WHEN I OPENED my daily newspaper on Saturday, October the 19th, I glimpsed an article that got me all excited. Our nation’s biggest paper was running a longer feature on Andy McCoy that I started to read with a lot of interest. The man is Finland’s most legendary Rock star ever, and his interviews are always a very entertaining read.
To my disappointment the general tenor of this article was a downer. The negatively coloured feature made it seem that Andy’s life wasn’t in order. One photo taken at Andy’s rehearsal studio showed a very messy pedalboard, which made me feel especially bad. A decade ago I had been working as Andy’s guitar technician and I remember that his equipment was in great shape during Hanoi Rocks’ final fling. The current situation looked worrying. Is this really Andy’s current state of affairs? The man kept on complaining all through the article, and his board had clearly seen better days. His whole set-up looked a real mess, from his amps to the general state of the rehearsal space.
Andy had recently released a new record called 21st Century Rocks, his first solo effort in 24 years. It had received rave reviews from critics and fans alike. Andy had assembled a new band and was ready to hit the road. Even though I hadn’t yet downed all of my first cup of coffee, I felt a spontaneous urge to help Andy in such a way that his gear would run problem-free during the upcoming shows.
Even though I had steered clear of social media over the last months, I reacted instinctively: I took a quick snap of Andy’s pedalboard right off the paper and put it on Instagram. My message read that if anybody out there knew how to get hold of Andy, could they please tell him that I’d be more than willing to help him sort his board out.
Yes, it’s true I build pedalboards for a living, and, yes, I try to run a business venture here, but my main mission in life is to help musicians create the wonderful music that delights us all. We have the cables, the plugs, the accessories and always enough time to put an already existing board back into full working order. Sometimes the reward comes in other ways than money; often karma takes care of that part.
MY SPONTANEOUS POST seemed to resonate with the crowd. Several people got back to me with messages and texts, but in the end it was guitarist Mikko Kosonen, who really set the wheels in motion. He told Andy’s manager, Hessu Klingberg, about me. I had given Mikko permission to forward my private phone number to Hessu, who called me straight away.
He told me that Andy was very interested to take me up on my offer. Hessu also mentioned that Andy had been in a “very bad mood” during the interview for this mornings newspaper feature, because he had had to kick his drummer out of the band. The rehearsals hadn’t gone to plan, while the first show was literally on the following day. The stress and bad vibes had gotten to Andy, which in turn resulted in the negative atmosphere of the article.
I told Hessu that I had been able to study Andy’s equipment and playing style in detail during my last stint as his guitar tech. I also told him that I would be very interested in featuring Andy’s pedalboard in our Custom Boards Gallery, in both pictures and words. Andy had no problems understanding where I was coming from, and we had the seeds of a cooperation that would benefit both parties involved.
MANY PEOPLE have diverse opinions about Andy, but if you peel away all the layers put on him by the constant media circus, you will end up with the basic truth that Andy McCoy has always been a very talented artist and musician. He has written a lot of classic Rock songs over his long career, and he has embellished them with his tasteful guitar parts. He played on his first record aged only 13. At the moment of writing Andy McCoy is 57 years old, meaning we’re really talking about a long career and oeuvre.
I don’t want to toot my own horn too loudly, so let me state clearly that my prior involvement with Andy only covered a period of roughly two years, during the time when Hanoi Rocks recorded their last two albums. I could tell you many stories about a number of incidents on and off stage during that time, but in my view the press has always been too eager to bolster their circulation with wild stories about Andy’s “Rock’n’Roll lifestyle” – at Andy’s expense. Why not concentrate on Andy McCoy the guitarist, and take a closer look at the equipment he used during the last phase of the Hanoi Rocks story?
HANOI ROCKS returned into the limelight in 2001, playing a number of shows. Their album Twelve Shots On The Rocks (released in late 2002), with songs like “People Like Me” and “A Day Late, A Dollar Short”, was final proof that the band was in fine form and still able to write relevant material.
As Andy McCoy was the band’s second attraction and star, along with singer and frontman Michael Monroe, he was assigned his own technician to look after his instruments, effects and amps. At first Sakari ”Saku” Paasiniemi held down the job of being Andy’s tech, followed by Janne ”Mehtis” Metsola. He was responsible for Andy’s backline during the last three years of the band’s career, which amounted to more than 130 Hanoi Rocks shows.
Being a freelancer, Mehtis also worked for a number of other bands and I became his go-to man for Hanoi Rocks shows he couldn’t make due to scheduling conflicts. I also had other bands to deal with like Amorphis and The Rasmus not to mention my dayjob servicing amps at Backline Rental, so we tried to schedule our own stints with Hanoi Rocks in such a way, that it wouldn’t impact the band’s production negatively.
Over two years I handled approximately 20 shows with Hanoi Rocks as Andy’s tech in Finland, Sweden and Spain, which allowed me unprecedented insights into the band’s sound, the musicians’ playing styles and their signal chains. Originally, though, I got to know Hanoi Rocks’ backline from a whole different angle.
WHENEVER BANDS TOUR outside of Europe, most countries require the band to travel with so-called ATA-carnet forms, which clearly list each and every piece of equipment the entourage carries with them. When entering and departing a country this list is checked against the actual equipment, so the customs officials can be sure no gear has been sold or bought without paying the appropriate taxes during the band’s stay.
When Hanoi Rocks had a tour of Japan coming up in 2007 their production manager was a man named Mikko Enäkoski. He was charged with compiling the necessary ATA-carnet list, which put Mikko on the spot, because there was no previous list of the band’s equipment to rely on, and because the road cases hadn’t been marked or numbered.
Mikko and I had just come off a very successful 18-month stint touring with The Rasmus, during which time we had no trouble moving that band’s equipment all over the globe. It had been my job at The Rasmus to compile lists of each piece of equipment, all the serial numbers and the dimensions and weight of each unit. I had supplied Mikko with an Excel-file that contained all the information he needed to fill in the ATA-carnet form. Now I was about to do the same with Hanoi Rocks’ touring set-up.
This prior knowledge of the band’s equipment formed a solid jump-off point for me when it came to my stint as Andy’s guitar tech. The band’s backline for shows in Finland was always hired in from Helsinki’s Backline Rental, where I had my workshop. This meant I was already familiar with Hanoi Rocks’ backline, before stepping into the guitar tech’s shoes.
ANDY MCCOY'S EQUIPMENT had gone through many changes during the 1990s. When Hanoi Rocks got back together again, Andy’s backline had to be “standardised” and “conformed” very quickly to make it road- and gig-worthy.
Jone Nikula, the band’s road manager at that time, had acquired two brand-new Marshall JCM 2000 TSL-100 heads and matching cabinets for Andy. He used these Marshall stacks for all of Hanoi Rocks’ second coming, all the way through to their final show at Helsinki’s legendary Tavastia Club in April 2009.
During the shows one of the Marshall JCM 2000 TSL heads was running, while the other was kept on standby for emergencies. The clean channel in this three-channel head was left unused, serving as a mute switch for Andy’s system. Here’s a glimpse of Andy’s Hanoi Rocks settings.
In the beginning the amp head was running a complete cabinet stack, but later only the upper cabinet was actually kept live to keep onstage volume levels manageable. When Andy used four cabinets on large stages, the guitar signal was often fed to the second stack’s bottom cabinet to keep the guitar from bleeding excessively into Michael Monroe’s vocal mic. This meant that even though there might have been plenty of cabinets on stage, not all of them were actually used.
The cabinets were miked with a single Shure SM57 per guitarist, and the stacks were secured tightly with straps – a classic and very powerful Rock band set-up. The same type of “amp towers” could already be spotted at many early 80s Hanoi Rocks shows, like this one at London’s Marquee Club.
ANDY USED ALWAYS effect pedals on stage. Even though he kept his signal chain relatively short, the few effects he used were an important part of his sound and had to be taken along on tour. For the first years of Hanoi’s comeback the pedals were carried loose, and Mehtis would connect them and then tape them onto the stage each night.
This was the set-up I was confronted with, when I turned up for my first shows as Andy’s tech, which meant the effects hook-up was painfully slow and tedious. At that time Andy used a Boss phaser, a T-Rex Alberta overdrive, a Vox wah-wah and a Boss tremolo.
After the festivals shows in the summer of 2007 Mehtis had grown tired of taping effects to dirty stage floors. He talked to the management and got the budget to acquire a pedalboard. Mehtis was on “cloud nine”, because this part of his job had been so stressful. As Custom Boards wasn’t yet in existence, and other ready-made solutions weren’t available either at that time, Mehtis ordered a custom-made board from Transit Case.
Mehtis’ design was relatively well thought-out. He used off-the-peg signal- and AC-cables, as well as then-popular George L patch cables. Cable snakes weren’t yet widely used in Finland, which meant he bundled all the cables between the pedalboard and the amps with e-tape, which worked reasonably well.
There were some small changes in Andy’s effects set-up during that time. A Danelectro Dan-Echo, that first had been used inserted straight into the Marshall’s FX loop, was moved to the pedalboard. The puny Dan-Echo didn’t offer enough headroom to work properly in the amp’s loop. Besides, amp heads were often rented for many shows, which meant the Danelectro pedal had to be taped in place before each show. This was too time-consuming to be practical at a hectic Hanoi Rocks show, which is why the pedal was placed onto the board.
In 2008 the Seymour Duncan Twin Tube Classic pedal was added as a second overdrive, and the Danelectro was let go in favour of Rocktron’s Short Timer Delay. At the same time the T-Rex Alberta was moved to the top of the board and the Marshall JCM 2000 TSL footswitch was completely removed.
This is the effect set-up Andy used for all the remaining Hanoi Rocks gigs. Andy used only the crunch channel from his Marshall JCM 2000 TSL and did rest of the gain sounds with his pedals. The photo below is from the very last Hanoi Rocks show at the legendary Tavastia Club.
ANDY HAD PLENTY OF GUITARS. During the Noughties airline carriers introduced much more stringent weight restrictions, which meant that touring musicians had to pay increasing amounts for taking their equipment abroad. This never prevented Andy from carrying five or six guitars even to fly-in shows.
Many times we would pick up Andy in the early hours of the morning with the tour bus or an airport taxi on our way to the airport. He always left us completely in the dark as to which guitars he would choose for any given gig. This meant a lot of variables at a show, because of the different guitars he would use. I don’t know anybody actually knows the exact number of guitars Andy owns – probably not even the man himself.
In his defense let me stress that Andy didn’t strain the band’s travelling budget by taking along many guitars, just for the sake of it. He took the instruments along to use them.
Andy was very precise when it came to which guitar he planned to use during which songs in the set. Each guitar would usually be used only once during the show for two to four songs in a row. The technician would receive detailed spoken instructions for the upcoming show’s guitar sequence from Andy. Andy would tell you he’d use this guitar for these songs, the next guitar for these, and so on. In this regard Andy is sharp as a tack, and he would remember his instructions even in the heat of the show, and without anything ever being written down.
During the show I’d have the next instrument ready for him, and at the agreed moment Andy would step up to me to switch guitars. After a few songs the tuning of his guitar would have already dropped, especially as Andy never tunes guitars himself onstage. Andy’s board doesn’t even carry a tuner, which means the tuning might go off kilter after a couple of songs already, especially if he has been using a Bigsby. Regardless, Andy would stick to his guitar changes, and often when the next guitar was plugged in the change in tuning was rather obvious.
GUITARS ARE CLEARLY one of Andy’s most favourite subjects and the instruments are very dear to him. I tried to research Andy’s guitar collection for this article, but I had to concede defeat in the end. The man has used so many different guitars over the years, any researcher has a very hard time keeping up. This is compounded by the fact that even Andy has trouble remembering all the situations he used specific instruments in.
So much so that the are many instances where he contradicts his own memories from one interview to another. But if I would be asked to tie Andy to a single guitar brand, I think it would be Gibson. On the other hand Andy used many different guitars during the first years of Hanoi Rocks’ career. For example he started the band’s 1983 gigs with a big-bodied and wood-coloured semiacoustic Gretsch.
Here’s a list that will at least put you in the right direction. The Finnish book Sheriffi McCoy, published in 2001, contains a whole page, where Andy talks solely about his guitars.
In 2005 Andy’s homepage still contained this list of guitars in his collection:
I can only speak reliably about the guitars he carried with him between 2007 and 2009. The most reliable source of information is the ATA-carnet form I compiled in October 2007. Andy took off for Japan with the following instruments (instrument weights include their original cases):
During the tour of Japan Andy’s flock of guitars changed drastically, as he was offered an endorsement deal with the then-reborn Zemaitis brand. Andy received five new Zemaitis models and he really took to them. Guitar tech Mehtis must also have been impressed with these guitars, as he had to take several photos of the new arrivals during the tour. I remember them, too, as gorgeous and well-made instruments that fitted Andy’s playing style to a tee. These pictures could be of help to anybody who is offered an “ex-Andy McCoy” Zemaitis.
Andy also used one guitar set aside for slide duties – a red Gretsch Electromatic Bo Diddley. This guitar was kept in open E (E, B, E, g#, b, e).
All other guitars were always in standard concert tuning, with all controls up full.
Andy has never used wireless systems. He prefers relatively long guitar leads, which tend to pose problems for guitar techs. You always have to keep an eye on how to pass your bandmates on stage. Andy McCoy and Michael Monroe have become masters at not getting tangled on stage. Even though Andy might have sometimes looked “out of it” to outsiders, McCoy and Monroe always knew how to move around each other without tripping up or getting tangled.
Andy used GHS strings (010-046) and celluloid picks in medium thickness. Later he moved on to models made from nylon and with a more grippy surface.
From a guitar tech’s standpoint Andy McCoy is what I’d call an “all-inclusive” artist – meaning: the tech alone is fully responsible for all technical things and for taking care of the signal flow. When the show starts, you hang the right guitar over Andy’s shoulder, hand him his plectrum, turn his guitar’s volume up, and point him in the direction of the stage. From this point onwards the artist would take care of business with style and panache.
ANDY'S PLAYING STYLE is easily recognisable and has been his own, right from the start. From today’s viewpoint you could say that, sadly, guitarists with their own style seem to become fewer and fewer. Andy has never been a typical Eighties widdle wizard, his solos have never been about being the fastest gun in town. Andy is all about taste, musicality and a personal touch, which makes his style so hard to copy.
There’s something about this man, who manages to play traditional Rock riffs in such a way, that he makes them sound bigger than just one guy playing. There’s a certain bit of sloppiness to his playing, which seems to hit a certain sweet spot and which goes to the core of Andy’s guitar style. Sometimes he seems to hit additional strings half by mistake, which adds some special ingredient to the sound. These additional drones add their own set of overtones to simple-sounding riffs and melodies, resulting in an idiosyncratic sound that is all Andy’s own and extremely hard to get right. Additionally, Andy tends to use more advanced chord inversions and suspensions, as well as chordal melodies, instead of sticking to simple power chords.
One good example is Andy’s picked part that perfectly complements Michael’s singing on their classic track “Don’t You Ever Leave Me”. In live shows this evergreen was often kicked off with an extended guitar intro, which, frankly, wasn’t always in tune. Andy’s part is played with standard open chords, which are always harder to get in tune. Open D- and A-major chords require careful tempering to ring out true. Andy never seemed to bother about these details, though. Instead he managed to come up with great improvised intros, night after night, which became a regular highlight of Hanoi Rocks shows. He seemed to be used to slightly fruity tunings, so I tried to placate my worries over the following live video from their show at the Marquee in December 1983. The video had been filmed after a long tour of the UK, and the band were in top form, ready to record their next album, which would unfortunately turn out to be their last with the original lineup.
The punk-infused riffing on “Tragedy” is another of Andy’s trademarks. He had developed this style of approach early on, when he played with Briard as well as with Pelle Miljoona Oy, before Hanoi Rocks took off. This song is one of Andy’s first compositions for Hanoi Rocks, and the recording has left him satisfied with each of it's parts.
A similar example of Andy’s Punk leanings are the guitar parts for ”Malibu Beach Nightmare”. Andy is on top of his game and plays as if possessed. Watching the video shows you how unique the band’s playing style was at that time. There may have been Glam Rock influences, but the approach was also very Punk.
My own knowledge of the history of Rock Music isn’t detailed enough for me to pinpoint in detail all the sources that influenced Andy’s playing style. Andy is a decade older than I, and the bands that he had admired in his youth – Marc Bolan’s T. Rex, Johnny Thunders, The Faces – had been popular well before I was mature enough to listen to Rock.
WHEN TALKING about Hanoi Rocks’ music you shouldn’t forget the importance of the band’s other members. The final outcome could be seen as a melting pot of all the bands the musicians had admired in their youth.
Even though the last edition of the band played very energetic and lively shows, looking at old clips of Hanoi Rocks gigs from the Eighties, makes it easy to understand that original Hanoi Rocks’ strength laid in the mixture of five diverse musicians, that resulted in concocting a musical brew that many have been admiring.
It was great to see the “Stockholm Three” – Michael, Nasty and Sami – hanging out together backstage during some special shows in Finland. Another dynamic duo were Monroe and Andy. You could sense that they induced an incredible amount of energy in each other, which then exploded on stage, resulting in incredible and memorable live shows. You couldn’t keep this type of energy up indefinitely, which is why – after many different chapters – Hanoi Rocks finally called it a day.
TIME WENT BY, and nobody heard any new music from Andy. My latest connection with all things Andy came in the form of Lamppu Laamanen’s book about Andy. That book was a meandering effort, which only served to reaffirm the myth of Andy McCoy, the esoteric Rock star. I read the book, and found it enjoyable, as long as you remembered that this was auto fiction, with a strong emphasis on the term “fiction”. In December 2018 Andy released an EP, called Soul Satisfaction, which went by strangely unnoticed.
His recently released solo record, 21st Century Rocks, on the other hand, received rave reviews, when it was released in September 2019. This comeback album is proof, if ever needed, that Andy’s talents as a songwriter are as strong as ever. The music is like a fantastic ride on a time machine, back to when music still meant something. The music is instantly recognisable as the real McCoy (pun intended!).
Andy has often mentioned that his melodic sensibilities have been developed during his childhood in Sweden, while he later got to know Rock and Punk in Finland. This suspension between two musical cultures goes a long way in explaining Andy’s style of melodic compositions in minor keys.
Andy has pointed out in several interviews that his new album represented what Hanoi Rocks would sound like today. It’s true that the style of the songs owes much to Andy’s former band, which is no wonder, as he was the band’s main songwriter and musical visionary. On the other hand, Andy is also the singer on his album, which means that there is no input from Michael Monroe – as there was in all Hanoi Rocks material.
Even if the pair were sometimes at each other’s throats, there always has been an undeniable special chemistry between Andy and Michael. Nevertheless, the record is a great listen, even without any input from Monroe. This is an album without any low points, and with a clearly defined dramatic arc that saves the very best songs for the latter part of the record. Andy has managed to assemble a fine collection of songs, and the first pressing sold out quickly. Clearly, the fans hadn’t forgotten Andy McCoy.
OUR CUSTOM BOARDS SERVICE is based on a well-planned process and relies on booked appointments. I checked my calendar for free slots for Hessu and Andy, and sent them an e-mail. “We could meet on Tuesday, at 11:30, or on Thursday, at two o’clock. How does this sound?” I waited for a concrete reply for a week, until I understood from Hessu’s messages that Andy’s schedules tend to be in a constant state of flow. My strict rules, that I’ve tried to hammer into each musician’s head, regarding scheduling of projects, were bound to go out the window when it came to Andy.
A week went by without any progress. I started worrying that the whole venture was probably going down the drain. Maybe Andy wasn’t fit enough to concentrate on the planning of a proper pedalboard.
Time ticked on, when I finally received a message from Hessu telling me that they usually had one day a week set aside for interviews and meetings. Next Monday would be the next such day. We made a tentative agreement that I would ring Hessu on Monday morning to try to fix a date for the same afternoon. This meant I had to keep a number of projects on hold, before being told on that Monday that Hessu hadn’t heard back from Andy. Bummer!
We agreed to try again on Tuesday. There weren’t any other consultations scheduled for Tuesday, which meant we could start the day going about our usual business, working on different projects for other customers. I worked from my home office in the morning, when I received a text message from Hessu saying that they would be at our headquarters in an hour. I jumped into my overcoat and sped off in my car, ringing my colleague Eetu Lehtinen at our Herttoniemi HQ, so he could get everything ready for a planning session.
When I arrived at our HQ I opened all the regular planning forms and waited for Andy to arrive. We were a bit nervous he might be in a bad mood or out of it. What would the session bring?
MY WORRIES proved unfounded in the end. Andy was in a good and excited mood, and it was great meeting him again after all this time. The guitarist was sharp as a tack and clearly well prepared to deal with having a pedalboard made. It was fantastic to be able to talk with Andy about his guitars and his equipment, away from all the distractions of a hectic touring schedule. Ironically, we hadn’t had this conversation earlier, because we had only ever met in our respective roles as Rock star and roadie.
Hessu handed over Andy’s pedalboard. Seeing the case warmed my heart. The flight case still carried my markings from 12 years ago, when I had gathered all the information for Hanoi Rocks’ ATA-carnet form.
I opened the case and set the board down on our table. We disassembled the board with Eetu and started discussing Andy’s sound, with a special emphasis on where he wanted to go in terms of his overdrive sound.
Andy told us he had moved away from the late Hanoi Rocks-era Marshall TSL stacks. The amp’s three channels were unnecessary, and the whole set-up too clumsy and complicated, in his view. Besides, Andy’s favourite amp is Marshall’s JCM 800, which he had used during the band’s classic period, and the TSL didn’t really sound the same.
Andy was now planning on combining his old 1970s Marshall 2x12” combo and a Mesa/Boogie Mark I he had just acquired for his upcoming shows. He wanted to use traditional valve amps set to break-up point, with a fairly clean basic sound, and little to no distortion from the amps themselves.
The overdrive sounds were to come from his trusty Seymour Duncan Twin Tube Classic that he had already used for Hanoi Rocks’ final gigs. Andy told us that the pedal had developed a recent fault. He described the fault as sounding like an “octave divider”. Eetu and I were a bit puzzled, but opened it up and promised Andy we would look into this.
Next I needed to know if Andy had already decided on the order of the effects in the signal path, and whether he was planning on adding effects later on.
Andy laughed and admitted that he has never quite bothered with the correct way of placing pedals. He knew that there were certain rules, when it came to the effects’ order, and he also knew that using too many effect pedals could deteriorate sound quality. In my view he was up to date with the newest developments in the world of pedalboards, but he was more than happy to have us dealing with the finer details of effect order.
Andy requested we add a tremolo pedal to his board, because he used to have one during the Hanoi Rocks shows. His old Boss tremolo had mysteriously disappeared. When I asked him what type of tremolo sound he was looking for, he asked me to play a certain song on Spotify.
Andy’s example was Link Wray’s classic guitar part on “The Way I Walk”, which is featured on Robert Gordon’s Fresh Fish Special album. Google told us that Link Wray used the first standalone tremolo effect on the market – a DeArmond tremolo. This tremolo sounds hard and choppy, when compared to modern smooth tremolo tones.
We felt a modern digital multi-effect would be the wrong choice for Andy. In our view he needed something traditional and straightforward. The closest thing to a vintage DeArmond – which is impossible to get hold of – is Voodoo Lab’s Tremolo, because it allows for easy adjustment of the tremolo wave’s curve. This means you can get a smooth tremolo effect from this pedal just as easily as Andy’s favoured choppy alternative.
Inspired by “The Way I Walk” Eetu and I decided to put the tremolo last in the pedalboard’s signal chain. This would simulate a typical Fender vintage amplifier's signal path, where the tremolo effect is placed last, behind the reverb and in front of the power amp and speaker.
Andy had brought with him two delay pedals that he both wanted to use on his new board. One would be set to a shorter delay time than the other. I asked him whether he would prefer running the delays in the amp’s loop. He was quite clear on that he wanted the delays to be warmed up by the amp, which is why the delay pedals were placed in front of the amp’s input.
ANDY WOULD HAVE WANTED to have all effects placed in the front row, because he would be singing during all gigs, and he didn’t want to have any pedals that were hard to reach. Problem was there was no way we could fit all the stomp boxes in the lower row, there simply wasn’t enough room. Because the tremolo was the least-used pedal of the bunch, we placed it in the back row, bolstered by a riser and fitted with a Barefoot Buttons switch knob.
This knob is a favourite of many guitarists, as it makes footswitches much easier to reach. In fact, Andy liked the Barefoot Buttons knob so much that he requested we put it on the overdrive pedal in the front row, too.
Andy was still using the same trusty T-Rex Fueltank Classic power supply that he had during the final years of Hanoi Rocks. Even though this is a widely used power supply its outputs aren’t electrically isolated, which might lead to earth loops and humming.
Back in the day Mehtis and I had discussed this problem, which is why we had used only a single DC-output and a daisy chain cable to power Andy’s pedals with the Fueltank. As this method carries its own little set of risks, we decided to install a new PSU on Andy’s board – one that would sport properly isolated outputs.
I KNEW FROM THE PAST EXPERIENCE that, while Andy was sure at this moment that he was going to use the two amps he’d mentioned, he might change his mind further down the road. The signal had to be split into two with a device like the Lehle P-Split. The splitter allows you to change the phase of one of the output signals and also makes it easy to break ground loops.
We pondered the best placement for the P-Split for a while. Should it be placed on top of one amp, like some players prefer? Andy was worried the pedal might be stolen at some venue, which is why he preferred having it placed on the board.
The placement of the Lehle on the pedalboard made a proper cable snake the next point on our agenda. The snake would contain all the necessary signal and power cables going from the backline to the pedalboard and vice versa. It would include two output cables going to the amps, with one lead being a metre longer than the other. This way it would be easy to place two amps side-by-side or on top of each other.
I was a bit worried to find that all of Andy’s guitar cables had only straight plugs. The stage is a high-risk environment, which is why I would prefer not to have straight plugs sticking out from a guitar’s top during a show. We talked about the guitars he was planning to use. I wanted to know if all his guitars would be Gibsons, or similar guitars, that didn’t have safely recessed jack receptacles, like a Strat.
Andy told us he’d be playing only Gibsons during the upcoming tour, which meant an angled plug would be the safest choice. He had clear instructions when it came to his guitar lead – he wanted a really short guitar cable for club gigs and a longer one for festivals. As his current cable was much too long and very stiff, we decided to make Andy new instrument cables, using Van Damme’s sturdy but flexible cable material. Andy was happy with this, as the difference was really obvious.
EVEN THOUGH the details seemed now clear, I asked Andy what role the Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor would play in his signal chain. He told me he only used it for his 90s 12-string Danelectro, which he was using for a couple of tracks. The Danelectro came equipped with single-coil lipstick pickups, which surely would benefit from a little noise suppression.
Andy was planning on using the Danelectro through a dedicated clean amp, like a Fender Twin or similar. This meant the 12-string would be running its own signal chain, separate from the rest. The only effect used for the Danelectro would be a phaser to add a little roundness and a slow, juicy wobble. After trying out the two phasers Andy had taken along, we decided on his vintage DOD.
As the “second unit” would be totally independent of the rest of Andy’s set-up, Eetu and I decided to build a dedicated mini-sized pedalboard for the 12-string. This new board would have its own instrument cable to make instrument changes faster. If the Boss NS-2 could be adjusted correctly, there was even the possibility of keeping the Danelectro’s volume open for the whole set without the danger of feedback. The NS-2 and the clean amp would take care of that. The old T-Rex unit could be re-used for the small board.
I asked Hessu if there was any technical staff at the upcoming shows. To my relief he told me that the crew would include an FOH mixer and a guitar tech. This was great news, because it allowed me to get in contact with the tech well in advance, to brief him on the special features of Andy’s set-up, the use of the pedalboards and details such as strain relief. Andy’s first shows were scheduled for December, which left us ample time to complete his boards, despite having other projects scheduled simultaneously. We had discussed everything, so Andy and Hessu said their goodbyes and took off for their next meeting. Eetu and I went to work.
In the end we would have two professional quality pedalboards that could be transported in a single case, with enough room to fit the necessary cables, too.
MANY OF US STILL REMEMBER the abortive tour of the Andy McCoy Band in 2009, which came to an abrupt halt after a mere three shows. That was a real pity. Since then a lot of water has flown underneath the bridge, though, so let us all hope for an enduring comeback. The world really needs Rock icons, such as Andy McCoy, who still know how to play old-school Rock authentically.
The upcoming tour is a unique possibility to travel back to our youth, when Rock guitar was still dirty and dangerous, and when mistakes were part of the package. If you’re a fan of Andy McCoy’s own brand of melancholic songwriting, and if you want to hear the old Hanoi Rocks hits played like they were meant to be played, you really should go to one of Andy’s gigs. Who knows, this might be the last time these songs will be played on tour.
17.12.2019 Kimmo Aroluoma
The writer is the owner of Custom Boards Finland. He is a veteran guitar tech who has toured for years with Finnish bands HIM, Amorphis, Michael Monroe, The Rasmus and Von Hertzen Brothers. Today he designs pedalboards and runs his own web shop in Helsinki, Finland.
(All Hanoi Rocks live performance photos courtesy of Janne Metsola’s archive.)