Gear Rundown: Kele Okereke and Russell Lissack of Bloc Party

Inside The Twin Guitar Attack Of Indie's Favourite Dance-Rock Act

If you grew up in the 2000s, there's a fair chance you would have boogied your butt off to 'Banquet' or 'Helicopter' as a drunk teenager at some now-defunct festival - surely it's a rite of passage you need to have experienced to advance into adulthood. For many, Bloc Party epitomise an era of glory where indie reigned supreme, with the British quartet's first two LPs Silent Alarm and A Weekend In The City still holding up as classics of the genre. Driven largely by the fusion between the band's machine gun drumming and the relentless dual guitar attack of Kele Okereke and Russell Lissack, the band has since spread their wings to explore further electronic stylings, with records such as Intimacy and Hymns showcasing their versatility as they continue to develop nearly 20 years since their inception. With the recent announcement that the band will return to Australia in November to perform Silent Alarm in its entirety, we put Kele and Russell's rigs under the microscope for this week's Gear Rundown to help you get acquainted with the everlasting indie phenomenon that is Bloc Party.

GUITARS
 

FENDER TELECASTER STANDARD

 

Throughout the majority of their time in Bloc Party, both Kele Okereke and Russell Lissack have utilised the humble Fender Telecaster as their primary guitars, pairing the classic solid body guitar with layers of effects to complete their signature twin guitar attack.

 

 

Since the release of the band's rapid-fire debut Silent Alarm in 2005, Okereke has favoured an early 2000s Fender MIM Telecaster in a sunburst finish, using the guitar as his main touring instrument ever since. Okereke's Telecaster appears to be stock, with the exception of a black pickguard, which was added some time around the release of 2012's Four.

 

 

Lissack's Telecaster is slightly more recognisable than Okereke's, featuring a Jonny Greenwood-esque assortment of various cartoon stickers and pins across the body and strap. Purchased in 2003 with his share of Bloc Party's advance upon signing to Wichita Recordings, Lissack's Tele hails from the US, and features the addition of a Seymour Duncan single-coil in the bridge position. Like Okereke, Lissack has used his Telecaster as his main guitar throughout much of his career, and still tours with the instrument today.

 

GRETSCH CHET ATKINS TENNESSEE ROSE

 

 

For Bloc Party's more mellow songs, Okereke often straps on a hollow-body Gretsch Chet Atkins model, which he acquired around the touring cycle for A Weekend In The City. Okereke's Gretsch can be heard throughout performances of tender tracks such as 'This Modern Love' and 'I Still Remember.'

 

FENDER TELECASTER '72 CUSTOM

 

 

In addition to his aforementioned main Telecaster, Lissack often tours with a black '72 Custom Telecaster, featuring a humbucker in the neck position for beefy tones and a single-coil in the bridge for classic Tele twang. What makes this guitar interesting, however, is the addition of a plastic toy mounted under the pickguard of the instrument, which Lissack uses in conjunction with a custom made delay pedal to create weird, glitchy laser sounds throughout songs such as 'Octopus'.

 

FENDER STRATOCASTER

 

 

While touring Four, Okereke began using a Jeff Beck signature Stratocaster for the album cut 'Real Talk', continuing to use the instrument for various songs live while touring the band's 2016 effort Hymns. 

 

 

Lissack can also be seen strumming a Stratocaster on occasion, tending to favour the hot-rodded Billy Corgan signature model while on the road.

 

GIBSON SG

 

 

When performing 'The Good News,' a chugging bluesy single from 2016's Hymns, Lissack eschews his signature style in favour of a laid-back melodic passage, using a slide on his Gibson SG to add to the track.

 

AMPLIFIERS

 

 

For almost the entirety of their careers, both Okereke and Lissack have used Fender Hot Rod Deluxe amps, probably due to their widespread availability when touring across the world and tone shaping ease.

 

 

It's worth noting that both guitarists use attenuators with their amplifiers to tame the overall volume and allow for more headroom, which could be due to their heavy use of effects pedals. Okereke and Lissack have been spotted with Marshall PB100's and THD Hot Plate Power Amplifiers atop of their amps at various points throughout their careers.

 

EFFECTS PEDALS

 

 

Bloc Party are renowned for their intuitive use of effects pedals to create uncanny sounds to power their driving dance-rock stylings, with Lissack in particular boasting a monstrous board full of delays, modulation, and distortion effects.

 

 

Although still using a fairly respectable amount of effects, Okereke definitely keeps things a little bit more simple than Lissack. His rig consists of a Line 6 DL4 Delay (which he also feeds his vocals into to manipulate throughout 'Different Drugs'), a Line 6 FM4 Filter Modeler, a Boss RC-20XL Loop Station, a Boss DD-3 Digital Delay, two Boss OS-2 Overdrive/Distortions, a Boss OC-3 Super Octave (used to play bass parts throughout 'Sunday') and a Boss TU-2 Tuner. 

 

 

Lissack, on the other hand, is an absolute madman and loves effects pedals more than he loves children, chocolate cake and possibly even life itself. His pedalboard, a complex beast, is best observed by watching Premier Guitar's feature on Bloc Party from 2016, which features Lissack running through his complex signal path and how he uses oddities such as the Boss SL-20 Slicer and Line 6 MF to create the warbling tremolo effects heard in 'Virtue.'

 

Elsewhere, Lissack explains how he uses his four delay pedals to create the unique reverse sound that opens Silent Alarm with 'Like Eating Glass', as well as how he pairs an EHX HOG with distortion for the iconic riff from 'Hunting For Witches.' Needless to say, the man sure knows his shit. 

 

 

Feature image via Rachael Wright.

 

Find all the details on Bloc Party's Australian tour here.

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