Spawning from the urban jungle of Brooklyn in the early 2000's, Ratatat are an instrumental force to be reckoned with. Fusing the synth-funk stylings of Daft Punk with the meticulously orchestrated harmonies associated with Queen and Led Zeppelin, Mike Stroud and Evan Mast have grown from New York cool kids to become one of the finest instrumental rock acts of their era. Whether working with The Neptunes or Kid Cudi, the dynamic duo use a variety of instruments and effects to orchestrate the dense layering and harmonic interplay across a range of genres, boasting more vintage guitars than you could poke a stick at.
1968 EPIPHONE WILSHIRE
For the better part of his career, guitarist Mike Stroud has relied upon a vintage 1968 Epiphone Wilshire for recording and performing with Ratatat. First appearing on the cover of their self titled 2004 LP, Stroud has used this guitar in almost every single Ratatat recording and live performance, becoming an integral feature of Ratatat’s image and sound.
BRIAN MAY RED SPECIAL GUITAR
If you’re familiar with Ratatat’s signature harmonised, multi-track guitar sound, then it wouldn’t be surprising to find out that Stroud is a huge fan of Brian May, inspiring him to purchase a replica of the famed Red Special built by May prior to joining Queen. This replica model was used to great affect to create several layered harmony sections on 2015's Magnifique.
“We’re both really into Brian May,” Stroud said to Guitar Afficianado. “Especially the way he does his arrangements and orchestrations entirely with guitars. I’m sure you can hear that influence. That’s a big part of what we were trying to do with this record. We learned how he got his sounds, and I even got a Brian May Red Special guitar and a Rangemaster treble booster and plugged them into a bunch of these tiny old lap-steel amps.”
1965 FENDER STRATOCASTER
With the release of Magnifique Stroud began using a vintage Fender Stratocaster to perform renditions of some tracks live. Hailing from 1965, Stroud’s Olympic White Stratocaster can be seen prominently below in the band's performance of Magnifique jam ‘Nightclub Amnesia’.
While he tends to mainly stick to using his Epiphone Wilshire and Fender Stratocaster live, Stroud also owns several other vintage guitars which receive occasional gigs in the recording studio, including a '60s Fender Mustang, a Les Paul, a 1968 Fender Jazzmaster, a 1969 Gibson ES-330 and a Gibson J-50 flattop acoustic
1960’s FENDER 1000 PEDAL STEEL
Magnifique also prominently featured the use of a Fender 1000 Pedal Steel guitar tuned to C6 on various tracks. Produced between 1957 and 1970, the Fender 1000 featured two eight-stringed necks and eight foot pedals to control the pitch of the sliding note, creating a distinctive talking guitar sound, making the instrument stand out as an oddity when fused with Ratatat’s signature brand of electro-rock.
"Pedal steel is the most difficult instrument I’ve learned to play,” Stroud said. “It’s like being a drummer but using pitch as well. When we were recording ‘Drift’, I was just starting to learn to play pedal steel, so I could only play the notes. Evan controlled the tone knob to create the Alvino Rey talking guitar sounds while I played.”
1960’s GIBSON EB-0 BASS
Conforming to his bandmates taste for instruments from America’s golden era of production in the '60s, bassist Evan Mast tends to favour a vintage Gibson EB-0 bass guitar equipped with a single ‘mudbucker’ for live and studio work.
1960’s FENDER MUSTANG BASS
While his EB-0 gets more use onstage, Mast also tours and records with a vintage Fender Mustang bass from the late '60s to hold down the low end for the band's later works.
Like many other guitars preceding him, Stroud favours the sparkly tones of the revered Vox AC-30 combo amp, which can often been seen directly adjacent to Stroud as he performs to eliminate the need for a monitor.
For the recording of Magnifique, Stroud experimented with various student amps from the '60s in conjunction with his Brian May Red Special to replicate the Queen guitarist’s solo tone, playing through a Dickerson and a Magnatone amp on several tracks as well as using a Fender Twin Reverb to record the pedal steel heard on the record.
Whilst onstage and in the studio, Mast uses an Ampeg SVT-100 head paired with a single Ampeg 4x12 speaker enclosure for bass.
An avid appreciator of '60s psychedelic rock guitar tones, Stroud detailed his penchant for fuzz pedals in the same Guitar Aficionado interview. “I’m a big fan of fuzz pedals, and I have a ton of older models," he said. "A (Dunlop) Fuzz Face, (Univox) Super Fuzz, (Vox) Tone Bender, and a Color Sound. I also love the Z. Vex Wooly Mammoth and Fuzz Factory, which I use a lot.”
Stroud’s usual signal chain also comprises of a Dunlop Crybaby Wah, a Moog MF-102 Ring Modulator, an Ernie Ball Passive Volume Pedal, a Roger Mayer Octavia, a Pro Co Rat Distortion, and a Digitech Whammy into a Boss TU-2 Tuner. Stroud also tends to use an E-Bow to replicate his signature reversed guitar sound live, often using it in conjunction with his volume pedal to create ethereal volume swells.
For bass, Mast tends to keep his pedal chain a little simpler, running only a Pro Co Rat Distortion and an envelope filter into a tuner.
To replicate the various vintage synths and organ tones used in the studio, Ratatat employ the versatile and extremely powerful Nord Lead 2 onstage, with Mast also using a Roland SPD Sample Pad to trigger drum loops and effects throughout their live set.