The Mermen39s Jim Thomas on Heavenly and Heavy Tones
June 1, 2010
“I PLAY A ’90S STRATOCASTER WITH TWO JAZZMASTER PICKUPS
and a P-90 between them, strung up with set of GHS strings, gauged .013 to .060. The
two output jacks on the guitar send the Jazzmaster pickups to the preamp of a Fender
Dual Showman and the P-90 goes to a RealTube distortion box and a DOD Meatbox.
These signals then go to the inputs of a 16-channel Mackie mixer in my rack, which also
houses more than a dozen pedals and eight rack processors. My entire rig weighs about
1,500 lbs, and includes five more Fender Dual Showman amps driving three cabinets with
14 speakers in five independent channels.
“For a polyphonic effect that sounds
like several guitars at once, I have a clean
sound going all the time and blend in the
distorted sound from the P-90 with the
low-frequency distorted fuzz in parallel,
plus three tremolo pedals driving different
loopers. This creates a sonically huge,
dramatic statement. Three stereo reverbs,
with wet/dry mixes controlled by foot pedals
also enhance this sensibility. The differing
reverb decays multiply the guitar’s sounds
from the different speakers.
“In 20 years, with 120 original songs and
seven albums, the Mermen have never had a
set list at a show. Rather than programming
preset sounds, I go with whatever the gig
and moment are calling for. Sometimes
demonically abrasive, sometimes lyrical
and heavenly, or a thousand other shades of
sound—all created on the fly.