of wood, and the position markers on the fretboard are a bit wonky. But, argh, it does sound so nice, and the 6 neck has such a big, mighty sound that every time I actually play it, all thought of dumping it go out the window. The sound the 6 neck makes is quite odd – very thick, kind of like a square wave on a synthesiser, it tends to fill up the sound of whatever you play it on – multitracking guitar parts not recommended here. If this is what a regular SG sounds like, I'm not surprised that they are well liked among some heavy guitar players. The 12 neck has a kind-of looser sound than the Rickenbacker, it's good, big-sounding again. It weighs a ton, did I mention that?

Kawai KS11XL

This is a real oddity – it isn't one of their '60's oddball Teisco-ish models, it's a typical late '70's high-quality Japanese guitar, from when the Japanese really got their guitar-building shit together - overspecced, overengineered, overweight as well. However, these particular guitars are as close to unknown as you can get, I think. I'd be surprised if there's another one of these featured anywhere else online, and I've had no luck finding any other pictures. (mail me if you have one pictured on your site, and I'll link to it). I bought this one from E-Bay in October 2004. It's from the late 1970's and is in really good condition, considering its age. There's a little split in the wood top piece between the pickups, some screwholes from the long-gone scratchplate, and that's about it. It has a nice sort of old school desk-ish patina to it, which is kind of pleasing, plus, I don't have to worry about scratching it! The guy I bought it from described it in his auction as being "as well made as any Gibson". Hyperbole? I think quite possibly not, so nicely-put together is this thing.

Rickenbacker 620-12

My first guitar - given the thing's narrow neck, double string courses, and general, er, quirkiness, I could probably have picked a better instrument to start off with. Never mind, this sound is one of the classic rock music tones, and nothing else can do it, really. Also, when you do get used to it, it's actually a joy to play. You can hear it all over our music, starting with "The Grand Tour", from "Orbis Tertius"

Daisy Rock "Stardust Elite"

A girlie guitar! Yes!! I spotted this one in a local music shop called J G Windows a while ago, and kept looking at it and thinking about buying it, until one day it disappeared. Oh well, I figured it had been sold, but no! It must have been taken off the shelf to be put in with the sale stock, because I was going in to work one day, and there was a big "sale" sticker in the window, with this right below it. It was in the distance, but as you can imagine, you couldn't really mistake this for any other guitar. I was thrilled! Despite its low cost, it is a beautiful instrument, with a really nice and versatile range of tones. Compared with what things were like when I was a kid, the quality of cheap guitars is quite amazing these days. This one's a keeper, make no mistake. I've been recording new music with it, and it sounds good.

Rickenbacker 350 "Suzanna Hoffs" signature model

I bought this when I actually had some spare money, heh. It was very expensive. One of the most elegant looking guitars I've ever seen. Slightly tricky to play, with its narrow neck, and it's a long necker as well, which has caused some intonation problems in the past (trans: the neck warped because of temperature variances in the place where it's stored). It probably could have gone to a better home than this one, to be honest. Note the scratchplate, broken when a speaker cabinet fell on top of it (!) Not a happy day, that one. The best thing about this one is its clear, transparent tone, which fits in with anything, without overpowering it. Ms Hoffs picked the right pickups, set-up etc, I think, apart from the long neck.

Shergold "Modulator" bass w/ "Super Booster" module.

My old heap of a bass. It's had some rough times, dating back to my days with Random Felch, but it's still going strong. Unusual deep, rounded, "plummy" tone. All of the electric bass parts on "The Little Apocrypha" were played on this.

Unbranded 6-string acoustic.

My sister's old guitar, that she used to play Marc Bolan songs on. Has some intonation issues, and a bit buzzy, but still gets used for roughing out acoustic parts, before Mark's Colin Kendall gets used for the finished parts. All of the acoustic parts on "The Little Apocrypha" were recorded on this.

That which I no longer own

Squier Telecaster

I had a deposit down on an item at a music shop, and the shop went bust. I took this, rather than lose the money. It was a nice enough guitar, I guess, but not really "me" in some way. Long since sold on.

Shaftesbury ricky 330-12 copy

I'm not really sure why I actually bought this. It was kind of…interesting, I suppose. – someone had added a piezo pickup under the bridge, which actually worked quite well. Out on very permament loan at the time of writing. There's a little bit of it on "Cydonia".

Yamaha acoustic/electric thing

I kept seeing these in music shops, and I though they looked nice. One turned up second-hand, so I bought it, of course! Les Paul shape, hollow body w/"f" hole, tobacco sunburst, one magnetic pickup, one piezo pickup, I forget the model number. It was nice, and very easy to play, but we never got a tone we liked out of it. Nevertheless, there's a little bit of it on the middle bit of "In Nos Aetas Ultima Venit". Sold on a couple of years ago.

DeArmond Jetstar Special

A super-cheapie. I bought some item or other – a Proteus 2000 module, I think, from Sound Control, and at the time they had a red and a black one in for, believe it or not, 75 pounds each! I tried them both, and the black one played quite nicely. It's the budget model, and I figured it would make a good base for some custom farting about – lipstick tube pickups etc. I sold it to finance the double neck.

That which I have missed

Apart from the obvious – row of Fender Jaguars and Jazzmasters at giveaway prices, from before they were worth anything, and that sort of thing

Antoria Les Paul-shaped thing

Blond/natural wood finish, very heavy, ludicrous amount of abalone inlay, roll on the top of the headstock – this was an absolutely beautiful instrument! It was 150 quid, and because I hadn't heard of the brand, I wasn't sure if it was actually any good or not. I was going to get Mark to try it out, but someone bought it before I got the chance. We next saw it in another guitar shop, with 3 x the price on the ticket. Mark tried it out, and it was very nice! The frets were a bit worn, but not quite excessively so. Damn, I should have just bought the thing, I've never seen one since, never found any pictures online etc etc.

Fenix tele-ish guitar

Natural wood, with blue (!) inlays. Really nice looking. I watched the sticker price drop and drop, figuring I'd buy it when it reached 150 quid. I think someone snapped it up at 165! Oh well.

That which I'd like

The Daisy Rock and the Kawai have pretty much killed any interest in new 6-string guitars for now, so nice are they. I'd like a Kawai KS12XL, the one up from the KS11XL. If I saw one cheap enough, a DeArmond standard JetStar in Black would be tempting. In the out-of-reach pricewise range – I've fancied a Rickenbacker 381-12 since I read an interview with the guitarist from the High, in which he sung the thing's praises. I'm not really a Beatles worshipper, but I've always fancied a Hofner Violin Bass. A local music shop has had a yellow Daisy Bass in for about a year…hmmm….

Effect pedals

Pedals are the best fun, very few of the pedals I've bought have been a waste of money. Use 'em on anything – guitar, bass, drum machine, organ, synth, string machine.

TC Mk12 B/K phaser

The best phaser pedal I've tried. Until I built the Oakley "Equinoxe" modular synth phaser, it was the best phaser I'd tried, period. This is the bass & keyboard version (hence "B/K") with the filters shifted down 1 octave. As well as the usual speed and depth controls, it features positive or negative feedback, and a switch to select 4, 8 or 12 stages. There's also a jack socket on the back of the thing, where you can insert one of the two "program" jacks provided – one shifts the filters up one octave, the other shifts them down. The sound of the phasing is really rich and deep. It's just totally inspiring, basically.

Vestax Phaser "Vital Spark".

I saw this in an advert in the local free ads paper, and thinking it was part of this excellent, but almost unknown range of pedals they'd made in the 1990's, went to take a look at it. It was actually part of an earlier Vestax range, but seeing as it was only 20 quid, I bought it anyway. Speed/depth/resonance. Mono in, mono or stereo outs. Not a bad buy, it sounds thin, but not harsh, which is exactly what you want sometimes. It's really good on clean electric guitar and on electric piano.

Boss Phaser PH2

The one w/switchable stages. It's out on loan at the moment, so more about it at some point in the future

Roland AP-2 phaser

I bought this from a VEMIA auction a few years ago (I got the digital dimension at the same time, plus, VEMIA is great). To be honest, it's a bit underwhelming. It looks really cool in its military-green box, but the sound, well, it's kind of lame, really. I believe there's a larger contemporary Roland phaser pedal that's a lot better. Mono in/mono out. Speed/depth.

Boss "Dimension C"

Four-preset multi-chorus pedal. Mono in/Stereo out. Four selector buttons. Supposedly, it's a miniature version of the famous "Dimension D" rack unit. DEVASTATINGLY effective on clean guitar, and especially on clean electric 12-string. Play the right chords on yr guitar through this with loads of reverb, and YOU = ROBIN GUTHRIE! This is undoubtedly one of the best pedals I own.

Boss "Digital Dimension"

Digital multi-chorus pedal. It's out on loan at the moment, so details at some point in the future.

Boss Chorus

Classic analogue chorus – mono in/mono out, speed/depth. Out on loan at the moment.

G.S.Wyllie "Rising Sun"

Handbuilt "boutique" fuzzbox. It was quite expensive. Mono in/mono out. An astonishingly gnarly and hard fuzz effect. Limited range of uses, but my god, when you want OTT fuzz, this thing pwnz. I literally could not resist the thing when I saw a picture of it.

ProCo "Turbo Rat"

This is the king of all distortion boxen, I think. It makes a really heavy, rich, deep and chunky sound out of whatever you put into it. Run your drum machine into it, and the results = depth charge bass drum, and your snare becomes Sauron's anvil!

MXR "Wylde Distortion"

OK, maybe king rat just lost its crown. This is great. Heavy, chunky sound, but lots of definition in chords. How did they do that? More to follow when I've used it for a while.

Crowther Audio "Prunes & Custard" (!)

Bought from Alex Dickey of xxxxxxx. This is another handbuilt boutique pedal, which makes a really odd effect somewhat akin to one of Serge's Synthesiser waveshaper modules. Sounds range from unbelievably obnoxious chemical noise distortion, down to surprisingly quite subtle overdrive/fuzz/envelope follower-ish effects. It's quite responsive to playing dynamics as well. It can make a bass guitar sound like it's been strung with elastic bands, then put through a fuzz box and an envelope follower. Additionally, if you put this ahead of the Rat or the Rising Sun in the signal chain, it makes the distorted sound even richer and more powerful.

Electro-Harmonix "Electric Mistress Deluxe"

The mains-powered version. This is the older one, not the newer reissue. I bought this to save on batteries, so I could sell the standard one, but of course it sounds completely different – so much so that I wonder if there's something wrong with it. The reason I don't get it looked at is that it actually makes a really lovely chorus effect, which I don't want to change.

Electro Harmonix "Electric Mistress"

Extreme flanging effects. Out on loan, so more details at some point in the future.

Frostwave "Resonator"

Not strictly speaking a guitar effect, though it is in pedal format. It's a high-pass filter and a low-pass filter in series, closely based on the filters in the Korg MS20 synthesiser. Rather an extreme tone-control! It works best, and really well with synthesiser, I've found. For some reason I don't find it gets on with guitar very well.

Dod "Vibro-thang" and Dod "Milk Box"

The former is a tremelo-combined-with-a-sort-of-phaser pedal – mono in/mono out, speed, tremelo depth, phaser depth, phaser resonance, the latter is a compressor . These are from the one year (IIRC) when DOD went bonkers and released a range of pedals in themed packaging, with weird names, and novelty labelling on the controls a la Lovetone. The four controls on the "Vibro Thang" are labelled "RPM" "Drop" "Image" and "Intensity" (aka "speed" "tremelo depth", "phaser depth" "phaser feedback"). the four controls on the "Milk Box" are labelled "Quarts", "Cream", "Pasteurisation"(!!!) and "Spill". I've never been able to remember what these correspond to, which is a problem I guess. Other pedals from the same year were the original grunge pedal, the death metal pedal, the punkifier pedal, the buzzbox (grunge combined with octaver), the gonkulator (grunge combined w/ring modulator) the "Meat Box" (a subharmonic generator) the "Supersonic Stereo Flanger", you get the idea, there were loads more as well – "Juice Box" overdrive? "Deep Freeze" bass chorus? If I sit here long enough, I'll probably remember them all. I'm not sure if they were a big success, probably because the labelling was somewhat confusing – the Vibro Thang's controls are actually quite descriptive, and thus easy to work out, but if I haven't used the "Milk Box" for a while, I have to get the manual out to see which control does what. Nevertheless, there's something kind of loveable about the sheer silly folly of these pedals, and they are one of the few things out there that still brings out the collector impulse in me. I am kind of tempted to pick up the full set, as long as I can get them in boxes, with the manuals – the novelty labelling also extended to the packaging. On the other hand, both pedals have been a bit temperamental. The "Milk Box" isn't actually working at all at the moment.

What do I fancy, effects-wise?

Red Witch "Moon Phaser Deluxe"
Frostwave "Funk-a-Duck" envelope filter
Prophecysound "Infinitephase"
Crowther Audio "Hot Cakes"
FoxRox "TZF" flanger
Analog Man "Bi-CompROSSor"
Last Gasp Arts Lab "Rattle Crow"

Gear Index