Originially uploaded November 7, 1999. Last updated July 2, 2001.
I know that a lot of people are often asking questions about the different pieces of equipment that Radiohead use and how they achieve their wide variety of sounds. I have studied their various set-ups quite closely and so I thought I would share some of my knowledge with other fans.
I have arranged this article into various sections so that it is easy to find what you are looking for. The main categories are: guitars, amplification, effects, and miscellaneous (this section deals with bits and pieces that dont fit in elsewhere). Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading and that this article will answer any of the questions that you have.
Section 1: Guitars
The boys have gone through quite a few different guitars since they started out, but there are some makes and models which are particularly popular and have been used consistently for many years.
Thom: Without doubt, Thoms favourite guitars are Fender Telecasters. He has used Teles widely from the Pablo Honey period right up until the present. Thoms most used Teles are Telecaster Deluxes and Customs. These Tele models came out in the 70s and are instantly recognisable by the fact that they have a much larger pickguard than normal Teles and that they have one or more humbucker pickups. The Telecaster Deluxe has the larger pickguard and two humbucker pickups with a hard-tail or tremolo bridge; it also features a 70s style Stratocaster neck and enlarged headstock with the bold Fender logo. The Telecaster Custom is much the same as the Deluxe except it has only one humbucker and has a normal Tele 3-saddle bridge and bridge single coil pickup; it also has the traditional small Tele headstock but with the bold 70s Fender logo. At last count Thom had two Deluxes and one Custom. Live, these guitars can be seen on My Iron Lung and other songs.
Thom uses other Teles as well. During the Pablo Honey period Thom had a Thinline- Tele which he customised to suit his needs. It originally had standard Tele neck and bridge single coil pickups and, strangely for a Thinline-Tele, a normal Tele pickguard. He then had it customised with the pickguard and standard neck pickup being removed and being replaced with a black single coil in the neck and a black uncovered humbucker in the middle; the standard Tele bridge and bridge pickup were left in place. This guitar can be easily recognised by the Japanese naval flag sticker behind the bridge. He also had a standard Tele during this period which can be seen in the photo on the inside of the Pablo Honey booklet.
One of Thoms favourite Teles now is a highly customised blond Tele with a black pickguard. It has been modified so that it has two humbuckers, a hard-tail bridge, and a Stratocaster neck and headstock; it also features the jack input on the control panel rather than on the curve of the body. This Tele can be seen live most frequently when the band play The Bends.
A guitar that Thom began to use quite frequently on the OK Computer tour was his Fender Jazzmaster. The Jazzmaster was a sixties surf music guitar and came into fashion again (along with the Jaguar) with the alternative music scene. Thoms Jazzmaster is a vintage model, probably from the mid-sixties judging by the binding on the neck, but without block inlays which came in the late sixties (Jazzmasters have just now started to be produced in the USA again), and is black with a white pickguard. Thom uses it live on Airbag, Lucky, and Street Spirit among other songs.
A guitar that Thom used to use quite often was his Gibson SG Standard. This guitar was used during the Pablo Honey period but has not been seen for quite sometime. Either it has fallen out of favour with Thom or it was one of the instruments which was stolen on one of the boys US tours. It can be seen on old band footage in songs such as Stop Whispering.
A guitar which Thom purchased during the OK Computer tour and one which has become quite a favourite is a Rickenbacker 330. Thom reportedly liked Eds Rickys so much that he went out and bought one himself. He uses it in the Studio and occasionally live.
Acoustic guitars are a big part of Radioheads sound and are always played live and in the studio by Thom. During the Pablo Honey tour period Thoms main acoustic was an electro-acoustic Takaminie. Nowadays his two main acoustics are two black electros, K. Yairi Dy-88s. He also occasionally uses an old Gibson Hummingbird fitted with a Fishman pickup. Thoms acoustics can be seen on a wide range of songs live including Paranoid Android, Fake Plastic Trees, and Karma Police.
Ed: If Thom can be associated with his Teles then Ed can be associated with his Rickenbackers. Ed is one of the best advocates for Rickys in modern music and owns quite a few. After the band got their first advance from their record company, Ed brought two Rickys, one blond 360 (possibly a twelve-string) and one red 360. These were used extensively in the Pablo Honey and Bends periods. Ed now uses three newer Rickys on stage and in the studio, Two fireglo 360s and one jetglo 360/12 (a twelve-string version of the 360). These Rickys can be seen on many live songs including Karma Police, Bones, and The Bends.
On stage Ed also uses two Fender Eric Clapton Signature Stratocastors. These Strats are pretty standard, they have gold lace-sensor pickups and the standard white single-ply pickguards have been changed to black ones. Ed uses the strats because "they are really solid for effects stuff". He extensively uses the Strats non-synchronised tremolo bridge along with an E-bow (see effects section) on songs such as My Iron Lung and Subterranean Homesick Alien.
One guitar that is one of Eds favourites is a home-made hybrid known as plank. This guitar was made for Ed by one of the bands guitar techs, Peter Clements, and is a composite of several other guitars. It has a Rickenbacker body with humbuckers fitted and has a Gibson neck. Ed really loves this guitar and uses it frequently. It can be seen live on You and the new track Follow Me Around.
Another semi-acoustic guitar that Ed occasionally uses is a 1967 Gibson ES-355. This guitar design has been around since the late 50s and is closely related to the more popular ES-335.
Ed has just recently purchased another guitar for recording and for live use. It is an American Standard Tele in olympic white with a rosewood fretboard; it has not been modified and has all standard features.
Jonny: Without Jonny and the wide variety of sounds he brings to Radioheads music, the band would sound very different. Although Jonny says that "the reverence given to guitars annoys me", he does have several models which he particularly favours. Like Thom, Jonnys favourite guitars are Telecasters, which are very heavily modified. Although Jonny has owned quite a few Teles, the ones he uses live now are two customised Telecaster Pluss which can only be distinguished from each other by the different stickers on the pickguards. The Telecaster Plus was a model introduced by Fender in the late 80s and continued to be produced until around 1995. They are very similar to an American Standard Tele, the most noticeable difference being the pickup configuration. The Tele Plus features one lace-sensor pickup in the neck position and two lace-sensors mounted on a metal plate in the bridge position which are wired together to create a humbucker. The pickups on Jonnys Tele Plus are a blue lace-sensor in the neck and a red dual lace-sensor in the bridge; red lace-sensors have a very high output, as much if not more than a humbucker. The standard Tele bridge which normally contains the neck pickup is replaced by a small hard-tail bridge. The control panel has also been extensively modified on the two models and features extra controls such as a coil-splitter. His Teles also feature a device known as a cut-off switch which, as the name suggests, cuts the signal from the pickups to the amp; this device gives the guitar a stuttered effect. These Teles are Jonnys work-horses and can be seen on almost any recent Radiohead footage.
Jonny had other Teles before these two, some standard and some modified. Jonny, along with the others, lost several instruments when they were stolen on a US tour. Two of Jonnys favourite Teles were lost in this theft, much to his disappointment.
Besides his Teles, the only other guitar that Jonny uses on stage is a Fender Starcaster. The Starcaster is a rather obscure model which was produced by Fender for a short time in the mid to late 70s to compete with the Gibson arch-top range. Examples of these Fender arch-tops are quite hard to find and Jonnys model is probably quite rare. The guitar itself is basically an arch-top similar to a Fender Coronado but with an off-set waist and horns of a different length to each other; it has two humbuckers and a hard-tail bridge, along with five tone and volume controls. This guitar is used by Jonny most notably on Subterranean Homesick Alien.
Colin: Colins set-up is quite straight forward and fairly typical for a rock bass player. Colin, almost without fail, always uses Fender Precision Basses in the studio and on stage. Colin has a wide collection of P-basses but all are fairly standard in their features. The only other basses Colin occasionally uses are Music Man Stingrays which can be seen during the Pablo Honey period.
Section 2: Amplification
All the boys have used pretty much the same amp set-ups since they began and they seem to be happy with the sounds they are achieving. Most members use more than one amp to get different types of specific sounds.
Thom: Thom uses one main amp which seems to suit all of his needs and that is a Fender Twin Reverb. Twins are quite a powerful combo running 85 watts through two 12" speakers. They are known for there very clean signal, even at high volume levels. Thom uses the Twin for all his guitar work and uses a distortion box when he needs it dirty. Sometimes a second Twin is placed on stage as a back-up amp. Thoms Twins normally sit on the drum riser in front of Phils drums.
Thom recently purchased a Marshall Bluesbreaker combo and used it in the recording of Kid A; he has also taken it with him on the current tour of Europe. The Bluesbreaker is a 40 watt combo which was produced by Marshall in the 60s and was reissued in the 90s.
Ed: Ed uses two to three amps in his onstage rig. Like Jonny, Ed uses a Vox AC-30 Top-Boost combo loaded with blue-back alnico speakers. AC-30s were introduced in the 60s and were a big part of the British music invasion. In the 90s, due to popular demand, the AC-30 was reissued. Ed loves the sound of the reissue AC-30 but says he would also love to hear a vintage 1960s Vox.
As well as the Vox, Ed uses one to two Mesa-Boogie combos. Normally a Dual-Rectifier Tremoverb, which he really loves and uses widely, especially for more overdriven numbers.
Jonny: Jonny uses two amps in his onstage rig. The first is a Vox AC-30, identical to Eds. Jonny is also a big fan of the classic Vox sound and has been using AC-30s for quite a long time.
In conjunction with the AC-30, Jonny also uses a Fender Deluxe 85, a Fender model from the1980s (this can be told because of the red control knobs, a feature of Fender 80s amps). The Deluxe is a transistor amp and is a particular favourite of Jonnys which he purchased even before the band got their advance from Parlophone.
Colin: Like many bass players, Colin doesnt use just one amp but combines a variety of power amps and pre-amps in a rack system to get a very unique sound. Because of these amps being in a rack it is hard to tell exactly what each make and model is. One amp Colin does use frequently is a Gallien-Krueger 800 head. As far as speaker cabinets go, Colin normally uses an Ampeg 8x10 cabinet.
Section 3: Effects
Radiohead obviously use a wide range of effects to create the many different sounds that appear on their records. By combining different combinations of effects and interplaying with each other they are able to create an amazing soundscape. Effects are harder to determine than other pieces of gear as they are not nearly as visible, but I have tried to be as accurate as possible.
Thom: Thom is pretty much a rhythm player and, as such does, not use that many effects. He usually leaves the effects work to Ed and Jonny and maintains a steady rhythm that pulls all the different parts together. Among the effects Thom does use are two Pro-Co Turbo Rat Distortion pedals which he uses for many of the heavier songs ie: My Iron Lung; and a Boss DD-3 Digital Delay pedal. Thom also runs his guitars through a Marshall JMP-1 pre-amp to access other tones.
Ed: Ed is an essential part to the Radiohead sound production process and uses his effects to create some amazing sounds (it was Ed who came up with the sound at the beginning of Lucky). Ed combines an assortment of effects pedals with his Korg multi-effects rack unit to get some interesting textures. Among Eds pedals are a Digitech Whammy-Wah, a Marshall Shredmaster Distortion, a Companion Distortion, a Jim Dunlop tremolo, a Lovetone Meatball envelope filter and Big Cheese fuzz, Electro-Harmonix Small Stone and Electric Mistress, Roland Space-Echos, a Boss DD-3 Digital Delay and Boss rack-mounted delays, MXR Phaser, and an AMS digital delay (it is this unit that achieves the effect at the end of Karma police). Ed also has a Korg A-2 multi-effects unit which is contained in a rack and was used widely on The Bends. A distinctive sound which Ed makes is created by using an E-bow (a device which when held over the strings makes them vibrate and oscillate) together with the tremolo bar on his Strat to get a droning effect which is heard very clearly on My Iron Lung.
Jonny: Out of all the members of the band, Jonny is probably the one who creates the sounds that are most distinctly Radiohead. On stage he dodges between guitars, keyboards and samplers to create a unique sound. Like Ed, Jonny has two flight cases packed with pedals as well as equipment mounted in racks. Jonny is quite secretive about the effects he uses and the order in which they are connected as he does not want to let out too many trade secrets. Suffice to say he has a very large pedal collection including: Marshall shredmaster and Pro-Co Rat distortion, Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive, pitch-shifting, Small Stone phaser, tremolo (home made), DOD envelope filter, Roland Space Echo and Boss RV-3 digital reverb/delay, a Boss LS-2 line selector (used for switching between different amps and patches), and a rack-mounted Mutronics Mutator (this is the unit which gives the Paranoid Android end solo its distinctive sound) among others. The effect used on My Iron Lung to get that distinctive sound on the solo notes is a pitch-shifting effect found on the Digitech WH-1 Whammy (a favourite pedal of both Ed and Jonnys).
Colin: Colin does not use a huge range of effects on his bass, but one particularly noteworthy pedal is a 60s Japanese fuzz pedal which the boys picked up while on tour in the states. It is this pedal which creates the distorted bass at the end of Exit Music (for a film). As well as this are a Companion distortion pedal, a Novation Bass Station synth, DBX 160 compressor, and an Alembic tube pre-amp.
Section 4: Miscellaneous
This section is basically to catalogue all the other pieces of Radioheads gear which do not fit into any of the other sections. It contains some instruments and other odds and ends which I thought may be of interest.
Drums: Phil has only used two makes of drums in his time with Radiohead. During the Pablo Honey era he used DW drums along with K cymbals; the kick drum of this kit had the distinctive Radiohead r which the group no longer use. Phil now has a deal with Premier drums and uses them on all studio and live performances, along with these, he uses Zildjian cymbals.
Keyboards: Radiohead use quite a few different makes of keyboards to further texture and layer their sound. On stage, their main keyboard is a Fender Rhodes Suitcase Piano, a model which was designed in the 60s; the example Radiohead have was probably manufactured in the 70s. The amp circuit for the Rhodes is inside the piano itself and is run through a 4x12 cabinet that sits underneath the piano. The Rhodes piano is used live on such numbers as Karma Police, with Jonny playing, and Subterranean Homesick Alien, with Thom playing.
As well as the Rhodes on stage, Jonny also has a couple of midi based keyboards which contain a wide range of effects, including the choir voices used on Exit Music (for a film).
Jonny also uses an Emu vintage keys synthesiser module which is played through a Fatar controller. A Hammond XB-2 is also frequently used; Jonnys one is digital unlike most Hammonds.
Finally, in the studio, Jonny has a Moog Rogue keyboard (a model produced by Moog for a short period in the early '80s) which can be manipulated for a varying degree of sounds. It can be seen being used by Jonny in the studio section of the Meeting People is Easy video.
A new toy that has found favour with Jonny is an Ondes Martenot. This is an instrument similar to the more well known Theremin, it contains a small keyboard and a sliding ring which when used together create interesting sounds and changes in pitch. It can be heard quite distinctly on The National Anthem from Kid A.
Samplers: Jonny has two identical samplers on stage which are produced by Akai. These contain the samples for songs such as No Surprises.
Controllers: On stage Jonny now uses a device called a Korg Kaos pad. This unit was originally designed for DJs to control the parameters of their effects in real time, it is square in shape and small enough to be held in the hand. It contains a flat, lighted surface which, when the players finger is dragged across the top, changes the different values of the effects it is connected to. It is very versatile and can change things from volume through to pitch changes or even fading from one source to another. Jonny uses it to play with live samples of Thom's voice when they perform Everything In Its Right Place.
Strings: The majority of the boys use Elite .10s. Colin uses Elite Stadium Series strings on his basses.
Picks: The boys use Jim Dunlop nylon .60mm picks.
Strap Locks: All the boys have one form or another of Strap locks on their guitars. Thom has Jim Dunlop Strap-loks on some of his guitars and Schaller Strap-locks on others. Ed has Schaller Strap-locks on all his guitars. Jonny has Schaller Strap-locks on all his guitars. Colin mainly uses Jim Dunlop Strap-loks on his basses.
I hope this article has been helpful to those of you with questions about Radiohead's gear. If you have any further questions or any additions to this article, please E-mail me on: firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Many thanks to Oliver
for writing this article! For more on Radiohead's gear, check out the gear
section here at Green Plastic.