Last year, The Jim Mitchells came out of nowhere and dropped Planet Absorbed, a flawless 6-track EP full of snappy, whacked-out garage psych tunes.
From the twangy madness of the EP’s title track to the languid space adventure, (…It’s A Sign), the guitars play a huge part in shaping the album’s tone. We caught up with Jim Mitchell himself, plus guitarist Rick Snowden to talk fuzz, tape warmth, and having no self-control when it comes to buying pedals.
We caught up with The Jim Mitchells to talk about how they wrangled the snappy, whacked-out guitar tones on their excellent 2016 EP Planet Absorbed.
Can you run us through what’s on your board[s] at the moment?
Jim Mitchell: Right now I’m running a Boss Blues Driver, Death by Audio Fuzz War, Way Huge Aqua Puss, Dan Electro BLT slap echo, a DD7 and a Holy Grail verb. Oh, and a tuner.
Rick Snowden: Exotic X-Blender sending to a RAT distortion, then into a vintage Japanese Boss HM2, into a Strymon Deco for delay and tape style compression, into a modded Boss CS3 compressor, then a little top-end sparkle added with a BBE Sonic Stomp.
The Planet Absorbed EP is packed with so many great guitar tones – everything comes across as quite uncomplicated, and not overdone. What are we hearing on You Unfollow Me?
JM: The Aqua Puss was the main flavour on that one. It makes everything nice and wide, and I used that to create those spacey/submarine kinda noises, as well as a lot of the other lead parts on the recordings. I used Rick’s Strymon Deco a fair bit on the EP which adds this sweet tapey warmth and compression. Also, a lot of the crunch and hair was added in the mixing by bouncing tracks back through an old 4 track.
What was the first pedal you bought?
JM: Pedal cherry was popped by a red Dunlop Fuzz Face- ‘cos of Hendrix and also a big obsession with Mink Mussel Creek and those early Tame songs of the time.
RS: Not sure if it was a Boss DD7 or a Boss FDR-1 Fender Deluxe Reverb pedal.
What’s your favourite pedal under 100 bucks and why?
JM: Dan Electro BLT Slap Echo. Super cheap ($50?) but really versatile for how simple it is. If you dial up the wet signal and pull back the repeats you get a really cool phasey sound that works well for lead stuff. I use it a lot to break up rhythm parts and its great for those single whack staccato slaps.
RS: Danelectro Corned Beef. Sounds like the 50s in a box. Short, slappy echos, vibe.
What do you have on your board at the moment that really shapes your sound?
JM: Combination of the Blues Driver, Fuzz War and Aqua Puss. I use the Fuzz War and Aqua Puss together for most of my lead/skits parts and have the Blues Driver on all the time, which gives a little bit of crunch without relying on the amp tone too much.
RS: The Boss HM2 is wild. Has this 90’s charisma, but with a garage fuzz twist.
How do you approach your signal chain/routing?
JM: Very standard- Tuner, drive/distortion/fuzz, modulation, verb. I’ve tried a few different combinations before but nothing that reliably works as well for playing live.
RS: I have the X-Blender up front to send a variable amount of signal to the RAT, like an effects send on a mixer. Next it hits fuzz/distortion, then delay/modulation and compression, to add in any lost mid-punch, finally the Sonic Stomp which acts like a presence knob, to cut back into the mix if necessary.
Do you switch pedals in and out often?
JM: Not at all really. I’ve have the same pedals for a while now. If I had the money I would though.
RS: Not really. Simple, smart setups outweigh having too many options. I’ve experimented with most effects so have a good idea what sound I’m after.
Is there anything you’re really hanging out to buy at the moment?
JM: I wouldn’t mind getting some kind of distortion to try for lead parts instead of the Fuzz War. Although I love that pedal, it can be a bit temperamental and touchy. Its got a very specific sweet spot and can blow people’s heads off if you miss it. I’d also like one of those Diamond Vibrato pedals.
RS: I have no self control. Generally if there’s something I want, I’ll find a way to afford it.
Who are some of your favourite pedal builders?
RS: Strymon have most bases covered, top quality and can take line level, which is handy for production. Danelectro, on the other end of the spectrum, cheap, sometimes glitchy but so much mojo.
Do you have any particular ethos when it comes to using guitar pedals?
RS: Less is more. Options overwhelm, and a long signal chain is a dead signal chain.
If you had to cull your board down to two pedals, what would they be and why?
JM: Probably a delay and some form of distortion or fuzz.
RS: Boss HM2 for fuzz and Strymon Deco as it doubles as a dirty compressor, delay and chorus modulator.
Do your pedals influence what amp or guitars you use, or vice versa?
JM: I think the guitar influences things the most for me. The guitar I’m using now, for example, makes everything sound far nicer than the Strat I used previously. It has a sweeter treble tone so the parts through the Fuzz War etc are a lot richer and not as harsh as before.
RS: I choose pedals that can make up for any deficiencies between guitar and amp. Most of the guitars I use regularly are old and have low output pickups, running them into a Silverface Fender Twin means they need midrange punch added via compression in the chain.
Do you have any pedal heroes or other artist who you feel really nail a sound through their rig?
JM: Probably John Dwyer of Oh Sees. His setup is crazy with that PA speaker and everything on stage. His live sound is so huge and diverse at the same time, and it replicates their recordings so well too, which is cool. Also Ty Segall (hence the fuzz war obsession).
RS: The Allah Las guys nailed their show at Wild Things gallery, exceptional tones. Kool Breeze from the Babe Rainbow, Nick and Zack from The Frowning Clouds.
You can check out The Jim Mitchells’ tunes on their Soundcloud.