The Complete Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) Gear Guide
Nick Zinner, of New York band The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, has certainly cemented his position as a true “guitar hero” for the 21st Century. With new album It's Blitz out now and a string of live dates recently announced - including Reading and Leeds Festival - it's time to have a look at the gear Zinner uses to create his unique sound.
Nick Zinner (center) & his band mates of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The sounds he gets from his guitar and his style of playing are truly unique, but it's not that easy to find info on his gear on the web. We did some search for you, looked at some photographs and also dug out an old “Vice” magazine which published an interview with Nick Zinner, solely about his gear, over 2 years ago...here's the complete Nick Zinner gear guide
His main guitars are a Fender Stratocaster and a custom First Act Delia , a pretty cool semi-acoustic.
Nick uses a Fender Hot Rod DeVille 212 (a favorite amongst several new indie bands, such as The Strokes, Bloc Party, Babyshambles and others) and a Mesa/Boogie Mark III combo amp. But he also uses a small Vox Pathfinder 15 for his drum-machine (a Zoom RT-123, discontinued. Easy to find on ebay. There's a new model, the Zoom RT-223). Nick said of this setup: “Lots of Yeah Yeah Yeahs songs feature a keyboard sound from this, like “Rich” and “Maps.” I like running the RT-123 through either a distortion pedal or a cheap amp...you can program loops into it. I have that through a foot pedal so I can turn it on and off with my foot while we're playing”
A more recent photograph seems to show Nick using an Ampeg B-100R between the Hot Rod DeVille and a Fender Twin...
According to a 2003 article, he used to have two Boss delays: the vintage DM-3 and the new Boss DD6 (discontinued, now DD7). Nowadays, however, it seems Nick Zinner uses even more delay pedals! According to eyewitnesses, he has two Boss DD-6 onstage, as well as the Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler, a Boss RC-20 Loop Station and 3 (!!!) Digitech JamMan pedals.
This is probably accurate...he seems to use lots of delay and loops to beef up the YYYs sound!
Nick Zinner - note DigiTech JamMan left of pic, and Line 6 DL4 right, between monitors
For Distortion, Nick used to have the classic Pro Co Turbo Rat (used by everyone from Radiohead to Sonic Youth) and now uses the Deucetone Rat. Apparently he also uses a Homebrew Power Screamer. He used to have a Octave Up Fuzz pedal as well, made for him by a Japanese company. We have no info whether he still uses it.
Other pedals he uses is an Electro Harmonix POG, and a DigiTech Hyper Phase.
Early Nick Zinner pedalboard:
1. BOSS DD-6 Digital Delay
There are reports that his ever-growing pedalboard now also includes a Line 6 MM4 (Modulation Modeler), a Digitech Whammy, an Electro Harmonix HOG and an EHX 2880 as well.
Finally, in a video for the “Down Boy” song, he can be seen playing a MicroKorg...which probably has been used on the new album!
Nick Zinner and his First Act Delia...and Space Echo in the background
Here's what Nick Zinner himself said of some the pedals and FX he uses or have used:
BOSS LOOP STATION RC-20
“This pedal is advertised as a means to basically “play with yourself,” but I don’t like to use it that way. You can record a sound and have it play back as a loop (repeating indefinitely) and record on top of that, then record on top of that, and so on forever and ever. To me, it’s a sampler. I like to record and store sounds and parts of music I can’t reproduce live on it. The RC-20 is able to sample a sound that’s five minutes long.”
LINE 6 DL4 DELAY MODULATOR
“Hands down, the greatest delay pedal. If you don’t know, delay is another word for echo. Play a note and it keeps repeating and repeating and repeating… triiiippy. The DL4, commonly referred to as “the green pedal,” digitally reproduces every type of delay effect and pedal, from analog tape echo to programmable backward digital delay. It also has a sample loop function, but unlike the RC-20, it’s not able to store the sound after it’s been turned off. I use this in the beginning of the YYY song “Maps” to keep that one note ringing through the whole damn song. Live, the green pedal usually gets the highest nod approval rating from the guitar players in the front row who stare at my hands and feet ...”
ROLAND SPACE ECHO RE-201
“I prefer to use the RE-201, without the chorus, as a pre-amp/compressor with a slight amount of spring reverb. The Space Echo works by having a reel of tape which is continually fed through three heads that play back while recording, making an echo, or delay. By alternating the path of the playback within the heads, you can control the timing and pattern of the echo. All the old dub records were originally made using only these units.” [ the Space Echo is very rare and expensive, however, Boss has just released the RE-20 Space Echo pedal, which faithfully reproduces the Space Echo sounds]
DIGITECH HYPER PHASE
“Phase is produced by splitting a signal and shifting one of the sounds ever so slightly. The more you shift the signal, the more “whooooeeeeesh” effect you get. The pedal works by doing this through different frequency and sound-wave variations, recombining the effect with the original source sound at different speeds, with harmonic and non-harmonic relationships. Or something like that. Everything sounds “cool” through it, especially feedback, but please, use it sparingly. It can get very irritating.”
“My favorite new pedal. This is a Polyphonic Octave Generator, meaning you can make multiple real-time re-creations of the input sound in different registers, or octaves. I can play one note, and it sounds like a goddamned orchestra. Unlike most octave pedals, which have a slight delay in the output sound, this one is very fast and works with chords. This is all over the new YYY record [“Show Yr Bones”] Even though this pedal only came out like last year, Jack White already beat me by using one on the first single from the last White Stripes record [ “Blue Orchid”].”
Updated For 2013!
Premier Guitar had a word with Nick's guitar and looked at his massive pedal rig in depth. Many of the core pedals remain with a DD-7 rather than a DD-6 for tweaking live and creating soundscapes between songs. The Homebrew Power Screamer & Deucetone Rat are joined by an Electro Harmonix Graphic Fuzz for fuzz/distortion sounds. The sample pedals have been augmented with the inclusion of two Digitech JamMan Stereos, as the YYY's have gotten more comfortable using samples in the studio they've had to incorporate more tech on stage. Another important reason for so many pedals is that they don't have a bassist so Nick has to fill in on the low end and filling up the spectrum. It's fair to say that with his third (!) pedal board now taking on a second Line 6 DL4 and 3 Eventide effects including the PitchFactor, Space & TimeFactor pedals. Surprisingly Nick says he's not a techy pedal buff however, mainly using tweaked presets and just getting inspired by good sounds.
I really try to makes it as simple as possible, I'm not that much of a gear head... I'm a sound head.
In terms of guitars Nick tells us that he's recently been given a Johnny Marr Signature by the man himself, using it live in standard tuning. He's still rocking his favourite First Act Delia and Strats, including the Jumbo fretted model that he modded in his teens.
Visit the Yeah Yeah Yeahs Artist Page at Dolphin, to see which Nick Zinner gear is available now!
Yeah Yeah Yeahs official website
Onstage interview with Nick Zinner
Vice interview with Nick Zinner