Q & A with PETE CORNISH
About David Gilmour's new All Tube Effects System
Pete Cornish has been making effects boards, systems and modifications for David Gilmour since 1976. Mr. Cornish has been kind enough to take time out of his very busy schedule to answer a few questions about David Gilmour's new All Tube Effects Board that has just recently been completed (Feb '06) and will be used on David Gilmour's "On an Island" 2006 tour.
Questions asked by John Roscoe from the Tone From Heaven are in blue, while Pete Cornish's answers are in black.
What differences are there between this new All Tube Effects Board and the Board used in the Meltdown DVD?
You will notice that the All Tube Effects System used at the Meltdown (let's call it the Mk.1) ended up as three separate units, interconnected, whereas the new Mk.2 is in one piece. The Mk.I has the following effects:
Pete Cornish Tube Buffer/ Demeter Compulator/ Pete Cornish G-2/ EH Big Muff/ BK Butler Tube Driver plus Pete Cornish Tube Buffer/ Pete Cornish SS-2/Custom Volume Pedal insert/ Pete Cornish Tape Echo Simulator/ 2 X Outputs with Pete Cornish Tube Line Drivers/ Pete Cornish modified Boss CE-2 with Dry Mute switch/ 2 X Outputs with Pete Cornish Tube Line Drivers.
Satellite Board #1:
6 Channel Tube EQ/ Spare Send-Return for additional effects if required/ Send-Return for MXR DDL.
Satellite Board #2:
Electric - Acoustic Guitar Selector/ Send-Return for MXR DDL (linked to Satellite Board #1/ Send-Return for Long Delay (Sound on Sound)/ Acoustic DI Mute.
The new All Tube System (let's call it the Mk.2) has the following effects:
Pete Cornish Tube Buffer/ Demeter Compulator/ Send - Return #1 for additional effects if required/ Pete Cornish G-2/ Pete Cornish P-1/ 2 X BK Butler Tube Driver plus 2 X Pete Cornish Tube Buffer/ Send - Return #2 for additional effects if required/ Boss GE-7/ Custom Volume Pedal insert/ Pete Cornish Tape Echo Simulator with Pete Cornish Tube Buffer/ MXR Digital Delay (Rack mount) with Pete Cornish Tube Buffer/ 2 X Outputs with Pete Cornish Tube Line Drivers. Send-Returns 1 and 3 have full range gain adjustments on the back panel so that any type of effects can be interfaced (pedal signal level or line level for rack units). Send-Return 2 is fixed gain at guitar level. One of the outputs connects to a rack mount Sound On Sound Interface (see below).
What was the process like from start to finish. What led to the effects choices?
Phil Taylor contacted me with the request to create a more compact All Tube System than the earlier version; which had grown to incorporate three separate floor units and several additional off-stage level matching units. The project was to make a new system that has all the facilities of the earlier one but be quicker to set up, and wire, on stage. The choice of effects was mainly governed by the earlier system with only slight variation - mainly the omission of the CE-2 Chorus and the replacement of the Tube EQ with a Boss GE-7.
Tube Buffering? Does this enhance the tone at all?
Oh yes; when you plug your passive guitar directly into your tube amp it sounds great, doesn't it? Having a unity gain tube buffer as the input to my All Tube System allows the guitar to react exactly as if it were connected directly to the tube amp input (without the loading effects of long cables/effects pedals etc.). The effects outputs are connected to other unity gain tube buffers so that each effect "thinks" it is connected directly to the amp input allowing each effect to deliver it's full signal without the loading effects of long cables, other effects etc.
On your Birth of a Pedal Board site I notice the "stage" lighting illuminating the effect controls. How are these controled? Do they
stay on all the time?
These are white LEDs run at a constant current all the time but with a cover plate so that the musician does not directly see the LEDs. When the ambient light is high the white LED illumination is "washed out" so is not noticeable. When the stage is dark the illumination of the control panels ensures that DG can see, and adjust if necessary, all the controls very easily. The individual red effects ON lights have a dimmer control on the back panel allowing a wide range of brightness - a range of approximately ten to one - so that the indicators can be adjusted to suit the stage lighting. Full brightness would only be used outdoors as the LEDs used are "daylight visible" types. Normal brightness setting would be towards the dimmer end of the adjustment range.
Difference between this and a Solid State Board? Reason why the All Tube Effects System was chosen over a Solid State Board?
See #3. It was felt that my Tube Buffers has some tonal benefits over my Solid State versions. The down side to the Tube version is that the power supplies for the tubes are much bigger and heavier that the Solid State versions. The use of 14 tubes (7 double triodes) necessitated the use of two cooling fans in the Mk II All Tube System. The Mk I featured one cooling fan as there were not so many tubes used but the Mk II now incorporates all the facilities of the three separate parts of the Mk I and so required more cooling.
I see a P-1 listed on the board. Is this a new effect? Can you tell what it is?
This is my original 1982 "Precision Fuzz" and I labelled it P-1 to match with our current pedal nomenclature (P-2,G-2,SS-3 etc.)
What is the Metal button on the back of the board for?
This is the securing bolt for the power transformer.
I see toggles for Dry mix on the back of the board, what are these for?
The toggle switch is Dry On/ Dry Mute selector. The Delay 1 (T.E.S.) and the remote rack mount MXR DDL both have the dry signal removed and I included a switch so that the dry signal could be switched off to check the delay signal in isolation. The reason for removing the Dry signal from the two delays is to ensure that there is no tonal degradation to the original guitar signal by sending it through two separate digital delays. In essence the dry signal goes straight to the amp and the delay signals are added to the signal just before it hits the amp input. In this way I can used digital delays but with a totally analogue signal path for the guitar tone.
There is also listed on your client list a Sound on Sound interface for David Gilmour...What is this? What does it do?
This unit allows him to re-create the 30 second sustained guitar chord over which he soloed on acoustic guitar in "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" (Meltdown DVD) . This time the sustained chord will be produced by the electric guitar, with any effects that are available on the All Tube Pedalboard, and he can then solo over the chord with the same or different effects. The S-O-S Unit receives signal from the All Tube Pedalboard output and then sends it, suitably buffered etc. to a digital delay unit and from there on to a Vintage HiWatt 100W head/4 X 12 cab which is completely separate to the other Vintage HiWatts and cabs which are fed from the All Tube Pedalboard.
Is there any shielding within the board itself?
All wiring is fully shielded and in addition the board is coated with special screening paint.
I notice that the effect settings you have on the new All Tube Board pictures from your site seem to be upside down: The volume knobs for some effects don't seem to be on much and the sustain for some distortion pedals seem to not be on either. Meaning that the controls for the effects seem to be different than normal. Any reason for this? Are the effects put in upside down?
Yes all the control knobs are in effect "upside down" this is to make the indicator line on the side of the knob visible in the light that shines up from under the cover plate. If the knobs were in the normal positions, with off at 7 o'clock and max at 5 o'clock, the line would be in shadow most of the time.
I would like to thank Pete Cornish for his valuable time in answering questions! For more information on Pete Cornish and his work please visit his website at http://petecornish.co.uk