Manfred Mann and the Earthband have been blinding everyone with their bright lights of late. With a current hit single well up in the charts and a tour which has brought wide
acceptance to this talented group, we thought you musicians out there might like some information on the technical aspect if things. Who would know better than the number one man of the road crew, the sound man.
National Rockstar went to work on Mick Williams and he brilliantly explained just how Manfred and the band are set up on stage.
Manfred is one of the focal points of the band, as he's
responsible for a good many of the sound effects in the music. He uses three main instruments when performing, a Hammond C3 Organ, a Mini Moog, and a Fender Rhodes 73 Stage Piano. With these as the basis, he then goes
into a rather intricate series of connections, best dealt with in terms of the individual instruments.
The C3 is plugged into an MXR Phase 100 and an MXR Noisegate mixer. These in turn flow into a Hiwatt 200w
amplifier, which then goes into a 4 x 12" Hiwatt cabinet that forms a segment of a two section stack.
Mann's Mini Moog is directly connected to an Echoplex system, which accounts for some of the great work on
Blinded and other numbers. The Echoplex goes into an Acoustic 270 amp, a popular American name most used by bass players in the business. The amp couples with its mate, an Acoustic 271 Cabinet, which has two 15"
Altec speakers with a horn on the top.
The Fender Rhodes links to an MXR Phase 90 effects mixer and carries back to the same Hiwatt stack mentioned above. The Fender has its own volume controls, so Manfred doesn't
have to fiddle very much to vary what he's doing while whizzing about on the keyboards.
As far a pedals go, Mick explains: "Manfred uses a specially customised unit of Sho-Bud volume controls rolled into one to
make it easy for him to move around. The Mini Moog sits on top of the Hammond, and both go into this single unit on-stage. The Moog has been modified slightly to make it tune easier and to stabilise the tuning after
excessive use. The whole band uses the Mini's tuning device, a Korg Mini-tuner, as it has a metre with a needle indicating the correct frequency to be used." Mick feels that this device is superior to the strobe
tuner, one commonly included in a lot of groups' gear.
Chris is the man responsible for the Earth Band's vocals the majority of the time. In addition, he has a gorgeous Les Paul Custom guitar
in a sunburst finish, so lovely that most of the guitar pickers in the audiences drool in their seats. Mick had quite a time assembling all the bits on Chris and this is what he came up with.
"Chris had the
pick-ups on the Les Paul rewound by Ken Armstrong, son of Dan Armstrong, who makes guitars. He bought it new last year, making it a '75. The Gibson is plugged into a Cry Baby pedal and then put into an MXR Distortion
booster and Maestro Phase Shifter with a varied speed control." Again this adds to the great variation and dynamics found in the band's production.
The pedals are connected up to an old Fender Showman amp which
sits in front as a pre-amp. This goes into a slave amp setup and back to a Hiwatt G12 4 x 12" cabinet.
Mick slipped up by saying: "Chris also has a Gibson L5 which is beautiful. But the guitar is totally
unsuitable for Earth Band purposes. Chris really loves it." And we're sure a lot of others would too.
Colin is a man of many basses. Mick describes him as the experimenter in the group.
Seems Colin changes everything around every time he goes on stage, forever searching for the 'perfect' sound. At present, Pattenden owns a black Rickenbacker bass (as seen on the tour), a '63 black Fender Precision, and
a bass with a '70 Fender Jazz neck attached to a body which Colin did himself. The body is made of what Mick referred to as a special high density Fapela wood, noted to be better acoustically than most woods used today.
"For strings, Colin uses Rotosound Wirewound which he has been given. These are a new type where the wire wrapping stops before the bridge of the neck. This means they have to be carefully put on to get them
right, or else it affects the sound."
Mick describes Pattenden's amplifying system: "The choice of bass for the night is put directly into another Acoustic 270 amp which goes directly into two Hiwatt 200
amplifiers. These then go through four custom Altec P.A. bins, which Colin either built himself or severely modified. Each has a JBL K140 15" speaker."
Colin has an Acoustic 206 cabinet as too, also
modified. This one has two 15" JBL speakers in it. Pattenden doesn't necessarily use all of his equipment at once. That way he has two bins and two amps for a different combination with the guitars each night. As
Mick says: "It's the quest for the perfect sound with the band."
Dave Flett must like changes. Mick describes him as the group member most into sound variations with built-in tremelo
units and an array of foot pedals. According to Mick: "Dave has a Gibson Flying Arrow guitar with what is really a vibrato unit built into it. At least that's what the function is." Dave also uses a white
Strat, which the audience doesn't see too much of.
Flett is really into the footwork, as he employs four special units controlled from the floor. Dave's guitar goes through a Cry Baby pedal, an MXR Phase 90, an MXR
distortion booster, and lastly, an Echoplex, just to keep up with the maestro on the keyboards.
These sound varying devices are then sent into a 100w Hiwatt amp with two Carlsboro 4 x 12" cabinets. These have
15" speakers to fully voice the results of Flett's mixtures in the sound. For anyone interested, Mr. Flett uses Picato strings.
Up next on the list is Chris, Earth Band's thumping drummer.
The percussion section is very important in the group's music, as it's very apparent on the majority of the album and during the live set. Mick easily ran down the list of what Chris uses, as the Fibes Drum Kit is
rather a basic one.
"There's a 22" bass drum, 16" and 18" floor toms, a 13" x 10" rack tom, and a Ludwig 14" snare drum."
What is elaborate is the variation of cymbals and
bells used for the Earth Band. Colin has a combination of Paiste and Zildjian cymbals, staring with a 14" hi-hat, two 18" crash cymbals, and a 20" Paiste Dark Ride cymbal. Other cymbals are graduated down
in size and include a few oddities such as Go Go Bells, an Indian Bell Tree and an old brass bell.
Mr Slade employs a Ludwig Speed King bass drum pedal and sticks from Manny's Music shop in New York. This is the one
hassle in the group, as Chris refuses to use any other make, and means someone has to fly to New York regularly to buy sticks since Manny won't ship them overseas. We offered to help out any time. National Rockstar at
Mick The Mixer
Last but not least, we come to our informant, Mick William's, soundman for Manfred and the EarthBand. He briefly tried to explain the basics of the P.A. system he uses, but as
it's being modified, we got entangled with specifics. At the moment what is present when you see the group is an old Kelsey system with a sixteen channel desk. "This has been modified so that there are extra Martin
bins, and the horns have a JBL 2500w rig driven by a Midas 1000w amp.
Other equipment involved includes a Quad 303 amp, making it a four way system when combined with the above. Mick uses a JBL driver for the system
thus he's able to project all the variations the group produces on stage. A TEAC two-channel tape recorder and a two-track machine account for Chris Thompson's sustaining that one very breathless note at the gigs,
though this must be altered as the break between real voice and taped voice is apparent to the aware ear.
We asked Mick how he feels about working for the band and he replied: "The band is very fair. They trust
the road crew and if something goes wrong when they go on, it's usually their fault in not plugging something in right or turning something on - and they know it." In other words, Manfred Mann's EarthBand don't get
on their roadies backs, which any road crew can appreciate.