Cure, The (Robert Smith)/Phaser and flanger
QUESTION: Good morning,
I've been listening to records and recollecting concerts and I'm struggling to identify the phaser pedal used by Bob in many songs - the only one I'm sure about is Another Day. I know that it's been on the pedalboard frequently ( the last one I recall was the Super Phaser) but I just hear the Flanger so much more.
Do you know if these are used together for super modulation saturation, or am I just thick and tone deaf?
ANSWER: Hi Paul,
Robert Smith's use of phaser is mainly based on Boss pedals, at least for live performances (has he ever used anything else but Boss pedals from 1984 onwards ?). Now, for sure , there is far much more flanger (mostly Boss BF-2 from 1981, more recently he switched to BF-3) used than phaser.
As for phaser pedals, Boss PH-2 and PH-3 have been used (it looks like once Boss issue a new pedal Bob uses it almost instantly, which is not his luckiest move...). I really don't think PH-1 or PH-1r have ever been part of the pedal rig.
One thing not to be forgotten is that his Peavey Musician head (used extensively from 1981 to round 2000 and later with his Bass VI) featured a built-in phase shifter. I don't know if he used this effect that often, but I guess the heavy phasing heard on "A strange day" comes from this effect. Being the happy owner of this amp, I must say that it matches quite efficiently Cure-ish sounds ("Color" set high, "Rate" set low).
As for phaser and flanger used together, I seriously have a doubt : the rendering is pretty hard to master, even more when all settings (depth and rate) are at "12 hours" which seems to be the case for Smith. All in all, despite his statement in various interviews, I never managed to get his signature sound with a BF-2 set this way (it's more achievable with high depth / low rate, though). Same for his phasers, really. Now, having both flanger and phaser run together is another question, and I really don't think it happened that often in his case.
Last thing : I really think phaser is much more a recording studio trick than something used intensively live (for the reasons explained above). Also, despite a very heavy phasing on "A strange day" for example in 1986, I'm quite sure the effect didn't come from a pedal (his rig by that time didn't include a PH-2), and really doubt it came from the amp : nothing shows Smith going to his amp and switching the phaser on (Smith used a 2-way footswitch meant for channel changes only - a 4-way deluxe switch meant to engage Reverb and Phaser was optional for the Musician, but I never saw Smith with it, he stuck to the 2-way model). I wouldn't be surprised the effect was added from the soundboard. Or maybe his footswitch was customized to allow engaging phaser. Don't know (both switch were fitted with a 7-pin connector, so who knows ?).
I'd be curious to know about "Another day". By this time, not much pedals were available (Boss PH-1 or MXR Phase 45 / 90 or 100) : but I never saw this kind of effect in his rig, despite having searched in archives.
Hope the answer helps.
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QUESTION: Hiya Wid,
Yeah, I wasn't sure if A Strange Day was just a flanger set to sound phaser-ish,but now you mention it, it seems obvious.
I have seen a Boss Sper Phaser on his board in the '90s. I had one but never got on with it as well as I would have liked.
As for Another Day I saw the Reflections gig at the RAH and would bet one of my testicles that it is a phaser. I can get a very similar sound with an MXR phase 90 (EVH script mode if you're interested).
I also know that before going almost exclusively Boss Bob had some different effects, and as you say it could have been added in the studio. But I don't think it was live on Reflections - maybe it was.
Thanks for your speedy reply as usual.
ANSWER: Hi again Paul,
The phasers (as Boss pedals) came late in the rig. When I mean "late", I mean after 1992, but I'd to check if he used this effect in 1996. He did for sure in 2000, the guitar solo of "Bloodflowers" was played with a phaser during live performance (most probably a PH-2, as the PH-3 was introduced in october 2000). 2004 recording sessions pictures still show the use of Boss PH-2 (and BF-2). But there are also loads of pedals to be seen on studio sessions pics from this era (including EHX Electric Mistress, Tech 21 SansAmp, Boss PW-10...).
For earlier effects, here is what he used :
- 1980 : MXR Flanger / Coron Distortion (same as MXR Distortion +) / Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man
- 1981 : same as 1980 / Boss BF-2
- 1982 : same as 1981 / Boss CE-2
- 1983 : sorry, unknown... If you have a picture, I'll gladly welcome it.
Then "all Boss" rigs :
- 1984 : PSM-5 / BF-2 / DM-2 / OD-1 / CE-3 / GE-7.
- 1985 / 1986 : same but DM-2 replaced by DM-3.
- 1987 : can't check right now, but sure addition of a Dunlop Cry Baby. Delay replaced by DD-2 or DD-3.
- 1989 : can't check right now but delay replaced by either DSD-2 or DSD-3.
And so on...
In 2011, it was LS-2 / BD-2 / OD-3 (or SD-1, impossible to see) / DD-x (impossible to determine) / PH-3 / BF-3. It's easy to see that the modulation are -3, because the knobs are plain black without color caps. See here : http://www.thecurelive.com/images/7_the_cure_royal_albert_hall_object.jpg
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QUESTION: Ahh, hello again,
I hope you aren't getting sick of me!
Brilliant photo; was that your own? I was on the other side of the Hall.
So, it seems clear that he was using a phaser - and as I said I was willing to bet precious things that Anther day was drenched in it!
I noted also that he had several pedal boards with the exact same pedals set on various parts of the stage; two each for guitar and Bass VI.
I can report that Robert used/uses a Cry Baby wah (he said in an interview that "it is on its last wah" (much as mine is by the way).
Also, around the mid to late 90s he was using a Line 6 Flextone and utilising the chorus built in and had a Boss CE taped to his other amp (Ampeg??).
Thanks again for your replies.
As strange as it may sound, I've not seen them live since 2000. The last time I saw this band I got bored after one hour of concert. The magic spell had gone and I never tried the experience again, despite many opportunities. I'd rather keep good memories about this band than having to stand a bad performance, to be honest.
So no, these are not my pictures. You can find the rest here : http://www.thecurelive.com/
(beware it might bring back some memories ! Ahahahahah !)
Even if the Reflections were good shows, I've noticed some (very annoying) details such as pre-recorded stuff. Where did these guitar chords come from on "Descent", for example ? Now you know why I stay home...
Yeah, 2 main pedalboards (with BCB-30 and a BCB-60 each) for guitars and a third one for the Bass VI. That's crazy... Despite the quality of pictures, I can not identify the pedals for the VI though.
He used to use Cry Baby, but lately he switched to what I think is a MXR Custom Audio Electronics (not sure, but the logo on the pedal looks like it). He used it in 2014.
The Flextone came in 1996 on the Wild Mood Swing tour. The Ampeg you're talking about is a VL-503. And the taped chorus is one of Smith's old trick : he began doing that in 1981 (BF-2 taped on his Roland JC-160). In 1982, he did the same with a CE-2 taped on the Musician head.
Always a pleasure too. ;-)