Meet Atsuko Chiba. Not only is this 5-piece from Montreal, QC one of the most talented, hard-working bands I’ve ever come across, but they’re also serious gearheads (I had to stop counting their pedals when I got to 40 because my head hurt). If you ever find yourself at an Atsuko Chiba show, you’ll also find yourself immersed in a deep, entrancing post-rock experience, complete with dark, cinematic visuals (made entirely by the band) that interact perfectly with the music being performed. You may also wonder where you are, and how you got to this strange place. You’ll then decide that you never want to leave.
I spent a few days on the road with these guys this past spring, and was able to snap a few photos after a show at The Upper Room in Grand Rapids, MI on 5/17/15. Here’s some words from guitarists Karim and Eric, guitar/synth guru Kevin, and bassist David regarding their sprawling rigs:
Karim: I have pedals on my board that surprise me every time I experiment with them, like the Red Panda Particle Delay, the Eventide TimeFactor and Line 6 M5 to name a few. I really want to push the idea of the guitar very far away from what it is known to be. An important part of this is not only being able to create the sound, but being able to control it and twist it to do what you want it to. Right now, if I had to pick a certain combo/trio that’s been really opening up sound possibilities for me, it would have to be running the Godzilla Fuzz into the EHX Pitchfork, whose expression input is being controlled by the EHX 8 Step, which then runs in to the Red Panda Particle Delay. The amount of variety and complexity you can achieve is really exciting.
Eric: I play an American Jazzmaster. I love the grittiness of this guitar. I bought it awhile ago and although it can be finicky at times, (bridge problems, noisy pickups) it’s still my favorite sounding guitar. I’m using an Orange Dual Terror Amp. I always use the “fat” channel live, which runs the amp at 30 watts. There’s also a 15-watt option, but I only use that to record overdrive. A combo of pedals that I really enjoy using at the moment is the EarthQuaker Devices Organizer into a Lo-fi delay from the [Strymon] Timeline, then into a long modulated reverb from the [Strymon] Big Sky. You can get a big, gritty organ-esque sound using those three together. My favorite pedals to use in general are the Eventide “Factor” pedals. They’re full of amazing functions and they sound amazing. The possibilities are endless.
Kevin: One of my favorite pedal combinations, at the moment, is the Line 6 M5 going into the Boss PS-6, then the Eventide PitchFactor, followed by the Eventide H9. This combination allows me to get some pretty unusual guitar sounds. Both of the Eventide pedals are incredibly deep and I’m learning new things about them every day. They are great for creating evolving soundscapes or making your guitar sound more like a synthesizer. The PitchFactor is definitely a pitch pedal first and foremost, but with the right tweaking, you can get the pedal to do some pretty amazing rhythmic tremolo sounds, as well as sequenced filter sounds, not to mention the array of chorus, pitched delay, and harmonizer settings that are available to you.
David: I’ve had this [Marcus Miller] Jazz bass for awhile and it is definitely one of my favorite instruments. It was my first decent quality instrument and I really had to learn how to get it to sound the way I wanted. It definitely helped me sculpt the sound I had been seeking for a long time. My favorite pedal on my board is probably the [Dwarfcraft] Eau Claire Thunder. I love how over-the-top and gnarly it can be. I use it for massive chords and really heavy sections. It sounds especially good when the guitars and keyboards are covering the high registers. It really helps me keep everything grounded and very full. I’d never sell it.The Line 6 M9 is a very important piece of the puzzle as well. I use it for all my delay/modulation/pitch and looping needs. Its so easy to use, and sounds great. The most important pedal in my chain is probably my [MIJ 1980s] Boss CS-2 compressor. I got into this pedal because of one of my favorite bass players, Juan Alderete. I never turn it off.