Mike MacDonald is the guitarist of New England-based band Strange Machines. Mike is a very skilled guitarist, able to crank out bouncy riffs (such as the one from their fan favorite “Klepto“), out of this world solos, and rhythmic chord progressions that lock in with SM’s strong rhythm section of Craig Holland and Isaac Civitello. Mike is also a very talented singer, having one of my personal favorite voices on the scene (along with Goose’s front man, Rick Mitarotonda). You can check out Mike’s playing on Strange Machines’ recent album Voice of Color, as well as at their upcoming Strange Days festival at the famous Stone Church in New Hampshire.
2011 Paul Reed Smith DGT
Amp & Cab
Mesa Boogie 2×12 Rectifier Cab
Board: Boss TU3 Tuner > Vox Wah > Keeley Compressor Plus > Stigtronics Electron Drive > Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
Effects Loop: MXR Phase 90 > Line 6 M9 > Boss PS6 Harmonist > MXR Carbon Copy > Boss DD6 Digital Delay
Photo credit to Hugatrie (photo, graphic design, & painting)
Behind the Gear: What is the one pedal on your board you couldn’t live without?
Mike MacDonald: Probablymy Tube Screamer. That’s the one pedal that’s never changed on my board.
BTG: When was the first time you were exposed to the world of effects pedals?
MM: The first time I was exposed to effects was when I purchased my first guitar, I bought a Vox Wah and a Boss Metal Zone along with it. Pretty sure the Metal Zone is every kid’s first pedal haha.
BTG: Who are some of your inspirations as a guitar player?
MM: Well obviously Jake [Cinninger] and Brendan [Bayliss] are big inspirations for me haha, Umphrey’s has been one of my favorite bands since I first got Anchor Drops in high school. My biggest influence without a doubt though is David Gilmour, nobody holds a candle to him as far as I’m concerned. Pretty much all the greats have had an influence on my playing at one point or another; Hendrix, Trey, Jimmy Page, Jerry, John Scofield, SRV, Clapton, etc. I’m also a huge fan of John Frusciante, Martin Barre, Steve Howe, Walter Becker, Jeff Baxter, etc.
BTG: Did you take any inspiration from some of your favorite artists when you were building your current board?
MM: Yeah the Stigtronics Electron Drive is the same drive pedal Brendan Bayliss uses. Guy in Indiana makes them, I randomly came across one on Craigslist for cheap and snatched it up. It compliments the Marshall head really well. My solo tone/heavier dirty tone is that pedal stacked with the Tube Screamer. Also the Boss Harmonist was influenced by Jake Cinninger, I’ve always loved that pitch shifter effect he gets out of it.
BTG: What goes through your mind when you’re deciding which effects to turn on while you’re playing?
MM: It really depends on what the jam calls for. I try to do as little as possible at first, take in what everyone else is doing, and find the tone that best compliments our direction. I tend to be fairly conservative with my effects unless we’re getting into some deep space or weirdness. My go-to combo is usually the TS9 and the Carbon Copy + the Keeley Compressor (which I leave on at all times).
BTG: Who are some of your favorite contemporaries on the scene currently?
MM: Rob Compa is incredible, I’ve been a huge fan of his playing since I first saw Dopapod in 2009. I’m also a big fan of Max Newman from the Main Squeeze, dude is really tasteful. Mike Gantzer, Matt Jalbert, Mihali, Anthony Thogmartin, Tim Palmeri, etc.
BTG: Why do you keep your Marshall on its side rather than on top of your Mesa cabinet?
MM: I get asked that question a lot. Basically my amp is a Frankenstein; I love the sound I get from the JCM2000 combined with the Mesa trucker cab. That being said, the Mesa cab is super directional and awkwardly shaped so I like it on a stand slanted up aiming at my head, the Marshall would slide off if I put it on top. I’ve tried not using the stand which is okay if the venue has good sound, but often times that’s not the case and I can’t hear myself if it’s pointed straight forward. I actually have been looking at downsizing to a combo amp though, been looking at Supro’s!