As any normal music fan, we sometimes aren’t satisfied with simply the songs when it comes to our favorite bands. Some of us want to know their back story, some of us want to know who they’re dating, and some of us even want to know their favorite food! While some fans are simply casual and other are downright fanatical, musicians are a different breed of fans, more like brothers in arms actually. Rather than wanting to know things that have little to do with music and more to do with the trivial personal matters in the artist’s life, musicians want the gear info! And why not? It’s a chance to look at the tools in their repertoire, compare it with themselves, or even just gain a deeper sense of what makes the band work. So, for all you musicians and fans of a little band from Sheffield, England, this week’s Artist Gear story will feature one of the most exciting bands in rock today, the Arctic Monkeys!
The Beginning of the Arctic Monkeys
The beginning of the band can be traced back to the Christmas of 2001 where future Monkeys Alex Turner and Jamie Cook both received guitars as presents. Within two years, the duo had learned to play and brought in fellow Stocksbridge High schoolmates Matt Helder and Andy Nicholson on drums and bass, respectively, forming the core lineup of what would become in a matter of years one of the biggest bands in Britain. By 2003, they were rehearsing at Yellow Arch Studios in Neepsend and played their first actual gig later that year on June 3 at The Grapes, a venue in the Sheffield city center. After a few more live performances, the band cut a 17 song demo at 2fly Studios in Sheffield which they in turn burned on CDs and gave them away to fans free of charge. The demo was quickly distributed among fans, most notably via online file-sharing, further creating a buzz around the band. The demo, now known as Beneath the Boardwalk, got its name when the first sender of the file needed an album name for the file and went with that title, leading many to believe that the Arctic Monkeys themselves chose the moniker.
As the songs spread across the internet and the band’s fan-created Myspace page got absurdly popular, local periodicals began to take notice of the young up and coming band. Even BBC Radio and the local tabloids were not immune to their buzz, both featuring the Arctic Monkeys regularly on their medium. In May of 2005 the Arctic Monkeys released their first single through their own ‘Bang Bang’ label, featuring the song “Fake Tales of San Francisco” and the B-side “From Ritz to the Rubble,” releasing about 500 physical discs and sold digitally via iTunes.
By June of 2005, they signed with Domino Records, choosing the label due to owner Lawrence Bell’s DIY ethic and propensity to only sign bands that he personally enjoys. On October 17, 2005, the band released their first single with Domino, the song “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor” which went straight to No.1 on the UK charts. They repeated the same success with their subsequent single, “When the Sun Goes Down,’ reaching No.1 as soon as it was released, selling 38,922 copies. They would release their first album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, on December 23, 2005. The album was an instant success and beat out Oasis’ Definitely Maybe as the fastest selling debut album in UK history, a record that it still holds to this day.
The Gear that Makes the Arctic Monkeys
Alright, now that you know how the band got its start, now it’s time to look at the other side of the story – the gear! During their earlier years while recording and touring for Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, their gear was pretty basic, all things considered. We will be focusing on the two guitarists, Alex Turner and Jamie Cook, as they are the ones that use the bulk of the gear and effects.
Alex Turner: Frontman and singer Alex Turner’s main guitar was black Fender Bronco which gave the Arctic Monkeys much of their early tone due to the odd bridge pickup that comes with the Bronco – until it was stolen in 2011! It featured a single pickup in the bridge position and was sold as a student guitar between 1967 and 1961. Meant as a “lite” version of the two-pickup Fender Mustang, the Bronco used the body and neck of the Mustang but featured a unique tremolo arm that has only ever been featured on the Bronco, probably because the design itself was Leo Fender’s least popular.
Custom Warmoth "Frankenmaster"
Gibson Les Paul Custom
Gretsch Duo Jet
Gretsch Spectra Sonic baritone
Jamie Cook: His main guitar during most of the early years was a red Fender Telecaster ’62 Reissue with a white pickguard although he has since been favoring two of his Gibson ES-335 guitars, one brown with a black pickguard and the other red and fitted with a Bigsby tremolo arm. Of the two his main axe is the red, a ’75 model that originally came with Frequensator tailpiece until he switched to the Bigsby. At times recently, he can also be seen using a Fender Starcaster, such as during their recent Australia and New Zealand tour.
Fender Telecaster 62 Reissue - Red w/white pickguard
Gibson ES-335 Brown w/black scratch plate
Gibson ES-335 - Red - Fitted With Bigsby
Alex Turner: During their first album, Turner used a Pro Co RAT 2 pedal for all his distortion needs and a BOSS TU-2 tuner pedal and nothing else. A pretty simple setup, although it would grow as soon as they moved to their second album, Favourite Worst Nightmare. For that album, he pretty much completely ditched his old effects and instead added a Ibanez Ts-808 Tubescreamer for his overdrive needs along with a Hughes & Kettner Tube Rotosphere, a preamp pedal that simulates the sounds of a Leslie speaker, a Danelectro Reel Echo, an Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man and a Boss LS-2 Line Selector. By the time of their third album, Humbug, his main pedal board configuration in order was Boss LS-2 Line Selector > Boss TU-2 Tuner > Cornell First Fuzz > Ibanez TS-808 Tubescreamer > Boss DM-1 Analogue Delay. Also thrown in the mix at times is an Electro-Harmonix Hum Debugger to take care of noise related issues when using vintage equipment.
Pedalboard during Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
Known Effects Used By Alex Turner:
Boss Chorus Ensemble CE-1
Boss LS-2 Line Selector
Boss TU-2 tuner
Cornell First Fuzz
Danelectro Reel Echo
Dunlop DC Brick Power Supply
Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man
Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Plus pedal
Hughes & Kettner Rotosphere MK2
Ibanez TS-808 Vintage Tubescreamer overdrive pedal
Morley Power Wah
MXR Micro Amp pedal
Pro Co Rat 2 distortion pedals
Jamie: While Alex stuck with his single effects pedal during the early days, Cook’s setup was fairly simple too, although it wasn’t nearly as straight forward as Turner’s. His main effects during the days of the first album was an MXR M-104 Distortion+ , an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, a T-Rex Dr. Swamp Twin Distortion and a BOSS TU-2 tuner. Pretty much all distortion pedals save for the tuner, but by the time the second album came out, he progressed just as Alex did, if not more so. By the time My Favourite Worst Nightmare came around, Cook had added a few pedals to his repertoire, most notably a Little Big Muff (instead of the bigger original one, probably to conserve space on his growing pedal board), one Electro-Harmonix HOG, two Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man pedals and one Electro-Harmonix Pulsar tremolo pedal while getting rid of most of the older pedals. More recently, Cook has added a BOSS RE-20 Space Echo as well as a Z-Vez Super Distortion.
Jamie's pedalboard during Humbug
Known Effects Used By Jamie Cook:
Boss LS-2 Line Selector
Boss RE-20 Space Echo
Boss Tuner pedal
Death By Audio Fuzz Gun
Dunlop DC Power Brick
Electro Harmonix Big Muff
Electro Harmonix Little Big Muff
Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man Delay
Electro Harmonix HOG Guitar Synthesizer
Electro Harmonix Hum debugger
Electro Harmonix Pulsar Tremolo
Ernie Ball VP Junior
MXR M-104 Distortion+
T.Rex Dr.Swamp Twin Distortion
ZVEX Super Duper
Alex: As far as amplifiers go, it’s a lot more straight-forward than with their effects. In the early years, Alex exclusively used Orange AD30T amplifiers. As the sound matured (and he began making tons more money) he switched over to a few amps instead of just the one kind. He now uses a VOX AC30 for most of the sound, a Selmer Zodiac 30 watt for his more distorted tones and a Fender Vibroverb for his clean tones.
Known Amplifiers used by Alex:
Selmer Zodiac 30 watt
Jamie: Unlike Alex, Jamie has pretty much stuck with his amplifier choices for most of his career. In the early days, he only used Hiwatt Hi-Gain Combo amps which gave the Arctic Monkeys’ rhythm that crunchy tone they’re known for. He’s still using his combo amp, but has added a Badcat Hot Cat 30R amp head and Hiwatt 4x12 cabinets.
Known Amplifiers used by Jamie:
Hiwatt Custom 50 Watt 2x12 Combo
Hiwatt 4x12 Cabinet
Badcat Hot Cat 30R Amplifier