The Endless River is a mixture of material recorded live in the studio during the early stages of the 1993 Division Bell sessions and new arrangements and recordings done during a period in 2013-14 at David’s new recording studio in Brighton.
The pristine mix and fairly unpolished sound of the album also sheds a much better light on what actually happened in the studio compared to Division Bell.
While 1987’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason featured a fairly non-typical Gilmour setup, the 1993 sessions were approached very differently. There had been a change in the music industry and a return to analog and tube driven equipment and David Gilmour, perhaps inspired by this, would use much of the same gear that he used in the 70s.
Technique and tone
The songs on Endless River dates from the early stages of the Division Bell sessions. This can perhaps explain the fairly clean and often similar sounding guitars.
There’s clearly a lot of experimenting with different guitars, delays and techniques but the familiar Big Muff tones and defined use of effects is something that would be decided on later when the songs got structure and room for solos etc.
Most of the 2014 recorded guitars are recorded to fit into the material and the tones are equally mild and mellow.
David’s using the volume pedal a lot throughout the album to create fade-ins or swells. This is something that’s not that evident on Division Bell but a technique he employed to great extent in the late 60s and early 70s.
There’s also a lot of EBow and whammy present. The EBow is mainly used on an acoustic steel string guitar (Gibson J-200) fed straight into the mixing desk pre-amp. The whammy effect, or octave effect, was created with the Digitech Whammy pedal that had recently come out. David’s using it extensively on Endless River and it also appears on Marooned and Wearing the Inside Out from Division Bell.
1993 recording sessions – effect setup
David used a fairly large arsenal of different effects for the sessions consisting of a combination of different Pete Cornish boards and stand alone pedals.
It is not documented how these were routed and combined but it gave David a chance to experiment and explore different tones and approaches during all stages of the writing and recording of Division Bell and subsequently The Endless River.
Pete Cornish 1987-88 pedal board
Pete Cornish SS-2
EH Big Muff
EH Electric Mistress
3 X Send Returns
2 X Amp Feeds
The board was originally designed as a backup board for the 1987-88 Momentary Lapse of Reason tour but never used. It seems to have been David’s main board during the Division Bell/Endless River sessions being a centre piece of his elaborate effect setup.
It is not documented whether the board was modified prior to the sessions although at least the addition of a Boss GE7 equalizer can be spotted.
Pete Cornish 1980-81 The Wall front stage pedal board
Electro Harmonix Big Muff (Ram’s Head)
Electro Harmonix Electric Mistress
Pete Cornish custom volume pedal
(send return to MXR DDL)
The board was originally used as a part of a mini rig when performing in front of the wall during the second half of the The Wall shows. The board can be seen laying next to the 1987-88 board during the 1993 Division Bell/The Endless River sessions.
It is not documented whether the board was modified prior to the sessions although the volume pedal had been taken off.
Mini-rack setup and additional effects for amps
MXR Digital Delay
2x Boss CE-2
Conn Strobo Tuner
The amp setup featured a mini-rack with delay and reverb processors. It is not documented how these were set up with the amps. The setup also featured two Boss CE-2 chorus pedals for enhancing the stereo spread.
Additional effect units for 1993 recording sessions
Additional pedals seen at Olympic Studios
Univox Super Fuzz
Colorsound Power Boost
Ibanez TS10 Tube Screamer
2x Chandler Tube Driver
Tube Works Blue Tube
Tube Works Real Tube
Roland BF-1 flanger
Roland AP-7 Jet Phaser
Uni-Vibe with expression pedal
Ernie Ball volume pedals
Additional pedals seen at Astoria
Digitech Whammy WH1
Additional effects heard on Division Bell/The Endless River but not identified
Heil Talk Box (Keep Talking recording sessions)
Zoom multi effect processor (Take it Back/Keep Talking recording sessions, for E-Bow)
All of the pedals listed above are identified from footage from Astoria and Olympic Studios (a few units are still to be identified and confirmed and therefore not listed). The setup is mostly consistent but small variations occur, as listed in the list for additional effects spotted in Astoria.
Both Division Bell and The Endless River also feature effects that can be identified by listening to the albums but the units have not been spotted on any footage.
Several stand alone pedals are seen lying on top of what looks like a third Pete Cornish pedal board. The familiar round switches are seen but the board doesn’t seem to match any one the known Pete Cornish boards. This one is yet to be identified.
Guitars and amps 1993 recording sessions
– 1983 57 reissue, candy apple red alder body with white pickguard, maple neck, EMG-SA active pickups (with EMG-EXG expander and SPC midrange presence controls) and shortened tremolo arm.
– 1952 reissue, butterscotch blonde ash body, black pickguard and maple neck. The guitar was used for the Allons-y (1-2) sessions and possibly Take it Back (Division Bell).
Gretsch 6121 Chet Atkins
– 1950s with orange double binded mahogany body, maple 22 frets neck with ebony board and Bigsby tremolo system. Used on the Nervana sessions.
Gibson Les Paul Goldtop
– 1955 model with Gibson P-90 pickups. Used on Great Day for Freedom (Division Bell) and possibly songs on Endless River.
Gibson J-200 Celebrity acoustic steel string guitar
– David’s main acoustic for the 1993 sessions.
Ovation Custom Legend 1619-4 acoustic steel string guitar
– Set up with high octave tuning. Used on Louder than Words.
Note: Promo footage for The Endless River feature David in Astoria playing a daphne blue late 80s Eric Clapton signature Stratocaster. Official sources indicates that this is false and that the footage dates from a session with Louise Goffin in 1990.
Fender 1959 Bassman 50W reissue combo
– 4×10? Eminence Blue Alnico speakers and 2x6L6, 3x12AX7 and 5AR4 (Rectifier) tubes.
Hiwatt 1970s SA212 50W combo
– 2×12? Fane Crescendo speakers and 2xEL34 and 4x12AX7 tubes. Modified to allow a normal and brilliant input combination.
Maestro Rover rotating speaker
– with a 6? 35w speaker.
David’s amp setup seems to have been fairly consistent during all sessions at Britannia Row, Astoria and Olympic Studios. Again it’s a return to the typical 70s tones mixing clean amps and rotating speakers for a lush and spacious sound.
The setup featured two identical stacks of a combination of Fender Bassmans, for pristine clean tone, and Hiwatt SA212s, for presence and mid range.
One or more of the amps were fed into a Maestro Rover rotating speaker and two Boss CE-2 chorus pedals were used to enhance the stereo spread. The amps above are listed with stock specifications. It is not documented whether David’s amps are modified in any way.
Guitar and amp setup
David used Guild and Herco tear drop heavy gauge picks. All electric guitars were strung with GHS Boomers (custom set 0.10-0.48) and acoustics with Ernie Ball Earthwound Lights.
Fender Bassmans were mic’ed with Neuman U87s and the Hiwatts with Shure SM57s. The mics were placed 8 inches to a foot away from the speaker cabinets. It is not documented how the Maestro Rover was mic’ed.
2013-14 recording sessions
Throughout 2013 and 2014 David recorded new guitars for the release of The Endless River. It is not documented what’s new or which songs he added to but it’s fair to assume that the original recordings featured only one guitar track as everything was performed live in studio. This could be either a rhythm part or a lead.
Some of the original guitar tracks from other songs or excerpts might have been used for The Endless River mix. Based on listening to the album, it is fair to assume that most of the slide guitars and a majority of the leads are recorded in 2013-14 although this is purely speculation.
Footage from David’s new Medina Studios reveals a huge collection of guitars, amps and pedals. Some of these were probably used for the new recordings, as some official footage shows, but any attempt at guessing would only be speculation. I have therefore not listed the items here other than what’s confirmed from official footage.
Fender Stratocaster The Black Strat
– 1969 black alder body with black pickguard, Fender 1983 57 reissue maple neck and Fender 1971 neck and bridge pickups and a Seymour Duncan custom SSL-1 bridge pickup.
Fender Baritone Telecaster
– Custom made by Fender on commission from Phil Taylor. 27-inch scale, with a Custom Telecaster body with binding and maple neck. Fender/Bigsby tremolo system with Vibramate Spring Spoiler and Callaham Cryo electronics.
Gretsch Duo Jet
– 1950s model with Bigsby tremolo system.
Fender Deluxe lap steel (blonde)
– The guitar is usually tuned for an open G (D G D G B E) but it is not known if this applies to the sessions.
It is not documented which amp(s) David used for the sessions although an Alessandro Bluetick stack is seen both mic’ed and being on. It is also fair to assume that David employed the old Yamaha RA200 rotating speaker cabinet, driven by an Alembic F-2B preamp, which are spotted in the studio and probably used to replicate and match his original tones from the 1993 sessions.
The studio also feature a 1960s Magnatone, Fender 57 Twin, Hiwatt SA212, Fender Champ and a Leslie G27 powered by a Alessandro Redbone Special.
Acknowledgements and credits:
Division Bell (album 1994), The Endless River (album 2014), The Endless River official EPK, official promo footage from the 1993 recording sessions at Olympic Studios, Astoria, Guitar World (sept 1994) and Guitarist Magazine (February 2015). Thanks to Kit Rae for help with identifying gear.