This is the first post in a series that will hopefully continue for quite some time.  The idea is to do a spin on the “boards of the stars” type articles that are all over the place and get insights from guitarists about their gear.  Rather than waste too much time introducing the idea, let’s jump right in…

Our inaugural interview is with Brent Duersch, guitarist for Jamison Road.

click to enlarge:

Signal path (from guitar to amp):

  • Line 6 G50 wireless
  • ISP Technologies Decimator G-string noise reduction
  • MXR CAE wah
  • Strymon OB.1 compressor
  • Paul Cochrane Tim overdrive
  • Fulltone Fulldrive 2 MOSFET overdrive
  • Xotic BB Plus preamp
  • Blackout Effectors Twosome fuzz
  • Hartman Electronics LM308 distortion
  • Visual Sound Pedals volume
  • Line 6 M5 multi-FX
  • TC Electronic Flashback X4 delay
  • TC Electronic Hall of Fame reverb
  • Tech 21 NYC Leeds
  • Radial Pro D2 direct box (on the underside)
  • powered by a Godlyke Power-All
  • mounted on a Pedaltrain Pro

1) Please introduce yourself, talk briefly about your band (and how often you play), style of playing, any other essential details.

BD: I’ve been playing for about 20 years now… was totally raised on 80′s hair rock, spent most of the 90′s playing progressive rock, and really only started getting into country music in the past 4-5 years. Oddly enough, and this is clearly one guy’s opinion, but in recent years country has become the new rock: It’s no longer Tele’s and Twins… It’s drop-tuned PRS’s through Mesas. So there’s some obvious appeal to me there, but also I tend to dig the musical textures and vocal harmonies and lyrics of country music – that is, once you get past all the top 40 country songs that are only about getting drunk and having sex in the back of a truck.

Moving on… my current band, Jamison Road, has only been around for just over a year. The 3 of us set out to create rocked-up country songs, songs that were maybe a little more “intellectual” than what’s typically on country radio. It has been well received – we recorded a 12-song CD in Nashville between January and March of 2012, and have played shows at clubs, fairs, and festivals all over Ohio and Kentucky during the past year. We’re all weekend warriors, so we’ve got the 9-5 corporate jobs Monday through Friday, but based on some of the early booking requests we’ve gotten for 2013 it looks like it is going to be an even bigger, busier year for us.

2) How would you describe your guitar sound overall? Do you use a lot of effects to get one consistant tone? Or do you change a lot from song to song?

BD: Having been playing guitar for a couple decades now in everything from 30-piece jazz ensembles to funked-up hard rock bands, I’ve gone through dozens of guitar rigs over the years – everything from massive racks of Mesa amps & Lexicon effects to hundred-watt H&K heads to Egnater modular setups to fully digital Axe FX rigs.

I first got into pedals and smaller combo amps a few years back when I started playing country, somewhat because that’s the expected norm for country guitar players, but largely because I was really getting tired of things that needed to be programmed.

I love the Axe FX II and use it exclusively in the studio, but there’s nothing that kills the pre-show buzz like scrolling through a bunch of menus to tweak presets because they don’t sound right in a particular room. With pedals, all the knobs are on the floor in front of me, so if something doesn’t “feel” right it is easily remedied in a few seconds between songs. The pedalboard has worked great for me because I’m spending more time writing & playing and far less time tweaking.

Overall I’d describe my tone as “warm & fat with just enough edge to not disappear in the mix”. When I first got into country I listened to a lot of Keith Urban, so it’s fair to say my guitar tone is somewhat inspired by his. I play PRS guitars through my pedalboard into a pair of Budda Superdrive combos as the basis for live tones.

The pedalboard is core to my overall tone, though – since we occasionally play shows where full backline is provided and you never know what amp you’ll be blessed with – or stuck with – for the evening. In general, I don’t use a big variety of effects… I rarely use modulation. But I am pretty consistent in that I always have the TC Hall of Fame reverb on. And I’m a delay junkie, so the TC Flashback X4 is on 90% of the time whether for pure slapback or some crazy dotted-eighth ping-pong effect.

3) First thing that jumps out is a compressor. A lot of times, they don’t pair great with overdrive/distortion/fuzz pedals. Are you using both at the same time? How do the effects interact?

BD: As a country guitar player, I think I’m obligated to have at least one compressor on my board at all times, whether or not I actually use it. I typically only use it for pure clean tones, maybe in conjunction with the Tim overdrive pedal. The Strymon is a great compressor – very transparent – but oddly enough almost TOO smooth for chicken pickin’. When I do have the compressor engaged I almost always have the built-in treble boost engaged for a little more snap.

4) Which gain pedal gets the most use? Is there one that’s on the majority of the time?

BD: I pretty much always use the Tim overdrive pedal for a little color – it is probably rare that I play truly “clean” with all of the overdrive / distortion / fuzz pedals bypassed. Everything else depends on the song… We may cover anything from Johnny Cash to Guns N Roses depending on the audience, so having a variety of overdrive / distortion pedals is a must.

Generally speaking I use the Fulldrive for crunch, the Hartman for heavier riffing, the BB+ Preamp for solos, and the Blackout fuzz when I’m looking for something a little nastier. I often run the overdrive / distortion pedals (with the exception of the fuzz) at relatively low gain settings and stack them when a little extra push over the cliff is needed.

5) You don’t often see an OD/distortion at the end of a chain. What made you put the Leeds there? Is it mostly a boost or is it doing something else?

BD: Good catch… the Tech21 Leeds pedal is my $150 insurance policy. Though it is technically at the end of my signal chain, I typically run out of the Hall of Fame reverb to my amp. The Tech21 is there in the off-chance that I blow a tube or fuse mid-set – it feeds a Radial direct box mounted to the bottom of the pedalboard, and if I get in a pinch, I can grab an XLR cable and connect it straight to PA and monitor through either floor wedges or in-ears. Knock on wood… I have never had to do this yet, but I’m an IT guy by trade so I’m always thinking about “what could go wrong?” and trying to build in a little redundancy without resorting to carrying two of everything.

6) The Line 6 M5 jumps out as the device that doesn’t seem to fit with the rest. What do you use it for? If you use a lot of the effects it makes perfect sense, but would love to know your opinion and what sounds you get out of the thing.

BD: The M5 is definitely the “one of these pedals is not like the other” pedal. I actually started with an M13 for all effects (modulation, delay, reverb) – which in my opinion is a genius concept – so I could figure out what effects I would actually use in the context of a modern country band.

Over time I found that the M13 sucked just enough tone to be annoying. Since I use delay and reverb constantly I decided it was worth making the investment in the dedicated TC pedals and downsizing to the M5 for the occasional modulation effects. So 95% of the time the M5 is in true bypass mode and out of my signal chain.

Currently my M5 is in for mods – JVH3 is doing some upgrades to improve the fidelity of the audio circuitry – so I’m anxious to get that back on the board and see how much of a difference the mod really makes.

7) What’s your next pedal purchase? Are you going to replace something currently on your board or expand?

BD: Thinking ahead, I don’t have plans to swap out any pedals, though knowing how G.A.S. works I also wouldn’t make any promises. Probably the next thing for me is trying to squeeze in a pedals or two for acoustic guitar processing. Several of my recent guitar acquisitions – a PRS P22, a PRS Singlecut Hollowbody, and a Gibson Les Paul Axcess – are piezo-equipped, and there are a few songs in our set where it would be nice to slap some light compression / EQ / reverb on the acoustic tone before sending it to the PA / monitors. Challenge will be seeing if I can actually squeeze one more pedal onto the board and still manage to squeeze it into the flight case.