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Geared Up: Lift the Medium Bassist Justin Kennedy on His Nordstrand Pickups, MusicMan Stingray 5 Bass and More

In anticipation of the re-release of their album Mastermind, we asked Justin Kennedy, bassist with the Ohio heavy rock/metal band Lift the Medium, to talk to us about his key gear.



Lift the Medium are a heavy rock/metal band from Ohio who have been received extremely well in their local scene and sold almost a thousand copies of their self-released album, Mastermind. The album is being repackaged and will be re-released in spring of 2016 with a new song and a slightly different track order. In anticipation of the re-release we asked bassist Justin Kennedy to talk to us about his gear.

What one piece of gear do you use to obtain your signature sound?
Kennedy: Nordstrand pickups and 3-band on-board pre-amps: every bass I own has them. In the studio my favorite tone comes from my beat-to-death ’01 MusicMan Stingray 5 with a Nordstrand MM5.2 pick up, live I use a May Basses DC5 with Nordstrand Dual Coils. Both basses have the Nordstrand 3b-5b onboard pre-amp.

What about it makes it so important to you?
Kennedy: For my day job I’m a luthier/guitar tech. When I opened my shop Nordstrand was the first company I became a vendor for. Back then Nordstrand was a 3-man operation making a few hundred pickups each year. Now they are one of the largest bass pickup manufacturers in the world with many of the world’s most renowned players using their pickups and pre-amps. Through their growth their products have only continued to improve and they still treat my two-man shop just like some of the largest manufactures in the world who also purchase their products. Regardless how how great they treat me, everything they make sounds amazing and works flawlessly.

How was this gear used during the recording of your latest album?
Kennedy: In the studio I split my signal using a Radial DI, half my signal went clean into a Neve console, the other side into a Sansamp for a bit of dirt. The core tones were achieved by manipulating the mids and the passive tone control on the Nordstrand pre-amp.

How do you recreate your album (guitar/vocal/bass) tones in your live set?
Kennedy: Live I use a Mesa M6 carbine head and Schroeder 12″+10″ speaker cabinets that reproduce the combined clarity and warmth I got using the Sansamp and the Neve. The 2-pick up May bass allows for a bit more adjustment to the tone to dial it in for the room.


How long have you had it, how do you use it, would you ever change it?
Kennedy: I’ve been using Nordstrand pickups and pre-amps now for well over 6 years. I’ve tried every other type of pickup and pre-amp available and consistently come back to these electronics. The Passive tone control and independently voiced frequency centers of the pre-amp allow me to dial in the perfect tone for any situation without ever having to adjust the tone controls on my amp.

Give us your best “gear goes wrong” story.
Kennedy: Being a guitar tech I have tons of other people’s “gear goes wrong stories” but my own worst experience involves an amp giving off a weird smell, then the third song into the show shooting sparks out of the top, starting to smoke, then eventually shutting itself down mid-song while the sound guy had stepped away from the sound booth to do something that didn’t involve running sound for the band I was in at the time. It took nearly 10 minutes to find the sound guy, get a DI hooked up and restart the show. I always bring my own DI now!

Check out the song “Mastermind” here.