Here I have endeavored to explain exactly how Jonny’s signal chain was arranged in 1997, and to explain clearly and definitively why this is the correct arrangements and why other arrangements are impossible.
Jonny’s pedals are arranged across two pedalboards. The first board could be thought of as his control base; his guitar runs into this board and through all of the pedals on it before moving to the second board. The physicals layout of the pedals is not the same as their signal order, but rather just where Jonny prefers to have them for maximum accessibility when using multiple pedals at once (such as Whammy and Space Echo Footswitch during the solo for Airbag).
The second board is a bit more complex. The output of the last pedal on his first board (Digitech Whammy) runs into a Boss LS2, which then sends his guitar down one of two different signal paths leading to two different amps(the LS2 lets him switch between them). Both of these signal paths are set up on the second pedalboard.
Whichever of the two signal paths he chooses on the second pedalboard, the pedals on the first pedalboard will always be before those pedals.
A variety of explanations of the order in progressively more detail:
Jonny Greenwood’s Signal Path
0 - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 <A/B
/6A - 7A - 8A - 9A
\6B - 7B < 8BT/8B
Jonny Greenwood’s Signal Path
1 EHX Small Stone V2
2 Demeter The Tremulator
4 Digitech Whammy WH1
5 Boss LS2 < A/B
A - - - - - - - -
6A Boss SD1
7A Boss RV3
8A Roland Space Echo(activated via a Vox Egg footswitch)
9A Vox AC30
B - - - - - - - -
6B Marshall Shredmaster
7B Boss FV300H
8B Fender EightyFive
8BT Boss TU12H (from Boss FV300H Tuner Out).
Jonny Greenwood’s Signal Path
In 1997, Jonny brought three guitars with him on tour: his main Fender Telecaster Plus (Tele1), a Sunburst Fender Telecaster Standard/Plus (Tele2), and a Fender Starcaster. Tele1 is his third Telecaster Plus, as his first two were stolen on a single night in 1995. He then tracked down a new one, which has been his main guitar to this day and currently features a Honda Motorcycle sticker. Also obtained after the theft, Tele2 is a Fender Telecaster Standard routed and modified to have the same wiring and pickups as his Tele1; it was converted into a Telecaster Plus. It is also used to this day, and is currently fitted with a Kaoss Pad 2 screen. The Fender Starcaster was acquired in 1996 and was used on OK Computer, as well as extensively on Kid A and Amnesiac.
For most of this analysis, I will be referring to image (A), which can be found in the image section at the bottom of the article. I will specify when referring to other images.
1) Let’s start at the front of the chain. The only cable in contact with the EHX Small Stone V2, besides that of the power supply I assume, is plugged into the pedal’s output. Since nothing is plugged into the input, it is safe to conclude that this pedal is first in Jonny’s chain. This is reinforced by the fact that all other pictures of Jonny’s board, which have sufficient detail to discern, have it first in chain as well(or at least post the initial two line selectors which he used later one).
2) Next, we’ll go to the second pedal in the chain. One would assume the DOD 440, since it is situated right next to the Small Stone. However, it’s clear that a different cable is plugging into the DOD, namely that of the Demeter Tremulator. Under close inspection, it appears that the cable from the output of the Small Stone runs up over the top of the board, then back down to plug into the Tremulator’s input.
3) It’s fairly clear that the Demeter Tremulator’s output goes into the DOD 440. This not only looks to be the case from this picture (A), but is shown in later pictures(E). In addition, having his Tremulator AFTER the DOD 440 would make the effect he gets during Lucky impossible, since it would case the filter swells to be chopped up by tremolo, whereas the filter swells are quite clear on that song.
4) From the DOD, another pedal goes up off the board, then returns to plug straight into the Digitech Whammy WH1. Though it is unclear in this picture that the cable is still that from the DOD, it is the case on his other boards, and also his wiring of the second board leaves no room for debate. The Whammy’s output then heads to the second board.
5) The first pedal on Jonny’s second board is his Boss LS2. This pedal selects between two different signal paths on the board, each of which goes to a different of Jonny’s amps(a Vox AC30 and a Fender Eighty-Five). We will continue from this point by analyzing each of the signal paths in turn. There is an extremely detailed list of Jonny’s use of the Boss LS2 under the pedal section of his page. thekingofgear.com/jonny#geffects
- - - - - Path A/One (to Vox AC30)
Though this amp is generally referred to as Jonny’s clean amp, he actually uses distortion with it quite a bit. A far more accurate name would be his time-based-effects amp, though obviously that name isn’t nearly as catchy or dichotomic.
6A) We see this from the first pedal in this chain, Jonny’s Boss SD1. Note that since the SD1 is after the Boss LS2 line selector, it is never used in conjunction with his Marshall Shredmaster and the Fender Eighty-Five. The SD1 was relatively new for Jonny in 1997, having acquired it only in 1996, but that did not stop him from using it liberally on OK Computer.
7A) Also added in 1996, the next pedal in chain is Jonny’s Boss RV3. The fact that this pedal takes this position in his signal order is shown by that he has never used reverb with his heavy distorted sounds, but has with his SD1 distortion(see chorus of Lucky live). This addition was likely inspired by the fact that Jonny’s AC30(which he has just recently started using) lacked reverb, unlike his Fender Twin which featured spring reverb. The RV3 does not feature a spring reverb emulation, and Jonny generally uses its plate setting. He may simply have liked the sound of the Boss reverb and didn’t want to find a spring emulating pedal, or he might have specifically wanted a new kind of reverb for his new amp.
8A) Roland RE201 Space Echo (off board)
Radiohead originally used a Space Echo (three, in fact) on a keyboard for Planet Telex. Jonny was quick to pick up a couple soon after. The Space Echo is situated last in chain, just before the Vox amp. In 1997, he kept it on a stand above his keyboards so that he could easily adjust it between(or during) songs. In addition to delay, the Space Echo also very slightly affects Jonny’s signal heading into his AC30 due to its preamp. Jonny activates and deactivates the Space Echo via a Vox Egg footswitch, which in 1997 he kept just to the left of his pedalboards.
9A) 90’s Reissue Vox AC30 6TB
Jonny started using the AC30 in 1996, after about three years of using a Fender Twin Reverb for the same purpose(clean guitar). Also, Jonny’s AC30 does not feature either caricatures of appealing women or plastic dinosaur toys. That amp actually belongs to Peter Bucks of REM, and Jonny posed with it for a photoshoot during the 1995 tour, hence confusion.
- - - - - Path B/Two (to Fender Eighty-Five)
Though known as Jonny’s “distorted amp,” he gets no distortion from the amp itself, leaving it on a completely clean setting. All of his distortion when using this amp comes from a single pedal: his Marshall Shredmaster.
6B) Jonny’s Marshall Shredmaster was possibly his first pedal, as it was the only one which he used at Radiohead’s first shows. Prior to 1996, this pedal* had also served all of Jonny’s distortion needs, and he would change the amount of gain by adjusting the volume knob(see Just live at Reading Festival 1994) and by picking dynamics.
*Either the stock pedal or a modified clone which he used 1993-1994.
7B) Boss FV300L This pedal’s position after his Shredmaster allows Jonny to use it to control this signal path’s volume, but adjusting it does not affect the Shredmaster’s gain level.* He uses this to have his heavily distorted sound at any volume level, like quiet during the verses of The Bends, or very loud for the main riff of Airbag. This was particularly important during the early days, when the pedal was his only source of distortion but wanted gain at various volumes.
*Jonny instead uses the volume knob on his guitar to adjust the pedal’s gain(again, see Just live at Reading Festival 1994), though he generally keeps the gain level of his Shredmaster constant and heavy, relying on frequent adjustment of his SD1 to get a variety of middling and lower distortion levels
8BT) Tuner Out
The tuner which Jonny used exclusively since the earliest shows* is the Boss TU12H. By putting it in the tuner out of his volume pedal, Jonny can mute his guitar with the volume pedal during tuning. He also has the capability to, when using this signal path, see the notes that he is playing whilst he plays, though I doubt that he uses it for that.
*And to this day with the single exception of the Radiohead For Haiti show, at which he used a Boss TU12.
8B) Fender Eighty-Five
As mentioned above, Jonny uses this amp when getting his high gain distortion sounds, but this amp is not itself responsible for his high gain distortion. The Eighty-Five might have been Jonny’s first guitar amp, but regardless he has commented that he likes the sound of it. He also likely tried the Shredmaster through his other amps* but didn’t like how it sounded.
*Some distortion pedals favor solid-state amps, since factors such as tube sag don’t come into play, giving the distortion a clear and defined character which can be lost playing into tube amps(Likewise, often overdrive pedals do not sound nearly so good through a solid-state amp as a tube amp, but this of course varies from pedal to pedal and with a user’s taste).
Some photos of Jonny’s pedalboard in 1997.
(A) This is the main photo refereed to in this article. Though very blurry, one can see the cables leaving the Small Stone, DOD440, and Whammy running over the top of the pedalboard, and the cables returning to the Tremulator and the Whammy coming from over the top of the board. The cable leaving the Small Stone is that which to the right of the Tremulator. The cable from the Tremulator to the DOD440 is very clear. The cable leaving the DOD440 runs over the top again, then down to the Whammy. The cable leaving the Whammy goes back over the top, then goes tot he LS2 on the second board.
Photos of Jonny’s Pedalboard in 2006 posted by Plank, the band’s guitar tech, on his website: http://www.stringsreunited.com/plankarchive.shtml
Though these pictures are from 11 years later than the board we are currently discussing, it features all of the same pedals in the same signal order(though not the same physical arrangement), just with the addition of three more.