Here Jeff discusses his guitars and the other musical equipment he uses live, in the studio and at home.
The guitars Jeff uses primarily for live work and recording are signature model acoustics made in Ballarat, Australia by David Churchill.
"For non-slide work I use either a sunburst model (pic on right) which has a spruce top with mahogany back and sides, or a natural finish guitar which is cedar and rosewood. Incredible sounding instruments!"
For lap steel duties he uses another signature Churchill instrument. "The acoustic lap steel has such a rich, deep tone - a very inspiring guitar to play. It's a cedar top with rosewood back and sides (pic on right). I'm getting David to make me another with spruce and mahogany, just to see what the difference would be. I use a Shubb-Pearse bar for lap slide playing with a thumbpick (Golden Gate Large) and two Showcase 1931 fingerpicks made by Bill Stokes in Texas. For regular acoustic playing I usually use my bare fingers."
For bottleneck slide it's usually a resonator guitar. "I often use either a black 1960's Airline (see pic below) Resoglass guitar, or a similar red-coloured Supro. I also have a single cone resonator made by Don Morrision out of salvaged galvanised steel (see pic below) and a brass-bodied, nickel-plated tri-cone (pic on right) made by Greg Beeton."
"The Churchills are amplified with a combination of an internal mic and a magnetic pickup. The mic is called an Acoustech Dynafield made by a fellow in Kansas named Dave Wendler. He's come up with a cool design where you stick a small magnet to the top of the guitar and a dynamic voice coil is suspended beneath it to read the vibrations as you play - esentially turning the top of your guitar into a dynamic microphone diaphragm. It works really well, sounds very natural and accurate to the guitars as well as being less prone to feedback than other internal mics I've tried." The signal from the dynafield is run balanced from the guitar and sent to it's own channel of the PA via a Neve Portico mic preamp. Occasionally Jeff will use an external mic in place of the internal setup. In this situation he uses a Nuemann KM-185.
The magnetic pickup is a Sunrise, made by Jim Kaufman in California. "I've tried loads of other magnetic pickups, but I keep coming back to the Sunrise. It's sound suits me I guess. Nice big fat clean tone to give some 'push' to blend with the microphone. It works great for my overdriven acoustic sound too." The Sunrise also runs clean to it's own channel, usually via a Fishman Pro EQ Platinum DI, though occasionally through a tube DI made by Ross Giles.
The resonator guitars have a similar dual-source setup, only the microphone is a Shure SM-11 and the magnetic pickup is either a National Lace (on the resoglass instruments), a Barcus Berry Dobro pickup (on the Donmo) or a DeArmond (on the Beeton).
Also appearing from time to time at shows is a Godin Glissentar (pic on right). "It's a hybrid instrument. It has a guitars' scale length, but with a fretless fingerboard and 11 nylon strings like an Oud. The Glissentar is the only instrument where I use a piezo bridge pickup, a magnetic wouldn't work with the nylon strings. It has an LR Baggs bridge pickup and I mounted a Schertler Dyn-C contact mic inside it. I also put pictures of musicians all over the front of it. I thought it looked a little plain before."
For more info about Churchill Guitars and Beeton Brass Guitars please check out their individual pages at this website:
|National Reso-Glass Guitars|
"These were made by Valco in Chicago during the early 1960's as mail order instruments. I love their gnarly midrangey tone, great for bottleneck slide. I've added a National magnetic pickup to the black Airline and a Teisco archtop magnetic to the red Supro, while both have a Crown mini-mic inside them for gigs with drums."
|I've owned the black Airline in the middle since 1992, and it's been used on records from Ravenswood onward as well as countless gigs. Some examples of this guitar on my albums include "Alive In There" off Whatever Makes You Happy, "Freddy" off Native Dog Creek and "Master Plan" from Ravenswood.||The most common of the three colours is the Red Supro - what a hotrod! I found this one in 2004 and it's been used a lot on the road since then - it has a bit more low end than the black one.||The Cream Airline is quite a rare finish and it has a few quirks, like having the small vent/grills on the BACK of the guitar - who knows why! It also looks like it was assembles from surplus parts at the factory, with a small rectangle of cream plastic with the Airline logo added over the white headstock of a National Glenwood model electric neck. This one has no pickups added, and this is how they all came originally.|
|Beeton Style 'O'|
|"This was made by Greg Beeton in Newcastle, NSW basically as a reproduction of a 1930's National, but with a few twists like the Gibson P-90 pickup that lets it roar like a wounded grizzly when I amp it up.
"The Owl" - so named for the custom sandblasting of said creature on the back - had been heard on Everything Is Still (title track), Rolling... (Black Back Train), and countless live shows."
|"Here is the back of the Beeton Style-O with the sandblasted owl."|
Churchill Lap Steel
|Now available as a custom order instrument from Churchill Guitars, after many enquiries during my 2002 US tour, this guitar is a dream to play. "It has the thickest, creamiest tone and Chris Thompson (engineer of Everything Is Still and Rolling Through This World) said it is the best sounding guitar he has ever recorded."|
|Churchill 12 String|
|This is the first 12 string that David ever made I think. "It is a monster! I used this one on a lot of "Disturbed Folk Vol. 1", "Nothing to be Ashamed Of" on "Native Dog Creek" and "Bateman's Bay" on "Cedar Grove" among others."|
"Here's Dave in his workshop with the lap steel and an earlier guitar he made for me back in 1992."
|This is the most recent guitar that David Churchill has made for me, a stunning sunburst finish! This is a spruce and mahogany guitar, instead of David's usual Cedar/Rosewood combination. I picked this guitar up in the last week of July 2006.|
|"When I was going to record "Whatever Makes You Happy" I wanted an electric with a Bigsby vibrato on it, so I went down the Music Swap Shop and there it was. I used it on Rejected Novelist Fails Again and it has a great gnarly Crazy Horse kind of tone - perfect for that song."|
|"1930's Kalamazoo. As far as anyone can tell this is the type of guitar that Robert Johnson used on those classic recordings and it has that great dry, hollow kind of sound too. I put the 'Lighting Hopkins" model De Armond pickup on there, when you play it through my little Rex Mascot amp it sounds like his tone on Lightings Jump."|
|"1920's Oahu Hawaiian. I used this on the song Rolling Through This World on the album of the same name with Bob Brozman and on a lot of Tim Hall's No Dogs No Disneyland album. Beautiful looking instrument with that amazing stencil on the front. These were made in Cleveland as mail order instruments."|
|"1930's Regal Dobro. This is an unusual type of Dobro, as the cone is stamped not spun and has a simple cross that the bridge saddle sits on rather than the typical spider-type of bracing. As a result it is quieter and more mellow sounding than a bluegrass instrument. I had this set up for bottleneck playing for a while before I had Greg Beeton convert it back to lap style for me. It can be heard on "Trainwreck 49" and "Some Memories Never Die" off "Everything Is Still", as well as "61 Highway" and "Rooster Tail" off "Rolling Through This World".|
Squire Teisco Caster
|"Fender Teisco-Caster. This was originally a red Fender Squire Strat that I've had for ages. Since then the body has been refinished and the pickups and switching from a couple of Teisco guitars have been substituted for the original electronics. This has a fabulous sound, the pickups are slightly microphonic - you can talk through them and it comes out the amp - and has enough output to drive any amp hard with a tonal quality that is really interesting. I used this one on The Save off Whatever Makes You Happy, and for the slide break on 7th of November on Ravenswood."|
1950's Supro Lap Steel
|"This is a brilliant little instrument, and the pickup is possibly the greatest electric pickup ever. I used this on the Tim Hall album and for the wacked out solo on "Plucked Pigeon Soup Hop" from The Lang/Brozman record."|
|Valco Reso Phonic|
|"1950's Valco Reso Phonic. This is a curious little guitar, made once again as a mail order instrument when Valco bought the National Guitar Company and moved it to Chicago in the 1940's. It didn't have a pickup originally (I added the De Armond), and had a smaller cone than a regular resonator guitar would have, giving it the sound of a National being played over a telephone line. Pretty cool sound. I used this on "Cypress Grove" from "Rolling Through This World" to contrast with Bob Brozman's deep, rich Baritone National. Also used this acoustically for "Slip Away" and "The Road Is Not Your Only Friend" on "Whatever Makes You Happy" and amped up for the instrumental excerpt called "Orange Roughie"."|
|JAPANESE ELECTRIC GUITARS|
|I had this Tele copy for years without using it much, so I decided to have it converted to a fretless guitar. Where the frets were there are now thin pieces of wood. I also put two microphonic Teisco pickups in it from an old lap steel. Sounds weird, like a sort of Asian/Indian guitar. I love it, and put it straight into use for the solos on "Velocity Girl" on the record with Chris Whitley. It's sitting here with my Rex Mascot amp. I've had this wee Melbourne made amp for a long time and it's a ripper!|
|This is a funky little Guyatone from the early 60's. It looks like someone had once seen a Gibson Les Paul and half-remembered the body shape - getting the dimensions in miniature - and then had similar memory-deficiencies with a Fender Strat headstock. Though it looks pretty funny it actually sounds killer. And is there a more stylish amp for it to hang with than this Gretsch 6161 with conical speakers and wrap-around grill?|
|TIM KILL GUITARS|
|This is a small-bodied Weissenborn style Hawaiian guitar, made by Victorian luthier Tim Kill. It has a sweet hi-end voice, suitable for slide melodies.|
|The Chumbush is an unusual 12 string instrument from Turkey - the body is cheaply made from aluminium, and the fretless fingerboard is formica. I added the Japanese Teisco archtop pickup. This one can be heard on "In My Time Of Dying" from "You Have To Dig Deep"... and on the title track from Dislocation Blues.|
|The Glissentar is a hybrid instrument made by Godin guitars in Canada combining elements of the Oud and Classical Guitar. It has 11 nylon strings.|
For his overdriven sound Jeff takes a split off the magnetic pickup and sends it to a volume pedal, a Blackstone Mos-Fet overdrive, Mutron Envelope Follower, Voodoo Lab Tremolo, Z-Vex Lo-Fi Loop Junky, Boss DD6 and then his signal hits an old Australian amp called a Rex Mascot.
"As much as I love the big, rich, warm acoustic sound, I do enjoy messing with it and getting nasty! I strated running my acoustic guitar through an overdriven amp with a volume pedal back in 1996 to try and get some of the textures I'd used in the recording studio at the live shows. The acoustic responds in a really different way to an electric when you use it this way - it sometimes sounds like it's about to fly apart!"
The Rex is often used for recordings, as is a Music Man 112RD, a Fender Deluxe Reverb or an Almach 1x12. Alan Kelly from Almach also does all of the amp maintenance and electronic setup on Jeff's gear.
Jeff uses GHS strings on all his guitars, Phospher Bronze 13-56 on the regular Churchills and White Bronze 13-56 on the lap steel and the resonator guitars.
|The slide bar I use is called a Shubb-Pearse and should be able to be ordered in from most stores. Shubb makes one of the most widely available capos out there, so you should be able to get the steel too.|
|His stomp board is actually the lid off one of his road cases. "I put an AKG dynamic lapel mic underneath it and with a bit of EQ-ing it works really well."|