I had the pleasure of seeing Shannon Hayden at the Hi-Fi in January opening for Mike Adams at His Honest Weight. Just one glimpse at the equipment she used on stage I knew she would be great for an installment of Gear and Beer.
We sat down at Chilly Water Brewing on Virginia Avenue to enjoy a couple of Built to Last pilsners. The beer was tasty and Shannon was kind enough give me the details of her equipment.
NUVO: How old is your acoustic cello and what can you tell me about its history?
Hayden: It is from the 1890’s. The previous owner was from the Indianapolis Symphony. I have a luthier in town that builds amazing cellos and does my maintenance. A couple brought it to him after it had been hit by a car. He put it back together and did an amazing job. And, I knew the whole story and got a really good deal on it. I was able to visit the tiny village where it was built when I was fourteen. It was the last cello this guy built.
NUVO: I noticed you also use an electric cello. Is that a pragmatic choice?
Hayden: Yeah, for a lot of shows. It depends on the show, on the venue, how I’m getting there. If I’m flying it’s just so much easier with the electric. My acoustic cello is a really amazing instrument. I want to take it out on more special occasions, like concert halls and theaters. With an electric cello it can get banged around a little more and thrown into the back of a truck.
With my acoustic cello [I use] various pickups and clip-on mics. It’s pretty high maintenance, a bit difficult to travel with, so this year I began touring with an electric cello. It’s a Yamaha and I use a Barbera bridge. It has to be custom made for that instrument. It’s got two pickups per string. I run that through a series of pre-amps and mic simulators to get the best sound.
NUVO: At what point did you start experimenting with pedals and effects?
Hayden: I played lead guitar in a rock band when I was fourteen or fifteen. All the while I continued very serious classical training. I really enjoy the world of guitar because there’s no limitations placed on your instrument. I got more involved in that world of sound effects, sound manipulation, recording and writing. After a while it was like, “why don’t you try some of these effects on the cello?”
NUVO: What are you using to layer your parts? Are you using a looper pedal?
Hayden: The looper is the Boss RC-300. It’s so flexible. You can fade in and out of things; each loop can be a whole different length. It’s more like a quartet than an individual. I actually started with an Electro Harmonix 10 second delay. I didn’t want to get a low-end looper, because I didn’t want to get frustrated right off the bat with what I could do with it, so I went for a glorified delay pedal. Eventually, if I liked the minimal amount of looping, then I could move on to something bigger. And then I would still have an awesome delay pedal.
NUVO: Are there stored loops in your RC-300?
Hayden: All instruments are looped live. I have recorded sounds from my studio [sampled] in my machine. All vocal loops are live. A lot of people are confused about what’s live and think some of that is backing tracks. I keep it simple, no backing tracks. If you hear a percussive sound, then that can be sampled. Even still, I try to do a lot of that on the cello [live].
NUVO: What effects are you using?
Hayden: My effects unit is the HD500 POD. It’s my go-to in the studio. It’s so customizable. I have so many different patches. I was running my keyboard through the POD yesterday.
NUVO: What are you using to record?
Hayden: I record with Logic. I like Guitar Rig, Mainstage for my own recordings. With Margot [and the Nuclear So and So’s] we had some fun. I was running through a guitar amp in a bathroom and that was daisy chained to an amp somewhere else. It was super cool. Almost like old school orchestra recordings, a little distant. A little issue with that is when you have an amp in a bathroom with a mic on it, you do hear when someone is using the restroom. I heard it [in my headphones] when I was about to do my track. “Hey guys, what is that?”
NUVO: I heard that your home studio is self-sustained. Can you tell me about that?
Hayden: I have an off-the-grid vegetable farm over in Illinois about 50 minutes west of Terre Haute. We grow our own food and it’s all solar powered. That farm has enabled me to do what I want to do. If I want to pay rent in New York for the summer I can. If I want to head to LA I can. But I can always come home. It’s an advantage because all my friends have to work at Starbucks. I’m always available and can always schedule tours. I’ve been recording in Bloomington for a month and I brought a flat of lettuce and a ton of frozen strawberries, produce and canned veggies. It’s awesome.
NUVO: Was it long process to set that up?
Hayden: Not really. It’s a lot easier than people think to be self-sustained. It’s pretty simple to purchase a couple of panels, a battery bank, a good sine wave inverter to keep it quiet for music recordings and you’re pretty well set. We can run a projector and huge sound system. It’s easy to do on your own.