“It feels like total blasphemy!” Chris Shiflett on why he joined the modeler movement and switched from tube amps to amp sims

Chris Shiflett performing live on stage in 2020
(Image credit: Gary Miller/Getty Images)

In recent years, we’ve seen a boatload of A-list electric guitar players ditch tube amps and defect to the ranks of amp modelers – and now Foo Fighters’ Chris Shiflett can be added to that ever-growing list of those embracing modern technology.

It’s a notable win for the amp sim school of thought. After all, Shiflett is a bona fide amp aficionado, and has been known to pair his collection of vintage guitars with either a Fender Deluxe Reverb or Princeton guitar amp.

Now, though, Shiflett has flipped the script, and has called upon a popular pedal amp to help form the backbone of his new solo live rig.

Speaking in the new issue of Guitarist, Shiflett took a deep-dive into the amp-less rig he's been running, saying: “Oh, man, this setup that I’m playing with now is so crazy.”

“I’m not even playing through an amp right now – I’ve got a Strymon Iridium instead,” he went on. “You can arrange it however you want, but I have it so it’s all the effects first and then a Strymon Deco, then the Iridium, the Strymon TimeLine and the Strymon Flint. And then I have it coming out stereo on one of those Walrus Canvas DIs.”

Strymon Iridium

(Image credit: Future)

Despite his defection to amp sims, Shiflett did go on to caveat his admission by asserting his affinity for traditional tube amps – and said his decision to employ the Iridium was based purely on the logistical and budgetary considerations that come with a solo tour.

“It feels like total blasphemy,” Shiflett said when quizzed on his backline-less rig. “But doing my solo shows, I play a lot of shitty bars with shitty PAs, and oftentimes I’m not travelling with my own sound man and it’s a real roll of the dice – sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s fucking terrible. 

“I just found that dragging around my old combo amps – because I normally play through a Deluxe Reverb or old Princeton – they’re so susceptible to dirty power and things coloring your tone.”

Furthermore, human inconsistencies were also a factor: “Having people mic them: I just never liked the way they sounded coming back. It drives me crazy. I mean, I don’t want to shit on any local sound person, but when you don’t have somebody who really gives a shit and knows what they’re doing putting your sound together, it’s fucking horrible and a vibe-killer.”

“I’d bought one of those Iridiums to fuck around with in my studio and just loved the way it sounded. Live, it just cuts out the middle man.”

To that end, Shiflett confirms his heart will always lie in the tube amp camp, and that a wall of amps will always be his “preference”.

“They’re beautiful and everything,” he continued. “But you’re hemmed in with budgetary realities in this solo thing, y’know? And just to know that every night, the tone is gonna be unaffected by power or air in the room or somebody’s bad EQ-ing.”

That’s not to take away from the merits of the Strymon, though: “Those things sound fucking great, man, they really do.”

As mentioned above, there’s been a big shift towards digital amp sims and pedal amps over the past few years. 

Recent examples include Iron Maiden's Dave Murray, who switched to Fractal’s Axe-Fx; and John Mayer, who used an Axe-Fx on his most recent album, Sob Rock. Heck, even Eric Johnson has been dabbling with Neural DSP.

Head over to Magazines Direct to pick up the latest issue of Guitarist, which also features an in-depth interview with Robin Trower – who explained why he prefers Fenders to Gibsons.

In other Chris Shiflett news, the Foo Fighter recently launched his own podcast. The second episode, notably, saw Rivers Cuomo shred Yngwie Malmsteen.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.

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