In our semi-regular nose around the equipment that some of our favourite bands use, Planet Gear, Khruangbin guitarist Mark Speer talks us through the gear they used for new album Con Todo El Mundo.
SX Vintage Series Electric Bass
This bass, paired with a Fender Bass 10 tube amp, is essentially the core of Khruangbin’s sound. It was a college graduation gift to Laura Lee back in 2010 and it’s had the same set of D’addario flat-wound strings on it since. We put a set of DiMarzio hum-canceling Jazz Bass pickups under the chrome, as well as a block of medium density foam at the bridge. It is completely dialed. Love the sound of this bass.
Pearl Piccolo Snare & Mixed Hats
For Khruangbin, we wanted to have a tight, “cracking” snare sound, sort of like the classic Stubblefield sound or the iconic “Amen Brother” break. We went to Rockin’ Robin, in Houston TX, and bought this little snare for $80. For the hi-hat, we grabbed an old Zildjian top and paired it with a crash cymbal on the bottom. For a few songs on Con Todo El Mundo, a leather sample from a furniture store covered the snare drum to lower the pitch or muffle the sound. DJ likes to keep it simple.
I’ve had this guitar since around 2003 or so, and it’s been on every Khruangbin record and on every live show since we started. It’s got Graphtech saddles and DiMarzio cruisers in the neck and bridge position. I use D’addario flat-wound strings, but I never change them. Once they’re broken in, they’ll sound the same every night until they break. This set has been on since before our tour with Chicano Batman. My favorite electric guitar without question.
Rains Pedal Steel Guitar
The initial slide and string combination was developed in both India and Hawaii before becoming associated with Country & Western music in the early 20th century. For Khruangbin, we wanted to let this classic instrument take over the space usually occupied by keyboards and synthesizers; running it through a bunch of effect pedals like chorus, phasers, vibrato, and envelope filters. In the hands of the inimitable Will Van Horn, this unwieldy instrument glides effortlessly throughout much of Con Todo El Mundo.
Congas, tambourine, zils, cabasa, cowbells, guiro, vibraslap and clave. Percussion adds so much atmosphere and vibe. Things start to sound like animals and insects and wind and sand. There’s usually multiple tracks of percussion added during recording, and we strip it back during mixdown. Our good friend and percussion wizard Charlie Perez brought his surdo, pandeiro, and tan tan to the session as well. That's him ripping it up on a doumbek during the drum break on 'Maria También'.
Mellotron M4000D Mini
Tom Lynch — amazing Houstonian and good friend of the band — loaned us the Mellotron for the making of Con Todo El Mundo, and the versatile keyboard made its way onto almost every song on the record. The Harpsichord, Strings, Choir, and Tibia Organ were used throughout, usually as single melodies to ornament top lines or provide counterpoint. Keeping a hand on the volume and pitch knobs helped it swim in and out of the mix. Magical.
Boss DM-300, HiWatt CTE, Fisher Space Expander
These are the essential spacial and time-based effects that are added by our engineer, Steve Christensen, during mixdown. The Boss DM-300 is a shimmering chorus circuit housed with a warm analog delay; equally funky on percussion, vocals, and steel guitar. The Hiwatt is a small-format no-frills tape-delay. We often put it on the room mic’s for a slap-back effect. The Fisher Space Expander (with a pair of Accutronics tanks) is a classic tube preamp for a spring reverb. It’s on every song on everything we’ve ever released. We run vocals, guitar, drums, bass, keys, percussion, the room mic’s — everything — through it. We’ve tried using plug-ins for these effects, but they just don’t sound right, and there’s nothing like reaching out and turning knobs or dropping springs.
ProphecySound Systems PiPhase MKII, Hohner Pianet
I love phase shifter effects. I’ve got a few different types from different makers, but this one is it’s own thing. It’s a gooey, drippy, spot-on remake of the classic MuTron Bi-Phase — used on countless records and the weapon of choice for Lee “Scratch” Perry — housed in a much smaller enclosure and using standard 9V power. We used it on Will’s pedal steel, my Strat, and here with its good friend, the Hohner Pianet, for an appearance on 'Evan Finds The Third Room'.
Con Todo El Mundo is out now via Night Time Stories. For more information about Khruangbin, please visit their official website.
Photo Credit: Mark Kang.