Ann Arbor, Michigan
I’m currently on tour with the Johnny Clegg band in north America. We’re in Ann Arbor, Michigan today for a day off after about two weeks on the road, then we carry on with the tour tomorrow. The whole thing runs with breaks until mid-August when we do the last show in Poitiers, France.
I have had several questions from people about my live rig and this seems like as good an opportunity as any to write about that. Some of this may get a bit technical, but it wouldn’t be a particularly useful article without that content. Let me just say up front, that I have no commercial relationship with Kemper GmbH (beyond having paid for their products). Maybe that will change if I write enough nice things about their kit (hehe). I do, however, have a relationship with Parker Guitars and with Lehle.
The guitars I’m currently using for tour are a Parker Fly deluxe and a modded PRS Custom 24 with Graphtech saddles and an acoustiphonic pre. An Ovation mm68 stage mandolin completes the instrument side of things for me. The two guitars fit in a Mono double bag and the mandolin goes in a Mono tenor ukulele case.
For a few months now, I’ve been using a Kemper KPA in place of an amp, for several good reasons.
- Firstly – the obvious one – I don’t have to load 150kg of amps and speakers into the venue.
- I don’t have to carry my TC Electronic G-System plus floorboard and G-lab latch switchers.
- I don’t need extra travel insurance for all that gear.
- I don’t have to run 6 or 7 individual cables each night for the setup.
- I don’t have a hit and miss mic placement result at each new venue.
- I won’t have to see my neurosurgeon at the end of this tour.
For those who don’t know, the Kemper is a profiling amplifier which makes profiles of normal tube amplifiers that guitar players use onstage and in the studio. The profiles are, to all intents and purposes, indiscernible at the audience position from the real amplifier that has been profiled. The same holds true onstage. I perform with a set of Ultimate Ears UE-7 in ear monitors and the guitar sound from the Kemper is ultimately better than the sound I had when using real amps onstage with the in ear monitoring, being as the Kemper sound is a studio profile using several mics and a good preamp.
For the tech-heads:
I have been running two Kemper units side-by-side. One is my own KPA and the other an identical clone of mine (achieved in under two minutes with a USB stick) rented from a backline company in St. Louis. My guitars both have magnetic pickups and piezos (both signals travel down a balanced [read stereo] cable into a Little Lehle switcher and then split – mags to the KPA and piezo to a BSS AR133 DI box).
The mag signal travels through a TC Polytune (a fantastic invention that checks tuning on all the strings simultaneously), then a dunlop Cry Baby wah and is then split and phase / earth balanced using a Lehle P-split. The identical signals are fed to the two Kempers and both go mono to the PA mixer.
Both Kempers are powered by a 1kva UPS, which ensures no reboots, even if the whole stage loses power. At any point, the engineer can switch from my main Kemper to the backup if there is a crash (which I have never had happen, but you can’t be too careful).
I control both Kempers with a Tech 21 midi moose for now (compact and effective while waiting for the bespoke controller to get released). The midi signal goes into KPA #1 and then gets mirrored via midi thru to the KPA#2.
I control the internal stomps on the Kemper with a Roland FS-6.
That is the story of how I get my guitar sound to the mix at a live show. I have lots of other exciting topics coming up – arranging and programming for the Johnny Clegg band, some info and outtakes from the recording process for my original project – Anthems of a Stranger, advice for others coming down the same road, touring info and much more, so bookmark this blog, or miss out!