90s Alt-rock gear

Codyyy

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What gear really defined the majority of the 90s alt-rock bands like Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, early RHCP etc.? I’m thinking Strats, Jaguars and Jazzmasters, a Marshall amp and some fuzz or distortion but I think there’s more to it than that. I’m also not very experienced with Marshall amps at all. Thanks.
 

YYZ

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Les Paul and Dual Recto for me, but I know people also played strats and Big Muff fuzzes. JCM 900 was popular too as I recall.
 

noisebloom

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On the Smashing Pumpkins first album Gish, Billy Corgan used his now-famous '74-ish Strat with a JCM800, and a slew of effects in between. The 70s Strat was stolen before their second album (and finally located and returned about a year or so ago!). I suppose Billy was still using the 800 for some time after 1992. But the early Pumpkins sound is (omitting the effects part) a Strat with a maple board into a JCM800.
 

Codyyy

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I’ll look into the 900, I haven’t looked much into amps yet but I’m trying to find an alternative to the Strat/clean combo and I really like some of the sounds from that era.
 

PartoftheDark

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1,774
There really were too many to pin down a reliable gear list for the decade. You had really heavy scooped stuff and then on the other end there’s Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Expect to buy some pedals.
 

mr zurkon

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437
Marshall 900 series as mentioned, and Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifiers and the Caliber series (personally owned .50, .22, and Dual Caliber models).
 

npappas

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525
Pearl Jam: Strats & Les Pauls into Marshall 800s. Hall reverb for "Ten" stuff. Wah and Phaser.
Soundgarden: Guild Guitars + Gretsch Guitars or Gibson 335/SG into Peavey 120s, later Mesa Dual Recs and Tremoverbs. Boss CE-2 and Leslie emulation. Not a ton of reverb, but some Hall reverb for Superunknown stuff.
Nirvana: Fender guitars into a Boss DS-1/2 into a Marshall or Fender amp. Small clone chorus.
STP: Les Pauls into Mesa Dual Recs, Tele's for later stuff.
HUM: Les Paul Studios into Boss DS-2/DF-2 into chorus pedals.
Sunny Day Real Estate: Gibsons into Marshall JCM amps, probably some effects like delay.
Gin Blossoms: Strats/Teles, and the occasional Les Paul into Marshall JCM 800/900s
Smashing Pumpkins: Mostly Strats, sometimes with Lace Sensors or Hot Rails, into LOW GAIN Marshalls, boosted by a Big Muff and a Tube Screamer kicked on for Billy's solos.
Sonic Youth: A large variety of gear, many overdrive and mod pedals, Fender Tele thinline for guitar.
Buffalo Tom: Mostly an SG or Telecaster Deluxe through Marshall 800s, medium gain, with some Klon drive for boosted parts, and modulation such as Phaser, Univibe, and Trem.
 
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LikeAMotherF

Gold Supporting Member
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2,864
I remember REALLY wanting a Les Paul and a JCM 900 in the 90s. That combo would cover a lot of ground.
I really want to like the 900 more than I do. But there's something about them that I can't EQ. I can get sounds I really like from the 800s and 2000s I've played- with the 800s I've played 50&100w versions of both the single channel and the switchers, the 2000s include the DSL and TSL- but something about the 900 just keeps it from sounding anything more than 'okay'.

Admittedly, I've only played the High Gain Dual Reverb, and never the MKIII or SL-X. I reckon I could get those to work. But on paper it seems like I should be able to get the Duallies to work for me too!


I can't think of many, if any, 90s bands whose sound is embodied by the 900. At least not the way I've heard the 900. I'm sure there were plenty of bands who *did* use them; if for no other reason, record companies were handing out contracts and signing bonuses left and right and a lot of players picked up whatever was current.

I never dug too deep into the players of that era concerning "who played what gear", but there is one guy I know who played 900 is an awesome player and always sounds great to me: James Dean Bradfield. (Manic Street Preachers)
 

poppunk

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772
Sunny Day Real Estate: Gibsons into Marshall JCM amps, probably some effects like delay.
Thanks for bringing them up; SDRE is one of my favorite bands, ever. They're the cornerstone of second wave emo for me, and I loved that rhythm section and the way they layered the two guitars. They were just another alternative band on 120 Minutes, but that's what was cool about that period in the 90s. There wasn't so much fragmentation of genres, and there was lots of really different stuff that got reasonably popular and out to the masses.

Smashing Pumpkins: Mostly Strats, sometimes with Lace Sensors or Hot Rails, into LOW GAIN Marshalls, boosted by a Big Muff and a Tube Screamer kicked on for Billy's solos.
What's really weird about Siamese Dream is Corgan says he had his guitar plugged into the high input on the JCM800, then cranked the master up all the way and used the preamp as the volume. Then he had the weird version of the Big Muff (v4, op amp). Objectively, it's kind of a terrible sound for guitar. It's washed out, the solos don't really cut through, and there are no mids. But it sounds amazing, and it's one of my favorite albums.

Also to answer OPs question, the most important 90s alternative gear was heroin.
 




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