“I definitely have a limit to what I’ll pay, but I don’t even want to say what that is,” indie icon and multi-instrumentalist Kurt Vile jovially explains.
“It comes in waves, right, getting gear,” he says. “Sometimes I’m on a roll but these days I’m like, ‘well, I’ll probably enjoy what I have,’ and then getting caught up in even learning how to play all the things I do have.”
Vile is just starting his day doing press for his upcoming studio album (watch my moves) in his Philadelphia home which now includes a studio – dubbed ‘OKV Central’ – thanks in large part to the pandemic.
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“I was trying to figure out a way to take a year off or so anyway and just work on music,” he says. “I thought, ‘I’ve got this record I really want to make from home,’ then the pandemic hit and I’d been working toward building a home studio anyway, that just proved that, you know, I’m psychic,” he laughs.
While discussing the new album and the home studio, Mixdown thought we’d chat rig setups for Kurt Vile and home recording enthusiasts alike!
“I stumbled into it and played it through my bandmate Jesse’s (Trbovich) compressor pedal a lot. It’s almost like the deadline I’m like, ‘I know I like this guitar, I’m not that experienced with it,’ but then you just have to be forced to play with it because you’ve got to get the record done. Next thing you know, my tone’s really sounding like Neil Young’s On the Beach, which I found out he used a White Falcon for. You can kind of hear that in my Gretsch like, ‘oh I see what’s going on here, stealing a page from Neil’s book again!’”
I gravitate more emotionally and aesthetically to things, like the Fender Jaguar pre-CBS was my go-to guitar and you sort of understand why when you play the new ones. But I do have some new ones and they make them pretty good too!
Greco Les Paul
“I have this Greco Les Paul copy from the ‘70s and that’s the lead guitar in ‘Like Exploding Stones’.”
Nash Mary Kaye Stratocaster
“I have this playful game to make fun of my bandmate Jesse for playing a Strat, obviously they’re great guitars but one never fully resonated with me. But Rob Schnapf (producer) had this old Nash Mary Kaye Stratocaster and I fell in love with it. It’s all over ‘Hey Like a Child’, all those bendy, shoegaze-y, jangly bits are all that guitar, as well as the lead guitar in ‘Say The Word’, and ‘Fo Sho’. That’s also shoegaze-y with more fuzz.”
“I have this old Martin, I don’t even know what you would call it, it’s like a 000, it’s really small and whatever they made back then. But that thing just plays itself.”
‘70s Hiwatt Combo Amp
“I bought it years ago but that’s kind of the beauty of recording at home, you accumulate all this gear and you rarely use it but now I have an excuse to. All those things hang over my head like people telling me, ‘people don’t record with big, loud amps in a studio, people record with smaller amps,’ but all that stuff’s actually kind of bullshit because it sounded incredible through the Hiwatt. I use it a lot on the record!”
Roland Jazz Chorus
“For the Moog Matriarch and Roland Jupiter-X I used, I really got into the Roland Jazz Chorus for playing those synths through. They just sound incredible, I often just slow the speed of the chorus all the way down, and put the intensity all the way up and, man, it’s hard to turn those synths off after that.”
AEA KU4 Ribbon Mic
“I’ve got a couple of ribbon microphones from AEA and I was singing through a KU4 on ‘Like Exploding Stones’ and ‘Stuffed Leopard’ – it’s got a mellower tone. I didn’t really know what a compressor did per se until I built my studio, but I was singing a lot through one of those Purple Audio 1176 copies. But any way to warm up the signal into the digital realm with old tubes or new tubes is always key.
“I’ve got one of those EAB Tube Consoles that Mitch Easter, the legendary engineer, sold me and drove up from North Caroline with his wife and installed here in Philly
“With Rob Schnapf at his studio, he’d have me sing through a Shure SM7 because I’d usually be playing live and it doesn’t pick up a lot of bleed, you know.”
MXR Carbon Copy
“I tend to like just the sound of the amp more than anything, I like a simple analog delay, but my favourite one is the MXR Carbon Copy, I’ve had the black one forever but my bandmate Jesse just hit me toward the bright version which is green. I thought I needed another delay pedal but now I just have two Carbon Copy pedals, the bright one makes all the difference but then having them both there, it’s like, ‘I’ll never need another delay pedal again.’ At least I feel that way now, it just sounds so cool and natural, but warm. It’s changed my life for sure!”
Sherman 2 Filterbank
“I copied it off J Mascis, I found out that what he used on certain solos that I grew up on was a Sherman 2 Filterbank which is incredible. You just put some fuzz through that and next thing you know – that’s on ‘Like Exploding Stones’, that’s the insane, filtered out electric guitar.”
“This was one of the most beautiful gifts, early on I got in touch with my friend Jason who works at Moog just to ask if I could get the Matriarch as like an artist deal, and he just sent it to me and I almost cried! This was the first thing that anybody had ever given me.”
“I got to thank Roland as well because a Roland Jupiter-X was something I used a lot.” Refer to the Roland Jazz Chorus to understand why!