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The Mermen39s Jim Thomas on Heavenly and Heavy Tones

June 1, 2010
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“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.

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