(just in case you haven't visited in a while and are legitimately curious to see last year's update, i've left it intact below, though all of this information is now incorporated into the individual guitar pages, some of it updated with new details, so please explore the site after reading the newest update!)
My eternal thanks to sonic techs Eric and Matt, who demonstrated remarkable patience and provided me with more information than my mind could handle (literally!). I tried to write down as much info as I could to supplement the photographs but I have to admit I was fighting pretty hard with my camera and a lot of the hardware-specific details they threw at me probably did not make it to paper. Perhaps a separate photo session/conversation would've yielded better results, but fortunately the photos turned out well. Those two deserve a huge amount of credit for their enthusiasm and knowledge, not to mention the hard work they do on the side of the stage each night! I should also thank crew dudes Aaron and Jeremy for accomodating me while they were doing real work, and of course the band for letting me get this stuff out for y'all to see.
So, in short: here's a shitload of pix and as much corresponding information as I managed to scrawl down. For now, I'll just stick them all together here, and add them into each guitar's page 'soon'... As always, the pictures are comically oversized and I'd recommend opening them in a new window if you want to resize them. Otherwise, enjoy the detail!
JAZZMASTER (RED) -- Okay, not so pink! Eric built this one for her, it has a Japanese reissue body, P-90 pickups, an Allparts neck, and a Mastery bridge (more on those later). It appears as 'New Jag' on set lists, though that's kind of misleading... She uses this one for DDAF#AD ("Calming the Snake" "No Way" "Walkin Blue" "Poison Arrow" "Anti-Orgasm"). PIX: body - neck - body - back of headstock
JAGUAR (RED) -- Kim is using this mostly for 'What We Know' (in CGDACD). Possibly for 'Thunderclap' as well, though that seems to be out of the sets. I'm guessing this still gets retuned to standard if they decide to do 'Shaking Hell', but not sure. PIX: back of headstock - back - front - body - body - body
IBANEZ TALMAN -- Been a few years since this was on the road, now it's being used in a weird tuning for 'Malibu Gas Station'. I wrote down 'CGDADG' but Eric's notes say 'CDGADG' - the gauges look like they'd make more sense for CGD, but apparently the high G is actually tuned higher than high E, so who knows! Of course, this is the one headstock I didn't get the back of... The Bigsby has been removed, otherwise it's basically the same as it was before. PIX: body - neck - body
GIBSON BASS (no page yet) -- Kim's newest bass was actually given to her by Mike Watt! Dig his name scratched into the back of the headstock. PIX: bass - body - neck - back of headstock - back of body
GIBSON THUNDERBIRD BASS -- Surely this needs no introduction... PIX: body - close-up of writing - close-up of writing - headstock - back of headstock
JAZZMASTER (WOOD) -- This is a '65 Jazzmaster they bought off of eBay from someone in Wyoming. Used in CCEBGD for 'The Sprawl' and 'Cross the Breeze'. PIX: body - close-up - body - back of headstock - body
JAZZMASTER (GREEN) -- This was built by Eric (see the page for specs), and served as the inspiration for Thurston's signature Fender. While originally in GDD# for the 'Daydream' tour, this is now in DDAF#AD and is played on almost all of 'The Eternal' songs ('Sacred Trickster' 'Anti-Orgasm' 'Leaky Lifeboat' 'Antenna' 'Calming the Snake' 'Poison Arrow' 'No Way' and 'Walkin Blue'). Check out the cheat sheet lyric notes for 'Antenna' written all over the body! PIX: body - body - neck - body - back of headstock - back - side
JAZZMASTER (SIGNATURE) -- The signature Fender model is along for the ride too, but seems to be scarcely used compared to the original green one above. It's designated as a back-up for that one, but was in the EGDGED tuning when I snapped it. The adjust-o-matic bridge has been replaced with a Mastery bridge, like the other green jazz (and almost every other Jazzmaster in the band's arsenal). PIX: body - body - back of headstock - back of gtr
G&L TELECASTER -- Possibly built by Thurston's brother? This is the 'GABDEG' Tele (Hey Joni, Teenage Riot). PIX: body - body - close up - headstock - back of headstock - back of gtr
I once again failed to get a picture of his acoustic, which is the same one Lee was using on 'Or' in 2006. It's a (recent) Martin 000-18, and is in DDAF#AD as well. He plays it on 'Massage the History'.
Those appear to be the only guitars of Thurston's I photographed, but he also had these in his rack:
In case they feel left out, here's two group pictures: bodies and necks.
JAZZBLASTER (SIGNATURE) -- This is actually the 2nd prototype designed for Lee's signature model. The first one didn't seem to be on the road with him. For the 2nd prototype they switched to a matched headstock, and changed the pickups to be closer to Lee's specs (the first one had standard Tele Deluxe humbuckers). Like Thurston's green jazz, Lee uses this guitar on the bulk of 'The Eternal' set, in the classic 'DDA' tuning originally featured on Sister classics like 'Schizophrenia' and 'Catholic Block'. PIX: gtr - body - headstock - back of headstock
JAZZBLASTER (RED) -- This may be a '68. He uses this one for 'Joni' now in EBEEAB, to replace the Telecaster. PIX: body - neck - body - back of headstock
TRAVIS BEAN ARTIST (KOA WOOD) -- Okay, I'm pretty damn excited to finally see this thing up close. Why, you ask? Click the link and see the only existing pictures I had of this guitar...then look at these: body - body - neck - side - back - resting with its replacement (by the way, it's in F#GA)
FENDER MUSTANG (SUNBURST) -- The original 'Cross the Breeze' beauty. Still in EEEEF#F#. Note the Mastery bridge! PIX: back of headstock - body - neck - attempted close-up of infinity
FERNANDES STRAT (PINK) -- Still in AEA, 20 years later. PIX: body - back of headstock
JAZZBLASTER (CORAL) -- Still in CGDCGD ("What We Know", "Malibu Gas Station", "Anti-Orgasm", "Thunderclap") but also has tons of peculiar tunings written all over it! Can anybody decipher what these might be for? A#A#A#FA#A#?? CGCDF#B (FMC tuning)?! BbBbF#BbF#C# - "PIPES"?!? DAFAAD "BOAC"?!? Okay, I'm guessing 'BOAC' might stand for 'Bang On A Can', so my assumption is that these are alternate tunings he uses for various non-Sonic noise gigs. I'm quite curious if anybody can identify what 'FMC' or 'PIPES' might be, though! PIX: back - body - close-up - close-up - close-up
JAZZBLASTER (MAGENTA) -- This is a back-up for the CGDCGD tuning, and even has all the same "BOAC" and "PIPES" tunings on it as the Coral jazz, which only furthers my curiousity... PIX: body - close-up - back of headstock
JAZZBLASTER (WHITE) -- Here's the cream Jazzblaster these days, once the primary DDA gtr, now just a back-up for the sapphire... PIX: body
FENDER XII -- The Fender 12-string is the primary EG#EG#EG# guitar for 'Expressway' and 'PCH' these days, the Deimel is nowhere to be seen... PIX: body - back - back of headstock
KOLL JAZZBLASTER (CHERRY) -- No longer in GGDGGA, this is now in GDD# for 'Stereo Sanctity'. In years past Lee has generally used the same guitar for GDG, GDF, and GDD#, but I guess the gauges are different enough that he uses two guitars now (plus the pick-up behind the bridge is key for that 'Stereo' sound...). PIX: body - back of headstock
JAZZBLASTER (GREEN) -- Still the primary GDG guitar, compare the gauges to the Koll, pretty big difference on top... PIX: back of headstock
TRAVIS BEAN (YELLOW) -- Still Lee's main F#F#F#F#EB/AF#EF#EB guitar. PIX: side of guitar
EPIPHONE DOT -- Still Lee's F#AE (Shadow of a Doubt) guitar. PIX: back of headstock
These are all the guitars that were in Lee's rack, aside from the "Tele 3" which he uses on 'World Looks Red' and 'Shaking Hell'. Now, several days earlier in Spokane I had taken a few quick snaps of his rack, and at that time it contained the 3 other Teles: "Tele 1", the Bigsby Tele (aka 'Sparky', for the South Park sticker), and the F-hole Tele. In addition, the Les Paul and sunburst Koll were also waiting around. I asked about these in Portland and Matt literally opened the box -- a roadcase full of extra guitars 'just in case'. Not only were all 5 of these guitars hiding in there, they had some very interesting companions...:
JAZZBLASTER (WOOD) -- Hey, it's that wood blaster I saw him use on 'Teenage Riot' once! Apparently it was being used for GGCGCD at some point, but 'Bull in the Heather' has seemingly been shelved for the time being, so in the box it stays... PIX: body - close up - headstock - back of headstock - tuning underneath
LES PAUL (MAROON) -- I haven't seen this thing since it was Thurston's main 'nyc ghosts' guitar, and I did not expect to see it come out of Lee's case! It also appears to have been used for GGCGCD at some point. PIX: body - headstock - back of body - back of headstock - tuning underneath
FENDER MUSTANG (RED) -- It's baaaack. It spends most of its time locked in a roadcase, but it's back! Lee did consider using this (the original 'Eric/Joni' gtr) again for the obvious tunes but I guess it didn't quite cut it (even with a Tele Deluxe humbucker in the middle!). PIX: body - headstock - close up - body
So let's see... they've gotten 4 guitars back. Well, Lee has. The Koa Wood Travis Bean still seems to be worthy of being the primary F#GA guitar, and that F-hole Telecaster was one of the main 'Rather Ripped' guitars last tour, even if it spends most of its time in a roadcase now. The Mustang isn't quite up for the competition, but what happened to the other Travis Bean? The infamous 'target' guitar relied on by Lee for the F# tuning throughout most of the 90s, recovered with the Tele in 2005 but in considerably worse condition (here's a side-by-side reminder, if you need one)? Surely this is leading somewhere?
TRAVIS BEAN ARTIST -- Take a look at her now! PIX: body - body - headstock // I think this was in F#F#F#F#EB, but it probably won't be used. (Had my camera behaved, I would've taken a lot more pictures of this one!)
As for the other five I mentioned above, the sunburst Koll is still ready for 'Incinerate' in D#D#A#D#GG, same tuning as the Les Paul Custom (for 'Pink Steam'). 'Tele 1' was being used for 'Joni' as late as Spokane, replaced by the red Jazzblaster the next night in Seattle. The 'Sparky' Tele has seen many different tunings and at the moment it's in EEBBEF# (I suppose to match with Thurston's custom Jazzmaster in EGDGED?). The F-hole Tele is still on hand for 'Jams Run Free' in D#A#D#BC#F#.
You'll note that almost all of their Fender style guitars have Mastery bridges on them now. These bridges are designed to solve all of the inherent design flaws of the common Jazzmaster/Jaguar bridge, and Lee & Thurston even offer their combined satisfaction in a blurb at the official site -- "After years of modifying Mustang« & Tune-o-Matic bridges to fit our JazzBlasters, the Mastery bridge is the exciting and cool solution we've been looking for. It slips in easily for replacement, sounds great, and the strings can't slip off. Rock on!"
Mark's still using his '71 P-bass, though Kim's blue P-bass is around as well.
Thurston runs the radio into the 'Normal' channel of the Deluxe Reverb, and the contact mic thru a Walco Signal Booster into the 'Vibrato' channel. The footswitch is presumably a Vibrato/Reverb?
PIX: Fender Deluxe w/ radio+mic / aerial view of Thurston's noise corner / more Fender Deluxe w/ radio+mic / more Fender Deluxe w/ radio+mic / Roadmaster w/ cab / Roadmaster head close-up (w/ tuner) / Roadmaster head close-up / close-up of skull slide / close-up of boring slide / 'Calming the Snake' file
Lee had an amp mishap in Spokane and as of Portland, his Super Reverb head was actually wired to the Vibro-King's speaker (teasingly decorated with a fan's request for 'Theresa's Sound World') and the Vibro-King was going through the 4x10 cab. His guitar goes into the Vibro-King's head and out of the 4x10 cab, and his walkman goes into the Super Reverb head. In addition to the walkman, Lee also has two drumsticks, a screwdriver, and some bells at his disposal.
PIX: Super Reverb head w/ tuner/power source / Super Reverb head / Fender 4x10" cab w/ infamous Jasper Johns 'Target with Four Faces' painting / Lee's bells / Vibro-King w/ infinity box, drumsticks, screwdriver, and walkman / another angle / and another / Vibro-King
She uses a Loop Master A/B box.
PIX: Bassman head w/ drumstick, slide, and files used for 'Calming the Snake' and 'Anti-Orgasm' / Fender Tweed cab / Ampeg stack w/ new bass
PIX: Ampeg stack / Ampeg head / Ampeg head
In addition, Lee also has the 'Antenna Box', a custom delay built for him by Matt Zivich. It sits on a platform connected to his mic stand, and he uses it for the intro of 'Antenna'.
PIX: Digitech Delay, Klon Centaur, Tube Factor, Ibanez AD-80, Honey Bee / Blue Box, Microsynth, Exp pedal, Ring Mod / Digitech Delay, Klon Centaur / Tube Factor (note the slide!), Ibanez AD-80, Honey Bee / Blue Box, Microsynth / Expression pedal, Ring Mod / Microsynth / Ring Modulator / Digitech notes / AD-80 notes / The ANTENNA BOX!
That last one would make pretty cool wallpaper...
Kim's abandoned her TC Electronic phaser as well as her Tube Screamer. She's replaced them with a Boss PH-2 and a Sitori Sonics 'Brownies and Cream'. She's also added a Deluxe Memory Man.
PIX: Super Phaser, Memory Man, Hot Tubes, DI, Tuner / Hot Tubes, DI, Tuner / Super Phaser, Memory Man / Ibanez AD9, Octave Fuzz, Brownies & Cream / Wah-Vol, AD9
Are you sitting down? As I approached Thurston's area of the stage, I noticed his pedalboard was considerably less...blue. Upon closer inspection, it appeared the MXR Blue Box, a staple in Thurston's (non-changing) set-up for over a decade now, was nowhere to be found! Could it be? Has Thurston finally deviated from the same six effects pedals he's been using since the mid-90s? Well...yes! Check it out!
PIX: Phase 90, Harem Fuzz / Hot Cake, Octave Fuzz / Wah-Vol, Big Muff / Phase 90, Harem Fuzz
Mark's pedals haven't changed, but here they are again!
PIX: Prunes, Sansamp, Tuner
PIX: kit from the front / / kit from behind / kit from the back / kit from the side / Thumper device attached to stool / ZT Lunchbox amp (for the Thumper) / Lunchbox / Zildjian 12" Jing Gong, Earth Plate low, Earth Plate high / Zildjian plates & gong / Jing Gong / some extras / toms and ride / snare, hats, crash, tom / Shinya Yamamoto painting
So, that's about it. If you haven't visited the site in a while, you may have missed that I also updated last month, so be sure to check that out below. Please send any comments/corrections to Chris Lawrence. Thanks for visiting!
Okay, on to the updates... Well, there's a few major items that you're likely all aware of now.
FENDER ANNOUNCES SONIC YOUTH SIGNATURE JAZZMASTERS -- Lee and Thurston both have signature Jazzmasters available now. Check out their page on Fender.com, and view their entries on this site as well. The guitars come with a very cool zine that I'm hoping to incorporate into this site eventually, it has a plethora of cool sonic tech notes on tunings and guitars as well as revealing interviews with all of the band's techs that discuss the modifications SY make to their guitars and their usage over the years. COOL!
ONE MORE STOLEN GUITAR RETURNED! -- Lee's red '69 Competition Mustang is back in his possession after a fortunately honest collector who'd purchased the guitar on eBay realized what he'd found. See the guitar's page for more information and pictures galore!
So, after the last update in 2007 I did actually take some pictures of SY's gear at a July 2007 show in California. They're mostly snaps of amps and pedals that don't reveal many changes from 2006, but they're each available on the member's pages by clicking their names at the top. Not sure why it took me 2 years to post them, but I'm hoping to be able to provide yet another 'full visual report' on the band's gear if things work out when they head west. Stay tuned...
Here's the thrilling continuation of a running joke/handy feature:
OKAY, if you're interested in what guitars SY have been using during 2006, I've prepared a graph detailing their gear on a song-by-song basis. It's available here. Enjoy!
OKAY, if you're interested in what guitars SY have been using during 2007, I've prepared a graph detailing their gear on a song-by-song basis. It's available here. Enjoy!
OKAY, if you're interested in what guitars SY have been using during 2008, I've prepared a graph detailing their gear on a song-by-song basis. It's available here. Enjoy!
During research for this update, I've discovered that at least FOUR guitars are listed twice in this guide, and have merged them all with the appropriate information explaining the changes. One was even listed 3 separate times! I blame grainy VHS... Here's a list of all the guitars with major updates, but look around because many guitars had some kind of update to the notes or tuning usage...
Drifter -- added info on 1986 usage + new pix
Fender Tele Deluxe -- added picture of Kurt Cobain using guitar
Blue Jazzmaster copy -- merged with 'Fender Jazzmaster (blue)' + added more pix
Knox -- identified gtr + added new pix
Gershon SG -- added new pix
Fender Jaguar (old wood) -- merged with 'Fender Jaguar (old)' + new/upgraded pix
Favilla acoustic -- changed tuning + added better pix
Kimberly -- upgraded + new pix
Fender Duo Sonic -- added new pix
Black Metal Strat -- added new pic
Univox Plexiglas -- added new pix
Quest -- upgraded pix + new pix
Kapa Continental -- identified gtr + added more pix
12-String Strat -- added new pic
Fender Mustang (sunburst) -- added new pictures/upgrades
Fender Jazzmaster (sunburst) -- merged w/ 'Fender Jazzmaster (green)' AND 'Fender Jazzmaster (sunburst)' + added many new pix
Fender Mustang (red) -- stolen guitar returned! many pix
Fender Jaguar (red) -- added new pic
Epiphone Genesis -- upgraded pix
Fender Mustang (black) -- added pix
Fender Jazzmaster (sunburst) -- upgraded pix
Fender Jazzmaster (white) -- added new pic
Gibson SG -- added pics
GABDEG Tele -- added pic
Reject Strat -- upgrades + new pix
Fender Jaguar (leopard) -- added new pic
Fender Jaguar (blonde) -- added new pic
Yamaha Pacifica -- added new pic
Fernandes Vertigo Pro -- merged with 'Fernandes Jazzmaster', added pic
Fender Jazzmaster (coral) -- added new pic
Harmony -- added new pic
Hollywood Hollowbody -- upgraded pic
Fender Mustang (white) -- upgraded pix
STP Strat -- upgraded pix
White Kent -- upgraded pix
Fender Strat (purple) -- upgraded pic
Painted Strat -- upgraded pic
Blue Metal Strat -- upgraded pic
Fender Musicmaster -- added new picture
Framus Jaguar -- upgraded pix
Superstar Plexiglas -- upgraded pic
Fender XII -- added pic
Fender Jazzmaster (black) -- added info + new pic
Gibson Les Paul (conan) -- added pictures
Gibson Sonex (New Drifter) -- changed name
Martin acoustic -- added pic
Fender Jazzmaster (wood)
Fender Jazzmaster (green)
Fender Jazzmaster (wood)
Fender Jazzmaster (red)
Fender Jazzmaster (black)
Fender Jazzmaster (mascis)
Fender Jazzmaster (pink)
Fender Jazzmaster (sapphire blue)
Fender Jazzmaster (LEE RANALDO SIGNATURE)
Fender Jazzmaster (THURSTON MOORE SIGNATURE)
Various acoustic guitars
Ovation Magnum -- new pic
Gibson Thunderbird -- new pic
Rickenbacker -- new pic
Gibson Ripper -- upgrade
Fender P-bass (cream) -- upgraded pic
Fender Musicmaster -- upgraded pix
Fender P-bass (yellow) -- new picture
Fender P-bass (mark) -- new pic
Fender P-bass (mark 2) -- new bass!
So, this update was definitely focused more on guitars, but I've been checking out a lot of old video of the band to try to figure out their amp/drum/fx usage in the big holes in the 80s where I have no information. I really don't find amplifiers as 'sexy' as other gear, so I often can't identify them...if you're ever looking at vintage SY footage, and you notice a specific amp (or drumkit), please let me know! I'd hoped to have more of this stuff included in this update, but it'll have to wait. I did get some blurry caps of Lee's surprisingly many effects from an '87 show, but I can't really identify any of them. I'll post those in the next update...
A couple of additional requests for readers:
As always, comments/corrections welcome:
-- Chris Lawrence