Ted Gowans got his first big musical break playing guitar and keyboards for the powerhouse rock duo, Tegan and Sara back in 2004. After a successful ten-year run with the band, Ted has since produced and performed with a variety of artists – folks like Saint Motel, the Rentals, and The Moth and the Flame, just to name a few. Ted joined the ranks of pop singer Kesha’s backing band in 2014 and is currently out on the road in support of her triumphant new release, Rainbow.
Ted has been a Strymon fan for quite a while, so we were excited to finally get a chance to chat with him about his favorite Strymon pedals and current pedalboard setup as well the gear he uses on the road.
What is your current pedalboard setup and what is the signal chain?
My current pedalboard and signal chain is Diamond Compressor, Boss TU-3 Tuner, JHS Audio Sweet Tea, Walrus Audio Plainsman boost, Strymon BigSky Reverb , MoogerFooger Phaser, Walrus Audio Arp 87 Delay, Strymon Flint Reverb/Tremelo.
You were a long-time bandmate of Tegan and Sara, playing guitar and keyboards for them for ten years. How did you end up working with them?
I met Tegan and Sara in 2004. I was playing in a local band in Victoria BC and one of their managers happened to be at a show I was playing. I got an email a few days later asking if I’d like to audition for the guitar/keys position. At that point, I had never really thought about being a hired sideman but I really liked their band so I went for it. The audition went well and I ended up working with them until 2014.
Any plans to write or record with them again in the future?
Nothing right now, but you never know. I loved my time working with them and I think they are brilliant songwriters who inspire me all the time.
When did you start working with Kesha and how did you meet?
The Kesha gig came about pretty randomly. I was working as a music director for an LA-based artist and I was putting a band together so I reached out to some of my go-to musicians, one of which was Kesha’s long-time drummer Elias Mallin. After rehearsal, he asked if I wanted to do a 3-week tour with her for August 2016. It was a no-brainer. Three weeks then turned into a year, and here we are now at the beginning of the world tour for her new record Rainbow.
What guitars and amps are you using for the current tour with Kesha? How does this differ from your past tours with Tegan and Sara?
For guitars I’m using the same two guitars I used on Tegan and Sara:
1975 Fender Starcaster
The Starcaster is maybe a strange choice for a main guitar but I was introduced to it in 2007 and since then I’ve owned three of them and they’re always my favorite. There’s just something about it.
1965 RI Jazzmaster
This guitar gets used for anything jangly and clean or fuzzy and nasty. I don’t use it for much in between.
For amps with Kesha, I’m using a Vox AC30. With Tegan and Sara, I used an Acme Varsity, essentially a handmade AC10. I really prefer amps you can just plug into and sound good with no fuss.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you’re using BigSky and Flint in your current setup?
The BigSky serves as everything “weird” on my board. I placed it before the delays, reverbs, and modulation so when I freeze the sound I can tweak the other pedals and go to another planet. I use Swell a lot for slide. The key there is having the Flint last, acting as an “amp” verb and trem. I didn’t have room for a volume pedal so this is a great way around it. I use Shimmer a lot for ethereal sounds. Shimmer coupled with the phaser, delay, and Flint produces some really cool, evolving pad-type sounds. I also really like the Magneto and NonLinear settings. I have some quick reverse sounds with Nonlinear. It helps my guitar sound like I’m in the Twin Peaks “Red Room.” The Gate feature is cool, too. With Magneto it’s like having a really cool weird delay that doesn’t really play by the rules. I really dig it. As I said earlier the key to a lot of this is having the Flint last. It’s just a really nice reverb that kind of smoothest everything out.
What are your favorite BigSky and Flint settings and why?
For Flint, I use the 70’s Reverb and Tube Trem. Trem feeding through the Verb. Everything at 12 O’clock seems to do the trick. I think it’s the classiest pedal I own.
For BigSky, my favorites are Nonlinear and Shimmer, but the sky really is the limit with this pedal, though (pun intended). Each setting has deep parameters if you get in there. There are so many little things about this pedal that make it indispensable for me.