Life On The Road / 31 January 2018

What’s In The Bag: Sarah Lipstate

Sarah Lipstate is Noveller, and with her guitar and a host of pedals, she’ll have you enchanted with her multi-textured compositions. A Pink Sunset for No One is the latest solo album she’s got out, and the 9-track epic displays Lipstate’s desire to push her ethereal sound, and pedalboards, to new limits.

And of her pedalboards, boy has she got a mean setup. She dropped by the MONO booth at NAMM last week to give us a rundown and demo of her rig. We were so impressed, we had to grab her for a chat!

It was great seeing you at NAMM! How’d you get along? Which bits did you enjoy the most?

It was an absolute pleasure getting to demo at the MONO booth this year! I think that I managed to escape this year without contracting the dreaded NAMMTHRAX so I couldn’t be happier about that. No matter how hard I try, I never manage to make it to every single booth on my list but I did get to check out a lot of great new pedals and meet some of the brains behind the builds. I finally got to meet Joel Korte from Chase Bliss Audio and he hooked me up with the new red knob Tonal Recall delay pedal. That was a highlight! I also loved getting sneak peaks at prototypes, like the Harmony guitar line re-launch and the Teisco pedals.

One instrument, one performer – how and when did you realize you could conjure emotions and challenge perceptions with a single guitar?

I grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana and saved up to buy my first electric guitar when I was 17.  I didn’t know anyone else who played so I was left to experiment on my own doing multi-track recordings on a Fostex cassette 4-track. I’d record layer upon layer on those tapes until they literally fell apart. I moved to Austin for college and it being a much larger city I had a much easier time made finding like-minded musicians so I had the opportunity to play with other people for the first time, but the seed had already been planted for being a solo performer.  I started going to pawn shops and buying guitar pedals and that really opened up a lot of possibilities for me to create different textures with the guitar. I’d been a huge fan of Glenn Branca’s avant-garde guitar symphonies, so I knew from listening to his records that multi-layered guitar music had the capacity to be incredibly moving and evocative. Buying my first looper opened the door for me to create my own one-woman guitar orchestra and that set me on my path.

We’ve heard you’re collaborating with Dr. No for a pedal – how did this collaboration take shape, and are there any other gear collabs coming soon?

I was introduced to Dr. No’s brilliant effects by Troy Van Leeuwen while I was on tour opening for Iggy Pop. Troy was playing in Iggy’s band on that tour and since he’s a huge pedal guy we spent a lot of time talking effects. Dr. No did two amazing pedals with Troy- the Raven filter/boost and Octavia Fuzz. Our collaboration came about organically from our online correspondence after the tour. Our pedal is called Moon Canyon and it’s a combination overdrive/reverb/delay pedal with an effects loop. I have the final prototype and it’s a wondrous beast. I hope to have more info about its release soon.

You’re quite the boutique pedal fanatic… Which ones do you always find yourself going back to? And your all-time favourite too?

I like to cycle through what I use frequently so my board is constantly changing but there are some effects that you’ll always see in my setup.  The Eventide H9 is probably the main staple of my board.  It’s impossible to imagine functioning without it. My looper is also absolutely essential. I use the Boomerang Phrase 3 Sampler and it’s wonderful.  I’ve been using the Dr. No Octavia fuzz and the Meris Mercury 7 reverb a ton lately for a documentary film score I’m composing and they’re quickly becoming touchstones for my sound.

Tell us about that Klon!

Haha. I bought it off a blues player in Redondo Beach. I wanted to quietly put it on my board and then never explicitly talk about.  

Your touring boards are massive and always changing! How do you pick which pedals for what show?

I love getting new effects and then immediately throwing them on my board for shows. There’s something exhilarating about learning how to use a new pedal in the moment on stage in front of an audience. I always read the manual and do the deep dive getting to know the pedal at home too. Most of my consideration in putting together my board goes to what effects work great together and that’s something that really takes time to navigate. The magic is a large pedalboard in is the interaction between the effects and a lot of experimentation goes into that.  

Have the MONO pedalboards impacted the way you setup your gig and perform on stage?

Having the large MONO board has opened up the option for me to bring just one board to the show and immediately plug in and be ready for sound check.  Previously I was using two smaller boards and patching them together. As anyone who uses a lot of pedals knows, the more efficient you can be with your setup, the better.

You’re a cinematic composer too, how did that come about?

Nathan Larson, an incredible film composer and guitarist, reached out to me in 2011 about collaborating on some instrumental recordings.  We started sending files back and forth and though the project never really went anywhere we established a good friendship. Nathan told me about his full workload composing for feature films and suggested that we try collaborating on that front. I ended up contributing music to six feature films that Nathan worked on and it helped me learn how the whole process works.

What is your proudest film composition?

I’m still very proud of a piano piece I composed for an underwater montage scene in the film The Truth About Emanuel, starring Kaya Scodelario and Jessica Biel. Usually in film, you’re composing music that will sit fairly low in the mix alongside the dialogue, diegetic sound, and fx. For this montage however, there was absolutely no dialogue so the music was right at the forefront. It’s a beautiful scene.

If you could write a film score for any movie, which would it be and why?

I recently did an all-guitar cover of Ennio Morricone’s theme from The Thing and it was so much fun. I was really proud of how it turned out and I think it would be amazing to try my hand at the full score. I love creating music that’s both beautiful and disturbing and John Carpenter’s films definitely walk that line.  

What was one of your favorite moments on the tour with Iggy Pop?

Highlight of that tour and of my life was playing Royal Albert Hall. Having Iggy hand-pick me to open for him was such an honor and I learned so much from watching him perform night after night. After his first stage-dive at Royal Albert Hall, he came up out of the audience with a trail of blood running down his temple. It didn’t phase him one bit. He gives 110% of himself at every show.

What does 2018 hold for you?

I’m currently finishing up a commissioned piece for solo cello with electronics, and a score for a documentary feature film. After that, it’ll be time for me to start working on my next album.

Should be an exciting year!

Inspired and think you could match Sarah’s pedalboard rig? Get started with our line of MONO pedalboards here.


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