Alex Lifeson’s Snakes and Arrows Gear

March 8, 2010 | By | 3 Replies More
Alex with 'Al.'

Alex with 'Al.'

I’m a Rush fan, particularly since I came of guitar age during the Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures era, still two of my favorite albums. I did fall away from Rush a bit over the years as they got more into synths and Alex Lifeson got more into washy, ultra-chorused, ambient sounds instead of riffs.

But last night I happened to accidentally catch Rush live on DirecTV’s 101 channel. Turned out to be an hour of tunes from the Snakes and Arrows DVD, and it was freakin’ outstanding! Tight playing, great tones, good singing, well-filmed, good sound.

Alex’s tone was good – I was surprised! It sounded quite a bit more raw than what I’d become used to from him. Almost sounded like the sound really was being mic’d from an overdriven amp and speaker, rather than from a line out right into the PA or whatever.

So naturally I had to chase down his gear.

Conveniently, England’s Guitarist magazine posted a video run-down (with Alex) of Alex’s gear from that tour (2007). Here are some highlights of it with more details, I believe from a Guitar Player magazine interview from around the same time:


> In the video he runs through his guitars, but the only guitar I saw on the hour of tunes on TV last night was the one he calls “Al,” the burst custom shop Gibson Les Paul with a Floyd Rose bridge. It’s interesting that in the vid he says he tried a Bigsby and Kahler on the LP before deciding on the Floyd.

> From the pre-tour GP interview: “I’ve got a couple of Gibson Les Pauls with Piezos in them. I also have a Gibson Howard Roberts that has a Piezo and is tuned G G D G C E (low to high) for ‘The Way the Wind Blows.’ My white ES-335 is back out again this time around. That’s my baby. It’s just so deliciously great-sounding. I have an SG with a whammy – it’s in standard tuning. i have my Gibson doubleneck here at rehearsals, but I’m not so sure if it will make an appearance. I’m bringing Garrison 12-strings in D A D A A D tuning for ‘Hope’ and ‘The Main Monkey Business.’ I’m also bringing a Garrison G-50 9 [acoustic] that I did most of the recording on the album with. I run my acoustics though Fishman Auras. Those really help the Piezo tone – they’re very acoustic-sounding.”


Here's a pic of the amps and rack (Life magazine photo).

Here's a pic of the amps and rack (Life magazine photo).

> Here the video and the pre-tour interview agree: Two Alex Lifeson model Hughes & Kettner Triamps run in stereo (the two middle heads in the video), plus two H&K Switchblades “for peripheral sounds. They’ll have various effects on them, and they’ll be panned hard left and right. I kick in those two amps to create the presence of another instrument.”

> The Switchblades replaced the H&K ZenTaras, which he had used. They were super-expensive (I believe $3K U.S.!) solid-state modeling heads.

> He added: “In two of my monitors there’s a 15ms delay between the two Triamps so I can get a left and right sound, leaving the middle monitor open for vocals, drums and bass.”

> The H&K website has no specs that I could find on the signature cabinet, but recommends a 4×12 with Celestion Vintage 30s.


Because the video quality isn’t good, and the interviewer doesn’t appear to be asking any probing questions, Alex glosses over his rack and pedals. But here’s what he said in the GP interview:

> “My rack is pretty straightforward. I don’t have a lot of stuff in there, but it’s really effective. The main things are a Dunlop DCR-1SR Crybaby Rack Wah, a T.C. Electronic 1210 Spatial Expander + Stereo Chorus/Flanger, and the T.C. G-Force [delay] – I use three and one is a spare. I use the 1210 for chorus. I may add a second one or use a Loft chorus. The Loft chorus is on the ‘Limelight’ solo. I have a couple of Behringer mixers that I run into the Voodoo Lab GCX switchers. ”

> “At Lifeson’s feet are an Ernie Ball volume pedal, a Dunlop DCR-12FC foot controller, an Axess Electronics FX1 MIDI controller, a set of Korg MPK 180 bass pedals for triggering keyboard sounds, and a lone Boss TU-12H tuner.”

Now to get that DVD….


Here’s a very cool pre-Moving Pictures version of ‘Tom Sawyer’ – Alex goes nuts on the solo!

Category: Alex Lifeson, Celestion speakers, Dunlop/Cry Baby, H&K, Les Paul, TC Electronic

Comments (3)

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  1. WoodyTone! - Alex Lifeson’s 2010 Amp Rig | July 14, 2010
  1. George Pattison says:

    The speakers in the signature 4×12 cabinet for the Triamp MkII ALSE are G12M Greenbacks, not V30's. I know, because I own one.

  2. guitar speed says:

    A Paul with a tremolo! always wanted to do that. I like their new work a lot. I missed hearing the great guitar tone, because I just didn't care for when they were experimenting with all of those different sounds. Not that its a bad thing, its just that they set a new standard during the 70's that's hard to beat, even for them I guess at times. But the new work is pretty damn cool. I love Alex's distortion.

    I think having a tone that sounds clean when you play soft, but can be sharp and grinding when you play heavier is sweet.

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