Chris Wolstenholme: The Sticky Ver. 1
Chris Wolstenhome is the Bassist for the British Rock band “Muse”. He is well known in the bass playing circles for his unique and strange ways of combining effects to create what to some is “bass bliss” but to others is a gimmick.
Chris uses multiple different distortion and fuzz pedals, coupled with synths, delay, filters, octaves and other effects to make some of the most interesting sounds I have ever heard come from a bass player. His design is interesting, and pleasing to the ears. His tone fits the pocket of the band very well, and compliments Matt Bellamy.
His list of gear is not short at all. While I myself have the majority of his gear, I am nowhere near the same level, nor will I ever be. I’ll break his pedals down into sections, and describe what information I have about these, and provide as much detail as possible, where I can. First up… DIRT!!!
Chris has used multiple different pedals over the years with Muse. He started off using the ODB-3 and a green Russian Big Muff on the Showbiz tour. Moving to Origin of Symmetry (OoS), he left the ODB-3 off the board, and replaced the Green muff for a Black one. The ODB-3 had a replacement. The highly sought after pedal, the Human Gear Animato. This pedal was limited to 300 units’ world wide, and is no longer in production. Later in life, around The Resistance, Chris added a Zvex Woolly Mammoth, an HBE Hematoma and a Prunes and Custard. All of these remain today.
Synth Effects: Chris loves synth pedals, and uses them quite a lot. The first pedal he acquired for this type of effect was the infamous Akai Deep Impact. These pedals are sought after as well, and can sell in upwards of $800 on eBay, while just one year ago, could be had for $400. This pedal gives 9 preset functions allowing him to bank 9 tones to switch back and forth from. It first debuted on OoS and has been in use ever since. It is rumored Chris actually owns 8 pedals. The next pedal he uses is the Line 6 FM4 Filter Modeler. Patches are unknown at this time, but the pedal is in use, and was configured with an expression pedal, as well as rack mount versions, however this is pretty much all the info we have on this. Chris also uses a Digitech Bass synth Wah. This first showed up on Absolution, and appears to still be in service today.
Filters: Chris uses a few different filters to achieve some interesting effects. First, we know he uses the FM4, which could be a filter or a synth effect, or both. He now has a Micro Qtron on his board for the Resistance and an Electrix Filter Factory in the rack. Both are unknown uses (at least I have no idea what they are 100%) but both are important enough to lug around.
Octaves: Chris used to have only one, the old stand by… The Boss OC-2. This pedal was, and is his go to octave pedal. He used it regularly with dirt to create a very synthy octave down effect. Recently, he has added not one, but 2 EHX Octave Multiplexers… One old and one new style.
Blend Pedals and loop switchers: Chris needed a way to distribute his effects to different amps, or all to one, so he used multiple effects loops, or pedal switchers. Originally, he had a Boss LS-2 and a Pete Cornish Line selector through OoS. When Absolution came out, he moved to midi rack switching. His current configuration is not totally known, but the gear he uses is.
The gear is listed in great detail at the bottom of the post...
The way he gets his tone mostly, is from stacking effects. The easiest way to describe this is to illustrate it for you. The Boss LS-2 allows you two effects loops, each with an independent volume control, and multiple options to switch over them. Using the A+B patch, you can make a very convincing attempt that goes something like this…
Bass > Boss LS-2 >
Chain A> Octave>Dirt>dirt>return
By leaving chain b’s effects off, you can “blend in” some clean tone. So, for the infamous “Osaka Jam”, turn on the OC-2 and Animato in Chain A, and leave Chain B empty. You provided clean tone with the effected tone, and there you go… Osaka Jam!!!!
You can take is a step further, by stacking dirt and synth. Like so…
Chain B>Deep Impact>Return
The Deep Impact allows you to blend some clean into the tone, giving you a three way stack effectively. Using patch #2 on the Deep Impact, and the Muff toned back a bit, 50% clean on the DI, you can get Hysteria, or as convincing as it has to be.
The Pete Cornish switcher allowed him to blend his entire effects loop with clean, so he could double stack 100% DI and Muff, with clean, for more impact.
Chris has used many different basses throughout his time with Muse. He started with Bass collection basses, and had a few other various basses around Showbiz. OoS brought the first sign of his use of Pedulla basses.
He used a few variations, but most were the same kind of bass. The biggest rumor is that he has a 5 string converted to a four string to add string spacing. This was supposed to be his main Pedulla, which was originally red, but spray painted by Matt. This bass has the original Red headstock, and four tuners, and no extra holes. It is a Pedulla Rapture RB-4 single Pickup in Candy read, spray painted Matte Black with a black covered Pickgaurd. As time went on, the black paint wore away, and some call it the “dragon bass” because the wear pattern looks like a dragon.
Around Black Holes and Revelations, Chris started using other basses to satisfy his tone. He started using Fender Jazz Basses, and Rickenbacker basses. He used these through out the BHaR touring, and also on The Resistance. He has added a few basses to the recording arsenal, including a headless Status S2 bass, a Gibson Grabber, a Chrome Fender 51’ P bass and a broken acoustic.
Mods that are done to any and all of his basses are not totally known at this point, though I am sure you could pay Manson to tell you.
Chris has an interesting amplification setup. He uses a very rare breed of amplifier, in a convincing number. The Marshall DBS 7400. This amplifier is capable of 400 watts RMS power, and 4000 (no that is not a typo) watts peak power. The amplifier is a dual power stage solid state amp with a blended SS/Tube preamp. This amp is very heavy, pushing 50 lbs alone. Chris uses a total of three now, where before he had 2 to 4 showing in a rack. He uses these in a unique configuration, providing him with massive tonal abilities, for minimal work.
His cabinets used to be a series of Marshall DBS cabinets ranging from 1x15 to 4x10, to 2x15s. Now he uses cabinets made by Mills. He has 2 4x10s and a single 1x15. Normally, he uses the 1x15 for clean bass, keeping the bottom end pumping, while his effects will run through the 4x10s, allowing tight crunch. Previously, Chris utilized a Marshall Bass State 150 combo amp for his distortion, at 150 watts and a single 15” woofer, it would crank. Now, his midi setup allows each bank to go through any amp he wants. This is truly where his rig gets so complex, you will never duplicate his modern tone.
Chris uses three midi patch bays, programmed into 3 banks. Each bank has a selection of pedals placed together to route to the amp of choice. Normal dirty tone for Chris is clean through amp one into the 1x15, Animato through amp 2 into 4x10 #1, and muff into amp three and 4x10 #2. Any loop can be placed through any or all of the amps/cabs. This allows for maximum flexibility.
Chris’s Style is that of a fast finger player. He can pump out 16th notes very quickly for a rock player. Mostly, because he has a very light touch. It seems he can dig in and grab some tone from his basses, but it is the lighter touch which allows his fingers to fly over the fret board. He only uses a pick where it is needed. Knights of Cydonia and Map of the Problematic are two examples. Recently, Chris added some slap bass into a studio recording, on the song Undisclosed Desires. This is the first track he has done so on, and probably will be the last, though, never say never.
While I may have a ton of information relating to the signal chain, and actual patches (which are included in this document) I do not know everything that he is doing, otherwise I would be the most successful Muse cover act in the world. Point is, there are some things, you just don’t know, which will pose problems when trying to duplicate some things he does. For instance, he has 2 PODs in his rack. We have no clue what they are for, and what the settings are. We don’t know how extensively his basses are modified, if at all from Manson Guitars. For some pedals, there is no way of telling the settings. Most will be trial and error. The routing of the pedals is unknown anymore, and honestly, will never be known, without Chris actually telling us. This brings me to my next point. The amount of money you would have to spend is astronomical to get to his level, even at the OoS level. Let me explain…
I have the following gear as my rig, and only rig:
Pedulla Rapture Single pick up 4 string (Black)
Marshall DBS 7200/7400 head
Marshall DBS 2x10/4x10/1x15 cabinets
Human Gear Animato
Akai Deep Impact
Russian Big Muff
Line 6 FM4
Digitech Bass Synth Wah
Now I have other pedals on my board, and some of these are not on there now, but that is the OoS setup. I can nail almost every tone I attempt to get, and with authority, however… My wallet is very light because of it.
The Marshall heads alone, ran over $1000 total, for both, and the refurb on each. The cabs were $780 shipped. The Deep Impact was $450 on TB. The Animato was $450 imported from Japan. The other pedals added up to around $500-$600 with cables. The Pedulla was a grand.
That totals up to over $4000 dollars in just a few things to make music, and while I enjoy it, and use them for my own benefit, it was still the price of a Honda Civic Hatchback!!! With the other pedals I own, the second Pedulla and what not, I am up over $7000 invested.
This is not even getting close to the three amp, triple Mills cab, midi switching, rack mounted tone generator he is using, or his long list of Fender, Rickenbacker and Pedulla basses.
Tips on creating a sound which is similar to Chris:
So, you wanna sound like him huh? You think you got the skills to nail his parts? Ok. Well, here are a few tips, and pedals which you can buy to get close to his tones, some of the time.
First off, Chris gets his tone from splitting his tone over multiple amps. While this is all good for a Millionaire, we are not as fortunate. I suggest a Boss LS-2. This pedal allows you a pair of loops, to patch different pedals through and stack the effect. Chain A I use for my dirt, and chain B I use for Synth/Modulation. You can run A into B, and what not, but I mostly leave it on A+B. Get one and play around with it…
Second, the Big Muff. The Black cased Big muff is one of his most used pedals. Get a black boxed muff, and do it soon. While plentiful, they are now discontinued, and will go up in price, once the new ones are gone. Settings: All knobs around 2 o’clock, adjust until you get it, but start there since all are a little different.
For synth tones, there is no real replacement for the Deep Impact. While some people say the Korg G5 tracks better, or sounds more like his tone, the fact is, Chris uses a Deep Impact. I am not advocating spending close to $1000 for this pedal, unless you really need it, but it is worth it in my opinion.
You will need a Boss OC-2. they can be had for $40 if you look hard enough. You can get an OC-3 and use the OC-2 mode, but nothing replaces the original. Settings are 1 down full up, dry 50% 2 down, off.
The coveted Human Gear Animato is a hard beast to find. Took me 2 years to track one down. I recommend buying one if you ever see it in a store, which you won’t but crazier things have happened. You can get close though… And I’ll tell you how. Sure, you can get a Rat, simple and easy. It will get to the level of distortion, but the voicing, and timbre are all wrong. I found a Hardwire Tube Overdrive is very close. You still miss the timbre, and the nasal sound, but it is close enough, that at stage volume, you will fool almost everyone.
Chris used 40-60-80-100 sized strings up through BHaR. Now he is using 45-65-85-105, in stainless steel. Not that this really matters, but some fanboi’s have to cover everything.
He uses a leather Manson Guitars Strap.
Below is his rig, in its entirety, according to Bass Player Magazine, November 2009.
-Fender American Standard Jazz
-73 Fender Jazz
-Status Series II Headless
-Noah Guitars Excalibur Bass
-Pedulla Rapture RB-4
-Rickenbacker 4001 and 4003 Basses
Live rigs: 3 rigs total
1: Marshall DBS 7400 into a Mills 1x15
2: Marshall DBS 7400 into a Mills 4x10
3: Marshall DBS 7400 into a Mills 4x10
All rigs are stacked side by side, with in ear monitor and subwoofer side fill for monitoring.
Effects: Three distinct Effects loops. Loop one goes to all three amps:
Electroharmonix Octave Multiplexer; TC Electronics G-Major multi effects unit; ElectroHarmonix Big Muff Pi; Akai Deep Impact SB-1 Bass synth
Loop two goes to amp 2 only:
Big Muff; Human Gear Animato; HBE Hematoma; Crowther Prunes and Custard; Zvex Woolly Mammoth
Loop three goes to amp three only:
Big Muff; Animato; Line 6 FM4; Electrix Filter Factory; Digitech Bass Synth Wah; ElectroHarmonix Micro Q-Tron.
Typical setup for regular distorted sound: Amp 1, clean. Amp 2, Big Muff. Amp 3, Animato
DR Stainless strings .045-.105, new strings every show.
Deep Impact Settings for Space Dementia and Apocalypse Please
Space D. Apocalypse
Program 3 6
Note Off 9 9
Note On 9 9
Attack 1 8
Decay 5 5
Envelope Depth 1 1
Dynamics 8 2
Cutoff 5 9
Resonance 9 7
Balance 5 7
Level 9 9
That is all. I’ll update the Deep Impact Settings with Time is Running out and as close as I have come to Hysteria…
Below are his rigs, in order of tour. Showbiz then OoS.
Last edited by kaputsport : 02-18-2011 at 12:23 PM.