Gear Rundown: Crowded House

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Gear Rundown: Crowded House

Crowded House Rig Rundown
Words by James Callanan

Diving into the gear behind Crowded House, the Neil Finn fronted outfit with an uncanny ability to generate sincere ear-candy.

Formed in the early seventies in Auckland, Split Enz were a legendary New Zealand band, with their artistic flavour of pop music achieving success in the Antipodes, and the world over. 1984 saw the end of Split Enz, following the ‘Enz with a Bang’ tour. Split Enz guitarist and vocalist Neil Finn teamed up with bandmate Paul Hester, and with the addition of Nick Seymour on the bass, Crowded House was born. 

Crowded House

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With hits including ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’, ‘Fall at Your Feet’, and ‘Something so Strong’, Crowded House were renowned for their creative, heartfelt writing, and tasteful musicianship. Despite numerous band splits and changes in personnel, Crowded House are still active, with the constant that is Neil Finn and his uncanny ability to generate sincere ear-candy. Crowded House continue to inspire generations of musicians with their iconic material from the ‘80s, as well as current live performances; such as their set at Glastonbury Festival in 2022.


1973 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe Goldtop

1973 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe Goldtop Neil Finn

When people picture Neil Finn, they probably imagine him holding his classic pancake Goldtop Les Paul Deluxe from 1973, burned into their retinae from that famous performance at the Sydney Opera House for Crowded House’s first farewell show. Having been there throughout Crowded House’s duration, this guitar now features the patina, scratches, and exposed wood that you’d expect from 50 years of use and abuse. “The Don’t Dream It’s Over guitar” as affectionately referred to by Finn’s guitar technician, features a set of mini humbuckers, and is “surprisingly versatile”. Finn also has a near-identical guitar as a backup, which was produced in the same year, and has the same pickup configuration as his main.

Gretsch G6131 ‘Firebird’ Duo Jet

Neil Finn Gretsch G6131 ‘Firebird’ Duo Jet

Throughout his tenures in Split Enz, Crowded House, and even more recently in Fleetwood Mac, Neil Finn has used a variety of Gretsch Electric Guitars to great effect. His current main guitar is a 1958/59 Duo Jet Firebird in a dark red colour, which he adored so much that he had it X-Rayed and cloned by the Gretsch master builder as a backup. It is said that after walking into a music shop on tour to find some inspiration in the form of a new guitar, Finn was gifted his Firebird Jet by the store owner. Finn’s number one Duo Jet bears the physical signs of 65 years of playing and touring, including a gouge in the back of the neck that provides use as a ‘marker’ for Finn’s picking hand.

Maton Acoustic Guitars

Maton Acoustic Neil Finn

Much of the beauty of Crowded House comes in their ballads, which are often powered by acoustic guitar accompaniments. Staying true to his Oceanic upbringing, Finn has largely favoured Maton acoustic guitars, which have been made in Melbourne since 1949. Preferring a guitar with a smaller body, Neil Finn has been known to use Maton EBG 808 acoustics. These models have a top that is smaller than a traditional concert guitar, paired with the depth of a dreadnought acoustic. This combination yields an interesting output sound, which combines an articulate top end with genuine sonic depth. Finn has also collaborated with Maton on various occasions, with a select number of Neil Finn Custom Shop guitars offered for sale. On a 2022 episode of That Pedal Show, featuring Crowded House, it was explained that a custom 12-string was made for Finn, mirroring the same dimensions and tonality as his six-string EBG 808s.

Amplifiers and Effects

Vox AC-30

Despite often using a Roland Jazz Chorus 120 during his time in Split Enz, Neil Finn leaned away from the solid-state amp in favour of Vox AC-30s. While the Vox AC30 is probably Finn’s most used amp in Crowded House, he has used many others, often blending their signal with the AC30 sound. Namely, these amps have included the Fender Princeton, Fender Deluxe Reverb, and in more recent times, Matchless guitar amplifiers.

Vox AC-30 Crowded House

As of the most recent Crowded House tour, Neil’s sound is now a combination of a Matchless head into a 1 x 12” speaker cab, and a modern stereo Magnatone amplifier. Though the Magnatone is only a recent discovery for Finn and his team, his tech now refers to this combination as “the Neil Finn sound”.

When it comes to effects, Neil Finn tends to keep it relatively simple, with none of his pedal selections being more boutique than they need to be. He uses a TREX Mudhoney II Dual Distortion, an EHX Memory Man Deluxe, and a Boss DD-3 for time-based modulation. The biggest mainstay on his board over the years has been the Crowther Hotcake, with this classic overdrive having presence throughout Crowded House.

Crowded House Pedalboard


Nick Seymour Crowded House Bass

To propagate his melodic and complimentary basslines out to the world, Nick Seymour has most commonly used Fender solid body bass guitars, heavily playing numerous Precision and Jazz basses over the years. Additionally Seymour played Spector PJ and JJ basses, particularly in his younger years. More recently, Seymour played a Gibson Midtown Standard Bass – a semi-hollow instrument – at the Sydney Opera House in 2016. While information on Seymour’s preferred amplification over the years is difficult to obtain, he has played through Ashdown BTA400 Heads and ABM810 Cabinets in recent times.


Paul Hester Crowded House Drum Kit

In the early years of Crowded House, the late, great Paul Hester played a Japanese-made Pearl drum kit with maple shells, likely of the MX model, with white wrap. This kit was famously played on wheels in the ‘Something so Strong’ music video, which was filmed on a farm in the Yarra Valley. Over the years, Hester had numerous similar kits with slight variations, such as a similar kit with oyster style wrap, and a more modern Pearl kit with long lugs.

Later on, Hester moved to use DW drums, and was also seen playing a Yamaha kit – likely to be a Recording Custom, in the years before his passing.

It’s undeniable that the magic of Crowded House is in their ability to write and arrange gorgeous songs, and in their expert musicianship. However, through their careful selection, the members of the band have been able to extract sweet musical nectar from some of their instruments for decades on end. While they still play the same great songs, it’s exciting to see that their sound – from a technical standpoint –  is evolving with the times.

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