In mid-July, London-based five-piece Calligram announced their return with the release of their crushing new album Position | Momentum through Prosthetic Records.
A hellish mix of cold-hearted black metal and gritty, filthy d-beat punk, the Calligram sound is as vile as it is atmospheric and claustrophobic. Press play on this flawless slice of extremity, and you will find yourself in the company of five musicians who know how to create a sound that taps into the darkest depths of your emotions.
To find out how they create such a suffocating sound, guitarists Bruno Cambiaghi and Tim Desbos, along with bassist Smittens, gave us a detailed breakdown of their individual set-ups in this latest edition of Geared Up.
Bruno Cambiaghi (Guitar): “Hi my name is Bruno, guitar player for Calligram and I am going to try and explain my rather straightforward guitar rig. My humble rig consists of a Gibson Les Paul Studio tuned in C standard (12-60 D’Addario strings), a Laney GH100L head running into a 4×12 Marshall Mode 4 cab, and a bunch of pedals.
Tone-wise, I get the main sound from the amp and then I use the pedals to kind of complement it.
For the distorted sound, I play on the head’s lead channel and set my EQ pretty trebly in order to get nice and sharp highs that cut well through the mix in a live situation. I then keep the gain down (around 3 or 4) and the drive up (7i-sh), in order to get a nice crunchy distortion yet relatively clear. I like this set up for playing chords and high lead parts, which me and Tim (Desbos – guitar) play quite often in Calligram.
For the clean and quieter parts I either use the guitar’s neck pick up, with low volume, or I switch to the clean channel of the amp normally using the neck pickups too. I love the woody tone you can get from the Les Paul’s neck humbuckers.
POLYTUNE 2 tuner – A big bright display for blind players like myself.
BOSS GE7 equalizer – loads of tonal versatility.
DOD Gunslinger distortion – Often used as a booster for mids and highs in lead parts.
BOSS HM2 chaos – Used for specific heavy parts, often with the DOD for more definition and extra growl.
SPARK booster – I’m trying it out at the moment and getting a nice mid-range boost from it but I still need to explore it more so it will stay on the board for now.
SENTRY noise gate – Tim had bought this pedal to practice one day and after hearing it once I bought mine on the same day. My first noise gate and I’d definitely recommend it.
And last but not least, at the end of the chain, my beloved AFTERNEATH by Earthquaker Devices which I use for most ambient, trippy parts. An absolute beast of a pedal which is at times hard to tame but one of the best sounding reverbs I’ve ever tried.”
Tim Desbos (Guitar): “Hi, Tim here. My rig is extremely similar to Bruno’s as he is much better at this kind of thing than me and his gear usually blows my mind at practice, so I end up getting the same stuff as him (and I have no shame in admitting it.)
Guitar-wise, I recorded Position/Momentum with a 1990 Les Paul studio with a Bare Knuckle Silo in the bridge (Rabea Massaad) and a stock 490 pickup in the neck. The Silo gives you really crispy mids and highs which you can hear on the record. However, my tone was lacking in bottom end and warmth (due to the guitar and the pickup) so I bought a 1995 Les Paul Standard with stock pickups and I’m super happy with it. It’s given my tone a lot more depth without losing any of the crisp aspect of it. I love it and I reckon it’ll take a Custom to make me change my guitar again.
I also use 12-60 D’Addario strings as the heavy gauge helps compensate for the fact that we’re tuned two tones below (C standard).
Regarding amps, Bruno and I both used to play on 5150s but when he got his Laney GH100L I realised that I much preferred the sound of EL34 valves over 6L6 ones. I ended up buying a GH100R whose clean tone I absolutely loved but I wasn’t a fan of the distortion on it. It was a bit too fuzzy. So, eventually I bought a GH100L and I really like the distortion/drive on it. It’s a high-gain amp but not in the modern sense of it, there’s a vintage touch to it and the tone it gives you is deliciously crisp. The only downside to it is that it only has one channel so I can’t get as good a clean tone as I used to but it’s a compromise that I’m happy to make because the distortion is so good.
Cabinet-wise, I run my Laney head into a 4×12 240W ORANGE cab and I’m super happy with it. It’s got lots of natural bottom end and depth, but it also deals really well with the mids and highs in the signal.
TC ELECTRONIC POLYTUNE 2 tuner – I bought this pedal after seeing that John Scofield had one on his board. If it’s good enough for John Scofield, then it’s definitely good enough for me.
GREENHOUSE EFFECTS STONEFISH chorus and vibrato – I don’t really use the vibrato mode on this pedal, but I love the lush chorus. I used it on quite a few songs on The Eye Is The First Circle.
EARTHQUAKER DISPATCH MASTER delay/reverb – I love the delay and reverb on this pedal and especially the fact that you can use them on a distorted sound and still keep a fairly clear signal.
TC ELECTRONIC SENTRY noise gate – Given how much goes on when we play live, this pedal really helps clean up the guitar tones and it even adds a little something to the tone which I can’t really describe but always notice and like. It’s a great noise gate pedal.
XOTIC EFFECTS SP compressor – I researched compression pedals a lot before buying one and I simply could not find a single bad review on this one, which is pretty much why I got it. The other factor which sold it to me is that it is probably the most transparent compressor on the market, and I really don’t like how some compressors squash your sound. I usually use it when I play melodies that need to cut through the mix but on certain tracks like “Ex-Sistere”, I tend to leave it on throughout the whole song.
DOD GUNSLINGER distortion – Bruno converted me to this pedal. We use it as a mid/high boost pedal, very much like a tube screamer and I don’t know many pedals that help you cut through the mix like this one. It can generate quite a lot of feedback if you’re not careful but if you use it well it’s a beautiful addition to your tone.
BOSS HM2 – Even though we didn’t use this pedal on the last record, it has been a major part of our tone since recording Demimonde. I don’t need to explain what it does, all I can say is that we love the hellish filth it adds to your tone when you whack it on.
MXR 10 band EQ – This is an amazing EQ pedal and I use it to either boost the mids in my sound or like a boost/level pedal.
GIGRIG POWER BASE – I bought this after watching an episode of That Pedal Show and I’ve never looked back since. It’s not cheap but isolating your pedals adds so much clarity to your tone and it can be such a lifesaver when there is something dodgy with the electrics at a venue. I strongly recommend it.”
Smittens (Bass): “Mine has been pretty much the same for a while now, with me just rotating heads, I can’t really seem to find anything I love yet. Simplicity is key for me, we’re playing fast and shit is going off on stage, so I just wanted as little to be able to go wrong as possible.
BASS – My main bass is a 2005 (I think) all black Fender American P Bass with a maple neck, it looks pretty much the same as the beaut that Caleb Schofield (RIP) used to play – I was very into Cave In around my late teens / early 20s & Caleb was a big influence for me playing in this crazy space metal rock band. It’s really fucking punk sounding and a bass I’ve played for almost 20 years now. Mine has the annoying S1 switch so I’ve taken that out, need to limit anything that’s going to break or do something dumb when Matteo is trying to pull me off the stage.
I use Ernie Ball Beefy Slinky bass strings 130 – 65. The neck on my bass is chunky as fuck, plus we play in C & the heavier the strings the better the sound. Pick-wise I use the Dunlop 431P1.14 Tortex Triangle massive bass beasts. One of the lovely Smokin’ Bones Club crew down in Brighton gave me one for a show years back and never looked back.
AMP – Bruno found me one of those mad Ampeg Isovent 50 cabs in South London. It has 2 10s on the top then 2 15s facing each other at the bottom (clamshell). Its really fucking heavy but its pretty cool to look at & sounds alright. The best bit was Bruno picked it up for me and definitely didn’t realise how heavy it was, so being annoying is always a good reason to keep gear around.
My current head is a Bugera 1960 Infinium 150W Valve Guitar Head. I saw a couple of videos that said with bass you can get somewhere near the sound of a Marshall Plexis for a lot cheaper, so I gave it a go. It’s been really fun to play (also the controls don’t really do a lot so even better keeping that simplicity) but it’s one tone and one tone only and that tone is madness. I think going forward I need something a bit cleaner for the more dynamic parts on ‘Position | Momentum’ and where we’re going to go on future releases. The punk bits especially on this head sound really good though.
BOSS TU-3 – Unfortunately my TU-2 died so I did a trade with Tim for his TU-3 when he got his Polytune. Boss pedals take a load of shit so it works for me.
TC ELECTRONIC HALL OF FAME – When we were in the studio with the wonderful Russ Russell he chucked some reverb on a couple of parts & gave a speech about metal & punk bass not being scared of Reverb so I had to get it in the live setup. The bloke knows far more about pretty much everything apart from football, Stella & pot noodles than me so it’d be dumb not to listen. Another Tim trade, its not used a lot but its been pretty fun to mess about with when me, Tim & Bruno do some pedal swaps and fuck around.
FULLTONE OCD – Gerry the Bastard from our rehearsal studio sold it to me for 20 quid about 5 or so years back to replace the Blues Driver I was using. It sounds amazing, I’ve been through a lot of different overdrives and fuzzes over the years, and nothing compares to this.
EARTHQUAKER HOOF – Managed to get it on cheap off some lovely bloke on Facebook Marketplace who posted it to me before I even sent him the money. I don’t really ever use it in our set unless we need to make things really noisy between songs if someone has some technical problems (see also HOF) but it just makes everything sound better having it there, so why the fuck not?
DARKGLASS B7K ULTRA – I had a Sansamp for donkey’s years then changed to this and I think it made a real difference to the sound. I just play it with buttons on at all times due to the nature of my rig right now, but if I get a cleaner head I’m interested in seeing what it’s like without the distortion for the more dynamic parts of the set – I think there’s a lot left to play around with it (a.k.a it has far too many knobs & switches on it).
Position | Momentum is out now and you can pick up your copy here.