Information about Mark’s guitars, equipment, effects and philosophy on guitar sounds
My main guitar is a Patrick Eggle LA Plus. This is one of the original first run Eggle gutars, I chose it from a set of seven LA Plus guitars for its particular tonal properties. The guys at Eggle were incredibly helpful in making changes to the guitar to suit me. I no longer use the pickups or the internal electronics on the guitar as my audio signal goes out via the Roland hex pickup. This gives me six separate audio signals, one for each string, which makes audio processing a lot cleaner and more controllable and also allows conversion to midi when I need it.
This guitar is entirely maple and I love sound as well as the playability.
The guitar also comes fitted with an anti-gravity device as you can see from the photo. This makes playing a lot easier but can cause alarm.
I use for Roland VG-88 for most of my guitar sounds. What I like about this unit is that is allows you to build your guitar sound virtually from scratch without loosing any of the subtleties of what you play. Unlike a guitar synth, the VG-88 works with the audio signal of your guitar so even things like the angle of your pick, the difference in tone between picking near the bridge or the neck, or even the sound of scraping the string or tapping the body remain in tact. In fact in many ways I find the VG retains more of this detail than many conventional processors and amps. Running two units together allows me to lay down a sustaining harmonic backdrop with one unit and then play over that using the other unit. I switch between the two using the US-20 on the left.
This is an Apple Macbook Retina which is fast enough that the latency of playing through MainStage is negligible. It’s solidly built and the OS is virtually 100% stable.
I use Roland’s VG-88 processors. These are not guitar synths, though sometimes people mistake my sound for synth because it sounds different from what they are used to. I like the VG-88s because they preserve every nuance and tonal inflection in what I play, even more so than most conventional effects and amps and also because I can craft exactly the sound I want rather than having to choose from the stock sounds offered by most amps and effects.
My guitar is augmented with a number of devices which allow me to produce the sounds I want.
I have a V-Meter touch strip which controls numerous parameters in MainStage on the laptop. I have a sustainer by Sustainiac which takes the signal from the bridge pickup and uses that to magnetically sustain the strings. This produces infinite sustain even acoustically without the guitar plugged in. There is a Fishman Tripleplay synth pickup which I use to trigger synths and samplers on the laptop. The synths are generally used for chords rather than lead. Finally there is a GK-2 which I use purely for the audio signals to the VG-88.
The bridge and tremolo system is by Wilkinson. I think the term “tremolo arm” is a miss-named. It’s used to change the pitch so I think a better name is pitch arm or pitch bar. The Wilkinson bridge in conjunction with a low friction nut allows a lot of pitch movement without putting the guitar out of tune. There are other good bridges out there, but I really like the tone of the Wilkinson and it has an excellent pitch bar.
I use the Roland FC-300 to control plugin parameters on the laptop for the guitar audio path as well as samples, synths and loops. I will sometimes add another two or three extra EoWave continuos controller pedals.
I also have this Korg Nano Kontrol next to the laptop to live mix and control parameters in synths and effects. Its an extremely handy little device.
I use MainStage software for processing my guitar audio signal with numerous plugins. MainStage also hosts my synth sounds, samples and loops. I like MainStage because its so flexible, you can design your own control screen to do pretty much anything and use it to link all your controllers to any number of parameters.
Continuos controllers including the V-meter and various pedals are linked to multiple parameters in the plugins. Sometimes a single pedal might control five or more parameters.
Some of the plugin chains radically alter the sound of the guitar and I will bring these in occasionally with a controller. Other plugins are on all the time, these are concerned with subtle enhancements of the texture of the guitar tone and upper harmonics.
Most of my guitar sounds are just that, guitar or guitar with effects and there are no synths involved. However when I do use synth sounds I usually use Omnisphere. For me, Omnisphere is head and shoulders above any other synth and that includes all hardware synths. Its sounds are rich and complex enough to sound nearly acoustic or organic and at the same time beautifully musical. The depth of control you have over parameters and routing is second to none, but cleverly hidden away behind a very simple interface (seen above). Its got a great sounding waveform synth and an absolutely vast and unique sample library.