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Pumpkins Siamese Dream Album Distortion?

sadpolar7

Member
Hi everyone, was looking around for a Siamese Dream distortion from the Smashing Pumpkins. I know they layered guitars a lot for that album but has anyone been able to come close to that huge distortion? Only other thing I know is they loved using different distortion and fuzz pedals instead of amp distortions. Any help would be greatly appreciated! If someone has a patch around for this then even better. cheers
 

NaturalScience

Inspired
According to Billy Corgan:

Sometimes, though, a nice lo-fi pedal is just what you need. When we did "Siamese Dream," I developed a technique of plugging my Big Muff pedal into the low sensitivity input of a 100-watt Marshall JCM 800, with the master volume on full and the preamp volume barely on at all. To me, the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff produces the ultimate super-gain VROOOM sound. Live, however, a Big Muff doesn't give you enough definition. I just keep experimenting with different combinations of pedals--and guitars--to get the ideal sound.

But yeah, it probably will take a ton of layering too. I read that the track Soma had nearly 50 guitar tracks or something like that.
 

sadpolar7

Member
That makes sense. I was actually listening to Soma before I wrote this post. It's such a unique sound and definitely sounds massively layered.
 

sadpolar7

Member

54321pj

Inspired
Great thread guy's, one of my all time favorite albums, maybe my absolute favorite... no matter how long I leave it on the shelf, when I come back to it, it sounds fresh and nails the moment every time.

There was a guy on the forum a while back who did a version of Cherub Rock, which sounded pretty damn good TBH.
I'm sure he wont mind me re-posting the link...

http://axechange.fractalaudio.com/detail.php?preset=3456


If anybody nails the Mayonnaise tone, please post it up here!
 

lqdsnddist

Axe-Master
Nothing really nails that tone because so much of it came from the production. I actually had a v4 Big Muff (op-amp version) and a JCM800 2204, and a strat with red Lace Sensor's and while it came somewhat to the same ballpark, it wasn't that massive wall of sound tone.

You can set the Axe muff to an op-amp and get a similar tone with some eq tweaks but its not going to sound like the album tone. Pumpkin's live don't really sound like it either for that matter

That album sort of is among the best examples of studio magic and production value for guitar tones
 

sadpolar7

Member
Great thread guy's, one of my all time favorite albums, maybe my absolute favorite... no matter how long I leave it on the shelf, when I come back to it, it sounds fresh and nails the moment every time.

There was a guy on the forum a while back who did a version of Cherub Rock, which sounded pretty damn good TBH.
I'm sure he wont mind me re-posting the link...

http://axechange.fractalaudio.com/detail.php?preset=3456


If anybody nails the Mayonnaise tone, please post it up here!
Not bad. Maybe if i layer it 10 times it'll sound right. ; )
 

Disco Cat

New Member
The Siamese Dream and MCIS distortion sounds are largely produced by stacking multiple pedals, like one opamp Muff into another opamp Muff, with each having a bit different settings. Billy used both a V4 and a V5 opamp Muff on SD, but he also had a ton of other pedals that he would have stacked in different ways. I think another Muff he used is a tall-font green Russian Muff.
 

dr bonkers

Fractal Fanatic
Vendor
Experiment with parallel paths of muff drives.

Of course, you still need the track layering, but it will help you get closer.
 

lqdsnddist

Axe-Master
Jcm800, v4 or v5 op-amp muff or one of the clones, including the excellent EHX reissue which you can pick up for like $60, layer and repeat.

Strat with hotter pickups can help, they used Lace Sensors but those aren’t magical

It’s a simple tone really. Listen to Billy’s EHX video, guitar, pedal, JCM..... there it is, or at least as close as it gets in a single track.

Think of it this way, if there was a certain amount of gear, or pedals etc that would nail the studio tone live, Billy would use it. He’s got all the resources in the world and he doesn’t get that tone live. No one does, because it’s a studio tone.

I’ve tried all the double tracking pedals, different fuzz on difference channels etc, and it just doesn’t do it. You need the variations of actually playing it over and over to build up the wall of fuzz sound.

It’s like Anarchy in the UK. Simple rig, no magic, just a lot of tracks layered for that amazing tone everyone loves, but Steve Jones doesn’t sound like that live either.

People always wish they made a SP pedal, or a SP preset etc, and they really already have. The tool is there, just need to do the recording tricks to complete the puzzle.

I’ve actually seen a few clips where guys did like 10 overdubs using the EHX op-amp reissue and it’s spot on. Cheap muff, lots of layers, priceless tone.
 

Disco Cat

New Member
Jcm800, v4 or v5 op-amp muff or one of the clones, including the excellent EHX reissue which you can pick up for like $60, layer and repeat.

Strat with hotter pickups can help, they used Lace Sensors but those aren’t magical

It’s a simple tone really. Listen to Billy’s EHX video, guitar, pedal, JCM..... there it is, or at least as close as it gets in a single track.
Billy says that he stacks pedals in his Guitar World interview that's titled "Guitar Geek USA":

"Sometimes, though, a nice lo-fi pedal is just what you need. When we did "Siamese Dream," I developed a technique of plugging my Big Muff pedal into the low sensitivity input of a 100-watt Marshall JCM 800, with the master volume on full and the preamp volume barely on at all. To me, the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff produces the ultimate super-gain VROOOM sound. Live, however, a Big Muff doesn't give you enough definition. I just keep experimenting with different combinations of pedals--and guitars--to get the ideal sound."


The EHX opamp reissue is a good pedal, but it doesn't sound exactly like the original V4 opamp Muff and has its own character. The BYOC opamp l'il beaver is said to be an exact clone of the V4 opamp Muff. I have both, and they stack well together. I also have a couple of other Muffs, and various other fuzz' that stack well with the opamp Muff.

Stacking one Muff into another brings the sound far closer to the SD sound than what's heard in the EHX opamp Muff reissue video. I can get all kinds of SD sounds that are basically like it sounds on the album by stacking 2 - 3 pedals.

There are a lot more pedals than just the Muff being used on the album including the Micro Synth, an MSA circuit (that was removed from a pedal steel guitar and put into a custom pedal enclosure), a SuperFuzz, and the MXR Distortion II. One article cites Butch as saying that Billy also had a litany of DOD pedals. Billy is also known to have used a TS9 in the Gish days and might have used one on SD.

The MSA pedal steel fuzz circuit that billy used on SD and also used heavily on MCIS is possibly the Jordan Bosstone circuit that is available for purchase as a standalone pedal.

The Micro Synth, in addition to being used on leads, was likely also used on rhythm tracks. There an interview where Butch says that Billy was using it to carve out sonic space in the mix for all the many guitar tracks.

One of Siamese Dream's sound engineers, Jeff T, said during the GearSlutz Q & A with Butch Vig that he recalls there being lots of SuperFuzz on Siamese Dream.

Jeff T also mentioned that Billy used a ring modulator on Rocket:

"On Rocket, Billy used a Ring Modulator...he actually used that quite a bit I recall. Cherub Rock, I'm not so sure. I do know that the FX on the solo was actual tape flanging between the 2 tape machines."


I think that the 1992 unreleased live track "Cinder" is an example of Billy's KT88 JCM 800 simply being overdriven by a TS9.

The Cherub Rock rhythm sound is the MSA pedal steel circuit overdriven, running into a Big Muff, or vice-versa.

The grindy Today rhythm sound is a SuperFuzz running into a Big Muff, with the volume level on the SuperFuzz very low to avoid it splattering like it does.


Think of it this way, if there was a certain amount of gear, or pedals etc that would nail the studio tone live, Billy would use it. He’s got all the resources in the world and he doesn’t get that tone live. No one does, because it’s a studio tone.
Big Muffs are notorious for not working in a live situation because they don't cut through a mix, and Billy has said they tried to use them live and they just got lost in the mix. So, they didn't use them live anymore.

He also touched upon that in that same Guitar World interview:

"Live, however, a Big Muff doesn't give you enough definition."


I’ve actually seen a few clips where guys did like 10 overdubs using the EHX op-amp reissue and it’s spot on. Cheap muff, lots of layers, priceless tone.
The rhythm guitars parts on SD are quad-tracked. Example: 2 Strat takes hard-panned to one side, and 2 Les Paul takes hard-panned to the other side. The guitar takes were recorded with an SM57 and MD421. Some takes were recorded using an API lunchbox, and some using the Neve preamps in the console.

Butch likely also mixed the guitar parts like he demonstrates in this video for a track on Nevermind, with 2 guitars hard-panned left, 2 hard-panned right, and one guitar in the middle:


Butch comments on that style of mixing in his GearSlutz Q & A:

"When I put a guitar up the middle, it usually has more mid-range crunch, or try to find a eq pocket that gives definition to the chords or riff...and it's usually in the mid-range, 500 hz to 2k..."


Billy has said that the basic lead sound for SD is an MXR Distortion II into a Big Muff, and that an MXR Phase 100 was use to give the lead sound a bit of movement. He says that in this video:
Billy also said in his Guitar World interview titled "Guitar Geek USA":

"Finally, the nasal, squeezed-up lead tone that I use so often--as on "Pissant," for example--I ripped off from Michael Schenker! I used an Electro-Harmonix Micro-Synthesizer and some unknown fuzz pedal, plus an MXR Phase 100."

The "unknown" fuzz pedal he mentions could be the MXR Distortion II... I'm not sure if it was a popular pedal or not... but is likely the MSA pedal steel circuit that Billy had transplanted from a pedal steel guitar into a custom guitar pedal enclosure. That same MSA fuzz circuit was used all over MCIS, and can be seen in its custom pedal enclosure in many videos of MCIS live tour shows, typically sitting on or next to Billy's Orange amp, next to a Roland Double Beat (which is another pedal that stacks well with a Muff).
 
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lqdsnddist

Axe-Master
I never had any luck with the MXR. Being a big fan, I bought one, and I also had the Made By MIke Dream Box, which is an op-amp and Distortion II clone, which he was making way before SUF and everyone else started doing them. I had better luck with the likes of a Blues Driver, or similar cleanish boosts.

Keep in mind regarding the V4 and V5 that they actually had a number of different circuit revisions in those, and sometimes even the same circuit had different caps etc. I had two EH3003 circuits with pots that dated the same but vary different component values in some places. Maybe one was repaired or otherwise modded, who knows, was like 30 years old when I bought it, but point being, both were op-amp muffs but didn't sound the same. Also had a later 3122 labeled one which was really anemic sounding, no clarity or grind.

As such, I don't think you can really say the latest EHX doesn't sound like an op-amp muff, because it very well could sound like a specific one they based it on, but that might not sound like one another person has. Same with the triangle reissue... the designers talked about picking a favorite triangle, but who is to say that is the same one I would of picked of the bunch ?

Don't know how your able to gain stage it stacking a muff with a muff though... one of them is noisey and muddy enough really, I can really imagine stacking them, but I'll have to give a try.... what order and what ballpark gain settings are you using ?
 

Disco Cat

New Member
I've heavily revamped my previous post. I'd check it out again to get a lot more info. There're a lot more pedals being used than just Muffs.


Keep in mind regarding the V4 and V5 that they actually had a number of different circuit revisions in those, and sometimes even the same circuit had different caps etc. I had two EH3003 circuits with pots that dated the same but vary different component values in some places. Maybe one was repaired or otherwise modded, who knows, was like 30 years old when I bought it, but point being, both were op-amp muffs but didn't sound the same. Also had a later 3122 labeled one which was really anemic sounding, no clarity or grind.
I think that the different versions of V4s and V5s share the same circuit with their respective version (V4 or V5), but that the layout of the PCB changes, and that's what those different versions like EH3003 indicate.

Electrical components weren't as consistent when those pedals were made, and that would account for some sounding a bit different than others. But what might be a larger factor today is the age of the components in those pedals. Capacitors wear out over time and drift away from their original spec, and they eventually have to be replaced.

Vintage gear commonly needs a recap job, at least for some of the caps. And one of Billy's techs from the early days said that basically all of Billy's pedals needed work done on them.


As such, I don't think you can really say the latest EHX doesn't sound like an op-amp muff, because it very well could sound like a specific one they based it on, but that might not sound like one another person has. Same with the triangle reissue... the designers talked about picking a favorite triangle, but who is to say that is the same one I would of picked of the bunch ?
Like I mentioned, I think the sub-versions of V4 are only PCB layout revisions, while the circuit stays the same.

The reissue sounds brighter and a bit less grindy than the original, I think. Other people on The Gear Page thought similar in a discussion where one of the designers of the opamp reissue was present. The designer didn't dispute that they're slightly different, but said that people should give it a try anyway and see if they like it.


Don't know how your able to gain stage it stacking a muff with a muff though... one of them is noisey and muddy enough really, I can really imagine stacking them, but I'll have to give a try.... what order and what ballpark gain settings are you using ?
Noise doesn't matter in the studio because all the silent times are edited out, or controlled with a noise gate.

To reduce the muddiness, you can play with the volume, tone, and sustain knobs of the Muff that's going into the other one. Try running one with higher tone into one with lower tone. Also try hitting the 2nd Muff hard with the first one by raising the volume on the first one very high. Then play with the sustain at different spots.

If you listen to the Quiet And Other Songs studio sessions, you'll hear that the tone is pretty muddy. Butch might have cleaned it up quite a bit when mixing:

"We would usually record the guitars with their full sound, then filter them through and eq, sometimes the Neve, sometimes the API...ahhhhh, I think thwy had some pultecs there...and even some of the guitars went through my Akai sampler.

i think we had 4 mics on the guitars...Jeff might remember...we'd make sure the phase was good, and then pick the best one or sometime 2 blended.

I had this trick I would do when setting up mics...I'd turn the amp on full blast so there is a lot of static noise coming from the speaker, then I'd put headphones on and turn up the mic level to the headphone mix really loud. Then I'd get down in front of the speaker and listen to how the hiss sounded. You can hear the top, mids, bottom in the headphones depending on where you move the mic, and I would place it where I thought I found the sweet spot"
 

will romero

Member
Is it possible to put the effects loop return before the big muff and the effects send after it (with a patch cable jumpered in the physical effects loop) to pass the signal back through the muff? If so maybe you can achieve that layered sound.
 
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