Ted talks guitars

Ted started off as a classical guitarist when he was at school, also playing trumpet and keyboards, and then began playing electric guitar and studied at the Guitar Institute in West London. He was in bands and running a pub that Placebo happened to drink in.

"When Steve first joined, he used to come in most days so I’d be spending a lot of time with them, drinking and so on after hours, got to know Steve quite well and we started jamming a bit. We wrote a lot of music in those first few months because we were sort of just hanging out."

"After I’d finished work, he’d finished in the studio, we’d get together, write some music, he’d go back in the studio the next day - this is when they were doing Battle For The Sun I think and while they were doing that I think me and Steve must have written a good few songs.

And then after that we started thinking, well, you know, when he had a break from Placebo he wanted to take it a bit more seriously and do a bit more work with it. So we called up Charlotte and then we managed to get Ed and Dan."

Ted had been playing bass for a few years and didn’t have much guitar kit left, which made quite an impact on his sound.

"When Planes started, almost through necessity, I had just a simple set up. I had my Godin, I don’t think I even had an amp at the point, it was just whatever we had in the studio, so my rig became very simple.

The Godin’s got quite a good tonal range on it, so you can get a lot of different sounds out of it but I always wanted to try and get a nice simple true sound and just manipulate it through technique rather than effects."

Inspired by players such as Omar Rodriguez from The Mars Volta, and Mike Einziger from Incubus who use hollow body guitars, he was drawn to a Godin Flat Five X, for its looks at first, as much as anything.

"When I was about 19 I took a gamble, I think I got it for about £500 on eBay. Back then I used to buy a lot of guitars on line and never test them out, I’d just buy them because they looked great and most of the time I’d be caught out and those guitars have since gone. But this one guitar is really lucky, it feels great, it’s just got a great tone to it."

So what does he like best about the Godin’s design and sound?

"Well you’ve got the five way selector, the thing I like about this is because you’ve got the two Humbuckers, they’re split-coil as well so you can get the single-coil sound which can be quite useful.

It cuts the dynamic a bit so it’s good if you’ve got something to boost the sound, but it sounds great just having that range, because you can almost get a Stratocaster tone to it, as well as having the beefy Humbuckers."

"It’s got a great tone to it"

Made by Godin
The Flat Five X has a warm sound for rock, blues and jazz, and an acoustic voice too. It’s a hollow body guitar with a center block and humbucker pickups with 5 way switching. The Flat Five X’s extra acoustic voice marks it out from the standard Flat Five - and is thanks to six L.R. Baggs transducers that replace the saddles in the standard bridge. The signal runs through an internal preamp with graphic EQ. You can even blend the electric and acoustic outputs. It comes in a two-jack version and a three-jack - electric, acoustic and mix. The guitar has a mahogany neck, rosewood fingerboard and maple and poplar body. It also features 24 jumbo frets.

He is in the mood for a little customisation though, with some hand-wound pickups from a British company.

"I’m looking at getting some Bare Knuckles (pickups) put in, the new Humbuckers, just to beef it up a little because I find with Planes we do a lot of riff-based stuff but at the same time when I’m doing the clean sounds I like to get that big fat tone, want to get a bit more of a bluesy sound out of it."

We asked Ted about his pedals, and he said he was debuting something brand new on the day we came, an MXR ‘78 Distortion that he had been after for a while.

"For the sound I want to create, I want to make sure it doesn’t sound metal at all. I’ve tried a few different crunch and drive pedals just to find the right one. The ‘78 Distortion has a nice crunchy, fat chunky vibe to it, because I don’t like to go too distorted with my sounds, I like to just have the power and the drive."

"Crunchy, nice fat chunky vibe"

Made by MXR
The MXR Custom Badass ’78 Distortion is a pumped up factory-modded pedal with huge amp stack tones and old school tube amp-like distortion. It’s designed to give over-the-top soaring leads and rich, saturated rhythms. It’s easy to use, with three knobs - crunch, tone and distortion - so you can choose between two different modes of diode and LED clipping, boosting the harmonic content of the distortion. The pedal works well with clean, dirty or overdriven amps.

One of Ted’s staples is a classic Electro-Harmonix Big Muff.

"I always love the sound, it’s a good fuzz pedal, I think I’ve had that for a while now, it’s one of those things, I can’t give it up. I’d like to look at different fuzz pedals but I’ve just had it for a while and it’s always done me right."

"I always love the sound, a good fuzz pedal"

Made by Electro-Harmonix
An incredibly significant fuzzbox, this is arguably Electro-Harmonix’s most famous distortion pedal. Known for its rich overdrive, harmonics and creamy violin-like sustain, it has been defining the sound of rock for over 40 years. The three controls, Volume, Tone and Sustain are simple to use but provide a whole array of sweet tones. David Gilmour and Carlos Santana famously used the pedal for their solos, as well as alternative rock heroes Smashing Pumpkins, Dinosaur Junior and Sonic Youth. A physically large pedal, Electro-Harmonix now make a mini version for the more space-conscious pedalboard owners.

Unusually, Ted uses a bass pedal in his guitar rig, the Bass Big Muff Pi

"With the Big Muff bass you’ve got the split channel, so you can send it out, you can hit the dry out and the effect out at the same time. You can set the volume on that so you can just add a bit of flavour on top of the sound you’ve got coming through, so you can have the clean channel coming through with that little bit of fuzz on top or just whack it.

Having two distortions running at the same time can be a bit too much but because you’ve got the channel going straight through, in the direct out it blends quite nicely, so I use that quite a lot of the time for just boosting, for lead sounds, omething a bit more exciting."

"I use that quite a lot of the time for boosting"

Made by Electro-Harmonix
Due to the wide frequency response of the original Big Muff Pi pedal, it was not just guitarists that became fond of using it and it soon became known as a great distortion/sustain pedal for bassists to get a fat, biting tone. Electro-Harmonix have now released a version especially for bassists, with design tweaks to make sure that there is no loss of low-end (a sometime by-product of the compression caused by distortion). These include a bass boost function that will really get the walls shaking. Think the bass sound in ‘Hysteria’ by Muse.

His final pedal is an Electro-Harmonix Stereo Memory Man, which he says is great, especially as there are eight user presets too.

"I’ve got the basic delay which I use almost like a reverb more than anything. With the three second reverb you can drop it down, I’m basically using a delay to get the reverb, if you will. But then it’s also got the one second with the reverse on top, which I use in the song Summer Breeze that we do. For the intro there’s a big guitar sound that’s sort of swirling round."

"Great, good for getting stereo delay sounds"

Made by Electro-Harmonix
The Electro-Harmonix Stereo Memory Man with Hazarai pedal gives a wide range of effects - looping, multi-tap delay, echo, and reverse echo. It features a 30 second stereo looper with continuous overdubbing, reverse, speed adjust and tempo only adjust. You can have up to three seconds of stereo echo, multi-tap delay and reverse echo and there are 8 user presets.

"I find the Memory Man’s good for getting these stereo delay sounds. It’s quite a distinct thing, if I come off stage a lot of people say, oh have you got a Memory Man? I can hear the Memory Man. So I keep changing the sounds just to try and fool people into thinking it’s something else, but everyone always knows it’s a Memory Man, they got too distinct!"