We dive into the gear of the incomparable multi-instrumentalist PJ Harvey
Arguably one of the most acclaimed musicians of the past 25 years, PJ Harvey is a musical whirlwind.
Breaking into mainstream consciousness with her massive 1991 single ‘Dress,’ Polly Jean Harvey’s unique brand of raw punk blues proved to be a groundbreaking and inspiring force of the 90’s.
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However, unlike other artists of her era, PJ Harvey has experienced unparalleled longevity due to her experiments with different genres and textures to critical acclaim in the 2000s, becoming the only artist to ever win the coveted Mercury Prize twice – first for 2000’s Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea and 2011’s Let England Shake.
A multi-instrumentalist with a penchant for vintage instruments and heavy tones, we dive into PJ Harvey’s wide assortment of gear.
1970s Gretsch Broadkaster
Throughout her studio and live output in the 1990s, PJ Harvey played a hollow body Gretsch Broadkaster from the 1970s. While the majority of the guitar is original, you can see that PJ has swapped out the original rounded Grestch tone knobs for more traditional witches hat knobs, which can be seen in the above image.
Gibson Firebird V
In the 2000s, PJ Harvey started using a vintage Gibson Firebird as her main guitar, which can particularly be heard across her Mercury Prize winning LP Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea. If you look closely in this video, you can also spot Josh Klinghoffer, current guitarist for Red Hot Chili Peppers, playing Harvey’s aforementioned Broadkaster.
Airline 3P Res-O-Glass
Similar to the guitar famously played by The White Stripes’ Jack White, PJ Harvey’s Airline Res-O-Glass is a bit of an oddity spanning back to the rock boom of the 1960s. Originally sold in department stores for a mere $99, the Res-O-Glass is made of hollowed out plastic and typically features gold foil pickups, resulting in a gritty tone that perfectly suits the punk-blues stylings of PJ Harvey’s live performances.
PJ Harvey can frequently be seen using a Fender Jaguar live, swapping between a beaten up Sunburst Jag from 1965 (often played by main guitarist and collaborator John Parish live) and a creamy Olympic White model with a matching headstock, which can be seen in the music video for ‘The Wheel’ from her 2016 LP The Hope Six Demolition Project.
Harvey also frequented a black Fender Telecaster from the 60’s while performing in the 90’s.
For the majority of her live appearances, PJ Harvey tends to use a Vox AC30 and an Orange Retro 50 head into Marshall 4×12 cabinets, creating an immensely saturated tone.
In the studio, Harvey uses various Marshall, Fender, Mesa-Boogie and Baldwin amps, as listed in an interview that appears on her website.
PJ Harvey tends to keep her pedalboard pretty simplistic; however, it has changed across the years to include various vocal effects units and preamps to suit her evolving sound.
On PJ’s live board from 2004, you can spot her using a Line 6 DL4 Delay, two Boss DS1 Distortions, a MXR M-104 Distortion+ and a Boss DD-3 Delay.
Recently, Harvey has added a Boss RV3 Digital Reverb/Delay, an EHX Memory Man Delay, and a Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner onto her guitar board, as well as including a Digitech Vocal 300 and what appears to be a valve microphone preamp.
Mellotron M4000 Mini
A digital reissue of the original Mellotron, Harvey can be seen performing ‘Chain of Keys’ on a Mellotron M4000 in the above video.
PJ Harvey also owns a 1979 Yamaha SK20, one of the first combo keyboards to offer brass, strings, organ and synths sections, which can be seen in this 2007 performance of ‘Electric Light.’
In this performance of ‘Grow Grow Grow’ from the From The Basement series, PJ Harvey can be seen simultaneously playing an auto-harp and a Moog Taurus pedal synth with her feet.
While she’s played both tenor and alto saxophone since the age of eight, PJ Harvey has only recently incorporated the instrument into her live set, nowadays tending to almost solely perform on sax instead of guitar.
For more PJ Harvey content, check out the Guardian’s 50 Greatest PJ Harvey songs.